Remember Ferris Bueller’s Bacchanalia?
Ferris’s best class was cutting class. On the verge of graduation, he can’t resist the temptation to skip one last time. He “barfs up a lung” and calls in sick. He “borrows” a Ferarri and convinces his hypochondriac sidekick to go along for the ride. They take off through the streets of Chicago. Hilarious misadventure ensues.
Ferris hijacks a float in the city’s Van Steuben Day Parade, grabs a microphone, twirls it like a baton, and steals the show. All along the parade route, bystanders break out break dancing. Rock out, Chicago!
The Ferrari unfortunately does not fare as well as Ferris does.
The 1961 250 GT goes airborne twice to the Star Wars theme. It does not make it through the credits. Ferris and his friend run it in reverse in hopes of turning the odometer back. But there is no resurrecting the car. Driverless it takes a suicide dive off a cliff into the trees below.
“You killed the car.”
Ferris Bueller just celebrated his “30th” birthday. For thirty years the film has inspired high schoolers to take a “mental health day”. For thirty years the film has inspired really just about everyone to take one incredible and unforgettable “mental health day”.
“Mental health day” , of course, means you’re faking it. You’re lying. You’re goofing off. You’re playing hookie. You’re going AWOL. You’re sneaking around – hoping not to get caught.
Manically speaking, however — “mental health day” — I am here to tell you — is a very real thing.
I took one just the other day.
Hypo-manically flying beneath the radar, I climb, I soar, I swoop and ascend. I coast on clouds in blue, blue skies – on clouds of voluminous white.
My flight is fueled by work, by books, by friends, by family, by church, by walking, by music, by earth, by wind, by fire.
My flight is fueled by coffee and caffeine and extracurriculars.
I f*ing ace at extracurriculars.
I begin to believe that I have flown above my bipolar brain, that I’ve broken the bipolar sound barrier. I believe I’ve discovered anti-gravity. My feet need never touch the ground again. The only direction to go is UP!
So I stay up later doing more and more. I stay up later and I get up earlier – because even in my dreams my head is racing. Racing, racing, racing and there is no finish line. There is no finish line at all.
And then hoped for things do not come true and along with that comes a rejection and a disappointment or two.
I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it, I tell myself. And then I can’t.
I wake up with a dull, twisted, knotted feeling in my stomach. It’s a nauseous feeling tinged with grief and loss. And this grownup woman is bereft as a child.
I curl up in the fetal position, the covers pulled over my head, and then a little voice says,
“I think it’s best, Joani, if you take a mental health day.”
A mental health day is a very real thing – just as real any day away for a virus or a broken limb. Your brain is broken and you are in fear of literally losing your mind. You feel your soul slipping from your grip. You pray not to sink beneath the waves.
Call in sick. Go back to bed.
Yes, call in sick.
But DO NOT, let me repeat, DO NOT climb back into that bed. Get up out that f*ing bed – no matter how f*ing hard it is. Make that bed up as best you can so that you can’t slip between the sheets again.
Eat something real. Wear something gorgeous and go out the f*ing door. Soak in the sun or walk in the soaking rain. Go outside no matter what the weatherman says.
Find yourself a table at a little offbeat bistro and order a gourmet meal. Walk down to the river. Read a book.
See your therapist. Visit a friend. Call your daughter.
Talk to God and rattle some beads.
Go home. Crank up the music and dance in your living room.
Take a shower, take your meds, and get a good night’s sleep.
Take a mental health day.
It’s a very real thing – a very real thing, indeed.