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



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