“I can’t take care of myself right now, because ___ needs me to ___.”
This is such a common theme among those of us who struggle with our mental health. We make excuses to avoid confronting our struggles, and the easiest one of all is that someone else is relying on us to be there for this event, or that project. And if it’s not a person, it’s our employment: “This has to get done, and THEN I can take care of myself.” Only...the “then” never comes. There’s always something new.
It’s okay to make yourself a priority.
It seems selfish, and that’s okay; boundaries are important and should be a little selfish. Most of us are programmed from a young age that we should always be secondary, and that is toxic to our physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s good to have rules for yourself. It’s okay to tell people no. And it’s really okay to take the time you need for you when you need it.
A mental health day IS a valid reason to take a day off.
We live in a world of corporate drive, of constant “hustle” culture. Employers often offer little in the way of sick leave, and when you take your PTO many may make you feel like it’s an inconvenience. And that’s not fair to you.
If you were contagious with the flu, would you force yourself to go in? If you broke every bone in your body, would they expect you to struggle through the pain that same day? No. Of course not. And mental trauma and struggles are the same: they need time and attention to heal.
Whatever is sitting on your desk? It can wait. Or it can be delegated. YOU are the important part of the equation, and when you go in tomorrow you’ll feel better rather than just forcing yourself to move along when you’re burnt out.
Others are not entitled to the space you need for yourself.
It can be easy to get lost in the noise, and even easier to let other people take advantage of you without either of you realizing it. When your mind is busy trying to hold itself together, the last thing you have the strength or desire to do is ask someone to take a step back. But sometimes that’s what you need, and that’s fine!
It’s important to recognize the difference between support and suppression. The one thing we all know is that other people can’t do the work for us; we have to do it ourselves. We have to seek out the healing we need: through therapy, taking time for ourselves, surrounding ourselves with good things that make us strong, and weeding out the toxic things that encourage bad patterns. And if that means asking someone that loves you to give you room to breathe, that is absolutely acceptable and there is nothing to feel guilty about.
Mental health is a journey.
When you live with mental illness, there are good days and bad days. It can be absolutely exhausting, and you are entitled to the rest that you need. Progress with your mental health is a marathon, not a sprint; you can’t fix it all overnight. Just know that you are never alone and that you have an entire support system cheering for you!