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What to Know About Taking a Mental Health ‘Leave of Absence’ From Work

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One of the hardest things about being off work due to mental illness is having a deadline for your recovery.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

What I mean by this is that it feels like there is an expectation from everyone that by taking a medical leave, you are either faking it, or it will simply disappear after the medical leave is over. As much as I wish my illness away, I know it won’t simply be cured by a two-month leave of absence.

Taking a leave of absence doesn’t make you any less sick. Instead, it signifies that it became too much to handle by either me or the employees. I might be in the minority here, but I love work. I love having the consistency and schedule. My bipolar disorder makes it difficult enough to manage but not having a schedule can wreak havoc on my mental health. You take work out of my life and my schedule is gone. I suddenly struggle with a lack of social connection. (I have limited friends and family due to my condition, as it makes it hard to connect to people.) I struggle with the lack of a schedule, like getting up at the same time every day. I also struggle with extreme boredom.

So when you are on a leave of absence, what do you do?

I pick up hobbies I find worthwhile. My current one? Writing.

This could be poetry or like these mini-articles. I enjoy writing. I also picked up painting and knitting.

My best advice when taking a leave of absence is to be patient with yourself. Get rid of the idea that this will cure you of any mental illness you have, but instead take it as an opportunity to do something new and scary. (Like posting your articles on an online forum) Or hang out with someone you don’t know very well. What I mean to say is explore.

My goals from this leave of absence have changed.

I still want to get healthy, but how? I know my condition won’t leave on its own. Whether I like it or not, it’s here to stay. Yet there are ways of helping it.

1. Eat right.
2. Exercise.
3. Do something creative every day.
4. Hang out with someone new every week. (Zoom calls count!)
5. Try to maintain a schedule. (Waking up every day, even if it’s later than usual.)

These five things are my guidelines during my leave of absence. If I accomplish most of these items, I reward myself with a delicious soda or ice cream treat.

My last piece of advice is patience. Be patient with yourself because the road to recovery is different for everyone. If it means you have to not work, then take that leave. If it means that you work, then work. Everyone is different and as much as I hate being on this leave, I’ve never been healthier than I am right now.

Photo by Daily Nouri on Unsplash

Originally published: October 15, 2020
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