Useless

sad photo

Some days I feel so useless.

I want to do things so badly. I look around and I see things I want to clean up, to fix up, to improve. And I sit there and stare at it, sometimes for a half hour before I give up and realize I just CAN’T.

It’s a terrible feeling, this helplessness. To feel like there’s really nothing you can do to make things better because you just can’t DO anything. I’m sure everyone around me is sick of hearing about it, but it’s so hard! I don’t want to be like this! I want to make my apartment pretty. I want to get dressed and do my hair JUST FOR ME. I don’t want to be so damn tired anymore.

I went to the doctor a couple of months ago because of my fatigue and my suspicion that there had to be something else going on than just my depression and anxiety because in that sense I felt better, but I was just SO TIRED. Like, laying in bed, can barely move my arm to scroll on my phone, tired.

My iron tested low at about half of the lowest they like it to be. That was a relief. Validating. It’s not just all in my head. I took the prescribed iron supplements for a month and my levels didn’t budge. So I just finished taking them twice a day for a month (plus supplementing with vitamin C to help with absorption). If I can just manage to call and ask for another blood test to see if that did anything it’ll be a miracle. I’m not super hopeful.

I leave for Canada in 12 days and I’m equal parts excited and terrified. For the most part, I’m not surprised, I always feel like this before a trip. Last year’s trip to Canada was the first vacation since I was a kid that I didn’t have a meltdown or major panic attack AT ALL. I’m hoping it’s all the prep and my being the one who planned the trip that did it, which would mean I’ll be okay this time.

I know I’ll be fine. Even if I do melt down, I’m with two people who totally understand and won’t get upset at me. One of them has her own anxiety problems (which might benefit me, as I get calmer if someone else is freaking out, lol) and the other is my friend Erin, who is the chillest person on the planet. She won’t bat an eyelash if I ask to go back to our airbnb and be alone or freak out and need to leave somewhere immediately. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I definitely lucked out to have a few that don’t judge or resent me because of my mental illness.

Writing this all out already has me feeling a little better. No more tears and I’m shaking a lot less (I’m pretty much always shaking, thanks to my anxiety disorders). I’m going to try and hang some clothes up to make it easier for packing (!) and then curl up and read.

Thanks for listening/reading. I hope everyone else is having a better day than I am. If you’re not, hug your pet and be kind to yourself. You’re not alone.

(And on top of everything, I put off dyeing my hair too long and found my first gray hair. I didn’t expect that to bother me so much but I was much happier not knowing. (Hair dye + being a natural blonde has left me blissfully ignorant until now) )

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I Feel Fine (and it’s weird)

Some days I wake up and feel fine.

It’s like a switch in my head flipped and suddenly I’m okay. The pit in the bottom of my stomach is gone. The shaking in my hands is still there, but I don’t want to chant “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” over and over anymore.

I feel invincible. I start making plans. Cleaning and decluttering is actually happening and not just something I think about. I bring out a writing project I’ve been planning on tackling for a YEAR and I actually get it done.

I’m finally filling in my Story Bible!!! (click image for details)

It’s amazing.

It’s also highly unsettling.

I feel good. Do I feel too good?

I wonder about hypomania. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the baby sister of the Mania someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences. It’s nowhere near as severe and doesn’t last as long (at least with me) but you get a taste of some of the feelings and impulsiveness.

Logically I know I’m not hypomanic. This just happens to me. The same way I wake up one day and feel horrible and anxious. No matter how much therapy and medication I take I’ll always have these swings. The treatment helps them tremendously, but it can’t take them away. My brain just doesn’t work like other people’s brains.

Today I feel great. I feel like I can take on the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. In the words of the great Jenny Lawson, I’m going to be “Furiously Happy”. I’m going to keep writing and outlining while the creativity holds. I’m going to clean and declutter while it’s not overwhelming. I’m going to go places and see people while those social situations don’t feel like being waterboarded.

Today is a good day.

Tomorrow might be a bad one.

But today is good.

Do you ever wake up and just feel good instead of bad? Do you like my new blog header? And more importantly, how awesome is Jenny Lawson?

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Should is a 4-Letter Word

“Should is a 4 letter word.”

