This is one of my favorite times of year. The quiet lull between the joy and excitement of Christmas and the pending plans and work of a new year. I love new beginnings! I love planning and making goals and looking forward to new things. To being better.
This year has felt different though. I'm more realistic in my goal setting and my abilities. I'm less concerned with "January 1st" and more concerned with consistency. Maybe that's why I've spent more time these past few days reminiscing of how far I've come instead of how far I have to go. There are several steps I realize have brought me to where I am:
#1 Health Challenge
Although my whole life had been filled with slow growth, I attribute this particular journey's beginning to a health challenge I was invited to join with some friends years ago. There were daily tasks, physical, mental, spiritual, and a point system. We each paid to join and the money was used for prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. It was really simple. But I was terrified. I wasn't good at consistency. Or working out. Or not eating sugar. Or anything on the list really. But I wanted to be. So I tried.
I think I was 2nd to last after the 3 months of trying. BUT. I learned so much! I learned that I could say no. Which was really hard at times. I love me some chocolate ice cream.
I learned that I was in control of my life! And I learned to be accountable to myself for once. I always kept my word to others, but how quickly I realized I EASILY broke promises to myself. I learned to stop letting myself down. To follow through for me too.
#2 Book: The Magic Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Funny how popularity makes things seem cliche. But before it was on Netflix, this book changed my life! I love organization and order. Purging, cleaning, and organizing my physical life felt amazing. I loved her admonition to surround yourself with things that "spark joy." But the most important thing I learned from reading "The Magic Art of Tidying Up" was to let go. Gracefully and full of gratitude.
Even if it was something you never liked, like buying a shirt that never fit right and you just couldn't get rid of it because you spent money on it- you invested in it. I learned it is okay to let go, and be grateful. If not for the shirt itself, for the lesson it taught. Such as: I'm grateful I learned to buy a medium, or I'm grateful I learned what I don't like.
It felt like I finally was given permission to let go of unnecessary clutter in my life- and not just stuff. People. Relationships. Tasks. Habits. On and On. Thank you Marie Kondo!
#3 Book: Daring Greatly by Berne Brown
I truly believe Berne Brown is an angel sent by God to help save souls. I LOVE all of her books. But this one was my first read and It holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.
I learned SO FREAKING MUCH from this book. But the most poignant were understanding shame, and perfectionism. I was so FULL of shame. About pretty much everything. I even made a list at one point in an attempt to rid myself of it.
I always knew I was a perfectionist. But I thought it was a good thing, ever since I was a kid I prided myself on my "perfectionism." Berne taught me that perfectionism is toxic and harmful and VERY different from striving for excellence.
This book split me open and showed me all of my flaws. The self-awareness was vital to moving forward.
#4 Glennon Doyle.
The author herself. not even a specific book. Pretty much everything she writes speaks straight to my soul.
Glennon is unapologetically human. She splits her soul wide open for all of us to see. She is raw and honest and beautiful.
When I read her books for the first time (each in one night) I knew I had to be a writer. I had to write. And I had to be honest. No hiding. I wasn't sure how to get to that point where I could be so honest, where I could tell it all and let the chips fall where they may. I was terrified, the shame was still swirling. But I KNEW that was what I wanted for my life.
#5 Bullet Journal & Direction
This is where I started trying really really hard. I discovered these magical things called bullet journals where you can combine a planner, art and a bajillion lists of your choosing to help you stay organized in life. The ultimate goal of a bullet journal, as I understand it, is to get everything out of your head and onto paper so that your brain can rest and you feel a bit less of a hot mess all the time. I LOVE my bullet journal.
I also spent hours on a trip to Texas with my husband while he worked answering questions about myself to find direction. I'd spent too many years making regurgitated goals: work out every day, read scriptures every day, eat healthy, blah blah blah. I needed to understand what I REALLY wanted, who I REALLY was, and who I REALLY wanted to be.
Some of the questions were:
What roles do I play?
What are my strengths in each of these rolls?
What would I like to do better in each roll?
If you could do anything without worrying about money or fearing what others would think, what would you do?
What did you enjoy doing as a child?
What carreer paths did you consider taking but chose not to?
What have people told you you are good at?
What makes you happy?
What could you talk about for hours without realizing how much time has passed?
What do you desire most in life?
What do you find yourself focusing on during journaling, daydreaming, or meditation?
What sets your soul on fire?
What would you do with your life is success was gauranteed?
Who do you admire? Why?
What do the people you look up to have in common?
What does your perfect "day in the life of" look like? How would you spend your time?
What do you want to learn more about? What do you want to try?
What physical items do you surround yourself with?
What are the common issues you have with other people? What bothers you most?
Who are you behind closed doors?
What do the people you love have in common?
What habits do you have? What habits do you want to have?
What are your fears and anxieties?
What makes you sad? What hurts you?
What are the elements of your life?
This practice really helped me. And I refer to it often. I found common themes and understood myself and what I wanted so much more. It gave me more direction and allowed me to further let go of unnecessary things.
