“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922)
So, 2018 did not go as I expected. At all. I really wanted to make 2018 my year. It started off pretty solid. I got a full time job in writing. The funny thing was that I had interviewed for it before and had a second chance. The second chance worked. I was a full-time, paid writer! That was the dream! I broke my foot, which proved to be a health and fitness setback. I bought a new car, a little Honda fit that is cute as hell.
And then in late summer, things really started to go to shit. I found myself in the midst of a full-on mental breakdown. I wasn’t having anxiety and panic attacks daily, I was having them hourly. I had never slept so much in my life. It was a struggle to get up in the morning, I was exhausted throughout the day, sometimes I’d nap in the evening, and then I’d fall back asleep when the time came for bed. It was horrible. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was barely able to think. My mood was down and pretty much negative all the time. When I wasn’t feeling upset or anxious, I was numb. That was possibly worse.
If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 that I was going to end the year on short-term disability because I had a mental breakdown, I would have thought you were nuts. But it soon became evident that something needed to change. So then I thought a couple weeks to reset, and I’d be fine. Boy, was I wrong. It took a couple weeks just to stop feeling worse. It was a long, long process where I lost many days to lying down staring at the ceiling because I couldn’t get myself to do anything except exist. There were many days of just lying around, essentially arguing with myself over getting myself to do something. Everything took so much effort. I lost a lot of days this time around.
Of course, if you also told me that by the end of 2018 I would be feeling better than I had in practically six years, I also would have thought you were nuts.
It is definitely a nice change. I kind of feeling like I’m getting to know myself again. The day I actually cooked something for lunch using the oven and not a microwave was the day I realized that I’m definitely headed in the right direction.
Things are better, but I also know that it is something I am going to have to continually take care of. I go back to work the first week in January, and honestly, even though I am nervous, I am also starting to get excited. A month ago I wouldn’t have known any idea when I’d be going back and would be scared shitless at the idea.
I really want to make 2019 my year. I don’t know if I really had a chance before. But now I have myself again, and that makes a difference. I don’t know how much of a chance I had before when I was struggling and fighting against myself. My head is a lot more clearer now, so I’m guessing focusing will be easier. It took a combination of different things for me to begin to feel better, I know I’m going to have to have a plan in place to stay better. I’m lucky to have things in place like therapy and medication, along with a great psychologist and psychiatrist at my back. I’ve never had therapy work before this, and this has been the best medication combination for me throughout this six-year debacle. But, that’s just the groundwork. I need to build up from that. So, I decided I am going to make a list of New Year Resolutions. Maybe the whole “new year, new me” thing is a cliche, but I literally do feel like a totally different person so it is accurate for me right now. What better time for a fresh start than the a new year? It is a clean break. Don’t forget what I learned from 2018, but don’t dwell on it either. Eyes forward.
I really, really wanted 2018 to be a good year.
It was not.
I’m not sure if I have any Doctor Who fans, but there is an episode where the Doctor goes into a not-so-distant past and tells his future love that she has a really great year ahead. It is actually New Year’s Day, and he knows it is the year that the two of them will meet. It’s kind of retroactive foreshadowing, if that is a thing.
I really tried to tell myself, hearing that same voice (he sounds really convincing when he says it), I bet you’re going to have a really great year. I believed it, too, at first. But I don’t think a short-term leave for mental illness really falls under the “great year” category.
So, I guess 2019 is another shot. I want to share some of the goals I have. Some are your typical New Year’s Resolutions, but I’m trying to look long-term at personal development. Ultimately, I’m looking to better myself.
You might look at my list and be like, woah what the hell, that’s a lot, but some of these things are going to run together. Some of them are already parts of my life, but things I can improve upon. Some of them aren’t quantitative either; so that kind of takes pressure off of me. I don’t expect to meet every goal, but at least I have many opportunities to succeed!
- Believe in myself: I am a perfectionist and my own worst critic. Now I am realizing how much the depression and anxiety had to do with beating myself up, but there are still things I need to work on.