This is possibly the most helpful thing my therapist has ever told me. She explained that the word “should” to the mentally ill mind is as offensive as certain four letter words. It tells us that we are failing in some way by not acting in a certain fashion.

For example, someone might say “I should be eating healthier”. The phrase immediately conjures up guilt at something you aren’t doing. What if you said “I WANT to be eating healthier”? Instead of shaming, it is a statement with a goal you can work towards. That make sense to you?

I try very hard to stop myself from making ‘should’ statements. I restructure them in my head and remind myself over and over how it is having a bad effect on me.

Unfortunately, one place that advice never made it to was my writing.

When I first joined Twitter, I was almost immediately enchanted. There were so many writers out there to interact and chat with, and they wanted to talk to me! It was so inspiring to share little tidbits of my process with people and read all about theirs.

At first, my writing was boosted. It was motivating to get my words written every day so I could share it with people. It was that tiny bit of accountability that I need. Until it started to do the opposite.

Like with everything else in the world, writers on Twitter have very forceful opinions. Most have the best of intentions, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting that everyone has to find their own way, and just because someone is more experienced about something than me it doesn’t mean they are right about everything.

It played up on my fear of publishing. I openly admit that I never plan on traditional publishing because I know my works isn’t “marketable”. Even though I write romance, I don’t fit into a narrow niche. (more on that subject in a future post) When I’m done with something, I plan on setting it loose in the world, whether or not anyone else reads it. Writing is something I have always done for me, not other people.

That’s all fine. Although there can be a stigma attached, lots of people self publish and are quite happy with their results. Naturally I was attracted to posts with tips and tricks in them.

I let people get in my head. I started worrying about making mistakes. I heard people who clearly have much harsher standards than I say that they would stop reading a book after finding a single typo (which listening to several podcasts by published authors recently reminded me was not something uncommon to traditionally published works too). I listened to people who talked about how you had to have this, and you had to have that before publishing, even if it cost more money than you could ever reasonably spend.

I believed them when they said you had to pay someone else to make your work the best it could possibly be.

My anxiety sent obsessive thoughts swirling around my head until I didn’t want to work on my novels anymore. Sure, I wrote little bits here and there, but whenever I thought about editing one of the many things I have first drafts of I would get that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that said it would never be good enough.

I let the world psych me out. I forgot that I know what I want out of my writing, and it doesn’t involve perfection. I want to write the stories in my head down and edit them until they say what matters to me. Me, not the rest of the world. Would I like people to read and like them? Of course! But that cannot, nor do I want it to be my main goal.

I’ve known for a few months that I needed to find a way to stop other people from stealing my joy of writing. Amusingly, it’s only been during a very stressful family crisis that I have been able to sort through my feelings and come to a sort of solution.

The solution was basically to think a lot about writing, listen to some of my favorite writing podcasts, and sort through the negative thoughts and “shoulds” that my brain had been infected by. I found the nest, sprayed for pests, and with any luck I can keep the infestation under control from now on.

Writing this entry was half the battle. What better way to sort out thoughts and feelings for a writer? For the first time in a long time, I feel positive about my writing. I’m looking forward to sitting down at putting words to page.

I’ve stopped ‘should-ing on myself’. And it feels great.

Do you find yourself plagued by ‘shoulds’? Has it negatively impacted your life (writing or otherwise)? As always, I hope something I’ve said resounds with someone and makes their life just a little bit easier.

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The Only Thing I’m Not Afraid of is Cancer

I have two basic types of anxiety: Obsessive Anxiety and Bad Feeling Anxiety.

Obsessive Anxiety

People with Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder both deal with obsessive thoughts. Your brain is constantly firing and nearly impossible to shut off. I often can’t fall asleep without television when I’m experiencing this type of anxiety. My brain is going so fast I need something to focus on to doze off.

I often don’t even realize I’m experiencing this type of anxiety, unless there’s a specific thing I’m obsessing about. Often I realize my anxiety level is rising when I start making more frequent google searches about various ailments, aches and pains, and problems I probably don’t have but could easily convince myself I do.