#6 I BROKE.
As much as I hate adding this to my list, breaking was necessary. I couldn't have moved on without shattering like I did. I had no clue I had depression. My whole life I just assumed this darkness inside me was...me. That it was my personality. Who I was. Even as a child.
Things finally piled up and I was so ANGRY all the time. I was trying so damn hard. I broke because trying didn't matter anymore. Moving forward was no longer an option. That list of shame, although in print now, was still dragging behind me weighing me down. Until I got rid of that, all the trying was just... perfectionism. And perfectionism feeds shame.
#7 THERAPY. MEDICATION. CONFIDANTS.
This part was the hardest. The shame list grew exponentially as I started going to therapy, received the label "high functioning severely depressed" and was encouraged to take drugs. I didn't want anyone to know I had depression. Or therapy appointments. And for a while I refused to take medication. I didn't view myself as someone with lots of stigmas and I would never judge another person for a diagnoses, the need for therapy, or medication- but I judged myself HARD.
I slowly told the people closest to me, and their love was my lifeline. They each had different views on medication though and I was desperately conflicted. At this point I was thinking about suicide and self- harm, a lot. I remember one journal entry where I described myself as a drowining person terrified that if anyone came to save me I would just pull them down with me. "I'd rather drown alone than hurt the ones I love." I wrote.
One particular friend encouraged me to try the medication and promised to be there with me through the whole journey. I was so worried about the burden I was to my husband (who would have let everything else go to take care of me) and her promise lifted that burden enough for me to try.
It took some trial and error and a whole lot of shaming myself for needing medication but the darkness subsided enough for me to start making progress with therapy.
Now I have a better understanding of medication and it's necessity. I have come to view the medication I need as a lifeboat sent by God. Who am I to refuse the answer to my own prayers simply because it wasn't what I was expecting?
#8 I STARTED A BLOG AND TOLD THE WORLD ABOUT MY DEPRESSION
Keeping my struggle a secret was exhausting and weighing me down. I wrote about it and put it out for the world to see. No more secrets. No more shame. Shame LOVES to hide. I had to shine a light on it in order to properly kill it off.
I hesitate to write about this part, because I still don't fully understand it. But this was the turning point for me. EMDR is a therapy method where bad memories are explored and changed. It is much more scientific than that, but I'm a writer not a scientist. I'll leave the research to you, if you are interested.
If you've ever watched the movie Inside Out, you may remember one of Riely's memories, where she had lost a hockey game and was alone in a tree but then her parents come, then her whole team and the memory isn't just sad, it's joy too. Joy and sadness were there together. The memory was changed. It was deeper.
This is what happened with me. I was really trying with therapy and getting everything out was good. We talked a lot about the Atonement and I struggled because I knew all the answers. I knew I needed to forgive myself, love myself, give my struggles to the Savior.... BUT HOW???? No one teaches you how.
My therapist, my husband, my friends, my family... they could all tell me how amazing I was. How worthy I was. But it didn't matter. as nice as it was to hear, I didn't really believe it. I knew I was loved. But I didn't love myself. I didn't know how to love myself.
My EMDR therapy session was when, through some powerful memory methods, I told myself I was worthy. I wasn't a failure. I was a good mother. When I finally started loving myself again.
For me, the results were almost immediate. The weight was lifted.
Healing and progress came after that day. Like I finally learned how to swim. I was no longer drowning, but shore was still a ways off.
Therapy became less unloading and more celebrating. I would tell my therapist what I had struggled with that week but also how I handled it. How I processed it, or asked for help, or let it go. We talked about techniques. About tools. With the weight gone, I felt like I could finally use all of the things I had learned.
I used the direction and self-awareness, the lesson of letting go, the marriage of taking control of my life and giving up control to my God. I used my passion for writing and open honesty to ward off the shame. I kept relying on my friends and family and allowed them to help me. I lowered my standard of perfection to a realistic striving for excellence. Which really just amounts to being human and loving. I started to become all the things I wanted to be.
I graduated from therapy a year ago. But it isn't over. I am constantly practicing. Constantly reminding myself to use the tools I have and acquire new ones. Practicing imperfection. Practicing loving myself. Practicing forgiveness. Practicing boundaries. Practice. Practice. Practice. Swim. Swim Swim.
I don't share my journey to give you a roadmap to follow. I share to remind myself of how far I've come and the tools I might need to dust off and use a little more this year. I also hope that sharing my journey inspires you to continue on your own.
I hope that this year we can set goals that bring us closer to ourselves. Goals that lead us away from perfect and toward excellent human beings: imperfect but loving human beings. That is and will always be my goal.
I hope that this year we find a little more peace than the last as we continue on our unique journeys.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Hi! I'm Amy
I am a Christian wife and mother, a writer, and a recovering perfectionist who is tired of chasing happiness in all the wrong ways. I am now on a journey to find a deeper state of being. Join me on My Peace Project and we'll learn how to survive the chaos together!