how to plan a "perfect day" with chronic conditions
A few days ago, an internet friend posted about how calming she finds the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film, how gorgeous the soundtrack is, how wonderfully it can fit into pretty much any mood.
Obviously it’s my soundtrack of choice this morning, especially because I know there aren’t any loud crashes, unlike my other favorite score, James Newton Howard’s work for The Village.
(side note: this has been one of my favorite scores FOR OVER A DECADE and this track still sneaks up on me Every. Damn. Time.)
In any case, as those first notes came tinkling through my google home, it occurred to me that this sound, this music is the exact tone I’ve always envisioned for the elusive concept of My Perfect Day. You know the one - when you’re working with a business coach or life coach or even just chatting with your bestie, they ask about what would your perfect day look like - and this soundtrack is what I’ve always envisioned for a perfect morning.
Bright, but not glaring.
Just the right amount of pep and speed, with gorgeous andantes and holds.
No anxiety, no panic, just me and a coffee and crisp morning air filling my lungs.
Dario Marianelli knows his stuff.
That last bit, the no anxiety and panic part? That’s what I want to tackle today.
I hadn’t been conscious of this until my dear friend Erica brought it up the other day, but I had subconsciously (and now consciously) always thought of My Perfect Day as free of the mental health disorders I deal with on a daily basis. And as soon as she pointed out that tendency to me I was rocked.
I immediately went on a small insta-rant about it (you may have even viewed it) and I’m still chewing on it.
Which prompted some journaling.
Which prompted some lists (of COURSE).
Which lead to the following.
so. What does My Perfect Day look like in terms of my mental health disorders?
First, I have to embrace the fact that My Perfect Day will always include a shadow of my mental health struggles. Today - today’s a good day. I slept better than usual (a daily struggle), I was able to eat breakfast and drink some coffee and even brush my hair with what I’d define as a typical effort (meaning just doing these things didn’t exhaust me to a point where I felt spent for the rest of the morning) and here I am at my computer, contentedly typing away.
But - and here’s the rub - I have reminders all over my room for if and when depression envelops me. Right now it’s just a shadow I’ve invited to take a rest in my easy chair in the corner. Tomorrow, it might be restless and dance in and out of me. Next week it might completely overtake my mind and body. But today, rather than try to ignore it’s ever-present shadow, I’ve invited it to have a seat in the armchair in the corner, surrounded by my favorite books and original works of art painted by my former nanny-littles. If it’s going to be here, I may as well give it a place to live. And accept that this place to live may change by the week, by the day, by the hour.
Whether or not I want it to, this is part of My Perfect Day.
My Perfect Day is when my mental health disorders are content to be invited to take a load off and curl up in my reading nook.
Second, I need to make contingency plans for when the reading nook isn’t enough, for when the shadow is simply too big to be contained by an armchair, for days when the best things I can do for myself and my business and my partner are simply remembering that I too deserve to eat a meal, to take a rest, to indulge in a shower, to dress in clean clothes. We hear it all the time in terms of disaster prevention, but it’s true for mental health care as well - make a plan when everything is great so that when it all falls to sh*t you’re not left high and dry.
For me, this is making lists and reminders of things to do when I feel myself coming apart at the cells. When I wonder if others can see me splitting in every direction, and I debate whether or not it’s worth the effort to hold myself together and be present or if perhaps I should just go back to catatonically sitting on the couch with The Prestige playing for 7th time that week. Preparing for the darkness is being caught up on the laundry and the dishes so that if the obsessions and the compulsions descend, they aren’t met with easy targets that I consciously know don’t bother me, but unconsciously think that if I pick at my fingers and lips enough it will all go away. Understanding that the shadow may envelop me means having an accountabilibuddy and besties who know me well enough and whom I trust to say “slow your roll there, Meg; being productive is relative and you are WORTHY of rest.”
It’s hard to plan for the darkness and the dissolution when everything is together.
My Perfect Day includes having that plan ready and in place just in case I need it.
Finally, I need to be as flexible with myself as can be.
To know that My Perfect Day is going to change by the day and by the needs I’m feeling most keenly in that moment.
To embrace that no matter how woo I get, having a static, singular Perfect Day or Vision Board isn’t quite right for me because those concrete, tangible things that can be placed on paper are a perpetual ebb and flow for me.
Instead, I can have my ‘win book’ as Michelle Ward calls it: a place to document the things that go SO RIGHT in my business and keep track of those people, those feelings, those projects that make my soul sing.
Instead, I have my morning pages that are COMPLETELY different from what I’m ‘supposed’ to do as a creative, but also give me the most creative freedom and structure I’ve yet experienced from morning pages.
Instead, I’ve got my antique-books-turned-art-journals where I can spend hours collaging and painting and finding poetry within old texts.
THESE are the tools for My Perfect Day.
So what does My Perfect Day look like?
It’s using the tools I’ve gathered as I need them.
It’s checking in to find the intersection of what I want and what I need.
It’s taking my meds and doing my Get To Work Book morning pages and having an extra cup of coffee and a muffin when I damn well feel like it.
Yes I’ve got some big picture goals that I’m working my ass off to achieve.
And the best thing I can do to ensure their success is realistically embrace My Perfect Day.
In this vein, I invite you to create YOUR Perfect Day in terms of your mental health needs. Below you’ll find a mini e-book (because I live and die by a good worksheet) to brain-dump all bits of what YOU need for your mental health care on the reg. Then - once you’ve got that arsenal of mental health care for your Perfect Day - it’s time to do some right-now dreaming about Your Perfect Day.
And if you’re so inclined, I’d LOVE to see what you write.