The Unintentional Sabbatical
When your mental health takes the reigns and forces you into submission
When you fall off the face of the earth
I fell down a metaphorical well
Did you try turning it off and turning it back on again?
(All alternate titles for this blog)
Full disclosure, I had a lengthy, genuine depressive episode, which no, I’m not used to experiencing.
My mental health has always been on the overactive side of things rather than the underactive. Hyper versus Hypo, if you will.
But I’m not here to talk about that specifically.
Let’s talk about the ladder rungs I used to climb out of my well.
About two and a half weeks in I realized what exactly I was experiencing. So I called my doctor ✅
Step number 1, always call your doctor, notify your counselor, tell your parents or your roommate or whoever needs to know, and someone does need to know by the way.
Unfortunately I had to wait to get in for an appointment. At this point I’d already foregone doing any real work for the BUSINESS, that I MANAGE, and RELY ON for INCOME, for three-ish weeks.
In my appointment I finally asked to be referred to a therapist. I’d had a handful in the past, they were fine, but I’d been avoiding getting back into it, mostly because I didn’t want the typical chaise lounge experience.
Now that I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD (which yes, I was officially diagnosed - my first blog I mentioned how I KNEW I had it, but was waiting on results. Check it out here), I was recommended to find an ADHD “coach”, basically someone who could help me learn how to manage it.
Fun fact, coaches are expensive.
So I crossed my fingers and hoped and requested that my future therapist would have experience with ADHD and can help me in a similar fashion.
Great News, my therapist is the PERFECT fit. And I’m so excited! She specifically works with anxiety and cognitive behavioral issues (which ADHD sort of is, or atleast benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy).
So, Step 2. Get a therapist!!!!
There’s such a huge stigma on seeking therapy. But let me be the (probably 1000th) person to tell you, it’s life changing, and you do NOT need to be at the bottom of your well to seek one out. Even perfectly healthy people can benefit. It’s always helpful for a professional intellect to observe you and your behavior and give you a new perspective.
Seeing my new therapist made a miraculous impact, even after the first day. She gave me structure, and some homework, and this week I functioned.
It was magic. I already struggled with executive dysfunction - in layman’s terms, the mental inability to make my body physically do what I want or intend to do. Then December happened and it was totally amplified. I had no idea where to start to get back into work. And that’s exactly what I told her.
Now I have Structure, and Homework (did I mention I was basically Topanga from Boy Meets World as a kid?), so this is fabulous.
And guess what? I GOT STUFF DONE. Not a lot. I’m starting small, easing myself back into it.
But I absolutely needed help to get where I am now - which, by the way, is still just ONE week into the New Year. I'm still much much farther behind than I'd like to be, and much less productive and confident than I was 2 months ago, but the small difference I've made feels oh so good.
Step 3. Ask for help, if you feel like you need it!
This kind of goes with the therapist thing, but often times that doesn’t actually help the problem, just the symptoms. (To be clear, a lot of therapy is figuring out how to handle the problems, so depending on your therapist, they could do both for you.)
If you work in an environment where you’re comfortable talking to your boss, or human resources, discuss how a potential change in workload, structure, or a short sabbatical can be beneficial for you.
Or if your issues are with house work, talk to the other members of your family. Talk to your landlord. Ask a friend to come over and help. A 30 minute cleaning spree with your best friend can often be way more successful than attempting to accomplish it yourself day by day.
Financial trouble? Talk to your boss about a raise if you feel you deserve one. Talk to your loan servicers about reducing your payments. Ask for help from a financially minded relative or friend or adviser if you can swing it, to help you budget and plan and fix the pieces that aren’t working for you anymore.
Behind in your studies? Set up a meeting with your professors or academic adviser. Asking for an extension, an opportunity to do extra credit, or maybe even swapping topics on a paper, can make a huge difference in your performance - and you'd be surprised how lenient and kind professors can be.
With nearly ANY problem, you can ask for outside help. Many times it may have to be from a professional, often involving an appointment or a fee. But you’d be surprised how much help you can get from friends, family members, colleagues, instructors, online connections, groups and forums for people with the same experiences, and even strangers.
In this super inventive digital age, there’s even an app for everything (there’s almost ALWAYS a free version or a free trial). Need help sticking to a diet or exercise plan? App. Budget? AI bot that sends you text messages. Symptom trackers, journaling prompts, words of affirmation, etc.
Back to the topic and title of this blog,
I’m hoping to publish this blog tonight, to get back to my Friday schedule. In order to do that, I may need to cut some corners. But the important part is I made it this far! I wrote this in the past couple of hours. Much like the first blog post I made regarding my ADHD, it seems I have much more success in writing if the topic is immediately relevant. Take that tidbit as a life hack.
But I had started writing a third post way back in November/December, and it was so focused on the Holiday season, that when the holiday season came and went and I still wasn’t my best self, it never got posted. But I have it, and I think it could still be very useful. Join my mailing list here, and you’ll get to read it :)
I’m considering this a success! Let’s hope improvement continues, and I hope that no matter what you’re struggling with, you find some assistance. We’re not meant to go at life alone.