Every Company Should Offer Mental Health Days
There wasn’t anything particularly “hard” about today. I woke up, I showered, I folded some clothes, I masturbated…the normal things. But, there was an overwhelming feeling of “heavy”. Everyone’s “heavy” sits differently, depending on the carrier of the weight of it all; the feeling that rests solely in the middle of your chest, pulsing and riding your nerves into infinity. You stare it into a mirror, into a corner, into a shadow. The heavy travels, too. It lurks and feeds on thoughts and breath. But, there is work to be done. There are to-do lists waiting to be completed, clients to appease, copy to write. There is no time for feelings. Feelings are not figured into payroll strategies. Feelings do not pay bills, do not feed babies.
This is why every job should have a mental health day. Everyone should be allotted, not just sick days, but days we are given to cope, and rest; days offered because your emotional health does not feel up to par with how you, as an individual, normally function. You should be able to take this day, or days, without having to describe what emotional state you reside in. Every employee should be given the opportunity to take the day to say “no”, and with that “no” be allowed to avoid the ridicule of colleagues and management for not “sticking it out.” It should not only be an option, but a mandate.
There are days when I do not have it. There are days when I do not feel like enough. There are days when I want to be somewhere light cannot reach. There are days I question my purpose and my role as a man, a father, a human. There are days when I would rather not try to get out of bed, or rather that I had not woken up at all. On those days, I am still expected to show up, be alert, perform, be. There are days I do not have it to give, but the expectation is I will give, MUST give, because that is my role. On those days I want to lean into something, or someone. But, the work and path of a vulnerable man is a hard one. While Kid Cudi’s recent Facebook letter, where he puts on display his own bouts with depression, is a sign of the evolution of masculine emotion. it is still greatly frowned upon for men to display signs of perceived weakness and fragility. It is this very notion that keeps us bound to desks, and things. There have been times I have needed to cry somewhere, with nowhere to cry but a bathroom stall. It is then that I am forced to hold on to that ball of emotion, of anxiety and frustration and fear until I can I find a safe place to release it. Some of us, both men and women alike, have yet to learn these coping skills, or have no true way of accessing them. So, we lash out at the things and persons closest to us. The violence starts inside, first. Always.
My mother asks me if I am sleeping on some nights, because she has seen an older version of me find disorder and chaos in a lack of sleep. My father battled sleep because he was a paranoid schizophrenic. His own father battled bouts of depression and other mental health disorders, going undiagnosed for years. This story is a familiar one, especially if you are a person of color, where “crazy uncles” or the aunt with “the problem” are relegated to Thanksgiving table chatter, and under-breath chuckles. There are dark parts and pieces of myself, in all of us, that we watch and gawk at from a distance, marveling at the ferocity, the velocity in which the skeletons of our minds can consume us. At those times, a psychotropic is not required, a drink is not needed, a fuck and a talk are not solutions. Sometimes the solution is the silence in the solitude.
I do not want to have to smile, some days. And some days, I do not. There are times when holding my daughter feels like a burden. The times when your good is not the best good you have to offer, and so you pull from that imaginary well of strength you’ve been taught very early on to pull from: “suck it up”, “man up”, “you got this”, “thoughts over matter”, “take it in stride”, “it’ll be alright”, “you’re better because of this”, “grin and bear it.” It is on those days, when the voices of hurt are louder than you want or need them to be, that you do not want to talk, or type words, or be present for people. There are no days for that built into our work calendars, for most of us. So, we try. We sit in those rooms, mind adrift, looking for anything to cling on — a sign, some hope, pieces of a magic pill. There are times when I do not feel whole, when the people I love, are not feeling as whole as they want. Not as they SHOULD be but, as they want. Because SHOULD is a toxin; SHOULD is subjective. There are layers to what we SHOULD do. It is far too easy for someone who is not you, who has not lived your life, to tell you from their own very skewed vantage point, what you SHOULD be doing with your hurt, depression, or anxiety.
Mental health days matter. They matter because there are things that do not fit neatly into a box; you do NOT fit neatly into a box. We are seas of emotions. A death in the family is not the only reason we grieve — relationships die, friends die, families split apart, babies do not make it full term. There are feelings, events, that happen outside of bubbles and easily identifiable checkboxes and societal labels. We, as a society and a people, need to create room for those who need the room; to allow space to and for those where space is so often not given. That is how a village flourishes, how a community thrives. We are the sustenance we both need and crave. So, ask your boss to give you a break. At the very least, give yourself one. You deserve it.