Everyone does this to a certain extent. Most of us have seen more than one meme about how they have either a headache or a brain tumor. How WebMD has diagnosed them as dead. Etc. We all do it, but when my Obsessive Anxiety comes out the searches get more and more frequent, until they’re happening multiple times a day and ever strange sensation is being investigated like it’s potential cancer. (Ironically, the one thing I’m NOT afraid of getting is cancer.)

“Bad Feeling” Anxiety

Bad Feeling Anxiety is much harder to explain. I can best describe it by first explaining the basic difference between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack. An Anxiety attack has a trigger. Lost your keys, lost a dear relative, whatever it is it causes instant panic. A Panic Attack doesn’t have that trigger. You aren’t worrying about anything when it happens. There is no reason to be panicking, which is one of the things that makes it so scary.

I wake up one day breathing a little shorter, my heart beating a little faster. My hands shake and I have this indescribable feeling in my gut that something terrible is going to happen. It used to be terrifying. I was desperate to make the feeling go away. I would wrack my brain trying to figure out what caused it.

Then I realized there was no cause.

These days when I wake up with the Bad Feeling, it’s not so scary. It’s upsetting, and frustrating, but less scary. I know how it’s going to go. I know I’m going to feel bad, I know there’s nothing I can do about it, and I know how to handle it. (LINK TO BLOG ENTRY)

Of the two, I usually prefer the Obsessive Anxiety. When there’s a trigger, you can reason with your anxiety. It doesn’t always work, but there’s a purpose, something you can do to work on it. Distraction, getting out of the house, crafting, things like that are more likely to snap me out of it. Sometimes all it takes is a simple Klonopin.

Today, because of some tough family issues we are dealing with, I’m experiencing Obsessive Anxiety. It’s not terrible, just a noticeable increase in my normal anxiety levels. I can roll my eyes and joke about my obsessive googling. The biggest problem is that it’s so much easier for life to nudge me up to the breaking point.

Today, it wouldn’t be hard to make me cry. Speak sternly to me, a mean message on Twitter, losing a book I’m looking for, spilling a cup of coffee on the carpet. The ant I just had to kill on my keyboard that made this document disappear and I panicked thinking I’d lost everything I’d just written. (I didn’t cry, but I would have if it was all gone.)

Today, I’m just going to treat myself a little better, take things a little easier.

Do you find that your anxiety (or whatever else mental health issue you have) falls into 2 or more categories? Is there one you hate more or are they equally terrible?

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It’s My 2-Year Blogiversary! (sort of)

It’s my two year* blogiversary! throws confetti

*actually it’s more like my 2 year 2 month and 3 day blogiversary because I procrastinated posting this a bit. But I am posting it, that counts for something. Right? Right??? *crickets*)

Two years ago today I launched An Anxious Author and committed myself to a year of blogging. It was something I’d been wanting to do for YEARS.

Over the past two years I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I don’t blog as much as I’d like, but that is still improving.

One of my goals for this blog was to motivate myself to work on my novels and just generally WRITE MORE. Unfortunately, mental health issues have made that difficult but I’m still chugging along, chipping away bit by bit, word by word.

I am reading more. This year my GoodReads goal is 150 books. I’m probably not going to make it because I’m only at 67 books so far, but two years ago my “big” reading number was around 30, so I’m really proud. That was after years of almost reading nothing. (just to specify, I’ve never stopped “reading”. What I’m talking about here is actual books. The worse my mental health got, the more I read…fanfiction. During the Dark Years, I stopped reading novels. While I enjoy and still read fanfiction, that was a huge sign of decreasing mental health for me. So when I talk about not reading, keep in mind I was still reading single fanfiction works longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy because I am a crazy person. My mother had me tested.)

I wish I could say there have been huge life changes in the past two years (or even small ones), but things have more or less stayed the same. I try to write more, shop too much, watch endless episodes of crime shows, and fight my brain on a daily basis. I have a few new hobbies and I’m going to Canada for a week in November to see a couple skating shows.

It’s been a tough two years, to be honest. Shortly before this blog launched, I lost my cat of nearly ten years. Six months after that, the 11 month old kitten I’d adopted two and half months before died suddenly. It hit me a lot harder than I could have expected and really messed with my anxiety. I’ve had my sweet Noodle for a year and a half and I still check to see if she’s breathing when she’s sleeping too soundly.

