Bad Days

This post is going to be a little bit more personal in nature. It might not be of interest to you, and that is okay. But it pertains to something that I have thought about a lot lately, and that I want to share for the chance that it might be helpful to someone. I am talking about having bad days, of which I have had a number over the recent months.

Let me be blunt about this. I do not mean to self-diagnose, or to offer any kind of medical advice. If you are having problems that you feel you cannot handle, go seek help. That is what this is all about. Talking about it. Not going through whatever it is that you are going through alone.

We all have bad days, right? Right. Can you tell that I do not really know how to go about this post? But I feel I need to write it. For myself, but also for the benefit of others.

I’m fine. I have a loving wife, kids that are awesome (most of the time), no financial struggles worth losing sleep over and the good fortune of living what I would consider a good life. But still, these bad days creep up on me. Sometimes, there is an event that I can point to as the cause, sometimes there is not. In retrospect, whenever I can pinpoint a reason it is generally a misunderstanding or blown out of proportion by me.

When a bad day hits, my mainstay is “because I can’t”. It generally starts out with me in the shop looking for something to do. I have a number of projects waiting to be worked on at all times, but on these days, no matter where I look, I come up with very convincing reasons why I cannot work on this or on that. Maybe I need to wait for a delivery. Maybe I need to make room first, which means working on other projects that block my bench (makes for a vicious circle). Or maybe the next step in a project would take too much time, more than I believe I have at this point.

I do not want to toot my own horn, but I feel that I am very good at making excuses like this. They are solid, sturdy excuses based on facts – and thus true, right? That is what I tell myself when I stand in my shop, struggling to find a crack in that shell of “because I can’t” to be creative and get things done. When in truth, I am creative about building my own roadblocks. Because in all likelihood, there would have been enough time. There were projects that are not waiting for extra parts. While my excuses are based on facts, my perception and interpretation are flawed.

But things usually get worse once that shell of solid reasoning is set up, keeping me from actually doing anything productive. I should note that these mechanisms that run my bad days are easy to spot and dissect after the fact. They are not that obvious while I am inside the shell. I am aware of them by now, but the “because I can’t” works for that, too. Because I can’t do anything about it, for whatever convincing reason.

Here is how things get worse. I spend time in my shop without getting anything done. That means I wasted that time. The perfectly rational conclusion is that spending time in the shop is a waste of time. Things progress from “because I can’t” to “why do I even bother” and “I shouldn’t even try”. Because it won’t work out anyway. And that thinking then spreads, with no regard for reason or logic, to the big picture.

On the really bad days, not only does it feel pointless to work on a project. It is pointless to go down to the shop at all. It is pointless to make plans or to try and build up a personal brand. Basically, it feels pointless to hope and dream. On these days, not only do I get nothing done. I resign to the idea, no, the fact that I will never get anything done. Nevermind the 400+ videos I have made or all the good I have in my life.

The Good Days

While it is not often that bad, it is a stark contrast to my “normal” self or the one that I wish to be normal. On good days, I have energy to spare and creativity to boot. I can go to the shop, work on something, no matter what, and feel good about it (as one should). It does not matter whether it is a big step forward on a project that is dear to me or some measly progress on something that just needs to be done. It feels good, and at the very least it is okay that way. But that is the good days.

I have asked myself many times what makes a day good or bad. Why do I go down either path and how can I replicate the good days or prevent the bad ones. The short answer is that I have no idea. I am not there yet. I don’t have a solution, no cookie-cutter recipe to make all my days good. I might never find one, but that is not the point.

The point is to keep trying. To remember that there will always be bad days, and that is okay. They do not define me, because there are also good days. And will keep trying as best as I can to find that crack in the “Because I can’t” shell, to eventually pry it open.

As much as I can think about all this rationally most of the time, and strategize about what I will do when the next bad day looms, chances are that when the time comes I won’t remember. Or if I do, I won’t believe my plans and ideas to be sound. “Because I can’t”. But I have to hope that eventually, I will get the upper hand. Maybe not the next time, and maybe not the one after that. But eventually. And most likely, I will not feel like there is that chance when it happens. But I can try to remind me, and possibly find better ways to handle the situation in the future.

So, Mental Illness…

Apparently, it is also #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, which I only found out halfway through this post. Am I saying that I have a mental illness? That sounds bad, doesn’t it? To say that you have an illness is normal and happens to the best of us – a cold, or (by a stretch) cancer. After all, our bodies are not perfect, and we accept that.

And the same should go for mental problems, because our minds are not perfect, either. I do not know whether I actually have something that would qualify as mental illness. And as with many other aspects of my life, I think that I do not have it that bad in that regard. But sometimes my mind throws a fit and won’t let me do the things I want to do or the things I should be doing. I do not claim to know what a full-on depression feels like, but that is kind of the point. I think I get a glimpse, and I hate it. I have a mental cold as opposed to a festering tumor that makes your life a living hell like many others do.

Mental illness does not mean that you are stupid, lazy or difficult, just like a broken arm does not mean that your arm is lazy or that you are clumsy. Still, calling someone mentally ill is used as an insult, whereas saying that someone has a physical disease or illness usually sparks compassion. This is the gap, the stigma, that needs to be overcome.

We should be able to talk about mental illness, because they, too, can be treated. I cannot speak to medical treatments or therapy – I have had neither. But I managed to realize that I have a problem. I have talked to my wife, and I know I have her support. And I know that I can rely on medication and therapy should things ever take a turn for the worse.

And I hope you can do the same if you ever need it. There are people out there who understand, and who can help. You are not alone, and you are not broken.

Thanks for letting me share this personal experience with you, and even when you do not feel like it, remember to Be Inspired!

(Featured Image by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash)

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