I can’t decide whether today is a mental health sick day. My morning has consisted of cold sweats, palpitations and a splitting headache preventing me from being able to see straight. Maybe I’m run down or I’ve caught a virus? Maybe it’s all in my head, I don’t have a clue.
I’m sat writing this in bed wrapped up, half draped out of my bed to get a balance of temperature, you know the drill… This wouldn’t usually be something to take note of in this complicated British summertime-to-wintertime weather, and me working myself silly with 3 jobs and a degree but, to me, it’s more than that and my health is something that has always concerned me. I’m exhausted worrying about it.
On the exterior, everyone will tell you I’m effervescent and full of energy. My interior will demonstrate otherwise. Every mental health sick day is a reminder of this.
My anxiety is mainly surrounding the body and health, but that’s another story in itself. So, as you can imagine, the lines of feeling unwell or feeling anxious are very blurred for me. Anxiety and emetophobia have affected my mind, body and goddamn soul for as long as I can remember. I’ve always tried to vocalise how I feel or at least write it down but that means thinking about it. If you have anxiety you know how crippling it is, but also how shit it is to admit that – hence why a mental health sick day is something at LAPP we believe should be 100% accepted.
Age 15/16 I contracted very nasty glandular fever and missed a lot of school, lost a lot of weight and felt incredibly flat, unhappy and stressed with my GCSE’s ahead of me. I always had teachers knowing my business and girls making comments about my weight in the P.E changing rooms asking me why I couldn’t take part in that days’ shitty excuse for exercise.
Now I must stress, I am so lucky this illness wasn’t a life-threatening one for me, but with no cure and the bastard killing off my immune system I didn’t know how much I’d be affected thereafter and everyone asking questions did NOT help.
I would say my anxiety peaked massively age 15-18 due to several reasons but it meant the disgusting nausea, palpitations, sweaty palms and inability to focus in certain situations got thrown in with this virus I had for a good 6 months. May I introduce to you the equation for a very confusing and frustrating future.
The amount of times I was excused from lessons, school assemblies, exams even…This meant I was used to being allowed to escape situations I usually felt anxious in. At the time I was chuffed as it saved me a lot from daily anxieties. I’m stubborn and do spend a lot of time trying to ignore it but then I land in situations that send me into a panic. In the past, this has meant a massive miscommunication for those around me of what was actually wrong. I blame all this exemption I had due to being unwell.
Flash forward to now; I’m 22, in my graduation year and live in London. My struggles now are university, work, social life, public transport etc etc. Due to this confusion of whether I feel unwell, I am unwell or I’m just anxious, I have excused myself from lectures, seminars, events and days at work. Today was one of those days.
The only way I can explain is to say imagine you feel sick and dizzy but you don’t know if it’s because you’re actually going to vomit/faint or because your body is going into panic mode and that’s the side effect. I don’t get shit done when I feel this way, and that’s all too often.
My parents didn’t raise me to duck out and I’m a hardworking and extremely driven person. I HATE missing out. Sometimes I need a push on those days to get out but sometimes I need time out – a mental health sick day. But how often do people email or ring in sick and actually honestly say they’re having trouble with their mental health?…It’s because we’re made to feel as though it’s an invalid, weak or laughable reason. But a mental health sick day is just as valid as Swine Flu, a broken bone or German Measles.
To any lecturers or employers who may be reading this; encourage an open yet private relationship within the environment you are in, we may not state exactly what we’re going through but allow us to feel comfortable to take time out for mental health. Without our mental health we cannot function, let alone study or work.
I guess my intention for this open confession is to argue that anxiety, depression, bipolar, eating disorders… whatever it is, it should be accepted, not stigmatised. After all, we will all experience it first or second hand at some point in our lives. And to those of you who avoid things because of anxiety, don’t limit yourself so much that you miss out, and create an even greater sense of fear. We have to ake a mental health sick day once in a while but also face reality to live our best life. My advice would be to push yourself when you feel stronger but know your limits and take care of yourself; you got this.
Written by Jessamy Mattinson