At the precipice of 2015, I declared this year my year of adventure. And I definitely had many experiences that could be classified as both adventures and misadventures, depending on your definition of mental and financial stability. An accurate tagline for my 2015 would be: “started from some terrible emotional bottoms and now I’m here. Still. Somehow.”
I’m not gonna lie, we got off to a rough start here, friends. But (if you’re familiar with any of my previous writing) some good old fashioned struggle makes for both some quality writing and personal growth. And if anything, this year I tried many new things. Some yielded success, some yielded success in ways I did not anticipate, and some yielded very important life lessons (read: some minor train-wreck moments were had.) Of all my adventures this past year, here are some of the more noteworthy things I tried in 2015:
- Openly talking about my mental illness and recovery– While I’ve been gradually working up to this point for the entirety of my sobriety, it was still a bit of a leap of faith to openly discuss my personal experience with addiction, mental illness, suicide, and eating disorders with my name and face attached to these issues, much less sharing it all with any general acquaintances or strangers on the internet to read. The response I’ve gotten has been so overwhelmingly heartwarming- the fact that I’ve gotten responses at all has both been humbling and affirming in ways I’m unable to completely articulate.
I don’t want to come off as a martyr for junkies; while my primary motivation for writing has been to help the person suffering in silence, a huge part is personal relief. I often don’t understand events or emotions that I’m experiencing until I can make sense of it in writing. And having someone say that they relate in even the smallest way also does that. Not only has this blog become a personal outlet as well as hopefully a small beacon of hope for someone out there, but it honestly has gotten me off the hook for explaining some of my behavior or my past. Yes, co-workers, I know y’all saw me regularly crying at my desk for awhile there. Sorry about that.
But all in all, telling 100% of my truth has changed my life in the way of friendships, of current behavior and thought processes, of self esteem, of professional goals.
- Taking medication– As a good bipolar kid, I’ve always been averse to taking any kind of psychotropic medication. Yet, I believed that I (knowing myself better than any foolhardy doctor) could accurately and completely self-medicate with a wide array of deadly narcotics. So it’s a good thing I lived through that and surprisingly, did not come out the other end with an honorary medical degree.
In recovery, my intense fear of relapse manifested in a deep fear of anything potentially mind-altering that wasn’t in a can of red Bull. My first instances of trying day cold medicine and night cold medicine were both my last in recovery. And going on meds of any kind is a constant topic of conversation in support group circles. My response was always, “It’s between you, your doctor, and your higher power,” which was printed in a pamphlet somewhere. Inwardly, I thought, “it’s okay if someone else needs to but I don’t think I ever could.” A fellowing recovering addict and friend went off her medication several winters ago without consulting anyone and ended up taking her own life, stone-cold sober. Even after that, I had trepidation. This was the girl who threw up a dessert after finding out it had straight alcohol on top. It’s safe to say that I’m prone to thinking in the extremes.
Then came the fall of 2014, where after a spring and summer of mania, my depression ran me over like a freight train. A slow-motion freight train that left me terrified and suicidal. I began taking medication just over a year ago; I remember I was in the second week of adjusting to it last Christmas. Even after the first adjustment, I still struggled heavily which was honestly the worst feeling. In the illogical mindset of depression, I thought, even medication can’t fix me, I must be completely broken. Luckily, I had a friend at that time that encouraged me to ask my doctor about a higher dose, which I did and am currently on.
The past few months have actually been the most stable that I can remember. As long as I’m doing everything else to take care of myself, I experience emotions the way (I think) people are supposed to. I still get sad. I still get angry. I still even have hypomanic and depressive swings. The volume is just turned down to a level that is livable.
- Being independent (emotionally and financially) – This will be my first bullet on this list that I aimed for but did not completely succeed in. When I broke off my last long-term relationship in mid-2014, I wanted to experience what I thought of as true independence. I’d either lived with my parents or then boyfriend for the entirety of my recovery. I wanted to know, before committing my life to anyone, that I could survive emotionally and financially with or without them. My ex and I remained in steady (although often problematic) communication and admittedly, I spent the majority of the year continuing to depend on him in times of high stress or emotion, positive or negative. We’ve both been moving away from this dynamic in our own ways and I feel, in the final days of December, as if I’ve finally reached a (mostly) comfortable level of emotional independence that I’d like to continue expanding in the coming year.
