It’s been a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give a life update.
I spent last week sitting in the sand soaking up the sun on Topsail Beach. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather and it was one of the most relaxing peaceful vacations I can remember taking. Anxiety has been almost a constant in my life. I know a lot of people who suffer from it so I can’t say if it’s a symptom of bipolar disorder or just part of life in general. Maybe some of it is living in the DC area and the fast pace of life here. In any case, I struggle, like many, to live in the present. I’m either ruminating over the past or worried about the future creating all types of scenarios that may, but probably won’t, happen.
Last week felt like a gift. We rented a paddle board and I just spent some time paddling around in the ocean, trying not to fall off, feeling totally at peace. Life isn’t easy right now but I got a taste of what this verse meant:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34
I knew coming back from the beach meant a lot of craziness. My first class was starting. Back to walking dogs. The kids starting school and fall sports. Just the business of life. But for a few days, I was able to set my anxiety aside and appreciate the day. And just be thankful for all the gifts in my life, I was spending the week at the beach after all! I did wish a couple of times that I could bottle up that serenity but instead of ruining it by being upset it wouldn’t last, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the day, the kids, and friends. It got me thinking about how uncomfortable peace often makes me. I think of it as calm before the storm, so for me, peace often brings with it a sense of foreboding. For the first time in a long time, I was able to push that away from me and lay my anxiety down It felt good.
Almost as soon as we got back, I started my first class in 15 years. I remember last year at this time being in utter despair that I had no marketable skills. I felt completely incompetent. A friend helped me update my resume which I half heartedly sent out but it was with very little hope. It was meager at best. I didn’t work for very long before quitting to stay home. Plus, I had no direction and no idea what I wanted to do. At that point, I did’t even care and would’ve taken any job someone was willing to give me whether I thought it was a good fit for me or not.
I look back to that time and am very thankful I didn’t go back to work. I was a total mess. I spent most of my days crying. I’m not exaggerating when I say that and I know I’ve said it before. I got up, sat at my kitchen table and cried. I’d put on my running shoes and run and cry. I’d fold laundry and cry. It was one of the lowest point in my life. I can’t imagine what an employer would’ve thought of me. I know I wouldn’t have been very productive or a good employee.
Over the past year, I’ve worked hard and very slowly dug myself out of that hole. And for the first time in a long time I have direction. But more than that, I feel competent. I always said I would never go back to accounting but the truth is, I enjoyed accounting. I’m a nerd. But, it didn’t seem like an option. After more than 12 years of being out of it, I had no confidence that I remembered anything or could do it. Signing up for classes is the first step back to that. I look at this journey over the last year and am thankful that things happened the way they did. One step at a time. While I know many women go from stay-at-home mom back to full time employee regularly, it would have been a shock and not one I’m sure I could’ve handled in the state I was in. I’m pretty sure I would’ve crumbled under the stress.
I spent last fall leaning on my close friends. My brother works from home and for a few months, I headed over there weekly to go running. Those runs helped get me through a very dark time and not something that I would’ve been able to do had I been working full time. Prayer group was also an integral part of that time. I often went and talked and cried. I was accepted where I was without judgement. I met regularly with friends who wanted to help me. They would listen to me (cry!) and offer advice but mostly, what I needed was friends who would listen. I had to do the work myself and it was hard. I couldn’t have done it without them cheering me on telling me I was stronger than I thought. Believing in me when I couldn’t.
Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder and getting on medication was a turning point in my life. It hasn’t been easy but it’s made sense of things. I still struggle but so does everyone in different ways. The self awareness brought with it self acceptance. For the first time probably ever, I like who am. That is a huge thing for me to say. I’ve hated myself for as long as I can remember. Over the last year, I’ve learned I am flawed but I am loved. I don’t think I could’ve ever gotten past the self loathing without finally figuring out this major piece of the puzzle.
I stumbled onto the dog walking company when I needed it most. The company I work for is woman owned and comprised mostly of stay-at-home moms or moms whose kids are grown. And it’s the perfect part time job for me to do while my kids are at school and now, while I’m studying. I still didn’t have a plan when I applied for that job. But I felt so bad about myself and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I needed a way to contribute. It offered me a way to contribute financially to my family without any major disruption to our lives. I knew it wasn’t a long term career for me, but it was a step. And there were days when I walked and cried (obviously a major theme of the last year) and I could do that without feeling embarrassed. No judgement from the dogs.
And now, I’m back at school. I’m taking 9 credits this semester. I’m taking intermediate accounting in consecutive 8 week sessions. Those two classes are refresher classes that I’ve already taken. They’re quick and intense but I wanted to get them over with in one semester so I could move onto other things. The third class, a Quickbooks class, which is new to me. And I’m excited (yes, excited!) to learn the software. My hope at this point, is to get a part time accounting job in January while I take another class or two to get current experience on my resume and hopefully get a full time job next fall.
The person I was last year couldn’t have even imagined I’d be where I am today. It’s been the result of a long hard year. Many tears. Even more prayers. Support. Therapy. Medication. Things generally haven’t happened in the time I wish they would. Or without as much pain as I would prefer but I do think it was all necessary to get where I am.
I’ve been on a major decluttering kick. I realized it was time to simplify my life. The clutter overwhelms me and with six of us in a townhouse, we need to be a little more discerning with the things we bring into the house. Every time I get rid of something, I feel a little lighter which makes me wonder why we have all this stuff in the first place. Just another step in taking back control of my life.
I still run but have no goals at this point. For the last few years, I needed a goal and something to work towards. It gave me a little control in an out of control life. But right now, my focus is my career. So I run without pressure when I want to. I can’t say I enjoy it right now, the heat and humidity make me pretty miserable. August is my least favorite month to run. But my favorite time, the fall, is just around the corner. So I plod through the soupy humidity with visions of crisp fall mornings keeping me going.
So that’s pretty much it. I feel like I should celebrate August. I know I paint the last year as pretty horrific. And in a lot of ways it was. But it was also the first year of a new life. Growth doesn’t come without pain and I have hope for better things to come. From hopeless to hopeful, that’s a lot to celebrate. So here’s to one year. Hopefully year two brings just as much growth, perhaps with a few less tears.