Cracking my knuckles, I look up at the building while the crosswalk blinks white with the walking man.
I can do this.
I went back to work after spending four weeks struggling with and recovering from my mental illness. Okay, if we’re being specific, one week of sick leave, and three weeks of short-term disability. I took four weeks — 20 days — from work because I physically couldn’t get out of bed some days. Not only that, but the brain fog was so bad that I couldn’t concentrate. I forgot things as simple as names because my memory was barely in tact. I would pause in the middle of sentences because I lost complete thought.
I was in no shape to work.
But I am now. I think.
I open the doors and swipe myself in. It’s the first time since January that I’m swiping in. I ride the elevators to the fifth floor, and walk to my office. It’s all so… normal. I went 20 work days without stepping foot into this building and this floor… and nothing changed. I tear up thinking about how good this normal feels.
The meetings come and they don’t stop. Meeting with HR. Meeting with my team. Meeting with a project group. I’m there, I’m taking it all in, until I’m not. I fade fast and the brain fog sets in. I’m mentally and physically exhausted, despite getting eight hours of sleep. I leave early despite feeling ready to take in a full day. I start to fall asleep on the subway on my way home. Only 10 more minutes until I can collapse on my couch and snuggle my dog. And I made it.
Why does the day feel like a strenuous feat, and yet, a failure?
I feel like a failure because I’m unable to do the most basic and mundane tasks, like sitting in on meetings. Like brainstorming an alternative word to “experiment” and following a link to a video I need to watch. I’m not yet at my baseline of “ok,” and it sucks. It’s frustrating that I have to put my brilliance on the bench because my mental health isn’t superb. But I’ll get there. Each week I have slowly gotten better, and it won’t stop now.
Today was a challenge, but I accomplished it. I went back to work for the first time in 20 days — 31 days if you include weekends.
Success is not linear. I’m going to have good days and I’m going to have really bad days. I’m going to have okay days followed by amazing days. It’s not going to be constant achievement. I’m learning to walk again, and one day, running will feel normal. I just have to get there, slowly. And I will.