Every year in Australia, as the weather gets warmer and Christmas peeks from around the decorated corner I think to myself, “Wow, what a year?!”
This sentiment is generally echoed throughout the social media I follow, with people posting memes about the new year and new prospects, new starts, and new beginnings. These memes show young tanned people posing in front of a sunset, or high contrast forests with leaves scattering the ground and a simple elegant font claiming 2016 to be “The Year of Change,” or “The Year of Me.” I see these memes which I used to put stock in, and now with all my jaded negativity I grimace at the screen and keep scrolling.
However, with the above in mind, I do have faith in the new year coming and arriving. A new year always seems like a fresh start no matter what the circumstances are; if I’ve had a good year or a bad year or something in between, when the first of January rolls around, I can’t help but feel good about the unspoiled days ahead of me. In Australia the new year is a huge marker; we move up in grades in high school, we graduate.
Once you finish high school or university the time ahead can become scattered and less defined, without the defining grades or levels to guide you. It gives you a bit more freedom, but it can make the years less characterised–and sometimes, more freedom is intimidating! To battle this, I have decided to study for the rest of my life. Some may call this a wise decision and others may say it’s a waste of time.
Years may not mean the same to you as they used to, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make goals or resolutions and such. I don’t make resolutions anymore as I learnt that I don’t keep them, no matter how hard I try. BUT, I do make certain plans taken from what I have learnt from the year before.
So I wanted to share with you some things I have learnt this year:
- Managing mental health when you are more of a functioning human being is difficult, and just because you are up and about doesn’t mean you’re completely “better”. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, I learnt this year that black and white thinking is something I do in ALL parts of my life. From this I have learnt that I cannot save people, and I need time for my own mental health. I cannot rely on other people to know when I am struggling and so I need to disengage and solidify my boundaries. Also, a neutral face and tone does not always mean anger, which is a common thought for people with highly sensitive emotions; if you think someone is angry at you, communication is the key.
- Sometimes we have to be realistic, we have to take the practicalities of our goals into account and focus on what is achievable and what is not. I am a dreamer like a lot of other people out there, and I planned to get back into the workforce this year and to participate in social events as much as possible, and when I didn’t achieve this, I got depressed and was incredibly down on myself. I’m not saying don’t make big plans, but instead to take into account what will happen if you don’t fulfill the plans completely, and perhaps at least try to make steps towards that goal which will help you on the way. For example, I’m not back in the workforce 100%, but I am working and that helps a lot.
- Listen to your body. This year I did not do this as much as I could have, and I ended up getting colds and not eating well. I put too much stock in “diets” that I thought would help me look better which would hopefully make me feel better… and again, when they failed I felt worse and ate too much food. Don’t believe everything you read and make your own choices in regards to your body, eat in moderation and exercise in moderation and if your body is telling you something, then please listen to it.
- Finally, we live in a changing world, with the internet giving us 24/7 access to both news and people and conspiracy theories and support groups and internet doctors and EVERYTHING in between. This world is COMPLETELY different from the one before we were born, so we are the first generation to grow up with it and are still learning its effects. World news can be brought right to our door and the effect of social injustices is pushed in our faces, lit up from multiple sources; we are now navigating a different world and it’s important to remember self-care. With the world in crisis, it’s easy to be brought down by the reality of massive communities displaced, suffering, and being killed. Injustices can be EVERYWHERE in the form of everything from racism to sexism to classism, so we’re often battling with people we don’t know, just because they comment on things we read.
This coming year I plan to take a step back and ground myself in my immediate vicinity, with those I love and care about, with my community. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by things I can’t control, I will focus on the things I can control and the things I can do to make my life better.
I want to be happy and healthy and I want to help people, so I will be focusing on looking after myself SO that I can help people, because if I’m not well, then I certainly can’t help those around me. I hope to help educate people and be an advocate for mental illness and I hope to be stable and healthy with a roof over my head, food on the table, and water to drink. In looking towards 2016, do what you want to do– if resolutions work for you, then go for it! If they don’t, then don’t beat yourself up about it, do what you can do and do what you want to do, but most importantly make your life what you want it to be and look after those around you when you can.[share]