I still want so much more from this blog. I want to begin sharing my writing. I have a novella that is 75% finished that will be posted here. I plan on sharing one of my works in progress on WattPad as I begin the first set of revisions. I want to post three times a week (haha that is so not going to happen). I’d like to gain some more followers so I feel less like I’m shouting into the void.

I’m incredibly proud for getting this far. Maybe a small step for some, but a huge step for me.

Is there something you’d like to see me write about in the next year?

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I Feel Like Crying

I feel like crying
And I don’t know why
There’s a sadness inside me
That just won’t die.

I wrote that almost 20 years ago, when I was fifteen. I don’t remember exactly what prompted it, just the words pouring out. Even then, I knew that there was something inside me that wasn’t right.

Even all these years later, I think of these words. I’ve never come up with a better way to explain how I feel on days like this. I might be having a good day. I’ve laughed at jokes and stuff on TV. But I feel like I could burst into tears at any given moment and there is absolutely no reason why.

It’s been going on for about a week now. A few tears slipped while I was cleaning my closet this morning. I don’t know why those ones fell and others don’t. I cried during Avengers: Endgame, but who didn’t? (Only a monster wouldn’t cry. *glares at nephew*)

It can be frustrating, but I’m mostly just annoyed. Because there’s nothing to do this time, just wait and try to be patient.

I won’t let this undefinable sad cloud stop me from my life. I’ll put together my IKEA shelves for my desk and keep planning my trip to Ontario this fall. I still want to clean my apartment and go to Free Comic Book Day this weekend.

But I’m tired. Physically and mentally. Sometimes I push myself, like this morning, other times I let myself curl up under a blanket and play on my phone (like this afternoon).

Hopefully it will pass soon.

Until then, I’ll keep hearing those words from so long ago repeating in my head. Reminding me that while the sadness doesn’t die, it does go to sleep.

Soon, it will sleep.

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How I Made a Story Bible

A very long time ago, I shared photos on Instagram and Twitter of what I’ve heard some call a “Story Bible”. To my surprise people were interested and some (*couchShawnacough*) have been bugging me to write a blog post about how I did it. In typical Me fashion, I took photos for the entry and promptly forgot all about it.

i love putting my books on kindle!

Today, the procrastination ends and I will share my brilliant*, not-so-secret genius** ideas on how to create your very on Story Bible.

* decent
** hopefully useful

STEP ONE: Table of Contents

Endless reading about Bullet Journals on Pinterest taught me how to make a table of contents in a notebook. You can either buy one with numbered pages or like me, spend some time in front of the TV numbering the pages yourself.

The items in your table of contents depend on what you want in your Story Bible. I was looking to consolidate a lot of scattered information on my characters, their families, and an easy place to see what I’d already written.

As you add these sections in your notebook, write down what they are and on what pages you can find the information. The beauty of the table of contents is that if you need to add information in a different part of the notebook later because you ran out of room, you can jot that page number down here instead of ruffling through the pages while muttering unkind things under your breath. (Not that I have ever done such a thing.)

STEP TWO: Characters

I chose to make three categories of Characters: Main, Secondary, and Minor. Main Characters get a few pages, secondary ones get a page each, and minor characters a few sentences.

What you put in your character section is up to you. I chose to start with age, date of birth, and hair/eye color. These are the most common things I forget when writing a story. With any luck, I’ll stop changing eye color mid-story.

You can use a character profile from the internet if that’s something you use. Mine will likely be a list of facts and personality traits, major life events, etc.

STEP THREE: A Family Tree

one of several family trees in this section

Depending on your novel, this may or may not be something you need. In my novel, the majority of my characters come from one large family. Because it is the first in a series, I’ve also included ages to make things easier. (I have multiple versions of this family tree for different stories. Having one master copy with the original character set makes figuring out later ages much simpler.)

STEP FOUR: Timeline

With a large family, as well as an extensive backstory, figuring out the exact order of events has really helped. I don’t want to slip up on something stupid, like mentioning a character that wasn’t born yet being at an event.

You might want to use this space as a basic timeline for events in your novel. Or you might want to skip this section altogether. Use whatever works for your novel.

