Last week was not easy. It was a rough week…but I still powered through.
Most of the time, I felt like any semblance of progress I had made swirled down the drain. Did I ever really have it together if I can return to a place so low? Tired, regardless of how long I slept? Alone, regardless of how many reassurances I heard? Inadequate, regardless if I got anything done each day and showed up to work despite being barely able to look anybody in the eye?
I speak not as someone emotionally in the clear, but as someone who’s experienced this cycle many a time. This certainly isn’t my first rodeo. Even with experience, each sweep between extreme highs and lows feels new. It’s always out of thin air. A burst of emotion fizzling out to a wisp of sanity.
If you’re a fellow spoonie and feel helpless to your chronic illness: I get it, but there’s hope. You can still power through a rough week and make it out alive. You’ve survived every other challenge thus far; I don’t see that streak breaking for you. So, here’s my two-cents for powering through a rough week.
do your daily best.
Your “best” isn’t going to look the same each day. Regardless of illness or not, you’re human; you’re not capable of reaching perfection.
However you feel, you can put in effort toward what’s important. Maybe that’s just taking care of yourself, or you have enough energy to go beyond that. There’s no shame wherever you’re at. The goal is to simply not allow that nasty voice in your head convince you that nothing is possible. It might seem like less than you “normally” do, but it’s equal in value.
Don’t push yourself beyond what you know is too much. Choose just three things to accomplish. As simple as, “Take a shower” or “Finish one task at work.” Check your spoons to decide what’ll fit the bill. Having those couple of items you can cross off is ridiculously empowering.
take it easy.
Again, this is about biting off more than you can chew. For me, I feel guilty if I don’t reach the same peak every day. Like I should kick myself even more when I’m down. Doesn’t make much sense when put into words, but it’s the truth.
If anything, you should be gentler with yourself in these moments. Think of an ailing child: are you going to yell at them for getting sick? I sure hope not. Give yourself the grace you deserve.
Take things slowly. Do all the self-care things you might otherwise toss aside. Those are especially important right now. Even if that means other tasks must wait, so be it. Your health, mental and otherwise, is your most precious gift.
distract yourself with physical wellness.
When I fall into these depressive ruts, I admittedly become complacent on my physical health. Sleep goes off kilter. I feel too tired to move my body. I tend to either binge or restrict on the food because I’m not as diligent as I should be.
The coping strategies I’m dependent upon are put simply as, distractions. Anything to unglue your thoughts from the suffocating depression or anxiety. Not exactly the words the therapist recommended, but it’ll do. So, why not make the distractions things that are healthy?
It’s cliché to say these things, but during the dark times, we can kind of forget them. Get plenty of sleep. Drink lots of water. Eat healthy, regular meals. Personal hygiene is a thing. Find a way to move your body, whether it’s running, yoga, or having a random dance party.
Again, don’t push yourself to run a 5k if that’s not your style. Don’t start some crazy diet or cleanse. Make conscious choices for you, and your body—and mind—will thank you later for even the smallest of gestures.
lean on your support system.
If it’s instinctive to isolate when you’re feeling down, then I get it. It’s hard enough to battle the inner demons; talking about it? Hard pass. But it’s truly so necessary and healing to be open and honest.
The people that matter most are here to, as it implies, support you. The family members, friends, whoever that you care about. They love you unconditionally, even when you feel unlovable. Even when you can hardly find the energy to reply to a text message for days. Or even when you feel like a burden upon everyone else, like your existence is only dragging others down.
Mental illness dramatizes all the bad. Those memories and personal qualities you dwell upon likely never come up loved ones’ minds. If they’re true-blue keepers, then they could care less about every flaw you “impose” upon the world. Asking for help can feel like admitting weakness, but it’s the exact opposite. Don’t fight this rough week alone.
this too shall pass.
The most important tip I can give you for powering through a rough week is to simply know it’s temporary. Every week won’t always be this cruel to you. Acknowledge its presence and how it makes you feel. Then remember to let it pass on by.
You will start feeling better soon. I promise. Trust me, that’s where I’m at right now: starting off the next week feeling refreshed from a weekend of basically doing nothing. I needed that time to heal from the downward spiral, to rise again from the ashes.
I’ve been reading Barbra Kingsolver, and I appreciate the way she described depression: “sadness is a head cold…but depression is cancer.” That’s my life, and it’s the life of many others. However, any mental illness has no permission to define your life on Earth. The rough weeks will come plenty of times, but the better weeks are also in your forecast.
Keep powering through. Keep fighting. Please, keep holding onto that sliver of hope telling you the storm will dissipate.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie