I am not going to hide it for one moment – this site is the result of a pretty major catalyst.
I am on stress leave.
This is the first time in my life that things have gotten so bad at work that I physically cannot be there. I have taken days off here and there over the years. I have left work in tears, I have been unable to get out of bed and have called in sick, and I have taken an entire week off. But I have never had my doctor scribble the words “medically unfit for work for a minimum of 6 weeks” before in my life.
I suspect many people who don’t have anxiety or depression would think 6 weeks off is a nice little break. Let me assure you that it is not.
In addition to the anxiety that had overtaken my life at work, I am now experiencing a tidal wave of grief I never expected. The one word that truly sums it up is shame.
I feel ashamed that I am not contributing to society, helping my coworkers, achieving the goals I’d set at work. I feel like a fraud for beginning to apply for Employment Insurance (“EI” … Non-Canadians: this is the government program in Canada that pays if you are unable to work – injury, illness, unable to find work, maternity leave, to name a few), even though I’ve been paying into the program for nearly 20 years (it’s a tax, essentially) and have never used it before.
There’s another thing. One the same day that I emailed my bosses my medical note, I was issued a record of employment. This means I am technically unemployed. That is a tough pill to swallow. I’m not worried about not having a job – if I say I am ready to come back tomorrow, they legally must re-employ me. The pink slip is solely so I can apply for EI. But it sucks because I know of two other staff members who, in the last couple of years, were on leave for much longer than I will be, and they were paid their full wages the entire time. My company does not have short- or long-term disability coverage, so they just pay people who are on leave discretionally. I guess I am not someone they want to pay for. It hurts more than anything else I’ve experienced with them.
I am trying to concentrate on the positives.
I live in a wonderful, wonderful country that provides employment insurance. Many people around the world would certainly be homeless after a short time if they were in my position. I know how lucky I am. It’s not a lot of money (it will be roughly half my salary, I believe), but I will be able to feed and house myself.
I also have an amazing partner who is supportive of me both physically and emotionally. He is able and willing to pay the mortgage and other bills entirely on my behalf. He is also there for me – his love and support are absolutely priceless. One of the biggest problems many people face is loneliness (whether they have a person or not), and knowing that my guy is there for me as I ugly-cry myself through an innocuous TV commercial is an excellent crash course in Gratitude 101.
Last, I have truly amazing friends and family. Sine I’ve entered my 30s, I’ve definitely shaved off all of my toxic relationships and have focussed all of that energy into the meaningful friendships I have. As a result, I only have a few very close friends. But I can count on each and every one of them (including my mama!) when I am in need. Yesterday afternoon, I spent two hours on a park bench pouring my heart out to one of my nearest and dearests. I could not stop talking because she just got it, finished my sentences, and filled in the blanks. She validated my feelings and kiboshed the ones that aren’t fair to me (for example, feeling guilty about not working).
These people offer me the best support I could ask for, and truly understand that there is no quick-fix. Their patience astounds me.
Sometimes you need to experience rock bottom to really notice the amazing things in your life. I am surrounded by greatness, and I am thankful for that.