Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Evolution of the Mental Health Day

It was like being a kid all over again. At night, I listened to weather reports and compared varying levels of expected snowfall. The words “snow day” danced around my head, tantalizing me. As soon as my eyes opened in the morning, I peered out the window and headed right to my computer to see if classes had cancelled. I felt the same rush I used to feel when I realized I did not need to put on my uniform and trudge to the bus stop…

…And then I plunked down at my computer and dove into work, excited that I had such an early start and that a whole day to catch up on projects and hopefully get ahead on others stretched before me.

Oh, how times have changed.

My snow-induced day of productivity was just what I needed, and made me think back to another hallmark of my childhood days, my mother-induced “mental health days.” Once in awhile, my mother would let me and my brothers take a day off from school just because. Think of it as a kid equivalent of a personal day. We could do whatever we wanted, whether that meant playing board games, watching television, or going out to lunch.

Considering how many weeks of school I missed every single year due to my illnesses, not everyone understood her rationale in allowing me to miss even more. Yet it was precisely because I missed so much school for unpleasant things—surgeries, infections that left me fairly lifeless on the couch, doctor appointments, diagnostic procedures and tests, etc—that it was even more important to my mother that I have a day every now and then where I didn’t have to think about school or sickness.

If it was important for the healthy kids to just take a mini-break from school and sports and extracurriculars (and it was important), then it made sense for the sick kid to get a break from her own realities, too.

Invariably, I never made exciting plans for my mental health days. Sometimes we got lunch at Friendly’s, other times we just watched Little House on the Prairie. Most often, I read books. Since whenever I normally had the chance to just hang out I was either feeling too sick to enjoy it or was too busy catching up on schoolwork, these simple activities were all I wanted or needed.

And reading a book on the couch or in my canopy bed, as opposed to the waiting room of yet another doctor’s office? Bliss.

Everyone I talked to yesterday who had a snow day or some sort of improvised telecommute commented on how welcome it was. After a hectic week of moving, unpacking, and getting over a fairly nasty infection, a day to catch my breath and take stock of what I needed to do was the best mental health day I could imagine. Nothing makes me feel better than knowing I’m crossing things off my To Do List and by last night, I was feeling so much better about facing the rest of the week.

True, what makes for a mental healthy day in my world has changed a lot since the days of Little House, but whether you’re sick or perfectly healthy, my mother was certainly onto something—an unexpected break in your routine can do wonders for psyche…And when you’re an adult, sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned snowstorm to force that break.

Don’t forget the polls are still open over at Medgaget! If you’re so inclined, click here to cast your vote for A Chronic Dose in the “Best Literary Medical Weblog” category.


Dreaming again said...

Funny ...that's what my therapist and I talked about today.

Not in so many words ...but it is.

She has RA and various other autoimmune diseases, I have lupus/myasthenia gravis ..so neither of our immune systems like us ..and frequently rage war on our bodies.

Today ... we were both being warred on ..made for an interesting (and quiet) session.

I used to give my kids "mental health" days off from school as well. They had so many health problems ... in addition to tourette's syndrome and OCD ... they needed the break.

Maybe ... I need to take that into account for myself sometimes too.

A said...

Your mom really knew what she was doing. Here's to mental health days.

The storm cut off my cable and internet, so I used the day to get things done around the house (I certainly wasn't going out in that weather.

Anonymous said...

Your mom raised you and she is aware of the situations. So in my view she did correct.
Many time i also have problem with my child to. I care him and his mental health.

Dual Diagnosis.

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