A common misconception, even today, is that mental illness is limited to the mind, when it reality, it can (and almost always does) spill over into the body as well.
Recently, I had an extremely stressful day, where my OCD went berserk for hours on end like Donkey Kong on an espresso bender. I found myself trapped in a situation where I couldn’t escape the stressors all around me, made worse by the fact that the careful plans I’d made all fell apart due to factors outside my control. By the time I got home I felt like someone had filled my head with barbed wire and shaken it like a cocktail mixer.
For days afterwards, I was physically unwell. I was exhausted, had a headache, couldn’t think clearly, had body aches, a tight chest; I felt so crappy I actually wondered if I had caught covid.
Years ago, when I was doing placement as part of my postgrad in education, the same thing happened; I just couldn’t handle long hours day after day in an environment so full of sensory stimuli. I tried to hang in there and tough it out for as long as I could, but eventually my body just gave out and I had to withdraw from the course.
Not enough people seem to realize this, that a mental illness can take a huge toll on your physical health as well, and that it’s not just a matter of needing more disciple or trying harder, any more than one can will away an infection or a broken bone.
I work part time not because I am lazy, but because I know from experience that my health pays the price if I try to do too much. I still push myself hard and take on as much work as I can, and over the years I have increased the amount of hours I can handle by a lot, but I also have to prioritize my wellbeing.
The mind and the body are not separate entities, there are deeply and intrinsically intertwined, and when one suffers, so does the other. Never judge someone mentally ill as lazy; they’re probably fighting a lot bigger battle than you might think just to be where they are.
And if you are someone who struggles with a mental illness, never feel bad for taking time off or giving yourself a break. As human beings we have a finite amount of energy, and sometimes we need it all just to stay afloat. You’re not weak, you’re just doing what you have to to stay healthy, and that’s okay.