What I Have Learned in 2018

Hello and welcome back to my blog!

If you’re reading this at the time of posting – I hope you’ve had an enjoyable December; whether that’s been heavily celebrating Christmas, or just taking time to chill out and enjoy the excessive amounts of bank holidays over the festive period.

I’ve taken a few weeks off creating any content for my blog or Instagram – as I found that I needed a month or so to just reflect on where I am currently, and place less focus on every feeling/emotion that I go through.

However, with it being the end of 2018, I thought that it would be quite fitting to come back to my blog with a post reflecting on the past 365 days.

When it all goes wrong

2018 has been the year where everything went catastrophically wrong for me – in my eyes that is. To the eyes of an outsider; it probably wasn’t that bad. However, I feel like 2018 was the year where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Yet this also proved that I can get through a heck of a lot of failures.

And whilst this was highly frustrating, demoralizing and traumatic at the time – on reflection, I’m actually glad that everything went wrong. I’m glad that my life took the wrong route on the sat-nav and ended up in a muddy ditch, because it proved to me that I can get over, and through, just about anything.

Pretty much everything that I feared failing, failed. Everything that I thought would go wrong, went wrong – yet here I am, still standing, having gotten through the events which I once thought were the worst things that could ever happen.

I’m only 20 years old

I feel like I’ve been alive for much longer than 20 years, yet when I really think about it – I’ve only just finished being a teenager. Being a teenager is one of the hardest times of anyone’s life. There’s so much physical and mental development – you can’t really be expected to wake up on your 20th birthday and go from being a 19-year-old hormonal mess to being a fully fledged adult-in-training-20-year-old.

As soon as I turned 20  last January, I put so much pressure on myself to be an adult. With a 2 in front of my age, I assumed that I was now a fully developed adult. Thus, I should now be able to rationalise, and behave sensibly and make every decision with the same meticulousness and level-headedness of a Cath Kidston wearing 45 year old woman – because we’re both adults right? However, at age 20, I was exposed to a lot of new emotions, situations and experiences that I had not yet tackled as a teenager, so my reactions to these events mirrored that of 16 year old me, rather than the Trademark Adult I thought that I should be.

In other words, I put too much pressure on myself to behave like an adult, and do everything in an admin, rational way – yet the confused and still not-quite-gone teenager within me overpowered this.

Not everyone wants to hear about it

A big realisation for me this year was that not everyone wants to hear everything.

This can be disheartening at first, but it’s actually refreshing to understand that some people just want a simple life, and they don’t want to be bombarded with your stresses and your worries.

This is a positive thing, as it means that you can have people in your life who are there for the good times, the good memories and light-hearted things – and you can also have the people who are down to talk about the nitty-gritty details of life.

And that’s okay. Provided that those who are important to you, and close to you are the ones who truly care about you, then you don’t need approval from everyone. It’s okay to be accepted by a strong small circle, rather than be loosely welcomed by a mass group.

Anxiety and Depression

I can’t do a blog post without mentioning the two words which almost became my tagline for a short period.

I’ve suffered from the two aforementioned mental illnesses since roughly 2013. But my ability to talk about and open up about them was very limited.

I spoke of anxiety and depression almost as though they were the mental health Salt and Pepper, Ant and Dec (Anxiety  and Depression?? ant n dec?? – no?? no). I only really spoke about the two illnesses when I really really needed to, and even then it was in hushed tones. I assumed that if I explained that I had anxiety and depression and left it at that, then people would just leave me alone.

In 2018, I first realised that I don’t have depression. I experienced depression. Depression happened to me, and it was awful. But it’s not something I own, I don’t have it in my possession and I don’t carry it around in my bag or in my coat pocket. It’s an illness which happens to me when I let anxiety take over my life.

In 2018, I realised that I was controlled by anxious thoughts and behaviours. Anxiety controlled the vast majority of my thoughts and decisions, and it has done so, without question, for over 5 years. Therefore, by realising this, I started to challenge the basis of my thoughts and feelings, and understand that anxiety was actually nothing but a scared part of me, fearing the worse.

