We Need Employers Who Care About Mental Health, and to Plan For When They Don’t.

Have you seen the exchange between Madalyn Parker, and her boss, Ben Congleton?  She sent an email to her team saying that she was taking a few days off to take care of her mental health.  She was open and honest about it.  He boss’ response astonished a lot of people:

Her boss was supportive of her need to take care of herself- including her mental health.  As a person who struggles with anxiety and depression, the support of someone who recognized that taking care of yourself mentally is just as important as taking care of yourself physically is astounding Not every boss is like that.

Mental health is still stigmatized.  I know that a lot of people wouldn’t hesitate to call in sick to a job if they had a flu, but would try to soldier through having an anxiety attack.  I know. I’ve done it.  There is sympathy when you’re physically ill, but annoyance when you’re mentally ill.  I know, I’d dealt with it.  I had a slight recurrence of Conversion Disorder as I was dealing with the death of my Step-Grandma, and when I called in sick to work, I was chastised for not coming in.  I wasn’t able to use my legs well, and was walking with a walker, but it was made very plain to me that missing work was not only inconveniencing the manager, but my co-workers as well. In fact, I was told that they were going to  “reassess my employment” if I continued to miss work. I had missed ONE day.  However, the co-worker who had recently had an accident wasn’t shamed for calling in.   I felt terrible about missing work, but I couldn’t WALK.  After talking to my psychiatrist, my parents, and thinking about what was best for me, I quit that job.

I quit because I felt that taking care of my mental health was worth more than a job that was making me sick with stress. I was lucky I was in a position to quit. I live at home with my parents, I have another job managing the social media for my local animal shelter, and I had firm grasp of my finances.

My parents taught me from a young age to be careful with my money.  I usually have a budget and know what I can spend, and how much to save. Of course I blow money, but I am also  saving for a car, travel, and concert tickets.  I use a site, Feed The Pig.org , that has a budget planning and ways to help you reach goals.  For instance, I use a Goal planner to save money for a car, while putting money away in an emergency fund and still having cash to go out and have fun.   I also used it’s credit card calculators to see if was the right time to get a credit card.  It wasn’t.

Knowing that I had an emergency fund to fall back on while I looked for another job is what made it easier  for me to decide to take care of myself.  Just as I planned on ways to take care of my mental health, I also planned on ways to take care of my financial health.


Getting Real About Mental Illness

The other day I was waiting in line to see Harry Styles on The Today show, when someone asked me something. In a non-malicious way, a new friend had asked me- “How are you able to be so open about your mental illness? Aren’t you scared sometimes that people are going to judge you for it?”

I was able to explain it to them but I thought maybe I would share it with you all, too.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have depression and anxiety. It’s a fact, it’s an illness. I treat it with medication and proper therapy and I can keep it under control. I will never be ashamed of it. I’m not afraid to tell people I have Lyme disease, just the same as I’m not afraid to tell them I have depression. Though different, they’re both treatable illnesses.

If someone wants to judge me on having depression and anxiety, they aren’t the type of people I want in my life. I’ve had my fair share of friends who didn’t “get it”, told me that I just needed to get over it and stop being nervous, stop being sad, that it’s all for attention even after I’ve tried to calmly explain why it is I feel the things I do sometimes. Those aren’t my ‘friends’ anymore.

I don’t want people in my life that are going to treat me as a joke, act as if it’s embarrassing when I speak about my own mental health.

Lastly, I talk about mental illness and I speak of it so casually, because not a lot of people will. Like my friend Whitney said,  Living life with mental illness can be living life in a Ghost Story. Slowly but surely it’s getting better, but we still have this stigma behind mental illness. It isn’t embarrassing, it should not be a taboo topic, it should be something talked about and recognized by more people as actual illnesses so we can treat them, and spread awareness to what they actually are. Education should be spread.

I also speak so that if someone else is struggling, they won’t feel so alone. Maybe if I talk about it to someone they can open up and understand that they may have an issue, or they see it isn’t only them struggling. They can see how I went from such a dark place and came out of it. I want people to see they can achieve things and do what they want even with these illnesses.

                    Every time I speak about my mental illness,       I help end the stigma. 

I like to keep it real, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety as of late has gotten much much worse. I was recently hospitalized for a week, paralysed,  with Conversion Disorder.  It isn’t something that just goes away but it can get better. With extra therapy and medication, I am so much better.  My depression is better, too.

My new friend understood, and actually thanked me for speaking about it. But the conversation we had afterwards about it was so rewarding, being able to help someone feel a bit better about their own illnesses and feel a bit of hope, it’s all worth it to me.

 

 


Thankful for Today

This week,  I did something  that maybe wouldn’t be that big of a deal to someone else, but to me, it was huge.  I am extremely proud of myself and what I’ve done.

I  camped out at Rockefeller center for over 24 hours to see one of my all time favorite artists, Harry Styles. The whole thing was absolutely amazing.  I was in the first 20 in line, made some  incredible friends, and even more memories. Harry bought us all pizza, we were interviews by Access Hollywood and the Today Show, we were playing music on small speakers, simging along while laying on the freezing concrete tangled in limbs and blankets just to stay warm. It was freezing, even with my layers and blanket, the wind was bitter and my hands felt frozen. I got maybe 20 minutes of sleep. The trips to Starbucks and then getting lost in the NBC building looking for the bathroom at 9 PM, they are something I am going to look back on and be so fond of -especially with how close we were able to get to Harry.

 

A year ago, I would not have been able to do this. I went to New York City and camped out all by myself. Yes, many people have done it before. But I had been so anxious I hadn’t been able to eat anything but 2 cheese sticks and a fruit cup the day before, barely anything to the days leading up to it. But I went. Even with some thoughts yelling that maybe it wouldn’t be worth it, that I should go home, watch it from my living room. The constant echos when things got a bit hectic that maybe I should leave, that maybe I wouldn’t be able to see, the constant anxiety that wouldn’t go away, it didn’t stop me this time.

I had moments where I was close to leaving. My back ached and I couldn’t feel my hands, the VIP line was almost 2 blocks long and they got let in before we did, the fear of not being able to see kicking in. But I stayed. Even with the crowding, I stayed.

First, because Harry is my favorite artist. He cares about his fans, he put on an incredible show for us. He sounded absolutely amazing, interacted with the crowd. The energy of the plaza was incredible.

Most of all, this trip was a goal to myself to prove to myself and others doubting me that I could do it. And I did.

An incredible man let us into the VIP section. After we asked him nervously if we would be able to see, saying we had been there for as long as we did, he took the 20 of us and let us go back into VIP.  I want to thank that man, even though I don’t know his name. Thank you, if you ever get to read this.

I’d like to thank Harry, too. For giving me that bit of hope when he sent pizza and the message he saw us on the street waiting and wanted to help us because he appreciated it. He had no idea how that message really encouraged me to stay the night. This was for him, this trip. But it was also for me.

 

I got to hear new songs, dance and sing, be seen on the Today Show. I took incredible photos and made  dozens of new friends  I made memories. Most of all, I made a proved to myself that I was strong enough to take on my anxiety, and win.  I might not be very time, and that’s okay. This time, I won.

Thank you, Harry. Thank you, Today Show. ?