16 June 2016

You're allowed to have a bad day

Perhaps it's the literature student in me, but I'm a first-class example of pathetic fallacy right now. Hello rain, meet the storm of anxiety; in short, I'm currently drenched from head to toe. I keep telling myself that should go and find an umbrella - get a grip of my mind and stop feeling this way. Consequently, I've been feeling inadequate all day. It took me over five minutes just to write the last sentence; I couldn't decide if the "all day" should go at the beginning or end of the line. Obviously this vital detail could determine if someone reads any further. 

Oh head, you are delightful. 

So I'm currently curled up on the sofa with my laptop, sipping tea and accepting it's just "one of those days." I'm too exhausted to try and find a more 'productive' solution. My posts are never usually this unscripted. I planned for my next post to be a slightly frivolous fashion piece; in fact, part of my inadequacy is linked to the delay in finishing this. Simply put, today didn't pan out that way. 

Anxiety reared its dictatorial head from the moment I woke up. Anorexia was quick to follow. It took me fifteen minutes to track down my blood sugar metre; however, after I found it and tested, I almost wished I hadn't. The reading was just a fraction higher than usual, but let's just say that my head didn't respond very well. Breakfast was a new cereal, which I didn't enjoy. My head puts two and two together and we reach conclusion 265 - it's because your blood sugar was high and shouldn't have eaten. It's your fault. Dear head, can we possibly rewind to the other 264 scenarios please? Aka, not the lies that anorexia brings to the table - food tastes better. 

Then came the rain, turning my crisp new batch of CVs into a bit of a soggy story. I'm slowly getting better with buses, which were once a breeding ground for anxiety. Today, however, I felt sick and pressed the button two stops early by mistake - I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was worried about handing out my CVs, given the fact that last week's round have gotten no response. My self-deprecating conclusion is that my CV isn't good enough. It always comes back on me. Yet I handed them out. What's more, I treated myself to the softest new ball of fleece wool from my new favourite shop in Bath. It felt wrong and indulgent, but it's for a good cause - hello fluffy dog coaster gifts! 

My main purpose today's town trip was my weekly appointment with my CPN. I thought it was at 3pm, but a phone call at 2:10 revealed that I had the time wrong. 2pm. Fantastic. So I  abandoned the Starbucks queue, tried to get a taxi, failed to get a taxi, caught a bus, got off a stop early (again), ran like Pheobe Bouffay and arrived 30 minutes late. My "Sophie is an idiot" head could barely contain itself. In hindsight, there was a silver lining to the whole situation; if only every therapy session coincided with your most anxious moments.

I'm usually quite measured in my appointments - old habits die hard. I definitely use humour as a coping mechanism, though usually the laughs are at the expense of my own "crazy" head. Today, I talked. Just talked - or ranted. I'm not quite sure what I was doing, to be honest! What I do know is that it helped. A lot. As did a very gentle reminder to stop, breath and ground myself.
Moreover, by the end I was able to accept that it's normal to have a bad day. Everyone does. Moreover, it's important to acknowledge and accept bad days - especially if you have a mental illness. In the past, my bad days wouldn't change my plans. If I had an essay, I would write. If I had a lecture,  I would attend. Newspaper press day? I got on with the job in hand. The consequence was always myself; more specifically, my mental health. Anorexia was the engrained coping mechanism. 

I arrived back home an hour ago, drenched from the rain and drained from the storm in my own mind. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. My first instinct was to spend hours silently ruminating, dwelling on "should haves" and "what ifs", but it won't change anything. So I got a trek bar and tea and did what I needed to do. I ate my snack and I chose to write this. My body needed fuelling and my mind needed unpacking; I don't travel light. After I finish typing, I will close my laptop and pick up my crochet hook. The new wool is waiting and that next blog post will wait. This is part of recovery. It's okay to hold up your hands and say "this isn't going my way."

When your head is giving grief, the 'therapy line' would be to challenge it.... I'm not going suggest this! For one, it would make me a bigger hypocrite than Taylor Swift singing "you belong with me." Yet I also question how effective it is. In principle, positive affirmations are wonderful; nonetheless, you have to buy into them. This is easier said than done, when anxiety has robbed the bank of rational thinking. The reality is, if we could magically change our way of thinking, mental illness wouldn't exist. Instead, try sitting with the thought, but remember that this is all it is - a thought, not a fact. I am also a newfound believer in taking time out. Don't force yourself to keep going, if your wellbeing would take the hit for doing so. Don't consume yourself with activities that easily fuel self-criticism.

Find simple distractions for the thoughts, which don't come with high stakes. My go-tos right now are craft projects, Modern Family repeats, or reading. I love reading my new Calm book, or the latest copy of The Simple Things. Alternatively, you could do what I'm doing now. Write about it! There's a high probability no one will read; however, there's a marginal chance that someone in a bad day slump will. 
Recently, I've been focusing a lot on mindfulness. It is all too easy to become caught up in the past, or second guess the future. I am learning to focus on the here and now; start  each day as a new slate. When my head hits the pillow and my eyes close, so too does the chapter of a rather dreary Thursday. I can't carry it into tomorrow, or the next day. It's okay to have a bad day, if you remember to check yourself out before midnight. Think of it like a library fine; once it begins, the money quickly accumulates and you are the one who loses out, while the book sits in your bag intact. Mental illness is the same. Anorexia or anxiety don't feel the pain they inflict, but you will keep getting hurt. 

So it's time for me to press pause. I might even post without proof-reading; I would probably end up deleting otherwise! For now, I have a coaster to crochet and a cup of tea to heat up. Halfway through this post, I decided I would rather have an iced coffee - so I did. I never made it to Starbucks, but it could still get to me. 

Below are some of my favourite blog posts, relating to this topic. They definitely helped me feel less alone, so I am very grateful to the authors.  

* this was the post that inspired me to write this post! Thank-you Lauren. *


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