A New Year’s Mental Health Countdown


New Year’s Eve is coming up, and many people are counting down. I’m counting down too.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

2016 has been a tough year for me. Perhaps, it was for you too? If you took a moment to reflect on your mental health journey this year, what would come to you? This is what came to me:

10. Ten miles.

I ran a 10-miler for the first time in my life this year, and I’m so proud of my accomplishment. There is nothing like a runner’s high! I wish I could bottle that shit up for when I’m having a down day.

9. Nine books.

The number of books I read this year and actually finished. I have desperately missed reading since having kids four years ago. My mind needs to be able to get lost in someone else’s world to give it a break from the reality of mine. I also seek out stories to draw strength from fellow warriors who are journeying with me. My favorites from the year include: “Accidental Saints” by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, ”Rising Strong” by Brene Brown and ”Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty.

8. Eight hours of sleep.

My goal for the number of hours to sleep each night. I cannot and must not underrate the importance of sleep for mental health.

7. Seven days of family summer camp.

Our family got to spend seven days at Outlaw Ranch in South Dakota. It was seven days of respite. Seven days of community. Seven days of living in a place where someone else graciously cooked and cleaned the dishes for us. Seven days where loving staff took our children in the morning and engaged them in enriching activities while we had adult time. Seven days of worship, learning, adventure, hiking, canoeing, growth and family time. Coming back to reality after being part of this village was a huge slap to my face.

6. Six sick days.

Six days I called in sick to work for mental health reasons. Six days I took for me, for appointments, for peace.

5. Five visits a month, at least, for mental health.

Weekly therapy and a check-in with a psychiatrist.

4. Four medication changes this year.

Four times of titrating up, weaning off, dealing with side effects and feeling like a human experiment. Please, let this one be the one!

3. Three new medication providers.

It’s so hard to find someone you trust, who listens and validates your experience, is reliable and communicates well. It’s worth it to keep looking.

2. Two new mental health diagnoses.

On top of depression, now I also am diagnosed with anxiety and a mood disorder. It’s clear to me now that I’ve lived with these for many years. Identifying and naming them, though, is new.

1. One me, one person, one mother, one wife and one environmental educator.

I wonder, after this year and the paths my journey has taken me on, who exactly is this me? Do these identities do me justice? Who am I and what is my place in the world? How do I relate to the world through the lens of a new diagnosis? What is me and what is my mental illness? What is me and what is my medication?

Perhaps, this lends itself to a goal for 2017: I get to identify the answers to these questions over time, constantly learning, reflecting, changing and evolving. Ultimately, it’s probably entirely up to me. The new year feels like a bit of a fresh start and a clean sheet for me to dive into this.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, Happy New Year! Cheers to your mental health, from a fellow warrior on the journey.

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