Two weeks ago, a psychiatrist emailed me a formal document containing only a few sentences: "Evy will be off of work for two weeks. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me." The pointedness of her letter cut through my shame, and I chose to bring the letter to my employer.
When I've taken breaks in the past, I've often filled the time with hobbies and structured acts of self-care, but this time I did barely any of that. Over the past two weeks, I've done what I've always been too scared to do - I just sat around and did whatever I felt like doing, which was often barely anything at all. I rested, and more importantly I broadened my understanding of what rest can mean and how it can feel.
Many days of the sick leave were filled with dizziness, my head pulsing when I looked around the room or thought about anything too complex. When it hurt to think, I took time to lie down, to rest. And then when my mind softened and the pain cleared, I learned to lie around a bit longer instead of jumping back into productive life with the minimum viable energy to get things done.
Many days of the sick leave were also filled with emotional overwhelm. I've learned that in those moments I can also slow down, lie down. I've learned to let myself cry. Sometimes I've been kind to the tears, and sometimes I hate the way stress fills my body leaving no space for fun, and sometimes I hate myself, and sometimes I've been afraid I'll feel this way forever. I've learned to let myself wallow in this pain even though it scares me, because fighting emotions is exhausting.
Rest has been laying down and staring at the ceiling until boredom pushed me elsewhere. It's been watching leaves dance outside the window. It's been floating in a bathtub with my hair flowing around me in the darkness. It's been wading in a pond, buoyantly balancing on the balls of my feet as a dozen fish nibbled at my ankles. It's been reading in the evening on the porch, to light filtering through a screen door behind me and the sounds of falling rain.
But rest has also been crying and crying and all the thoughts and sensations that come along with that. It's been sitting in my feelings and telling myself: there's nowhere else I need to be right now, and nothing else I need to do, and allowing myself to be upset right now can be rest too.