I’ve been meaning to write this post for at least a year now. The 27th was a day when I felt low and immobilized so it was great driving force to finally get to it–I just had to get past that rough day first.
It’s very common for me to discuss my level of functioning in therapy. Between my mental health and my physical health, my daily functioning is well below that of many people I know. Sometimes I have reasonable physical energy but am mentally sapped. Other times it’s the reverse. Most often, it’s some combination of both. I get so frustrated with how little I feel I can accomplish. One day several years ago my T introduced the idea of A, B, and C days, which is a way of classifying how much I’ll be able to accomplish on any given day.
A days are the most productive. For me that means my pain level is pretty good (need little or no Vic*din) and I’m not very dissociative, anxious, or low. If I get going on my daily list by a reasonable time I can accomplish a fair number of tasks of varying demand. These are the days I can cook a good dinner, hang laundry to dry, do some cleaning, take care of any necessary little “business” tasks like going over the budget, maybe walk to the store for groceries, and possibly even more. I do have to be careful not to overdo it on days like this but it sure feels good to accomplish a lot. I consider our monthly grocery shopping day to be an A day even though that’s often the “only” thing that I can get done. It entails walking to a bus stop, sitting in a cramped bus seat for at least half an hour (very hard on my hips and legs), walking to the store, spending about two hours on my feet to do the shopping and bagging, loading the groceries into MIL’s van, spending another half-hour riding home, bringing the groceries into the apartment, and putting away at least the perishables. Each of those steps is one task for me since it is so taxing. I have to take Vic*din before I even catch the bus and I’m still often a ball of pain that evening. DH does help with all of this, by the way.
B days are not as productive, suffice to say. I need three or four doses of medicine, including one or two doses of Vic*din. I can think fairly clearly much of the time. Yesterday was a B day for me. I was able to do some cooking and wash about half the dishes (hubby finished them, yay), hang laundry to dry, take care of a couple of things I needed to do on my computer, and do some reading/editing on a book my MIL is writing. I had wanted to do a bit of exercising but standing in the kitchen for over two hours (with a few brief rests) did my body in. As you can imagine, B days are the most common. They’re right there in the middle.
On C days I’m often lucky to get much of anything done. I may be in a lot of pain. C days often occur after I’ve had nightmares and am unsettled from them. The 27th was a C day. I woke up grumpy and low and was in a fair amount of pain. I felt immobilized from doing much more than dinking around online and catching snippets of the judge shows on our one TV channel. On the day I most needed to be able to make my daily call to my T, it took an hour for me to be able to do that. About halfway through the day I realized it was just going to be a C day and that was okay, which made me feel less anxious and guilty about it. One good thing about C days is that I’m virtually always able to salvage them somewhat in the end. Around 7:30 the other day I was able to get myself into the shower and DH and I walked to the store, which did me a world of good.
The important thing about A, B, and C days is to allow the flexibility that makes them just that–A, B, or C days. It’s also important to be flexible about changing the rating if necessary. Many times I start out with an A day list of tasks but have to let some of them go and have a B day. Every now and then I’m able to add to my tasks and turn a B day into an A day. And yes, there are times when I’m aiming for a B or even an A day and it ends up being a C day. It’s taken time, but I’ve learned pretty well how to gauge what category a day might be, sometimes even the night before. It’s also taken time to not beat myself up over C days or even A-turned-to-B days. Being flexible and letting go of guilt and unreasonable expectations for my circumstances has been amazingly helpful to me.
Something along the same lines of A, B, or C days is The Spoon Theory. The author of this fabulous theory presents it as living with the chronic pain and fatigue of lupus but it works the same way with other chronic illnesses (including fibromyalgia) and even mental health issues. On a day when I have to lower my rating, it’s common for me to think to myself that I’ve burned through spoons more quickly than I’d hoped to. Another similar analogy is Leah Tyler’s Lilac-Mulberry-Amethyst. Again, even though she created it specifically for fibro, it works with other chronic illnesses as well as mental health issues.
I hope the idea of A, B and C days is helpful to you. It’s not an automatic thing; it takes time to get used to the idea and especially to quit feeling guilty about not having all A days. It’s something anyone can fit to their own needs, which is great. But it’s been such a great help to me that I had to share it with you. I hope someone can use it!