STEP FIVE: Outline

This was the section that originally sparked the idea for my Story Bible. I had a loose outline of scenes I wanted to write in my original notebook, but it often just mentioned dialogue ideas and sometimes the scenes ended up completely different from what I’d planned.

The outline section in my notebook is going to be filled out as I reread my novel and prepare for rewrites. Here I plan to write down a short summary of each scene, whose POV it’s in, and it’s purpose.

I haven’t finished filling out all the sections in my Story Bible yet, but I’m looking forward to having all my information in one central place.

I hope this entry was everything you were hoping for and that it helps someone in some way. If there was anything I didn’t address that you wanted to know, put it in the comments and I’ll be happy to respond.

Have you ever built a Book Bible? Does it sound like something you would like or just another way to avoid writing? I’d love to hear how other people keep their novel information organized.

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On Writing (Fanfiction)

There was a time when I wrote fanfiction every single day. I sat at my clunky old Windows 95 computer and typed away for hours.

In those early days, I didn’t have access to the internet in my home. Unlike now, when I am writing this on my phone (and could publish this entry on it as well), I would put my new chapters on a disk and bring that to my sister’s house where I could update my website. My website was hosted for a time on Angelfire (I feel so old) and Geocities, but eventually had its own home at pink-moonlight.net . (Yes, if you really want to see my beginner attempts at web design there are examples saved at archive.org. Go ahead, I’m only mildly humiliated. 😍)

I had originally set up my website for my original fiction. I posted a few short stories and the first chapters of a few longer works. It’s kind of like the old saying, “if a tree falls down in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” I have no idea, because no one read that stuff.

But I had discovered Hanson Fiction with a friend earlier that year and the people who wrote those had hundreds of readers. I decided to give it a try and the next thing I knew, I was getting dozens of messages from people who wanted to read more. I was hooked. I had fun writing and people actually wanted to read what I wrote!

I eventually moved on to other subjects, mostly focusing on the show Gilmore Girls, which played a very important part in my life at the time (subject of a future blog post). That was where I really blossomed, writing more than I ever had before. In the world of GG fanfic, I wasn’t a superstar or anything, but people knew who I was. For a socially anxious girl in her late teens/early 20s, that was pretty heady stuff.

I learned a lot during those years. My friend Leigh proofread some of my stuff and yelled at me about tenses. (I will never forget to check my tenses that thanks to her.) I learned how to keep readers interested, how to put enough suspense in a serial novel to keep them coming back week after week. It taught me how to play to my audience, how to make my readers believe the unbelievable.

During the Depression Years, I slowly stopped updating my fanfiction, although I never intended to. Those were the years I barely wrote at all.

When I started writing again, the first thing I wrote was a piece of NCIS fanfiction. I had been binge watching the entire series from the beginning and a story began forming in my head that I just couldn’t shake. Finally I opened up Scrivener and began to type.

I wrote about 65,000 words before I got distracted by another NCIS idea and began writing that. I began building fans in a new fandom. I participated in a challenge where I wrote a story for another writer based on their prompt, even though the deadline nearly killed me (deadlines and I don’t get along).

It’s been several years since I posted that first story. I still get emails about once a month from someone expressing interest in it. Because of that, a year ago I wrote 40,000 more words on that story, to finish up a major plot line. (Now if I can just motivate myself to edit and post them…).

These days I mostly work on my original novels. I read much more fanfic than I write. It’s a great way to relax before falling asleep and there are some truly talented people out there, writing stories for free, for no other reason than their own enjoyment and others. And many have used fanfiction as a stepping stone to careers in writing (and no I’m not talking about E.L. James).

I don’t think most people who haven’t been involved in the fanfiction/fandom world really understand what an important part it can play in a young (or old, there are lots of 30, 40+ writers out there) writer’s life. For me personally, I gained a self confidence in my writing that I hadn’t had before. I learned how to deal with people who disliked my writing. I made lifelong friends who cheer me on to this day.

Writing fanfiction may just have saved my life.

Have you ever written/read fanfiction? If so, for what fandom? Do you know anyone who has? Did reading this change your mind about any preconceived notions about fanfiction? Inquiring minds (ME!) want to know.

