“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”- 2 Corinthians 6:2
In the past two weeks, I have deep-cleaned my refrigerator, crocheted three adorable baby gifts, visited out-of-town family for the Easter holiday, completed my favorite novena and put an offer on a house with my husband, taking the lead on loan paperwork, inspection scheduling and negotiation. I have done all these things in addition to my regular daily and weekly tasks as a working mama.
These might not seem like big accomplishments, but to me, they are nearly miraculous. Just a few weeks ago, I was too sick and tired to pick up the toddler’s toys or make dinner. And just over a year ago, I could barely even get out of bed.
For those of us who experience mood disorders, life can be a wild cycle of mental and physical trial and reprieve. Days, weeks, months or even years of suffering and symptoms can hover like a rain cloud, darkening life’s enjoyments and drip, drip, dripping maddeningly day after day. But suddenly and blessedly, one morning we might awaken to find that the sun is shining: a new medication has finally begun to work, a positive life event has temporarily reset our mood, or something that defies explanation has infused us with energy. These moments are as unpredictable as the weather and often as fleeting. In fact, they can be so rare it’s hard to know how to spend them wisely. Should we use our newfound get-up-and-go to achieve as many tasks as humanly possible? Kick back and simply enjoy our happiness? Keep on as usual, biding our time for the next bout with darkness?
Whichever path we choose, like hired hands in the field of the Lord, we should make hay while the sun shines.
This folksy medieval proverb, slowly falling out of use in the modern day, refers to the difficulty farmers experience in harvesting grassy fodder for their animals to eat. Hay is notoriously finicky to prepare for storage, as it requires several midsummer days of fair weather to cut, dry, and make into bales. If rain interrupts this process, which takes place in an open field, the harvesters must wait again for everything to dry before proceeding. There is no cutting corners. Damp hay bales make for spoiled hay and hungry animals. Making hay calls for a farmer to have incredible patience, trust in Divine Providence, and above all, the ability to kick into gear at a moment’s notice, making productive use of fair weather days. These same qualities are priceless to sufferers of mood disorders: patient waiting for a fleeting ray of sunshine, heroic trust that God will not leave us in the rain forever, and the ability to quickly mobilize, taking advantage of even the smallest window of health.
In farming and in life, the virtues and skill needed to make hay while the sun shines must be cultivated through repeated practice. Below are some practical suggestions on taking advantage of a spell of good health. How do you make hay while the sun shines?
- Use a sudden burst of energy to complete a project or enjoy a hobby that’s impossible while you’re sick—but resist the temptation to overextend yourself, which could send you into ill health again.
- Work on developing a new good habit: make positive change to your personal daily routines in areas like sleep, exercise, nutrition, organization or prayer. Once these practices are habit, they’ll be more likely to stick with you in future times of trouble.
- Practice healthy ways of managing your emotions or looking at the world. If you deal with anxiety, use a healthy time to research tips and strategies for managing a panic attack. If you’re usually depressed, use a reprieve to practice positive thinking.
- If you usually feel isolated or antisocial, use a period of good health to reach out to friends and family and thank them for all the support they provide for you.
- If you’re experiencing spiritual joy and consolation that is usually hidden during your illness, pray for the grace to recall how much Jesus loves you during the next dark time. Ask God for all the graces you’ll need to fight the next battle with your mood disorder, whenever that may be, and ask for the strength, trust and patience to carry out his plan for you. Don’t be afraid, though, to also ask for the gift of healing for yourself—God already knows the desires of your heart!
- If you’ve previously found it hard to be thankful or to praise, do it now! Litanies, Psalms, Eucharistic Adoration and the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are just a few great ways to do this.
- Finally, don’t feel guilty or wasteful about using some of your healthy time to simply rest, relax and enjoy feeling good. Even the greatest of farmers and saints (and God himself!!) knew the importance of resting with purpose.