If I’m truthful, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a really bad day. My life these days is pretty stable and sometimes I forget how great that is until I really think about it. Lately, I spend more time trying to help other people through their rough days than I do wading through my own. But trying to help other people definitely reminds me what a bad day really looks like. I know a lot of people with IBD, and when I say a lot, I mean an absurd number. Girls With Guts has over 7,000 Facebook fans and, while I don’t pretend to know them all, I see their stories and their questions and I am reminded daily what life with severe IBD is like.
Here is what I do remember: bad days are really hard and there is no right or wrong way to handle them. I blogged my entire sickness, so sometimes I will go back and read what I wrote on those bad days and I come across posts like this. At one point I said, “”.and it’s really hard to see what I’m still fighting for. I’m fighting so hard to ‘get my life back’ but what does that even mean anymore? What life?"
I remember that post and the days that followed and how dark they were. Not long after I posted that, I became suicidal because life had just gotten that bad. It felt like I was fighting this never ending fight and the odds were stacked against me, and why the hell would any sane person keep trying?
So I stopped trying and I began to plan how I wanted to die, and I wrote my will. When I go back and read these entries it’s like stepping into the mind of another person, I mean, that can’t have been me. But it was me, and it wasn’t the only time that I felt like that and it took a lot of work to stop feeling like that. I can’t help to put a positive spin on this and just say that it CAN get better and it WILL get better. However, if you’re having a bad day"here is what I think you should do.
Set a simple daily goal
My daily goals at one point ranged from get the mail to make one phone call or answer a text. I am an isolater hardcore and when I’m sad or depressed I hole up in my house with the blinds closed, under a blanket and try to sleep my life away. The thought of leaving my house was way too much to fathom. Taking a walk around the block sounded like medieval torture. My sister encouraged me to set a daily goal, and I did, and they were kind of absurd but it took me out of my depression bunker if only for three minutes a day. It helps and if you’re feeling brave set two goals for that day.
Find a therapist
This goes for everyone in the whole world, sick or not. I think the world would be a better place if we were all in therapy. Maybe it’s just because I love to talk about my feelings, but therapy helped me a lot. Granted, I never wanted to go. I found reasons to cancel my appointments all the time, but it helped. Therapy is not something you go into and you see an instant chance. For me, it was slow over a period of time. Therapy also keeps you accountable for attending appointments and having somewhat of a schedule.
For the love of god, take a shower
Showering became completely optional when I was depressed and I was depressed a lot. The act of showering seemed like so much work. I mean, it would take at least 15 minutes and think of all the naps I could have taken in 15 minutes Showering takes effort and energy that you don’t have; but again, it’s something small that you can do to refocus your mind.
Ask someone to check in on you
Have one friend or family member check in on you at a time period you’re comfortable with. Every day was too much for me, but every other day or so my sister or best friend would send me a text just asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. I never wanted to respond but I did and it let my loved ones know that I was still functioning.
There was no one I hated more than myself during those days. Give yourself a break. The reality is you’re probably doing the best you can with what you’ve got in those moments, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Let yourself be sad, be angry, be whatever you need to be, but promise yourself that someday you will work hard to change how you feel, even if it’s just starting slow. It is ok to feel those negative feelings but you have to love yourself enough to know that you are better than a week without a shower and Netflix binging.
Again, you’re allowed to have bad days and do some stupid things. I self-medicated with Xanax and Klonopin to a somewhat reckless level. These are things I am not proud of but I felt like I needed to do those things to appease my depressed brain. Do what you need to do but be responsible for your actions, and be honest about what you’re doing. Keep yourself accountable and some of that means learning better coping mechanisms. (See: The entire list above)
If you’re reading this and you’re sad and your days/weeks/months have sucked, I am so sorry. I have been there. I felt it and I have endless blog entries to prove it. Depression is really hard to live through, and anyone who says you can snap out of it does not and cannot understand. In the words of my favorite author John Green, "Pain demands to be felt." Take your time feeling it, but know that there is so much happiness in this world and much of it can be yours again.
Jackie Zimmerman is a multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and executive director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has blogged her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page. In her free time (what free time?!) she spends time with her two rescue pups and plays roller derby. She’s online @JackieZimm.