Changes

It still rankles, a little, that I was accused of not pushing myself hard enough. I thought I’d take a look back at my accomplishments in the last year. What have I actually been doing with my life?

I went to therapy. This is an achievement. I had to acknowledge that something was wrong and that I needed help, and it is so damn hard to let myself be perceived as weak by admitting I need help.

Having accepted that I had a problem with my mental health that would not simply go away on its own, I began to assess what I could do to help ease and manage the symptoms.

I picked out researched, recommended strategies for mood management. I began exercising, with a particular focus on spending time in green spaces and sunlight. I started listening to music a lot, with special focus on listening while depressed or anxious. I focused on writing – fiction when I could manage, and blogging when fiction was too much. I’ve been keeping up with this anonymous blog journal since March.

I put my foot down over sleep hygiene. This has not worked out the way I would have liked it to, but I have definitely been putting in the effort.

I began to set and hold boundaries related to sleep and emotional regulation.

I’ve been trying to make sure I get my vitamins every day. Vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium – B12 when it was available (I need to get more). I’ve also been making sure to eat when I don’t feel like eating, and use healthy portion control when I do feel like eating. I’ve been trying to alter my food habits to promote healthier foods over junk comfort foods.

I managed to convince my husband to tackle the worst of his hoarded clutter. Since then, I’ve been trying to build better habits in regards my own belongings. I’m handling my own laundry instead of letting it be washed with the rest of the household’s laundry. I have been trying to hang up any clothing I’ve worn that doesn’t need to be washed yet.

I worked on adding more into my beauty and grooming standards. Things like shaving more often, tackling my skin issues, testing to see if I could wear make-up, purchasing additional wardrobe pieces while keeping said purchases affordable. Changed to a more flattering hairstyle.

I’ve been working on reintroducing myself to offline socializing. This means doing something very difficult for me – being the one to take initiative and ask friends to spend time with me, or finding activities on meet-up.

I’ve reintroduced myself to exploring the world around me.

I’ve gone to the state’s unemployment agency for assistance in getting back into the work force, and have taken three training courses for office software. I’ve also embarked on an adult education course in order to bring up my math skills.

I’ve put myself through awkwardness in additional ways, like seeking out a new therapist, speaking to legal aid and the police, seeing my children’s therapist so that she could get a more accurate idea of our situation.

While embarking on making these much needed changes I was dealing with a husband that was emotionally spiraling out from the changes and loss of control – someone that would alternate between passive-aggressive resentment, paranoia and needing to have his feelings soothed – someone that behaved irrationally and made choices that weren’t based on facts or evidence.

I was dealing with moving from one state to another.

I dealt with stress from situations my family had to deal with – my dad’s loss of his partner D, as well as the loss of his best friend G 10 months later. My oldest sister’s loss of the baby she’d been surprised with after having given up on being able to have another child. My sister J’s severe stress as her ex worked – in some ways successfully – to drive a wedge between her and her children.

I was dealing with continued sleep deprivation, continued anxiety, continued bouts of depression. (Thankfully the latter has been short term – days at most, rather than years.)

I dealt with a strained neck, having to seek medical attention, take medication (taking medication being stressful due to childhood upbringing), and rest when I didn’t want to have to rest – it took almost a month to heal.

I dealt with my uterus melting down. I’d always had longer and heavier periods than average, and now they were happening every 3 weeks instead of every 4. (Hopefully yesterday’s ablation will help.)

I dealt with certain of my family adding to my stress by piling on judgment and a lack of understanding while refusing to listen, assuming negative things about my character and deciding to get friendly with my husband, because if I’m the moral failure here, that must mean he’s the long-suffering good guy.

I’ve dealt with having to be extremely vulnerable in embarrassing ways, to people whose opinions I really care about, fearing that seeing my vulnerability would make them uncomfortable and push them away.

And I’ve dealt with suicidal ideation triggered by hopelessness, an inability to see how things could possibly improve, how I could escape a life that seemed to be nothing but relentless stress, pain and suffering.

I’m still here. I haven’t turned to coping with alcohol, nicotine, painkillers or risky, thrill-seeking behavior. My anxiety and depression have improved to the point that I can feel an expanded range of emotions again. I can get in my car and take a road trip and enjoy it, without catastrophizing everything that could go wrong until I’m a bundle of nerves. I can see and appreciate the beauty around me. Even if I seldom feel joy in my existence, I was at least able to remember what that felt like and want to have that capacity again.

I have pushed myself, and I have accomplished a lot in the space of a year, even while people and circumstances grabbed my ankles to pull me back.

I’m still here and I’m still moving forward.

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