How do you know you need stress leave?
This is an interesting question. I can’t answer it for anyone else, obviously, but this is how it looked for me, at least as I am trying to put it together at the moment, who knows what I might say if you ask me in a month or a year.
It began when the thought, “I can’t do it anymore,” became a regular thought rather than a once in a while thought and when “it” could be almost anything rather than only the big, difficult, and reoccurring. It continued when I realized I was always tired but couldn’t sleep. For anyone with experience with depression this sounds a lot like depression and I don’t deny it does. It felt a bit different though. I have been a person with depression for most of my life. It has been managed reasonably well with a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy. I have had times where I was more depressed than others and while the similarities are definitely there, this isn’t exactly the same.
The final piece of the puzzle was during my last visit to my psychiatrist. My psychiatrist is an interesting person. He is one of the best dressed medical people I have ever interacted with. What with the changes COVID-19 have brought about his wardrobe has changed and he is the first person I have ever seen who can make scrubs and a mask look elegant. He is quite clear he is not a therapist but a psychiatrist which means he is looking for medical/pharmaceutical answers to his patient’s issue; he doesn’t dismiss therapists, he simply isn’t one. It has worked out for me to see him every other month. For those of you who are sufficiently fortunate to not need to see a psychiatrist you may not know some of the routine. Every visit I fill out the same questionnaire and depression/anxiety instrument. For anyone keeping track at home it is a combination of the PHQ-9 and the GAD-7. The point is to see what is changing and how things are going over time. The questions are answered for the past two weeks.
Every now and then I have responded to the question, “What do you need?” or “Is there anything else you need?” with a jocular, “How about six months of medical leave?” to which we both chuckle and move on to the next things. The last time I saw him I said something along the line of “I think I need some time off.” He looked at the numbers on my PHQ/GAD and said, “I want you to think seriously about whether you need time off and phone me.” This was on a Tuesday. I thought about it, talked to people about it, and called him on the following Monday. And here I am.
There were other things involved naturally but the deciding factor came after the visit with the psychiatrist. When the possibility of needing and receiving leave was meaningfully raised I saw myself in a different light. I that light I saw how inaccurate I was, how much longer it was taking me to do normal tasks, how afraid of new things I had become, how hard it was to focus on anything even (especially?) things I like, etc.
A few days in I can say nothing has changed, nothing is better in one way, but I have hope, and that makes almost all the difference.
Disclaimer: not sure if this is actually a disclaimer or not but if you would prefer to only get notification when a sermon is posted, let me know and I’ll see if I can figure out some way to make that happen. Your alternative is to make a rule in your email app to delete anything from me that has “Stress Leave – ” in the title which should accomplish the same thing.