As far as the financial end, I got my first real-life, big-girl adult job at the tail end of 2014. It never ceases to amaze me that I manage to pay for a nice loft apartment with a decent rent, all my utilities and medical expenses, all my credit card bills on time- hell, I even have a 401k. While I do all this, I wouldn’t say I’m completely financially responsible. I have had quite a few streaks of emotional spending and tend to buy more things than I can use.
- Tinder– When you’re sober and living in a college town that boasts a 50% student population, viable options for meeting romantic partners post-grad is more than a little difficult. Honestly, Tinder has a bad rap; I’ve met some very kind, interesting guys through that app and honestly had a far better experience than I did with OKCupid (which yielded a few crazies, which I do not say lightly.)
If you use it as a hook-up app, then that’s what you’ll get. But in my instance, I went on dates with a lot of genuinely nice guys and had a pretty good time getting to know them. It was also a relief to be able to openly identify myself as a sober person before even exchanging hello’s with a fella; it’s already awkward enough figuring out how to disclose all my baggage.
The only downside about this app and any method of online dating in general is the chemistry factor. This is ultimately why Tinder didn’t work out for me; there wasn’t that same spark for me. I found people attractive, I enjoyed their company, but there wasn’t that feeling I had the first time I saw my last partner: oh. Okay. There you are. Like I’d been waiting for something I didn’t know I wanted or needed and there it was. That also happened when I was least expecting it. As someone who navigates life with far too much grip on the reigns, there’s something to be said for finding something I wasn’t consciously seeking.
- Traveling internationally for the first time while alone and female– One of my motivators to travel internationally this year was that I had never left the country. The second was when a close friend said, “Oh, you’re not actually going to do that.” And the third was every time someone looked at me wide-eyed upon hearing I’d go alone.
Now, let’s be realistic. Navigating D.C. alone at night filled me with far more fear than one second wandering around Reykjavik by myself. Everyone I came into contact with spoke English, all my activities outside the city were group tours, and I stayed in a nice hotel. This was no Hostel scenario. Still, the experience has certainly eased my fears about traveling as a woman overseas without a companion.
Not only that but Iceland was phenomenal. I hope to return one day, especially since I didn’t see the Northern Lights, but it’s safe to say that the glacier hike was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
I booked my entire trip (minus D.C. hotels) through IcelandAir; it cost about a thousand dollars for four nights and three days in a nice hotel and two included group tours. I’d recommend this booking method especially for novice travelers but take as much time as you can, at least a week if possible.
- So many diets– I have tried an IIFYM diet (If It Fits Your Macros/flexible dieting), a vegan diet, a fruititarian diet, a high-protein low-carb diet, a clean eating diet- all the while convincing myself that none were real diets and therefore, I was doing the opposite of feeding into my eating disorder. Uh, okay. Each came with the same results: I became obsessive, I unnecessarily and rapidly lost weight, I ended each with a ceremonious two week near-binge that left me feeling a fat/sodium/sugar hangover and looking for my next “weight maintenance” method. If you can’t tell, none of these attempts were successful.
- Training for a half-marathon– I am not “a runner” but then again, is anyone? The more people I talk to, the more I become convinced that being naturally sleek and gazelle-like on the track isn’t all that common. In fact, it seems like running is just like anything else one would want to master and it requires- wait for it- time and effort. Gasp! The secrets of the universe have been revealed. When I began training in July, I couldn’t run more than a quarter of a mile at best without stopping, out of breath and on the verge of early death. Initially, I started with walking four times a week. I cut that down to three times a week when I could string together a few miles of jogging. Now that I’ve integrated strength training back into my exercise regime, I aim to run twice a week: sprint intervals once a week and distance (anywhere from five to nine miles) on Sundays. Some runs are better than others and some runs feel more like struggle than success. But I’m still going.