In 2018, I separated anxiety and depression. I realised that they weren’t this dual grey cloud which continuously followed me. They are two separate conditions, both of which are different consequences to different situations. I could live my life freely without the two if I paid attention to how and why I was letting them into my life.

Emotions, Thoughts, Feelings and Reactions – they’re all different things

By far the biggest “ooooh that makes sense now!” moment for me in 2018 was understanding the difference between my feelings, emotions, thoughts and my reactions.

After completing CBT therapy between September and December, I finally understood the different processes that go on inside my brain.

For the longest time, I thought that a single bad mood meant that I was doomed to be depressed forever. I assumed that all of my thoughts were true – no matter how far fetched or irrational they were.

My emotions controlled my thoughts, which controlled my feelings and thus controlled my reactions. I lived very much as a constant ball of stress and anxiety, never knowing how to behave – as my reactions to everything were governed by thoughts and feelings – of which both changed depending on my emotions. This may not necessarily have been a bad thing, however, I had no idea what my emotions were. I tried to hide all of my emotions except for happiness – and even then I was cautious that I was being “too happy” sometimes.

With CBT therapy, I’ve learned to accept and embrace the different aspects of my thoughts, behaviours, feelings and emotions. It’s often quite interesting to see how simple it is to just let feelings pass, and how easy it is to remind yourself that your thoughts are very rarely true.

Accepting that I’m never going to be perfect – I don’t even know what perfect is

When I talk about wanting to be perfect or being competitive, I very rarely mean in comparison to others. The idea of “striving for perfection” often conjures up the image of a barbie type girl, with perfect grades and a perfect life and blah blah – nothing of which interests me.

At the start of 2018, and leading on up until about September time, I just wanted to be the perfect version of me. I have no idea what or who the perfect version of me is, but I was adamant that my present self was rubbish, and that I must work as hard as I can to reach this level of a perfect me.

I think I’ll always have an element of wanting to be a better person because of I know that I still have minor flaws, but I know for sure that the strive for perfection only leads you to become more imperfect – as the hyper-self-focus causes you to just become an all-around shitty person – someone who nobody wants to spend time around.

I was competitive within myself, wanting to have oneupmanship over my previous attempts at various things – which can be useful in very small doses, but it got to the point where I’d be disappointed at myself for the most minor things.

I’m a creative person

For the longest time, I’ve scoffed at the idea of me being a creative person. I’ve always liked art and drama at school, I enjoy putting outfits together and doing my makeup – but I considered that to be the extent of my creativity.

I’d put myself down a career path which was very much the opposite of the creative industry, and I convinced myself that any attempts at creative expression are embarrassing and pointless. I bottled my feelings up, and my only way of expressing how I felt was through destructive means.

I was only until I started writing blog posts and changing my degree to the media industry, that I realised that I am a highly creative person. Whilst I definitely cannot draw pictures for the life in me, I don’t understand contemporary art, and my drama abilities extend to playing the role of a grandma or a chav – my creativity lies within spoken and written words. I’m not Shakespeare. I doubt my writing abilities are even anything beyond average, but the fact is that I enjoy it.

This year, I’ve learned that I really can express my thoughts and feelings through words, whether that’s written or spoken. I enjoy comedy, I like to make others laugh, and I like to put humourous and unique spins on situations which are often seen as bleak or boring. I think this has been the real turning point for me because I’m finally doing something for the sake of doing it.

The little money making, whats-the-point-of-this, you’re-rubbish portion of my brain resents the fact that I’m putting time and effort into doing things on the creative spectrum, rather than doing manual work and being hyperproductive – but I know for a fact what I’d rather be doing, and I know what is going to make me more successful long term.

In short

2018 has been a mess. A terrible mess by all accounts.

But I got through it. I learned an awful lot about myself.

The only fitting analogy here is that I threw all my toys out of the pram – didn’t like them all over the floor – so I put them back and realised I prefer things where they’re meant to be.

They say everything will be okay in the end. I know this isn’ the end, and I know not everything is okay. But day by day, more little things are becoming more okay. And that’s reassurance enough for me.

 

 

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