Happy New Year
I realize it’s only the twelfth of November, but stay with me on this one. In a couple of weeks, as 2017 draws to a close, TV channels, radio stations, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels will begin compiling their lists for the best, the most, the craziest, the worst — songs, headlines, speeches, commercials, games – pretty much anything and everything that’s happened over the last twelve months.
I’ve always gravitated towards this ritual, probably because I’m sentimental. And hey, it’s always good to look back over the last 365 days to see what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve changed. Of course doing this also runs the risk of me realizing how little I’ve accomplished or changed, which can have quite a negative effect, but I’m actually feeling pretty optimistic about my year in review.
I’ve decided to have this little review in November because it’s been (just over) one year since the shocking results of the 2016 presidential election. Like millions of other social justice warriors (AKA human beings with a heart), I compare 11/9/16 to 9/11/01 – two of the worst days in American history. I was devastated, to say the least, and spent the first few days crying and struggling to sleep. But after the initial shock had worn off, that devastation was replaced by a powerful need to act. While the election finally motivated me to get off my anxiety-riddled ass and actually do something (namely, volunteer and SPEAK UP), it also motivated me to make a lot of personal changes in other aspects of my life.
Social Media & EMDR
I have to admit that prior to the election (and the week or so afterwards), I was “that” person on Facebook – I shared memes and posts without checking facts, argued with strangers, and ranted endlessly when someone posted something that made me furious. The election and its social media aftermath made me realize that doing all of this was pointless. It was a waste of time and energy. Sharing a meme and responding to strangers’ comments on Facebook was not going to right the wrongs in this country. So I directed all of that energy into figuring out who I was going to volunteer with and doing as much as I could to educate myself on politics and what we could do to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.
A side effect of this revelation was also realizing that yes, it is okay to block, unfollow, or unfriend a relative, acquaintance, or co-worker if their posts are continually hurtful or insulting. This wasn’t about being delicate or sensitive. It was about me making every aspect of my life as drama-free and as positive as possible. If that meant unfollowing a distant cousin for continually bashing my beliefs, then so be it. I’m happy to say that since making this change, my Facebook newsfeed is now full of cute puppies, heartwarming stories of human kindness, beautiful art, and helpful writing and publishing tips. Many people will say that it’s better to just stop using social media altogether to avoid the negativity, but I have decided to use it for good now, not evil.
All of these changes with social media made me realize that I was capable of doing something I’d been struggling with for years – setting boundaries. By choosing who I interacted with, how I interacted with them, and where I focused my energy, I finally began clearing the CRAP from my life, which I have since discovered is the very first step in moving towards a more authentic ME. And while setting all of these boundaries is much easier on Facebook where I can simply click a button, I am also making small tweaks to my daily life to set boundaries with people in real life, too.
Which brings me to my next revelation – I haven’t been myself for a very long time. Or rather, I was hiding my true self behind all my anxiety and expectations of what the rest of the world wanted me to be. But something about The Orange Lord taking office made me realize that there was no point in hiding! Maybe it was because I knew that the next four years were going to be a fight, and I couldn’t be meek and afraid anymore. Scores of people were going to be fighting for social justice and there was no question that I wanted to be in that army. But before I could fight for other people, I had to start fighting for myself. For years, I’ve had things to say and goals to accomplish, and I was DONE letting fear get in the way.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am still quite the work in progress. I’ve had countless panic attacks over the last year, many of which stemmed from doing new and scary things like volunteering, standing up for myself, and putting myself “out there” with my writing. But what changed in regards to my anxiety was that I finally sought out a new method of trying to deal with it.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a form of therapy originally developed to help those dealing with PTSD from traumas like war, rape, or assault. But it is also being used to help anxiety-sufferers like myself who haven’t had much like with other treatment methods. And oh, have I tried them. Fifteen years, six traditional therapists, half a dozen medications, two yoga classes, ounces of essential oils, and countless meditation sessions later, I found EMDR. (Or rather, my sister found EMDR and told me about it approximately thirty-seven times before I sought out a provider. Thanks again for saving my ass, little sister).
I’ve only been doing EMDR for about nine months, and things are slow going, but it is definitely unlike any therapy I’ve ever experienced, and that is a good thing! I am finally starting to find links between my past experiences and my present negative beliefs which lead to my anxiety, and am slowly chipping away at this little black cloud that’s been hanging over my head for as long as I can remember. It may be years before I can deflect anxiety like Super Woman and her bad ass arm bands, but hey, these things take time.
I could probably ramble on indefinitely about the other big changes I’ve made to my life since November 2016, but I know that the attention spans of people these days are limited, so I will attempt to wrap it up. In addition to everything mentioned above, I’ve also been watching MUCH less TV (especially news), which helps clear up the aforementioned black cloud. I’ve stopped obsessing over working out and my eating habits and am trying to concentrate on loving myself and my body the way I am instead of the way others think I “should be.” Most importantly, I’ve been writing like crazy, networking with strangers, and marketing my novel like a woman possessed, and it is this that I am most proud of and most excited for. I previously covered this revelation with my writing in three past blog posts, Why I Write (Parts 1, 2, & 3), and cannot wait to see what happens next.
Here’s to 2018!