As the first month of the new year has wrapped up, I wanted to reflect on how far I’ve come in the past year and how much farther I’d like to go. I want to show people who feel as if nothing will ever get better that it can, as cliche as it always sounds. I also tend to be hard on myself and don’t take the time to appreciate my accomplishments, especially when I compare them to the accomplishments of others. Allowing myself to feel proud is a challenge I’ve been pushing myself towards for the new year.
This time last year, I was living with paralyzing depression and agoraphobia. My cat had just died, I was transitioning with my career, I had to say goodbye to people who had become like family, and a thesis to write. Everything felt so overwhelming that I had shut down. All of the trauma I had experienced years before felt like it was hitting me all at once. I went grocery shopping at 1 a.m. to avoid being seen by other people and refused to leave my apartment if I could hear people in the hallway. I even stopped showering for long periods of time. My lack of self-care and poor diet along with the constant panic attacks and depression led to stomach problems that left me with chronic nausea and stomach pain. I could barely eat anything. Weak and dizzy most of the time, I dropped down to a dangerously low weight. I was un-showered and frail with sunken in eyes lined with deep and dark circles. Just years before I had been that girl who always had her hair and makeup down with a put together outfit. I’d wake up at 5 a.m. to do yoga and drink green tea. Despite having social anxiety and GAD, I functioned very well and most people didn’t know I was suffering. This time, my suffering was visible, even to strangers.
Today, I just finished my first day of a brand new job. I was so nervous that I cried the night before. What if everyone hated me? What if I did a bad job? What if I end up hating it? But I did it. I got up, made breakfast, put on my favorite dress, and walked through the door with a smile and a willingness to do anything they asked of me. This time last year, I ran from anything that could make me feel discomfort in fear it would set off a panic attack. Today, I’ve learned how to take control of my anxiety and self-soothe at the same time as push myself past my comfort zone to keep me moving forward. This isn’t easy to do with mental illnesses. My PTSD tells me to be distrustful. My OCD tells me I can’t leave my apartment or something bad will happen. My social anxiety tells me to stay home with my cat where it’s safe and I won’t be judged. My GAD tells me all the things that could possibly go wrong before the day has even started. My depression asks me, what’s the point? But today, I talk back to those voices. I don’t let them get the last word.
Instead of eating a microwaved bag of rice for dinner because I can barely get out of bed, let alone make a meal, I’m spending my Sundays chopping vegetables and melons while the quinoa is on the stove. It may seem silly to be proud of myself for this when other people are getting promoted, moving to a big city, or getting married but everyone’s journey is different. I’m beginning at a different place than everyone else and that’s okay. Not to mention, going from barely being able to shower to successfully getting through the first day of a new job is pretty amazing.
From here, I want to continue to push myself by making more of an effort to go to dinner with my friends at least once a month. I also want to try learning new skills, like knitting, and submit my creative writing to journals. These goals all seem small but they all go back to feeling like my life has a purpose and envisioning a future for myself. This is a place I never thought I’d get to.
Please know that if you feel like you’ll feel a certain way forever, you won’t. To get to where I am now, I went through extensive amounts of therapy, read self-help books, and went on antidepressants. I also had to push myself quite a bit but I made sure to go at my own pace and look for support along the way. It wasn’t easy so I won’t lie and say it will be. It will take some work and help but I promise it’s worth it.