Health Personal Health Writing
It's Okay to Have Gray DaysApril 15, 2016
Sometimes I have "Gray Days" and get lost in the fog. I like to tell myself it's from the stress of work or my allergies or...
Sometimes I have "Gray Days" and get lost in the fog. I like to tell myself it's from the stress of work or my allergies or health issues; it could be all of those things. However, I know that sometimes I am just dealing with the little monster that sits on my back and whispers to me that I'm not good enough or I don't matter. It tells me to just give up, not to get out of bed, and that I am a disappointment. It is the same mean little monster that will then yell at me after I spent the day laying around getting nothing done. It screams that I wasted my whole day and insights a small panic attack because I am going to be discovered for what I am. This monster is my occasional depression and anxiety. It comes and goes. It's like relatives visiting for the holidays: familiar and unexpected all at the same time and always lasts a little longer than you thought it would.
In high school I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety issues. It was partly a result of a sudden decline in my health and starting to go to a public school for the first time after being homeschooled for ten years. I was given medication to help a young person deal with the difficulties of chemical imbalances in my body that contributed to the depression. I was taught stress management methods-most of which I ignored-to try to counter my anxiety attacks from how I felt and what I was dealing with. I turned to binge eating among other things as a way of releasing stress and making myself feel happy. I perpetuated an unhealthy cycle of binge eating to make myself feel better temporarily, only to feel more depressed afterwards to have let myself down and abuse my body. I still struggle with that at times to this day. I didn't like to share my struggles with others and most people would have been surprised by my internal struggle. Today, I find I still "play pretend" that everything is well. Except I can't hide completely from those that truly know and love me.
My depression and anxiety don't control my life like it did in high school. My life is much healthier and happier as an adult than it ever was as a child. I surround myself with loving and edifying people. I have learned that I simply can't afford to keep hurtful, negative, or stressful people in my day to day life. Learning to take care of yourself because your needs are real is a hard lesson to grasp. I have been brought down by then friends that I thought cared about me as much as I did them. By crossing out a lot of people from my list of friends as an adult, I am all the happier and healthier for it. Rather than quantity I have some of the greatest quality of friends. They encourage me and know me and my heart. I have my own Aibileen Clark(s) cheering me one. It has been one of the most beautiful things I have discovered in my life.
One of the other most beautiful things I've been blessed to experience is the love of a wonderful man. We'll call him...Mr. Darcy. He is supportive, kind, and so good to me. I have joked that being with him is better than any anti-anxiety medicine I have ever been forced to take. As soon as Mr. Darcy walks through the door I feel a wave of relief and comfort. He enwraps me in a hug and takes on my day and emotions with his. This man is so gentle and loving I am often assuming he must be sarcastic with his adorations rather than sincere (I was raised by an engineer so sarcasm is my second language). What a gift his support has been. Except I uncovered the truth of healthy boundaries the hard way. I cannot solely rely on him or anyone else to be my anchor. That would be like building a house with only one support beam=a recipe for things to come crashing down. When I first moved across the country I experienced incredible depression and kept looking to Mr. Darcy to fill the incredible hole I felt. It was one of the hardest patches of our relationship so far. I put unfair expectations on him to be able pull me out of the pit my little monster had put me in. Recognizing that only I could be responsible to survive this and save myself was the first stepping stone towards managing my little monster.
Managing depression and anxiety is one of the hardest things you can do emotionally. The best I can describe it is like you are torn between apathy, terror, and at a complete loss of hope and courage and then you're put in a rowboat without paddles in the ocean and expected to get back to shore every day to do it all over again. Except in real life you are required to socialize, respond to people's texts, get on the phone, and be productive. The the conjecture from others is that if I just "get over it" or "just be happy" it will solve everything. The engineer's daughter in me goes, "Oh Gee. Thanks! I can't believe I didn't think of that for the past thirteen years!" (told you I spoke fluent sarcasm). Depression and anxiety are not "moods," they're illnesses. When someone is sick with the flu we don't say to them, "Just get over it. Just choose to not be sick. You're spoiling things for everyone else with your being sick." I have my different strategies for dealing with stress and depression. I can't cure myself, but I can cope and conquer the gray days here and there. I find courage and reasons to hope.
In conclusion, it's okay to have gray days. They happen, but they don't mean I'm failing at life. I am in no danger from myself like I was as a teenager and I have a loving support system. I give myself grace on days that I give in to the little monster and believe his lies. I search for new ways to challenge myself to keep my mind busy, have creative outlets, and take time to recharge. Lastly, I give myself grace on days that I give in to the little monster and believe his lies.
Do you have gray days too? You don't have to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety to experience a gray day. You might struggle with your own little monster in another form. I encourage you to fight it. Just remember, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important."