All the airbags deployed. Every single one of them.
Nearly a dozen off-white balloons filled the cabin, making it look like I had just left a party supply store en route to a wedding — to death do us part, indeed; I was suddenly married to the reality that a Blue Crush Metallic Toyota Prius had just saved my life.
I’m a ‘trudge through it’ type of guy who rarely ever kicks his feet up, not even during a rough patch physically or emotionally, but after my terrible car accident while on holiday in October, I desperately needed a mental health day. I needed to bask in the warm sweet glow of still being alive and kicking, and miraculously, unharmed save for a sore left forearm. Because I’d be without a ride for 24 hours, my mental health day took place in the charming town centre of Norwich England, hiking in a National Park between raindrops and finally beneath the sun, and then later that night in a music hall beneath a sea of pastel concert lights, with muddy hiking boots as ad-hoc dancing shoes. It was everything I needed to keep going.
Less than two months later, my 6th grader’s first ever mental health day was spent in the kitchen overtop a mixing bowl baking cookies, in Old Navy’s infant section Christmas shopping for the child she had sponsored with her own money, and beneath a favorite fuzzy blanket on the sofa with me re-watching old episodes of her favorite cartoon, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. That Tuesday in early December was the physical embodiment of a 24-hour comfort food buffet.
I had learned the night before that her best friendship was on the rocks, for reasons I couldn’t quite understand through the tears. What came through loud and clear though is that a day home from school, a mental health day, would do her more good than whatever lessons the teachers had planned. While I was driving Lyft early in the A.M., I couldn’t shake the thought of my sad little girl hysterical before bedtime. I called home and had mom ask her if she would like to stay at home with me. The answer, unsurprisingly, was an emphatic “yes!”
By the next morning my 11-year-old was happy and whole again, ready to march into school and sort things our with her bestie.
I may have a history of “trudging through” but I know now that taking care of yourself (and of your loved ones) is the only resolution worth keeping this new year. With a president and an overall political climate driving many of us decent people to the edge of insanity, having a few mental health days stashed away in our back pockets could be the difference between making it through the whole of 2019 as happy, healthy people ready and able to keep fighting to make the world a better place, and maybe preserve our best friendships too.
By pressing pause on regularly scheduled life we are not running away from a set of problems, but rather, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to set down all the bags we carry every single day, and giving our weary arms and shoulders a much needed break. Whether it’s due to politics, a bad car accident, or fearing the loss of a best friend, mental health days where we might release some of the anxiety that weighs us down, relax our minds and bodies, and breathe a little freer, are a necessary part of modern life. Let’s resolve to use them to our advantage in 2019.