Several months ago I made the decision based on doctor’s recommendation to take time off work to heal and recover from a very trying time. Along with my physical trials, I faced emotional trials but, along the way, I’m also learning to stop feeling guilty.
I grew up with two VERY hard working parents who didn’t have the choice or the ‘luxury’ to take time when they needed it. They lived in a society who put such a stigma against, “being a burden on the system”. My mother immigrated to Canada and was determined to not be the in the statistic of those who claimed bankruptcy or who relied on welfare or any other type of support. Sometimes, it meant she cleaned houses and worked in a take out restaurant or doing retail along with her full time job at a bank in order to give my sister and I the things we not only needed, but the things we REALLY wanted. My father worked a full time job as well. He found side jobs doing landscaping or flooring or carpentry. He worked shift work so that someone could be home when my sister and I got home from school.
My mother and father both put a high premium on the importance of the education provided to my sister and I so that we could follow in their steps – to make an honest living and not depend on social support or handouts. There were no excuses for laziness or an unwillingness to learn and grow. They wanted the best for us. So, as an adult, I have a certain amount of obligation to make them proud of whom I have become.
I was in high school when my father had a serious accident resulting in him having to go on permanent disability. My mother fought for him to get what he was entitled to – and he IS entitled to compensation. He put in a lifetime of hard laborious work. Yet for some reason, he felt shame. Shame that he couldn’t provide for his family the same way he had before. Shame that his wife had to fight his battles for him. Shame that he was forced into fighting for what he thought was a handout.
The truth is, I never truly understood how he has felt until recently. In June of last year, I took leave from my place of work to focus on healing. Instead, I focused on how I had put my employer in a bad position. I focused on BATTLING with my benefits provider for compensation and I focused on making ends meet. I focused on making it to my doctor appointments and doing everything they told me to do. I had been on and off medications. I had stayed awake at night and in bed all day. I focused on undergoing tests and getting my results. I researched and focused on how to not make myself into the burden that my parents wouldn’t want for me to become. I focused on everything but ACTUALLY healing.
Society has created stigmas against illnesses and time off that have placed shame and disgrace on taking time to heal? WHAT? News flash – I am university educated. I had the same job for 5 loyal years and I’m only 27 years old. I’ve gone in early and I’ve stayed late. I’ve skipped lunch breaks and SO have most of my coworkers and management at most of my jobs in my young career.
The crazy part here is that there are non-educated people who have worked just as hard if not harder and longer who are also entitled to time to heal. Hell, there are people who are not educated with next to nothing in terms of work experience who may be even more entitled than I am.
The truth of the matter is that if a doctor says you need time to heal… then you DESERVE time to heal. Not time to worry about what the world thinks. Not time to justify yourself to anyone. TIME TO HEAL.
It’s time to end the stigma. It’s time to stop the shaming and the disgrace. It’s time to SUPPORT people on their journey to recovery. This is what our country has fought for. In a country with free health care, why does the care of our society come at such a high cost? Who are we to look at someone and decide if they’re well enough? Who are we to judge what is and what isn’t right for someone’s recovery if we aren’t doctors?
I have found the most incredible support system in the one place I that matters to me. I worried so much about my recovery being a burden and not making my parents proud that I failed to see how much care I have had within my family. Though my mother isn’t alive to provide the nurturing she always used to, she didn’t leave me alone either.
My father has been through this. He understands and now finally, I can understand him. My sister has been the most incredibly non-judgmental loving and supportive person alongside her husband and my brother in law.
This month, they reminded me of something very important. I’m on a journey to healing and recovery. I shouldn’t be on a guilt trip.
You see, my father celebrated his 60th birthday in January. My sister and my brother in law planned a vacation for the family. It was the first all-inclusive my father had been on since his honeymoon over 3 decades ago. One of my amazing doctors advised that as a part of my treatment plan that I take go along with them.
For the first time in the months I have taken for recovery, I finally started to heal. The stresses of the world faded. No one around knew my story to judge me. I had my family around me all day, every day. I found my strength and my rest in the arms of my family.
At first, I felt guilty. I’m not working and here I am taking a vacation? It felt so wrong. The moment I ended the guilt trip, dropped the stigma and boarded the plane down south for some warm vitamin D, the real healing began to happen.
Having time off work to recover means days of bed rest, it means medical testing, trial and error with medications; it means saying no to social gatherings and taking some ‘me-time’. It also means, taking a vacation like everyone else is entitled to. It means spending time with family and surrounding yourself with love from friends too whenever you’re up for it. You will have good days and you will have bad days. You might not look sick. People might not ever understand but, it is OK to get support. It is OK to take time off. It is OK to pick and choose what you feel up to doing and not up to doing.
So, get off your guilt trip and get on the road to healing. It’s OK. Anyone who gives you a hard time, simply doesn’t understand. Forgive their ignorance. Focus on you.