Do you have depression? Did you recently have a mini episode and cry onto your steering wheel for no reason? Guess what? You are mentally ill. SAY IT OUT LOUD. Well. not that loud. You hurt my ears. Okay. Now: the good news is that you are normal, and that many other people have depression and hold full-time jobs too. Here is one way to tend to your brain and get the space you need to embrace the haphazardness of life as a human being who is regularly sad. You’re going to be fine. But you probably need a day. So here’s how to do it.
Step número uno: clear it with your boss. If you have major depression and have chosen to disclose this to your employer, you are protected under the American Disabilities Act! Hooray! (Reasonable accommodation, y’all. Look it up.) Due to widespread stigma and my desperation for a job, I chose not to disclose on hire; thankfully my boss was cool with it when I emailed him and asked his permission, especially since it’s an unusually quiet time at the office this week. The morning of my sick day, I sent an email to my team saying “I am feeling unwell.” Facts. And then proceeded on to…
STEP TWO look absolutely effing fabulous. Easily done. For real. Just look at those eyebrows. Cock that left baby any higher and I could render most men and certainly not a small amount of women absolutely useless for a good 12 hours (commonly known in the greater Triad area as the On Fleek effect). Step #3 was free coffee because the universe was smiling upon me.
I went to Goodwill, Chick-fil-A, and the garden center next. Because, as is canon according to the original inventors of the mental health day – Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec – step four is TREAT. YO. SELF.
The key to treating one’s self is to purchase useful, good and/or beautiful things that are indulgent enough to be fun, but not enough to leave a bad guilty taste that will add to your sadness later.
The heavens smiled upon me yet again and I came away with the best Goodwill haul of my life, including a Patagonia dress and a Neiman Marcus cashmere sweater (label snob. Can’t help it. Esp. that Neiman Marcus sweater. Those go for $250 usually!). I had some help from Elizabeth and Charlie in between preparations for their flight east under cover of night because Charlie stuck his nose into a top-secret file he shouldn’t have and they have to flee the county. Or he got offered his dream job and they have to move to Durham-ish. Can’t quite remember which. Either way, Liz’s magic eye found me a great sweater, too.
And then I got some cactus soil recommended to me by the trustworthy earth woman at the helm of the anti-Home Depot that I knew I could count on to actually help me and my moldy, foolishly-overwatered houseplants. Mea culpa, Mother Earth. The earth woman pointed me in the right direction, wizened and authoritatively, saying, “I’ve killed enough jade plants in my time to know how to take care of them” with all the worldly-wise fatalism of an old Air Force pilot or a farmer from the Dust Bowl. So I repotted them, along with some new ones.
Depression pro tip: certain houseplants (such as the mighty and resilient pothos) can purify indoor air from toxins in paper products, cleaners, etc. Hashtag good vibes.
Next up on my mental health care to-do list: the giantest pile of laundry in all the land. Living in this apartment has its many perks, but one of them is not a dropoff laundry service. So I go to the local laundromat slash bar. Which is a thing. Do your laundry and throw back a cold one. ‘MERICA.
It’s a marvelous business idea, one I wish I thought of, and is apparently a sustainable model — this is the same place my roommate’s dad did his laundry when he was in college. The machines are older than most things you can find at an estate sale, and my clothes never come back smelling completely pure, but it’s better than beating my bras with rocks. And you can’t beat the vibe.
So I enjoyed a Red Oak while re-reading an old favorite book of mine, A Girl of the Limberlost. It is a delightfully sweet book about nature, suffering, and selflessness. (Which you may read online in its entirety here!) And savored the peaceful normalcy of folding shirts into stacks.
Where are we? Step seven? Sure. Step seven is to nourish yourself. I had some disappointing leftover curry with a lot of Sriracha, which is #1 is covering up disappointment (except in the case of failed relationships… tried smearing it onto the facebook profile pic of an old college crush once and it DID NOT WORK don’t try that at home kids) (also I am now no longer on facebook thank GOD what a horrible place). And, what else, watched the X Files. Mulder never needs Sriracha.
Lastly, I hauled myself to the YMCA (listening to to Salt-n-Pepa’s “None of Your Business” above, which is on the Miss Congeniality soundtrack that I ALSO found at Goodwill — I’m telling you, haul.of.my.life) and went to swim some laps. Judging by the pain in my pecs I probably overdid it since I haven’t had a good swim in ages, but it was everything I needed. I arrived, joy of joys, just as the pool emptied out the 4059693 teenagers on the swim team, and had my favorite lane to myself.
When you take a day off on purpose, divine providence is much more obviously behind all the nicer moments. Like I’m in a music video where the rainclouds let a little sun come in. And David Duchovny plays my love interest. Almost just like that. Or at least like the universe conspired to let me perspire. I should be ashamed of that last sentence.
NO SHAME. A shameless day. Just the clean feeling of slicing through cold water and everything falling into place. I’m such an extrovert that it’s good I love a sport that exiles me into silence and the confines of rhythm and the interior of my own brain. Madeleine L’Engle, when asked how she pushed through writer’s block, says “I go for a swim…[to] break the block that comes between the intellect and the intuition. When intellect takes over, you stop using imagination.” Writer’s block is the same to me as soul clog. A backed up drain. It’s why I need days like this one.
I returned, all chloriney and glorious, to bathe like a Roman empress and luxuriate in the last hour of my day. Like a Roman empress I tell ya. Instead of grapes, I had a Nutella sandwich.
The only bad thing about my mental health day? I freakin’ got sick sick! Like, sore throat and runny nose sick! I suspect my moldy houseplants may have infected me with a fungus, but that may just be the reigning theory because I just watched an X Files with the exact same plot. Except with a volcano instead of a poorly tended houseplant.
Today I ended up working the afternoon from a coffeeshop because the office is like a Costco meat fridge with the air circulation of a sad dentist office. No place for a respectable woman to do her sniffling. Especially since I could just as well write my article with a coffee in my hand not in the office getting people sick than not. Again, very thankful for a job where I can do that. I know not many people in the world can.
Wouldn’t you know it, fun fact, I am at PEAK CUTENESS when wracked with illness. This is a magic power that I can’t ever see working to my advantage unless I were ever to be on a mission to seduce and infect some enemy of the people for the greater good like Mata Hari.
Anyways. I’m sick now and it’s no fun. Skip that part. But follow all the other steps if they’re helpful. Mental health is a part of who you are and there is no way you can be functional at 100% all of the time. It took me a long time to realize that. Give yourself rest when you need it and don’t feel bad about it. The end.
FYI also: The “hollaback girl” entry on Urban Dictionary is some quality literature.
Disclaimer: this post, as I read it, has clearly been inspired and influenced by my coworker, who refers to herself on the internet as June. Her blog, Bye Bye Pie, is hilarious stream-of-consciousness writing, and she will be equal parts narcissistic-ally inflated and deeply eye-roll-y-toward-young-people that I mention her here. Whatever. I think she’s fabulous. Go read her stuff.