A Leave of Absence: Making Hard Choices Harder

So, I’m apparently on a leave of absence from work.  I say apparently because it wasn’t really planned ahead of time… it just happened. I went to work a couple weeks ago and three hours later I was heading home with the intent of staying home for the next two weeks.  Why? All the troubles in life kept adding up to the point that I could barely function.  I was exhausted, severely depressed, and my anxiety had blown up to the point that I spent every waking moment shaking.  Ultimately, something needed to change, and that meant work.

For those of you who are new, I have bipolar disorder.  Up until the beginning of this year, it was something I managed to live peacefully with for the most part.  I had ups and downs, but they didn’t really keep me from the things I had to do.  In February, that all changed. A massive depressive episode sent me to the hospital, then to a partial inpatient program, and then a slow process of recovery.  Well, hopeful recovery, anyway.

Almost six months later, my anxiety has become crippling and work has become nearly impossible.  And it made me think: Work is just making all the hard stuff in my life that much harder.

So here I am, sitting at Barnes and Noble, writing to you guys and seriously wondering:

white staircase with multiple pathsDid I make the right choice in taking a leave of absence?

Yeah, you heard me.  I know I write about mental health and I push for us to take our health seriously, but that doesn’t stop me from having second thoughts.  Did I make the right choice in taking these two weeks off?  I have no vacation time, so it’s unpaid, and finances are tight already.  I’m home all day and having to force myself to keep busy so I don’t sink into depression, where work would at least keep me busy.  I’m running from my problems instead of facing them and working through them. I could have tried confronting the problem and talked it through.  Maybe we could have worked some sort of plan out to ease things there without me having to leave.

Maybe.

I definitely have my doubts.  But at the same time I know…

It’s hard to fix something when the tool is broken.

And I’m seriously broken right now.  Emotionally, I’m weak and I’m scared and that’s not a good place to start when things are really hard.  So, maybe I need this leave of absence to focus on myself.  Maybe it’s a good thing for me to run from things for a little bit, nurse my wounds, and come back when I’m stronger.

Maybe.

Truth is, I won’t really know until it’s said and done.  I made a choice.  Maybe it wasn’t the best one, maybe it was, but I know something needed to change.  What I was doing wasn’t working and I was paying the price both physically and emotionally.  So, I made my decision and I’m sticking to it as best I can.  I may wonder and I may doubt, but I refuse to feel guilt because ultimately I’m doing the best I can, and that’s pretty amazing.

So, here’s my reminder to you.  Keep going. Doubt all you want, wonder if you need to, but you don’t have to feel guilty for taking care of yourself.

<3

Shahana

P.S. If you’re thinking about taking your own leave for mental health reasons, make sure you read up on FMLA guidelines and get in touch with your company’s HR.  Each place has different ways to verify need, so you’ll want to make sure you do it their way.

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