Today’s post is inspired by an entry from one of my long-time favourite websites, Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, entitled Reading, Self-Care and Guilt. This post really spoke to me, because after a fairly decent day yesterday, I just felt so crummy today. My nausea and lack of appetite felt at an all-time high, and I felt lethargic and listless and purposeless. Not feeling well physically when you’re not feeling well mentally is like getting pneumonia and measles at the same time. This was Day 2 of my stress leave so I didn’t have to go anywhere, thank goodness. Luckily my husband was also off today so he was able to bring me tea, toast, oatmeal and fruit, which was all I was capable of eating.
This post got me thinking about how I have been viewing myself and my illness, and how I need to change my thinking about it. It is a tough, tough road to change your thinking when you have anxiety and depression together. It’s not just the endless anxiety of when are you going to get better, but it’s also grieving the loss of who you were before and what you were once capable of doing. I imagine people who have a tough diagnosis like cancer feel much the same way: wondering when and if you will ever feel “normal” again. I see people out and about every day leading normal lives, and I feel like crying inside because I’m not them. I think about my co-workers who are carrying on without me, and I feel awful. I constantly tell myself, why did I get this, I didn’t deserve this, this is not fair.
Coupled with this, of course, is the stigma surrounding mental illness that I’ve internalized: it’s not “real.” I don’t “deserve” time off to heal. My legs work fine, I can get up and walk around, what’s my problem?
So how about I scrap the ideas about what is “normal” in my life? What if I stop comparing myself to others and how I used to be? Maybe now is the time to scrap old habits, old ways of being. After all, getting stuck in unhappy ways was what got me here in the first place. What if I celebrate the things I have been able to achieve and experience since I got ill? I will make a list here to cheer myself up when I need it:
- Being able to eat a small meal
- Accomplishing small tasks, like blow-drying my hair, cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry
- Being able to focus on a few pages of my anxiety/depression reading, or my CBT homework
- Being home alone for a few hours without having an anxiety attack
- Going for walks around the block
- Driving to visit my husband at work
- Messaging friends and family and talking about how I’m feeling
- Being able to read a few websites/online comics that aren’t about depression or anxiety
- Just enjoying being curled up in a warm bed
- Having a night with no nightmares