4 Things To Remember If You Have a Chronic Illness 

On days like this — when I try to keep moving, to not fall asleep a few hours after I’ve gotten up, to not waste the day — and fail . . . These are the days I am most prone to breaking. To believing that I will not get better. That I have no one and will have no one. These are also the days I am most prone to blaming myself for breaking.

It is on these days that I need to remind myself of where I am; of where I have been and where I will be. It is on these days, when I want to focus on anything else but myself and my illness, that I must do just that. Because you cannot pour from an empty glass. Because self care is not selfish. Because it is not always fun, but is necessary.

 

Remember:

I.

You are ill. You are not useless. You cannot cure this by fighting its existence. But you can treat it by treating yourself with care. You are recovering, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment. You are still here, and what you give the world the few days out of every month that you feel well is better than not giving anything at all.

II. 

You have people that care about you. You may know them now, or they might be waiting somewhere in your future. Your illness might make you isolate yourself accidentally, by making you never feel up to going out or talking, or it may make you feel like you want to isolate yourself. Either is okay. They are not good, but they are okay. And they are not permanent. Consider loneliness a symptom of your illness. It will not be forever, and it is not your fault.

III. 

Don’t think too much about the future. Asking yourself, “Will I be able to do this?” will get you no closer to doing it. There are small things to be done and appreciated in each day. They are all that require your attention right now.

IV.

Remember: this is worth it. 

How I Became Happier By Giving Up Positive Thinking

I used to think that positive thinking never worked for me because I just wasn’t fully committed to it. I thought it must just be one of those mind over matter things where if you could absolutely, completely, convince yourself you were happy, you would be. And maybe that’s true, but let me tell you, it’s definitely the hard way into positivity and I’ve only ever felt worse from attempting it.

So, if I gave up on even attempting positive thinking, how did I get happier? Well, I didn’t give up so much as I remodeled it. I stopped thinking of it as positive thinking and started thinking of it as productive thinking.

Before I elaborate, I just want to say that I didn’t come up with this reconstruction all on my own. I’ve started regularly using planners from The Happiness Planner and, while they didn’t call it productive thinking, it was their approach to negative things that led me to that title.

At the very beginning of the planner, there’s a section where you have to write in the things that make you feel bad. I fully expected myself to skip this part. I deal with quite a bit of anxiety and off and on depression, so I have a lot of negative thoughts floating around my mind for little to no reason to begin with. Actively trying to pull negativity with actual reasons behind it to the surface on top of that sends me into the Land of Nope Nopity Nope Nope Not Today Nope.

But, because I’m also a fairly motivated and determined person and I wanted to complete the entire planner, I filled it out anyway. To my surprise, instead of freaking out, I actually felt better. This I credit entirely to the format of the planner (I promise I’m not associated with it I just thought it was really good). It doesn’t just tell you to write down the things that make you feel bad and then focus on positive things instead. The exact process it guides you through is: “What makes you feel upset? Is it beyond your control? If not, how can you change it?”

It sounds so obvious whenever I repeat it to anyone, but after years of having things like “Happy thoughts only!” and “Focus on the good!” drilled into my mind under the guise of positive thinking, it didn’t even occur to me anymore to just acknowledge a bad situation, ask myself if I could do anything about it, and either let it go if I couldn’t or get to work if I could.

I took this line of thinking outside the planner and immediately felt a huge release. It wasn’t a magic cure-all solution, but it was light-years better than my old attempts at positive thinking.

See, this is what my head used to look like when I tried to “think positive”:

“Man, it’s been a really bad day. I feel awful.

Oh, wait  —  that’s a negative thought! Uhhh, okay, positive thought, positive thought . . .

I feel good. There, yeah, I feel good! The rest of today’s gonna be good. Just smile, be happy.

I’m lying. I feel awful. I’ve had a bad day and I feel awful.

No! I feel GOOD! Everything’s GREAT! Look, I’m SMILING!

Maybe I should just go audition for that muppet on Sesame Street who lives in the trash.”

The end result is that by trying to push out the “bad thoughts,” I end up dwelling on what made me feel bad way longer than I would have if I’d just acknowledged that I was having a bad day and moved on.

It’s like trying to teach yourself math just by saying “Think mathematically.” Where are the steps? Where are the formulas? Where are the practice sheets? It just doesn’t work. You’ll end up staring at the first problem all day trying to will your brainwaves into working like Einstein’s.

Not to mention, even if you succeed in warping a bad situation into a good one, you’ll start getting dependent on being able to happify everything, and there are some things in life that just aren’t happy and aren’t meant to be.

Productive thinking is about steps. It’s about making progress. It’s about keeping yourself moving forward no matter how you feel. It’s about letting go of the things you can’t change instead of trying to force them into the positivity mold.

