It’s a New Year, and most of us have made a habit of making New Year’s resolutions; to lose weight, to make more money, to find love, to quit smoking, and the list goes on. We believe that we can pick something and make a change. Baby steps. And most of us fail miserably. Why?
I’m no different. In July of 2014, I made the usual resolutions to improve myself. I knew I was unhealthy, depressed, and on the verge of just giving up. I am a girl who does NOTHING in moderation. Work, play, art, relaxation… and giving up.
The first half of the year I chugged along, getting through each day one at a time. Barely. I felt like life was dragging me along, and I had no control.
In July, I decided to FINALLY to go to the eye doctor (since I’d been wearing the same glasses for 10 years) and get myself contacts for the first time ever. My eye doctor discovered that I had signs of intracranial hypertension. (Increased pressure on my brain), which can lead to blindness, stroke, and other health issues. WHAT?!?!
In addition to this new information, I’d been trying to ignore the fact that for over a year, I hadn’t been able breathe, had a chronic cough, frequent chest pains, and chronic severe pain and depressionI finally broke down and went to see my doctor after years of ‘sucking it up’ because ‘I was fat, and it was to be expected’.
A few blood tests and an MRI later I had answers. Rather than the lung cancer, brain tumor, or severe heart disease that I expected, we found that I was severely anemic which was causing insufficient oxygenation, and therefore difficulty breathing, chest pain and fatigue. I was borderline diabetic, but none of my symptoms were related to that. The intracranial hypertension was idiopathic (no known reason). The only treatments are 1) weight loss, 2 )spinal taps to reduce pressure and 3) diuretics to decrease fluid. Medication was started immediately. (No one is sticking a needle into my spine… yet.)
And I resolved to lose weight. And I did. I lost 60 lbs. In six months. Then I stalled out.
Now there were a lot of changes for me in 2015. I met someone that made me happier than I think I’d ever been. I was already beginning to feel better with 60 lbs gone. I had a hysterectomy in March, and a few months later I was no longer anemic, nor was I borderline diabetic. As my energy level increased, so did my level of activity. My patient load nearly doubled at work, and I took on more photography sessions and events.
And then I broke. That great guy chose someone else. My weight loss stalled. Lots of speedbumps at work and technical issues in my photography business, and before I knew it I was buried in work both at work and at home. I worked 8-5 or more at work, and then came home and worked on photography until 3 or 4 am. I was back to being fatigued, eating opportunistically in drive-thrus, pizza delivery, and convenience stores.
The only thing that kept me going was the fear of not being liked. I know. Pathetic. But I’d promised all these pictures to people, and I hated the thought of letting them down. It took one post on facebook by someone who felt they needed to publicly berate and humiliate me for having to wait for her pictures to tip the scale and send me plummeting.
My confidence collapsed, my passion for photography dwindled, my will to live was extinguished. Suicidal thoughts were daily. I resented my wonderful, beautiful teens for existing because it meant that I couldn’t be selfish and check out. I couldn’t end it because it would forever affect them. I felt trapped in a life where I was unloved, unappreciated, unwanted, and unnoticed.
Of course, most of us know that reality is nothing but our own perception and interpretation of our experiences and surroundings, and your reality is not MY reality. Nor is mine, yours. In the matter of days, the friendly smiles and interactions I’d enjoyed with coworkers, athletes, coaches, parents, and friends turned from the relaxed, joyful, and satisfying exchanges to what felt like judgemental, impatient, and painfully short interactions.
And then I withdrew. I avoided eye contact, conversation, and any form of interaction. When I did attempt social interaction it felt forced and insincere, because I just didn’t feel like I had anything to offer anyone and would influence negatively anyone I came in contact with.
I cried daily. Not just drippy tears, but ugly faced sobbing that would be so humiliating if anyone ever saw you. I cried from the depths of my soul, and while I experienced mild temporary relief from these outburst, the physical pain became stronger every day. It became unbareable. At times I felt as if I just breathed too deep I would physically shatter into a million pieces. Yes, even the physical, autonomic act of breathing was like being sliced with razorblades.
For the first time in a decade, Christmas turned out to be a blessing for me (where it usually was a soul numbing reminder that I was alone in the world.) This year it because an opportunity to focus on others rather than on how lonely I am. And now, as I enter a new year, I am climbing out of the hole I’d slid into months ago.
So now that I am attempting to climb out of this hole I’ve dug for myself, I’m looking into 2016 to chart a course to a better life. Weight loss? Sure. Love? I’m open. But the changes I need to make are not so superficial, nor are they goals for just this year. What I want is to build a life that I have more control of while being flexible enough to handle the things I am not in control of. To love myself enough not to care if others do, while loving them inspite of how they show their love, or lack of, towards me. To foster healthy relationships while gently separating myself from those that affect me negatively. To focus on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And to remind myself that it is okay to say no, and limit the work that I accept (in photography… my day job boss probably would be less understanding, and that’s the job that pays the bills.)
May you all discover what makes your life worth living, nurture those things, and minimize the things that wrestle away your will to go on. Share your passion, release your pain before you cause pain to others, and embrace the beauty and love you experience every day. Don’t forget to breathe, put down social media and enjoy human to human connections more, and make time to build new relationships. Be kind. Don’t make assumptions. Always do you best, and don’t ever think your best isn’t good enough. And learn not to take things personally. Be gracious. Be honest. And above all, be true to yourself. Be fearless, and do the things that you are afraid of. Move forward, not backward. Love yourself.