2021, a year of change

Life, I am sure, is like a set of weight scales. A constant battle for the status quo, and what that means to a person. As you know, 2020 brought with it some challenges with a few chapters in my life drawing to a close; whilst this year has felt like a palette cleanser, with lots of changes in my life happening.

I went for a walk this morning, a part of me wanting to clear the path ready for a new year and give me a pause to consider what the previous year had taught me. It has brought in a lot of change. A constant, throughout this year, was taking on the advice I received through therapy. To continue taking time for myself and to communicate more – something I didn’t often do, despite considering myself quite ‘chatty’.

A part of me would love to say that since leaving therapy early last year everything was plain sailing. I would, of course, be lying. There were moments where I did feel completely overwhelmed this year, where my anxiety and depression really did beat me. I would feel lost in a situation or something would be said that would catch me off guard – I would start to catastrophise. My fatal flaw.

The only way I can describe it is this feeling that I am backed against a corner, with no escape, and the world seems to be caving in. I know there is a way out, a way forward – that I can get through this because previous past experiences have taught me that I can, but my anxiety has a way of shouting over that. Leaving me bubbling over with panic.

I try, foolishly, to hide this from everyone around me. It’s this stubborn need to be strong, and not a burden, to the people I care about. It doesn’t always work out that way, sometimes, the weight of the problem is too large to hide; and it would be at this moment, where I should open up and talk about what’s happening. Seek help. I don’t. I push away from others, as a way to protect them from whatever is happening.

Whilst there have been a few stumbles here and there, I have, for the most part, opened up and talked more about what has been eating away at me; which seems strange now I think about it. I always felt that by talking about my feelings and what was happening, it wouldn’t actually solve anything. The problem demanded action every time.

By taking a step back, talking helped that catastrophe in my head shrink. The molehill was just that, a molehill, not a mountain for me to climb every time – and wouldn’t that be exhausting? Climbing a mountain at every turn. I felt I could handle things a lot easier and even when I was faced with something completely overwhelming, I knew I wasn’t alone. I had help, and more importantly, a different perspective, which can make all the difference.

It helped me understand myself better by helping me decipher what was the anxiety talking and what was actually happening. I knew where other people were coming from, and vice versa, so it cleared a lot of confusion too. It even allowed me to get support and help from loved ones, something I didn’t realise I was lacking, but in dire need of.

I didn’t, as my therapist once said, put myself in the passenger seat of my own life. My feelings are just as valid as other people’s. I am not a burden or a nuisance for expressing them. It meant that I could put myself first at times so that I could be in a better place for those I care about. I wasn’t hurting them, and myself in the process, by pulling away as I learned to open up more, cultivate healthier relationships, and set some boundaries.

By doing this, I realised some things had to change. Namely, I learned when to take a step back. Focus on what demanded my attention and what didn’t. Rather than overcommitting myself. It allowed me to take a load off and focus on doing some positive things for myself – which still feels novel.

I wanted to go back to my university days and have adventures again. My phone is littered with memories and stories with friends and family. There are too many to name, but day trips to cinemas, forts, and terrible films, breakfast dates, and sneaky pints in the cove with my family are just what I needed. It was like reconnecting to a part of myself that I hadn’t in a while and I missed it. I feel incredibly lucky to have had each and every single one.

“Tomorrow is not promised, so love and appreciate the people who are in your life.”

~ Unknown

I’d like to think that to show you love and appreciate those in your life is to share those memories and stories. Houses can change, furniture can break and be replaced, but stories are what you carry with you, and maybe it’s the writer in me, but a story has so much magic in it. It has a life of its own, as people seem to light up whenever they have a good tale to tell.

A story can also bring a sense of hope too. I flick through my phone and watch silly videos of my nephews running around. Look at pictures of my mum and me at a show, gig photos with friends, and silly selfies with my boyfriend. It reminds me that today may not have gone well, but tomorrow may bring more moments like that, and call me greedy, but I want more days filled with stories.

By taking some time away, it helped me to regroup and stop overcommitting to everything, and put myself second. It also made me think about how I could avoid relationships that are unhealthy, that leave myself (and/or the other person) unhappy.

There were more open conversations about how I felt as well as listening to others too. So I knew what I needed to do to help others and help myself along the road so that we created a more balanced relationship, and I learned how to set boundaries as well as saying ‘no’ more often.

I like to think of it as building a strong foundation. One that can allow us to support each other in trying times and enjoy those adventures I had missed. On the whole, it has been met with understanding and love, which again, I have been lucky to have. But it did weed out some friendships and professional relationships where I had to walk away because they were unhealthy. I viewed them in a more positive light than perhaps they did me, as I learned I was a ‘distraction’ and only really kept around because I was deemed useful.

The decision to leave them was hard and I do still feel a little sad that it came to that. That said, I know that looking after myself is allowed too. Sometimes that care comes in the form of setting boundaries, leaving some relationships in the past and recognising my own self-worth.

It’s something I had to learn this year. Hit reset, balance the scales and make some positive changes for myself, whatever they may be.

Hopeful for the future.

~ Emily

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