Sometimes you need a sick day. Where you can call off meetings and responsibilities, stay in bed, watch some Netflix, and forget you’re an adult for a few hours of bliss. And people usually understand too, especially if you very rarely bail on a meeting or call in sick. Or when they hear how you’re vomiting profusely or you’ve lost your voice or are extremely contagious with the flu.
But I had a different problem recently. I need a sick day where I could just come home from work, collapse in my bed and shut the world out with a good movie. But I wasn’t sick. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. I wasn’t sick to my stomach or sneezing or debilitated with a sore throat. I was having a really intense low-point in my battle with depression. I didn’t ache because of fever but with lack of feeling. I felt empty and pointless and lost. And I had a meeting that night I knew I should go to, but the idea of putting on a happy face for any longer (you see, I had done it all day long for work) and pretending for anymore people seemed pretty horrendous to me. And I did feel sick. But my sickness wasn’t the type that people normally call in sick for. Depression—even temporary bouts of it when you’re being successfully treated for it—doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse to check out of real life for a little while. You don’t get a sick day because either 1.) Depression isn’t considered a “real” illness or 2.) People who are depressed have to just work through it.
I’ve addressed the idea that depression isn’t a real illness before and you can read about it here, but what really bothered me this time in deciding whether or not to call in “sick” was whether I would be considered “feeding into my depression” by taking time off. Frankly, how could one evening, a few hours really hurt me but so much? But I could imagine some of my friends telling me to “Come and shake it off!” like the way I was feeling could be remedied with a few good laughs and fellowship. Truthfully, sometimes when I’m feeling down, that’s exactly what I need. And I need those people in my life who encourage me to use social interaction as a means of alleviating the symptoms of depression. But it isn’t a catchall fix. (If that were the case, we’d just ship all the depressed people off to happy, learn-how-to-be-extroverted camp. But even extroverts suffer from depression.)
Sometimes you need to hole yourself up in your room under a blank with a silly movie or book. Sometimes you need to call in “sick” and have that validation. That yes, you are sick. It may not be in the traditional sense, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that you are plagued by an illness and deserve the same empathy that someone with the flu would get when they call in sick. It doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to spiral into a black pit of despair and suicide (although you do have to be careful). It means you need some time to reload, refresh, and restart. It means you have to learn to respect yourself and your body and your mind’s limits. And it means that you can’t let others make you feel bad about taking time out for yourself.
I did take that night off. I felt bad about it at first. I just said that I was “sick,” and I didn’t go into elaborate detail because I wanted to allow myself to feel validated in my struggle. I was having a rough week and a hard day and I needed to NOT be responsible Kaitlyn for a little while. And after getting to do that, I felt better within 24 hours. It wasn’t an immediate fix, but I think that if I hadn’t given myself that time or if I had tried to explain it away and only ended up making myself feel more guilty, I wouldn’t have been able to bounce back as quickly.
Sometimes you’re just in need of a sick day, and you don’t have to explain why.