The last day of 2018 is almost here and once again I’m filled with reflections on the year that was.

  • Did I achieve anything?
  • Have I progressed?
  • What have I learned?
  • Highlights & lowlights?
  • Was it worth it?
This time two years ago my resolutions looked inwards.
  • I hope to develop faith in myself
  • I hope to learn acceptance – of what is and what has been
  • I hope to have the strength to endure my burdens
  • I hope to embrace the love that I am blessed with
  • I hope to feel a sense of peace
  • I hope to find the courage to face my fears
  • I hope to be graced with the wisdom to live my life fully

Those 2017 resolutions have taken shape. I have faith and acceptance of circumstances while working on acceptance of myself. Mentally I’m considerably stronger than I’ve been for years, and not a day passes without gratitude for the people in my world. I’ve had moments – sometimes profound and enduring moments – of great peace. I’ve dug deep and faced fears and continue to strive for wisdom. So all in all, I think I did good with my list.

I resolved to have no resolutions 12 months ago, laying out goals for 2018 instead:

  • I’m enrolled in a masterclass where at the end of the year I will have completed a draft for my first book.
  • I have every intention of continuing to regularly write in this blog – but I would like to take the focus away from mental health.
  • I would like to start writing short stories for magazines and online publications.
  • I’m spending the next three months finalising the details of a business for writing people’s biographies.
  • I also keep being asked to assist people (small businesses) with their websites (proofreading and copy writing etc). Extra cash comes in handy and proofreading is something I am very, very good at 🙂

I can state unequivocally, I really tried. In 2018 I was very writing focused – I’ve made a lot of progress with my memoir, blogged regularly, submitted articles for publication, shelved the biography idea, and done no paid work whatsoever. I did however, spend seven weeks in a psych hospital, three months in Europe, and spent a lot of money despite desperate finances.

The past two years have shown that no matter the depths I sink to, I claw my way out. And as far as mental health recovery goes, I’m a long way along the path now.

I can almost taste freedom. Almost…

One of my readers recently asked what’s working for me and how change came about. Okay. Let’s give it some consideration.

  1. If I fall off my well-worn, wobbly wagon, my go-to tool is eating on schedule. After the clinic I set six alarms a day on my phone. Now I have just three – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I snack in between if I feel like it. I’m tempted by unrelenting media and “success stories” of intermittent fasting fads, but wary of anything related to “diet”. Diets are temporary, and so are the results. But I read up on the 16:8 protocol and modified it to 14:10 – ie. a 14 hour stretch between dinner and breakfast. As night time binging has been a major stumbling block perhaps this will help. Intermittent fasting is considered “not suitable” for anyone with an eating disorder, so I talked it over with my husband and he’ll be the voice of reason when I can’t figure out what’s going on in my head.
  2. When my mood lowers I connect with friends. It’s crucial. When the ugly head of depression is rearing, the natural inclination is to withdraw and isolate. That just feeds the devil. If I let the people in my world know I’m struggling, they’ll hold my head above water until I can do it myself. I can’t always express my feelings – I don’t understand them myself – but by meeting for coffee or chatting on messenger, I’ve reached out and broken the cycle of isolation. Talking allows perspective and offers reminders that “this too shall pass”. Isolation is the enemy – connection is the cure. I can’t stop or predict depressive episodes, but I can acknowledge and reach out.
  3. Anxiety remains an unsolved issue. It strikes at unexpected moments – usually from suppressed and numbed emotions. I know what to do, but more often than not, find myself resorting to maladaptive behaviours – I have a long list of transference. Currently my feet are bearing the brunt of the attacks. The most useful tools I know are focused breathing and grounding. And the best app I’ve found is called What’s Up? It’s not pretty, but it’s simple and practical. Focused breathing is just what it sounds like – focus on your breathing, count the number of seconds in, hold and breathe out. Aim to slow breaths down. Focus on the feeling of the breath – warmth, chest movement etc. Grounding exercises force you back into the here and now. The simplest one I fall back on is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Five things I see. Four things I hear. Three things I feel. Two things I smell. Take one really deep breath. Repeat. But you can make up grounding exercises – go through the alphabet and name something you can see with each letter. Go through lists of fives – five spanish speaking countries, five yellow flowers, five dog breeds. Anything you can think of. And anything to distract from the chaos and catastrophe in your head.

That pretty much sums up my three major issues – depression, anxiety and eating disorder. They feed off each other – for better or worse. There are a gazillion mental health tools – we each find what works for us. As for seeing the change in myself? Yes I can. And the reason I know there’s change, is I can now picture a future. I can see myself doing things, being places, contributing, supporting, living. The change came about by never giving in. Following a thousand wrong paths until the right one hit me in the head. By finding faith, grasping hope, and accepting the love of friendship.

If you haven’t yet liked my author page on facebook, please do so!

And share with friends. I’m primarily recycling old posts at the moment, but as the year progresses, so will the page. Stay safe as the year comes to an end. Please share your own recovery tools – you never know how your experience might benefit someone else. Much love and thanks to all for your support and understanding.