30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 23 & 24

Explain a good day and a bad day.

I think instead of just a good or bad day I have the whole zoo all mixed in variations. Some days are just good, some days are just terrible and some days are a mix between them. 

A good day for me is generally one in which my emotions were in check, I felt in control, I had no anxiety and I didn’t have any feelings of depression. On a good day I can manage more. I work a little faster and my concentration and focus is good. I am very productive and have enough energy. I am not exuberantly happy. I’ve never had such a day. I’m just at peace. On a good day I also enjoy doing things more. I enjoy talking to people, I joke around a bit, I enjoy my gym time and I love every minute of spending time with my huskies. I generally just enjoy the simple things. I also don’t ruminate or constantly have my thoughts flooded with negativity or fear. I don’t catastrophise. 

On a bad day I feel like I literally have to drag myself by and coax myself out of bed. I feel mentally and physically drained and unmotivated. I do the bare minimum just to get by. I have a variety of bad days in terms of emotions. I may have excessive anxiety and be unable to focus my thoughts. I may have crying spells frequently and feel like I am smothered by sadness and my mind keeps jumping to terrible thoughts like why I am even still breathing. I may feel empty and nothing really because I am just too tired. I also have days where I am just irritable and frustrated. Then there are days where I just feel stuck and defeated, like I have no control or power in my own life. On such difficult days I have to constantly make a conscious effort to keep going and push myself to not give up. I have to constantly make the decision over and over to get up, dress up, show up and stay. I have to just tumble through it. In the past during my depressive times where I just had more mild symptoms, most days would be bad days except without excessive crying spells. I usually know I am in trouble when I start having frequent crying spells or anxiety that prevents me from performing simple tasks. Right now though, I am doing quite well. Most days are good days. I feel more positive and I have no current symptoms of depression. I am making good progress in therapy and learning a lot. I have minor anxiety throughout most days in certain situations but it’s not debilitating. I am also enjoying things again. For the first time in a long time I can truly say that. For the first time in years, I don’t dread life and I am currently even loving it a little. 

What is your current main focus in recovery?

Currently I am focusing on my dialectical and cognitive behavioural therapy. I am on a cocktail of meds that works well and has kicked in and so I am now focusing on growth in other areas of my life. I have never done dialectical and cognitive behavioural therapy as I am doing now and initially I felt it was so pointless and I didn’t think it would do much but I promised myself I would give it a good, hard try because I have to do every single thing that even has the slightest chance of helping me and as the therapist giving it to me said when I saw him the first time in hospital, he knows I want to die and nothing in life truly seems worth living for but before I can say that, I need to know I tried everything and give it a fair chance and after I am done with his course, we can talk again, but he promised me how effective it has been proven and how he has seen massive changes so many times in some of his patients. Obviously, I was still skeptical but I knew I had to try. Right now, it’s been about 6 weeks since I started seeing him and it’s the first time I can honestly say I feel like core issues that hold me back are being dealt with. It has very much to do with my thought processes and beliefs. We all know in mental illnesses those get severely distorted and it’s like we start living by those thoughts because it’s all we know. I have issues of severe anxiety that still need to be dealt with and which hold me back in life. In addition, those negative thoughts and behaviours that feed my depression and break down my identity and beliefs about myself and life are being challenged and as we are making progress, I am understanding so much more about myself and why I struggled to not be controlled by my emotions. It’s like in each situation I am stepping outside of myself and observing everything from another perspective – a realistic one. I am being taught about dissociating from overwhelming emotions and understanding associations my brain made with things in the past that gave me a fixed, false belief. I am learning more about validation of statements we make and judgements we have over ourselves that break us down. Also, strangely, about love and interpersonal relationships. It has given me much freedom from all these doubts I had about myself over why my past relationships had just gone so terribly wrong and which I kept blaming myself for. Also, I’ve gained so much understanding over why some people who fall in love just fall apart. What I like about this therapy is that it’s not talk therapy that severely heightens your emotions because you talk about your life and recount traumatic events. I get to let go of all that and start filling in the cracks. Also, I never believed mindfulness actually works and it rather felt like it drove me to more anxiety because I had to try to silence my mind and relax which was the last thing my body was telling me it needed. But I kept pushing and I have noticed a change. My mind used to be all over the place and now I’ve learned better to focus my mind solely on the situation I am in and to only let my immediate surroundings and tasks influence my thoughts. I still have such a long way to go because even though I now understand the concepts of many things, they haven’t become a habit or replaced my automated go-to thoughts and actions. Especially with anxiety, it feels like I have been given a baseball bat but when the situation comes and I have to act on it, it’s like I am hitting against a concrete wall and all I started learning or tried to modify within myself just crumbles right down again. I also still have incredible issues with myself confidence and identity at times. All of this is going to take time because I am trying to start rewiring circuits in my brain and automated thoughts I’ve had my whole life.

Other than that I am trying to also focus on my health. Not so easy though. I started exercising every day and it helped a lot but then I got sick and had to skip out on gym for 2 weeks and am still waiting to get back. But right now, I feel so drained and the workload in my current Paediatrics rotation is just getting so much that I feel like I don’t know if I’ll even have the energy to go to gym after each day. My immune system hasn’t been the best lately with all the crazy stress that has been going on the past 2 months and I am a bit weary of over-exerting myself in exercise as it has been shown that too strenous exercise can suppress your immune system up to 3 days due to the cortisol levels being released shortly during and after exercise. It’s hard for me to find my limit of what’s too strenous and what isn’t because while I’m working out I generally take it at the maximum pace I can handle and maintain that intensity. Anything less doesn’t feel like it’s doing me any good and I also feel fine the days following exercise. But I think I might have to tone things down a bit. Eating healthy has also been a problem with me having stomach flu the last while and I could only tolerate certain foods and am still working my way back up and gaining back all the fluids I lost from the vomiting. Running around in the hospital all day is also a bit tough because we don’t get lunch breaks so you kind of just have to stuff something in in between the work while no one is watching or having you on demand. Generally I get to eat quite late so my body is functioning on lower glucose levels for quite a few hours. So, all the progress I made in healthy living kind of got thrown off course a bit. But I am adamant on getting back into the swing of things.

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2 thoughts on “30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 23 & 24

  1. First, I’m wishing you many, many good days. I haven’t had much chance to work with anyone by means of cognitive-behavioral methods, although they did sneak in in small doses. Still, I have seen people get very good results with it when they keep at it, do the homework, and really use the tools, all of which you are doing. Working on general health comes in much the same category and seems often overlooked in many treatment plans, especially in institutional settings (people sitting around watching TV). Keep at all of it (reminders available if needed).

    Liked by 1 person

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