2013 was a tough year. Some really good things did come my way; but, for the most part, 2013 was a grueling year that left me feeling fairly depressed. And, not depressed in the "I'm so depressed that Stephen Colbert in on break" sense - depressed in the sense that many of my days felt joyless. My intention here is not to start a pity-party but, rather, to try for some sort of catharses as we enter the new year.
I am a creature that thrives in the context of structure. Like the foundation under a house, a strong, predicable, and dependable structure gives me a base on which to build the rest of my life. And when that structure is removed, as I have discovered, my life becomes unstable and my passions quickly give-way to fear.
In 2014, my number one priority - my new year's resolution - is to start bringing structure back into my life. With it, I'm still not perfect - I still do a lot of things wrong and a good deal of my life is still out of balance; but, without structure, I'm definitely a hot mess.
Toward the end of this last year, I had my first panic attack. It - and the smaller ones that followed - were scary. I couldn't control my breathing and my heart felt wonky. The only thing that felt "safe" was getting down on all-fours and breathing deeply into the toilet.
In the last year, I've lost about 20 pounds (according to my last physical). For the first time since college (12 years ago), I've dropped below 200 pounds. This is not weight loss that I am happy with. The majority of it is due to a complete lack of physical fitness and stress.
I feel on-edge almost all the time. Every time my phone goes off, a shot of adrenaline runs up my spine in the anticipation that some emergency will have to be tended. Every refresh of my inbox leaves me in fear that bad news will arrive.
All of this stress and anxiety has caused me to grind my jaw excessively. At my last cleaning, my dentist pointed out all the teeth that were being worn down and the gums that were dangerously receded. He needs me to get fitted for a mouth-guard that will prevent grinding at night. I feel like I need to wear it all day.
The stress has also put me into a fairly horrible sleep cycle. Taking AdvilPM (or some form of antihistamine) is pretty much mandatory in order for me to fall asleep. If left unmedicated, I lay awake for 2-3 hours, teetering back and forth between anger and anxiety.
It used to be that I would blog almost every day. Without structure, I now struggle to eek out one or two blog posts a month. At the extremes, several months will have gone by without any writing at all. This has been a huge struggle - I get so much joy out of my research and development (not to mention the subsequent community interaction). I miss my people.
I've pretty much stopped communicating with all of my friends.
Ever Present Guilt.
Without a good, predictable structure, I feel guilty all the time. I feel like I'm never doing enough - never working hard enough. Even when I'm completely burnt-out, I feel like I never measure up. I feel like I'm never pulling my weight. I feel like dead-weight. I feel like a fraud.
Feeling guilty all the time makes me angry.
It used to be, there were parts of my life that brought me so much joy that I felt embarrassed talking about them. I was afraid that my light burnt so brightly, it would make others feel bad. I didn't want to rub my joy in their face. Today, I still don't talk about those things; but, it's not because they bring me joy - it's because they bring me stress and agitation.
Getting My Act Together And Doing Something About It
But enough will all that junk! I have sacrificed myself on the alter of dignity. Now, let me shake it off like a donkey that would shake off something it doesn't like. I feel good about tomorrow. I feel good about this new year. I feel good about getting structure back in my life. I'm ready to do this, one small change at a time.
Special thanks to MK and the Goose - I don't know how I would have survived without you guys!