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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mental Health Day

The concept of mental health days needs to change. Right now, "Mental Health Day" is a tongue-in-cheek way to say that you're playing hooky, or goofing off instead of working. But that perpetuates the stigma around mental health that it's not something to be taken seriously. (This is a conversation that can have so many contexts: feminism, the new economy, entrepreneurship, wellness. Suddenly: I have a series of posts to write.)

More and more, I learn about friends, family members, and of course, blog editors, who deal with some type of mental health issue, at various levels of severity. Sometimes it's seasonal, sometimes situational, sometimes it's chronic. Each time I make the discovery that someone else is dealing with mental health problems, I'm struck again by how important it is for me to find a career or lifestyle that allows me to appropriately care for my mental health, while also giving myself breaks when I need them. 60 hour work week? You are not for me.

The last important point I'll make about mental health, for now, is that it's really really difficult to explain what it feels like or what the symptoms are. For example, if you look up the official symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, you could paraphrase them by saying you feel sad in the winter. Which is really not how it feels at all. It's like trying to explain what a period feels like to a man. No matter how well you explain and no matter how well he listens, there is still a major gap in understanding. Mental health conditions are not things you can "snap out of." But it's very hard to explain why that is.

So, in closing, this is all just another reminder to "be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."