Monday blues or distress calls? Go ahead and take that leave!

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Oh My Monday!

Okay, we all agree that Mondays are difficult. And in my last therapy session, I actually made a self-deprecating joke on how I am jumpy on all Mondays. But jokes apart, today is Monday and I could not even dare to log in to work, even from the comforts of my home. Weird! Isn’t it? Isn’t this Monday blues, Monday Motivation etc, kind of fun things to joke around, made popular by the social media hash-tags? I mean, who takes Monday blues seriously anyway? Well, the truth be told, a research by consultant firm Mercer says that about one-third of all sick leave is taken on a Monday.  

It’s not a discovery, right? On some difficult Monday mornings, we all have googled it, in incognito mode of course:

How to get rid of Monday Blues?

Is Monday blues normal?

10 signs you hate your job.

And all the blog posts give you some simple workable tips to handle Mondays in a better way. Well, this is not that blog. In fact, here, I want to share my own experiences with Monday blues and how Monday blues for me was much more serious than it sounds and led me to this superb idea to join a group therapy that helped me cope with my life in general.

But before I get into that, I would want to acknowledge something- as a country, our obsession with work, oops sorry, our obsession with salaried work. To be more precise, our obsession with slogging day in and day out at office. Did you know, India is the most vacation-deprived country in the world?

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Work is worship

There was a time when working for others was considered a low-grade occupation until agriculture was taken over by manufacturing and service industries. Work benefits, paid leaves, financial security and rewards and recognition made jobs so enticing that today, every farmer and artisan wants their children to opt for it. But what we often overlook is the loss of mental freedom.

I belong to a farmer family but my father is a teacher. I have worked mostly in well-established corporate and start-up companies. I have seen the employment conditions changing across the generations. While I never saw my grand-father and father taking leaves, I also noticed how well balanced their lives are. They slept well, always ate at home, on time, had time to exercise and socialize and watch television. On the other hand, look at us! On weekdays, I don’t even say a hi to my family even though we live in a 3-BHK flat and not a bungalow! I skip meals, I think about work while taking a morning walk, I dream about office when I sleep. The first thing that comes to my mind when I wake up is- how busy is my calendar? And being a woman, it becomes more difficult since I am also responsible for taking care of home and family.

I am not saying that it’s wrong. Times have changed but unfortunately, our beliefs have not. My father still gives me lectures on how work is worship and I should never take leaves. Accumulated leaves for him are like medals on a soldier’s uniform. So, I take leaves and never tell him. Taking personal leaves is my well-guarded secret. Just imagine how boring my life is!

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My Monday blues story

On a serious note, I think it’s time, we don’t read volumes of psychology self-help pages and brush off our Monday-related distress like I have done, on several occasions before. We should, on the other hand, understand the root of our anxieties. What is it exactly that bothers us so badly and returns every Sunday evening? If it helps, here’s how my story goes:

Before I delve into my story, here’s two things about me:

  • I have been suffering from social anxiety forever. It’s just that I didn’t know what it means. I was called out as shy, introvert, weak, asocial, etc by my own family for not being able to hold a proper conversation.
    • I was a class topper who never participated in discussions.
    • I buried myself in books whenever there were guests at my home.
    • I sat in a corner, alone in all social gatherings.
    • I have even cried my lungs out whenever my mother used to ask me to visit my neighbors.
    • I froze during presentations and stage performances.

I did everything that was possible to make me “brave” like learning classical dance that involved frequent stage performances, participating in debates, opting for professional courses including MBA, going for open mics, etc but nothing really helped. I wish I was offered support instead of being bullied.

  • My mother has always been a housewife. She hates to step out of the house. But when I was a kid, I was told that I have to get educated and have a career. I never had a female role-model in the family and hence idolized the male relatives and in the process, also imbibed some toxic male values. My understanding of the gender inequality in the home was reduced to the lame belief that whoever brings home money deserves special treatment and everything my mother did like home-chores and raising kids were not important.

Both the above-mentioned factors have always worked against each-other for me. I was always inclined towards creative work like art, creative writing, dance etc but as mentioned already, I wanted to follow my male acquaintances who were engineers, managers etc because I also had this convulated idea that creativity belongs to women and I hated to be a woman (A very toxic belief but would cover it in another blog).

After years of hard work, I actually landed a managerial position, at a very early age. To be honest, it was exhausting, thanks to my anxiety but I was happy. Then I got married and traveling to other city every weekend to meet my husband was getting overwhelming. Detection of Endometriosis was the final nail in the coffin and I left the job in a haste.

Luckily, I got another job in the new city- a well-paid job in a reputed organization. The only problem was-I didn’t want this job. Sales was not my cup of tea but wasn’t I taught that nothing is impossible with hard work? I accepted the job. And I think with the right kind of training, I would have achieved success but instead, I was subjected to verbal abuse. And it was funny how the company, instead of investing training time was investing energy in making personal attacks in the name of motivating the employees. And while I was slowly slipping into anxiety and depression due to this, my family made me believe it is a common workplace scenario. Mondays were the most difficult. I dreaded to even wake up. The mental trauma I was going through coupled with my own toxic belief killed my self-esteem.

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But I survived and I am alive and kicking now..

This continued for six months until one day, on a Monday, I broke down in the office. My hands were shaking. I was a mess. I couldn’t even write a leave application. I had to call up my manager to help me with the email. And that was the last day I saw that office. What followed was a year of suffering and unemployment. The fact that I could get out of the situation is a miracle till date but the lessons I learned from the episode were the most important.

  • That my feelings matter. Even if they seemed trivial to others, it was my experience and ultimately, it affected me as well as everyone around. Hence, taking care of my mental health is my responsibility.
  • That no job is more important than my well being. I was the primary earner of the family and this reason stopped me from leaving the job even after I realized how toxic it was. But ultimately, it drove me to a point where I had suicidal thoughts. I was dependent for over a year and my family suffered but hey, I came out alive.
  • That paid leaves are not favors that your company does to you. Paid leaves are your right. You don’t need an emergency or unavoidable situation to ask for a leave. Just make sure you are not running away from your responsibilities at work.
  • That mental health at work is a topic worth discussing. Often when an employee leaves a job due to pressure, colleagues make fun of the person, calling them weak. I hope organizations realize that such trends indicate a serious issue with the company culture and take necessary actions.
  • That asking for help is not a sign of weakness, irrespective of the gender. I cannot stress enough on the importance of talking to someone who would listen to you without judgement. If you don’t have anyone around please visit a therapist. You do not need to be diagnosed with a mental ailment to visit a psychologist.

Okay, that’s the Ramayana of my life. But to be honest, I feel much better now. Thank you for listening to me. Also, if you have this one question on your mind, I would answer that. I am very happy with my current job and organization. Yes, my messed up employment history makes it difficult for me to survive Mondays but I am hopeful things would get better in future and if they don’t I still have many leaves left.

BTW, did you know that some countries have Sunday as the first day of the working week? Sunday blues anyone?

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