The Great Brain Renovation of 2014

[Originally posted on my other blog on December 30, 2014.]

New Year’s Eve is my least favorite holiday. I can’t think of a single new year that I’ve rung in without wanting to smile and cry at the same time during the countdown. I’m always so wrapped up in the bittersweet feeling of another year gone conflicting with the hope and optimism of a new one beginning, and I can’t stop pondering What It All Means. This happens regardless of whether it was a good or bad year overall. This year, though, I have slightly more positive feelings toward New Year’s than I usually do, because 2014 was the worst. Just the worst. And I’m happy to be kissing it goodbye and starting over with a brand spankin’ new year.

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that this is the perfect summary of my year:

emma-stone-ice-cream

My depression battle has been chronicled at length; I won’t go on about it here. But it’s been a real bitch. It wasn’t helped by the fact that my job was my own personal version of Hell and I had to spend 40 hours a week in a toxic environment that made me completely miserable. I made a lot of jokes about it because that’s how I prefer to handle lousy situations I can’t control, but the fact of the matter is that working there was extremely detrimental to my depression recovery. This became even more abundantly clear to me when I got laid off right before Thanksgiving and about two weeks into unemployment, I realized that I felt calmer and more relaxed and stable than I had in years, and it was because I wasn’t going to that nightmarish place every day. I couldn’t even find the will to be too stressed about the job search because I was too busy enjoying how good it felt to be free of that knot of anxiety and anger that I’d been carrying around in my stomach for four years. The universe smiled upon me and I accepted a new job exactly a month after losing my old one. And let me tell you, this job isawesome. I feel so fortunate not just to have found something so quickly, but that I found something great. The job is interesting and challenging, the company offers insanely good benefits, the people there are nice…it seems almost too good to be true. I’m honestly a little afraid I’m going to show up on my first day and learn that it’s all a front for an organ-harvesting ring and I’m going to spend the rest of my short life in some kind of human-size Habitrail.

habitrail

The least they could do is give me one with a slide.

My therapy has been working wonders since I started in March, and the addition of escaping my detested old job and finding this rad new one has had an immeasurably positive effect on my overall well-being. I feel hopeful and optimistic and excited about life again, and it goes without saying that it’s been a minute or two since I felt that way. So at long last, without a moment to spare, I’m able to look back on this year and see that while it was really hard and had a lot of dark days, many of those days were spent building a ladder out of the pit I was in.

My therapist is a rockstar. I can picture her smiling and shifting uncomfortably in her chair and saying no, I’m doing so much better because I did a lot of work this year, which is true, but it’s also true that her endless patience and gentleness and quiet but unshakeable support have changed me in a way I could never have imagined the first time I sat down in her office. Therapy was not what I imagined. It’s not like in the movies. I don’t recall many “OH MY GOD, I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT” epiphanies in the 9 months I’ve been seeing her. The changes happened a little bit at a time, sometimes so slowly that I didn’t notice them until I suddenly observed myself saying something or handling a situation in a way that was markedly different than what I would’ve said or done a year ago.  Those moments are awesome, because they’re where I see the work paying off and realize how much better I’m doing. And it’s not just “Oh good, I’m back to acting the way I did before I was depressed.” Not at all. It’s “Wow, I’m thinking and acting in a way I never have before because I’ve learned an entirely new, healthier way to be.”

self-five

I’ve learned not to bail on myself the second someone questions my choices. I’m a grown-ass woman who’s running her own life and is capable of making good decisions. People can have their opinions about me, but I’ve learned to file those away in their proper place instead of letting them worm their way into my brain and undermine what I think is right for me. What matters first and foremost is what I think of me, and honestly, I think I’m pretty awesome most of the time. I screw up sometimes, but who the hell doesn’t? That doesn’t mean that I’m a screw-up or a disappointment or not as good as everyone else. It means I’m a human being. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to finally accept that I’m just a person, and people have flaws, and that is 100% okay. Everything I feel is okay. There’s nothing I’m not “allowed” to feel. That, too, was incredibly liberating. I think a solid 70% of my therapy experience this year has been letting myself off one hook or another. I look back on how unrelentingly critical I’ve been of myself, how ruthlessly harsh and unfair, and I feel sad that I spent so many years treating myself that way. And I’ve learned that it’s why I’ve allowed other people to treat me badly – I was accustomed to feeling inferior and undeserving, so when someone else treated me that way, it didn’t feel wrong. That makes me sad too. But I don’t dwell on it, because the good news is that I don’t have to live even one more day like that. It’s over. And that feels so amazing – to know that I’ve learned all this great stuff and I’ve got nothing ahead of me but minutes and hours and days in which to practice living a happier, healthier, gentler life. It won’t always be easy. I’m not prepared to say my depression’s in remission and I can throw away my drugs and go skipping off into the sunset. I still have hours and days when the world is dark and hopeless and I just can’t deal.

i-want-a-donut
But they’re fewer and farther between lately, and I’m prepared to call that a victory.

I’ve decided that New Year’s resolutions are dumb, but I’ve picked one thing that I do want to work on in 2015: Not comparing myself to other people so much. It’s a completely human thing to do, but I think a lot of us spend way too much time doing it. I know that I’ve spent many a moment worrying about the fact that my life doesn’t look much likes the lives of some of my friends. But I’ve come to realize that this falls into the “unfair and unreasonable” category I was talking about a minute ago. Everybody’s different, and so everybody’s life is different. I learned ages ago that my life is just not going to pan out the way I always thought it would, and you know what? That is totally fine. I mean, how boring would life be if everything always went according to plan? *YAWN.* I am on a different path than I expected, and it’s a different path than a lot of people I know, and one of the major things I learned this year is how to be cool with that. But it’s a skill that takes near-constant practice, so I want to keep working on it in 2015. All I know is it became much easier to be happy with myself and my circumstances when I stopped caring about what other people are doing. It doesn’t matter. They’re not on the same journey that I’m on. There are things that I want out of life that I don’t have right now, and that’s all right – if I really want them, I will get them in due time, when it’s right for me. I’ve come to understand that sometimes not getting what you want when you expect to is a blessing in disguise. So hey everyone – I’ll do me, and you do you, and it’ll all be wonderful, and when it’s time to celebrate your exciting life events, I will always be there. Probably by the cake table.

marnie-cake-face.gif

I think that’s enough rambling for now. Just wanted to do a little review of the year, because it was a doozy for me. I feel proud of myself for making it through such a difficult time and emerging on the other side with something to show for it. A lot to show for it, actually. So I think that tomorrow night when I’m counting down with champagne in hand, I’ll be less wrapped up in pondering What It All Means because I know one thing for sure: Come what may, I’m going to be just fine.

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