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What I Want You to Know About My 'Bad Days' With Mental Illness

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I’ve been blessed with friends who I can be honest with about my mental illness. They might not entirely know what to say to me when I’m having a bad day, but they’re always there for me. I gave my friend, Lei, a tour of what a bad day is like for me. This is what I wrote to her:

You’ve caught me having a bad day today. People have their own versions of a bad day. A bad day for me starts immediately when I wake up and I know I can’t get out of the house because I’m too scared to drive. I dwell over the thought of crashing the car against a brick wall or into someone else’s car. I know it’s a bad day when I have to hold my hands together tightly or sit on them to prevent myself from digging my nails into my wrists, scarring them only because the pain from it will wake me up from a daze. It’s a bad day when I know I’ll forget things and I won’t be able to talk to people because I’ll be too conscious of what they’re thinking. Whatever thoughts that come will then twist into a grotesque play on repeat.

It’s a bad day when I know I won’t be able to face people because they’ll make me cry and I won’t be able to explain why I’m crying. Some moments I don’t even know why I cry. I’ll be a burden to others because I don’t have the energy to do anything, and I can’t tell them I can’t do it because I don’t see the point in doing something when it won’t matter in the end.

It’s a bad day when I know I can’t function as everyone expects me to. I can’t face you or anyone, because the person in front of you won’t be the version you’ve come to know. The version you’ll be talking to will be hollow, reckless with her words and cruel with her thinking. When I can drag it back to that place in my head where I keep it locked up, I’ll be left to repair or clean the mess it left behind, facing the people it was cruel with, feeling apologetic and guilty.

That’s why I can’t get out of the house on a bad day.

After she read this, Lei said my words were beautiful. I didn’t realize it, but her presence and concern hit the fortress I built. She said that even if what I was telling her was too heavy, it was OK. I was honest with her, I let her in and she assured me that even when I thought I was unworthy of anything, she’d be there.

Bad days for someone with depression are downward spirals of trying to keep afloat when you’re not a good swimmer. We get stuck in our heads, but there are people in our lives who will remind us of the world outside. They remind us of the good days, and this reminder is sometimes the small step out of a dark place.

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

Originally published: October 24, 2018
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