I’m having a broken day but you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be alright. I’m allowed to have broken days. I’ll put myself back together. I always do. One day soon I’ll have the energy and I will put myself back together.
Like this piece of art by Hana Shafi: A drawing of a broken coffee cup that has been put back together. The quote particularly speaks to me today; “You’re allowed to have sad days, bad days, broken days. You can work on it when you have the energy.” I want to talk about my broken days, how I remember goodness during them, and how I put myself back together after…
I have bad days
Everyone has bad days, so I want to clarify: Mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Everyone has mental health, yet only people with a mental illness have mental illness. I’m living with mental illness; I have Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Bad days while living with mental illness can be extremely dangerous.
I’ve had my share of bad and broken days. I have days when my anxiety spirals out of control. I have days when depression becomes relentless. Bad days can become all-consuming and they can make me feel like I’m drowning… they can make me feel like I’m disappearing. During bad days I don’t have much energy. Small tasks can seem overwhelming. Thoughts of worthlessness feel unmovable and my self-doubt becomes strong. Harmful and self-destructive emotions become extremely heightened.
I’m allowed to feel broken
But, the point: I’m allowed to feel broken for a while. I’m allowed to experience the emotions that I feel. They are real and valid. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay to have broken days. It’s okay to accept a depression spiral. It’s okay to cancel plans because anxiety is raging. It’s all okay. My feelings demand to be felt…
There is a John Green quote from ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ that helps explain this; “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” Sure, John Green wasn’t talking about Bipolar Disorder when he wrote that line, but it fits. When depression happens, it’s just happens, and it demands to be felt. I’m allowed to feel the way I feel… and once it passes, I’ll have the energy to put myself back together.
I keep goodness in mind
During bad days, I work to remember that the bad is temporary. I remind myself that the badness and brokenness will pass, eventually. I remind myself that good will come, and when the good comes the bad will fade away and become a fleeting memory. What seems unmovable now, will be easily forgotten later… and later, when the bad is over, I will have the energy to put myself back together.
I deserve to put myself back together
My depression and anxiety spirals are typically followed by a guilt spiral. I reflect on all of the things that I wasn’t able to accomplish, and it weighs heavily on me. I think of all the things I’ve fallen behind on; grocery shopping, cleaning, self-care… and I end up hating myself. Sure, the bad day has ended but the badness hasn’t. I don’t deserve this. I deserve to put myself back together, and feel no shame.
I try to look at my mental health from a physical health point of view: If I had broken my leg, and fallen behind on chores, I wouldn’t feel guilty – so why do I feel guilty about having a broken mind? I shouldn’t feel guilty. I deserve to put myself back together, with no guilt, once the bad day is over… I deserve to put myself back together. I am worthy of being put back together.
How I put myself back together
In one word: slowly. I can’t conquer everything at once, nor would I want to. When the good starts coming back I take things slow. In the past I didn’t use this slow approach. In the past I made a habit of milking my good days for all they were worth. I would burn the candle at both ends, making up for everything I had missed, then I would move on… knowing that another bad day would soon follow. This approach potentially caused me to have more bad days. This method was hurtful: I was absolutely exhausting myself on good days, and it was causing me to crash. So, now I take things slowly.
Back to the broken leg metaphor: If I had a healing broken leg I wouldn’t try to run a marathon, would I? No. I would start with walking. Therefore, I do the same for my mental health. I don’t start with a marathon of chores and social events, I start with a few small steps and I rest until I’m strong enough to run again…
You may be wondering: why would she share this ugliness? Well, I share because someone like me might read this, and I want them to know that they are not alone. This will get better. It always gets better, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but it always does. So, I never give up.
Sincerely, Elizabeth – Uncustomary Housewife