When I was first diagnosed with MS, a friend of mine bought me a journal to help me process everything. One side of the journal had a happy baby face with the title “Good Days,” and the other side had a crying baby face with the title “Bad Days.”
I loved my kind, supportive friend. Hated the journal. I hated the fact that there are days (like when I got my diagnosis) that would simply be bad. And these bad days would just happen to me, without my consent.
I knew that was how the world worked; we have “good days” and “bad days.” But I didn’t want a constant reminder of my lack of control over the whole thing.
The unused journal sat on my bookcase for a long time and was ultimately donated — with a slight feeling of guilt that I would pass on the horrible realization and stuckness to some other unknowing soul.
Resilience vs shame.
When we’re confronted with something big like a diagnosis, processing it while being who we think we should be rarely works. In fact, it often backfires.
We can’t heal while hiding behind a pretty facade. The “I have to stay positive because I can’t go there” version of yourself won’t get the job done.
Real healing takes honesty that only emerges when we allow our true self to lead the way.
We can’t give ourselves the love and acceptance we need to be resilient when we’re battling what we really think and feel.
What often happens is we have glimpses of our resilience and also our battle in our daily lives. Sometimes we allow the true, messy emotions. And sometimes we censor and shame ourselves into only being positive or distracting ourselves entirely.
We rarely know this toggling back and forth is happening. I know I didn’t. We just know that we have good days and bad days.
Inside vs outside.
Often we think the classification of each day comes from our pain levels, what our mom says to us, or how stressful work is.
The game changes when we realize that the good versus bad days come from deep within us, not the outside world.
Regaining control of our days comes when we regain control of our own narrative.
Dealing with horrible circumstances in a kind and loving way becomes a good day. And bad days lose their power – fizzling to a bad situation instead of wiping out a whole 24 hours.
This concept was really hard for me to accept. This is why, when I did, it was such a game-changer for me.
I couldn’t imagine how something like, for example, the FBI abruptly shutting down the company I was working for (true story – I’ll tell you later) wasn’t a bad thing.
Of course, it was horrible. Out of the blue, the rug was pulled out from under me. It was the ultimate blindside.
It was scary and my whole life turned upside-down. I suddenly had no health insurance, no paycheck, and didn’t know if I could even work somewhere else or if I would be caught up in the whole legal battle.
It seemed ridiculous to think this situation was anything other than a horrible thing that happened to me. One I had no control over and no choice but to be terrified of what would come next.
I thought feeling better about it meant turning a blind eye to what was happening. I wasn’t about to do that in this turbulent situation thankyouverymuch.
Very bad days.
After the FBI raid, I had about a year of very, very, bad days where I felt totally out of control over my life. I was constantly waiting for another blindside. Wondering when, not if, the rug would get pulled out from under me again.
But as real as that fear and expecting another terrible thing was, so was the fact that I fell in love and married the best partner I could hope for. And I moved into my first house (that wasn’t my parents).
I had a great support system that included ex-coworkers going through the same crazy ordeal.
I saw the good days as the ones with good things happening. My wedding, new home, new job at a great company. And the bad days happened when bad news would come out of nowhere taking me off guard.
I felt powerless over how I felt on any given day because I have no control over what other people do and what’s going to happen. I just took things as they came – riding out whatever type of day I was to have.
Here’s where the game changed.
While toggling back and forth between acknowledging my true thoughts and emotions and battling the “ugly” ones I didn’t want to feel, I would have moments of clarity that felt calm and truthful. And during these moments I opened up to the possibility that I could change my own narrative.
Even if it was only for a moment, I saw there was a way out of feeling powerless against my circumstances.
I didn’t have to walk the trail of good day vs bad day all the time. There was a whole other trail that I could take. One still fully dealing with the same obstacles and circumstances that life brought me, but that felt much smoother and interesting.
This trail revealed itself little by little as I had more and more of these honest moments and gradually healed my relationship with myself.
The trailhead first emerged when I learned how to truly feel my emotions in a way that lets them go away.
Then a little more of this new trail emerged when I realized I was ready to tackle my conditioning, meaning my identity based on other people’s ideas of who I am – and should be- instead of my own. My true self was censored, and quieted, and gas-lit into retreat for a very long time.
Most trails aren’t a straight line.
Trails have switchbacks and there are forks where you’re not sure where which way to go.
There’s always a point where you take the wrong turn and continue, sometimes for miles, before realizing that you have to backtrack and take the other turn.
The coolest thing about this new trail of mine was that there were no longer good days and bad days once I started – only circumstances.
Some easy to handle and some difficult. But the circumstances were no longer the trail conditions, they were obstacles that the trail went around or went through. Some bigger than others and some more beautiful than others. But how I dealt and felt about each one depended 100% on me.
That’s the ultimate control.
No more fears of blindsides and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me again. No more fearing the bad situation that would ruin my day, week or even month.
This is life. There’s a high probability of change all the time.
It’s a big relief to know that I don’t have to try to control the changes or anyone around me- because that’s above my pay grade.
I only control how my trail navigates them. And that I can do.