Is it 2014 already? Really truly?
But I was just getting used to the idea of 2013! That was haaaard. Actually, I don’t think I’m over the shock of discovering that we’re in the second decade of the third millennium. Stupid time, always carrying on whether we want it to or not.
My 2013 has been… well, mixed.
In the beginning of the year, I had to face up to the fact that I had clinical depression and a whole lot of anxiety. I quit my job (good decision) and enrolled in a Masters of Theology course at Notre Dame Uni here in Sydney (even better decision). I also started seeing a wonderful psychologist.
From there, the year got steadily better.
I learnt a lot about myself. That’s a good thing, right? Oh, it totally is… until you’re the one doing all that psychological excavation. Then it’s just exhausting. I have a lifetime of bad thinking habits to unlearn. For instance, did you know that the best way to deal with fear isn’t viciously hating on yourself so that your own self-disgust will outweigh whatever fear you felt? No? ME NEITHER!!
But really, things were soooo much better than they were. I almost felt like a brand new person, like I could do anything, and everything would always be super fan-damn-tastic!!!
For a while it seemed that way. I was discovering so much and learning so much. At uni, every lesson was a revelation. I was meeting so many lovely people. I was even discovering the Latin Mass and oh wow, what an incredible joy that is!
As the year turned though, I seemed to turn with it. It started slowly but ever so slowly, I started getting more and more anxious about, well, everything. The problem was that as soon as the immediate symptoms of crippling depression were gone, I started holding myself to my old standards: perfection or death.
(You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I sound like a bloody British imperialist the way I go on in my head: “Oh no, that minor slip-up? Completely unacceptable! How could you be so utterly foolish??? Really, I can’t even look at you now — you disgust me, you worthless excuse of a human being.” And so on and so forth…)
I started getting anxious about things. Oh so anxious.
Dear God, how anxious.
You see, I get worried about the smallest things and overwhelmed by the most humdrum occurrences. Instead of treating my anxieties gently or even matter-of-factly, I beat myself up so badly for even being anxious in the first place. (See above!) Which only makes me feel worse and even more anxious. Then I get anxious about being anxious. And then I get anxious about being anxious about all my anxiety.
It just keeps building until I don’t even know what I’m worried about anymore — I’m just a bundle of raw nerves, so alone and so afraid, just torturing myself with cruel thought, punishing myself for even having the temerity to exist.
Seriously, it’s messed up.
But while, in the second half of the year, I knew what my mind was doing, I didn’t seem to be able to stop it. My standard fallback option of white-knuckling perfectionism apparently wasn’t working and anyway, it’s just making me more and more miserable.
That’s where I find myself now.
About a month ago, shit hit the fan. Oh don’t worry, I’m fine now. I’m at my parents and I’m re-grouping. But I will need your prayers if you can spare them. I’m going back to see my psychologist and re-evaluating medication. I’m starting to function like a normal human being again.
Maybe that’s the one thing I have to learn from this year.
There is no normal. Being human doesn’t mean having it together. In fact, it means the very opposite!
It doesn’t mean getting over things quickly or proceeding neatly from A to B to C. A year ago, I had a clear plan in my head. I was going to study theology and spend some time addressing my… stuff (for want of a better word). And then I was going to fly away, all shiny and happy, like one of those gold stars I always got on my report card.
BOOM! SWOSH! KAPOW!
I’d be a NEW person! A shiny, happy, totally unanxious and perfect person.
As the last fireworks faded on New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t a new person. I wasn’t even out partying or celebrating with all my friends like I was supposed to.
I was at home, with my parents, playing Scrabble. You know what, it was pretty great. (Also, I love Scrabble so I’ll be honest, it was a good choice!)
We’re not always where we think we should be when the New Year comes, but we are always where we need to be.
This coming year, I don’t have any great ambitions or aspirations. I’m not going to figure it all out or get my life together. (Is anyone’s life ever together??) Maybe growing up is realising that there are no grown-ups, only other improbable creatures with more or fewer mistakes (or wrinkles) than you. We’re all muddling through this, we’re all screwing up along the way, we all have no idea what’s coming next.
None of us are perfect, least of me.
This year, I’m going to try learn that.
The greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection.
– Fr. Jacques Philippe