I have always taken more sick days than other people; I have always been a gold-star student. For me, the two are directly linked. My time off school or work has rarely impacted grades or performance because when I am physically present I am efficient and hyper focused. I tick things off quickly because I ‘ve always known that tomorrow may not be a good day. I always plan ahead, I am always done before a deadline. I am very responsible because of a black cloud of guilt and fear.
Unfortunately, I still see my need for extra mental health days as a failing. I know I shouldn’t, I know my self-stigma is stronger than stigma I encounter from anyone else in my life. But, coming from a family of hard workers, it is difficult to admit that some days I can’t get out of bed. On those days, I have my illness’ inner monologue constantly repeating that I am weak and letting people down. So every day I must complete my list of to do’s because I am always worried about tomorrow. If I need to stay home, I am determined that no one else will suffer for that. In the past, I have always used the good days as insurance for the bad ones. I have told myself that I am just too busy to be sad.
This is negative thinking. It is also exhausting.
Lately, there has been a shift in the way I look at the ebb and flow of my illness. As I was searching for a topic to write about this weekend, a friend pointed out that recently I have started to maximize the good days. Having an anxiety disorder himself, he would know; we look at the world in similar ways.
It isn’t that I live in constant fear of symptoms anymore, it’s that I make the most of the good days. Isn’t that a beautiful way of looking at it?
In the past few months, instead of using symptom free days only as insurance for rough times, I fill them with things that give me joy: spring walks, good coffee, the dog park, pecan tarts, farmers’ markets, family dinners, new friends and meaningful conversations. I have started to spend less time preparing for the storms ahead and more time enjoying the sunshine.
The bad days are becoming fewer and farther between and maybe that’s not because I’m too busy to be sad. Maybe it is because I have finally realized that the good days are a blessing. Slowly I am learning to live in the moment. The bad days are going to come again, no matter how prepared I am. I can’t change that, but what I can change is my attitude toward them – I’ve decided I’m going to stop letting fear of those hard days ruin the sunny ones as well.
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com