» 2015 to 2016: a look back
  • 2015 to 2016: a look back

    Dec 29th • Posted in personal

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    My boyfriend, Tobi, and myself at his company holiday party.

    Note: Here is my annual reflection on the past year. I’ve written about 2013 here, and 2014 here. 

    If 2014 was meant to be a year of immense growth, heartbreaking and learning how to be more comfortable in my own skin– 2015 took this karmic lesson and further pushed me to the limit with it– kicking me in the ass repeatedly.

    This year was rougher than last, in more ways than I can count. While I wasn’t aching over men that wouldn’t and couldn’t love me back, or crying into pints of cheap beer, forgetting my troubles in the company of strangers all over Europe– this year definitely brought me many lessons that I needed to learn, or have struggled to learn for years, and have put off until recently.

    I claimed that last year was focused on losing myself, and finding out who I really was. This year dug deeper into that theme, but introduced the concept of growing into a beautiful partnership, swallowing my pride and asking for help. At the same time, it helped me hone into the concepts of self-love, self-care and self-preservation– all things that I tend to forget to practice in my life. While last year was rooted in self-discovery in relation to others romantically, this year I started to embark on a journey that would allow me to become a functional human being.

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    My boyfriend and I at Disneyland over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

    Preservation of my mental health became one of the most important things to me this year. I watched many of my friends and classmates go through difficult things, and I felt terribly because I couldn’t be there for any of them– simply because I had to take care of my own bullshit first. I often joke that I go through a mental breakdown every year, triggered by seemingly nothing– when I realise that all these tiny little things build up over the year and I finally crack when something sets me off. It’s not a wonderful place to find yourself at, but it’s something that happens to me every year, regardless of how well my year is going. This year, I had the motherlode of all mental breakdowns. I guess some could call it my (early) quarterlife crisis, but really– I think it was just a consequence of avoiding the responsibility of taking care of myself as a human being. I avoided dealing with the executive functioning skills by taking medication, which helped mask the symptoms– but once I was off the medication, I still lacked time, focus, and organization. This caused a lot of distress in school, where I felt burnt out and couldn’t handle the pressure. I ended up dropping a class because I was so stressed out. (I don’t regret it though. If I hadn’t dropped it, I probably would have failed both classes, as opposed to just doing poorly in one.)

    Luckily, midway through the fall semester, I decided (a little too late, but whatever– A for effort, right?) to switch psychiatrists and switch to a psychologist who specialised in ADHD. Also, I was officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder (with panic attacks) and mild depression (dysthymia, anyone?) It felt good to put a name to what I have been feeling for years. I also spent the latter half of the year struggling with medication changes– SSRIs are a bitch to start and adjust to, and I spent much of my time sitting in bed, wondering if I was crazy or if it was just the medication. Now I’m on a low dose of something that works for me (thank you, Lexapro) and I’m not struggling with the anxiety or the depression.

    2015 forced me to take care of myself, simply because there is more at stake. One of my favourite shows of all time, and especially this year, You’re the Worst, basically lived out my life with mental illness. For those of you who haven’t watched it, I urge you to, but TL;DR: One of the characters has depression, doesn’t deal with it properly, and spirals into crippling depression. Her partner tries to “fix her,” and the entire season is spent grappling with their issues. In the end, he confronts her about “this could have been fixed if you were on medication?!” And she agrees to take it because “it’s not just her anymore.” This notion resonated with me because, like the character, it wasn’t just me anymore. Family is one thing, but now that I have a partner that I am building a life with, I owe it to him to take better care of myself (especially because I live with him.) Because dealing with it alone was “easy,” but now that someone else is in my life, avoidance isn’t the most productive or the healthiest way to deal with things.

    Taking care of myself meant I had to swallow my pride and ask for help. From anyone and everyone. I had to not only ask for help– but accept help readily. This is something that I’ve been grappling with for the majority of my life, and this year was no different. It could have been as simple as allowing my boyfriend to help teach me certain concepts in subjects that I was struggling with, or accepting my mother’s help when she offered to come out to San Francisco for a week to help us organise our place and help ease the burden my boyfriend had to handle when I was adjusting to my medications.

    On the flip side, 2015– you’ve brought me so much joy. I moved in with my partner after eight months of being together, which sounds crazy fast, but it felt right. (We were spending everyday with each other anyway after around four or five months, so I don’t see the problem with our timeline.) While I haven’t been able to head abroad this year, I was able to travel more within the domestic United States with my partner: we went to Santa Cruz for Valentine’s Day, went back home to Hawaii for spring break, went to Disneyland for Thanksgiving, and I was able to come home a couple of other times this year. I even had the chance to foster a senior dog, which is something I’ve never done before, and learned a lot about responsibility and the fact that being a full-time graduate student doesn’t exactly mean I’m fit to take care of another living thing (though it was fun, and I totally get what people are saying now about having a dog. We definitely want to foster more in the future, and will definitely look at adopting a senior dog once we’re more grounded and have established roots.) I’m slowly finding that home truly is a state of mind,and a feeling, while a house is just a place.

    This year brought me a lot of wonderful things, and I’m on the road to (hopefully) becoming a more functional human. Here’s to you, 2015, even though you were a pain in my ass at times!

    • Keep it up, Christa! You keep doing you. This is a hard lesson I had to learn, myself. I finally decided to put myself first for my mental health. <3 Happy new year, dear.

    • Sounds like a great year! I moved in with Steven after a year of dating and I too thought it might be too soon, but it felt right. Here we are, 8 years later!