There is one day left in 2017.
And while I clearly haven’t kept my resolution of posting at least somewhat regularly on Pocket Full of Lithium, I’ve actually been doing really well on keeping up some of my other goals. Unfortunately, a lot of them sort of sap my creative energy (or all my energy, for that matter), which meant I never got around to finishing the other 44 blog posts I’ve started since April. My intent is to address those in the coming weekend, but I wanted to put something up before a year in review post became less relevant.
This year was, overall, incredible. Oh sure, there were some really hard moments, a couple of severe mixed episodes, hypomanic highs and stupid decisions, and some very low-lows that required safety measures, but in the grand scheme of things it was a year that I can walk away a better person because of it.
Before I get all analytical and discuss why I believe the year progressed as it did, how about a brief overview… I feel like it helps explain why I’ve been so quiet on the blog and social media.
This year I:
- Lost 45 lbs and shrunk a couple of sizes on a fabulous fitness plan called eating sensibly and exercising more. I started this quest around Thanksgiving last year – it’s pretty simple, really: just learned a little about nutrition, made better decisions, discovered I actually like some vegetables, and then started being more active by walking and doing exercises I enjoy. Toward the end of the year, I even joined a fitness class at the gym, something I have never, not ever, imagined myself doing… It’s worth noting that losing weight wasn’t actually my goal in and of itself, but rather a wonderful side effect of my actual resolution to work toward being healthier. Ideally I wanted to get off hypertension meds, improve my sleep hygiene, strengthen my back, and reduce my risk of diabetes. By making healthier choices, I ended up shedding pounds, reducing my need for some medications, and growing happier with the way I looked in the mirror.
- Took up a new hobby as a novice archer. In May I hit a bit of mental and emotional slump and found myself sort of feeling like I needed to stretch myself in new ways – meet new people, try something outside my comfort zone, that kind of thing. Additionally, with my routine out the window for the summer, I needed something else on my calendar to look forward to in the week. On a whim…. which may or may not have been related to playing 11 consecutive hours of video games… I looked up archery lessons and found a six week class that I could afford and that required beautiful summer scenic drives through glorious Oregon hills and valleys to get to. It took me a few weeks to get the form relatively down, but I grew good enough to graduate to a farther distance, and signed up for another six weeks. I’m on break until next May (all those back roads get flooded and icy), but there are a couple one-off events I’ll attend from time to time.
- Auditioned for and performed in a community theatre production, requiring song and dance. I’ve always loved live theater, so I was excited to see that the theater in town was performing one of my favorite shows, the comedy musical “Once Upon a Mattress,” as their December show. A friend jokingly suggested I audition, and then it became not so jokingly as I started to think how much I’d kick myself if I didn’t go for it… . So I did, and landed a part as one of the dutiful knights in our steam punk rendition. Six weeks of rehearsals, nine performances, an awful lot of eye makeup, and some literal blood, sweat, and tears took a ridiculous amount of time and energy, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. Also, I look great in leather pants, heavy eye makeup, and wrapped in bullet casings. Don’t worry, a photo of that is coming.
- Coordinated and launched a support/recovery group for women who struggle with addiction, compulsion, anxiety, depression, etc. It’s small, and we had to go on hiatus while I was rocking those leather pants for six weeks, but it launched and we’re gearing up for 2018. I’ve written before about the significance of this kind of thing, both as something that I find healing and growth in, but also about the honor of serving others and walking with them toward the same healing and growth. I’m proud of this project.
- Went on two road trips, including one solo adventure. While this may not seem like anything out of the ordinary or worth applauding, for me this was actually a huge accomplishment. You see, before I moved overseas in 2011, road tripping and driving for the sake of driving was very much a part of my life. Driving in Kazakhstan is terrifying, and in the UK I had access enough to public transport that I didn’t have the need to drive. As I settled back into American life afterward, I was so physically and mentally sick and tired that I almost developed a fear of driving, especially long distances. As I transitioned off lithium, the brain fog lifted, and as my back grew stronger I could handle longer stints at the wheel. This summer as I drove through national parks, cities I’ve never been to, over mountain passes, and through the high desert, I realized that my confidence has returned and I’ve once again fallen in love with the open road.
