Why Good Days are so Bad

I live with chronic, debilitating mental illness. I have had it my whole life. I am always working to improve myself, and the chemicals in my brain are always at odds with my intentions.

I have written before about the sliding scale that I use to determine my self-care plan when I am having a bad day. Today, I want to talk about the good days.

Today is a Good Day!

Everything is aligned in the magical world of Breelyland. It is the right phase of the moon, on the right day of my menstrual cycle, Mars is out of retrograde, and I am right with Jesus.

I woke up in a good mood. With energy. No muddled, cloudy thinking. This is it. A good day!

I have just come off a week of sliding between 3 and a 5 on my emotional scale. It is taxing and not very productive.

Bad days wear on me and my family and there is no one to take up the slack. Life just goes undone. But good days are different.

On a good day, I can look at problems and form a clear plan to solve them. I have the energy to stay motivated. I can laugh and make jokes. Interruptions in my schedule are taken in stride.

I am always excited when I realize I am having a good day. They are what keep me afloat.

How does it Feel?

The worst part of a good day is seeing my life clearly. On any day above a 7, I can see my failures the way the rest of the world sees me every day.

I see how immature my attempts at mimicking a real life really are.   My disorganization and half-done projects come into clear focus. I see the cleaning and home improvements I need.  I see how lonely and isolated I am.

Severe depression is not sadness. On bad days it is an emptiness that makes you feel like nothing. It is the opposite of feeling alive. Hollow. That is why depression is so exhausting and unmotivating. I have no drive because I am just empty.

Today I can feel. The tears come as sadness pushes me to realize how hard I try. Anger tenses my face as I think of how unfair my life is. Embarrassment fills me with dread at how others must see me.  Fear and shame point at how inadequate I am.

But, since it is a good day, I push that out of my head and hit the ground running trying to fix all my problems in a day.

I take stock of where I am at. Prioritize. Formulate a plan. Start my day.

Seems so easy on a good day. Why is it so impossible normally?

The End of a Good Day

Good days are amazing. I accomplish so much and the relatively little effort it takes leaves me with energy to joke and talk to my husband.  We discuss the future and make plans. Plans that we both know can only move forward on the next good day.

We both pretend this is forever and a new me. Living in the moment and seizing the day have become a way of life for us. I get sad at watching his face go through the expressions of knowing this is just temporary and tomorrow I might be gone.

What is the Point?

I think that some people might be confused by good days. They are not days that I just pushed through my laziness and did what I should be doing every day. They are magical unicorn days where the chemicals in my brain are adequately balanced to allow me to function on a semi-normal level.

They are still hard days in their own right. I am still mentally ill on those days. I can not make myself have more Good days from the strength of my will.

My hope is that raising awareness about Mental Illness and reducing stigmas surrounding discussing it can help people see me and other people with Mental Illness in a new light.

Instead of judging me for my bad days or discounting the accomplishments of my sporadic good days, they will begin to see all of me. How hard I work every day to build a good life for me and my family.

 

 

Psalm 50:15

 

 

Pets And Mental Illness

Pets as Family

Pets are a part of 65 % of American Households.  People develop deep bonds with their pets. They are beloved members of the family.

This bond can be magnified when the owner has a disability such as Mental Illness.

Mental illness can cause isolation and high-stress levels wich can be mitigated, somewhat, by the love of a pet. Science has shown stress relieving chemical are released by stroking a pet. Having the love of a companion animal can help with loneliness.

A recent study has shown that for 60% of participants, (diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) animals were the first tier of emotional support in their lives.

Pets with Jobs

Some pets have moved beyond the passive role of just living in our homes. People with disabilities are finding help through animals. These animals are now being trained to perform jobs for disabled people. Including people with disabling  Mental Illness.

Support animals can help people in several ways.

Emotional support animals use affection as a means to provide comfort and support.

Therapy Animals visit institutions to provide affection and comfort to the residents.

Service Animals are trained for an individual to help with tasks related to that person’s disability.

 

How to Help

There are many benefits to pet ownership for a person with mental illness. These relationships should be encouraged. The bond a person feels with their pets or service animals should be respected and acknowledged. Supporters of people with mental illness should work to help reduce financial barriers to people caring for their pets.

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Please Watch My Video

 

 

 

Job 12: 7-10

Avoiding Burnout in Relationships

Types of Relationships

Relationships in this article are defined as any interaction between two people. This may mean family, friends, romantic, or even coworker relationships. The level of interconnectedness in a relationship varies, but these same principles will apply in most cases.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is when one person in a relationship takes more than they put back in. This is often the case when a person in a relationship has a mental illness.

