As part of Mental Health Month, I will be sharing more on what my day to day life can be like as a Christian living with Bipolar 2 Disorder, Generalised Anxiety and Panic Disorder.
I hope to uncover some real life battles that go on and how I am learning to manage the onslaught, fight the battle and come out stronger in my faith and my wellbeing.
How wasting time turns into the need for genuine rest
We all do it.
Waste time, that is.
There is not a person in history who it can be said did not waste an hour of a day in their lifetime. Sorry, I just don’t believe it.
Even if we set aside the childhood years where we are learning, playing and engaging with creativity and imagination, we will all have wasted pockets of time during those years.
Wasting time doesn’t always look like being wasteful
Sometimes it looks like busywork or procrastinating; doing something other than what I should be doing. In these cases, I am wasting time but may not be as aware of the waste, convincing myself that my activity is productive. And when the rubber hits the road, if I’ve got something to show for my time, I feel reasonably satisfied, even if it wasn’t the outcome I had planned.
Sometimes when I find that I am restless but lack the motivation to get stuck into work, I’m likely to drive to the mall, wander around, pretending to shop and stop for a while at a coffee shop or two to consume a couple more hours. I convince myself that at least doing these activities feels like I am doing something even though on a deeper level I am aware of how unproductive these activities are.
But sometimes my time wasting comes about because I am just empty and depleted. I feel physically, mentally and emotionally fatigued. I am drained of all useful capacity and like an android having it’s power shut down, I simply stop working.
I couch surf. Binge TV series. Watch reruns of NCIS and Law & Order. Drink tea and coffee and eat toast because I don’t have the strength to do more.
On these days whatever I do, it is passive.
It’s okay to power down for a day
On the surface, this doesn’t look so bad. We all need to ‘power down’ periodically and some of us need to do it more often than others. Rest is vital to maintaining a balanced life and keeping our physical and mental health in line. And so I tell myself that my horizontal couch surfing/ TV binging time is resting.
Rest is vital to maintaining a balanced life and keeping our physical and mental health in line.
I wish it was just that simple, though, and despite the risk of being the only one in the room who experiences this, I am going to tell you about the darkness that descends on me when I try to have a much-needed power down session.
Despite all my attempts at trying to convince myself that this is an acceptable use of time and that powering down like this is normal, I become flooded with an emotion I hate, yet have lived with for most of my life.
It can be insidious, slithering around my mind like a curl of smoke, getting into all the nooks and crannies of my mind. Or it can be like a harpie screaming at me, a fire raging in my mind, consuming every piece of rational thought and convincing me that I am a worthless piece of shit.
I am sorry that this conversation is so full on but it has to be said. We have to talk about this because I know that I am not the only one suffering. I know that I am not the only one lying on that couch trying desperately to drown out the fight in my mind.
When I finally feel exhausted enough to go to bed, I drag myself upstairs and slip under the covers in the hope that guilt will not have followed me there.
But most of the time it has. And I am dragged into a fitful sleep filled with self-doubt, anger, shame and frustration.
Strategising and being intentional to overcome Guilt
My loved ones have heard me use the phrase, “I am just so angry that I wasted yet another day”. But they’re never the ones to say it to me. Ever.
It’s always an internal dialogue and now that I am learning to recognise the dialogue sooner in the day, I am building a set of strategies to combat it before it has the chance to unravel the day and keep me down again.
I am writing this on Sunday morning after an entire day of powering down. And as the day drew to a close, Guilt started its filthy mantra again. It was the usual routine.
“Well then, there you go. You’ve done it yet again. You’re such a lazy unmotivated, undisciplined person. What’s wrong with you?
You knew this would happen and you did nothing to stop it.
You’re hopeless and an embarrassment. No one even cares about you when you’re like this.
Look at the kitchen. It’s a mess. Look at your room. How can you call yourself an adult?”
And that’s just a few of the phrases Guilt knifes me with.
Am I the only one who fights this internal battle?
If so, that’s okay. I’m learning that writing for me is more important than writing for you.
No offence, of course.
So I decided to confront Guilt head on last night.
“I am not listening to you.
I am not a lazy piece of shit.
I don’t care about the dishes, and neither does my family. And they do care. They do check in.
They let me be because they know I need to power down. They know this is part of the cycle and they do not pour condemnation down on me.
You can shut up now.
You can fuck off.
I don’t want to listen to your shit any longer. I don’t need you.
I am allowed to choose and today I chose to binge TV. All day. And that is my choice. I’m owning it and refusing to let you take me down that dark alley.”
Well, maybe I didn’t say it all quite like that, but these were the thoughts that drew their swords to fight.And the fight went on until I succumbed to sleep.
I woke this morning and saw Guilt sitting in the corner, waiting for me. And so like most days after the fight, there is more fighting to be had.
So far, we’re at an impasse.
I feel it glaring at me, raging at the wounds I applied last night, cutting deep into its capacity to control me. I feel just a touch of empowerment.
I am not sure if I’ve won the battle yet.
I’ve only just realised that I had weapons to use and only just started using them. But I hope that this small win gives me the strength; the fortitude to fight again, armed this time for real battle; ready to slice the head of this giant in my life.
Owning our choices empowers us and strengthens the wellness journey
I am going to schedule Power Down Sessions. I am going to intentionally save up shows to watch and books to read and put aside some frozen meals to eat.
And I am going to own this choice to power down. I am going to make it something worthwhile so that Guilt can no longer rob me of the necessary time I need to defrag, recalibrate and resurface with renewed energy supplies.
I know that some people do things like sit on the beach or spend the day journalling and being with God. I’m happy for you. Really. And one day I may get to that point where I can recharge in a more connected way.
But for now I chose to spend my Power Down Days in this way and until I no longer hear Guilt screaming at me, I will keep fighting.
Thanks for reading,