bipolar disorder depression mental health

I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed Yesterday: When Mental Health Knocks You Down

Yes, this is a picture of my unmade bed. It is imperfect, like me, and a perfect representation of my day yesterday. Yesterday was a spectacularly awful day, at least most of it. I essentially stayed in bed until about 2 p.m, when I left to eat some breakfast. Immediately after finishing my bacon and eggs, I returned to bed where I spent a few hours “lying down” but not really sleeping. I finally got out of bed around 6:00 p.m. to have dinner and then go see a movie.

Why do I share this with you? Well, I have learned a lot about myself over the past few days, in relation to my mental health and mental illness (bipolar disorder) in particular. Some of what I learned I already knew but just confirmed, and some was a bit of an epiphany. Nothing groundbreaking but something that is new to me and I thought I would share.

Why I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed

The reason I couldn’t get out of bed was because I was too anxious. I was experiencing severe chest pain and was paralyzed by my fear and racing thoughts. My fears generally always center around a common theme: fear of the future, fear of the unknown and a fear that I am going to screw up my own future. Instead of facing these thoughts head-on, I try my best to avoid them by literally doing nothing. Netflix sometimes helps but sometimes I can’t even watch an episode of Friends without experiencing anxiety. My anxiety consumes me so thoroughly that I can’t do anything because I worry that I won’t be able to focus on my worrying. So weird, right? Unfortunately, as the day progressed yesterday and I continued to do nothing, I felt worse and worse. Even when I went to the movie (Star Wars if you were wondering) I didn’t feel better. The film couldn’t distract me. It was only when I came home and had a little talk with my boyfriend that I found a technique to calm down and feel a little more positive about the world.

How I Temporarily Cure My Anxiety

What was the magic thing that took away my anxiety? It was simple – engaging my brain in something productive that contributed positively towards my future. In this case, it was working on finishing a book that I am reading as a professional development activity for work. As soon as I took out my notebook and started reading, occasionally jotting down notes, my chest pain started to reduce and my fears slowly disappeared. After a few minutes, I was able to focus on the task at hand instead of imagining all of the things that might go wrong in my life. I think it was only when I took control of the situation and felt like I was doing something that I felt better. So basically, I had to push myself to break past that barrier of the fear of doing something, and actually just do it. I know it is easier said than done. But seriously it made me feel 100% better. I highly recommend it because it will help you become an active contributor to your future and your life, rather than a passive participant.

The next time that I go to therapy, I am definitely going to talk about this experience. I need to figure out why I was in this rut and concrete steps to avoid it or get out of it beyond my own little experiments. I have some theories as to why I was so anxious.

I Was Anxious Because I Was Overstimulated

I am an inherently social person and love to spend time with friends. However, I can really only do it in small doses or else I feel the need to retreat and be alone for a long time to make up for it. Parties just exacerbate this feeling. The night before yesterday was New Year’s Eve and we had a small party at our apartment. I had spent all of December 31 cooking and cleaning in preparation and then spent about 5 hours chatting with various friends. It was constantly go-go-go and I think my body and brain just crashed afterwards.

I Was Anxious Because My Vacation Was Too Long

This might sound crazy but I really do think it was true. I feel better about my work when I feel connected to it and feel like I am making progress. As much as I love a break, when I have a long one I just feel like my work is moving farther away from me and I start forgetting about all the positive accomplishments and focus on my flaws that I am not working on. I start to feel lazy and worthless. I also spend the entire vacation obsessively counting down the hours and days until my vacation is over. It’s not that I don’t like my job – I love it actually. But my anxiety has always manifested in worrying that something will go wrong, so sometimes the break provides a buffer from reality and a temporary oasis where I can’t screw anything up because I am not doing anything. So it is this weird vicious cycle. I truly think if I had a shorter break, I would still feel refreshed but I would be less anxious because I could get right back into the thick of things after just a few days off. I wouldn’t be left to stew in my anxieties for as long and I wouldn’t allow my fears to grow to the size of an elephant.

