Tag Archives: depression

A New Year

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(photo by SashaW)

The New Year will always mean something extra to me. It was the last time I heard my brother’s voice. Eight years ago today my older brother committed suicide. The grief that came with that tragedy has affected everyone in my family differently. It is also a beast that changes over time. While I was thrown into a turmoil I didn’t know existed that first year after his death, the last few years my grief has been calm and quiet. I’ve been thinking of his death, of him, less. That is why I was almost surprised when going to bed last night (about 1 am, January 5) that thoughts of him came flooding in.

December was a gray month for me. The New Year, a dark one. Going home to see family and to the place I am moving to in 5 weeks made me uncomfortable, anxious. I was uncertain of myself, of the move, of my feelings. I didn’t write here because I had nothing to say that wouldn’t be hypocritical. I fell back into my (undiagnosed) depression.

I spent New Years Day staring at walls, wandering around my flat, willing time to move, for something to change. I was literally unmotivated to do anything, breathing was all I could do. I checked my email, seeking distraction, in it was a link to an interview series about positivity and self-acceptance that I signed up for a month earlier. The link would expire in just a few hours. Since I loathe to waste anything and was only motivated to do nothing, I listened, halfheartedly. Miraculously, it cheered me up. (This is the interview series).

J had been encouraging me to set goals for the New Year, to help me focus on things outside of myself, but as I battled the darkness no task-oriented goal felt right. I have spent the last three years setting lists of goals, even creating spreadsheets to track my progress over weeks and months. Read 52 books, see 6 new exhibits, go to 5 lectures on things I don’t know about, etc. I abandoned last year’s just months in, my goals didn’t seem to fit me anymore.

Suddenly (strange how so many things can happen in just a week), I realized what I needed to do in 2014:  Get right with myself. The one thing that can help me. The most important thing I should be focusing on is my emotional and mental health. If I’m ever going to find a way to rise above my lowest feelings and try prevent dark days I’m going to have to be okay with myself. Love myself. Accept myself. So in 2014 every action I take, every thought I have, my goal is to ask myself, ‘Will this help me get right with myself?’. If it doesn’t, I know I shouldn’t do it. In a way I’m making several ‘traditional’ goals–around health, activity, social life–but really my focus is on improving my ability to value my own life.

This is what I was doing at 1 am last night. I was thinking ‘I love myself’ over and over before going to sleep (a practice that makes me feel ridiculous, but was recommended here, so far I think its actually helping). Then I remembered that eight years ago at perhaps this time my brother made the decision to end his life. That contrast. That I was in the act of re-committing to myself, to my life, at the same time and day that he chose differently, it was a revelation. It was the first time I felt like I was out living my brother (though I always knew I would become ‘older’ than him).

This realization, this coincidence, is bittersweet. I am far enough away from his death to keep from regretting not being able to share with him what is helping me now, but it is still sad to see evidence that I will become more than he was able to as my life moves on. His choice changed everything for me and for my family, but it has also given me a bar I can never cross, a choice I can never make. Eliminating that choice, for me, has at least been something meaningful in his death. In part, because of his choice, I have made my own–I choose myself.

This is the year where I learn that I am enough. Where I remember to accept who I am, with all the flaws. Where I learn to love myself and truly believe that my life has meaning. This year my only goal is to get right with myself, leaving behind any other expectations. I’m working at it slowly, hesitantly (December’s dip into depression is still close in my mind). I’m working at it day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I’m starting to realize that life is like this, a practice that you have to work at every day and never ends. The childish victim in me hates that, but hating it won’t change that fact. Instead, I will tell myself I love myself minute by minute, I will choose healthy eating and exercise day by day, I will not let career expectations pull me where I am not sure I want to go, I will ask myself ‘Will this help me get right with me?”.

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On Turning 26

Image(photo by Will Clayton)

26 is one of those ages that seems impossibly old when you’re 5. An age that still seems impossibly old at 13, though there would never be any reason to think about life past 18 then. At 20, age 26 is so far in the distance it receives only a cursory glance since life won’t begin until the following year, when university (and alcohol laws) turns you fully from child to adult in the eyes of society. 26 is also very young to almost anyone over age 26.

