Today is a “down day.” Today is a bad mental health day. Today is a day I feel as if my heart is filled with nothing but hot air. There is no life in me, I just feel flat. I tell my loved ones today is not a good day for me and they, of course, ask me why. Why? I have no idea why. The thing about having borderline personality disorder (BPD) is that this insidious disorder can just creep up on me for no good reason, making the sunniest days feel pitch black.
Now that I’m being treated for my BPD, I’m supposed to try and examine my recent life events and consider what may be the cause of this depressive feeling. I’m supposed to take care of myself, do something nice that won’t necessarily fix everything but might make me feel somewhat better in the meantime. I’m supposed to work on sitting with this feeling, acknowledging the presence of my low mood without employing any of the harmful coping mechanisms I once used as crutches. I know exactly what I am supposed to do on days like today, but I don’t.
Some days I do. Some days I am mindful and I recount all the tools my therapist has given me, using every one as a weapon against my mental illness. But, not today. Today I just feel defeated and ashamed. I feel great shame for the fact I feel this way, even though life is rather good right now, and for the fact that I am not trying to tackle it. I’m just exhausted, tired of the constant battle with my own mind and today, I can’t be bothered going to war again. So, I sit in my pajamas, unable to focus on the film I have put on in the background, lacking the motivation to move and feed myself.
The shame I feel only worsens as the day grows longer. A small voice in my head urges me to get up and do the practical things I need to do to look after myself, but I ignore it. I feel guilty. I am supposed to be better than this by now. I should be past this, past the bad days, past the mental illness. I am now officially two years into my recovery process, so why am I still having days like today? The judgments I am passing on myself and my feelings are, at best, unhealthy, and, at worst, holding me back from making this at all better. These judgments are based in shame, but this shame is unfair.
I have decided a bad mental health day is something I should feel ashamed of. I have decided all the negative emotions I feel – anger, hurt, emptiness – should be pushed down because I am supposed to be in recovery now, supposed to be better than this. Why have I decided to pass these judgments upon myself? If I were not looking at myself, if I were thinking of a friend walking in my shoes, I certainly would not be so quick to write off their struggle. I would tell them bad days are normal and even those without mental illness have down days. I would tell them I am here for them, on hand to provide whatever support they need until they feel better. Importantly, I would not pass judgments. I would simply be what they needed me to be in that moment to help them. But, because this is not a friend I am discussing but myself, it is easier to listen to the voice of my BPD that tells me my bad day is worth these feelings of guilt. I listen to its suggestion I am weak and, in turn, I feel shame for this apparent weakness. I spiral, caught in a cycle that many who have BPD are familiar with.
Today was a down day. Today I listened to the little voice from my BPD and I did not use the tools given to me to combat it. But, I am not some kind of a failure for this. I am not deserving of shame and guilt because I have a disorder that makes some days more unbearable than others. I am not weak because I had a bad day. In fact, I am strong. I am a strong person because I made it through that bad day. I am a strong person because I am still here. Today, I survived. Sometimes, that is enough.
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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.