I Was Anxious Because Of Feelings of Negative Self-Worth

I talked a bit about this before, but I think the key to taking away my anxiety was actually doing something. I spent the whole day talking down to myself and saying terrible things about my character and my personality. The longer I stayed in bed, the more I hated myself and the more I beat myself up for being useless. It was only when I took action and challenged those assumptions that I felt better. By reading my book, I was proving myself wrong about myself. I was showing myself a different side of me, a positive side. I was taking a fear of mine, the fear of being stupid, and challenging that by expanding my knowledge and growing as a person.

So, these are just some of my thoughts on my recent feelings of anxiety. I want to know – what makes you anxious? And what helps you improve and reduce feelings of anxiety? I ask because I want to know and for selfish reasons – it could help me! But it could also help my readers. Please share in the comments below!





17 comments on “I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed Yesterday: When Mental Health Knocks You Down

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Bev.


  2. Well done, friend! You already have some fantastic methods 🙂 To add to it, my counselor taught me that if a thought begins with “What if,” I can be quick to label it “just another thought,” which helps me cast it aside a bit more easily. Sure, I still become tangled up in my own “but what if THIS ONE isn’t just a thought?!” But after some practice, it became easier to identify, deal with, and move on from.


  3. I often struggle with anxiety like that and being nervous to come out of my “cave.” Even being around my family gives me anxiety. The only person I really feel comfortable around is my hubby. One of the things I like to do for my anxiety is look around the room for all things of the same color. Then I pick a different color and just keep scanning and doing different colors until I ground myself. Thanks for sharing such a personal story!


  4. rainicorn

    That Friends caused anxiety. I find that brilliant, and thank you for that. I’ve never felt able to explain that to people. Sometimes Netflix does not work!


  5. Thanks very much for this post. It’s one of the things I think people find hardest to understand about mental illness–like, “How is it that you can’t get out of bed if your legs and body are working?”

    I use a method not terribly dissimilar to the one you’ve outlined about finishing a book.

    In my case, I think of it as “Just Do One Thing” (or even “Just Start One Thing,” if it’s a bad enough day).

    Often, my anxiety spirals thanks to Big, Vague, Nebulous, Scary Thoughts that are so scary largely because they’re so vague and nebulous, and are so vague and nebulous largely because I’m not much of a verbal thinker, which can make sorting out abstract things pretty hard.

    Ironically, the fact that I don’t really think in words is one of the reasons I write so much: writing things down forces me to translate them into language, which makes them more concrete, which makes them less frightening, etc. Sometimes writing is even my One Thing. Writing or talking to someone helps me understand that X thing might not, in fact, actually be the actual end of the world just because I’m having trouble thinking about it.

    As such, I tend to go off and do something that engages my eyes and (at minimum) my hands or (ideally) my whole body, which tends to short-circuit my brain’s ability to obsess. Sometimes, all I can do is play a match-3 game. Usually, though, I’ll tell myself that I’m going to draw one picture, or wash one dish. Sometimes it’s even, “I’m just going to put away this one dish that’s sitting in the rack, since I’m up getting something to drink.”

    I’m a dancer, and going to class is often the Just One Thing that saves me from anxiety spirals, especially since I have to do a lot of One Things (get out of bed, eat a thing, put on some kind of acceptable clothing, etc) to get there, but class is so powerfully motivating and restorative that I can almost always get there and do it even on days that doing almost anything else is basically unthinkable.

    The “I’m just gonna do this one thing” approach seems to work pretty well for me. I know it’s not by any means universal, of course, but it’s probably the tool I use most.


  6. etherealbeingsinmylife

    I suffered from anxiety and depression but mine was because I was focused on the past. Unfortunately, activities, even my favorites, did nothing to alleviate this. A couple of years ago I discovered meditation, which has worked wonders for me. Also, slow, deep circular breathing is helpful.


  7. etherealbeingsinmylife

    It takes much practice. You need to be patient with yourself.


  8. Thank you for your advice about jus doing something productive and positive to break up a panic attack. What begins mine is thinking I will fail at anything I try so I don’t start anything.


  9. I have days like this and it is so frustrating. I am following your blog..


  10. So I went through the same analysis yesterday. I went to a dance club and I got really bad social anxiety. I got to this club once a week and I am a good dancer so I had no logical reason to be nervous. I was really upset with myself. I thought I was “over” my social anxiety. I got to remember to be patient with myself.


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