A person with Mental Illness will have less control of their emotional well-being than a typical person. Care needs to be put into the relationships to keep them from being unbalanced.  An unbalanced relationship will take an unfair emotional toll on one person.

The end result of the constant emotional drain in a relationship is burnout. Burnout will destroy a relationship.

Why Work to Avoid Burnout?

It can be very hard for a person with mental illness to find and maintain relationships with other people. When that person loses a relationship they have built it can really be hurtful and intensify feelings of isolation. Isolation is a common negative byproduct of living with mental illness.

By working to avoid burnout in your relationships you can maintain the connections with others needed to avoid feeling completely isolated. By maintaining relationships A person with mental illness can begin to build a support network of healthy friendships.

How is Burnout Avoided?

When a person in a relationship has a mental illness it is important to work to maintain balance for both people. No one person should take more from a relationship than they give. If there is an imbalance within a relationship a person can try to make changes to fix it.

The first step is going to be communication. Clearly, state the problem and the changes that need to take place.

The second step is going to be to listen to the other person’s response with an open mind.

The third step is work together to make the changes you need to maintain the relationship.

Taking Equal Responsibility

Having a mental illness should be treated like a disease.  They should not be blamed or shamed for its symptoms. This is not an excuse to remove personal responsibility in a relationship.

When trying to reestablish a healthy balance in a relationship both parties should take equal responsibility.  Both parties should set and respect boundaries.  Both parties should put the work in that it takes to make the relationship whole again.

When is it Too Late?

Sometimes, time and distance from the relationship are needed to regroup and rebuild it with a happy balance. Sometimes after communicating and working on a relationship and giving it time and distance, nothing helps.

If you find yourself in an unhappy relationship that can not find balance, it is best to end it. Holding on to a relationship out of stubbornness or out of a sense of duty does not benefit anyone.

You can not take on the responsibility of another person’s emotional well-being at the expense of your own.

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I hope you found this article helpful. I would love to hear personal accounts of how you work to maintain healthy relationships in your life. This is quite honestly one of my biggest struggles.

Watch My Video on Avoiding Burnout:

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

What to Do in a Mental Health Crises

Everything inside you is broken. Now what?

I did a post earlier about the Emotional Rating Scale that I use to keep track of my emotional functioning level. With this scale, I use a 10 point system to plot my ability to deal with life.

This tool is important for me to know what phase of my self-care plan I need to be implementing. My self-care plan is my personal routine for the day adjusted for my Mental Health needs.

Using my 10 point scale I know that anything below a 3 is a crisis. When in crisis because of mental health issues, the result is no different than another crisis point in an illness or physical accident with one exception.

The support and advice I get from others are not likely to be helpful.

You do not need a rating scale to know if you are in crisis mode. It is evident by the fact that you are incapable of participating in the daily activities of your life including basic hygiene.

A.K.A. You are laying in bed and feel cold dark and empty in your soul.

How did I get here?

Some people, like me, have a lifelong struggle with mental illness. Some people, it comes on them at a season of life like puberty or menopause. Sometimes, mental illness can be brought on as a side effect of another disorder. Sometimes, it is situational like after the loss of a loved one or the birth of a baby.

The reason you are feeling this way is irrelevant while you are experiencing it.

What matters is the action you need to take to change how you feel.

Doing these 3 simple things WILL help.

  1. Get dressed and brush your hair.
  2. Take a multivitamin
  3. Go outside

There is no way I can do that.

Yes, you can.

 

Getting dressed and brushing hair.

Get out of bed and put on clothes. Not the clothes off the floor or your clean pajamas. Dress for the life you lead. If you are a stay at home Mom that will look different from a farmer. It is not about being fancy, just typical.

Do not try to get ahead of yourself and put on makeup or shower. This is about survival.

Brush your hair. Yes, it is greasy and matted. Yes, this will make you cry.

Keep going.

Taking a Multivitamin

Mental Illness flare ups are chemically based and affect your entire body down to a molecular level. It changes your metabolism and your digestive system along with every other system in your body. It is extremely pervasive.

Your body will have a hard time getting everything back into balance without the right nutrition. Luckily we can shortcut that step with a pill. I recommend Flintstones chewable with iron:

  If you click the picture

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If you have a multivitamin you already have or like to use, that is great as long as it has iron in it.

Stay away from gummies. 

Going Outside

Think of the front door as your finish line.

