You know how epileptic people have tremors before they have a seizure? After it’s happened a few times, these people learn to recognize the feeling and can warn the people around them they are about to have a seizure. (How do I know this? A pregnant coworker told me one day she was having tremors, and because I was the shift leader on at the time, I got to call 911 when she had the seizure. As terrifying as it was for me, I can only imagine what she went through.) At any rate, I’ve found I have similar warning signs when I’m about to have a breakdown and/or panic attack.
I can’t exactly explain to you what these symptoms are. I just know that yesterday morning, I knew that if I tried to deal with anything that day I was not going to be able to handle it. It’s not the vague threat you tell your kids or your significant other when they’re pushing your buttons. It’s not the feeling of overwhelm you get when your boss dumps another project on your already overloaded plate. It’s a deep sense of knowing that says, “I’ve been here before. If I don’t change directions right now, I’m going to wind up in a very bad place.”
So yesterday, I called in to work. Did I feel guilty about it? Hell, yes. I didn’t give a lot of notice, so there probably wasn’t enough time to find a replacement. That means someone else had to stay late to close, despite being scheduled earlier. I felt bad about that.
I don’t know what the trade off would have been, though. If I had gone into work, the first table to give me trouble could very well have triggered a panic attack. No one wants to see that (believe me). Was it worth the risk? Not to me.
I stayed home. I got some more sleep. My boyfriend made me pizza. I watched Netflix, poked around on the internet, and played video games. I mostly stayed in bed, which is in a protected little alcove in our room that makes it feel like a cave. I felt safe and cool (it is summer), and I had the time and space to heal from whatever had gotten me to that point.
I didn’t realize until this morning that not everyone has to deal with this. Some people never call in sick to work. Some people very rarely get to such a raw emotional state that they have to seclude themselves from the rest of the world. Some people find two days a week off from work to be more than enough time to recharge and recover from the week. I can’t even imagine what that would be like.
Just when I feel like a normal person, I come to realizations like that. I recently bought health insurance for the first time and found I can’t get the cheapest plan because of the amount of medications I take and follow ups I need. Does that make me weird? Because I take two medications every day and need to see a doctor every few months just for my mental illness?
And then I see the phrase “mental illness,” and it’s just sitting there staring at me like, “Um … yes. You are weird. You have a mental illness.”
That doesn’t matter, though. It doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with me. It doesn’t mean I have to explain myself to anyone. What matters is that after thirteen years of dealing with depression and anxiety, I know myself pretty well, and if I say I need a break or I’m going to lose it, I need a fucking break right now. It’s okay to take care of my weird self. It’s okay that I take more sick days than most (sorry, employers/health insurance). Dealing with these issues helps me work my ass off on the days I do go to work. I refuse to feel guilty for that.