January 2016: Choosing Life
Happy New Year! As we enter into a brand spanking new year, how are you feeling about it? Has it gotten off to a rough start or has it been a fabulous beginning?
This can be a bittersweet time of year: saying good-bye to visiting family and friends, to an old year, and to old ways of thinking as well as embracing change and opportunities that lie ahead. If I have a New Year’s resolution, it is to move forward with a “new” purpose: to enjoy life the best that I can with the limitations that I have. This resolution rose out of the first week of the year starting off with a dip into depression; but as I’ve worked through that, week two has been much improved.
Before I jump into how I have managed my first two weeks of 2016, I will update some of the concerns I have addressed in previous blog posts. My sense of self is steadily growing stronger as I retrain my brain and get my medications sorted out. The first prescription transition went very smoothly; and I am reaping the benefits of less anxiety and a more stable mood. I’m glad I took the risk and made the change.
The second prescription transition is underway which may be a contributor to my dip into depression when we changed calendars. So far there are no dramatic ill effects; but it is a bit early to tell as one medication decreases and the other increases. February will be a telling month in that department.
As for Christmas, it went exceedingly well – better than anticipated. There were a few family quibbles but nothing that escalated into full-blown family drama. For that I am truly grateful. I actually enjoyed spending time with family rather than being on high alert, ready to intervene at the slightest indicator of upset.
As I reviewed the holidays with my therapist, it became clear that a couple things contributed to this peaceful family dynamic. Foremost was my commitment to be different and not get sucked into family drama. I did not play the role of rescuer or fixer. I think that’s a first for me. Whatever squabbles did arise were sorted out ‘on their own’ rather than any expectation on me to fix it. Another first.
When I did choose to speak up, I felt heard and respected, rather than dismissed, judged, or criticized. What a difference. There was also little to no complaining. What happened to my family? How did we manage to consistently get along for such a length of time? I certainly won’t take all the credit as I noticed others making an effort as well. A huge relief for me.
Thus the year ended on a relatively positive note all things considered. So what of my dip into depression the following week? Was it Christmas withdrawal? The change in medication? Just another week with dysthymia? It might have been all of those things.
What turned it around for me was a conscious daily decision to choose life. I am retraining my brain, developing new neural pathways. Regardless of how pointless life looked, I chose living instead of dragging myself along. This meant being mindful of the good things such as a beautiful winter morning while walking the dog, choosing to go those extra 10 minutes in the cold, having a warm house to return to.
The challenge to “choose life” certainly isn’t an easy one. It means making little decisions throughout the day, not just a single choice or mantra in the morning. I must choose life in the small moments as well as the big ones. It means choosing what I enjoy to do along with what I have to do. I must choose fulfillment, not just wait for it to materialize.
As I noted in my journal, I must keep moving or I grow stagnant. And I must keep my head up to enjoy the ride – the sights, sounds, smells of wherever I might metaphorically and literally travel. When others emphasize we must choose happiness, I usually feel offended in some way. Mainly due to being intimately acquainted with the draining effects of depression. Sometimes we are legitimately overwhelmed with life; and happiness is the least of our worries or seems absolutely unattainable. I think it might be fairer to say we choose life – in all of its paradoxes, ups and downs, and bittersweet moments.
I choose life. And in more specific terms, I must choose the life that I have: the husband, the house, the dog, the job, the family. However, I choose them with my eyes wide open. I am aware of the fault lines that sit below the surface. I choose life the way it is; yet with the knowledge that opportunities for improvement abound.
And if I cannot choose life the way it is, what changes must be made? Keeping in mind I cannot change others, only myself.
What opportunities lie on your horizon? What’s in store for you in 2016?