I moved into a new apartment about a little over a month ago. There have been some small struggles and obstacles, like battling loneliness and brainstorming dinner ideas, but as a whole, it’s been a pretty enjoyable experience.
Stressful as heck at times, yes, but still enjoyable.
But last week wasn’t like the other weeks.
Last week sucked.
On the evening of Saturday the 28th, in the middle of Dungeons and Dragons, I received the news that a friend of mine from high school had been in a car accident and died.
I had picked up my phone to check the time but saw that message instead. I sat there, staring at my screen, unsure how to process that information. I drafted a quick reply and shook it off. I uncreased my eyebrows and tried to smile off the knot forming in my stomach. We were in the middle of a battle and I didn’t want to miss anything. My friends would have been understanding, I’m sure. But I, being who I am, chose to shrug it off and say nothing. I figured I’d process it later.
Sunday arrived. I had a full day planned, and because I am paranoid of letting people down, I followed through with my prior plans. I hung out with a friend of mine who had recently gotten married in the afternoon, and after supper one of my best friends came over and we were able to catch up. While we were talking, another friend called. I called him back when I was alone, and while he and I were talking, my mom called. After I had called her back, it was way past my bedtime and I crashed immediately.
The entire day had passed and I hadn’t had any time to myself. But that was okay, right? I felt fine. I like people.
Monday morning hit like a ton of bricks and I found myself unable to get out of bed. I was supposed to start work at 8am, but, since I was working from home that day, I decided it was okay to start a little later. ‘I’ll just work a shorter day and start at 10am,’ I thought as I turned off my alarm and rolled over.
But I didn’t start work at 10am. Or at 11am. I spent the majority of the morning pacing the apartment, or sitting at my desk and staring at my computer screen until my vision blurred.
The worst part was, I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so off that day.
After I returned from theatre rehearsal that evening, I broke. I sat on the couch and I just sobbed. I had been talking to my mom over the phone and everything that had been piling up for the past month all hit at once and I fell apart. I cried harder than I have in a long time.
Tuesday I drove into work and tried my best to push through. I almost fell asleep twice on the drive in and my focus drifted all day. Though I didn’t want to, I ended up sharing with my supervisor how I was feeling. I told him about what happened over the weekend and how I struggled on Monday. He was kind, patient, and understanding. He made it very clear that I could take some time off any time I needed to.
But I didn’t need to. I was fine. It was fine. I just needed to suck it up and buckle down, right?
I almost fell asleep again on my way into work on Wednesday. I felt dizzy as I sat down at my desk and slid my headphones on. My stomach was churning as I made my first call. Taking a deep breath, I squeezed my eyes shut and heard my supervisor’s voice echoing in my head.
“You can take a day off if you need to.”
I told myself to make 30 dials. If I still felt sick after that, then I’d go home.
I’ve never called so fast in my life.
After my 28th call, I looked at the time. 9:30am. I messaged my supervisor, packed up, and left. Instead of driving back to the apartment in Grand Rapids, I went to my mom’s house in town. The visitation for my high school friend was that evening, and I felt it silly to drive home just to drive back several hours later. So I went to my family’s house, did the dishes, and took a nap.
By the time my mom and I were going to leave for the visitation, I was feeling much better. The extra sleep did me wonders, but also just talking was helpful. As an extrovert, I thrive off conversation and quality time with others. I hadn’t had much of that on Monday and Tuesday, which definitely didn’t help my funk.
I felt much better on Thursday morning, after allowing myself to sleep in (which was hard for me to do). But I sat on the edge of my bed and I began to wonder. Should I work? Am I all the way better? What if I’m not and work only makes it worse again? What if I slide back into that depressive state?
The thought terrified me.
But the thought of taking a day off also terrified me. Not only would I be letting my supervisor down, but I’d be screwing myself over. I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And I’ve got bills to pay.
After wrestling with the idea for a few moments, I decided to let my pride down and take the day off.
And I am so glad I did. I found my energy slowly returning. I felt like myself again. I smiled again. I danced around the kitchen again. I felt joyful again.
No, everything wasn’t magically fixed. All my stress didn’t go away. I wasn’t suddenly perfect at my job, either.
But I did feel better, and better yet, I was able to prevent another mental breakdown.
So, what’s the purpose of this post? I’m not asking for sympathy. It’s not a cry for attention. It’s not to say that one or two days off of work are going to fix all of your problems.
But in the past week, I’ve learned so much. About myself, about grief, and about growth.
And I think it’s worth sharing. —
Don’t be afraid to rest. It’s important to give our minds, bodies, and emotions time to recoup. We endure so many things each day, and sometimes too much. And when our buckets overflow, we need to give ourselves time to mop up the mess. If we don’t, we’ll slip and fall. Just like I did.
Also, it’s okay to let down your pride. It was hard for me to admit that I wasn’t okay and even harder to skip a day of work. But it was my honesty and vulnerability that helped me grow and built trust with my supervisor.
It’s okay to not be okay. We just need to give ourselves time to not be okay. Time to grieve. Time to rest. Time to process.
Take the time. You are worth it.
Have you ever taken a mental health day? What could be a situation that you may benefit from taking one?