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I Fought Anxiety (and I won!)

I really hate anxiety sometimes.

Last night, people started posting pictures of an ice skater I like with this girl who is supposedly his former skating partner and girlfriend. Naturally, everyone was having a giant hissy fit and freaking out. Completely overreacting considering it was just a picture and no one knows a thing.

I wasn’t upset. I really wasn’t. I was more concerned that other people were that upset. I found myself reading all over Twitter instead of just quickly checking my favorite hashtags like I’d planned. People were melodramatically announcing they were going into seclusion and never watching them skate again, crazy stuff like that.

So naturally, my anxiety decided that I must feel so much more upset than I do.

Last day of Nanowrimo, Anxiety whispers.

You’ve been feeling really good.

I told you something would happen to ruin it.

You’ll never make it through tomorrow.

See how awake you feel right now? That’s because you’re really upset.

You won’t sleep.

It’s really late. Why aren’t you sleeping?

See, you’re super upset about this.

Everyone’s going to laugh at you because you’re upset.

Just wait until people find out you let a random famous person dating a person you don’t want them to send you spiraling into a mental health crisis.

You’re never going to write all those words tomorrow.

And then when I woke up in the night for a few minutes:

See, you’re so upset you can’t even sleep through the night.

You’ll never fall back asleep.

You’re going to feel terrible in the morning.

You’re so stupid for liking these people so much.

You’ll never enjoy figure skating again.

And again when I woke up this morning:

Don’t feel good, do you? That’s anxiety. Remember anxiety, you hate it. You’re going to feel like that forever now. Or at least so long that it will mess up your life. Everyone’s going to think you’re stupid.

And you will never finish your novel for Nanowrimo. It’s all ruined. The fun is over. You’re a failure and you always wuss out.

I know all these things are a lie. I know it’s just Anxiety messing with my brain. I know it’s my own head spiraling and turning one tiny thing into a huge thing inside of my brain.

This morning I woke up with tingling and cold arms. Which tells me something else that Anxiety doesn’t want me to know: this is merely a poorly timed set of withdrawel symptoms. I lowered my dose last weekend. I was due a day or two of feeling crappy and/or anxious. It has nothing to do with my self worth or how much of a life I have.

It’s just Anxiety on a power trip, poking it’s ugly little head up when it spots a weakness, a crack in the wall I’m building.

But you can’t fool me, Anxiety. You can say all those things, you can make me feel sick and shaky and horrible, but I know you’re wrong. I am not a terrible person. I don’t choose to feel like this.

And I am going to write the hell out of today. When I see the numbers read 50,000 words I am going to remind you just how wrong you were.

Take that, Anxiety.

Update:

This was written first thing in the morning on November 30th. I never intended to post it, I just wanted to get some words out of my head so I could get back to my novel. I came across it when re-reading my Nanowrimo novel and was surprised by how coherent and strong my words were.

How could I not share this with the world?

Normally, I would have given myself a day off. But this was the very last day of Nanowrimo and I’d worked SO HARD. I wrote almost 25,000 words in the last three days. I think I had 8,000 I needed for the final day.

I did it. I fought though Anxiety and reached my goal.

And it was glorious.

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How I Cope on ‘Bad Days’

I didn’t have any orange days in February.

I started keeping a mood chart in the back of my planner three years ago and I love being able to look back at the entire year and see many good (and bad) days I’ve had. Anyway, this year orange is the color for an anxious day and February was completely devoid of orange. Instead it was filled with turquoise (for a ‘meh’ day) and blue (a happy day!).

Unfortunately the streak didn’t make it though March, but it was still a big deal!

I’ve been feeling disturbingly good mental health-wise the past few months. Disturbing because some days it just feels weird and suspicious. Unnatural even.

I wrote this on my personal insta a couple years ago and it still says it the best.

For the first time in, probably a decade, I feel like I’ve really got my life on track. I can finally focus on my physical health more. For so long I had to put my mental health at the front of the line because if I didn’t have good mental health, my physical health didn’t really matter. But now I’m at a point where I can focus on eating more nourishing foods and getting more movement.

I’m having fun.

