This has been one of the most difficult years for me mentally in a long time, probably since 2013. Leading up to my birthday, I was starting to feel strong again. I do feel strong, like I have a grip on things.
But a few weeks ago, I had a day where I just couldn’t go into work. It caught me completely off guard— I had just taken a day off two days before for my birthday, so I was struggling to figure out why wasn’t I okay. Nevertheless, when I found myself unable to even put my contacts in because I was crying too hard, I called it.
Since this happened to fall on the Autumn Equinox, that guided my day off. I spent the morning (which felt so long as I got up at 7) organizing my moving boxes in the basement and clearing out old books while I watched a Netflix rom-com. That used to be all that I did— watch shitty rom-coms alone. I don’t do it as much now, because Eli and I are always watching some awesome show or movie. It felt good to watch something only I would appreciate, knowing that it wasn’t the best, but it was a sort of entertainment comfort food. After I finished the movie, I did some laundry, and cleaned up my room. It was a warm, bright day, and I spent the afternoon puttering and lounging around in my room, bathing in the glorious autumnal atmosphere that lighting a simple pumpkin candle created. Being who I am, I of course ended up doing some homework, and scrolling through Pinterest.
While this was quite easily one of the most “self-care” centered days I’ve had in a while, I need to stress that I wasn’t the happiest. Even though I wasn’t judging myself for not going into work, I was judging myself for the way that I felt. Why didn’t I feel okay? Why was I so sad? I had just celebrated my birthday, and my anniversary was two days away. Though my anniversary happens to fall on the same day as my car accident, I wasn’t feeling sad about the accident, so it didn’t make sense to me. Besides, I have more things to be happy for than sad on that day now, so why? This stream of judgement and “why’s” kept me from healing.
The idea of taking a mental health day is still foreign to me. I have documented this feeling well on this blog over the past year. How can I rationalize taking a day off for my mental health, when truthfully, sometimes every day requires it. It’s not just a once in a while happenstance. My mental illness affects me nearly every day, and if I took days off for it as often as it required, I would hardly leave the house. What I mean to say is, self-care for mental illness can sometimes feel like a full-time job. But that doesn’t mean these days aren’t still worth taking, or the job worth doing. I thought I’d write about this because while this was a completely unplanned day off, it was a day of true self-care. Sometimes, when I take a “self-care day” or a “mental health day” I usually plan too many things for it to be actually relaxing. I do things that I think I should do on a day off, rather than what I want or need to do. This was a successful day of self-care, because I didn’t have time to plan how it should be. I just did what needed to be done.
Mental illness isn’t rational. Sometimes we are sad even when we have everything want in the world. Sometimes we are sad for no reason. Judging ourselves for our sadness despite the supposed joy in our lives only makes it worse. Mental health is complicated, and so full of stigma. It can be hard to treat yourself the way you need to be treated, and not live your life according to someone else’s standards for self-care or mental healthcare. But my advice is to try. Take the time to form a relationship with your physical and mental self, learn what you need, and the signs. I’ve been doing this for years and I’m still learning my signs, learning to recognize and honor them. So start now, and try not to let the supposed shame of doing this near you. Try to remember that your mental, physical, and emotional well-being are more important than some other person’s opinion of what you’re doing. They don’t know. They aren’t you. Do you. Be you. You are a human being, not a human doing.
We’ll see you tomorrow.