Friday, 17 May 2013

Is it okay to have a bad day?

Seriously, is it okay? And not only is it okay, is it sometimes good to let yourself have a bad day?

Let me give you a synopsis of my life changes. I'm an American. I married an Englishman last August and moved to the UK to be with him in November. Though I've become very close to his family, all of my family and friends are 4,000 miles away. I'm not working, but I am looking for a part time job (that's all my illness will allow me). I'm fairly isolated, but not really by choice. I need a certain amount of social interaction, not a lot, but some. I had learned to cope pretty well with my illness the last several years. I had a part time job which got me out and gave me a sense of accomplishment and belonging. And my close friends and family were there for support and the occasional lunch date. But now...

...I feel lonely. Very lonely. I am able to talk to my sister and mother on a somewhat regular basis and email and write friends. But it's not the same. My husband is amazingly supportive, but he can't do it all and frankly I think he is just now coming to realise how bad my illness really is. I had explained it to him at length, told him my stories, and gave him things to read to help him understand, but it's different when you see it live in living colour.

The last few months the distance and isolation have worn me down. I've been slowly slipping into a depression. I'm treading water, and I'm exhausted. While my husband is wonderful and supportive, he can't play all the roles. He can't be my sole source of interaction. He does get me out some for a lunch or card night at his sister's house. Little trips into town so I can peruse the charity shops, a type of shopping trip I actually enjoy. But over the last few months, I've started to feel guilty about all this. He's out working for ten hours then has to come home and entertain me. I can see the fatigue in his face. I can tell he just wants to come home, sit on the sofa, and sip a glass of wine and let the stress of his work day fade. And so I feel guilty.

I have learned a lot of natural techniques for handling my illness. I don't take medication with the exception of an occasional anti-anxiety pill. (I know the topic of meds is a hot button, so let me state that I neither support or admonish the use of meds, it's simply my choice.) I engage in short activities that distract me and give me small senses of accomplishment. I paint, bake, hike, and play video games (don't laugh, it's a great distraction). Most of the time, I enjoy these activities and look forward to doing them. However, when my illness creeps up on me, it takes a ton of energy to do these things. I have days when washing the dishes exhausts me and I'm ruined for the rest of the day.

So my guilt for making my husband feel like he needs to entertain me all the time has made me try to hide my growing depression. The depression makes me not want to do anything and I'm fatigued. To fight the depression, I make myself do my activities which exhausts me more and the joy they usually give me is tainted. I keep struggling to stay "up" but the spiral down has begun. Crying spells, anxiety attacks, catatonic time loss, hysterical outbursts, appetite changes, and erratic sleep patterns are taking over.

I've done what I consider to be the cardinal sin of mental illness. I hid my feelings. I stuffed down the growing anxiety and pain. I didn't allow myself to have a bad day and now I'm paying for it. I also have been keeping my feelings from my family back home because I don't want them to worry, so they don't even know what's happening now. And now it's getting so bad I feel guilty I haven't told them. It's just a big vicious cycle isn't it?

My husband clearly knows that I'm not well now since the last couple weeks have been a nightmare. We are struggling but working to get through it. In my lucid moments, I remind myself that it will get better. That I have found joy and contentment. That I have a wonderful loving husband. That it's spring and the world is beautiful. We are spending a week in a cottage in Wales next week and I'm hoping the time together and majestic landscape will help bring enough balance back into my life that I can get back on track.

Living with my illness is better than drowning in it.