*Originally written January 16, 2015
One of my biggest flaws is my extreme unwillingness to display weakness of any sort. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. If you want to get all psychoanalytical about it, it probably has a lot to do with growing up poor and being afraid to impose stress by asking for anything. Regardless of the root cause, my answer to any sort of struggle has to be push harder. I approach most circumstances like a running back, just barreling through the opposition with the hopes of breaking through to a clear and open field.
My tunnel vision approach to struggles has helped me achieve a lot of my accomplishments – but it can also be a really terrible way to live.
2014 was one of my roughest adult years in recent memory. I lost friends and family. I (effectively) lost my job and went through a period of financial instability. I suffered through a seemingly overwhelming heartbreak . Worst of all, I refused to cope with any of it in any substantive way. I have the distressed liver and 15 extra pounds to prove it.
My friends knew I was going through a tough time, but I insisted on downplaying it. I didn’t tell anyone about the back to back weekends I would have where I would get in my apartment, go to my bed, and not leave for anything besides a seamless order until Monday morning. Or the amount of drinking I’d do by myself after I left the happy hour. I distinctly remember being out at a small lounge in Brooklyn with two friends who had taken me out and being completely unable to suppress tears from streaming down my face. When my concerned friend asked me if I was okay, I dismissed it by saying that the smoke in the room was irritating my contacts. It ended up being a fun night.
I got a new job that was both fulfilling and time-consuming, right up my alley to crowd out everything else around me. Problems don’t just go away when you ignore them, however. 60 hour weeks and working weekends meant that I would wake up with tears on my face, realizing that I had been crying in my sleep. Meant that I took cabs everywhere, partially because my position afforded me that privilege, but also because I couldn’t handle being around people anymore than the capital I put into my work hours. Meant that it took days of preparation to put my game face on to handle friendly interactions and outings. In a vacuum, this may sound like the behavior of a standard introvert. However, while I may be a private person, I’ve always been comfortable in social gatherings. People tend to find me likable, if a bit smart-mouthed. Not to reduce introversion to something as minute on that – my ultimate point is that, with a few exceptions, I don’t find social environments draining.
It all came to a head for me this past Christmas Eve, when I woke up and realized within 30 minutes that the concept of spending time with my family seemed almost unbearable. I called my mother to let her know that I just couldn’t do it, and for the first time in what seems like an eternity, I sobbed, unapologetically and openly. This wasn’t the first time I cried this year, it wasn’t even the fifth. I certainly cried when I lost my job, or when my relationship with a person I thought I would be with forever ended over the phone. But crying without shame or fear was a freedom I hadn’t afforded myself – the liberation to admit that things were not okay with me, that the bright spots of the past few months have been riddled with despair, that I was just not okay.
I ended up spending Christmas Eve alone – and yes, I cried for most of it. But in some ways, it was a good day for me. It was a day that I realized it was time to step back and focus on myself; that I forced myself to accept that I wasn’t a lesser person for stumbling. I woke up early Christmas Day and spent the majority my day with my complicated but wonderful family, thanking my mother for letting me struggle through the day prior as I needed.
New Year’s Resolutions have never quite been a big thing for me, but as the weeks start to pass in 2015, I have done my best to prioritize myself ; and most importantly, to take it day by day. Accepting the strength in frailty has been a hard pill to swallow, but once I accepted the diagnosis, it became harder to ignore the required medication. Here’s hoping it brings forth an emotionally fruitful 2015.