2016 can suck it.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted last. I’ll be honest with you, my first semester of graduate school was extremely difficult for me. I felt I was constantly a hot mess, and the worst part, everyone, including my professors and my advisers, could tell. It was kind of embarrassing sometimes. However, I’m going to chalk it up to being normal for a first semester graduate student, especially one who took two years off school in between undergrad and grad.  Graduate school is a whole new ball game, which is why I took time off writing to fully focus on that. However, writing is a passion of mine, and I slowly started to feel the ache of not being able to have the time, the energy, or the focus to write blog posts. So, alas, after three weeks of basically doing nothing but relaxing and hanging out with friends and family, I finally feel recuperated and ready to put something new out there.

This time around, I’m going to reflect a little and get quite personal (so stop reading now if you feel you aren’t up for that). It is no secret that 2016 was a difficult year for many people. I won’t lie. I honestly don’t think my year was as difficult for me as for many others. I’ve had many other difficult years, like the year that I was battling cancer or the year after undergrad when I was battling severe depression and feeling completely lost with no sense of who I was or where I belonged. So, no 2016 was not that difficult for me, however, it was not easy by any means. I had many struggles, but the struggles I had made me realize the bad habits and the issues that I battle against and that I want to change. So, I wanted to be open and honest, mostly because writing has always been a source of healing for me. I feel writing things out is usually my first step to healing from something and moving forward. So, here I am, laying it all out on the table.

Here are the things that I learned about myself in 2016 that I planned to start working towards changing in 2017, because as Sia likes to say “I’m running out of breath, but I’ve got stamina. I’m free to be the greatest [because] I’m alive.” I’m alive, and that’s the best reason to keep fighting.

I don’t handle stress well…like at all.

Obviously graduate school is stressful, and it’s very obvious that I struggle a bit with it. I can’t count on my hands the amount of times that I freaked out and ending up crying. Stress triggers my lack of self-confidence and my sense of constant failure. Stressing out about being stressed only made me more stressed, which is what turned me into the extreme hot mess that I became this past semester. I’m tired of feeling stressed, and I’m tired of letting it get the best of me. I’m tired of letting stress define my life and take up so much of my mental space.

So, for 2017, I plan to start learning better methods of dealing with stress. No guarantee that I’ll always succeed. In fact, I’ll probably fail more than I care to admit, but I’m willing to fight. I’m definitely going to start with positive self-talk. My lack of positive self talk really gets to me, and I’ll talk more about that in a bit. I plan to exercise more, to get more sleep, and to drink more water and less alcohol. I’m not going to lie. I like myself a good glass of red or a cold one, on any given day, especially when I’m stressed. All of this brings me to my next point.

I don’t exercise at all….or even really take that good of care of myself.

My stress and allowing my stress to define me led to many things that contributed to my overall hot messness. When I get stressed, not only do I tend to turn to drinking to relieve it and crying fits, but I also basically stop eating. There were some days I only ate one meal or didn’t eat at all, which I’m sure contributed to my overall lack of energy. On top of that, I never exercise. I make excuses, such as I’m tired, it hurts, and I don’t have time. The not having time excuse is easily my favorite, but to be honest, I’m pretty sure my lack of self-discipline and my laziness are my largest problems. Not exercising added to all of the stress that I was experiencing basically made me into a stiff, energy-less, out of shape, sometimes insanely crazy hot mess. Also, it gets worse. On top of all of that, I was out of medicine for my hypothyroidism for a solid three months. I always claimed that I didn’t have time, which during the semester, I honestly felt like I didn’t. Not taking my medicine increases my lack of energy, my extreme fatigue, and depression. It’s really a wonder I survived the semester at all, let alone with As in all of my classes. (I’m going to just claim that it was a miracle).

So, for 2017, I vow to attempt to have more self-discipline and to take better care of myself, first starting with physically taking care of myself. Hopefully, not only will that contribute to mental health, but it will hopefully be a gateway to taking steps towards more actively taking care of my mental health.

Speaking of stress and graduate school….

I place too much value in my success or lack thereof.

Ever since I was a child, I have placed so much value and so much of my self-worth in my school work and, since I’ve been working, in my success at my jobs. Not that wanting to succeed is necessarily a bad thing, and it does make me work really hard, but it can be dangerous. There were many times in the semester that I placed doing well in my classes and my lesson plans over eating, sleeping, showering (disgusting I know, but sometimes you don’t even realize it’s been 3 days because all of you do is sort of eat, sort of sleep and go to school/work for 12 hours a day then come home to work for 5 more hours), and loving myself. That’s a huge one. For some reason, if I don’t succeed, then I don’t feel like I’m good enough or that I’m worthy of value and love. I don’t know why those two things are linked in my mind, but they are.

Working on understanding this part of myself and working through those emotions are something that I plan to do in 2017. I fully understand how difficult it will be, and I fully understand how much I’m going to fail. However, it’s time that I start loving myself for who I truly am and not by how successful I am. After all, failure is a part of life and makes us into better versions of ourselves, right? I’m going to try to be okay with getting Bs and Cs if that happens and making mistakes at work. I’m going to breath and to relax more and to remind myself that getting Bs and Cs just means that I’m learning and growing. After all, I can’t possibly know and be good at everything. I have to fail at some things.

I struggle with anxiety and depression, and sometimes I feel misunderstood because of these things. This sense of misunderstanding often leads to feeling more anxiety and depression. It’s a vicious cycle. 