You need to be in direct sunlight for at least 20 minutes. One hour would be optimum.

You cannot just sit by a window. Do not push yourself into walking.

This is the hardest step but the most important because it serves two functions. The first is exposing yourself to direct sunlight has anti-depressant qualities.

Research has shown having a vitamin D level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) can raise your risk for depression by as much as 85 percent, compared to having a vitamin D level greater than 30 ng/mL.

The second benefit to going outside is you will have accomplished your self-care goals for the day.

You are done.

You can consider this a successful day.

This day is as amazing as any other day you finish your to-do list. We are reframing the definition of a bad day to a successful one by working through the steps and guidelines you have predetermined for a day when you are having stronger adverse symptoms!

Do not try to do more today. Even if you have pressure from friends or family. You have done more than you thought possible already.

You are a survivor.

Why it works

Setting goals and achieving them are a huge mood booster. All three of these goals have been built around minimum self-care. They are achievable.

Even better than being easy, each step has a proven benefit to someone in a mental health crisis.

Special note to caregivers.

If at all possible have your friend or relative read this post themselves. The choice to work to improve yourself has to come from within.

If they are not able enough to read this themselves they probably need to be given gentle suggestions of just one step. Emotional strength comes from pushing yourself just like any other exercise. Be patient and be kind. Do not enable.

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Watch My Video about this subject!

 

 

Romans 12:2

 

Evaluating My Days

Identifying the Problem

Dealing with an invisible disability is hard. It is hard to describe to others and difficult to understand myself.

On of my main obstacles is “black or white” thinking. I had no way to gauge days that were simply gray. I would have a bad moment and write the whole day off as horrible.

My overly critical judgment was setting every day up for failure.

Luckily, I stumbled across a key that helped me. I would like to share my system in hopes that it can help you, too.

Finding Help

My oldest daughter is on the Autism Spectrum. She has the “diagnosis formerly known as Asperger’s”. One of the key criteria of an Autism Spectrum diagnosis is a deficit in communication.

Emily’s communication problems do not stem from a lack of vocabulary but a lack of pragmatic speech or the social language rules.  Pragmatic speech is a complicated concept and I will link you to more information about what it is and what it affects by clicking here.

Owing to the fact that Autism is a pervasive Development disorder she also has complicating symptoms such as Sensory Processing Disorder and emotional regulation problems.

What all of that means in simple terms is Emily sees and feels the world around her much differently than a typical person. Then, she has a very difficult time expressing what she is experiencing to others.

As her Mother, I was often at a loss as to how to talk to my daughter in a way that we could really communicate

My biggest help was finding the Incredible 5-Point Scale by Kari Buron and Mitzi Curtis

. This book was life changing when it came to communicating effectively with my ASD daughter. We finally had a framework for us to use.

Applying the Concept to Me

I am not going to go into specifics about the book other than how I adapted the concept to help me deal with my Mental Illness.

Where Emily has a hard time communicating her thoughts with other people due to Autism.My communication problems are primarily with myself.  I have a hard time organizing and understanding my own thoughts due to my own neurological differences.

What I identified from the book was that everything can be rated on a continuum or number scale. It really is a very versatile system for balancing and comparing emotional experiences that could otherwise seem random or ethereal.

How it Works

Like I was saying in the beginning of this article, I was a “black or white” thinker. Everything was just good or bad.

If I had a bad moment my brain classified it as a bad day. This lead to negative thoughts controlling my actions. I was an angry person.

When I realized you could break things apart and measure them independently, it changed my outlook on life. I was using this communication tool throughout the day with Emily and slowly adapted it to work for me.

One of the first changes I made was to stretch the scale to 10 points. This helps me more clearly define each number.  Next, I just started putting all my emotions on a scale to see where I was getting overwhelmed.

Amazingly, I could finally make sense of all of the ups and downs in my brain.

What I learned

There are three things that really affect my mood. All three of these are interconnected.

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Routine

I f any one of these three things is out of adjustment it will affect all three.  Even though I can not control how these things will affect me on a day to day, I can plan for how I will react.

Instead of believing every day is bad I now know there are many variations in a day that can be affected by the internal and external stimulus. Having some knowledge where my day will fall on a 10 point scale helps me adjust my expectations and prepare myself for the day.

In a future post, I will talk more about this scale and what different number days mean to my routines.

 

Please feel free to comment or ask any questions you might have.

 

Also, enjoy my video where I talk a little more about this concept. It is the first one of a series I am planning on living with Mental Illness.

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Isaiah 55-11