- Speaking of love, in October I changed my ‘single’ status by finally working up the courage to officially define the relationship with my now ‘significant man friend’ (I’m not keen on the word ‘boyfriend.’) While we met almost exactly two years ago and for most of 2016 had what I would consider a somewhat dating relationship – I suppose that’s another post in the works – he moved abroad for work and for awhile it seemed like that was the end of the story. But we kept up on Skype and wrote letters, and I suppose it’s one of those “absence makes the heart grow fonder” scenarios… A couple of months ago I asked where all that was going, and apparently it’s going together. This is new territory for me, which is a little scary and fun, but I’m excited about the whole thing. He gets back in March.
- And while we’re on the subject of people, this last year I made it a point to actually have a social life, so I was intentional about connecting with a friend or family member at least once per week either for coffee, a meal, Skype or an adventure – something that actually had depth. My thought was that making time for people, rather than finding time, would not only strengthen and grow my relationships, but would also be rather helpful in overcoming some of my serious social anxiety issues. It forced me to get off my couch and out of the house, and often involved trying new things that pushed my comfort levels about crowds or parties or strangers…. And you know what? I actually did it! Literally every week of 2017 I had some sort of wonderful get together with someone else. I got to strengthen my existing friendships, connect with folks I haven’t seen in literal decades, and through many of the activities listed above, made many new friends – something I’ve never been particularly good at. So this quest to make time for others first forced me to really learn how to invest in and interact with people in healthier ways – and learn how to let them invest in me. So now I can look back on a year that was truly enriched because of the people who whom I experienced life with.
- And then there’s work – at which I basically overhauled my entire department almost single handedly and coordinated multiple city-wide and private events that involved literally thousands of people. One of the absolute highlights of the year was participating in training scenarios as a role-player to help police officers learn how to deal safely and compassionately with individuals experiencing mental health crises; to employ my personal experiences in a way that serves society was a real privilege. With all the new projects and programs, I started working more than half time this year, which was a huge step for me in managing having a job with my personal challenges.
Not bad, especially for a rather socially awkward introvert with an illness that often makes simply getting out of bed a challenge.
I have another post in the works about this whole business of trying new things and stretching myself and all that, so I think I’ll save my thoughts for that edition. Since this is more of a year in review, I’ll wrap up with my theme for 2017.
If I had to choose a word to describe my year, it’s confidence.
In myself, in my abilities, in others, in God’s goodness – this was the year I realized that I’m a lot more capable, and a whole lot more loved, than I believed myself to be.
Of course, the thing about the achievements is that they were stepping stones to more achievements. For example, if I hadn’t lost the weight, I probably wouldn’t have auditioned for the show; with a smaller body and a lot more stamina, I felt confident in singing and dancing and even wearing leather pants. The play, in turn, gave me a reminder of just how appreciated I am, as I had family and friends from many chapters of my life in the audience every single performance. Growing healthier and stronger paved the way to be more active, and then the whole business of trying new things and keeping with them (not my strongest trait), even if I struggled, gave me a little more courage to then try other things with less fear of failure. By spending more time with people since the start of the year, I built up the confidence to flat out ask my now significant man friend where our relationship was going… and in all my relationships I walked away with more confidence in who I am when I’m around other people and my ability to survive crowded places, which sort of made life overall a little easier.
It was a good, growing, and fun year.
Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I really struggled, where I sincerely doubted my abilities, my future, my relationships, where I wanted to simply quit life altogether. There were a good many times when I decided I couldn’t do life – I wasn’t strong enough, good enough, brave enough. Some of the challenges I undertook, like starting up trauma counseling again, were painful and difficult, and I didn’t always cope in healthy ways.
But choosing health and love, and filling my weeks with new experiences and relationships, provided a regular reminder that God is wants me to enjoy life and enjoy fellowship with others. It made climbing out of ruts a little easier and the adventures a whole lot deeper and impactful.
It’ll be 2018 in a few hours, so I should probably hit post.
I typically don’t make New Year resolutions because I’m awfully good at failing at them. I learned this year, though, that goals like choosing health, choosing people, and choosing joy, are attainable goals if I make them a priority… and are they ever worthwhile.
I think we’ll do it again.
Looking forward to what comes next. In the meantime, Happy New Year!
Oh, and, by the way…. You’re welcome.