The end of the year is drawing near, things are slow at work, the streets are busy with bustling deal-seeking shoppers and it’s a time for reflection. Not only is the year ending, but a decade is ending, and new one is upon us.
So, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, as one is wont to do at this time of year. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you are familiar with the kind of year I’ve had. To sum up, in the most succinct way I can muster, 2019 has been…challenging.
It’s quite remarkable to think about where I started the year, and where I’m ending it. And by where, I mean where I am in terms of my health and where I am along my journey with depression.
I’ll be honest – last Christmas was hard. To put it mildly, I was a mess. My poor family had no way of preparing for how fragile I was. I knew I was being watched, and fussed over and worried about, and I felt bad that I was setting such a somber tone for what was usually a pretty raucous time. But I was and still am eternally grateful for their care and kindness. I don’t know that I’d felt more cared for by my family than last Christmas.
The rest of the winter was full of sweeping ebbs and flows, hard work, lots of therapy, many doctor visits and medication adjustments, and many, many big conversations with myself. I was practically a recluse, allowing the unrelenting winter to keep me locked away safely in my apartment, hiding from the world and hiding from my pain and the reality of my waning health.
But, as the snow melted away, and Spring began to peak through the bare branches outside my windows, things started to shift. Or maybe it was that I realized that things had shifted. My medical leave from work was coming to an end, and whether I was ready or not (I was not), I was going back to work. Back to work, where I had been for 11 years, but also where, during the time I was off, had changed dramatically. I didn’t know what to expect – I had new leaders, a new, but undefined role, I was part of a new global organization, a new team with only a couple of people that I knew, and physically was in a new desk on a different floor.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a person who honestly, earnestly embraces change! But, given everything that I had been through, walking back into the “known unknown” was utterly overwhelming.
I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say the adjustment to going back to work was difficult. It was nothing like I expected; it was challenging, frustrating, draining, confusing, and a little frightening, to be honest.
It took much longer for me to acclimate back into the workplace than I had anticipated. The good news is, I was surrounded by love and the most supportive leaders and colleagues a girl could be lucky to have. Not to mention, I continued to get the most generous and heartfelt support from my friends and family and therapist. I cannot tell you how many tearful conversations I had with colleagues and friends over those months.
But, by mid-summer, I had hit a stride. I had carved out a new role within my new team which afforded me the opportunity to finally flex my talents and feel motivated to produce the best work I could. I was writing every day, I was getting positive feedback in a way that I had never experienced at work before, and things felt like they were finally falling into place.
Well, it turns out I was wrong. Well, not wrong, but perhaps a bit too hopeful and naïve, maybe? I suffered some periods of significant backsliding into that all too familiar darkness. And it started effecting my work, my physical health, and most devastatingly, my sense of self-worth. All I wanted was to be of value to my workplace, to my team. I didn’t feel like I was. I kind of had a bit of an existential crisis, to be honest.
What was strange to me, was that while this backsliding was going on in late-August, early fall, at the same time, I had met an extraordinary man who was lighting my life on fire. In the good way. It’s so surprising how those two realities can be true at the same time, but they were. They are.
Now, at the year’s end, as I look back on the last 12 months, I feel like there are fathoms between who I was then and who I am now. I’m healthy, guys. I can say, for the first time in a very long time, I feel really good. All the physical symptoms of my depression and hypothyroidism are gone; I’m not in pain, I’m more agile, more flexible, I have improved digestion, fewer headaches and migraines, and am less tired. I’ve lost weight, I have colour back in my face, and the thing people comment on the most emphatically, is that I have life and light in my eyes again. This is the best (and my favourite) compliment anyone can pay me. I feel alive for the first time in years, and I’m so thrilled that it’s evident to others.
My mental health is good right now. I feel like myself, but an even better self. I feel hopeful and optimistic. I enjoy the things that depression took away from me – music, reading, socializing, writing. I’m fun to be around again! I’m engaged and present and sometimes even a little funny (I think).
And the thing I’m most proud of, the thing I remind myself of when I have those moments of doubt, those dark times when I start to feel myself slip into the shadows, is that, perhaps for the first time in my life, I truly know my worth. I feel worthy of the love I have in my life, I feel worthy of the praise I get for my writing and my work, and worthy of the accolades people give me for all the hard work I’ve done to improve my mental heath. But it’s the praise I receive for sharing my story which is the most satisfying.
I finally feel worthy of my family’s and my friends’ love and support, and I feel worthy of a healthy, fulfilling relationship with my beau. He’s a wonderful man, guys. He has quickly become one of my very favourite people. I’m happy, I feel adored and respected and cared for by him. And I feel like he truly sees and accepts me for who I am, scars and all. And the best part, the thing that’s new for me and is the most exciting, is that I feel worthy of his attention. I’m a catch! And it’s the first time in my adult life (or maybe even ever) that I truly believe that.
It’s been a year.
So many things have changed, and so many things have gotten better. But I know that nothing is guaranteed, and my depression, hypothyroidism and general mental health is something that I will have to manage for the rest of my life. As one of my leaders at work told me, it’s impressive that I can even get out of bed everyday and make it to work, let alone add value with the work I produce. And I can attest: there have been many, many days since I’ve been back to work, when I didn’t make it out of bed. This will be a lifelong fight.
But I feel like I’ve done the work; I’ve faced my demons, I’ve opened myself up to the right people, and I’ve stared my depression down and gone to battle.
I know it’s a long war, but I’ve won this battle, and that’s enough to give me the momentum to shape this coming year, and this next decade, into my best yet.