2017: A Year of Contributing to Wholeness
This post is dedicated to anyone afraid of being human and afraid of sharing the deeper raw emotions that live inside each of us. You know those emotions that are not "beautiful enough” for our Instagram profiles, but the ones that are an innate part of who we are? I give you permission to be who you are in its entirety and I respect you for being vulnerable.
"The moment you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself… That is that moment, you might be starting to get it right.” — Neil Gaiman
As the year turned from 2016 to 2017, the glimpse of the new year held great promise for me. Instinctually, I knew it would drastically change my life for I was about to embark on a lot of newness — a new job and a new city to start. I wasn't exactly sure at the time how this change would manifest, but as the year turned from 2016 to 2017; I felt rather positive about it all.
As mentioned above, 2017 kicked off with with a whirlwind of new:
New job — I started my dream gig as a visual designer for IBM.
New city — That new job happened to be 2,000 miles away from home in a state that had a completely different culture than the one I grew up in.
New friends — I knew not a single soul in Texas and as a deep introvert, this was really hard.
New diet — I was transitioning from straight meat and seafood to a plant-based diet.
New hormonal chemistry — I decided to get off birth control.
New relationship — For a hot second, I started dating again.
Looking back at this IG caption, it has never rung more true. 2017 was a year dedicated to growth, but a year of straight discomfort. Actually, 2017 might as well have punched me directly in the face that is how uncomfortable it felt.
In order to achieve that growth, this year was accompanied with some pain, heartbreak, severe homesickness, illness, anxiety, and mild depression. They aren't fun feelings so I've been hesitant to talk about them openly; but, they are feelings I aim to release in order to make room for what it's taught me. So here we go:
I went to work many a days feeling as if my coworkers may as well have been speaking another language. There was such a steep learning curve to their process and to the technology. This feeling was understandable and expected until I achieved the domain knowledge needed to efficiently do my job; however, never in my life have I ever felt as under-prepared and under-qualified.
I spent majority of 2017 questioning whether or not I was good enough, talented enough, smart enough. It was not a true sentiment; but it absolutely was a shitty feeling and it absolutely gets in the way of making good work.
Lesson #1: In order to overcome that, you must embrace ambiguity. You must ask questions when you don't understand. You must be humble. You must fail, learn from it, and keep moving forward.
New City and New Friends
At many points over this past year, I physically felt the 2,000 mile separation from everyone I knew and loved. Austin may have been a city filled with people, but with people I only really knew by first name if that. I consistently felt alone especially as texts to many people in my east-coast life remained unanswered.
I found myself in a different culture. Strangers were saying y’all and talking to me in public places. All I kept thinking was “they aren’t like me and I don’t fit in here”. I look back and giggle a little at this; but in the moment, it was raw and real and hard to adjust to.
Early in 2017, I also relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina for a month. When I was sent on this work assignment, I had barely finished getting all my furniture in my apartment and my car lease settled before “moving” again. This was the start of the tipping point of too much new for in March I landed myself in the hospital from an anxiety attack… not my most shining moment.
I kept hearing the cliche, “It takes a year to feel fully settled in a new city”. That may be true, but that phrase didn’t take away any of the pain I was feeling. Instead, it shined a flashlight on the discomfort within my heart. This new was hard.
I remember my cousin and her husband FaceTiming me one afternoon to catch up. In our conversation, they shared with me that they were expecting their first child. Tears of happiness filled my eyes when I was on the phone with them because I genuinely was SO happy for them. And as soon as I hung up, my boyfriend at the time looked at me... I swear he looked directly into my soul and the emotion of my tears changed.
I tried so desperately to hide my hurt from him, but I failed miserably. Tears of pain flushed my face knowing that my whole family was together in our favorite spot on Earth celebrating such an important moment in my cousin’s life. All I could think about was that I wasn’t there with them. My heart hurt.
I tried so desperately to hide my hurt from everybody, not solely him. I think hiding made it feel easier to get through the day because "I couldn’t feel". When you’re deeply in tune with your emotions, this isn’t a sustainable state and you’re going to explode eventually. It felt safer to hide, but this only caused more pain.
“Well, maybe it is my veganism.” I kept thinking.
With all of the anxious-ambiguous energy I was feeling, I thought “Well, maybe I’m not nourishing myself properly. That’s why my mental and physical states are off”.
Spoiler: It wasn’t. My blood work showed that my nutrient levels were all extraordinary, better than when I was eating animal products. So what was happening inside of me was not biological.
New Hormonal Chemistry
I’ll get to this.
I’ll get to this.
The sign that I needed to do something about all this newness came when I had an anxiety attack like never before. I was walking back into work from lunch with a coworker in May. He started talking about a painful part of his life that was rather triggering for me and then all of a sudden the whole left-side of my body from my neck to my left fingertips to my toes stiffened up, started to tingle and then went completely and utterly numb. I knew I should have sat down, but the defensive side of me did not want to let him know that something seriously wrong was occurring. I did not want my coworkers to associate my name with anxiety. As a woman, our gender already get a bad wrap for being “emotional beings” in the workplace so I kept moving my feet and hoping that one foot was landing in front of the other. I couldn’t feel them so it was a big guess.
I wondered if I was having a stroke or a heart-attack because the physical manifestation of this was not something I had ever experienced. Indeed this thought actually crossed my mind — “Well if this is serious and I collapse here on the floor, someone will be around to call 911." No one should ever have a thought like that. EVER.
