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What I Really Need From You on My 'Down Days'

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I’ve lived with this illness for nearly 15 years now. I’ve lived with this mind and body for 28 years. Truth be told, I don’t really remember the way my mind worked before I was diagnosed at age 14. I don’t recall a time in my life when my mind and body functioned as most people’s do. After all of this time, I’ve learned a lot about mental health, about different diagnoses, about medications, about what works and what doesn’t work for me and, most importantly, about myself.

For the most part, I know how to look after myself. I know my triggers. I know what helps. I know when it’s time to contact my doctor. I know my limits. I know when to push myself and I know when to give myself a break. And that’s important. When I feel my mind reach its breaking point, I know I need to step back and take a break. I need to ease all the stresses in my life, just for a moment, maybe for a day or two. This might mean I bail on a social outing or I take some time to hang out in my room by myself or with a trusted person who I know won’t judge me or place any more stress on me. It’s a bit like pressing “CTRL+ALT+DELETE” and resetting.

In a particularly bad case, it means I need to take a day off of work. It means I need a while without talking about the things that are stressing me unless it’s a complete emergency. When I’m on that edge, the smallest of things can push me off. The best thing people can do for me at that stage is trust that I know what I need. I don’t cancel on commitments for fun. I cancel on them to take care of myself.

That is my priority.

What might happen if I push those limits? Just like if you go to work when you’re violently ill, you’ll most likely end up worse and coming home. If I push myself when I know I’m at my absolute limit, I may end up having a complete breakdown, meaning in the bathroom on my knees, shaking, crying, trying not to throw up and panicking because my lunch break is nearly over and I’m still fighting bad thoughts.

So, trust me. I’ve been proactive in my recovery. I’ve done research, tried new things and done a lot of self-development.

That doesn’t mean just let me do whatever and ignore signs. If you are genuinely worried that I’m acting differently, especially for more than just a few days, then yes, mention it. But don’t talk down to me about it.

I wrote this after I had a suicidal night and decided to take the next day off work to “reset.” When I emerged from my room after a sleep-in that morning, my mom was home. The first thing she said to me was, “Why are you home? Have you quit?” I was really mad at her for that. I didn’t often take time off work. I actually love my job, and get there early and stay there late. I was really angry that she would say that and not consider that I was sick or having a bad day. We ended up having a fight, and I went back into my room feeling horrible. I stayed home to reset and give myself a break, but I ended up feeling worse than ever because someone I cared about couldn’t even ask respectfully if I was OK.

Checking in respectfully is definitely appreciated. I really only have one person who does that. Usually it’s more like this example of my mom: quite aggressive, inconsiderate and negative. It doesn’t make me feel like being honest or opening up at all. It makes me want to withdraw.

Ask the right questions. State the things you’ve noticed. Let me know you’re there and ask if there’s anything you can do to support me. Speak calmly. If I say yes and you can help then please, follow through. If I say I need some time to myself, respect that.

Respect that I know best what I need. Don’t question my reasons for the things I need on my down days.

Unsplash via Lukas Muller

Originally published: November 21, 2018
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