Mental Health Leave From Work

Mental Health Leave From Work

Even Bipolar Babe's sunshine dims from time and time and I have found myself in a place that I have not been since 2005, which is needing some healing time away from work.  I noticed that I begun struggling  a couple of months ago to get to work and requested a later start time as my sleep was ranging from 3 hours then to a longer night's slumber on the weekends of 14 hours!  My ability to keep a 9-5 schedule became impossible and to wake in the morning felt as if a ball and chain was wrapped around my body.  I barely had the energy to shower and would show up for work with wet hair and no make-up, not having had breakfast which is something I always do.  I began having an extremely difficult time making my lunch for the next day and my organizational abilities began to falter.  I worked in an office setting and although I had always disliked cubicle life, I began to feel overwhelmed by its staleness, lack of sunshine and by the type of environment that it brought.  It felt as if every ounce of energy was soon gone and this became my every day reality.  I began to cry quietly in my cubicle often and the anxiety and fear of an attendance review due to my sporadic absences lunged anxiety into my gut daily.  Luckily, the people I worked with were amazing and I was able to temporarily focus on the task at hand with short blasts of energy, but always falling into a deep depression as the sun went down and it remained when it came to beckon me for another day.  I struggled and suggested working from home but with long-time set rules in a work place, even the most accommodating manager has their hands tied.  I am now inspired to explore the topic of workplace accommodation for people with a mental illness and I am sure that several employers would embrace this opportunity. People often think that if you alter your work setting, the amount of work you do (which is not a solution as you lose your income), or your work hours that the problem may be resolved.  It may prove to aid in recovery somewhat but with all these considerations the fact remains I have an illness.  I automatically feel defensive when people say 'you have so much going on, maybe you just need a break' and with this it seems that the impact of the illness as the leading factor in a 'breakdown' or a 'relapse' is lost.  I prefer to call it mental health time and I am slowly learning that it is necessary for my health at this time.  I remind myself that I am not deficient, behind the game or weak for having to take this time to recoup.  I recently headed up a very successful and amazing event called the 'Bipolar Babe Benefit' which may have contributed to my need to seek refuge but then again having once run for the nomination for member of parliament did not cause me to falter.  I believe it all depends on where my illness is playing out in in my life at the time, how the chemicals are flowing in that busy brain of mine and how stable Ifeel overall.  I have no control of these particular things.  I don't ever want to sound like a victim because I left those sentiments behind awhile ago but I feel it is important to stress that it is not the fault of the person who has the breakdown just as it is not for the person who has a heart attack.  If an employer were not to hire you due to the fact that you have a mental illness, then it may not be one that you would want to consider anyway.  I disclose in my interviews and express how important it is to work with an employer in an accommodating workplace.  There may be benefit that your personal experience can be used on the job, just as one of my manager's most kindly commented that I was a change agent in the workplace and having been honest with my co-workers I allowed a freedom to be understood and it personally brought me peace. I have only recently been living a rich, plentiful and busy life balancing school, work and the babe project and God has afforded me all of these wonderful opportunities, but there are several things that I have learned through this experience.  I will balance my life in a way that will be the most accomodating for me and I will explore this during my mental health leave and once I am well enough I will work with my employer to find a position that does not exasperate my medical condition.  I will remember and do the things that I love to do, such as taking walks by the ocean with my boyfriend and spend more time cuddling my cat.  I will remind myself and take action knowing that my nutrition is of utmost importance and my water intake is key to flushing the lithium through my body.  I will resume counseling sessions and ensure to partake in long conversations with close friends over tea.  I will go to the Pandora Arts Collective (PAC) and share in art therapy and I may even feel like speaking to a group of teens about self empowerment while having a mental illness for this is one of the most healing acts that I can do.  Do not think that sick leave consists of never leaving your home and sleeping all day but it is time to rejuvenate and to take comfort in that everything will work itself out in time.  Take a deep breath, download a CD with beautiful sounds of the ocean, put on your headphones and cry.  I am so blessed I still feel inspired to write as this is one avenue to easing the way out of the darkness.  Let the healing begin.


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