It’s a sentence on its own which doesn’t need any explanation. It’s a weird thing, a shameful thing, something not to tell anyone at all. Having a doctor ask you about your problems and then sending you a digital note stating that you’re deemed unfit for work for ‘x’ number of weeks, is quite frankly, awful.
It shouldn’t be awful. In my ideal reality there wouldn’t be any anxiety attached to needing time off work – in this ideal, society has evolved to understand the importance of individuality, and it knows that for a workplace to thrive, the needs of each person must be met without question.
Unfortunately, my imagination is far-fetched, and though most companies don’t explicitly state their unhappiness with you producing a sick-line, the subtext is still there, and an impending sense of consequence clouds the rest period you’re supposed to be having.
Right now, I am signed off work. It is just two weeks but has the potential to be longer. The sick note, while written by my doctor, was requested by me. This is because I am signed off with clinical depression and suicidal tendencies, and instead of an action plan, my doctor asked, “what do you need, what do you want me to do?”.
During the phone call I was confused. I felt guilty for having to ask for the time off, and I felt as if I were skiving. If I’d had a broken leg or a kidney problem, there wouldn’t have been any questions.
My experience with the GP was upsetting – after telling her I was struggling with my mental health after the death of a close friend, the questionnaire that followed felt dehumanising. I don’t blame her, I blame the systems which have taken away essential funding for care which is needed by the many.
I was given a number for counselling and told to call Samaritans if I felt suicidal.
NHS therapy has a two-year waitlist.
Without the care from my doctor, without having the time to sit down and discuss my issues and potential treatments, I came off the phone feeling like an imposter. A large part of me was convinced that the doctor told me what I wanted to hear. I felt this way, because in my head, I needed to work for the sicknote I requested. Without a proper conversation to prove that I was worthy of time off, I was just an attention-seeker, or lazy.
Logically I know this isn’t the truth. I am an advocate for mental health equality and ending the stigma, and I have fought for people who have not been able to stand up for themselves. So why can’t I apply these thoughts myself?
I’ve been away from work for two weeks, and having had the time to think about it, I’ve realised the fault does not lie with me.
The world we live in is contradictory and focuses its energy on a person’s worth. When it comes to the individual ‘What are they worth to a capitalist society? What work ethic do they have and what can they bring to the table.’ – this question is never extended to encompass what the individual needs to flourish.
We are expected to provide. We are not provided for. This is where the root of our guilt lies. In the inherent notion that we are here to be valuable. When ultimately we cannot be valuable to anyone unless we are looking after ourselves first.
So. Look after yourself. Take the time off you need. Dismiss questions or challenges from people who do not have your individual interests at heart. Rest. Heal.