When I first experienced bullying in middle school, I sought my dad for advice. He told me to focus on my studies, ignore them, laugh in the face of criticism (that will throw them for a loop, he said, and it did) and above all, never doubt myself and keep on going.
A few months ago, my life took a sour turn. Every week I learned of news that would inevitably upend my personal and professional paths. How much worse could it get? And then, it got worse, so much so I felt I had become an expert at grieving.
Each week, I processed a new set of emotions – some for the loss of things and some for the emptiness that loss left behind. I was tired of being sad. So, one day, I came home from work, made myself a martini and started dancing and laughing in the kitchen. Take that life bully. If I had seemingly lost everything, then it meant I had nothing to lose and therefore could do whatever I wanted. My foundation was crumbling but that just meant I could build something new.
This perspective kept my anxiety at bay. I worried little about the onslaught of garbage coming my way. I had confidence that I could handle the rubble and that I would be okay. I held onto the dream of building something better and focused on the small joys in my life – those bursts of social interaction and connections that I thrive on.
The Breaking Point
But everyone has a breaking point. Internally, I felt calm yet externally a hurricane was inching its destructive power closer to my core. Things only continued to get worse, until finally those self-doubting gremlins returned, and I lost my unwavering confidence. I was no longer certain everything would be alright.
As the weeks wore on, I started losing momentum. I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I no longer found joy in the weekly activities that once grounded and inspired me. I had to force myself outside of the apartment to be social. While trying to be productive, I would stare off into space, completely lost in the boredom of time. Every little pinprick set me off, and the emotions came pouring when I thought about the shit show that had become my life. The anxiety was unsettling.
I no longer felt healthy or strong or resilient. I felt depleted, defeated and demoralized. I thought that by being in a healthier place internally, good things would just automatically come to me. They didn’t, and those external forces started breaking down my internal defenses.
Keep on Living
But before self-doubt settled in and made a home, I had been working on an outline for a book. I was hesitant to write this book – afraid that whatever I had to say wasn’t good enough and that I was opening myself up to even more ridicule.
It needed more time to brew, but it had been brewing for way too long. Either I was going to write it now or I wasn’t going to write it at all. So, in the face of uncertainty, I told myself: Proceed anyway. Trust myself. Write it. No matter what I thought of those first initial drafts, keep going.
This may have worked for writing a book, but I soon discovered it worked for my most depressive state. When I finally broke down and hid in my apartment for a few days, I forced myself to keep on living. I cooked dinner and made smoothies and worked out and showered and colored. I focused on the small wins: feeling proud of my cat for using the new litter robot that’s been sitting in my closet for a week and finally getting the Bluetooth set up in the car I’ve had for over a year.
By concentrating on these small moments of pride and patting myself on the back for making it through the day, I unintentionally reassured myself that I could still have wins and that maybe everything would be alright. I knew that with so much in my life in a state of flux that there would be moments that suck. There would be challenges that would be hard to endure. But bit by bit, I remembered the unwavering confidence that got me to that healthy, resilient place.
On one of my online dating profiles, I mention my love of power drills. A guy recently asked me if I can really use power tools. I responded, without question: Yes, I can. I am amazing with power tools.
(Exactly what I told myself 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on April 24, 2009. I had no guarantees but I trusted myself to make the most of it, and I believe I have.)