(TRIGGER WARNING: I do touch on the topic of self-harm, the emotions that surround it and battling urges in this post, if that might be triggering to you, please don’t read on.)
A bad mental health day will look different for everyone. For me, when depression hits it normally looks like cancelled plans, uncontrollable crying in bed in dirty sheets, surrounded by snacks and rubbish, with forced sleep throughout most of the day in a desperate attempt to ignore self-harm urges and hide from my intrusive thoughts.
Your bad days might be similar, or they may be a number of different things. It could be that your bad days are full of heavy anxiety and breathlessness, it might be when controlled eating strikes again, it could be when the urge to self-harm or to use self-punishment behaviours is too strong to handle, or it might look completely different to all of this. Whatever your bad days look like, it always feels (to me anyway) like there is no escaping them. I always find myself wondering if I might be stuck like this forever, with no hope of moving forward. But, since starting my journey into self-care, I’ve found a few little but vital things to work on that can be really helpful for pulling my head above water on these days, even if that’s as far as I get.
Fighting Self-Harm Urges
First and foremost, on a bad day, we need to sort out those urges. If you have ever experienced urges to self-harm, you will know that they can be unimaginably overwhelming. I always feel a deeply intense, irate frustration that won’t be calmed. And, as much as some people might try to advise, you can’t ‘just ignore it’. So here are a few little things that work for me. My urges manifest in the form of anger, so these suggestions mainly work as an anger release. You may experience urges in other ways, which is completely normal, but some of these tactics may work for you too.
- Scribbling on/through a notebook: If you’ve got an old unused notebook lying around, I find grabbing a pen and scribbling as hard as I can over (and sometimes through) the paper to be helpful as a release.
- Loud, angry music: I normally use headphones for this, but sometimes, listening to angry music really loud helps me to release some of my anger. Alternatively, using ambient, relaxing music could be more helpful to you with this.
- Punching bag/pillow: Although I would suggest to avoid allowing the action of punching as a release, sometimes other techniques just don’t work for me, so instead of punching in a way that may cause me harm, I will punch a pillow on my bed, or my mattress, until my heart is content, and some anger has been released.
This can be the first thing we let slide on bad days, which ends in a cycle that makes us feel worse. It is vital to eat, preferably a full meal, or something healthy, as oppose to purely snacks. If eating is a problem for you, try to at least have one thing that is small and healthy, a piece of fruit for instance. Drink as much water as you can, no matter what. Keep refilling that glass even when you don’t feel the slightest bit thirsty. It helps.
I always trick myself into thinking that lying in bed, in the same pyjamas I’ve had on for 3 days, wrapped in a duvet covered in crumbs, staring blankly at Netflix, is comforting, because I’m in bed. All this situation does is make me feel worse. Although on some days, tackling all of these might seem impossible, taking them step by step helps. Try to have a bath, if you can, get clean, breathe in the hot steam, relax a little. Change into some clean pyjamas, pop them on the radiator before putting them on to make you feel cosy. Move any rubbish that is on your bed into the bin, and move anything else somewhere else in your room, you can tidy it later, but for today, it doesn’t want to be cluttering your bed. Grab a hot water bottle to cuddle up to while you try to relax. Sleep as much as you need.
When we are at our worst, it is important to use this down-time to really try to rest and recover, rather than completely abandoning any sign of looking after ourselves and creating a toxic cycle that is easy to get stuck in, and when I try to keep up with a few of the things I’ve mentioned here, even the worst of days are a little more comforting.