It’s a bad day, not a bad life.

Dark days.

We all have them, the depressed and neurotypical alike. The difference, I think, is in how we respond.

Days that suck, days that make us think we shouldn’t have bothered getting up happen to everyone. Days when the milk is sour, so no cereal, and the car maintenance light comes on and you can’t afford repairs, and the corner store is out of diet Pepsi, and work is hellish, and you get home to find the cat vomited all over the carpet in the front hall. Those kinds of days.

My friend had one recently, as did I. The difference is in how we reacted. She bitched about it via text, vented about the day’s problems on social media, and drowned her sorrows with several glasses of wine and a bowl of chocolates. She didn’t take a bad day and decide it meant her world was coming to an end.

I had a bad day and retreated in terror.

When bad days hit, I fail to recognize that a diminished mood is an appropriate response to shitty circumstances. Instead, I start to panic, convinced I’m once more sliding into depression’s pit, doomed to live out my days in darkness.

Emotions are problematic when you struggle with mental illness. You’re never entirely sure a cigar is just a cigar and not a harbinger of doom.

It comes down to how we look at things. My friend looks at the bad day in the context of her whole life. Overall, things are pretty good. She sees her life in its totality. There are some bad days but mostly things are good. I, on the other hand, get tunnel vision. I look at a hard day or a setback as an indicator of how things will be from now on.

Life is hard and it will always be like that. Things will always suck for me.

That evaluation is not true, of course.

I struggle with mental illness and have for years but I’ve also had good days. There have been good times. My life is not a pile of misery unleavened by redeeming moments. I forget that when bad things happen; I forget that when I think I’m falling. I panic and, as panicking is wont to do, make things worse.

I over-react. I catastrophize.

Today is bad, and all days are bad, and all the days will always be bad.

I spend too much time sweating the small stuff, the transitory moments. If you pay minute attention to something, all you see is the flaws. You think that lesson would be front and centre in my mind since hyper-focus and overgeneralizing are a big part of the eating disorder mindset, but it isn’t. Looking at the big picture is not my default setting. Obsessing over the shitty is.

Luckily, though its not easy, default settings can be changed.

We can teach ourselves to look at more than just the now. We can teach ourselves to focus on the big picture. We can learn to let go of the bad days.

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