- Keep up with my planner: I bought an adorable Happy Planner at Michael’s a couple weeks ago (link here). I’m one of those people who loves the idea of a planner, but I’m not always the best at being organized with it. I did rely on my Happy Planner a lot during grad school (I’d write out the semester assignments/weekly plans the first day of each semester), but I haven’t used it as much and began to rely on my phone calendar more. While I love being able to just look at my phone to see my schedule, I sometimes feel more put together and secure in a plan by writing things down. What I love about the planner I bought this year is that it breaks down the individual days by hour. I use this type of system at work, and I love that this planner has it. I don’t know why I struggle finding cute planners with an hour breakdown. Using stickers for my Happy Planner is also a lot of fun and good way to provide random check-ins, whether it be financial, fitness, or reminders to relax! Sometimes I need those. The Happy Planner is going to be the foundation of keeping track of a lot of these goals, so it’s something. I still don’t get what washi tape is though.
- Become more organized: The disorganization and clutter of my life are other areas I’m starting to think were negatively influenced by mental illness because when my head started clearing, I started getting better at organization too. I still have a loooong way to go. But in the short time I have been feeling better, I have reorganized my computer files/Google Drive to be more efficient, reorganized my closet and clothing to make that more manageable,and reorganized my room to maximize on space. And I’m not done. But these are things I need to keep up with consistently. I do think it’ll be easier because I’m feeling better. But the next step is to declutter documents and get a better system of bills, financial info, and medical info. Maybe I should get a binder. Aren’t life binders a thing? I think I’ll look into that. Or an accordion folder. You get what I’m saying. I want to be more organized. Also – I need to throw out coupons when they expire.
- Meet with a financial planner and get my life and goals in-line together: This is a hard lesson learned; apathy/numbness and money don’t go together because you don’t care about what you’re spending. Student loan debt doesn’t help. Plus, I’ve gotten LASIK and Invisalign in the last year and a half (the timing was NOT on purpose. I never had any intention of getting Invisalign) but I view these as investments as they should save me money in the long run by not having to pay for contacts/glasses and maintaining better oral health. But it still needs paid off. I am lucky enough to have a good friend who’s dad is a financial planner, so I am hoping to meet with him and review my goals and go over everything and create a plan of attack.
- Create a budget and stick to it: See above. But seriously. I’ve been trying to figure out how much I spend in a month and how often I buy certain things or figure out what is the better buy – a treadmill and home gym equipment or a gym membership? I have been using the Mint app, but it’s a little wonky at times so still working on that. Again, this is one of those things that sometimes it is just better to write it out yourself….so I’ve kept a master spreadsheet of everything I’ve spent in December. That’s been fun.
- Knitting → Knit a hat, baby blanket, and full-size blanket or afghan: Knitting is my new favorite hobby. It came up when I was researching “mindful hobbies,” and I took a class at Michael’s. I’ve pretty much been knitting since. I just taught myself circular needles, so I was pretty pumped about that. The next step is to knit things other than scarves or headbands. I love beanies, so I’m definitely doing that. Two of my friends from college are expecting babies this year, so I’d love to make them each a baby blanket. And I want a baby blanket for myself, because you can never have too many blankets. But this is a really good hobby for me because it tricks my mind into thinking I’m doing more because my hands are busy. It makes me less restless.
- Compliment others more, more acts of kindness: “Spread kindness like confetti.” Kindness is huge to me. But I think complimenting others more can help make a difference. It might seem insignificant, but it’s one of those things that snowball. First, it can make someone’s day and I love that. I love when someone lights up from a compliment. Also, it might inspire them to compliment someone else or do their own little acts of kindness. Opening a door for someone can make their day. It costs nothing to be kind, and you get everything in return. I always try to be kind, but I am definitely going to make a more concentrated effort on things like complimenting others.
