“Mind over matter.” “Just think positive thoughts.” “Look on the bright side.” These sayings are clichés for a reason. Positive thinking really can make a difference in how you feel and in your outlook on life. I am a big believer in positive thinking but….
It’s ok to not always feel positive.
Maybe this is already obvious to you and you’re rolling your eyes while moving a finger towards the ‘Escape’ key. But, maybe you’re like me, where being positive is drilled into you so much that you feel like a big fat failure when a bad day strikes and makes it difficult for you to see the silver lining.
Even as I write this post, I feel like I’m somehow failing. I’m supposed to be happy and positive!.I’m not supposed to share the secrets of my dark days. But, that’s exactly why we need to talk about it, because being sad doesn’t mean you’re failing.
Sometimes a bad day will hit me out of know where. I’ll go from feeling ok and even a little, dare I say, productive, to being in a full flare without the energy to lift my head. On those days, I have a hard time being optimistic because, the truth of the matter is, it freaking sucks. It just does. It sucks and it’s not fair and it’s not ok and I don’t want to have to accept it. I want my old life back.
I hate that I don’t have a choice in this (other than my reaction, blah, blah, blah). I hate that I went from working full-time at a job I love, having great hobbies, actually having a social life, and feeling like a pretty good mom to suddenly having to redefine who I am in every single role I fill. I hate that a future that once seemed so tangible and clear has been ripped from me in a cruel and mystifying way.
These aren’t the days I typically post about. These aren’t the days that have me running to Facebook to brag about how bad my attitude is or how long I sobbed into my pillow. These aren’t the moments that I’m snapping pictures of to slap up on Instagram. I have a feeling that this is pretty true of a lot of you reading this now. Sure, some people like to use FB as a therapist’s couch, but a good majority of us try to stick to just the positive happy highlights.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go the FB therapist’s couch route, but I am saying that an unrealistic picture is often painted, and we have to acknowledge that. Especially when it comes to people with chronic illnesses. Every article I read or viral post about someone with an illness or a disability is talking about how strong they are because they choose to smile instead of cry. Because they refuse to let their illness get them down. Because they are somehow impervious to the pain in their lives.
But, I guarantee you that even they have their “why me” days.
I believe that strength can be seen in many ways. There is strength in the woman who cries herself to sleep at night, but still finds something to smile about each morning. There is strength in a man who watches others achieve the dream he can no longer reach with aching in his heart, but who then works to find another dream, no matter how long it takes. There is strength in the child who is angry at the world for putting him in a wheelchair, but then still shows up to the baseball game to cheer for his former teammates.
Being strong doesn’t mean that you feel no pain. It doesn’t mean that you never cry or question “why me?” It doesn’t mean that you never sob over the things you’ve lost or long for the life you once had. Strength isn’t the absence of dark days. Strength comes from getting back up, no matter how many times you break down. It comes from persevering even though you have no guarantee that things will get better. It comes from remembering that even your darkest of days don’t define who you are and don’t mean that you won’t continue to fight.
Give yourself time to grieve. Grieving isn’t a clean or linear process. You may believe you’ve gotten through the worst of it, but then your favorite song comes on the radio and you can’t sing along due to your illness and suddenly you’re all the way back at Stage 1 of the grieving process.
Give yourself permission to actually feel your feelings. Sometimes I’ll throw myself a pity party, but with a set time limit. I might take 10 minutes of “why me? This isn’t fair! I want my life back!” Then, when the 10 minutes is over, I dust myself off and throw myself right back in the ring. Sometimes I take a day. Take whatever you need to feel what you need to feel, and then choose to keep fighting.
And, perhaps the most important part of this article, know that you are not alone. I am positive that each and every one of us Spoonies has bad days. I believe that every one of us has faced days where we can’t fathom what our purpose in the world could possibly be or how we can continue to endure this pain day after day. We all feel the crushing sadness that comes with facing a chronic illness. But, that’s the cool part. Since we all experience it, then none of us is ever truly alone in it.
Know that you are not a failure because you have days of deep sadness. You are allowed that sadness, something very sad has happened to you. Just try not to lose yourself in the sadness. Attempt to always fight your way back to the light, even if that means kicking, screaming, biting, and tearing your way back in. And, if you feel lost in the darkness, talk to your doctor or other Spoonies. Being part of a community, even if it’s only virtually, can truly help to make the dark days a little bit better.
Love yourself, darkness and all.
© 2017 spooniewarrior.com