Some days are good, great even. Some days are utter crap. And some days are just, well, "meh". You know, those days when, although the actual stuff you're doing is objectively "fun" (going out for brunch, playing with your son in the paddling pool, playing sport), for some reason you're just not feeling it. Everything feels a little grey, faded somehow. My wife and I call these "Down Days".
We've always had them, really. Everyone does, I guess. Just energy-less, sapping, floppy days. Days when your body might get out of bed, but your soul, the essence of you, whatever it is, never really does. I think when you've suffered a recent (or I guess even not-recent) loss, the down dip is a little lower - the grey feels a little greyer, a little sadder, the emptiness is a bit deeper. That makes sense, really. When you access "sad sack mode", there are certain parts of your inner mope that are going to activate.
We tell each other it's OK to have a Down Day, that you shouldn't judge yourself for it, and I guess that helps a bit - but you still have to actually go through the day. A whole day of feeling limp, lifeless, lacking motivation, lacking . . . anything really.
Often, my Down Days seem to be synced with Annamarie. I don't know if that's some sort of weird quirk, where our bodies and minds are woven together in a coil through the rich and beautiful tapestry of life (oh yes, deep as a river I am) or whether we've been together so long we just match moods and energy levels, as one of us subconsciously queues off the other. Either way, we often end up in the same vein, which in short means on Down Days our house can be a fucking depressing place to be. Sam seems to play off it too - his brat-meter goes into the red, and suddenly washing his hands requires an endlessly complex analysis of the inherent motivation for having clean fingers.
So, we mope at each other, we occasionally snap at Sam. We feel bad for the moping and the snapping, which makes us more mopey and snappy. Nobody makes food, because everyone is so lazy, so we get hungry and grumpy. Then we eat crap and feel temporarily better. And then the guilt kicks in and the moping and snapping starts again. And so it goes.
So how does a self-respecting non-masochist get through Down Days? Well, there's no perfect prescription. Grief is a slippery fish like that. Annamarie already shared her thoughts on coping, and that's probably a good place to start if you haven't read it. But here's a few other things we've found that have helped a little:
TV / Movies
Often, we'll use these days as a chance for a family movie. Sam doesn't get all that much "screen time", but like his parents he enjoys a good movie or TV show. So we'll watch the Lion King, Sing, Shrek, or Finding Nemo - something he'll enjoy but entertaining enough for us to sit through (because of course, we won't be permitted to leave until it's over). This is also a sneaky way to get cuddles from the little man, without him clambering all over us, kneeing us in sensitive areas and other general preschooler mixed martial arts.
If we're without child for whatever reason, or Sam is in bed, we'll probably crack into a Netflix binge, something engaging but not too serious - so maybe not a sitcom, but not Black Mirror. Definitely not Black Mirror, that shit will give you nightmares (but you can't stop watching). Annamarie and I both studied film & media at university, so binge watching is a shared hobby for us. It might not be for you - but maybe music chills you out? Maybe playing chess, or Candy Crush? (the two key games for the modern intellectual . . .). Maybe Twilight fan fiction is your jam? Whatever, it's a Down Day. I'm not here to judge.
(Annamarie note: some of the best series we've been addicted to are The Good Wife, True Blood, Outrageous Fortune, Luther, The Wire, good ol' SVU: Crime Scene Investigation, oh, and so much more. We're voracious consumers of TV series. And sometimes we look at each other and comment that we should probably spend our time doing something more useful. But the truth is, the total escapism is what we need)
So yeah. We eat crap on Down Days. Like real CRAP. Carl's Jr crap. Colonel's special recipe crap (Annamarie note: this is a lie - It has been many a year since KFC has touched these lips! To be honest, we normally put on some oven fries and chicken nuggets, throw a couple of carrots at the plate - job done). And we try not to feel too bad about it. I know salad would probably activate my positive body/mind cycle - but screw it, it's a Down Day.
Not easy to do when you feel like bollocks, but always makes me things better. I find organised sport where I can lose myself in the game is always therapeutic. It's meditative, in a sense - you're so involved in the moment you can't possibly think of anything outside of it. If I can play a game of football on a Down Day, I will. I'll try not to get in a fight. Most of the time I succeed.
