Fighting for a Good Mood

Later this afternoon, we are going to a specialized arthritis center to see a different rheumatologist about my ankle. Although I’m not looking forward to the drive there and the stress of seeing a new doctor, I know this appointment is important to address my rapidly worsening severe arthritis. I made the appointment back in December and have waiting over three months for it to arrive. I have a separate appointment in three weeks with an ankle surgeon to specifically address surgical treatment options as well, since a more aggressive operative approach is probably necessary at this point. Still, I’d like to see what conservative options are left to try and that’s why today’s appointment was scheduled.

I also have another self-directed therapy session this morning. I plan to continue working through the anxiety CBT workbook and thinking about ways to reframe what are now stressful or worrisome situations to hopefully see them as non-threatening. I’ll have the opportunity to practice some relaxation techniques when meeting the new doctor this afternoon, a situation that invariably agitates and overwhelms me.

I had a poor night of sleep last night so I’m quite tired this morning. I’m not sure if it’s just the exhaustion, or dreading the hassle of today’s appointment, or the fact that it’s a dreary Monday morning and my stomach hurts, but I feel like I’m having to work extra hard to fend off crankiness. I’m on edge and feel irritable without a direct or obvious offending stimulus. I’m having mixed success at squelching that crankiness; my mood is oscillating a bit around a neutral warm temperament. When I focus on the positives and actively try to fight off the irritability, my cheeriness climbs into genuine and desirable levels, but as soon as I relax on that effort and just go about on autopilot, I find myself slipping back down to a bit of a crabby state. Since I’m devoted to minimizing the proportion of time I ever spend in that lower mood, I guess I’ll just have to stay on the charge to be upbeat. Some days, like today, it’s a constant concerted effort; other days, I am pleasantly surprised at how natural and automatic a good mood is. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be graced with that easier effort day…

On days like today when I’m just not feeling that well physically and emotionally, I try to remind myself of some things that are going well, that I’m looking forward to, and that I’m grateful for. Even physically writing these out can be a powerful tool to right my attitude and allow those positive thoughts to flow more freely. I also try to curate what I subject myself to by optimizing my environment for feeling better. For example, I started the morning reading a book about Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust heroine who helped hide many Jewish people in her closet during WWII to save them from the Nazis. Though her story The Hiding Place is uplifting in some ways because what she did was beautifully kind and humane, anything about the Holocaust is inherently upsetting. There are no words to truly describe the horrifically disgusting acts that went on and so immersing myself in this reality is not advisable on a day that I’m already overly sensitive and struggling to stay afloat. This is not to say that’s it’s acceptable to always turn the other way and try to forget one of the most appalling periods in recent history, but I do need to mindfully pick the times when my resilience is a bit more stable so I can allow myself to grieve and feel what such a book will evoke in me. Instead, I’ve opted for a humorous fiction story that will be more upbeat and help carry me to a happier mood. This may seem like the “easy way out” or irresponsible as a citizen of the world (when perhaps I should be processing the inhumane genocide during the Holocaust), but I need to prioritize my health today and that starts with cultivating an environment where I’m feeding myself positivity and trying to take away my pain. I will read Corrie ten Boom’s book during my period of loan and give it the honor and attention it deserves. Today is just not the day for that.

It’s taken some time and growing pains for me to learn that it’s okay to cut myself some slack and focus on catering to my emotional needs on a given day, even when that means lowering my expectations of my “performance,” changing my plans, and “settling” for gentler alternatives. Along these same lines, I may need to relax other typical expectations of the day in order to not push myself too hard and end up more drained and unhappy. For example, I may need to take an extra break at work or take some downtime after my therapy to bounce back. The name of the game is setting myself up for success and feeling better physically and mentally. My priority is maintaining a good mood, restoring my energy, and taking care of my body and mind. Doing so will help today go smoothly and set myself up for a better starting place tomorrow. With that goal in mind, it’s time to make a few entries on my gratitude list and kick start this mindset shift and bring about a great day.

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