Dear Diary, I Am #Fearless, Mental Illness
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Dear Diary: Goodbye, 2016 – It’s been good…or something?

It seems fitting that my 100th post on this site is a reflection of where I’ve come this year. I think it’s appropriate of me to say that there’s a universal sigh of relief knowing that in just one day, we can put the past 12 months behind us and begin focusing on what we hope will be a much less stressful 2017. Because I don’t think  anyone will deny that 2016 might just have been one of the toughest years this country, and world, has faced thus far.

What I also think is fitting is how I find myself asking how did we get to this point so quickly, and in the same breath, how did it take so long to get here? It’s kind of funny how it works that way.

And, my, what a year it’s been.

This year started off with me doing something I never thought I’d ever do: I dyed my hair purple. It was monumental in not only helping me gain some self confidence, but ushering in the most colorful year of my adult life. I had purple hair, sunset hair, purple to red ombre hair, purple to blue ombre hair; it was just fantastic. I also found out that children tend to like me better when they see my colorful locks flowing through the Wal-Mart cereal aisle than they ever did when I had brown hair.

I also made the biggest move of my entire life, 2200 miles away to Idaho. My husband and I relocated for a job, and I began a new journey in a place I had never even thought I’d end up. Since we moved here we’ve made so many new friends who have become like family to us, gotten to explore so many cool places both in and outside of Idaho, and ultimately found a great quality of life living on the opposite side of the country. Sure, the travel back home is tough, but we always find a way to make it work.

I achieved one of my biggest career goals this year as well. I got to write as a weekly columnist for a local newspaper, and got to write what I love to write about. I told the stories of incredible people within my community, the unsung heroes and those who have selflessly given themselves and their time to charity work. Honestly, it was a possibility that I never thought could happen in a small town, but it did and it’s been such a wonderful way to grow my writing career.

And, better yet, my progress with emetophobia has made leaps and bounds. I conquered one of my biggest fears when my friend’s daughter threw up in her car seat while in route to a festival two hours away. Not only did I manage my anxiety in that moment, but I relaxed for the rest of the day – enjoying the festival with my friend and her daughter. At this point, my emetophobia only comes up when my anxiety is very bad already, and even then it’s at a point where it’s manageable and easily pushed aside. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.

I also got to meet my biggest inspirations, my favorite people of all time, the queens of a cappella. I got to stand in their prescence, listen to their soundcheck and almost pass out from happiness. That’s right, I got to see Pentatonix and my entire life is fulfilled. It has been a quarter-lifelong dream to see them in concert, and it exceeded my expectations. They are amazing live, they are so incredibly sweet and I literally could not have asked for a more spectacular night.

But, it hasn’t been all great.

Beginning in July, as emetophobia fell to the wayside, my biggest issues started to rise to the surface and seeping in to my day to day life. It started with uncovering a repressed memory that sent me into an almost constant state of anxiety.There wasn’t a single day I didn’t feel a medium to high level of anxiety.

I was getting worn down, my optimism was wavering and as I finally started to see an end to that, my biggest (and what we are considering my root issue) popped out of the closet. In October, my panic attacks came back and I felt like I had fallen back to the bottom. It seemed like all progress I had made was completely gone, and now I was back in this spiraling mess of a life.

I spent almost 5 months in a state of almost constant anxiety and panic. That’s the worst it had been in almost 4 years, and it was a serious shock to my system. And, to make matters worse, I didn’t understand what was happening or why it was happening. When you mix in all the anxiety, all the exhaustion and all the confusion, you create the perfect storm for negativity to brood.

It was not my brightest time, but as I have begun to face those fears and worked through them in therapy I made a great realization: These new struggles didn’t even really show up until my emetophobia was gone.

This means that although they were hard, and really tore me down for a few months, my brain knew they weren’t as bad as my emetophobia was. No matter how much they caused me panic, my brain had prioritized emetophobia as a more prominent problem.

And if I could get through emetophobia, I could get through this.

Well, I don’t want to jinx it, but once December started we really started processing through the fears, instead of just setting up the treatment. As we’ve started to do that, I have seen tremendous progress, and each week it’s getting easier and easier to toss away the panic voice in my mind and maintain normalcy again. For a while, it didn’t seem like it was going to get better, but slowly, over time, it has and I’m starting to feel like myself again.

That’s a pretty big win, if you ask me.

We also, as a world, lost some very wonderful people this year. Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, Debbie Reynolds are just a few of the names that the year 2016 took from us. I’m sure that some of you may have lost loved ones, friends or co-workers through means beyond your control, and to be honest, it just seems like the world was just as bad off as we were.

But there’s hope.

A new year means a new chance to work on what might have gotten lost in the muddled mess of 2016. I know the “new year, new me” line bothers a lot of people, but if at it’s core it motivates people to make a change in their life then why make a scene about it?

So, as rough as this year has been, I guess a good question to end 2016 would be: What have we learned about ourselves that we can use to better our situations for 2017?

Life can be a real pain sometimes, it can knock us down every single time we get up. It can send us back to places we really hoped we’d forget, and it can all be seeming to work against you. But life can also pick you back up, give you strength in your failures, courage in your deepest moments of fear, and hope when you thought all was lost.

Good riddance 2016, but thanks for all the lessons that you offered me this year, because I know that as much as you beat me down, I’ll rise twice as strong as I started.

Until next time, internet.

If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on  FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

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