How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?
As a perfectionist, that's difficult for me to accept.
As a woman who battles depression, it's easy to feel guilty for failing to achieve perfection.
Since I already know my pattern, I sometimes choose to yield to apathy instead of attempting to work towards my goals.
Except that by avoiding the entire process all together, I still end up feeling frustrated because I become totally perfect at doing nothing.
Then, I'm so focused on what I haven't accomplished, I forget about all the goals I have reached and I fall deeper into my depression.
Here's an example:
Some time after this blog post is published, I'll probably reread it and edit it to, say, capitalize a letter.
I'll chastise myself for stupidly overlooking the mistake, I'll worry my readers think I'm a fraud who has no business writing and I'll ask myself, "Why didn't I just do it right the first time?"
Then, I'll allow my anger and sadness over not doing what I love and need to do contribute to my depression.
Although this example details a seemingly minor situation, it has happened to me before.
It represents just how debilitating negative thinking can be to my mental and emotional health. It demonstrates just how easy it is for me to forget the good in life and focus on the bad.
So, as an exercise in positive thinking and self-encouragement, I am writing this blog post to celebrate two of my personal achievements of 2012 and how I hope to build upon these achievements in 2013.
Welcome to Part IV of "How Do You Measure A Year?"
"I don't know. I just feel sad," I say, looking at the tiled floor.
"You hide it very well," he tells me.
"I know," I smile, wrapping the white blanket more tightly around my bare shoulders.
That's the conversation I used to tell the world that I am depressed. A conversation that took place in the psychiatric emergency room of a local city hospital.
I knew that, in spite of receiving talk therapy for three years, my irritability, discontent and social withdrawal were ruining my quality of life.
And when you don't feel good enough for anything or anyone, you don't even try to be anymore.
So I did one of the bravest things I've ever done: I admitted I needed medication, and I abandoned my cell phone and my shoes to check myself into the psych ER.
But these things needed to be done. I can't disregard the fact that mental health disorders are highly stigmatized, but I refuse to disregard the importance of caring for my mental health and being able to talk openly about it.
In fact, I'm glad I outed my depression to the world. That post spoke to people who can relate, and it made them feel less alone. No one passed judgment against me.
I am proud of myself for acknowledging the power depression has over me and taking another step towards reversing that dynamic. I still have a long journey in front of me--medication is not a magic pill--but I'm ready for 2013 to be full of more steps forward.
"But my mom thinks I'll just be wasting my time with this writing course," I whined. "She was like, 'Those teachers probably aren't even qualified. You should use that money to go to grad school instead. so you can get credit for it."
Naima put her hot pot of almond bubble tea down on the wooden table and said, "I've heard great things about Gotham! The teachers are professors at, like, NYU and Sarah Lawrence."
"Really? See! I just want so badly to write. I miss being in a class where you can get feedback on your work. It would keep me motivated."
"I think it's a good idea," Naima replied. "You need and deserve something of your own, besides being a mother to Equis. Something you love, that'll make you happy."
I can't appreciate my best friend and my boyfriend enough for encouraging me early last year to enroll in a Gotham Writer's Memoir Workshop with Cullen Thomas in spite of my mom's objections.
The courses not only helped to develop my writing, they also allowed me to honestly explore my life experiences in a healthful way. The in-class prompt to "Write a letter to someone you hate," inspired the post, "The Anti-Dad: An Open Letter to My Son's Father" and its subsequent post, "Stuck Like Glue: The Story Behind the Letter."
My professor also taught me how to go back in time to adequately describe the wonderfully terrifying experience of giving birth: my water breaking; suffering through dilation and contractions; and finally delivering the little boy who inspired this blog in the first place.
Although I can no longer afford to take classes, and I have missed the camaraderie of the classroom and the confidence being a part of a supportive writing group gave me, I am glad I did it when I could.
In 2013, I hope to focus more consistently on my writing. I know it makes me happy, so why waste time trying to be perfect when I can get it all out there and feel good that I just did it?
What was one achievement of 2012, big or small, that you are proud of?