I don’t think it’s possible to have a perfect year. 12 months / 52 weeks / 365 days: all too big a time-span to guarantee 100% wellness and positivity every hour of every day. Nonetheless? 2018 has been “my” year.
I’ve not avoided conflict and drama. People close to me have still suffered pain, been ill, died. I’ve had bad cycles. The house move didn’t go as it should. I’ve not met all of my goals. I didn’t go to the gym 3 times a week, every week. I’ve lost clients. I’ve had to shut down projects to maintain sanity and balance. I’ve dealt with injury and illness myself.
“This sounds pretty depressing Jem, how the hell is 2018 your year?”
Because I coped. I took the bad with the good, I picked myself up and I carried on.
My bad cycles didn’t lead to a continuous run of depressive weeks spent in bed, because I made active changes to bring my PMDD under control. I learned what I need to do to keep myself on track through the highs and lows to maintain my mental health and stop myself getting sucked into a black hole of despair.
Lost clients gave me time to reflect and improve my business. Using improvements in my mental health as a springboard, I’ve been able to finish some long standing projects and bring on board new clients with exciting things in the works. I’ve increased profits despite spending a chunk of money on new tech and I am fully booked for the foreseeable future. I have not yet hit my initial recurring income goal, but I started the process. I have also managed to pay my tax bills without using credit cards and have enough in the bank to cover January’s “BIG ONE” for the first time in my freelance career.
Missed gym sessions gave me time to rest and recover. It gave me opportunities to fine tune my diet so that I am fuelling myself for whatever the day throws at me, be that rest or activity. Adequate fuel (and consistency, through improved day to day mood) has ultimately helped me smash through personal bests at running and weightlifting, as well as achieving my taekwon-do blue belt. I have lost weight, yes, but a new sense of control over “me” combined with radical self love has given me the freedom to feel better about myself than I ever have before, irrelevant of the number on a scale.
I started the year feeling like I was failing as a parent, emphasised by my daughter’s anxiety about our house move which was causing her to have regular violent meltdowns. For a while I resisted, pushed back, shouted and gave orders: the way I’ve always done it. One day a switch flicked in my head and I actively and deliberately chose to change how I parent. It wasn’t easy to undo over 8 years of ingrained habit but as a result my daughter and I are closer than ever. Her meltdowns are manageable and we talk every day about her feelings, her needs, her friendships and how she sees herself in the world. For the first time in a long time I actively feel like my children need me around.
So what’s different? Why is this happening now in 2018 when it could have happened in 2017 or 2016? I attribute it solely to one thing: staying sober.
I made the choice this time last year to stop drinking. I hit up /r/stopdrinking and poured my heart out, before telling the world I’d give it all up forever. I was at an incredibly low point and was overwhelmed with sadness and suicidal thoughts, brought on by a Christmas party and too much booze. I knew what I had to do, I just didn’t know how to go about it: I was a champion drinker. Turns out that all you have to do is not drink. Simple, huh?
It would be a lie to tell you I’ve had a perfect run and not touched a single drop of alcohol. I had a couple of drinks in August, and I had another few at a recent Christmas event. Both times affected my mood and peace of mind. Both times affected my ability to plan; the clarity and “presence” I feel these days. Neither made me want to start drinking again and in fact reinforced the reasons why I gave up in the first place.
I owe my current sense of self to not drinking. While I can’t guarantee I won’t have a couple of glasses of wine in another 6 months (and then wonder why I bothered the following morning) this… all of this: happiness, success, sanity? It’s too much to sacrifice now.
Lead photo by Grégoire Bertaud