“When you look back, remember how you stood so bravely in the face of uncertainty, the times you held on through the darkest moments, and each minute you’ve picked yourself up, weary and tired, to take another step. Remember how resilient you have been through it all.” – @stacieswift
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I love reflecting, and I love lists! I decided to do my own version of a “Year in Review” found on pretty much every app now. While 2020 had a lot of negatives for all of us, I’m going to point out something I learned in each month of the year.
January – January started with one of the biggest surprises. I was crowned Miss Spirit of St Louis! I had done a few pageants with no luck, and was simply competing for more practice. Winning this pageant was so much more about the crown and sash. This was something I had wanted for so long and worked so hard for. I had to take a whole year off of pageants because I was too sick with my eating disorder. Being strong enough to compete was already a win for me. In my private interview with the judges, I got to showcase my true self, sharing my story of recovery and my passion for mental health awareness. That is why I compete – it is another way to get my story out there. My heart was already so full by the end of the day, I was sure it was going to explode when they called my name!
February – February started a new journey I was not too excited about. My therapist of over a year was leaving for maternity leave. Of course I was happy for her and wanted her to have plenty of time with her baby, but I also hate change. Starting over with a new therapist is one of the hardest things to do. Luckily my therapist caught up the fill in therapist so I didn’t have to go through my whole story again. I saw her once and felt nervous, but hopeful. Then the office closed due to Covid, and we switched to virtual appointments. Someone who already felt like a stranger was now hidden behind a screen. We did our best and I’m thankful for the time I had with her, but I was relieved when my therapist came back a few months later!
March – I had big plans for the month of March! (I’m sure you did too.) I was supposed to go to Chicago over Spring Break to visit one of my friends. In addition to celebrating my 21st birthday in one of my favorite cities, I was going to speak at Timberline Knolls about my recovery journey. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate one year of recovery, so you can imagine how upset I was when everything had to be canceled due to Covid. I was trying to be optimistic and told myself I could just reschedule for the summer when everything would be back to normal (ha!)
April – Like most of you, April was not very exciting. I spent many hours on Zoom, attempting to pay attention. Going to college is hard. Going to college during a pandemic is even harder! This month taught me to appreciate my professors for how hard they worked to make the end of the semester successful. None of us wanted things to be the way they were, but we made the best of it. This turned out to be a theme in 2020….
May – Once the semester was over, I started diving into my Choose Harmony work. I decided to start my Wellness Weekly newsletter as another way to share what I’ve learned in my mental health journey. I also created a video about my mental health advocacy work for a contest. I was pretty upset when I didn’t win, but I had to remind myself that my work has nothing to do with winning. When I started sharing my story almost 2 years ago, I said that if I helped even one person, then it was all worth it.
June – While the world was still pretty locked down, I was trying to find ways to stay engaged and take advantage of online connections. I was honored to speak twice for Timberline Knolls this month. I was featured on a Zoom call with TK alumni to share my story and answer questions. This is what I was supposed to do in March. Even though it was through Zoom, it made my heart full to help the place that helped me so much. A few days after that I joined my friend Kirsten for an Instagram Live on TK’s page. We talked about diet culture and myths society forces. Leading up to these events, I was pretty worried. Quarantine had been rough and I didn’t know if I would have enough to say. Luckily the words came, and it gave me some strength to keep going.
July – In July, the quarantine blues really started to get to me. Some days I could barely get out of bed, which is not ideal when you need to eat six times a day! After much debate from my entire treatment team, I decided to start antidepressants. I don’t really know why I was so against them, but I fought them for a while. Although I still don’t love taking medicine every day, I look at it as another life experience I have to share with others. Taking medication does not make you weak, it shows how strong you really are.
August – After being at school for just a few weeks, I got the news that my Dad passed away. I spent the next 10 days at home with my family. Although burying my Dad was the hardest thing we have had to do, the time we spent together that week was precious. As I went back to school, I gave myself more grace than I ever have. My therapist told me that I need to give myself all the space in the world to grieve and recover from what happend. I started saying no to everything I didn’t have to do. I focused on school, family, and being with my roommates. This gave me a new outlook on the semester, and for once in my life, I allowed myself to just be.
September – September was the first time I was actually quarantined due to a Covid exposure. I had only been back at school for a week, and was quarantined for most of September. I learned a lot during those three weeks in my dorm room. It was the perfect time to put into place my new plan of allowing myself to rest! My previous years at school I would be in class from 8-5, and fill the evenings with practice, clubs, and homework. During quarantine I finally learned how to enjoy free time and made it a priority from then on.
October – After losing my Dad in August and spending a lot of September in quarantine, I wasn’t doing so hot. I was burnt out on my classes and struggling to find things to look forward to. I’m sure this is a feeling we all experienced this year with everything being canceled left and right. My therapist suggested I join a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group. DBT is a type of therapy that focuses on mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. The group meets weekly to study all of the skills in depth. I decided to make this a priority in my life over everything else. I had to move and change a lot of things to make this happen, but I knew I needed to do it for my mental health. DBT has already benefitted me so much and I can’t wait to continue with the program.
November – A common theme in my recovery is for my team to suggest something, me to fight them for a few weeks, finally giving in, and then benefitting from the event just like they said I would. Well this happened again in November. I finally gave in to scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist. Like I mentioned earlier, I started antidepressants in July, but they proved to be a continuous struggle for the months after. While I am still new at seeing a psychiatrist, I am hopeful it will be beneficial. It’s another thing I will have under my belt to share with others.
December – December was finally the break I needed. After school got out, I decided to really rest over Christmas break. I have always been focused on being as productive as possible. I worked some over break, but enjoyed time with my family and friends. I played a lot of Animal Crossing and had lots of Milo snuggles! When I look back on it, December was one of the best months of the year. There were no expectations or rules. I simply enjoyed life in the moment. I hope this is a new concept I can take into 2021.
I hate the saying “New Year, New Me.” I know it is said with good intentions, but it applies that the “you” from this past year is wrong and you have to do better next year. While this year was pretty rough for all of us, I don’t want to get rid of me for someone “new and better.” I’m pretty proud of 2020 me and all she accomplished. I’m happy to take her into 2021 and continue to grow and learn.