Mental Health Day Take 2

This weekend really exhausted me. Last week wasn’t a good week. I’m not doing so great today. It seems like I say these things more and more often – perhaps even more than I did back in March and April. Maybe its just because I expect myself to be “better” now. Whatever “better” means in the world of infant loss.

Things have just been yucky – I feel stressed out, overwhelmed, sinking in the quicksand of everyday life.

I feel like a victim, not of my circumstances, but of myself. I treat myself poorly. I eat badly, I don’t get fresh air, my house feels cluttery, my thought patterns are negative. I don’t spend time doing things I enjoy, and most of my evenings right now are booked solid or are spent zoned in front of the TV. I am daily beating myself up physically, mentally and emotionally. And like the therapist from an old comedy sketch, I want to yell at myself: STOP IT! (If you like Bob Newhart and/or need a good laugh, click the link and enjoy).

Of course, all humor aside, I don’t really know how to stop it. I’m not sure its possible to stop it. Quite honestly, I’m not sure that I want to stop it.

Change, no matter whether its a positive change or a negative change, is stressful. It means reshaping habits, restructuring thought patterns, and doing something “other.” When your life feels full to the brim of stressful situations, who wants to make a change and add additional stress?

At some point, however, it becomes less stressful to change than to keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Maybe I’m getting close to that point. I’d like to think I am, because life as I’m currently living it feels unbearable.

Yesterday, I took a mental health day. I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t on vacation. But Sunday night I was up until 2, doing the usual things I do when I’m sleepless. Crying. Praying. Talking to my husband. Staring blankly at the wall. Trying to forget everything by focusing on something trivial (thank you, Angry Birds). At about 1:30, the husband declared that we were taking the next day off. It was a wise declaration, because between exhaustion and the aforementioned unbearableness, I’m not sure I could have made it through yesterday.

We slept in until noon. Literally, noon (and not in a Joe-Biden-literally-sense). I don’t think my husband has done that a day in his life. We ate way too much breakfast-for-lunch. Way too much. We watched movies until we couldn’t think.

Honestly, it was a waste of a day. It was restful, in a sense, and today my thoughts are relatively coherent. So I guess “waste” is a bit superlative. But it wasn’t the best use of my day. I don’t know when I’ll take another mental health day, but when I do, I’m making some rules. Sort of like when my mom wouldn’t let me watch TV when I was sick.

Here’s how I’m going to make better use of my next mental health day.

  • I’m going to do a little yoga. Something simple and gentle.
  • I’m going to take a walk. Unless its 35 degrees and raining. Because cold and wet can’t possibly cheer anyone’s spirits.
  • I will not turn on the TV. TV is a good way to “zone out,” but its also overly stimulating and can be stressful.
  • I will take a nap. No matter how late I sleep, I will put down my book or craft, turn off the music and just be silent for a while, sleeping if I’m able.
  • I’ll use the opportunity to examine my heart. Why am I feeling the way I do? Am I doing anything to make these feelings worse? What does Scripture have to say about my feelings and my responses to those feelings?
  • I’ll eat something that will feel good about both while I’m eating it and 45 minutes after I’ve eaten.

What would you add to my Mental Health Day check list?

Have you ever taken a mental health day? What did you do?

~Amanda

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8 thoughts on “Mental Health Day Take 2

  1. Hi, Amanda, dear girl. I’m so sorry things are so hard…and I know there’s nothing I can do to help that, except pray for you, which I do.
    You asked what to add to your list…but I have a different thought process. When I’m down (it happens, of course, more than I like it to or even want to admit), I don’t do well with lists and goals. The guilt of not achieving them – or the guilt of not even wanting to sometimes – just adds to my despair. My goals *must* be much smaller! So my goal is tiny…and it’s just to be true in that one moment that I’m actually in. I can’t look too far ahead or I’m overwhelmed. I can’t look back or I’m overcome with shame and guilt. Perhaps I have nothing to feel guilty about – and neither do you; you’ve had a staggering, unbelieveable loss – but those feelings are there. I cannot “do” anything but be in the moment. In THIS moment, I can ask God to help me act differently. I might not feel differently, and a whole day of doing well with certain things is a huge mountain I cannot climb – but I can do THIS moment. The next, who knows? But I can do ONE moment.
    And as trite as it sounds, that’s all we have.
    I sense your huge unhappiness with the way things are going – and somehow that seems different than your grief. Sometimes I just have to ask myself, “What is it I really want or need RIGHT NOW?” So I’m lonely. I don’t need to eat; I need to connect with someone. My flesh has a default setting that’s usually not very helpful!
    Sorry this is long…I’m sort of thinking out loud. I do pray for you. Tonight I pray for peace for you.

