Beauty on the Bad Days: What to do when the bad days return

Four weeks ago, when anyone asked how I was doing, I would respond, “I think I’m on the upswing!” I know now that another down-swing was coming sooner than expected.

It’s interesting that I chose that language, but I’ve always envisioned my health as a moving, cyclical, and repetitive entity. Images of pendulums and roller coasters have filled my mind as I sought to make sense of my ever-changing onset of symptoms.

I’ve written vaguely about my health over the last several months, but you may not know that I’ve been dealing with severe issues since the beginning of the year that include feeling drowsy, dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, and short of breath.

I’ve been to the emergency department twice and had multiple teleheath appointments with multiple doctors in an attempt to figure out what’s wrong and how to treat it. 

I made changes to my medications and reviewed blood tests, and I got better. Then a month later my symptoms returned, and I got worse.

After a promising visit with my sleep doctor, I did a mini sleep study with a blood pH test, and I got better. Then two and a half weeks ago, my symptoms began again.

The healing I thought had finally happened vanished almost overnight.

I think of this as the roller coaster of my health journey, and though I’m not sure when the bad days will subside, I have hope that they will. 

In the meantime, I’m reflecting on what has helped (and not helped) me cope with the recent set of bad days. 

Don’t spend every minute of the day ruminating on or worrying about your issues. This is a big one for me, especially since I track and record everything health related. Even if it’s only one or two minutes of distraction, be intentional about it. At the beginning, I ignored this rule, and I quickly spiraled into a narrow focus of despair. Finding beauty and joy was SO difficult in this state of mind. I’m going to be honest - it took me at least ten days to come out of it. Which leads to my next point.

Do get as many hugs as is safe. My mom brought me beef and noodles and she gave me the longest, deepest hug that I’d had for some time. It was a reminder that there was more to my day than just my symptoms. Physical touch is something we’ve all been missing, so if you get the chance, lean in and let someone hold you for a while.

Don’t stick to your schedule. This is my type A personality talking. I love a great routine and schedule, but the moment I gave myself permission to let it go, it lifted a burden I didn’t realize was so heavy. No matter what the clock says, I sleep when I want, and I eat when I want. And I’m learning to step away from a project before it’s finished if I need a break (which is why this blog post may not get published on the day I had in mind).

Do reach out and let others in. When someone close to you asks how you’re doing, be honest. Tell them how the long days are wearing on your soul. Tell them that you don’t have enough energy to talk right now. And let them empathize and offer love. It’s these shining lights of grace and understanding that you can hold on to when the darkness comes.

These are just a few of the things I’m learning in the midst of my bad days. I have a sense that someday soon I’ll need to figure out what makes a day “bad” or “good” as my health pendulum swings ever closer to the middle.

What have you learned about coping during the bad days?

Where do you find beauty when you’re not feeling well?


Some Doorways from this month:

  • We went on a trail ride to the Ringing Rocks with my family. It was a fun outing and a reminder that spring brings renewal and beauty.

  • We called my sister-in-law and her family with a video call, and our nephew was playing with planes he had built with Legos. His joy was contagious!

  • Even though I can’t be with my sister’s kids in person yet, she texts me pictures of their shenanigans which always makes me smile!

  • I finally went shopping for the first time since the pandemic began. We went to Lowe’s for a Saturday DIY project - the most “normal” thing I’ve done in a while!

  • My husband insisted that I get out of the house and go for a drive with him last weekend. At the peak of my distressing symptoms, I was tempted to decline, but I was glad I decided to go. It turned out to bring me comfort and peace.


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