- Bullet journal – If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s basically just a completely simplified productivity method. If you’re already a list maker, you’ve basically got it. What’s even better is that it’s completely customizable, flexible, and forgiving. I bought a Field Notes notebook, use one page per day, divide my daily to-do’s into single tasks, and mark each accordingly with a key of basic symbols. When I do keep up with it, my productivity level is noticeably higher simply because writing things down is the only way I can remember to do anything. I plan on eventually doing a full post on my bullet journal (there’s actually a half-started one in my drafts folder) but first, I’d like to make sure I’m staying more consistent with it. Still, I highly recommend looking into this, especially if you also find yourself constantly jotting things down.
- Pole dancing – If you missed my 30 days of Pole post in July, I’d say give it a look-see, simply because you get to see a video of me makin’ a fool on myself on a pole. My at-home practice stayed regular for a month or two and I even bought a Groupon for classes at a pole studio forty-five minutes away. But busy season at my work hit in September and I only had so much spare time. I chose half-marathon training over pole and so haven’t practiced in two months. Well, I also had to take down my pole when the property manager came in to fix the heat and I might have been too lazy to put it back up. Whoops! If you have a chance to attend a pole class (many studios have a free first class) you definitely should. It’s far more physically challenging than one would think and will help you gain a crazy strong core and upper body. Plus it’s fun and will momentarily horrify your more puritanical acquaintances- bonus!
- Capsule wardrobe – A capsule wardrobe is made up of a minimal amount of classic, quality pieces that change each season (every three months.) The popular number used is 37 items, although the number is really up to you; it can just be helpful to have a set number as a limit for yourself. This is also something I plan on writing a full post about… once I actually fully commit to it, that is. I began with good intentions: cleaning out my closet, giving away or selling heaps of clothing, buying more quality clothes that fit my personal style. The only thing is, I found out that I’d incorrectly read my current sense of style.Rather than the structured, androgynous array of black and white that I pictured myself in, I find that I’ve gravitated more towards the comfort of rustic prep: leather riding boots, plaids, fleece and flannels, knits with interesting patterns, down outerwear, clean lines, more feminine silhouettes, classic but relaxed. So while I realized that, I also used it as an excuse to lapse back into unrestrained spending, fast fashion, and emotional shopping, which has landed me right back at square one. The good news is that I did begin cleaning out my closet again a few days ago in anticipation of the new year and (honestly) making this post.
Here are some things I’d like to try to in 2016. Not exactly resolutions, per se, but more general mantras and a few specifically planned events:
- Not settling for safety – Right now, I have a very safe life. This definitely isn’t a bad thing but staying at a certain job, in a certain town, in a certain living situation simply of a habit of comfort and fear is. As someone who has obviously partaken in some intense risk-taking behavior, constructing a safe environment and life circumstances was needed and a sign of progress. Now I’m ready to challenge that safe life in order for a chance to grow beyond my present. Even if that means leaving behind some situations that I know I love and can depend on.
- Trusting my talent – The above point feeds into this one. I have an opportunity to pursue a professional dream that I’ve been discussing with my stepmom for the past three years. This will mean leaving behind a safe and dependable job with coworkers I absolutely adore and some great benefits. It will mean taking a leap and trusting in my talents and passion. There’s always been a wide gap between my future professional goals and my present employment. Closing that is a source of minor anxiety but deep down, I know I’ve got this.
- Balance of emotional independence and asking for help – If you read above, my idea of emotional independence was a bit skewed. I believed that in order to be truly independent, I needed to stand completely on my own without any support or aid. Over the past year, I’ve realized that true strength involves a certain amount of vulnerability. There will come times when I need help from someone else and I need to be able to trust that I can open myself up without someone screwing me over or leaving. That last bit is a constant fear I’ve had and it has eroded several important relationships in my life. I’m ready to work on finding that balance between self-reliance and trust this year.