    • Oh, Paula, – you’re right. How often I cling to lists and goals and tasks to help me cope. I don’t do well just being in the moment. I don’t want to shame myself into “feeling better,” but I would like to take a little responsibility for how I behave when I’m not at my best. I will try to keep a balance between the safety I feel in a list, and the mental health that comes from taking things one moment at a time.

  2. I just want to say that I think your honesty is beautiful and amazing. I have to agree with Paula, thought I do understand wanting to have a plan so you’re not hit with that guilt after you’ve taken a day like that. Still…don’t be too hard on yourself!

    And your husband sounds like a good man. 🙂

    • You are absolutely right about my husband – he’s a champion!

      Its so hard to know how to balance being kind to myself and taking care of myself. So often, for me, those aren’t the same thing.

  3. Hmmm…interesting thought. Perhaps redefining those terms “being kind to myself” and “taking care of myself” might help, because those both sound positive, to me. You are one of God’s precious children…so care for yourself and give yourself the same mercy He would. I’ve had to learn that I sometimes need just a moment to say, “Is this food/activity/sleep/ really going to help me spiritually/mentally/emotionally/physically? Does it any way dishonor God/others/myself?” I do NOT do that enough! But when I do, it sometimes prevents me from reacting to something in a manner that will actually make things worse.

    Your hurt is so much deeper than anything I’ve experienced, I believe…although we’ve had a few, like our first grandchild being conceived out of wedlock, which was devastating at the time. But sometimes, it helps just to take time to say, “What is it I really need here?”
    Rambling again!!!!! I’ll shut up now. Our Bible study group prayed for you last night.

  4. Hi Amanda, I’m in the Mama Tribe group on FB and also know you by second degree through Rachel Potter (we went to college together). Anyway, I wanted to thank you for writing this. We were in the NICU this year with our son as well, though our story had a different ending (we were able to bring him home after 10 weeks). I can’t imagine the depth of your pain in losing your son, but some of the circumstances of your story are familiar to me and I feel some similar things as I continue to heal from the NICU experience and stress, especially the being hard on myself. I feel like there is a little sane part of me watching as the rest starts to spiral into the crazy lady who never breaks out of her dirty house, overeating and poor mental health. I haven’t found the time or the clarity to write for myself yet, so I look forward to reading more of what you’ve written. And I wanted to let you know that our family prays for you – my daughter and I prayed every night during William’s life and I still do pray for you and your husband, when I remember. God bless you and may the peace of Christ be with you.

    • Kylie, I’m always amazed at what a small world this is. I’m so grateful for your kind words, and for your thoughtful prayers. I’m so grateful for the life of your son. As I’ve looked back, I’ve often wondered how I would have survived longer in the NICU than I did, so I admire the strength it must have taken to continue that difficult existence for 10 weeks.

      I wish I had answers to the things we struggle with, but I have a good friend who graciously reminds me that the messiness of my situation (and yours, and anyone who feels like life is messy) is exactly where God wants us to be. He desires for us to sit in a place of acknowledgement that we are completely incapable, that we are imperfect and flawed, that we are broken and weak. It is His delight to work through our flaws and weaknesses because it brings such great glory to Himself. As you walk through the daily messiness of all you’ve been through, may you see our Father working. And when you can’t see Him working, may you learn to trust that He is. I pray this often for myself, and will pray for it for you as well.

      Blessings, lady.

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