Every day eventually ends.
“You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment!” – Aly Raisman
Today has been a bad day. It follows a string of terrible days. Both my Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) and my Bipolar Disorder have ganged up on me. Coping is difficult.
I am miserable.
Feeling so rough, I practically decided not to write an article this weekend. The longer I stay in bed, though, the more valuable I think this post might be. So here goes.
This may not be my best work. If not, please forgive me.
Bipolar Disorder Symptom Checklist
The Bad Days
Before I begin, I want to specify what type of nasty days I’m talking about.
Specifically, I am referring to the days that come after a period of successfully coping with your chronic illness. The days that sweep you off your feet and kick you in the head. The ones that won’t let you forget you have a chronic illness and it will always be with you.
These are the days my mom always called, “Milk and cookies, pull the blankets up over your head days.”
Personally, I prefer Barq’s Rootbeer and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but that’s a story for another post.
Embrace the Bad
Can you cope with awful days when they arrive like a well-placed gut punch? Is there a way to survive the mental anguish and darkness that comes with them?
I believe there is, and today, I’ll be sharing some of my coping mechanisms.
There Will Be Bad Days
All too frequently over the years, I have seen friends and family members stop their medication because of a string of dreadful days. The negative experience, in their minds, is a proof that their meds have stopped working.
Typically, that is not true.
A painful truth is that we all have bad days. Whether you have perfect health or teeter on the edge of insanity, there will be terrible days occasionally.
Even the best drug cocktail or alternative treatment plan will not make every day rainbow and butterflies. It will never happen. A bad day doesn’t mean that therapy stopped working. Often, it’s just a bad day.
Knowing that truth, start by taking an honest evaluation of the situation. How long has this bad spell lasted? What were things like before they got bad again? Is there anything you did to bring on the event?
Taking a moment to acknowledge that there will be bad days, and learning to expect and accept them, will go a long way to help you cope with bad days.
Find Your Comfy Place
The first thing you’ll want to do is find the place you will be most comfortable. Maybe you like to take long baths, sprawl out in bed, or have a favorite spot on the couch.
Go to your place, and give yourself permission to be there.
Do something nice for yourself at the same time. Make a cup of herbal tea, grab the heating pad or ice pack, get your softest blanket, and go curl up.
Often the fastest way out of several bad days is to take some time to rest and recharge. So take that time.
The next thing you’ll want to do is to find some good distractions. Pull out a book you’ve been meaning to read, catch up on that show you’ve wanted to watch, or pull up a good movie online.
For me, I am a bit of a TV junkie. I love TV and watch entirely too much of it.
Since I’ve been more active with the blog, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of my TV time.
That means that my Hulu queue has got hundreds of episodes in it.
For today, since life feels pretty crappy at the moment, I give myself permission to watch videos all day.
Binge watching shows is a great way for me to get out of my own head and to stop thinking about how much pain I’m in.
Find a healthy escape that works for you.
It’s already a bad day, so throw your diet or exercise routine out the window. Just for today, mind you, not forever.
Let yourself have that bowl of ice cream or chocolate chip cookie dough or buttery pasta. Today is a bad day, and you deserve it to help you cope with bad days.
Don’t go too crazy, or tomorrow will be an even worse day, but allow yourself some sort of treat.
Next, turn on some music that makes you feel calm or that has happy memories attached to it. Light your favorite scented candle or open the windows to let in some fresh air.
Today is about taking care of you.
Sleep If Necessary
There is a lot to be said for sticking to a sleep routine. It’s essential for keeping mental illness at bay.
Usually, I would tell you to get up every day at the same time, whether you have slept or not. Then I would tell you to get out of bed because beds should only be for sleeping.
For today, though, since it’s a bad day, sleep as long as you want. Stay in bed. Pull the blankets up over your head. Today is your day to heal your chronic illness.
There’s one more thing to do to have a successful bad day.
Determine Tomorrow Will Be Better
You gave yourself permission to lounge and snack and sleep all day today. That’s fine, but tomorrow has to be better.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Tomorrow might not be any better. You may be right.
As I said, I’m in the middle of an FMF attack. That means I am in lots of pain, pretty much head to toe, I’m dangerously dizzy, and waves of nausea keep crashing into me.
Likely, tomorrow will also be a bad day. FMF attacks usually last at least three days, and today is only the second day that has been really bad.
What does that mean for tomorrow?
Do Your Best
Here’s what I will do. I will get up tomorrow at the usual time. I will exercise before work if I have any strength in me at all. If I don’t, I’ll spend that time reading something to heal my mind.
Then I’ll get my shower, brush my teeth, and get dressed. Even if I’m still too sick to go to work, I’ll make an effort.
Because giving in to the bad days can become a habit. It’s all too easy to stay in bed every day and eat all the wrong things and never exercise.
Illness has kept me from working for months before, and I wasted too much of that time just browsing internet videos until I found how to cope with bad days.
So now, I only give myself one day. Today is that day. I’m deciding that tomorrow will be better.
This week, your assignment is relatively easy. If you have a chronic illness bad day, accept it, own it. Allow yourself all the luxuries that a bad day should give.
The catch is, you only get one day. Whatever you have to do, make tomorrow better, even if it’s only by a little bit.
You have it in you, and you will survive this too. I have faith in you. Keep fighting.