Why it’s okay that not every day is a good day
For as long as I can remember I have swayed more towards an anxious disposition. I have always been an overthinker and love to really thoroughly immerse myself in the completely beyond my control what – if’s. I have experienced a pretty rich smorgasbord of mental, physical and social manifestations of stress and anxiety, giving me a fantastic range of truly good and truly bad days. But, what I do absolutely guarantee, is that every single person I know has good and bad days.
I loved school and I loved university. In retrospect probably less because I loved learning (I studied The Tempest no less than 4 separate times throughout my school and university career…), but because of the mundane routine of it all. Before I reached my now wise old age of 25 and spent any amount of time thinking about what I think about, I did not see myself as stressed and anxious, but conscientious. My love of school however may not have been super apparent at the time (apologies here to my family), as my school and university life were laden with a vast and delicious variety of manifestations of stress and anxiety. Counting now from GCSE mocks in Year 9 to my finals in Third Year at university, I sat exams every single Christmas and summer for 7 full years – my god. What I only learned in retrospect is that my stress and anxiety exhibited themselves in my body mentally, socially and physically for the entire 7 years. It is no joke when I say 1 month after I found out my final grade for my degree, every single physical sign of stress in my body, disappeared. I had been under the impression that chronic dry skin and eczema were merely the cards dealt to me in when I was born, but no. Now, yes, I have developed for myself a diligent moisturising routine and always have Vaseline to hand and, when I stand out in the freezing wind, sure I get a little dry. But the truly painful, steroid-dependent dry skin that plagued my teenage life literally disappeared when I graduated and has yet to ever return.
Importantly, what I never even considered during The Exam Chapter of my life, was that this could be caused by stress. The overthinking, occasional social anxiety and obsessive love of routine were far clearer indications of the cyclical exam-based stresses in my life, but I was shocked to realise the purely physical symptoms I felt during these 7 years. Since this chapter of my life I fortunately have not had similar physical manifestations of stress and anxiety.
Now I’ve traded up for more subtle, demanding and crafty, mental indicators of stress and anxiety. Yay me.
To my mind at least, I was at school when nobody talked about mental health. I actually went to a Catholic school, so no one talked about sexual health either… But now, it seems that younger generations are, positively, having more candid, frank and open conversations about mental health. Unfortunately, I did not.
I think this is why, when I semi-recently had a period of brutal anxiety, I was so totally unprepared. As I mentioned, I loved school, I loved university and after I graduated, I loved working. So, when I was faced with such inexplicable, overwhelming, paralysing, deflating anxiety, I was absolutely ill-equipped to begin managing how I felt, what I was thinking and what I was doing. I readily lost myself in important but ineffective compulsions around my routine, the mental self-fulfilling prophecy of always having a terrible day, high panic, high emotion and low resilience. My perception of the way my life suddenly, and then steadily, crumbled around me meant I couldn’t really remember not feeling anxious and couldn’t imagine myself not feeling anxious.
But those bad days ended. My new good days are brought to you now with a shiny new arsenal of tricks and tools that help me to, not only walk away from the edge of my anxiety, but to recognise when I am creeping towards it. I think recognising stressful and anxious triggers and habits in yourself is quite painfully personal, but essential and well worth spending some time thinking about. Gentle practice at changing these habits feels pretty nice and like I am slowly building up a great emergency kit for my future. I have never felt more powerful than when I recognise myself edging towards the what-if, or absentmindedly falling back into compulsions, saying hello and just walking away.
But, I am too realistic to imagine there will not be bad days. Perhaps a few all in a row. Probably when I am tired, and hungry. But I’m not so worried anymore that I won’t see them coming, or even if I don’t see them, that they won’t end. And even if choose to run straight into their wide-open arms, that is also fine, because I’m only human and we are all sometimes idiots.
And as we are all sometimes idiots, we all have bad days. Every single one of us, and that is super okay.
Guest blog author wishes to remain anonymous.