At the start of 2015 I was really not in a good place. I read back and I can see the depression there… at the time I didn’t feel depressed, just frustrated and overwhelmed… which is more of less the same thing I guess.
This time last year I was hoping for change and progress. And this year I made that change happen and I made that progress.
And it’s been really fucking hard work. Really hard and really difficult, but I was so desperately miserable where I was, and I was lucky enough to have professionals who could help me on my way.
This year I got treatment for PTSD; and I finally (like in November) got to see a knee specialist who finally gave me a diagnosis on my knee. These were two things that I felt were really holding me back. The problems with my knee kept a huge question mark over my immediate future, but with the diagnosis of fucked ligaments but not so fucked they need surgery, I can make a plan to deal with it. And I can just make plans in general. There’s no longer this ever shifting 6week-6month period where I’d have to deal with recovery.
This year I had to move, which was incredibly stressful, but I also got good insight into who of my local friends are reliable and can be called upon in an emergency. I’ve moved somewhere I don’t love, but it’s cheap for the area and I can walk to work, which means that I have a plan to clear my debts.
There is a cloud that has been lifted and I can see far enough ahead to want to have the ability to save money, which means I need to clear debt first. It goes against all my instincts, because I want a security pot. But all the economics stuff I’ve read points to clearing off debt first – and to consider the interest saved by repaying as interest earned instead. And whilst I still squint at it, I kind of get it. And having put my money into a spread sheet and crunched the numbers, it’s a thing I can get on top of. It’ll probably take 2 years, give or take, but it’s under control and that feels much better. Because money has been, and probably always will be an enormous stressor for me.
And what this year has really taught me the hard way, is that I need to be less stressed. My heart was making me seriously scared to the point where I saw the doctor for it and had a lot of tests run because my blood pressure was scary high in the surgery. It turns out that over-all it’s just within limits, but something had to change. And I made that choice to change it. And it’s a choice I have to make regularly. I don’t drink caffeine. I already didn’t eat a lot of salt, but I’ve now reduced it further. I go to the gym now, I go and I do cardio. I sit on a bike with a heart rate monitor and I bang it out for at least half an hour, and 95% of the time I feel much-much better for it. I still get stressed though, but at least now when I feel my heart tripping out and like it’s trying to punch its way out of my throat I know it’s a stress reaction and I can take steps to lower my stress levels.
My anxiety and PTSD symptoms are much better. They are still a work in progress, but things don’t feel insurmountable. Mostly now it’s finding triggers that I didn’t realise I was avoiding until I have a massive reaction to them. Having a melt-down in work as a result of a flippant comment someone made was a fun one, as was breaking down in tears in a coffee shop reading a book that’s introduction was a graphic description of a car accident. (Quick aside about trigger warnings; if I had been expecting a thing about cars or car accidents in this book, I could have controlled my reaction to it. Instead I had an anxiety response because once I’d started reading it I had an idea of where it was going to go, and then it did. Not fun. Not pleasurable. Ruined all enjoyment. Please reconsider your position on trigger warnings if you’re against them.) But these moments catch me unawares because in day-to-day life I am much better. I am less hyper-vigilant, I am more relaxed.
This year I’ve made some really positive steps towards liking myself and treating myself with respect. And demanding that respect of others. It has meant there has been some adjustment as people got used to me as I am now. I have also been making efforts to be a better friend to the friends I already have, and I have been making efforts to make more friends. I feel like my social circle is too small, and being one of the few single folks I often feel like I’m over burdening my friends who have their own stuff, and the stuff of their partners as well. Making friends as an adult is hard though. And I am not great about trust and being open with people… I am trying. But being emotionally vulnerable makes me incredibly scared because I’ve had a lot of very shitty friends, and known some very shitty people. And look, I just don’t find painful things about my life funny. I can’t laugh at myself, because enough people laughed at me growing up, that you know. I just want to make friends with cool and chilled people who are non-judgemental and kind. So I am trying. I’ve reached out to someone at work who I thought was cool, and we’ve hung out a little.
I'm also trying to make connections with my cousins. I don't have a good relationship with my immediate family, and there is a lot of distance and in fighting at my parents level... but I don't see why that should affect 'the kids' (I say, we're all in our 30's and older). So I'm reaching out where I can and making plans to visit people, and just trying to build on something that has been lacking for over 30 years.
Next year I am going to make a commitment to go to more Meet Up events. I had some art classes through my work and that really rekindled my love for creative work, and whilst I can’t afford formal classes, I can afford a tenner to go out once a month for a drink-and-draw type thing where I can meet other people who like to draw, and at least we’ll have that in common. And if there’s no one I feel like I can talk to, I’ll at least have done some drawing. There’s also an art history group that I’m going to attend. If I could turn back time I would have done art history at college, but I can’t, so instead it’s a thing I can pick up now.
I also want find a choir I feel comfortable with. I attended a natural voice choir earlier in the year and was enjoying it right up until the moment the lady sat next to me ‘kindly’ pointed out that I was singing the wrong part… which just made me anxious and sad for the rest of the night as I tried super hard to sing the right bit. Which is a shame, because it was queer choir and I want to meet girls in an environment where I’m not trying to work out ‘friendly or gay’. I should probably just go back to this one, but I am lacking in the courage at the moment.
Another big step for 2016 is that I am starting to attend a class at the gym once a week to hit all the strength building needs. I feel like I’ve spent a year getting my base level fitness up and now I’m ready to step it up. I have an idea that I’d like to go on a cycling holiday later in the summer this year, and I’d like to start some short hikes this summer to get me used to it before I attempt anything in another country.
And related to this, I want to keep up with my language learning and I need to make it part of my daily routine. Not only will it make visiting friends easier, but it creates more opportunities for me.
Nearer to New Years I’ll hone this down properly to an actual to-do list for 2016, but Live Journal is getting my long form ramble about this all. Because this has also been the longest piece of writing that I’ve done in… months.
I have a couple of stories I want to write… or rather, worlds I want to play in. I want to get back into reading my friends writing too. I miss it, I really miss it. And I feel like losing this has been like losing part of me. But at the same time I have felt so incredibly busy, which I know is bullshit because I’m just playing computer games instead a lot of the time.
Well playing computer games and going to bed at a more reasonable hour, because funnily enough not getting enough sleep adds dramatically to my stress levels. And self-care is a kill-joy. Like, I do miss that slightly drunk irresponsible buzz you get when you’re sleep deprived. But I don’t miss the headaches and the irritability and the dizziness.
But yeah, I want to commit to writing some things this year. I would like to get past this… whatever it is… that is sat in the way.