Two months ago, I gave myself a mental health day (shortened to MHD hereafter), a day dedicated to improving my psychological wellbeing.
It’s taken me so long to write this post because my thoughts haven’t been very coherent since. My motivation has been at an all-time low and anything non-urgent has been pushed aside to give me more time to sleep.
I didn’t tell my lecturers that I would be absent on the day in question. I was worried to tell them I wasn’t mentally well enough to take notes; afraid they would think less of me or assume I was looking for an easy way to skip class.
Society has evolved, with people campaigning for the right to equal treatment for physical and mental illnesses, and now you’ll hear a lot of people saying it’s ‘okay to not be okay’. But we often don’t have conversations like that in our daily lives. One of my friends cracked a joke about my antidepressants when I started taking them and it’s all I can hear every time I think of talking about my illness.
I can’t shake that simple comment because people don’t talk about their mental health problems. We don’t cater for people who need to take a day away from the world because, although society claims to understand what it’s like for those who struggle, they don’t make enough of an effort to understand their needs.
This conspicuous silence on a subject that isn’t taboo anymore is baffling to me, but it’s also probably the reason I chose to keep quiet about my struggle. My manager is aware of the medication I’m on and she’s told me that I can talk to her about any problems I’m having so that she can support me as much as possible.
The lack of universal acknowledgement of the need to take a day off sick because of your mental health makes that impossible for me, I’m terrified that I’ll be fired or put into a disciplinary meeting because of my absence which is absurd considering the support my manager has given me so far.
For my MHD, I started off thinking I just needed to do as little as possible. I’d never spoken to anyone who’d taken an MHD before and I didn’t know what to expect or do.
It was 2pm before I woke-up for long enough to check my phone and catch up on my messages. I skipped my daily news fix, ignored any message that wasn’t drastically urgent, and lay back to watch Peep Show with my cats.
Within a few hours I realised that I actually felt worse than I did before I’d given myself a day away from the world. In doing nothing I had effectively given in and let my illness control me. I had let my mental health win.
I knew I had to do something, anything, to take back a small piece of control over my life, so I got out of bed, threw on the first item of clothing I found on the floor, and left the house.
I wandered through town and the difference was nearly instantaneous. Suddenly I started to feel less drowsy and fuzzy. I could create logical ideas in my head instead of trying to make sense of hazy, muddled thoughts.
I bought myself a treat when I reached the furthest small shop on the High Street, bringing home something sweet to snack on as I resumed my watching. This time I sat in the living room, fully dressed, and everything made a lot more sense to me.
It seems fairly obvious that you won’t solve your problems by sitting in bed all day, moping and wishing yourself better, but when your body is telling you it’s too drained to do anything else life gets a little confusing.
Maybe if I’d spoken to someone about my intentions they would have told me that taking a day to myself was fine, as long as I did something with it, or maybe they would have told me that I should just stay in bed all day. I have no way of knowing what might have happened if I’d had the guts to stand up and ask someone what I should do but I do know that something needs to change.
It’s estimated that a quarter of UK adults will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their life and I can guarantee that not all of them will be able to function as a human being at every time of their life.
It’s okay to need to take an MHD, but please speak to people around you. Tell your teachers, your boss, or even just your family. Make sure someone knows that you’re not okay and they’re looking out for you when you come back into reality to make sure that you made the most of that day.
Don’t let your brain bring you down. Not when there are so many people around you willing to help.
If you have been affected by any of the themes mentioned in this post you can reach out to various charities for support.
Mind – A UK organisation that can offer support or advice on mental health needs
Samaritans – An organisation offering a free helpine to support you in a time of crisis or offer advice on mental health needs
Here is a general list of any helpline that can be contacted from either the UK or the US. Please seek help if you feel like you could be a risk to yourself or those around you and please try to stay safe.