I should have called in sick, but I couldn’t. Our project at work is nearing it’s deadline and we need all hands on deck. I am fortunate to have the means to work at home, but that isn’t an option for me; I am simply not as productive at home as I am at work. You see, my office is my sanctuary, my rest zone, my creative domain. I am inspired to do my work there, so there I must work. But I am sick today and my illness is highly contagious.
What is it that you think of when a co-worker calls in sick? Head cold, stomach virus or maybe even the flu. The last thing you think of is that they are mentally ill. In fact, those who suffer a mild mental breakdown are very much unwilling to admit that they are sick in fear of judgement or recourse. Most of us will simply call in sick and say we have the stomach ache but in the back of your head claim “it’s a mental health day”. It’s sad that we cannot admit we are mentally ill.
Last Monday, I was mentally ill. I had to go into work in-part because my team counted on me to be productive but mostly because I knew my office was my sanctuary. I am blessed with an office that has a door, four walls and no distraction. I avoided all human contact for the day and stuck with my habits. Was I being weird? Sure. Call it whatever you want. But we don’t condemn a co-worker who is sneezing and coughing for locking themselves up in quarantine! So why wouldn’t we afford the same luxury to a temporarily mentally ill person? Knowing that my mental illness could become very contagious and could very well drag others down, I stayed away from the herd and ate up the distant yet noticeable laughter of my co-workers in the next room. While I was doing my part in not sharing my illness with them, they were inadvertently helping me to be healthy again with their lively banter.
It took awhile, but as the day moved on, I became happier and healthy again. I ate the good food that I bought for lunch, I slipped on some happy music and I worked undistracted. Like a cold where you feed it warm soup and cool water, I was feeding my illness with vegetables, fruit and some soul-lifting tunes. By the end of the day, I was feeling a bit better, but not totally in form. I felt relieved that I could be somewhat productive at work and I was relieved that my co-workers didn’t press me. I felt that even during one of my darkest days in awhile, I made a difference. To top off my day and really cure my illness, I knew that my saving grace would be my workout class. So, to close the day I headed in for 45 minutes of high-intensity sweat filled exercise. When I got into bed that night, I felt as normal as I ever could. It was a good day.
The lesson here is that when you are having a bad day, sometimes it is best to keep it away from others. Like a head cold, a bad day is amazingly contagious. From the unpleasant facial expressions to the general lack of compassion in the tone of your voice, we all have an effect on the mental state of others. If you are not mentally able to contribute, then you are prone to taking the happiness away from others. Of course, if you are having a mental breakdown and are in need of urgent help, the only option you have is to talk to someone. But if you are having a bad day, sometimes the best medicine is to close your door, rely on your healthy habits and pamper yourself with solitude. Solitude is sometimes our best medicine.