A Quick Turnaround

6 weeks ago when I wrote my last post, I was really immersed in disappointment and had no hope that things were going to get better anytime soon.

I’m happy to report that so much has happened since then – and I’m in a much better place.

When I’m in a dark place, sometimes I have a tendency to want to “fix” things, or try taking drastic measures to make things better. One of those drastic things I had thought about doing six weeks ago was quitting my job. I loved the place and the people I worked with, but I didn’t exactly love what my specific role was. I constantly felt like I was failing, and despite being at my job for over four years, I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was majorly burned out.

I ended up having a meeting with my boss. He knew I was going through some hard stuff. I told him I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, and that I was honestly thinking of quitting. He asked me what would need to change in order for me to want to stay. I proposed moving to a different department where I felt like I would be better supported and could be successful. I also proposed working less than 40 hours a week – maybe 32, or even 20, hours.

And because my boss is awesome, he was like, “done!”

So, two weeks ago, I officially began working in my new department – with a team of people who are excited to have me and who are teaching me how to do the work that needs to be done. They are patient with me when I ask a million questions, and the work has been good and steady, and surprisingly more meaningful than I thought it would be. I’m also only working four days a week – I now have Fridays off.

The past two weeks I’ve felt like a completely different person from the one who wrote that last post. I am SO much less stressed. The hours pass quickly at work, I love learning how to do new things, and the tasks are challenging me in a good way. I’m feeling successful. I feel like my work matters, and I’m helping more people than I ever was before. I have more energy for my family, and for myself. I started going back to the gym this week. I decided I would start taking a yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I started making green juices for breakfast in the mornings. I’ve been going on more walks with my dog.

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2020: Did You Survive or Thrive? (*spoiler – either answer is totally valid)

I’m laughing as I look back at my post from January 4, 2020. I wrote, “I’m really optimistic about 2020 – I think big things are going to happen for me. I have no proof of this, just a feeling.”

Well big things certainly did happen for all of us!

Despite 2020 being a year that none of us could have predicted, I don’t look back on it with disdain. 2020 was different for sure, and not what I expected, but it still brought me a lot of good. (P.S. It’s okay if this is not how you feel! It’s okay if you never want to hear the word 2020 again!)

My focus word for 2020 was “thrive.” I just wanted to feel good about myself, and to make more time for things like exercising, eating healthy and spiritual growth. Amazingly, by the end of the year I find myself doing exactly those things – I’ve been jogging again and even lifting some weights at home (I joke with Dean that he better watch out since I’m getting so muscle-y). Around mid-August I started being more purposeful about the food I was eating (less sugar, more veggies). And with some encouragement from friends (or perhaps more accurately, accountability) I have made more time to pray and meditate and do feel like I’ve grown spiritually this year.

I know not everyone is able to express positive feelings about 2020, and that’s okay. I’ve seen many iterations of the following, but as the image states, it’s okay if all you did this year was survive.

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A Season of Mental Wellness

It’s not often I write to share when things are going well – I normally write about difficult experiences and how I have navigated them successfully (or perhaps unsuccessfully…)

I also never wanted to be that person who came off as bragging that everything in her life was going great – I think posts like that are hard to read if you’re in a bad place. It heightens that illusion that everyone else is living their best life except for you (which is not true!) 

However, I do think there is value in admitting to myself (and all of you) that things are actually going pretty well for me lately. 

Last year, I wrote a blog post titled How Do You Thrive? and talked a bit about how I wanted to feel like I was thriving, not just surviving. I can honestly say that I now feel like I’m thriving – for the first time in probably over 4 years, I am thriving!!!

What do I mean by thriving? I mean that I’m noticing signs that I am mentally, emotionally and physically well. For example:

  • I’ve started eating better recently (more veggies and less sugar!) I’ve had very little motivation to eat healthy since before my son was born. 
  • I’ve started working out again (thankfully my foot has recovered enough to allow this), including going on long walks in the morning and doing some strength workouts at home. 
  • I had the motivation and energy to undertake a big home improvement project last weekend (which has now of course turned into a project spanning multiple weekends).
  • I’ve been able to appreciate the relationships in my life more instead of wishing for something different – I feel blessed with authentic friendships and feel like my husband and I are in a solid place of supporting one another right now.

I think one of the most important indicators that I’m thriving is that I’ve come to a place of self-love and acceptance that I haven’t had in years. 

It’s interesting to find myself thriving in the midst of this global pandemic – while I do have to monitor my anxiety levels when it comes to COVID, I actually think the pandemic has helped me to get to this better place. I’ve been forced to slow down, to spend more time at home with my husband and son… it’s been a time to re-prioritize and think about what really matters. I realized I actually really enjoy not having plans every night and weekend – if we ever get back to “normal,” I hope I will continue to leave space in my life to rejuvenate and flourish.

Despite all this talk about thriving, I don’t want to leave the impression that everything is absolutely perfect right now – rest assured, perfection is not what I have achieved! Actually, in the past month I’ve had two different days where I actually felt really down – where some insecurities and feelings of depression kind of came and hit me out of nowhere. 

It isn’t the absence of bad days that equals thriving – it’s how well I navigated the bad days when they came. 

I’m grateful to be able to say that when the bad moments came, I was able to tune into my feelings, process them, and figure out what I needed to do to get to the other side of them. Both times by the end of the day, that dark cloud above me had lifted and moved on.

And if that’s not thriving, then I don’t know what is! I’m hopeful this season of wellness will last for a long time, but realistically I know there will most likely be hard seasons at some point in my future again.

I’m proud of myself for getting to this point in my life, but am also mindful that many of the things that led me here included situations and opportunities that I can’t take full credit for. I am fortunate to have been able to go to counseling regularly over the past 5 years, and to have found an amazing counselor. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband who was there for me at my lowest points and encouraged me to get to where I am today. I am fortunate to have people in my life who spoke truths to me about my skills and talents and how much I mattered as a person.

Not everyone is fortunate to have all of those things – I know that. Maybe you’re a single parent and barely have enough energy to get through the day. That’s okay – just survive for now. Maybe you’re working two jobs and still are barely making ends meet. That’s okay – just survive for now. Maybe you have some toxic people or situations in your life right now that are sabotaging your attempts at getting mentally healthy, but you can’t get away from them at this moment. That’s okay – keep surviving for now. 

Mental health shouldn’t be a privilege reserved only for certain people – but I think sometimes it is. (This could be a topic for another blog post, there’s so much more to unpack here.) 

I guess what I’m left with now, is wondering how I can help others who are on their way to mental wellness – how can I level the playing field and give others the same opportunities to succeed that I had? 

This post took an unexpected turn – but I love that! That’s what’s so cool about writing: sometimes you just don’t know what will come out on the page once you start.

Thanks for reading.