As the year 2017 draws to a close, there is no shortage of positivity everywhere we look around us. The holidays are a time of celebration, a time for reminiscing and a time for new beginnings. But these days have a darker, often less acknowledged side to them as well; the holidays can be an exceptionally challenging time for a lot of people, specifically people who, like I, struggle with various mental illnesses.
New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a marker of a new era, so to speak. A nudge to finally start changing up your ways and doing all those things you just never got around to doing. I can’t really say whether New Year’s Resolutions really work for anyone, but they usually seem quite harmless – certainly well-meaning! They are supposed to challenge you to live up to your full potential and help you become the person you actually want to be. But… if I’m being honest, I am currently trying my hardest to refrain from drafting up any Resolutions for 2018. As backwards as that may seem, New Year’s Resolutions and anything resembling them rarely turn out well for me personally.
I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) as well as panic attacks and depression. I try my hardest all year round to make ends meet in every which way. I try my hardest to get out of bed each day, preferably before noon, but I often fail in doing even that. Oh well. When you’re sick, life just looks… slightly different. OK, that’s a blatant lie. When you are really sick, whether physically or mentally, life can be so draining and challenging that often, it seems hardly worth it at all.
I personally am so afraid of disappointing people – or myself, or the universe or whoever, I don’t even fully understand it myself – that I will overcompensate by working myself to the bone so that I make sure no one can accuse me of not trying hard enough. This compulsive behavior nearly made me drop out of high school, because I was trading my mental health in for good grades without really understanding why. I thought it was healthy to strive for these things. And I guess it can be, but in this instance, it was definitely not.
I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not even in school. So now I don’t have to worry about getting good grades anymore. But guess what? With anxiety, you just find new things to worry about! Ain’t that grand? Now I worry about wasting my life – no matter what I do really, there’s always that worry – and not fulfilling my potential. Not being good enough. In a way, it’s not even a worry, it feels more like something I’ve already accepted. I am not good enough. I will never be good enough. My potential evaporated the second I was diagnosed with depression. Or maybe even sooner, who knows?
It’s a daily struggle to try and convince myself that these are not facts. They are just thoughts. Anxious, depressed thoughts at that. That’s enough of a struggle on its own. Imagine adding to that a bunch of ‘well-meaning’ New Year’s Resolutions, that with this perspective turn into just more ways I am not good enough. START WORKING OUT MORE! You can’t honestly believe it’s OK to be this lazy and, well, horrible? You also look like manure, but you already know that. EAT HEALTHIER! Yes, I know you had that eating disorder, but all those fears you had/still have about food are probably true! Sugar is probably the devil itself, processed foods are poison and the only thing that is really safe to eat are probably vegetables. But only certain ones. And we don’t even know for sure that something isn’t wrong with them. EARN MORE MONEY! Yes, I know your illness takes a huge toll on your body and your energy and motivation, but you really aren’t worth anything if you aren’t ‘doing anything with your life’, now are you? And so on and so on.
These are thoughts that I am already having. Thoughts I am constantly trying to convince myself are NOT TRUE. No need to write them down. I suppose I could try some more personalized New Year’s Resolutions for myself, instead of the more popular ‘lose weight, get money’ Resolutions. I could tell myself that THIS YEAR I am going to finally start loving myself, I am going to stop worrying about what other people think about me, and I am going to live MY best life. Those seem like healthy, wholesome, well-meaning New Year’s Resolutions. But the thing is… I am ALREADY trying my hardest every single day to make these things come true. I swear. I am doing my best. And to me it seems like trying to force these things to life within the next year would only cause me to:
1. feel guilty for not having mastered the art of self-love in 2017 – or 2016, or 2015, or WHY was I not born with these skills? Why am I such a slow learner? Do I want to stay suffering? Am I just a bad person, a lazy failure of a human being who enjoys being horribly depressed? At that rate I will have spiraled completely into a pit of self-hatred and demotivation by January 2nd.
and 2. feel like a failure when I (most likely) one year from now, on the verge of 2019 still haven’t recovered with flying colors yet.
Because these things take time. And constant, hard work. They don’t happen overnight. There are good days and bad days, and as long as you are trying your best, that’s enough. After all, New Year’s Eve is just a date that someone a long time ago decided marked a new year. It’s not really different from any other night, other than the fact that you might go to a great party. Or you might go to a bad party. Or you might eat Doritos in your sweats, and that’s OK too. Don’t feel bad if New Year’s Eve isn’t some monumental, pivotal night in your life, the best party you’ve ever been too, or you don’t feel like a completely changed person when the clock strikes twelve. It’s really just a night like any other. Just try your best to have a good time and do what you want to do.
You can always start over if you want to. Doesn’t have to be on New Year’s. But you can also choose not to start over and accept that you are probably doing the very best you can with what you’ve got. Life is difficult, especially when you are ill. Don’t beat yourself up about all the things you didn’t get to do in 2017. Think about all the great things you might get to experience in 2018. And all the other years to come. Despite what anyone says, life is pretty long, and I’m sure you’ll get around to it all.
Have a great New Year!