A bad mood or bad day doesn’t have to knock you out of recovery.
I’m in a bad mood right now. Bad moods happen to humans.
Often when we have a history of depression or trauma, our bad moods are particularly intense. We can really go down the rabbit hole of feeling irritable or sad— and it can often be unclear if or when the mood will lift.
On days when we’re feeling awful, it can seem pointless to stay on course with our recovery.
Recovery for depression, trauma, addiction, an eating disorder, or other emotional and behavioral struggles doesn’t require us to feel awesome every day.
Lots of days in recovery are going to feel less than awesome.
What recovery does ask of us is that we don’t let an awful-feeling day push us into relapsing into old habits.
Recovery is a routine of things we DO every day to minimize the chances we go tumbling down a destructive rabbit hole, and maximize the chances of us being able to live our values and create a meaningful life.
When we’re in a terrible mood, the temptation to say “screw it” is strong.
Why bother with recovery, we might wonder, if I’m going to experience days like THIS in recovery?
It’s not a dumb question.
The point of recovery, after all, is to eventually get to the point where every day doesn’t FEEL awful, and we’re not tempted to DO self-destructive things to cope with those awful feelings.
Recovery is going to ask us to wait out some bad days.
I wish there was a guaranteed way to ensure that bad days would never happen, but there’s not.
If we’re human, we’re going to have bad days.
It’s not that you’re “failing” at recovery. It’s not necessarily that something is irreparably “broken” in your life, and that’s why you’re feeling this way.
To stay in recovery, even on a bad day, we need to engage the skill of meeting our feelings with honesty and compassion— and without judgment.
Yes. We have to meet this awful feeling with compassion.
A BIG part of recovery involves getting on our own side, having our own back— and a big part of THAT is directing compassion toward ourselves when we’re hurting.
For many of us, this is a new, maybe uncomfortable idea.
But we’re NOT getting out of this emotional slump by demanding we do or feel something that we just can’t do or feel at this moment.
“Radical acceptance” is an idea often associated with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and a lot of people have a lot of mixed feelings about it— but the idea of meeting WHATEVER is going on inside you without judgment or without demands for immediate change is KEY to our recovery not crashing with every bad mood.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve had enough of being judged for things you experience and feel.
Once we meet what we’re feeling with honesty and compassion— and WITHOUT demanding of ourselves that we immediately do or feel something different— only THEN can we realistically look at what we can do to feel differently.
Don’t shoot for changing your mood 100%. That’s not gonna happen.
Start experimenting with what MIGHT change your mood .01%.
Start experimenting with what you can realistically do, given the resources you have— what you can focus on, what you can say to yourself, what teeny, tiny variable you can shift to feel .01% different.
That can be a TALL ask when the only things that have been successful in changing how we feel in the past have been self-destructive.
I’m not asking you to believe in miracles.
I’m not suggesting that the tools we know about in terms of changing how you feel are going to work perfectly for everyone all the time.
What I’m saying is, don’t let a bad mood freak you out and ditch your recovery.
Sometimes the name of the game is waiting it out.
Radical acceptance and baby steps are the skills to focus on.
Self-compassion is the essential frame.
You— and I— can do this.
I really believe that.