It’s always scary when I start to feel this way because I know it won’t last. I could wake up tomorrow and have a bad day. I could have a series of Bad Days. With Anxiety and Depression there is just no way to know.

Over the years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. When those Bad Days come (and they will), I know what to do. And that makes them just a little less terrible. For me, I know nothing but time will make that terrible feeling go away. I just have to survive each day at a time until it runs it’s course. Having a routine makes those days a little less scary and reminds me that it will end, just like it did the last time it happened.

Here is how I cope on the days when I wake up and know instantly that things are not all right:

  1. “Comfort” Shows.

I use television as a coping mechanism a lot of the time. I find the background noise comforting while I do other things. When I am anxious, the distraction becomes even more important.

I have two main shows that I use on Very Bad days: Psych and Castle. Both are light hearted shows that always make me smile, even when I don’t want to. They are well written (at least the early seasons) and the characters are like good friends that keep me company when I’m sad.

On days that are a little less bad, I have others I add into the mix: The Mentalist, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Elementary. You’ll notice these are all police procedurals. I find the predictable format reassuring and they all have clever and quirky characters that keep things from getting too serious. (I love Criminal Minds, but that one has to wait until I’m much more emotionally sound!)

  1. Comfort Foods.

When I’m a little anxious, I might eat a pint of Ben n Jerry’s to cheer myself up. But when I’m a lot anxious, I’m too nauseated and sick to eat. However, I also know that if I don’t keep something in my stomach I will only get sicker feeling as my blood sugar gets low.

So what do you grab when you’re nauseous? Ginger Ale and crackers. Sipping Ginger Ale (Canada Dry being my preferred brand) and nibbling on crackers doesn’t make me feel more sick and it keeps me from feeling worse because of not eating anything. There have been weeks where I drank nothing but Ginger Ale because it was a simple comfort to cling to and remind myself that things were going to be okay.

I even have a specific type of cracker for the occasion. My current ones are Tollhouse Foccacia crackers in Rosemary and Olive oil flavor. I buy them in bulk and always have a box on hand. Over time, I’ve come to associate these crackers with the comfort they provide. Not to mention they are delicious.

  1. Distraction.

This can be a tricky one. I need something complex enough to keep my brain engaged but also fairly simple. (TV isn’t enough, I need something to do with my hands.) Bad Days bring brain fog, which makes it hard to focus or concentrate, which is why reading doesn’t make the cut. I also shake, especially my hands, and find that I’m more clumsy and prone to dropping things.

Very basic knitting projects have made the list. One year I joked that you could tell the status of my mental health by how many dishcloths I had knitted. (I made a lot that year) The kind of project I usually find tedious and boring is all I can manage on Bad Days.

One year when a medication change left me really messed up for a couple months, I sorted buttons. My mom who is a professional seamstress, has always had huge jars of loose buttons. As a kid I remember playing with them. That year, I spent the better part of those two months sorting buttons by color and type, stringing like ones together on pieces of yarn. Was it a useful project? Eh, that’s debatable. But the act of sorting and organizing was a simple job that kept my mind occupied.

More recently I’ve added puzzles to the mix. I buy mostly 500 piece puzzles from the dollar store (and thrift shops too) that are small enough to assemble in the top of a copier box. That way I can sit on the couch while I do the puzzles. I buy colorful ones and sort the various colors into special puzzle sorting containers before I begin assembling the pieces. (Any small plastic container work just as well. I used them until I decided to treat myself to the “fancy” version.) For me, the sorting is just as enjoyable as actually putting the puzzle together.

Phone apps cycle in and out of this routine as well. I don’t like anything timed, nothing stressful. Solitaire is always a favorite. (I did grow up in the 90’s with a bulky desktop that only had solitaire and minesweeper on it after all.) Other puzzle games cycle in and out depending on the day.

Those are the three things that I primarily use as coping mechanisms on Bad Days. I’m sure other’s look different, especially people who don’t have the ability to stay home as much as possible when those terrible days come. In many ways I know I’m very blessed, although staying at home has it’s own disadvantages.

What do you do on those days that nothing is going to make the darkness better? How do you power through to the other side? I’d love to hear from each and every one of you.

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