Days Off and Their Consequences

If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know I’m on disability for my PTSD and bipolar disorder, so I don’t have a work schedule. Instead, I’ve turned the completion of my checklists into my job, and have approached it with the same vigor that I would in the workplace.

Once I finally figured out how to get everything done, then it became a duty, a requirement, to hit every box for the day. The more I told people about it, the more pressure I started feeling to complete everything, every day. And it started getting on me.

On Saturday, I didn’t complete everything because I was camping. I came close, and I recognized the achievement of staying very close to perfect on a day when my entire routine was disrupted by other activities. Sunday rolled around and I was back to perfect. Same with Monday. But by the time Monday rolled around, I was tired. I was cranky. My mood wasn’t as stable as it had been for the previous week and a half. I started noticing that little things that used to aggravate me but then stopped when I had done the streak of perfect days on my list had started to irritate me again. My fuse was shorter, and my temper was greater. I needed to rest. So today, I made the conscious decision to skip the list and relax.

With the exception of my medications, I haven’t really done much today on my list at all. And I haven’t marked them off, either. I slept until three in the afternoon, then started playing video games. I was enjoying my day off. Then my wife called and told me she was on her way home from work, and that’s when the doubt started creeping in.

I didn’t have anything to show for the day. I had accomplished nothing. How could I face her without being productive? I had to start doing all the things. I told her that I was getting panicky about it and she told me that we’d agreed that today was a day off. I started to not listen to her, to berate myself for being so lazy and so useless. I grabbed my checklist and took a look at the column where today’s achievements should have gone. It was empty. I started to write today’s date at the top and then a thought struck me.

If I’m really going to take a day off, it would do more mental damage to start entering the few things I would be doing today than just leaving it blank and actually treating it as a day off.

And then I realized that I would need to have days like today fairly regularly, for my sanity and health.

So, new rule going forward. Saturdays will be my day off. I’ll still take my meds as instructed; there can’t be a day off from that. But I’m not going to obsess about logging carbs and checking glucose through the day unless I feel off. I’m also going to be a little more lenient in my food choices on Saturday. (Note this doesn’t mean I’m going to dive into three pounds of spaghetti, wash it down with a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew Throwback, and chase it with a family size bag of M&Ms. This means that if I’m at an SCA event I don’t have to worry myself with what’s on the feast menu that night, and if I’m at home we can have a pizza for radio night.) I’m not going to log my checklist at all that day, and if I do accomplish things, like I am with this post, then it’s because I want to and not because I feel like it’s my job to do it. That’s going to start this Saturday. If I don’t physically feel like diving back into the checklist (remember, exhaustion and mood were my early warning signs that I needed to take a break) I’ll also take Sunday, but Monday I’ll be back at it with a renewed sense of purpose. (I don’t think I’ll need two days in a row but I’m giving myself the leeway to do so.)

I think it’s important to state that I’m doing this for my health, not to have an opportunity to sabotage all the work I’m doing to get healthy the rest of the week. But with my current mindset that my checklists are my job, and those who follow my progress are my supervisors, eventually I’m going to need a break before I decide to pitch the whole thing and just deteriorate back to where I was a few weeks ago – despondent, living without direction, feeling useless and hopeless, constantly pinging from one extreme to the next, not sleeping at all, and generally feeling like I want a way out. I’m in this for the long-term, to get better, to get healthier, to improve my life and my relationships in it.

But everyone needs a break from the routine sometime. Time I realized it and provided for that respite from my own thoughts and irrational fears. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be better.

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