2018 was a hard year for a lot of people, including me. Actually, the last three years have kind of run together in my mind because they have been so challenging and stressful. And while the first half of 2018 was more of that same stress that 2016 and 2017 brought to me, the second half of the year was about healing from all of that stress. It was a huge learning experience for me, finding new ways to adjust and finding balance in my life.
Actually, finding balance isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you are like me and have a tendency to place as much pressure on yourself as you possibly can. See, I had expectations for myself. I had a path that I had laid out for myself in my mind. I was doing everything that I could do to fulfill that path, but it was at the expense of my health and well-being. We are sold this path when we are younger, where if you go to school and get a piece of paper, your life will be better. You will make more money and your life will have meaning, all because you did all of that work. Never mind the time it took you or the stress you were under to achieve what you needed to, or the money that you had to borrow in order to accomplish it. Your life will simply be better. And for me it wasn’t just about that path that I was sold. I already have a family to support, so I had to work and go to school. I had to take care of my family. I was able to juggle all of that at first, for several years. But then some of the balls started to fall. First it was my family, who started experiencing a me who was tired all the time, disagreeable about everything, and couldn’t do anything outside of the path I had laid out for myself. Then it was work. I changed jobs a few times during these years, and the job stress was so crazy that I actually had to drop out of school anyway. Feeling like I couldn’t do it all made me feel like a failure, which only added to the stress. Coming back from all of the job stress and the feelings of failure were crazy.
This year is going to be different. I have already made great progress when it comes to confronting all of those areas of my life that were causing me stress, and healing my body from the effects of the stress. And there is one big lesson that I have learned from this whole thing:
Stress can kill you.
No joke. My stress level started to go up in 2016 and didn’t start to come down until mid-2018. In that time I experienced:
- Resurgence of an eating disorder I thought I had beaten;
- Increase of ADHD symptoms that I didn’t even know I had until I was diagnosed in 2016;
- Minor heart issues that I hadn’t experienced before;
- Problems sleeping;
- The flu (and I never get that sick);
- Illness that kept me out of work at least once a month for a couple of years;
- Increase in emotional instability
All of these things affected every area of my life, and I had to deal with all of them in the last half of 2018. I am glad to say that I am in a much better place now than I was at the beginning of the year. I am happy in my work and I’m looking forward to the gradual building of what I hope to be a new career. My eating disorder is in check and I have found a new respect for my body and my life that I have never experienced before. My ADHD symptoms that had been plaguing me have seemed to dissipate the more I focus on self-care and balance in my life. And I have found many tricks and tools to help me handle my stress on a day-to-day basis. It is refreshing to be able to listen to myself and feel like I can honor what my body is telling me instead of being so focused on the path that I lose sight of everything else.
So 2019 is going to be about continuing that healing journey and sharing what I have learned with others who need help. It is going to be about continuing to find the dance that is balance, and discovering more about myself as I help people discover more about themselves. It is about change and a movement toward a lower-stress lifestyle.
I hope you join me on the journey.