Unfortunately depression runs in my family, on both sides, and unfortunately I’ve allowed myself to allow it to worsen. I’m a firm believer that anxiety and depression are legitimate health issues that should be considered on the same level as physical issues. However, I’m also a firm believer that just like my lack of care for my physical self contributing to my poor physical health, my lack of care of my mental and emotional self are a huge reason I struggle with both of these things. Not giving myself credit for the things I’ve done right, criticizing myself always for the things I’ve done wrong, and placing all of my value in how well I succeed in life have brought depression back into my life. I’m thankful, because having suffered from severe depression before, I recognize the signs, and I remember how I fought it the last time. It does pain me though when people don’t understand.

So I plan to turn to those whom do understand and that can offer support, and even when I feel like I can’t find it, I plan to be the support for myself, because at the end of the day, no matter how much I’m loved and how much support I have from others, if I don’t love and support myself, then I will never fight off these demons.

(Though just as a side note for those whom have never experienced either of these things, the worst thing you can tell someone who struggles with them is to relax and to just get over it/move past it. It’s not that simple. These may be be mental illnesses, but they manifest themselves in the mind so strongly sometimes that they do feel like physical illnesses that stop you from being able to function. They can be utterly paralyzing sometimes. So please, seek understanding first.)

I’ve lost so much faith in God and in my religion. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in God, and I still believe He’s a beautiful creator that can have an impact on our lives. However, I’m tired of being told who God is supposed to be. I’m tired of people putting him in a box and using Him and His name to hurt others. Because the God that I want to believe in loves all of His creations, whether they practice a different religion, are gay, transexual, bisexual, lesbien, or queer, have received or support abortions, or to put it simply, are sinners who have vices. I don’t pray anymore because I feel like I don’t know the true God. I’ve been told since I first became a Christian who God is supposed to be, and for me, that doesn’t line up with what I’ve experienced, what I’ve seen, and what I’ve understood from the Bible passages I have read. I miss having my faith, but not understanding Him makes me feel extremely at ill ease. I’ve stopped praying because it doesn’t feel genuine, and I’m tired of hypocritical Christians. I’m tired of people using their religion to make themselves, basically, into righteous assholes (sorry for the cursing, but I feel it’s true).

However, I’m also tired of making excuses. I believe that if I want to have a relationship with the Creator, then I have to do the work. I have to search. I have to read. I have to ask the hard questions. I have to engage in conversation with Him. I have to stop making excuses, but I’m not going to do any of this at the pace of someone else’s expectations. I think that’s part of my problem. I’ve always hidden this part of myself because I’m terrified of being judged by everyone, especially my family, but it’s time to be honest with myself and with everyone. I am nowhere near a perfect Christian or believer in God, and I can’t fear judgment by others anymore, because after all, my faith journey is my own. I have to learn to respect that for myself and to stop being afraid of the judgments that I may come across.

I struggle with being alone. 

Because being alone means facing all of these demons. It means having to actually fight against them. It means having to make painful decisions and to experience painful thoughts and emotions, which are things I really don’t want to have to do. However, if I don’t do them then I will never get past them. So, I aim to be alone more and to open myself up to face up to my demons.

I become too easily attached to…well a lot of things.

I think my fear of being alone and having to face my demons makes me cling to all relationships and material things. I love my friends and my family, but I need to not rely on them as much to help me make decisions and as an excuse not to deal with my issues. I also need to stop buying and indulging in things that I shouldn’t be. I seek to escape in all things. Again, being alone is something that I need.

Part of my plan for 2017, is to be more intentional with my relationships, to put my friends’ and family’s needs above my own. I also plan on going through my closet and getting rid of clothes I don’t wear anymore, getting rid of books, movies, and cds that I know that I won’t ever use again.

I also plan to eat more vegetarian meals (not only because it’s simpler but also because my tiny income demands it) and to live more environmentally friendly. I feel like treating the environment, especially my environment, well will not only help the world and those around me, but it will start to help me, especially with my mental health.

Basically, my life is cluttered, and it’s time to clean it out a bit and to learn to live without luxury.

I don’t spend enough time with my family…or my cat. 

Spending two weeks at home made me realize how much I love my family, despite the fact that they can definitely drive me crazy a good majority of the time. (I’m sure I drive them crazy, too). Maybe it’s because I’m getting older or because I’ve spent so much time living in places where I couldn’t spend time with them or both that I’m beginning to understand how important they are to me. I used to find my family extremely annoying and lame (sorry fam if you’re reading this), but they are actually pretty amazing and cool people.

I really want to be more intentional about spending more time with them. Of course, being two states away will make that hard, and though there is no guarantee that I will actually follow through (especially when I start this next semester), I plan to stay more in contact with them.

Also, the cat thing may seem weird and kind of ridiculous, but he’s basically my child. I think he’s depressed like me. He sleeps literally almost all day every day, and I think it’s because I don’t spend enough time playing with him or paying attention to him. Poor baby. I always used to say that I didn’t have time, but taking 15 minutes a day at least to intentionally play with my cat will probably help him and me. He can be a sweet and playful fur baby when he has the opportunity to be.

Lastly, despite what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, and all the different places I’ve lived and traveled, I still have so much to learn about life, people, and the world. 

The more that I learn, the more that I realize and come to understand that I know nothing.

I plan to learn more and to educate myself more.

I plan to learn more so that I can come to understand more that I know nothing.

Understanding that I know nothing is actually a beautiful thought. It means that I can spend my entire life exploring and that I will never stop exploring.

Life is what we make it, even when it’s extremely difficult to feel like we are in control, but that’s my goal: to take more control of my life and to stop blaming outside circumstances for my lack of ability to overcome the things that I struggle with.

I am only human, and it’s scary being this vulnerable. However, being human and terrified is not an excuse. Everyone struggles, and most overcome.

So, I can, too.

I am capable.

(One hell of a way to make a comeback, eh?)

Bisous, bisous mes amis.

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