It helps to resign as controller of your fate. —Anne Lamott

It happened again. I had a “Down” Day.

Back in 2006, nearly all my days were Down Days. I wound up on disability because I couldn’t work more than two days in a row. I was lucky if I had enough energy to take a bath — showers were too exhausting. Finding the energy to walk the dog was my daily challenge. The big outing for the week was a trip to the therapist and the rest of my time was spent trying to take care of the basics like laundry and groceries.

My health has improved a lot over the years, especially since June 2013, when I made a radical change to my diet. Now, many of my days are Up Days. I not only have the energy to shower, but I workout at the gym, get some house chores done, write at the cafe with my friends, AND walk the dog. These days seem like miracles to me.

Despite the fact that they are happening more and more often, they still feel strange. As I go through them, I am constantly looking around, wondering what is happening, if everything is really OK. When I have a string of them, I get hopeful. I think “Maybe I’m finally cured. Maybe I’m going to be an energetic, productive adult from now on.” And I start making plans.

That’s usually when it happens. I wake up one morning with a day full of golden plans and realize that all the energy has disappeared. I have to let go of my goals for the day — AGAIN. It’s a Down Day whether I like it or not.

“The Tired One” collage by Kit Dunsmore

I’ve been fighting this problem for nearly a decade, so I guess it’s not surprising that my reaction to a Down Day is resentment and frustration. I think, “I was fine yesterday but today I’m not. What did I do wrong?” I’m always looking at my food, my exercise, my activities, trying to figure out what the magic thing is that gives me an Up Day instead of a Down Day.

I have to face the facts. There is no one magic thing. They are all magic things, and even when everything is in place, the magic doesn’t always work. That’s the ugly truth of it.

When I went to bed Tuesday night, I was excited about Wednesday. It was one of those wonderful days when I had nothing scheduled and could fill my day as I chose. I could plan longer sessions working on my novel than usual and still have time to knit or sew. I couldn’t wait. Wednesday morning I woke up feeling awful and was soon stuck with the truth: I felt ill with fatigue. It was a Down Day.

I’m tired of Down Days, but I’m even more tired of being disappointed with myself. I decided it was time to try something different. I would accept that I couldn’t do what I’d planned and instead do everything I could with what I had. I let go of the idea that I was in control and gave acceptance a try.

It was tough. I didn’t like it very much. I still felt that my day was not what I had hoped for, and certainly not what I planned. However, looking back on it, I think I got more done than I might have. I wasn’t good for much more than reading and watching TV, so I read a book about the Salem witchcraft trials and I watched videos of people grooming poodles. I spent the day learning about things that I want to know more about and now I feel like that day wasn’t as wasted as it might have been.

I can tell this acceptance thing is going to take some practice. I’m not sure I’ll ever great a Down Day as a good thing. But maybe, by letting go of the idea I’m in control of this stuff, I can experience a little more peace.

8 thoughts on “Accepting My Down Days”

  1. Accepting your limits is one of the hardest things to do. Especially when (to me, at least) we live in a society that treats anyone with a non-visible illness as if they’re malingering. I know that makes me especially critical of myself on my down days. I think you’ve got the best attitude–do what you can with what you have. If you’re body is insisting on rest, you rest…but on your terms.

    1. The American-Puritan work ethic definitely plays a part in me beating up on myself. I believe I’m supposed to be productive and hardworking every minute of every day, even though that’s impossible, even for people who are perfectly healthy. I still wish I didn’t need quite so much rest as I do!

    1. Thanks, Jenny! Someone told me “never pray for patience because all you get is lots of opportunities to practice”. I think this is one of them. 🙂

  2. I know where you are at! I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2004 and found it hard to work, did some Temp work and started my own art biz. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and have had a hard time working. I did some pet sitting (I would stay at their house and take care of their pets while they were gone. It is a bummer at times but I just plod on and enjoy the happy days. Celebrate Life is my moto since having gone through surgery, chemo, and radiation. God helps me through it all!

    1. What a lot of challenges you face. It sounds like you are taking the right approach in your attitude toward them. Thanks for sharing your story.

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