- Learn to speak up for myself more: I have stood down from too many arguments and disagreements because I was afraid I would sound stupid or no one would listen to me. This may surprise some people. I’m not talking Facebook comment wars, although I try to avoid those as much as possible. Sometimes you have to speak your piece. It is better than keeping it bottled up! I need to quench the fear I get about arguing and avoiding telling people when I’ve felt wronged or uncomfortable by what they did. Too often I have let people treat me poorly because I wouldn’t speak up or I’ve let conversations that made me feel uncomfortable slide by. 2019 is all about the challenge, man. And that includes standards all around. Way too often I have avoided speaking my mind, and there are times I deserve to be heard like anyone else.
- Forgive yourself: I beat myself up too much for things that have already happened and I can’t change. I need to learn from it, and let that shit go. Thankfully, I have meditation to help me with this.
- Celebrate the little things: We “sweat the small stuff” too often, but we don’t celebrate the little things. I want to celebrate the little things more. I have learned that sometimes even if all you do is get out of bed, that is still an accomplishment. I want to better recognize things I have done rather than things I haven’t. It’s all about being in the moment.
- Be a better daughter, sister, friend, coworker, listener: I’m not really sure how to do this one, but I know I can improve. Maybe it’s just lending a helpful hand more often. Maybe it is making myself more available. Reaching out to someone I haven’t talked to in awhile.
- Make new friends: Friendships as an adult are hard. So many of my friends are nurses and have weird schedules. Some travel all the time for work. And a good bit of us spent the beginning years of our friendship living only a minute’s walk apart. It is hard, but some friendships stand the test of time regardless. However, it is still good to grow new friendships. I joined a local running group and I want to go to more trivia nights (nerds are my people). I’m excited for these – you never know what friends you can find!
- Eliminate dating apps and meet a guy the old-fashioned way: Beyond self-explanatory. I’m over all the dating apps. Over. It. I AM OVER YOU, BUMBLE.I’m hoping to go to various events (trivia nights, adult nights at museums, etc.) to meet new people. I think “putting myself out there” more in person will be good for me overall. And I am way over dating apps, so I need to try something.
- Take two hours a week to read: One of the things I am struggling to get back into is reading. I can’t get myself to concentrate enough, and right now, it is just not interesting me. I have been trying to read little bits at a time, so I think two hours a week is a manageable goal and it also helps guarantee relax time for myself.
- Complete the 2019 Pittsburgh Half-Marathon: Also pretty self-explanatory. I have three and a half hours to complete the half. That currently makes me sick to my stomach. But I also am a long way from May, so we’re going to try not to freak out about that too much. And I am adamant that I am playing the “Rocky wins the match” song when I finish. And maybe yell a “Yo Adrian.” Even though there is no Adrian. Maybe it will be “Yo everyone.”
- Run a nine minute mile: A few years ago when I was running consistently, I got down to a nine minute mile. I definitely don’t expect to run the half at that pace (especially since I plan on doing a run-walk method), but it would be cool just to be able to run a mile at that pace. Even once.
- Lose weight OR gain muscle mass (i.e. Become healthier): If we are talking straight losing weight, I’d like to lose 60 pounds. That might seem like a lot of weight, but I guarantee a weigh more than you’d guess. And over the course of a year, that’s only five pounds a month. It’s not a lot. But, I also plan on lifting a lot as part of my workout plan. So the scale could end up skewed. Ultimately, I just want to be healthier through better eating habits and stronger, consistent workout routines. The rest will fall into place. Plus, even if I gain muscle mass, I will lose body fat so my sizes will change and all that. That will be a good indicator of progress, too.
- Be able to do ten complete proper full push-ups and pull-ups: I suck at both of this. I’d like to be good at these. Boom. That’s it. It does require more strength than I have, but I think it’s a good goal.
- Take a new fitness class every other month: I love trying different fitness classes. I’m always looking at the Facebook events or Eventbrite. I love trying different yoga studios, and recently I took a boxing class and I loved it. So trying new classes are going to be part of my cross-training plan.
- Work down to bringing lunch in every day and meal prepping: It is too easy to buy lunch in downtown Pittsburgh. I need to to minimize that; so my waistline grows smaller and my pocketbook grows bigger.