I am now 26 and in the preceding weeks have recognized my youth as well as my maturity. I’ve resolved that I am both. I think that’s the best place to be–youthful enough to still have plenty of mistakes in front, yet experienced enough to have left many others behind.

I’ve spent the last three or four years in a period of angst. The final transition period to adulthood perhaps, but my older friends and family let on that life is a series of such periods. This one began when I realized, bleary eyed, that university spit me out and there was no clear path left to follow. The odyssey that followed, which felt more like stasis, took me through every possible phase of identity crisis, including major life changes, spontaneous adventures and depression. I have heard, read and thought the same things over and over during this period. I’ve self-pitied (endlessly), I’ve felt isolated (completely), I’ve blamed myself and others, I’ve kept it all secret, I’ve looked for support (and found some). The realizations I heard from the beginning deepened, goal setting reignited for short periods, but really knowing the right answers to life (if there are any) only work when you choose to believe them and live by them.

At 26 with a bit of support and a renewed faith in my own strength, I may finally be ready. Ready to embrace life for the joyful, sometimes boring, tragi-comedy that it is. Ready to embrace who I am at the moment and who I could be. I’ve learned several things–looking back on the last two years of most intense frustration and depression the only meaning I can see in it is how much I’ve learned about myself and the way I deal with this thing called life–but I’m finally choosing to commit to one thing I’ve learned: acceptance.

Acceptance is like a magic key. It takes practice to keep hold of it (as magic keys often disappear at will) and to use it properly, but acceptance allows for life’s focus to switch from regret and fear towards calm contentment and growth. I’ve been trying desperately to grow in the last three years, but I have not tried very successfully to accept. In fact, I’ve willfully pushed acceptance aside, not seeing that by accepting what is, I can more easily change it than by saying it is what it is not. Can’t find a cure to polio if you refuse to see its symptoms.

So who am I at 26?  I hardly know since at 26 my resolution is to finally allow myself to be who I am. But for practice’s sake:

I am terribly strong and stubborn, so much so I can even convince myself of almost anything. I’ve used this for ill and now I’m turning it for good. My independent fierceness pushes me to create unabashedly, to try anything at least once, to keep challenging my fears, the highest of which is failure, especially public failure. It takes a lot to get me to give up on something. Honestly, I’m not sure if I ever have fully.

I am sensitive. I have long been proud of my deep empathy, but have only recently observed and accepted my own sensitivity. How quick I am to worry, to cry, to rise to anger. This makes me attune to changes around me and within myself. This is a strength, but like all strengths, they come with the responsibility to keep them in balance. It is my sensitivity that keeps me reflective, keeps me wondering whether I am living the best way I can.

I am creative. Not only in the sense of enjoying artful pursuits, but in the sense that I am at my best in nature, that I know I will one day create another human being. Time elongates when I’m being creative. I am contented. It is my natural state and it allows me to simply enjoy existence. This trait brings me to my most extreme emotions at both ends of the wavelength, but it is exactly these things that make me realize I’m living, the way a human is supposed to.

My stubborness, sensitivity and creativity have combined to save me in the last few years; when at my darkest moments I willed my molecules to separate and disappear, to leave an empty space. These embedded characteristics made it so I wouldn’t give up on myself and would think of options. Even in that moment, I couldn’t give up, I simply clung on for a moment where another option revealed itself. Eventually this succession of clinging to new options has brought me here, yet another rebirth of an old blog, yet another rebirth of me. You can choose to see broken or forgotten resolutions as failures, or you can see them as natural occurrences, prepping you for when you’re actually ready to change.

I shy away from words such as woman. wife. aunt. daughter. friend. international expert. activist. artist. writer. blogger. photographer. I stay away from labels, because I don’t see myself as worthy of them. At 26 I still cannot bring myself to use them, perhaps after a year of practicing acceptance I’ll be able to use them at 27. It won’t be easy, I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but I am ready to change and finally ready to depend on myself fully in order to do it.