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I Wish I Could Take a Break From My Mental Illness

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Summer is officially here and my Instagram feed is full of pictures of people on vacation — little snapshots of them lying by the pool, looking at an ocean view, soaking in the relaxation. I’m not jealous of their actual vacation (well, maybe a little bit), what I’m envious of is their ability to escape.

Living with mental illness is a full-time job. There are no vacation days or time off. There’s no bonus pay for working overtime. Instead, if you’re like me, you’re just stuck with your symptoms 24/7. There might be a reprieve every now and then, but it’s so different than being able to take a full and complete break. Because even if I were lounging in a hotel suite ordering room service right now, the fact is my mental illness would still be with me. I would still feel stuck in my depression, I would still have panic attacks, I would still have flashbacks from my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is no true escape for me.

I’ve talked about this in therapy quite a bit recently — the desire to turn my brain off (even for just a day). I’m so jealous of some people’s ability to truly go into fun mode while on vacation or on their days off. My symptoms are in their own way extremely reliable, they’re there no matter what I have on my schedule. This leads to a feeling of monotony, every day is the same in its dreadfulness.

But maybe there is some way I could get a vacation from my symptoms. Maybe I could have an internal discussion where I point out everyone needs a rest now and then. Even the most diligent and hardworking employees require time off. Maybe I could remind myself a day or two of freedom from my symptoms could be just a way to recharge, a way to remind myself healing is possible. Because then the hope is one or two days of a break could turn into a week or more — that eventually my symptoms will lessen and become rarer.

Although I can’t imagine how my life would look free from mental illness right now, maybe there’s a benefit to looking at people living their best life on vacation. It’s a reminder that an easier life is out there, that I deserve that feeling of bliss when you arrive at your destination. I remember what it felt like to start vacation, that deep exhale when you tell yourself your only goal is to relax and absorb the sunshine. Because my life right now feels way too much like a slog through the darkness.

Maybe I’ll get to take a pause before summer is over. Even if I don’t feel up to traveling, perhaps I can convince my internal system to allow for a brief respite from my symptoms. I know I need to find a sense of rest because I don’t want my mental illnesses to completely control every aspect of my life. Hopefully, it can loosen its grip enough to give me just a short break. In reality, I know I deserve a mental health vacation just as much as anyone else. Even if I can’t post about my mental health break as a fun post on Instagram, I’ll know this type of rest is just as important as a trip to the beach.

Getty image by barkinakgulll

Originally published: July 10, 2021
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