This is my thought process now that my aim is to think productively:

“Wow, I feel really bad today. Well, sometimes going for a walk makes me feel better, so I’ll try that, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll accept that I just feel bad today and keep going anyway because bad days are okay, too.”

You’ll probably still hear me use the term “positive thinking” just because it’s what I and most other people are used to, but in my opinion it tends to lead people in the wrong direction. It’s okay to focus on the good. It’s okay to do everything you can to try to make yourself and others feel good. What’s not okay is trying to force everything into the Box of Goodness.

Consider positivity your pet cat. If you try to pick it up and put it where you want it, it’ll keep getting up and walking away. But if you leave it be and get to work, you’ll turn around to find it sprawled across all your belongings.

 


 

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

8 New Year’s Resolutions For People With Depression

1. Aim to accomplish one thing a day.

It can be big or small, depending on how you’re feeling; anything from adding an extra mile to your run to taking a shower and putting on real clothes. No accomplishment is better or worse than another. On bad days, getting dressed and feeding yourself can take just as much effort as your biggest accomplishment on a good day. Your depression may not go away entirely, but you will have good days where you feel like you again, and until then you just need to keep moving.

At the end of the day, write down what you’ve done.

2. Listen to yourself and your body.

If your muscles feel so weak you can barely hold a glass of water, but you have no explanation for it, cancel anyway. It’s good to push through things sometimes, but there are also times when pushing through just makes it worse. Stop pushing through everything just to say you did, and save your energy for the things you can’t cancel. Just because you don’t have an explanation doesn’t mean what you’re going through isn’t real.

3. Get outside.

I don’t care if you go stand outside the front door for ten minutes and then come right back in. Get outside every day.

4. Nourish your body.

Your body is doing its best to be healthy and functional for you. Help it out  —  give it water and feed it good things, even if they take a little longer to make.

5. Stop trying to fight your emotions.

Stop clinging to happiness, stop fighting sadness, stop trying to convince yourself that your heart doesn’t feel like it’s beating out of your chest. Keep reminding yourself to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. (Note: if you don’t have practice doing this, it can be hard! A couple of good mindfulness apps to get you started are Calm and Headspace.)

6. Read more, and read whatever you want.

If “grown-up” novels bring the weight of the world crashing down on you, that’s fine. Go read Winnie-the-Pooh.

7. Exercise often.

It can be three squats or an hour long run. Whatever you can do, do it. This is especially important on days where you almost feel good, but not quite. Exercising might give you that extra boost you need to get going, even if it’s just for a couple minutes.

Aim for 5–6 days a week.

8. Ask for help.

A trick of depression is making you feel like you can’t ask for help. Fight this. Fight it and fight it again. Even if you feel too tired, or you feel like you’re bothering them, or asking for help just doesn’t seem worth it, ask anyway. Ask for help over and over again until you get it. Your health and happiness are worth it.

I was starting to think about my New Years resolutions for 2017 and I realized quite a few of them related to depression. Most of these are all things I’ve been doing off and on in 2016 and have found to be helpful, so I’m resolving to make them a habit in 2017. I thought I’d share them in case they could help anyone else, too. ❤

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

No, you don’t have OCD for keeping your room tidy.

No, you don’t have OCD for straightening the pictures on the walls.

No, you don’t have OCD for washing your hands before you eat.

No, you don’t have OCD for wanting to write down your day in a journal every evening.

No, you don’t have OCD for wanting to do a job perfectly.

OCD isn’t wanting to keep your room tidy, it’s needing to keep your room spotless.  It’s knowing that it’s illogical to be so upset that your friend pulled one of your books off its shelf, but still feeling nervous and jumpy until you can put it back in its designated place.

OCD is straightening a picture, then unstraightening it just to straighten it again, thinking “this is the last time” at number three, but redoing it seven more times just to get to an even ten, then wondering if it’s even still straight anymore and repeating the process.

OCD is washing your hands over and over, scrubbing at them till they’re raw, knowing that your hands will be dry and cracked by the time you’re done, wishing you could stop, knowing you should stop, but pumping soap onto them “just one more time.”

OCD is wanting to write something down, but getting stuck on one sentence — deleting it and rewriting it, over and over, going back farther each time, hoping you can remember what you wrote because you have to rewrite it exactly the same way.

OCD is wanting to a job perfectly, but messing it up and knowing you have no excuse to give because you’ve been pressing the same button over and over for the past five minutes with no explanation other than you just had to do it.

OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s time-wasting, it’s interfering, it’s infuriating, and it’s embarrassing. It’s not a personality quirk, and it’s not your punch line, it’s a disorder. And it’s not something you want.

 


 

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash