Mental Illness, PTSD

A Word of Advice on the Good Days

If it there has been something I have been grateful for lately, it has been the beautiful days I have experienced over these last several months.

And no, I am not referring to the balmy summer weather that we were lucky enough to experience for more than one month this season or the fact there is a hint of autumn in the air, signalling the start of a new season. As much as I do love this time of the year, this is not what I am grateful for.

I am grateful of the good days. Not just any ordinary good day where Tim’s managed to get my tea just the way I like or my boss, who is severely strict and overbearing, gives me a compliment about my impressive work ethic. Or when I’m scrubbing dishes clean in the evening and Zack turns on “our songs” and grabs my dripping wet hands and pulls me to dance with him around the kitchen. (Though I will admit those moments don’t just make my day, they make my week!) While these little things can make any grey sky seem bluer, I am not referring to the little things that turn an ordinary day into a good day.

I am talking about the “good days.” The days in which my PTSD doesn’t win another battle, my depression doesn’t weaken my resolve, or my anxiety doesn’t add another chink into my already damaged armour. The days where I look out the window, and despite the drizzle or fog, I feel that feeling that has become so rare it seems unnatural. That flutter that ignites my souls and warm my bones. I’m talking about the days where the darkness that casts over me, the ghastly hands that grip my shoulders and whispers those lies into my ears retreats back into the shadows from which they came.

I’m talking about the days where I feel hope. I feel that lingering sense of purpose, a sense that I am worth more than what my mental illness convinces me I can’t be. Where I go to work or sit to write at my computer, or watch Netflix with Zack or just lie on the couch and put my Linkin Park playlist on repeat and just lose myself in the lyrics. Suddenly I have that dawning realization that, for the rarest of moments, I forget I have a mental illness. I become so caught up in just “living” that I even forget that I am sick, that I’m plagued with flashbacks and night terrors. For those few moments of solace, I remember what it feels like to just be “me,” the girl I was before I was officially diagnosed with PTSD.

I just go about my business, take it each hour at a time and do the things I enjoy, like writing.

I simply just live my life.

It’s a unique experience to have these epiphanies over the simple things, to immerse yourself in just the ordinary routine that is our daily life; to go about your business as the rest of the world whips by in a flash. To simply just be.

When you’re consumed in darkness, in a realm that is painful and ever-crippling, it’s so easy to forget about how easy life can be. Living in a vicious cycle in which every thought, every action, every move requires through planning and details, that all you are filled with is dread and self-doubt about every word, every action you make; life becomes tremendously difficult when your illness leaves you both mentally and physically debilitated.

So when you wake up one morning after you had a sound night sleep, not filled with horrific flashbacks but peaceful dreams, hopeful dreams, you open the blinds and regardless of what is pouring out of the heavens, you take a deep breath and savour the moment. Maybe send a small pray to the sky or whisper a simple ‘Thank You’ to no one, you just take a pause to revel in the moment.

You’re going to have a good day.

And your heart flutters at those words.

But the good days come at a cost.

Unfortunately, for someone like me, the good days don’t always last.

Of course, we approach these good days with caution because they have become so rare over the years, like a solar eclipse or the beautiful sighting of a meteor shower. No, for me, back then, a good day was not necessarily a good sign. Rather it was a cosmic sign, the eye of the storm that forewarned the darker days to come. Back then, I questioned the good days. When something so beautiful and rare reveals itself, you can’t help but question its intent.

Was I strung out on the antidepressants and was simply so overtired that I was too numb to feel anything? Did I lose track of my pill count and accidentally take one too many prozac pills? Was I calm because my heart medication was keeping my cripple anxiety under control? Did my session with my therapist the day before actually help improve my mood? Or was my journal writing helping keep the demons at bay?

When the good days are so rare, it’s easy to question their existence.

And for a long time, a very long, long time, there were months I didn’t see a single good day. In 2013, when I relapsed, I can count on my two hands how many good days I had in twelve months. Eight. I had eight good days out of three hundred and sixty-five.

Eight days.

I had merely a good week.

And although I remain optimistically caution when I do have good days, I will never attempt to demean them in any way. The good days are sometimes the only thing I have left to hold onto, the hope for a better day, a better tomorrow. Even if it’s raining, sometimes all I have to offer me comfort in the thought of a good day, like the days Zack takes me by the hand and twirls me around our kitchen.

If anything, I have been taking the good days for granted. For months now I have crawled out of the dark place and let the warmth of the sun cast over my face. Compared to 2013, I would need a lot more hands and toes to be able to tally the number of good days I’ve had.

Is the number greater than the number of bad days I’ve had? No. My bad days do still own the score board, but they’re not leading by much.

And even though there are days I do take for granted how unbelievably blessed I am to have a wining streak of good days, I have also become humbled by them. If it is one thing living with a mental illness has taught me, it’s not to keep track of the bad days or the good days. It’s not a competition, there’s no grand prize in finally beating the odds against the bad days.

In the five years I’ve been living with PTSD, I wouldn’t even want to know the number of bad days or good days I’ve had. It’s not something I like to think about, so I refuse to let myself dwell on them.

Rather, I approach my good days with optimism and immense gratitude. Compared to five years ago, I have come a long way. Five years ago I was swallowing, on average, ten pills a day and simple eating and sleeping enough to keep my physical body alive. Now? I take one pill at night and my anxiety medication when I have a panic attack, only when I can’t control my anxiety using the strategies my therapist has taught me.

I have come a long, long way.

So when I do reflect on the good days and have that slight fleeting moment of panic, questioning the existence of my good days, I no longer fret over when the bad days will reveal their ugly head again. This is not something I fear anymore.

I don’t fear the bad days anymore.

Why?

Because I’ve seen the darkest of days. I’ve felt hopeless. I’ve experienced desperation. I’ve put myself through extreme measures to rid myself of the consuming pain that filed my empty void. I’ve convinced myself that there was nothing left, convinced myself that I was not a good person. My mental illness has won many battles and manipulated me to believe that there was no hope. I was blinded by my pain for a long time.

I’ve seen worse. I’ve felt worse.

But I have come a long, long way.

So while I do write this with a slight twang of caution (because I have been on a winning streak of good days for some time now), I write this more as an aid of advice rather than a warning of caution.

You’re allowed to take the good days for granted. You’re allowed to revel in the marvellous feelings that fill your soul when you wake up and you feel unstoppable. You’re allowed to let that fire burn deep in your soul and heal the brokenness in your heart and sweeten the bitter venom that lingers in the back of your throat.

You’re allowed to enjoy the good days but you don’t have to fear them either. They’re not meant to be a warning of unspeakable pain. They’re a reminder to live. They’re a reminder that there is more than the hurt, deceit, and lies your mental illness convinces you are true. They’re a reminder than life is so much more than the torment of living with an invisible illness.

They’re a reminder that we need take time to heal, to be selfish even when our low self-esteem threatens us, to take all the time you need to do what you love and heal. Even if it’s as simple as snuggling on the couch with your giant English mastiff and watching Gord Downie say his final goodbye.

They’re a reminder we are constantly healing even when we feel like we’re making no progress.

They’re a reminder that we are winning the war.

The good days are to remind us that we matter.

And while the good days don’t always last,

Neither do the bad days.

 

And as always,

Fight the good fight.

-A xo

 

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