It’s okay to take a mental health day

Well, day 6 of 2021, and I’m already taking a mental health day. I feel compelled to make this my first post of the year because, while I know the concept of mental health days is gaining traction, it also feels a bit weird when, as I type, many of us are in a month-long lockdown working from home. It’s also just after the holidays, and while many did not get more than two stat holidays off (particularly those in healthcare), some of us got between one and two weeks off. So taking a mental health day three days after returning to work feels, well, wrong.

This week, my focus has been exclusively on the smallest steps. On Monday, I spent the day updating our budgets, fundraising plan, and timelines. Then yesterday, I tackled scripting, which involved re-visiting the 2018 December 6 vigil, as well as footage and witness narratives of the 1989 Massacre.

Technically I’m “paper” editing first…

Wow, I was not prepared for how much this footage would drain me emotionally. Especially the archival footage from the event in 1989. Playing the content over and over so I could timecode and transcribe key elements for the script really drilled home the pain of the event itself. Especially the day-after interview with one of the women who survived the shooting. Draining as it was in the moment, at the end of the work day, I was able to walk away and go about my nightly routine in a positive mood.

Today, I woke feeling energized. I walked on the treadmill for some exercise, and listened to two podcasts by Sincerely, Hueman and one by Finding Humanity while I walked, all of which shared really interesting stories about inspiring individuals making the world a better place. I felt really inspired to get into some more script-writing after listening to the podcasts, so after a shower, I eagerly sat down at my desk, ready to work.

I don’t know what it was…maybe how beautiful and positive the podcasts were, or how overwhelming the topic of violence against women can be, or maybe it was the stress of 2020 finally rearing its ugly head, but moments after sitting down, I started sobbing for no clear reason. And I didn’t stop crying for a good hour.

For anyone who has gotten their cry on, you know it is completely draining. By the time I’d stopped crying, I was really tired and the whole morning was gone. Considering my entire day tomorrow is back-to-back meetings, I figured that taking the rest of the day to just relax and decompress would probably be best. So, on day 3 of ‘being back to work’, I’m taking a mental health day. And that’s okay.

One thing I have learned taking my own first steps in anti-violence work is that you really, really need to be gentle with yourself. Facing the horrors of humanity and working hard to make the world a better place while regularly watching women’s hard-fought gains slide backwards is nothing short of exhausting.

Anti-violence work is a marathon and a relay race!

That’s why all the seasoned activists will tell you, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And I’ll go so far as to say, it’s a relay-race mixed with a marathon. To keep going, we need to take it slow, with regular breaks where we can pass the baton to other anti-violence activists while we rest and rehydrate. This is also why we need more people to join the anti-violence movement – so we CAN pass the baton when we need a break.

Anyway, all that to say that today, I’m going to spend the rest of the day in my PJs, drinking lots of water and tea, and resting. And tomorrow, I shall be ready to slay again.

Nicole Bedford