This time last year…

This post isn’t specifically Anorexia-related. In fact, it’s a post for anyone who feels as though ‘looking forward’ to the next year is pointless – the people the words ‘New Years Eve’ fill with dread.

For about twelve years, I dreaded two annual events – my birthday, and New Year. Both had the same outcome and difficult thoughts attached to them. Every NYE I’d spend a considerable amount of time thinking about all the things I hadn’t done. I’d contemplate all the things other people had done that I wished I’d done. I’d beat myself up for not doing things differently so that I could have had a ‘better year’. I’d go over all the ‘bad things’ that had happened in my head until I was numb, then I’d start making negative assumptions about the year ahead.

This of course was VERY unhelpful and did nothing for my confidence or self-esteem, let alone my mental well-being as a whole. Most years I’d get blind drunk and wouldn’t even see the first half of the New Year. Some years I’d self-harm. Others I’d spend in bed asleep because I couldn’t cope with facing the merriment and endless boasting of parties and ‘new beginnings’ on TV and social media.

If any of this sounds like you, then I have a simple solution which turned things around for me. In many ways I changed my whole life with the shift in perspective I experienced late last year – but one of the biggest things I found useful was being more positive. I don’t mean this in a sparkly, patronising, self-help book kind of way. I mean positivity in its realest, rawest form – knowing that you can genuinely apply it to yourself and your life when you never thought you could before.

Positivity for me is not about reading flowery quotes and being ‘holistic’ and ‘spiritual’. It’s about being really honest with yourself and recognising that your brain sometimes tricks you. It tricks you into believing that everything’s bad and that you have no-one and nothing – when in fact, the opposite is true.

I want to demonstrate the power of positivity with my own story – and offer a handy tip for anyone dreading New Year festivities.

Things can change SO much in 12 months

This time last year, I was in a real mess. No job, no money, no career or future prospects (as I saw it then). I had lost a lot of weight as I couldn’t eat and my anxiety was worse than it ever had been before – I struggled to sleep as obsessive thoughts invaded my head at night and I’d lie awake having panic attacks until the small hours without knowing the real reason why. I didn’t see a future for myself because I couldn’t understand how things could possibly get better – how could they improve from the way they were now? I threw my dreams down the toilet and listed in my head the reasons why I wouldn’t get a job, wouldn’t have money anymore, counted the odds stacked against me. I didn’t have to think very hard – things were difficult and my situation wasn’t straightforward. I was in the middle of a rather nasty legal battle with my former company because they had treated me so badly which made me incredibly anxious, I was noticeably unwell, and I had no reference to support the hard work I’d done for them during my time in their employment. I had no money at all because they refused to pay me my last wage. Job interviews seemed to go well but nobody called me back. The weather was dark and depressing and my health was deteriorating. I was fearful of going back to work, but I knew I had to try and get a job again quickly.

Now, things are better than I ever could have imagined. I’d never have believed anyone who told me a year ago that I would be running my own business now and that I’d have written and published books. I look back on that time now and I know that I genuinely believed I couldn’t turn things around. But I did, and so can you.

Being ‘positive’ involves checking yourself and turning things on their head

Things were at an all-time low for me when I decided I needed to change who I was and how I felt in order to see a positive outcome in my life. I regained my fire (a determination which is always within me – and it’s likely you have it, too) and decided that no, this was not the way I wanted to live my life. I wanted (and deserved) to be financially stable, even successful. But to do this, I had to change my outlook.

I started with the small stuff – recognising my luck when I got a job interview, feeling grateful for kind words or the support of my parents and friends. When I really looked at my life, I realised that it wasn’t bad at all – and actually, I had plenty of opportunity to turn things around. I started to distract myself from anxiety by planning for the future with tangible goals which made me excited and passionate. Instead of manically shaking and going over the events of the past year I sat down and started to finish my book. I decided to offer writing services to tide me over whilst I was out of work and set up a Facebook page – and within a month, I had two clients. Now I have a successful copywriting business and I’ve worked with companies I could never have imagined I would back then.

Most importantly than all of that, I recognise that if I lost everything again, I am still lucky. I have my family and lovely friends who stay with me and support me even when I am going (literally) crazy. I have a house and I have food to eat, I have running water, I have possessions. I also have opportunity and freedom – the opportunity to change things if I want to and the freedom to do so. The best of it is, you have these things too.

Think about what you HAVE achieved, how far you’ve come in the past year

New Year encourages us to look forward, but also to look back and have a big think about all the things we haven’t done. This is useless and incredibly unhelpful, not to mention harmful for your mental health. Instead of listing the things you wish you had done, list the things you did do. Remember to include the small ones – like spending time with your kids or seeing friends. Although social media would have you believe that lavish holidays and fancy cars make life remarkable, it’s actually these things, the smallest things, which make your life amazing. Often we realise that far too late – so celebrate it today.

 

If you’ve read this and are thinking ‘that can’t be me’ – it CAN. Believe it can if you want things to change. I was at rock bottom – but within 12 months I have never been better or healthier mentally and physically. I’m excited by the year ahead, not fearful of it – and you can be too with time. You don’t have to wait till New Year to make a change and shift your perspective in a positive way. You can do it at ANY time of year – so don’t feel as though you’ve ‘missed the boat’ if you’re not able to tackle things right now.

If you’re still struggling please check out my accompanying post about New Year here, and if you need extra support or someone to talk to over the coming days Samaritans are available for impartial advice and support.

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