2013 was a crap year for me. I was laid off from my stable job of ten years. I was fired from a new job when I was sick. And my depression was getting worse instead of better. I questioned my whole value as a person. I injured my leg and couldn’t take part in sports, my regular method of de-stressing, so my anxieties mounted. I’ve become so financially unstable that I’ve become a burden on my parents. And a death in the family rounded out the year.
But there some things that happened in 2013 that I’m truly grateful for. Instead of always focussing on the negative, I’d like to focus on these silver linings.
Time for my Health
Prior to being laid off, I was struggling with depression in the workplace. I loved my job, but mentally I was declining so much that I was missing more and more days. I thought I’d have to go on long term disability again, something I was so ashamed about when it happened before and which led to me really distancing myself from everything and everyone.
I’m grateful that my unexpectedly empty schedule gave me time to really focus on me, without the stigma of sick leave. To reevaluate how I live, what works for me and what doesn’t. To really absorb my therapy and begin to implement it.
A Long Overdue Holiday
I love to travel. But after the financial problems resulting from my period of long term disability and my more recent pay losses due to exhausting my sick leave, I just couldn’t afford it.
I’m grateful that my layoff and severance pay allowed me the chance of a lifetime in terms of travel. I travelled to the other side of the world and spent two months exploring, recharging, and rekindling my interest in life. Truly priceless.
A Reality Check
Getting fired was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. The way it was done, the shock of never having any prior indication from my boss that I wasn’t performing well, the fact that I wasn’t even given the opportunity to justify my day off for being sick by seeking a doctors note, and the walk of shame as I left and my friendly colleagues avoided looking at me, it was just terrible. I’d been sick twice in a month. That was actually a lot less than in recent years and I was trying so hard to readapt to the workforce after months off and a period of post-travel depression. I transitioned from sleeping nearly 24/7 to starting work at an earlier time than I’d done in the past ten years and I was changing medications as well. I was getting my life back in order, then wham!
I’m grateful because the resulting crisis led to me really taking my recovery to heart. I worked hard to implement some of the things that I’d learned in therapy.I came up with the idea of blogging to help me journal. And I discovered this wonderful, supportive community.
I’ve never been one to discuss my personal problems, fears and struggles. I’ve had a tendency to retreat from everything in self protection and because I felt like such a failure and waste of space.
I’m so grateful that I decided to create a WordPress blog. When I decided to create an anonymous blog, I decided to lay it all out on the line. To tell all, things I had only otherwise told my doctors and therapists. And I discovered that there were so many great people out there who struggle with the same problems as me. I went from isolation to a sense of community and support. And I honestly think that it has been the one most important step I’ve taken in the 4+ years that I’ve been trying to recover from major depression, anxiety and a complete breakdown.
New Doctors, New Medication
After a mishap with my first psychiatrist (he blew up one day when I questioned why I needed to take mood stabilizers when I wasn’t convinced that I was bipolar and I was stressed about the warnings in the medication’s literature), I found a new psychiatrist with a fresh perspective. And she really listened to me when I noted my overall problem of apathy and lethargy. A lack of energy to get about my day or to care about much. And she recommended a change from the medication I’d been on for three years. The medication I was on had helped me overcome my period of despair, but I had stagnated and wasn’t fully progressing back to health.
I’m grateful to have been listened to, to have taken on an active role in my treatment, and I’m so grateful that the new regime of Prozac and Wellbutrin seems to be working.
I haven’t been able to find full-time work yet. But I did have a short but intense part-time contract, working afternoons and evenings.
I’m grateful that I had that opportunity to rebuild my shattered self-confidence. Sure I was underemployed, but I showed myself that I could still roll with the punches and that I really could once again be a valuable and reliable employee. That I could go to work for every shift and never miss a day. That I could be punctual, too, when I didn’t have to contend with early mornings, the most difficult part of the day for me.
Reconnecting with Family
It is so sad that we lost my aunt to cancer a few weeks ago. She was such a wonderful person and so young. I regret not having visited her recently and that I kept some distance because I didn’t want to discuss my depression and unemployment.
I’m grateful that I travelled for a full day to go to her funeral. That I listened to stories about her strength in facing her challenges, both in terms of cancer and a truly difficult childhood. I’m grateful that I was able to reconnect with family after the funeral, that I had this breakthrough moment when I realized that despite all the dysfunction and trials and tribulations, there were some great people in my family. And that we all dealt with our problems by retreating from each other, but there was still love there. I’m grateful for the realization that I can rebuild some of these relationships. I just need to take the first step because we are all so cautious and reserved. I’m also so grateful for the support my parents are giving me while I’m ineligible for unemployment insurance.
I still struggle with bad days, but they are becoming fewer. I know that I’ve really progressed a lot since starting my blog. I’m beginning to regain my confidence. I’m beginning to realize how I’ve been stigmatizing myself, and how I’m really not that different from so many people out there who struggle with similar mental illnesses. I’ve become much more comfortable with my diagnosis of major depression and anxiety. I’ve overcome a lot of my shame. And I feel more comfortable acknowledging my illness, yet knowing it doesn’t completely define who I am.
My hope is that all of this progress comes to fruition in 2014. I think I’m finally ready!