GUEST POST: By Robin at Farewell, Stranger
Two weeks and three days ago, I started a week of vacation. Just a random little break after a busy few months.
Two weeks and two days ago – a Saturday – I had a breakdown. A day that was finally – truly finally, in the etymologic sense, i.e. in a final manner; conclusively or decisively – enough. Enough. I was staring at what might have been the end and I’d had enough.
One week and six days ago, I asked my boss for a leave of absence. It has taken me this long – nearly two weeks – to admit this here. Emotionally it feels like admitting defeat, even though intellectually I know it doesn’t and I haven’t. My fingers have hovered over these keys, waiting for the words to admit to this as one of the latest pieces of my story. The other admission will follow when it’s ready, but for now I need to get this out.
I am taking time off work because my PPD is not under control and I’ve had enough and I need to fix this. There. I said it.
I asked my boss for some time off and he said yes, which I knew he would because that’s the sort of person he is. He’s always been supportive, and especially so since a little over a year ago when, after hiding it for a long time, I tearfully told him I was cracking up. When I finally admitted to my struggle with postpartum depression, he understood and has let me do what I need to do.
Despite that support, asking for time off was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to ask for from a boss. Thank God for instant messaging, because I cried through the whole conversation.
A couple of days later I went to see him to do a hand-off of some of my work. He kindly agreed to let our team know I was going to be away. He even gave me the words when trying to figure out what to tell people made it feel like I couldn’t breathe. I chose the cowardly approach and he told them I was spending time with my family.
I suspect everyone knows it’s a crock. I’ve had several “I hope you are well” messages and I honestly don’t know how to respond. I am less well than I have ever been in my whole life.
In writing about my experience with PPD I have embraced honesty. I have told friends and family. I have been a guest on a radio show to talk about it. But I cannot bring myself to tell my colleagues – 10 or so of whom report to me – why I am not at work. Yet.
I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It weighs on me. I want it to be okay to admit that I’m struggling with depression – the postpartum sort or the capital D sort or whatever. I want it to be okay for those on my team to know that sometimes things other than work matter and we need to set work aside.
I also dread returning to work and facing the “how are you” questions from people who are very well meaning and genuinely caring but who don’t know if I’m dealing with cancer or a mental health issue or carpal tunnel syndrome.
For now, however, I have let it be. I will deal with the why at the right time, whenever that is. When I saw my doctor and told her what had happened and how I was feeling, she asked how much time I thought I needed. A month, I said. Four weeks.
She paused and looked at me. Then she ticked the 1-2 months box on the doctor’s certificate and told me to come back in two weeks.
“We’ll see,” she said.