“It gets better” is a saying that will be far too familiar to you if you’ve ever dealt with mental health issues or gone through a difficult time, which most of us have. Words of encouragement to calm you down in a crisis. I know myself, I have told friends when they’re feeling down to remember that it will get better. However, the reality is that things are not quite as simple as that. I’m not writing this to take away your optimism, I’m writing this so we can all make a conscious effort to put less pressure on ourselves and stop waiting for our problems to fix overnight.
It is going to get better. It is not a lie, but what people probably should tell you is “It gets better. Then it gets worse again. Then it will get better. Then it will get worse again. Then it will get better, and maybe that will be the time everything gets better forever, but also maybe it will get worse again.” And the cycle repeats until we finally get to a place where we are completely free of mental pain. I’ll be honest, I’m not at that place yet, and I don’t think I’m close but I know that I’m aiming towards that. I know I am guilty of stabbing myself in the back by putting pressure on myself to get better overnight. I feel as though I need to make everybody around me proud and I feel like a burden on the days that are particularly hard. If I am not happy, I don’t just feel like I am failing myself, I feel as though I am failing other people too. I know this is extremely common in people who suffer with mental health issues and I am not alone in experiencing these thoughts.
As a result of feeling like a burden when I am sad, I used to make the mistake of trying to force the feeling of happiness, and do everything in my power to stop myself from feeling down about anything. I tried to push all the bad feelings down and ignore them, then the inevitable would happen and I would explode with emotion because it all became too much. It took a long time to convince myself that it’s okay to be sad. To be honest, I still feel guilty when I am sad and I am constantly saying sorry to those around me if I am not myself, but I let myself be sad regardless. I don’t try and force myself out to do things. I don’t force a happy face around everybody. I make myself a cup of tea. I run myself a bath. I tell those around me that I’m not feeling great so they are aware of how I’m feeling. I watch a movie. I have a nap. Then I feel recharged and the next day is a bit easier.
It’s like when you have a flu. You recharge, rest, sleep, drink lots of water and give yourself time to relax until you feel better. Somehow, with invisible illnesses it is harder to allow yourself this time. You blame yourself for feeling unwell and you feel like you don’t deserve this time of self-care, rather than acknowledging that the way you feel is out of your control. This is where the pressure comes. You feel in a rush to get better and you try and force things. It does more damage than good.
The truth is, there isn’t a straight line to getting better. It’s non-linear. You’re going to feel sad, then you’re going to feel better, then you’re going to feel sad, then you’re going to feel better. It’s a long process of trial and error and getting used to managing your illness. We all need to stop trying to force change overnight and accept that it is out of our control and the correct thing to do is look after ourselves until it passes. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t leave my house because of my illness. Last week, I started back at work and today I feel content and optimistic as ever. In another few weeks, I might have a dip and feel down again. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take each day as it comes and avoid putting pressure on myself. With every dip, you learn something new and gain strength that will carry you to the day where things are truly better, for good.
At the end of the day, your health should be the most important thing in the world to you. Mental illnesses can often blind us of what we are worth and make us feel as though we don’t matter. You do matter. It’s easier said than done but allow yourself to have bad days. Allow yourself time to recover. Don’t push yourself to rush getting better. Don’t set high expectations for yourself. Allow yourself to do little things that might bring even the tiniest bit of satisfaction. Treat yourself. You are worth it.
Little things you can do to make the bad days less bad
- Have a bath
- Make a cup of tea
- Watch a new series on netflix
- Clean your room
- Treat yourself to chocolate
- Brush your hair
- Write thoughts down
- Read a book
- Go for a short walk
- Listen to music
- Read the news
- Talk to a friend
- Hug someone
- Go for a run