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Dealing with bad days

Good days and bad days are part of normal life and often people’s mood falls in between good and bad – these are just ‘average’ days. However, the relentless nature of hepatitis C can sometimes challenge you with some pretty awful days, both physically and mentally.

It is worth considering the number of ways you could deal with bad days. A word of caution here: try to be vigilant and consider whether they are just the odd bad day, or whether it is possible that there may be developments in your condition that require some professional advice.

Keeping a symptom and/or side effect diary can help you to keep track of how often you experience bad days. You can then monitor whether the feelings or symptoms associated with them are becoming worse or more frequent.

If you find the bad days increasing in frequency or intensity you should let the person responsible for your care know. This could be your consultant or GP.

Hepatitis C infection and the treatment for hepatitis C can take an enormous toll on you. Some symptoms will simply not respond to any efforts you make to try to combat them and may require professional intervention. For example depression is a recognised symptom of hepatitis C and also the treatment. If sad or depressing days are frequent, don’t suffer in silence, speak to your doctor, who may be able to prescribe something that will really help. Equally treatment is available to combat or alleviate some physical symptoms such as fatigue and pain.

In some ways bad days that are associated with the more physical symptoms may be easier to deal with. Feeling too tired or too sick to do what you want to do, or planned to do, can be frustrating. Try to have a contingency plan that requires little energy for those days, perhaps a video or a good book stored away for such days.

Maybe you could keep a ready prepared meal in the freezer or plenty of tinned food in the cupboard for when you don't feel up to cooking. Having a plan of action that means you are able to get through the day, ready to fight the next, will make you feel more in control of things. You could perhaps use these days for planning how you will spend your next good day, that way they do not feel wasted.

If your bad day is because you feel less able to cope or are feeling depressed then there are still a number of things you can do.

Firstly, try to accept that some days will be better than others and take one day at a time, give yourself some space and allow yourself to feel down or fed-up on occasions. Give some thought as to why you feel low, whether there was a trigger or a pattern and if there is anything you could have done to prevent it. It is most likely that you will not have all the answers to these questions, but they are worth considering.

Sometimes simple things can make a difference. For example physical exercise, if you feel up to it, is known to boost brain chemicals that have a positive impact on mood. Taking a walk or a gentle swim may help, but be careful not to tire yourself out.

Consider whether it is possible that a pattern of negative thinking may have developed, which may not be your fault. For example, is this your usual response when things become too difficult? Maybe it is something you have learnt over a long period of time, possibly from others. If this is possible and you feel that you want to address it, you could ask yourself what you are likely to gain from this way of thinking. Is it beneficial to you in the long term?

Changing patterns of thought and behaviour can be extremely difficult. Most of our habits and behaviours have developed over long periods of time and very often are unconscious. As a consequence we may be unaware of these thoughts and behaviours. Even if we are aware and want to change them it will often require a great deal of unlearning, commitment and perseverance.

Firstly, be vigilant; look out for signs that negative thoughts are creeping in.

Secondly, remind yourself why you do not want this to occur.

Thirdly, devise a plan of action:

This may seem a simplistic example but it’s amazing how a different kind of response can actually make a significant difference:

Let's say you wake up one morning and can't be bothered to get washed and dressed. This is not a good sign. You may remember the last time this happened when you didn’t get washed or dressed and only ate crisps for five days. By the end of the five days you were so depressed that it took three weeks before you were back to normal again. So perhaps this time you might try to accept that you just don’t feel great, so you could turn on the bath and make yourself a hot drink. While relaxing in the bath, make a mental list of things you could do that day that are positive but not too taxing.

This could include:

  • Making contact with someone
  • A visit or a phone call
  • Taking a walk
  • Doing one thing that is practical and one thing that is pleasurable.

Allow plenty of time to do each thing so that you are not rushed or putting pressure on yourself. Make a mental note of what you have achieved at the end of the day and you will see that you changed the way you responded to a negative start to the day.

Once you get the start of the day sorted out, the rest often follows. If you are able to achieve this on most occasions, then eventually you may learn a new response to habitual negative thinking.