When I Pressure Myself Not to 'Waste' a Bad Day of My Illness
Sometimes I wake up with pain in my face and forehead like my skull is contracting. The running joke in my family is that an alien life-form in gestating in my brain and I’m experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. It’ll pass. (Until the day the infant alien bursts forth.) Anyway, I woke up to false alien baby labor this morning.
The best thing for me to do on days like this is to stay in bed and watch some TV. Maybe take a shower or a bath at some point, since water always feels good. But no pressure. Just take it easy. Give my poor head a break because it’s clearly going through something. I don’t do what is best, though, because I am determined. I force myself out of bed. I make to-do lists — multiple lists of things I have to get done today, or else. Never mind that I can barely get through writing the list. I stare into space trying to think of the word for those little sticks with the soft ends that clean your ears… what are those things? I know I know this. What’s the…?
When I look down at my phone it’s been 15 minutes, I’ve written three items, and I have no idea what those stupid cardboard fluffy sticks are called but I know I need to buy some of them. The two other items on my list are “read everything on each syllabus for my classes” and “write every paper due this semester.” Not really, but it might as well be that unnecessarily ambitious.
Going to the store like this is a bad idea. I’ve done it before. I survived. But it’s not a pleasant experience. I am Dory and I can’t remember that important thing. I make a plan in my head: go to toiletries, then grocery, then leave. But I forget it as soon as I’m in amongst the people and noise and choices. So many choices. Why are there four different kinds of sticks with cottony stuff? That’s too many. And my skull starts to constrict in a wave of pain and I don’t care about Q-tips. Ah, Q-tips! They’re called Q-tips. Anyway, I don’t want Q-tips. I don’t want to be in the store. I want to go home and climb into bed. Why am I out of bed anyway? Whose idiotic idea was this?
“Do you need any help?” a shelf stocker asks me, which is unusual because the staff in this store are not particularly helpful generally. But the stocker seems amused by me. That’s when I realize I have been in this aisle for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes looking at Q-tips. So I left the store without buying anything.
My bookbag in the front seat reminds me that I’m supposed to get stuff done today, but it’s not going to happen. I know that now. My determination is broken. So I drive home mad. I’m mad at myself for not being able to pick between four kinds of Q-tips. Or finish a simple to-do list. Or work on an actually important assignment. Or write a blog post about having a chronic illness.
I’m mad at myself for not being able to manage better, even though this is only one day and I’ve gone a couple weeks without wasting an entire day in bed. I’m mad that any day is wasted. I’m trying to make up time here! I have to use every day. I have to finish to-do lists.
But by the time I get into bed, I’m too exhausted and my pillows are too comfy for me to be mad anymore. I’m pretty sure the alien baby has changed positions because now my skull is threatening to split open at my temple. So I can’t think about a paper or write a post or remember to eat today.
Tomorrow I won’t be mad at myself for today. I’ll be a little frustrated by the additional work I have to do. And embarrassed about that whole Q-tip fiasco. But I won’t be mad. Because a bad day is a bad day. I’ve been through bad weeks and bad months and bad years. I came out the other side of a bad decade.
Bad days are days I don’t get back. That’s true and it sucks. Nothing gets done (except parts of this blog post). I don’t see my friends or make new connections. Occasionally I miss deadlines and the type-A side of me dies a thousand deaths in agony. But mostly the world goes ’round and I binge an entire series on Netflix (only actually watching some of the episodes because the light from laptop screens is refracted evil). And right now, in a moment of rational clarity, I know bad days are not my fault. I can’t control them. I avoid my triggers, but they’ll happen anyway. So what’s the point of being mad at me? It’s just mean. I’m trying my best here.
I know I won’t remember this revelation the next time I wake up feeling like my cranium is being squeezed from the outside while stretching on the inside. I’ll worry I’m going to waste a whole day again. I’ll convince myself that everything needs to be done and it has to be done today. So next time, all I have to do is read this post, try not to roll my eyes — which will hurt like hell — and surrender. It’s just one day.