For someone who writes predominantly about mental illness, it was extremely difficult to take a mental health week. My already impressive anxiety played fictitious tapes in my mind.
What if you lose followers?
What if people think you’re weak?
And finally, the one that made me realize I needed a fucking break: You are a failure.
The last tape played over and over, a continuous loop of self hatred. It was also the strongest of the three I listed because it could generically be applied to any part of my life. If I’m being truly honest, there were also little things I was in fact failing at. They became warning signs for my need of a mental health week.
I was stress shopping at an impressive level. Well, not to everyone, my credit card definitely doesn’t find it impressive. Instead my card just kept moaning that it’s in pain from overuse. Impulse control has never been my strongest suit, and when I’m stressed it goes out the door. As does my health. Working out 5 days a week quickly disintegrated, into laying on the couch reading 1980’s romance novels instead. I didn’t even put up the pretenses of wanting to eat healthy. I became an Oreo ogre faster than you could ask why Shrek was sitting in our living room.
The most obvious warning sign that I need to take responsibilities off of my plate though, is when I started to forget my personal hygiene. When I was unconsciously putting off showering, and the days in between began to pile up. It is a clear signal to my psyche that there is something wrong. I’d stopped brushing my hair, or shaving my legs. The bun on top of my head slowly shrank as it got dirtier and dirtier. Then it was only a matter of time before the anxiety attacks themselves settled in. At this point I became the perfect target for one, and I like to imagine my anxiety licking its fangs while she maniacally rubs her hands together. She becomes giddy with excitement.
The good news is I have lived with my mental illnesses for long enough that I can spot the warning signs quicker than before. It never has to get to the anxiety attack level (unless I am REALLY into being oblivious until it’s too late). You see, it’s like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo”. Each time you spot Waldo, it becomes a little easier the next time. Pretty soon you’ll recognize Waldo’s hiding space the moment you turn the page. For me, realizing when I need to take mental health days is quite similar. Once I identify what my mind is silently begging from me-just a fucking break to recuperate, I can start to bounce back. First it takes acknowledging that I am drowning in my projects, responsibilities and just life.
There are some areas of my life where I cannot pen in a letter, apologizing and asking for empathy. I have the autonomy to take a break from blogging, or social media. I can tell my loving husband “fuck cleaning” and put it off until I’m better mentally. But I kinda can’t tell my toddler “mommy is too emotionally exhausted to feed you right now.” That’s not how life works. My kid needs me. I can’t email my professors and say “I’m super overwhelmed with finals, buying a house, processing trauma and the growing number of people who need me. Therefore I will be requesting you omit me from finals.” As much as my professors adore me, they would have their hands tied. So much of life is out of my control, but when I start to feel like a feral animal I know I need to put parts of my life on hold.
Since I took the past two weeks off of blogging and social media, some incredible things happened. I actually cleaned our closet, not to mention some marathon level laundry folding happened. I spent time with my toddler, creating worlds and swimming in pools. I binge read romance novels instead of watching random murder shows on Netflix. Yes, I did hit up some shopping sales but I also showered regularly. More importantly though, in the time I would’ve spent on this fabulous and wonderful blog I instead used to double up on therapy. Instead of writing for the masses, I wrote for myself. Personal ramblings about my trauma that have no place on an open blog, but I desperately needed them to process for myself.
I look at mental health as a scale. If one side dips too low you have to even it out somehow. You can’t just observe that one side is falling, you have to actively search for a way to right it. Mental health days help. It gives your brain a chance to slow down the mayhem. As much as I fear losing followers when I take mine, or being judged, I also want to give an authentic piece of myself to the blogging community. I want to be the person who spreads empathy and love, but when I am not in my right mind that cannot be me. I want my blogging about mental illness to be from a place that feels safe, and last week it didn’t. I was overwhelmed, overwrought, and simply struggling. I’m positive my anxiety would have reared her hideous face had I not taken time for myself.
Thank you to everyone who reads, and supports me.
PS: jobs should provide mental health days, but that is a rant for another post.