Since reading Matthew J. Murphy’s Remedy: How I Cured the Incurable, I’ve been thinking a lot about health. Obviously, based on the subject matter of the book, digestive health has been at the forefront. However, another health matter has been plaguing my mind more prominently: mental health.
I have discussed before how writers and artists are prone to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. I’ve also established the fact that I suffer from severe anxiety and mild depression, and I strongly advocate seeking help for such issues. Still, that’s easier said than done. Therapy, medication, self-help books, where should you start?
Healing is a personal experience, and even more so when you’re struggling to maintain your mental health. No one can tell you where to start, only give you suggestions. With that in mind, I have a suggestion on my own based on a trend which has been gaining in popularity recently: take a mental health day.
We’ve all taken a sick day, whether it’s been from work or from school, often both. Most people reserve sick leave for physical illness (or a surprise trip if they’ve run out of vacation days, but they’ll never tell their bosses that). But what about when you’re experiencing a bout of depression or crippling anxiety? Should we just “suck it up,” even if that means our work could suffer?
A mental health day should come into play here. I say “should” because, sadly, the stigma surrounding mental illness still makes it incredibly difficult to get the people around us, including our employers, to understand the necessity of taking a day off to heal mentally. Nevertheless, when mental illness spikes, we aren’t up to snuff and it shows in everything we do. We aren’t as useful to our employers, and it’s better to explain the problem to our bosses and ask for some time off than to let our work deteriorate and risk losing our jobs.
Writers need mental health days as much as the typical 9-5 worker. In fact, we’re among those workers who need a day off most. After all, our work comes from our minds; if our minds aren’t up to normal standards, it will show in our writing (or lack of writing, depending on how we handle mental illness).
Why do I bring this up as a starting point? Mental health days can help us understand our condition more. We can stop, breathe, and analyze what’s going on with us. We can make appointments with our primary physicians or therapists and get a leg up on the issue. Just a day of rest away from stress could do people a load of good.
What do you think of “mental health days”? Are they a necessity or an excuse to get out of work? What should we do when mental illness overwhelms us? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.