Often when we struggle with mental illness we lose all semblance of normality. Not only are we harder to cheer up and motivation is like trying to get the wrinkles out of a sharpe, but we’re physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

I can be knocked out for days.

On good days it’s hard to remember my limitations. Because it’s easy for the world to forget that I’m sick. Some of you may know, but just last year I was spending what felt like weeks in bed. Good days were few and far between. I’ve been dealing with this for over five years. At times I’ve felt okay; limping along and looking put together. Other times I’ve been crawling around in the dark like Velma looking for her glasses. My whole life has changed. My abilities have changed.

What I’ve learned is that I tend to overstretch my culpability way outside of my capability.

I constantly worry that I haven’t done enough on my good days to make up for my bad ones. I often feel like invisible people are judging me for being in bed all day and not getting anything done. I beat myself up way too much.
Let alone that Doug and I live in someone’s house. It’s hard to act like you’re okay when living in such close proximity. So I can’t. I have to cave to being vulnerable. Which hasn’t been comfortable. But when is this ever?

Doug tries and tries to remind me that I am, in fact, sick and that my responsibilities can’t be what they once were. But nothing is really going to change until I admit it to myself. My life has changed. I don’t have an illness that I’ll get better from. I can only hope to manage my symptoms.

I have to adjust my expectations of myself. In Dr. Donald Hall’s book, Breaking Through Depression, he talks about that very thing. In fact, it was there that I first understood the importance. There is a complete picture of wellness and wholeness and it means making space to take care of yourself and not just taking care of all the things.

Guess what? You are more important than whatever is holding you back.

Do you want to feel better? Stop beating yourself up for the laundry piling up, the dishes being unwashed, the yard being a little shaggy. Now, maybe if you’re out of clean underwear, you’re getting ants, or you’re facing a county citation for your lawn, those things should make their way to the top of the list.

When you do the work to be healthy, everything benefits; your relationships, your physical health, your emotional state, your family dynamic.

Adjusting your expectations doesn’t mean not having any, it means being realistic.

I’m never going to be caught up on laundry, but I can have enough clean clothes at a time. I may not finish my next book as quickly as I could if I could work for hours at a time, but it will get finished in a set period of time. I may not have a sparkling house, but it can be clean enough. Having the dog washed and the tops of the cupboards clean and both eyebrows tweezed may take me longer, but that’s okay.

A wise man once said:

 “…those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Whether or not it was Dr. Suess who said that also doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s right. My mother tells people that she only cleans for them once. The first time they come over she’ll make sure it’s picked up, the second, she doesn’t care what you think. She figures the first impression is important, but she doesn’t want to keep trying to hold up an impossible standard of what she wants you to think her house is like without you around. Me? I’d rather know what someone is really like.

Unless you have bugs. Then clean before I come over. Or maybe just come to my place while your house is being exterminated. I solemnly promise that it will only be as clean as I can make it in the ten minutes before you show up.

Adjust your expectations. Start with something small and add more over time. Find a healthy balance. Don’t sway between trying to accomplish everything and being forced to do nothing. It sucks. And there aren’t enough streaming shows on Netflix to keep you occupied forever.

Okay, maybe there are. But you should maybe adjust your taste if that’s the case.

For those of you with loved ones who struggle in this way, find a balance between encouraging them to push themselves and reminding them not to hurt themselves.

For those of you who don’t get it, keep your mouth shut.


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