New Year, New Chance


Resolutions are not just for the new year. I know that because my resolutions started in the middle of fall 2017. Rather than fireworks, I started this fresh new chapter of my life in the aftermath of a breakdown that had repeated itself countless times before. I can’t say a breakdown isn’t comparable to fireworks in inventing a new me with a bang though, except this one involved less pretty colors and much more nasal congestion afterwards.

Artwork by Elliana Esquivel

I resolved to be a better person. It’s a huge ask, but I think I’m on track. Whatever ailments of the mental kind that dogged me constantly before became a minimal concern. I weaned off medication eventually, invigorated with a new outlook on life – I would work hard and develop my mental immunity. Sure, I still catch the occasional bout of anxiety or feel the virus of depression seep back into my veins every now and then, especially when I overwork or feel overwhelmed, but it’s just that: a cold. A sick day. I am back on my feet in no time and feel better than ever. At the end of the day, I am much stronger and cognizant of my mental health.

I count myself lucky. I want to tell you something I wish someone told me when I was in that dark place.

It’s all on you. It’s all on you.

You have to build the strength to face whatever struggles on your own. No one can do that for you. No one can make you better. You have to be resolved to get better. 

There’s this trend of wallowing in self pity and staying mentally sick forever because it’s “valid”. Don’t fall for it. While mental conditions cannot be prevented most of the time and most people will most likely suffer with it for the rest of their lives (including me!), that doesn’t mean you can’t manage it. Listen, managing your mental health does not make you any less sick. For example, someone who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer doesn’t equate them to healthy, they are attempting to manage their illness and save their life. Taking care of your mental well being by going to therapy and, I can’t stress this enough, actually listening and doing what you  are instructed to do is a mentally sick person’s way of undergoing intensive treatment to manage their illness and, yes, save their life.

Before anyone comes for my wig or whatever: no, I am not saying that mental illness is not a real illness. I’ve been through it. Hell, I’ve been put in hospital for it and have met people with all kinds of problems and mental and physical struggles. After witnessing the struggles of so many people and going through it myself, I would be the last person to say that mental illness is not real, or that anyone with a mental illness can be cured if they just changed their outlook on life or took responsibility or whatever. I am well aware that’s not how it works. I will never forget the freshman highschooler I met with an anger problem whose eyes lit up at the mention of Melanie Martinez. I will never un-see the rough tough gangster 25-year-old with knife marks all up and down his arms and the way he hugged his little Italian grandma when she came to visit. I most certainly will never forget code whites.

What I am saying is this, and read this very carefully: nothing will get better so long as you do not truly want to get better. For as long as you surrender yourself to doubt, resentment, or settlement, you will remain as you are.

This is just something I wish I knew when I was in the depths of my sickness, because God knows I could have gotten better a hell of a lot quicker if I had known that seeking treatment isn’t admitting defeat, or uncoolly swerving some weird cultural internet trend of being depressed.

If you doubt yourself, you will not get better. You must truly believe that you can do it in order to be successful. If you feel occasional doubt, turn to someone who can reinstate it. Find the people in your life that support you in getting better but do not attempt to control your getting better. Appreciate these people, and support them when you are able to in return.

If you resent your situation or whatever treatment it takes to get better, you will not get better. If you resent your therapist’s methods or your support system or your illness or whatever else, nothing can be done because your focus will always be concentrated on the wrong things. Let go. Find the right treatment for you and focus on yourself. Focus on how you can make yourself stronger, more open, and healed. Celebrate your victories, and acknowledge then move on from the mistakes. This could happen to anyone. It happened upon you. Appreciate your struggle for what it is: a hurdle to get over. An obstacle to overcome.

If you settle for whatever you are feeling now, you will not get better. Things do not magically mend themselves. It takes dedication and change. If change scares you, then get over that fear because it will hold you back for the rest of your life. Bettering yourself takes hard work, and as long as you are willing to do that hard work and welcome the changes that come along with it, and that includes taking full accountability for your mistakes and working to fix them, then you can heal yourself more and more. Be objective as possible. Own up, fess up, and put up. This is about changing yourself. That means getting off your ass even when it’s hard, and going for it.

Artwork by Elliana Esquivel

I worked my ass off to get to the level I am now. Am I done? No! Will I ever be done? Who knows?! I can always go into remission (as one would say in keeping with this whole cancer-is-like-mental-illness metaphor), but you fight it anyway. You take care of yourself. You listen to your body and mind. You make healthy choices with the help of your medical practitioner, therapist, psychiatrist, loved one, role model, mentor, mom, dad, grandma, cool book, fandom, ER nurse, whatever. 

At the end of the day, this is about you. If wallowing in self pity and wondering why nothing is turning out right is something you want to spend the rest of your life doing, then go ahead. This is just something I wish I knew when I was in the depths of my sickness, because God knows I could have gotten better a hell of a lot quicker if I had known that seeking treatment isn’t admitting defeat, or uncoolly swerving some weird cultural internet trend of being depressed.

If it takes the new year to put your life into perspective, then to hell with it. I will always encourage people to do what they think is best to make them happy. That being said, sometimes it takes a little kick in the ass to get going on that. Sometimes what we think for ourselves isn’t the best thing for us. That’s what friends, family, and healthcare is for.

Take advantage of this new year. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and believe that this will be the year you better yourself for real. Set goals, work towards something, and watch yourself become the person you would have looked up to a year ago.

Best of luck. And happy new year.

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