2017 In Hindsight; 2018 looking forward

Banner Photo by Kristopher Roller via Unsplash

Content warning: Discussion of suicide, pregnancy loss, and mental health.

2017 started with a suicide in my husband’s immediate family followed by a miscarriage. Grief left me feeling wrong-footed and cotton-mouthed; I managed to talk about the latter but remain tongue-tied by the former.

(Where would I start? We were never close. His death revealed decades of abuse and years of deteriorating health. A lot of what I felt – still feel – is ugly and raw and flies in the face of loved ones who have a balance of more good memories than bad. It’s taken a year to come to terms with these feelings and with myself as someone capable of feeling that way.)

There are plenty of happy memories; it wasn’t an entire year of doom and gloom. With everything underpinned by these two events, however, a lot of my memories are emotionally dissonant:

Long nights spent with grieving relatives, surrounded by flowers and condolences and tears, while Olivia and her cousin played and startled laughs out of everyone present.

Welcoming a new nephew less than a week after actively miscarrying.

Drifting through holidays like a bad dream, dodging the inevitable well-meaning but nonetheless invasive questions.

Wishing happy birthday to my grandma-in-law who, for one horrible night in January, didn’t think she would live to see another birthday.

It’s laughable to think that the year also ended on a low note – a household case of the flu – but getting sick turned out to be 2017’s parting sucker punch. All’s well and good while you’re busy and focused on the future! Until you find yourself couch-bound with nothing but time to reflect on a year’s worth of things you tried very hard to think and talk around instead of about.

In a way, though, I think this was the best possible ending to the year, despite starting the new year both physically and emotionally raw. Goodbye and good riddance to 2017. 2018 won’t be a clean slate, but I’m in a better place to make peace with the bad and choose the good going forward.

On the Upswing

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I set out to write something lighthearted and this spilled out first… See last post re: word vomit, haha.

Spring means an upward shift in mood for a lot of people, myself included. This year the change feels more dramatic than usual because it follows the long stretch of isolation, uncertainty, and stir-craziness that was our first winter as parents. We stayed inside more often than not because getting out the door took more energy than I had to spare. Self-defeating thoughts became the norm: what was the point if it took twice as long to get ready than we would spend outside? Was the baby dressed appropriately for -30° temperatures? Was it worth stressing myself to the point of hyperventilating over poorly maintained country roads to go to our weekly baby group, when driving was already magnitudes more anxiety-inducing than before because of the tiny human in the back seat, unpredictable weather aside?

…and so on and so forth. Minor things, right? Except every minor thing made leaving the house a challenge. Simple tasks seemed insurmountable because I was already struggling, which in turn fueled the cycle of negative thoughts that brought me down and made it difficult to get through more than the bare necessities of each day. This should be easy, so why am I having such a hard time?

I still feel like there’s a long way to go and that my mental health is on the rocky side of coping. This shift to nicer weather has helped; sunshine is definitely not a cure-all, but it eases the burden. We spend most of our time outdoors now that it’s easy to go out: I can throw on shoes and take Olivia for long rambling walks, devote a few hours to the garden, visit the park, spend the afternoon reading on a shaded blanket without much prep or forethought. We sit for hours at a time on the porch swing and drive wherever we please. I don’t feel trapped, or constantly anxious, and have more energy to devote to enjoying life instead of merely surviving it.

I’m running out of steam, but that’s where I’m at in a nutshell: still taking things day by day, enjoying all things green, and basking in my daughter’s happiness and excitement with the world outdoors. We have so many plans for this summer and I can’t wait to get started!