- Loving wholly and authentically – There are few things I hate more than other generations overgeneralizing and speculating on the habits of millennials. So while this observation may not apply to everyone in my age group, I have found it to be a worrisome trend in my dating experience: backburner culture. How many times have a cluster of dudes converged at once in my text inbox after I called it quits a month ago? I swear y’all have an email listerv to figure out just when I’m ready to totally bail on dating and then swarm. What other message is somebody trying to send when they like an Instagram selfie from 7 weeks ago?
I will be the first to admit that in the past year, I have participated in this 100%. Apps like Tinder make it so easy, especially when you’re in the same mindset as I was. I found people to be attractive and fun but nothing electrifying struck me, no one was captivating enough to commit. Let me say that the guys I went on dates with were not at fault for this- y’all are seriously great- but my current headspace is. When your last relationship involved someone who was your best friend, your closest confidant, your first love, your first real relationship- well, that’s a tough act for anyone to follow.
Presently, I’m more concerned with my personal and professional growth; I think that’s where I’ve unconsciously been throughout my string of casual dating in 2015. So while I’m not calling it quits on romance, I’m not going to worry about actively seeking out a partner or forcing certain circumstances to work. When the right person and circumstances happen, I’ll be ready to give myself completely. Until then, I’m not going to waste my time or anyone else’s.
- Traveling with other people – After going overseas last year, I wanted to explore more of the United States, particularly some of the bigger national parks out west. It just so happens that a group of people from my hometown are going to Yellowstone for a 5k and half-marathon event in the summer of 2016. This is a perfect opportunity to not only save money and see an amazing place, but relinquish some of my control and go with the flow of others. Since everything is in the preliminary stages of planning, I’m excited to see how this one plays out!
- Intuitive eating – After all my disastrous diets of 2015, I began exploring the idea of trusting my body to dictate my intake and tastes in early December. It’s been touch and go, to be honest, with a near-binge happening just a few days ago. That almost scared me back into the old diet mentality but after a lengthy grocery trip pacing the aisles anxiously, I’m back on the wagon. I think this will be easier after all my traveling and holiday celebrations will slow down but we’ll see.
- Running a 15K and half-marathon – I’ve been training (and will continue to do so) but this year, there are two races registered for and ready to run. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be doing a 15k in Asheville on my 27th birthday and a half-marathon in Yellowstone early June. I’m getting jazzed up just writing that out!
- Bullet journal + planner – As I said above, my bullet journal use has been off and on in the past few months. I want to make it a daily habit, as well as integrating my Rifle Paper Co. planner to be more of a solid long-term resource for keeping track of dates and events.
- More types of exercise – In my next job, I’ll have a ton of opportunities to participate in all sorts of exercise: spinning classes, yoga, TRX, kettlebell training, running, and more. Right now, I aim for hitting the gym, track, or trails twice a week. I’d like to safely return to at least five to six separate workouts a week. While I’m typically averse to group exercise because it pains me to be a beginner in front of anyone, it’s time to shut up that inner voice of perfectionism and make the most of my time, resources, and current physical abilities.
- Minimalism – While I’ve already begun attempting my capsule wardrobe 2.0, I want to take a more minimalistic approach to all aspects of my life. Do I really need another lipstick even if it is on sale and I’m feeling like a shopping trip to destress? Do I really want to go shopping when I travel to a new city? Will an experience really be that much more special if I buy a certain item of clothing to wear that day? Does my kitchen really need that culinary gadget that’s been gathering dust for the past year? It’s time to cut the tie between my heart and my wallet, as well as saving for the possibility of school in the next few years.
To be perfectly honest, this post turned out far longer than planned and I am now running incredibly late for my New Year’s Eve travel plans. Are you going anywhere awesome or do you have a certain ritual to ring in the new year? What intentions, hopes, and goals are you setting for 2016? Let me know in the comments below! Whether you’re in Times Square or in our pajamas on your couch, I’m wishing you the best beginning possible. You don’t need a new year to change your life but it still feels good to have a clean break from any baggage of 2015. Be safe while celebrating and I’ll see you guys next year!
Be kind. Live authentically. Practice gratitude. Hustle daily. Work hard. Stay humble.
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