- Eat more damn vegetables: I don’t eat enough veggies. Or fruit either, probably, but definitely not enough vegetables.
- Try healthy alternatives: There is a lot you can do with zucchini. I want to experiment! I need an air fryer too.
- Add one minute to my meditation practice each week: One minute might not seem like a lot, but right now my max is seven minutes. If I achieve this goal, I will have added 52 minutes. I’m not looking to do that much meditation in each session, but it is still something to grow into.
- Meditate daily: Meditating has really had a positive influence on me throughout this latest breakdown and recovery. It was something I wanted to do, but I really struggled with it. I think with the help of therapy and Dan Harris’ “10% Happier” books, it finally clicked. The “10% Happier” put meditation in more everyday terms. Just focusing on my breathing has made a huge difference in me, and I have seen it help lessen my anxiety. I don’t need to make meditation a huge thing everyday, any bit counts.
- Remember to relax: I am bad at this. And this definitely played a role in my breakdown. Sometimes you do need to take a step back, and that’s where hobbies such as knitting, reading, and writing come in.
- Journal weekly: This is one of those things I want to be good at. Ideally, I would journal daily. But right now, I think a weekly goal is doable. Again, it isn’t something that needs to be a huge production but something that can help make a difference.
- Embrace my new morning-person self: So, when I wasn’t sleeping well/sleeping very little, I also had a really hard time getting up and going for the day because I was so damn tired. Now, I am waking up at 5:30 for no reason. And usually I am awake and ready to go. I’m not used to having energy. Instead of trying to fall back asleep, I am going to use the time to get things done, like the journaling or meditating!
- Limit my evening phone time for better sleep: This is something else I’m getting better at. Lately, I’ve been going on my phone for a bit and then either reading or knitting to wind down before bed. I’m hoping to continue to push back to less phone time and read/knit a little bit more. I’m actually trying to figure out if reading and then knitting (or vice versa) before bed will help me sleep better through the night.
- Recognize the things out of my control and let them go: I like to fix things. Again, I’m a perfectionist. Meditation has really helped me with this, but I still need to get better at letting go of the things I cannot control; like other people’s actions. One thing I am getting better at, and enjoying being better at, is not caring about what others thinks of me. I still need work there, too, but I have definitely improved.
- Maintain mindfulness mindset: Like the alliteration there? But seriously. The majority of my resolutions have been set with mindfulness in mind. Being present is making a huge difference for me, and I’m trying to implement it across the board. 2019 is the year of mindfulness for me.
- Begin my freelance writing business: Before everything went off the rails, I was toying with the idea of starting to try and get freelance writing jobs on the side and use the extra money to put towards debt and savings for a house. I spend a good bit of my free time writing anyways, so why not try and get paid for it? It will also help me build up a portfolio for future writing jobs, both freelance and not.
- Grow my network: Connections are key to freelancing and important to career advancement in general. I’ve considered joining a professional writing group or attending professional events. I have to put myself out there. And you never know who you might meet!
- Submit writing pieces for publication consideration: I have been published exactly once. It was pretty damn cool. I’d love to be published again. I have toyed with article ideas, and I have also thought about submitting poems to magazines. I have always been told my poetry is good, but I have always been nervous to how it stacks up. I won’t know unless I try. And for magazine articles? Stranger things have happened.
- Create a career plan: I need to sit down and decide where I want to go with my career. I’m looking at a variety of areas for freelance writing, so I am hoping that will help me decide where I want my career to go and begin developing a specialized portfolio.
- Learn a skill: A lot of jobs I am seeing want more than just writing. They also want skills like web design or graphic design. Sites like udemy.com or iTunes University offer discounted or even free classes on a wide variety of subjects. I think my iPad and is going to really get to know the iTunes University!
I know, I know that this is a lot. But I really think I have a chance now. A better one than I did before, anyways. And a lot of these are things I have wanted to do for a long time. This time around, I think I can make 2019 my year. We’ll see!