Let it be known, I’m not proud of myself for ignoring my body in this moment. It goes against everything I stand for; but, I was fighting to get through and to be seen as “normal".
I somehow got my body in the elevator, up to my floor. I said goodbye to my coworker, thanked him for lunch and ran to the bathroom to meditate. This by far was the worst day in Austin I had, perhaps my worst day of 2017. It was a turning point for me that I needed to get my health in order and my life.
Lesson #2: Anxiety is the universe’s way of saying that you’re sensitive to the environment around you. It doesn’t make you any less of a human. Rather, it makes you more so because humans are emotional beings. Tune in and deeply pay attention to what the world is trying to tell you.
The world at the time was trying to tell me that my mind and my body were not aligned. The rest of 2017 was spent trying to re-tune.
There I was in the doctors office praying for scientific answers to why my body was acting the way it was. It may be helpful to know at this time I happened to follow a prominent social media influencer in the health space who struggled with hormone imbalance and anxiety. She discussed at length about what she was diagnosed with... what helped her heal. She was what got me knowledgeable enough to start asking the right questions. So I did.
"I didn't order this hormone test" shrugged my doctor.
"I know. I did."
Lesson #3: Fight for your health. You're the one paying the bill.
"Hmm... okay" she mumbles as she reluctantly reads my blood work report.
"OH. Yeah... Your hormones are way off."
My gut instant was right... Kinda.
I swore I had adrenal fatigue — a state when your adrenals work properly, but they're pumping out more cortisol than a human should. As a result, your body's response to daily life is anxiety and your body is exhausted due to its continuous state of fight or flight, a state that is not sustainable for long periods of time.
Note: Not everyone with anxiety has adrenal fatigue; however, adrenal fatigue was the only thing I could find medically that helped to explain my random and severe attacks of panic to the degree to which I was having them.
Instead she said this:
"Your LH/FSH levels are operating at a 3:1 ratio. They should be operating at a 1:1 ratio. You may never be able to have children."
I am now rather well versed in what those hormones do and how they should operate. To keep this short and simple, they control women's ovulation.
I'm sitting on a cold AF medical table in a paper-thin robe being told that there is something significantly wrong with my womanhood. This didn’t feel good in any way, shape or form.
I'm 23 years old. Actually in this moment, I was 22.
My love life is not at all close to serious… let’s be real — I spent a good deal of 2017 on Hinge.
And I’m lucky if I can afford an organic vegetable at Whole Foods. So affording diapers is out of the question.
Needless to say, I have zero desire to have kids any time in the near future or even semi-distant future. But man oh man... did my maternal instinct kick in and kick in loud. In that moment more than ever did I know part of my life purpose is to bring children into this world and raise them with proper values. No one was going to tell me I couldn’t ever have them.
"Your only option to control this is to go back on birth control" she said interrupting my spinning thoughts.
"I'm going to heal it naturally.”
"I'm not so sure about that."
Even the Northern in me was too polite to say this out loud, but in my head I thought "watch me".
I exited that office determined to get my hormones and thus, my life together.
The first step to healing was saying goodbye to a perfectly amazing man who was interested in me. He was incredibly intelligent, hardworking, thoughtful; and most of all, kind. The truth was I barely was able to be there for myself and in that state, I couldn’t be there for someone else.
If you're reading this, know that I am deeply sorry that I was unable to give my heart to you, and also know that you did something for me that I'm not quite sure how to repay you for. You showed me that I am deeply deserving of genuine love.
Ever since my rape, my relationships have not mirrored #relationshipgoals. I've gotten myself into some rather unhealthy relations and relations where I didn't receive in return what I needed. But you... you were the first person in a long time that showed me I could have healthy love if I wanted it. You also showed me that I still had a deep amount of healing to do internally. For the rest of 2017, I focused on that. So from the bottom of my healed heart, I am so thankful for you.
Lesson #4: Relationships are about timing just as much as they are about finding the right person.
My heart was not ready. However, he came into my life to teach me what he needed to teach me. I only hope I did the same for him.
I spent this year as the blinking 5% battery on your cellphone. Nothing got better until I starting finding ways to recharge. And if it isn’t already obvious, this is why I am as dedicated to health and wellness as I am. When I started taking care of my body, I felt my mind get stronger. And when I started taking care of my mind, I felt my body heal inside.
Lesson #5: Our mind and our body are deeply connected; they are one.
I found a home on a yoga mat. I developed a deep spiritual practice of meditation and journaling. I began watching the foods I ate more closely and in doing so, I watched my menstrual cycles return to normal (take that doc...). Slowly and day-by-day, I was healing and I was becoming more whole.
“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that — I don’t mind people being happy — but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position — it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.” - Hugh Mackay
Overall Lesson of 2017: Being uncomfortable may feel negative, but it doesn't always have negative outcomes.
2017 was not all bad, it brought me some good. I met some crazy-talented, uber-kind, hardworking individuals in Austin that I get to call friends. I traveled all over the United States expanding my view of the world and growing my wanderlust bug. I met a women who helped me realize my life purpose — helping sexual assault survivors heal through health and wellness. I ran my first half marathon. I showed two of my dear friends my new home in Austin. But most of all, I proved I could do a scary thing — move 2,000 miles away from everyone I know and love and do alright.
Instinctually, I was right about one thing: 2017 drastically changed my life. It was the best worst year thus far. I’m sure I’ll have another one; but until then, I’m grateful for what this year taught me and I let go of all its negativity. I want to glide into 2018 with utter confidence in who I am and with peace in my heart.