Has there ever been a point in your life when you just knew you had to make a change? A drastic, dramatic, people-are-going-to-look-at-you-like-you-are-crazy change? Stick around to find out how this happened to me just a couple of weeks ago.
My current job I have worked for over three years now. I have been promoted a few different times and am now a supervisor. Unfortunately, my first couple of months as a supervisor were far from ideal; from being short-staffed, open shifts, plus trying to find my footing as a supervisor. I kept telling myself I could handle it all and take it one day at a time. Even though I did that, the more things that needed completing grew as time went on. I knew I was getting burnt out, physically and mentally. I got to the point that I was dreading going to work. I was dreaming about work every night. The stress from my job kept getting worse and worse. I was not taking care of myself mentally or physically the way I needed to, and my anxiety was increasing.
It all came to a head on a Tuesday after work. I felt physically ill; nauseous, dizzy, migraine. I thought I caught a flu bug of some sort, so I did not read much into it at first. It was hard for me to eat anything, but when I forced myself to eat the food, it did not make me feel any better or worse. I started to realize this was not a flu bug, but rather my body telling me I needed to slow down because my mental health was at an all-time low.
Many people do not realize that mental health and physical health are very closely connected to each other. According to an article from Mental Health America, “Both anxiety and depression are linked to physical health symptoms like fatigue, digestive issues, brain fog, and more.” These are known as psychosomatic symptoms, but they are all too real to the person experiencing them. The digestive system is closely related to the brain, so it is common to have stomach issues when overly stressed or anxious. This goes both ways; if you aren’t eating right, drinking enough water, or exercising regularly your mental health will decline. Usually, these two go hand-in-hand.
After realizing that I was mentally at my breaking point, I knew I had to do something. I knew I needed a break. Even thinking of going to work made my stomach churn and my nerves go haywire. So, I made an appointment with my doctor and filed FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) paperwork. My doctor wanted me to take a month off to take care of myself. Let me tell you, the relief I felt walking out of my doctor’s office that day was so immense. I felt like someone lifted this huge weight off of me. It was like I could finally breathe again.
Now even though some relief came right away, that first week off work was not an easy one. It was no vacation. Even getting myself out of bed to get my kids ready for school was a challenge. I would usually come back home and crawl back in bed and go back to sleep until noon. I still had to force myself to eat. I had no appetite hardly. If I got up and made it out to the couch to watch TV before noon, I was doing “good” that day.
My second week off was slightly better. My appetite was starting to come back. I was still tired a lot of the time, and some days were tougher than others. I realized I had a long way to go before returning to a healthy place mentally and physically. I think my mental health had been declining for longer than I ever realized.
Now I’m going into week three and am not sure I can describe how I feel. I don’t feel like I’m doing any better overall. I have moments when I feel like my old self and other moments where even getting off the couch to do a simple house task feels overwhelming and impossible. If you have ever struggled with depression or know someone who struggles with depression, then you know where I’m coming from. It is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. Everyone has times they feel “down” or “depressed” due to different life events, stress, etc. However, feeling depressed without understanding WHY I am depressed when, from an outsider’s perspective, I do not seem to have a legitimate reason to be depressed is one of the most isolating, horrible feelings in the world.
If you take anything away from this blog post, make sure you are making your mental health a priority, as well as your physical health. Both of these depend on each other for your overall wellness. If one is not being taken care of, then the other will suffer.
I hope this post brought some encouragement to someone else who is struggling. Please comment below if you read this and it resonated with you in any way. I cannot stress enough the importance for people dealing with any mental health diagnosis to step up, speak out, and support each other.
Source: Pandemic Mental Health and Physical Symptoms. (2020) Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/pandemic-mental-health-and-physical-symptoms
Image credit: Free-Photos
Amy Ruble is a freelance writer and blogger, specializing in the topics of parenting and mental health. When not writing, you can find her spending time with her two kids and husband, reading, sitting by a campfire, or drinking coffee. You can find Amy on her blog at https://amyruble.com/.