(Annamarie note: I can tell you, exercise has not made me feel better in a long time. Exercise is a chore, something I struggle with, physically and mentally. But I can see how effective it is for Nick. My point is, mentioning exercise as something you can do to feel better actually makes some people feel worse which is counter-productive to this list!)
Getting out of the house
This is hard to do on a Down Day, because you're sapped of energy anyway - but even getting down to the park with the family for 10 mins can sometimes lift my mood.
(Annamarie note: I can count on one hand the number of times we've made the effort to leave the house on a Down Day. We're more likely to set ourselves up on the driveway so Sam can ride his bike & draw pictures with chalk)
Staying in the house (specifically in bed)
Ahhh bed. Difficult to do with a child in the mix, but can be managed if you're willing to let said child watch TV or play on an app for a bit. There's something about the inactivity that bed forces that is restorative in and of itself. This can be a double-edged sword though - Annamarie spent so much time in bed during her illness that I think sometimes this can trigger negative thoughts for her. Still, it's freaking bed, and it's so sooooooft.
(Annamarie note: our bed is this amazing GelFlex bed from Waitemata Backcare Beds. We bought it when I had a redundancy pay out almost 10 years ago. It is the most comfortable bed ever. Everyone in my family now has one! These babies were designed by NASA, yes, NASA. I'm not sure what they know about beds, but they did an awesome job. And it's true, I have spent a significant portion of the past 2 years in said bed. But I can't think of a more comfortable place to relax. If you're going to spend significant time in bed, a good quality mattress and high thread count sheets make all the difference!)
I'm shit at this, but I wish I was better. I just can't sleep during the day. But I hear these things are awesome.
(Annamarie note: I don't know why we even mentioned this. Neither of us nap! And if we happen to miraculously be so tired or sick that we do, waking up in the day and being awake at night when you're meant to be asleep is crap. I heard the best way to nap is to set an alarm for 20 minutes, any longer is too long to nap during the day. Not sure how accurate that is though).
I actually find doing the dishes, or the laundry, therapeutic in some ways. I do it slowly, unhurried, and I'll listen to a podcast or audiobook, or some music while I do it. It's repetitive, a tiny bit active, but not too demanding. I know, I'm a dork.
(Annamarie note: Nick walks around the house with his headphones on all the time. He is constantly listening to something. Learning something. Sometimes it's trivial crap, other times thought provoking, life changing stuff. And it's awesome that he does, it's really soothing for him. I, on the other hand can't walk around with noise canceling head phones on, that just would not work with a demanding 4 year old!)
Staring gormlessly into space
I personally think society does not place enough of a premium on the value of doing nothing. There's a great scene in Office Space, where the main character, Peter, is asked by his redneck neighbour what he would do if he had a million dollars (this being a common way to figure out your "dream job"). Peter responds "I would do nothing. I would relax... I would sit on my ass all day... I would do nothing. ". That. Is my JAM.
Meditation is recommended to everyone these days - and I have tried a bit of it (and other "meditative practices" like breathing techniques etc, with mixed success. However, in my opinion, there is nothing quite like the feeling of sitting down on the couch for a minute, just to remember what you were supposed to be doing, and then 10 minutes later realising that you've just been sitting there, staring but not seeing, lost in a thought you can't even remember now, like you slipped out of time. Often this happens, and our immediate instinct is to feel guilt, or shame for being so unproductive. Is there something wrong with me? What am I doing?
I would argue (and most of the time I'd even agree with myself) that one of the most central aspects of the human experience is doing absolutely nothing. Down Days are one of those few times that your guilt-ridden conscience will allow you to sit your ass down and be a vegetable for a few damn minutes. I try to roll with it. Speaking of which . . .
Just go with it
I think ultimately the key to getting through a Down Day is just to get through it. Recognise it for what it is. This is not you on a normal day. This doesn't define who you are. Let it be what it is, don't feel guilty about "losing" a day. Think of it like charging your phone. You can charge it while you play with Snapchat filters and Facebook stalk your work acquaintances, but it will charge up much more quickly and efficiently if you leave it the hell alone. Your phone doesn't feel guilty about charging up, and neither should you.
So there you have it, the 100% foolproof, 60% of the time it works every time, method to dealing with Down Days. Hit us up in the comments - are we weirdos? What works for you?
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.