When Getting Going Each Day is Like Running a Marathon Due to Mental Health
Waking up for me has not come naturally for the past 18 years. After I had my third child, my mental health symptoms ultimately manifested, and it has not been the same since. However, it’s what I choose to do with it that makes it more manageable.
I Don’t Want to Wake Up
For such a long time, I couldn’t even get out of bed until late afternoon. It just felt paralyzing to move and then I got caught up in this vicious cycle from staying up until all hours, to struggling to fall asleep due to high anxiety and a constant racing mind, to sleeping in all afternoon. Those were the darkest days of my life and took me a long time to break that pattern.
Although it was still so hard to get up when I had my children, they were my purpose and driving force. However, once they were grown, I had no reason to at the time. I even landed in inpatient for that particular reason. But after living in such misery for so long, I knew I had to find a way, a reason to keep going.
Changing these patterns was not an overnight process. It took a few years for me, but I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So, after putting myself through partial hospitalization back in 2020 (which was now a sixth time), I finally decided to learn more effective coping skills.
Practice is the Key
Not only did I learn about more effective coping skills this time, but I finally practiced them because even though I had the knowledge and education, I wasn’t moving forward without doing the work.
The first thing I did was go from the bed to the couch. I even made sure to make my bed so it wouldn’t look so inviting to go back into it.
I didn’t move for hours on end on my couch either, but I at least changed the environment, as my bedroom was not my happy place. It was more like a chamber to me.
My next step took hours to get up and eat something. And I knew it wasn’t healthy not eating until the late afternoon, but it took all that I could to get off of the couch. It was like taking baby steps.
When I was finally able to master getting off the couch and eating, I was then able to wash the dishes that I used. And though this might sound so simple to many, it was huge for me, and therefore, I learned to pat myself on the back because it was a sense of accomplishment for me.
Showering was a massive struggle for me, so when I was finally able to build up the energy and self-esteem through accomplishing other tasks, I was able to shower.
Living with Multiple Diagnoses
Living with any mental health condition can be challenging enough. Still, I also live with agoraphobia and panic disorder, in addition to other diagnoses. So, just the thought of getting out of the house would cause me such anticipatory anxiety that I’d back out every single time, but taking a shower and not looking so unkempt has made all the difference.
I still struggle to be around other people, and therefore, I might take a walk in nature. Other times, I need some form of stimulation, and so I will walk in the park. Even more incredible is when I can go to a store. It all depends on how I feel on that particular day, which can be a mystery, as I never know until I wake up the following day.
One of the techniques they taught us when I attended partial hospitalization is called “Radical Acceptance.” It is about accepting “what is.” So for example, at times I still can’t shower, get out, or keep plans. However, rather than beating myself up for it, I allow myself to feel that disappointment at the moment and realize that I have found ways to get through it in the past. So maybe I will focus on that cup of coffee or a favorite article that makes me feel good. It’s like telling yourself that the feeling stinks, but it’s just for the moment.
My former therapist once told me to welcome the feeling like my friend. Just hearing that may sound irrational, but I feel that beating yourself up is even worse of a feeling.
Radical acceptance is also telling yourself that even though you might not have achieved what you set out to do, you might have accomplished something else like getting out of bed, brushing your hair or teeth, or making yourself something healthy.
None of these tasks are minuscule, so make sure to pat yourself on the back every time because it’s those little accomplishments that will build your self-esteem and lead to more incredible feats.
Finding a Way to Accept Yourself
It is essential to know that even if you struggle with particular things that might seem silly to you, it isn’t. Living with a mental health condition is no joke. So, be easy on yourself. If you can’t do it today, then try the next day again. And if you are unable to do it, it doesn’t make you a failure. You are fighting a battle that only you can fathom, which, to me, makes you a warrior.
A version of this story originally appeared on bipolarwarriors.com.
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