It’s the last day of 2017. Despite personal and more global challenges, it’s been a great year overall. While every day brings about a whole different set of circumstances and highs and lows, I’m happy with where I am right now in terms of the trajectory of my personal growth, marriage, work, and home life. My outlook and attitude have been trending in a positive direction, which is far more than I can ever say for this time of year. I’m mostly enjoying daily life, my general routine, how my body and mind are feeling, and my ability to communicate and understand my emotions.
I imagine my glasses are a bit rose-tinged this week, after a full week with Ben home, and an especially nice Christmas, yet both of these factors were nicer than normal and I think that’s largely due to my better headspace. I’m feeling happier than I normally do for this time of the year and although there are certainly rough and depressed days (and I’m sure the next few months will have plenty), I’m proud of how stable and generally pleasant I’ve been keeping my mood.
This year, I’ve come leaps and bounds in my ability to control the degree and frequency of meltdowns or extremes in my emotions. This improved mood regulation has been something I’ve strived for for years, and it’s certainly an ongoing process. However, of everything I’ve done this year and in all the ways I’ve changed, my work in this area has been the most consistently and impressively improved. For much of my life, I’ve been very emotionally volatile, prone to a very disproportionate reaction to seemingly mild circumstances. This improvement has not only helped me feel more in control, composed, mature, and adjusted, but has improved my relationships and the happiness in our home.
Along those lines, my alexithymia, or my ability to identify and understand my feelings has become less severe. I feel more in tune with my thoughts and emotions and this self-awareness has helped me “treat” myself. For example, if I notice that I feel frustrated, I can try to identify the cause and remedy it, or at least change courses. Before doing a lot of this self-reflective work, cognitive behavioral therapy, and social skills therapy addressing emotional regulation, communication, and relationships, I was so clueless about how I felt most of the time. It was like I was trying to navigate in a dark basement in an unfamiliar warehouse. I had no idea where I was, what direction I was heading, or where I wanted to go. This led to anxiety, unintentional self-sabotage (actually making whatever negative emotion I was experiencing worse), and discomfort. This cluelessness made me feel vulnerable to plummeting into a deep depression or frequently on the brink of an anxiety attack because I never knew where I was on my personal emotional map. This, in turn, was also damaging to my self-esteem because I felt emotionally immature compared to age-matched peers. Understanding my feelings doesn’t seem to be an exact science, much to my chagrin, so it’s not just something I can study with devotion until mastery, but I would say that I’m learning and improving. Perhaps now, I at least have the destination in mind and a dim searchlight to help me find my way in the dark basement!
All the time and work I’ve spent studying and practicing social skills, both in therapy and alone, has definitely helped me feel more confident and comfortable conversing and relating to others. While I still don’t have many close friends, I have formed new friendships this year and strengthened the relationships I have. Ben and I both agreed that our marriage is so much more pleasurable and strong than in previous years. Our interactions, on the whole, are far more positive, supportive, fun, loving, and enjoyable. We are a cohesive unit, and united duo, facing the world together and building our life in the direction we both want it to go together. This feels so much more stable and rewarding than some of our previous years, and I have his patience, loyalty, and forgiveness to thank for that. Thankfully, I feel like I’m holding my own in terms of being there for him equally and unwavering in our partnership. I have grown really dedicated to caring for him, sharing with him in terms of love and support, listening to his thoughts and needs, and making our relationship as bulletproof as possible despite my diagnoses/difficulties. We may be of very different neurology, but we are becoming an example that great minds don’t have to work alike to work well together and build a loving bond. Social skills training has been a helpful starting place from which we have put in a lot of legwork to make the strides we have. On this cusp of a new year, I have every intention of continuing to prioritize our relationship and working to keep it a dependable ship in the tough seas of today’s world. I’m still diligently studying and practicing social skills, from simple conversation stuff to more subtle nuances of social interactions and cultural norms. I could feel embarrassed that I need this dedicated work at my age and life stage, but I choose to focus on the fact that I’m humble enough to realize my deficiencies and put the much-needed work in.
My physical health has been all over the fair to poor side of the spectrum this year. I spent the first half of the year in a boot full time, got diagnosed with various rheumatological diseases, and had a slew of injuries for example, but at least I’m trying my best to take care of myself. Every new day is an unknown, where I love stability and predictability, so this is certainly a challenge. With that said, I’m focusing on trying to honor my goal of separating the physical pain from necessarily polluting my psychological standing. This is an ongoing process and I’d say I’m batting about 500 here; there’s plenty of work to be done, but I’ve also improved my batting average here over the last year for sure.
As the clocks roll over to 2018 tonight, I’m excited to see how the year graces us with its 365 days of opportunities to live, grow, and love. I hope it’s a year of a healthy body and mind, less physical and emotional pain, and happiness and blessings. I don’t make resolutions in the traditional sense, but I will continue striving to be my best self, a student of myself and life in general, and as kind and loving to my husband, family, friends, community, environment, and self. I feel so fortunate to have the support and love from my family and friends, the comforts and privileges I’m afforded, and for the cards I’ve been dealt and how I’ve used them to build the life I’m continually working on. Despite the difficulties, I’m so grateful for the people, supports, and love in my life. I’m thankful to everyone who lifts me up when I’m down, calms me when I’m spiraling into a bad headspace, and holds my hand when I need guidance and strength. I hope 2018 brings joy, comfort, and wellness!
*A special thank you to everyone who reads, or has read, my blog. I love when you reach out. Your support means so much to me.