The Best Year of My Life: What I Learned About Happiness in 2013

04stillagod
2013 was the best year of my life.

I say that with confidence because around this time last year, I was severely depressed and considering suicide. I felt there was no escape from the battle going on in my mind, which I have struggled with since childhood.

2013 was the best year of my life because I made the best decisions of my life: to seek treatment for mental illness and not give up.

I wanted so badly to give up.

But if I had, I wouldn’t be here. And I wouldn’t be able to share my victory with you and tell you that there is hope.

Below are excerpts from my journal around this time last year. I felt so alone when I wrote these things. If you are going through the same thing I was, I want you to know that you’re not alone and there is hope and victory on the horizon.

But you must admit that you have a serious health problem that needs attention and attend to it.

And you must not give up.

03Forgive

1/2/13

Therapy Notes.

  • I feel like I don’t deserve to be happy.
  • Too hard on myself.
  • Recognize that I am human.
  • Will I develop more peace with the past over time?
  • I am stuck in the mud- what will get me out of the mud that is positive? (not alcohol)
  • Need a healthy addiction.
  • Need to make a good choice.
  • Forgive yourself and move on.

06cantseegod

1/2/13

I am wondering if there is still a God. I haven’t felt Him lately. I don’t feel relief from mental illness- my mental slavery that keeps me miserable for no good reason.

I am drawing farther away from everyone. I’m embarrassed and I feel like a burden.

I try to forgive myself and it doesn’t stick.

I try to forgive others and it doesn’t stick.

I don’t know what else to do.

I have tried.

Everything.

I don’t know what is wrong with me.

I can’t see God.

I can’t see God in this.

02GeorgeBailey

1/3/13

Last night, after writing the previous entry, I began to cry. Quoting an excerpt from the worship song, “Open the Eyes of my Heart,” I said, through my tears,

“I want to see You.

I want to see You.”

I felt like George Bailey near the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” pleading for his life back.

Immediately after I spoke those words, Greg (my husband) came through the door. He had just gotten home for the evening.

I told him how I was feeling and what happened- how I wanted to see God and that’s when he came home.

“God is love,” I said, hugging him.

01purpose

I shared my frustration with Greg- how I felt I was no closer to feeling better than I was last year.

It’s been a full year that I’ve tried therapy, several different medications, and changing habits. Still- I’m depressed. Still- I’m discontented.

I’m nearly at my wit’s end.

I told Greg I still don’t know what my purpose is.

“Your purpose, for now, is to get better. Focus on that,” he said.

~

So I did.

Fast forward to 2014. In addition to finding a medication and therapy regimen that works for me, I learned a lot about how to be happier over the last year. This includes:

  • Practicing Gratitude Daily. This has made a HUGE difference in my life. I highly recommend One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by the amazing Ann Voskamp. In 2013 I made it a point to count my blessings daily and to be joyous for others’ successes. I didn’t realize how blessed I was until I made time to document life’s large and small blessings and thank God for them.
  • Trusting God. Even when I stopped believing He was present, He was still there. While God didn’t magically appear in front of me Old Testament-style, He showed up through my husband, my friends, my therapists, my family, and more. God put the right people in my life at the right time. He also taught me important lessons when I was ready to receive them.
  • Exercising and Eating Right. This has been so important to my overall happiness. At the beginning of 2013, I had to force myself to go to the gym and work out. Now, my day is not complete without exercise. I’ve also noticed how much eating right contributes to my happiness. Whenever I eat fast food or other unhealthy options now, I notice how depressed and lethargic that food can make me. Energy-inducing food like proteins, fruits, vegetables, and “good” carbs are important to one’s overall well-being.
  • Changing Location and Environment. For various reasons, where I was and what I was doing at this time last year was not making me happy. My daily environment had the tendency to be negative, and it greatly contributed to my unhappiness without my realizing it. While it was already part of our plans to do so, moving and changing jobs this year were the best things my husband and I could have done. We are much happier in our new environment and the future feels bright.
  • Recognizing Triggers and Avoiding Them When Possible. People who struggle with depression and anxiety often have “triggers” that can jump-start negative feelings. I’ve learned to recognize my triggers and avoid them when possible. Sometimes that means doing something really hard, like cutting people out of your life that you recognize as toxic, or keeping those people at arm’s length. I’ve done this. It’s been hard, but worth it.
  • Getting Enough Sleep. I joke with my friends now that 9 p.m. is past my bedtime because I’m “old.” But I’m serious! Not getting enough sleep makes me really moody, and I recognize that. It is so important to get enough sleep. I understand this isn’t an option for everyone, but try to sleep more if you can. It will bring out the best in you.
  • Forgiving Myself and Others. I am not naturally a forgiving person, but I’m trying. I’ve learned forgiveness is the hardest thing a person can do, and sometimes the person you need to forgive the most is yourself. I’ve found forgiveness to be fluid, but that’s probably because I’m not smart enough yet to really get it. One day I forgive everything and love everybody, and the next day I don’t. This is something I continue to work on and attempt to fully understand in God’s time.
  • Living Presently. Living presently means you focus on today. You aren’t depressed about the past or anxious about the future. You recognize that what you did in the past doesn’t matter very much, because you were doing the best you could do with the knowledge you had at that time. This has helped me forgive myself for making stupid mistakes in my past. Each day, I try to do better with the knowledge I have.

Overall, I feel incredibly blessed for how 2013 turned out and thankful for how much I’ve learned about myself, happiness and God. I hope what I’ve learned can help you too. Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!

snowface

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