Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What The Bad Day Is Like.

I flail, mentally. I do not want to do what I must. It can be anything, but is usually the small thing that would help in some way. Getting out of bed. Going to the bathroom. Eating. Reattaching the dishtowel covering the window so the afternoon sun doesn’t shine in my eyes.

Starting anything is difficult. Initiation of action - there are parts of the brain, small crevices in the frontal lobe, that must fire their neurons at a certain rate, in particular patterns, for the initiation of any action to take place. On bad days, those crevices are a tomb.

I will think “I would feel better if I ate something” and it feels impossible. The weight of the body holds me down. It’s like I’ve run a marathon. Every cell says no. I don’t want to move. Doing so will bring unbearable pain. I will walk to the medicine cabinet and lose everything that makes life bearable. I will live in torment until I blow my head off. My body is sure of this.

And it’s not completely wrong, just wrong in extent. For often such movement does make the symptoms worse for a while. There is a tidal action to the despair and pushing it aside for a few moments with action and purpose just gives the pain a run up to hit back with more force. Even if I manage to bear the aftermath, I know that for an 15 to 20 minutes, I will lay still, watching the flickering images on t.v. and holding on while the abyss looms closer before it begins to recede again.

To manage this, I do two things. The first is to maintain a perspective of irony. I am surely ridiculous. This is the stupidest way to live. And that whole imagery of the abyss is cliched. I’m not really in this much pain. All those friends who miss me would be rushing to my aid if I were really suffering this much, so I must be putting one over. I just want to lay on the sofa all day watching t.v. Who doesn’t want to do that?

The other thing I do is imagine the action being done. I imagine walking down the hall to the kitchen, pulling images from memory and assembling a good approximation of what it will look like this time. I see myself opening the fridge and reaching for the piece of fruit. When that does not appeal, I reach for almonds in the cupboard. Or perhaps the cheese and crackers. I run through the images like a menu.

I do this without attaching the notion of a goal or any accomplishment. I do not encourage myself to get up with thoughts of the hunger receding. I do not exhort myself to exercise my ability to change my reality.

I might, against my will, hear within me the voice of reason, telling me I should be doing everything I’m imagining because it will help. And the feeling of direction and goal seeking will trigger the weight, and the part that knows this is all too much and not worth it anyway will protest. If the pressing encouragement cannot be avoided, I distract myself by turning my attention back to the t.v. until the pressure subsides.

And moments later, I will spontaneously, with no forethought, get up and do the imagined task. Rather than thinking about it, I will remember the fantasy of doing it. I will not pay attention to the present moment, but will follow tangential thoughts that branch off from the present like the rooms I pass along the hallway. I will think of the t.v. show I’m watching, especially one I like, and imagine myself a character in it as I open the fridge, eat the food.

Action at these times never comes from planning or looking toward the future. Indeed, goal directed thinking makes the rest of me want to scream and rebel. Action in these times comes welling up from the past and the wish to re-enact what I already know is possible. I create the known story, piecing the new memory out of old bits and then I set that patchwork memory in a place where the body can chance upon it.

I get through the bad days best with gentleness. I accept that this is the way the body is today. This is the way I am today. I do not need fixing. I just need another moment on the couch. Although, I would feel better if I got a glass of water. Let me think about that.

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