I had a horrible 2016 and it’s OK to say so
for life’s not a paragraph… (e.e. cummings)
2016 might not have been “the worst year ever” for us as a society but it was a terrible year for a lot of people, and it was a horrible year for me. And it’s OK to say so.
I am never going to condemn showing gratefulness or celebrating good things, the way so many of my friends are this time of year on social media. I’m glad you had a “good year overall,” got married, visited Paris, covered a presidential election or had a baby. But it’s also valid (and not ungrateful or self-pitying) to look over the past year and say, actually, it was mostly bad.
I made one of those lists of things I was grateful for in 2016, too — but even focusing only about the good parts of my year, my year was still terrible, awful and no good overall. There is a time to admit you’re not in a good season. Sometimes the season lasts all year. Sometimes it lasts two years (speaking from experience). Social media provides a lot of pressure to pretend it’s better than it is, and that can be incredibly isolating this time of year.
Sometimes — not all the time — the best ideas about how people should treat one another come from the Bible, and this is one of them. Romans 12 says we should weep with those who weep as well as rejoice with those who rejoice. I did a lot of weeping last year. This week, I’m doing a lot of weeping as I review what terrible times I’ve had and how raw it all still feels even though I’ve put months between myself and what I tell myself (but I’ve told myself before) is the worst of it.
In 2016, I suffered a devastating break-up. I was nearly hospitalized (it was recommended and I declined). I took a leave of absence from work. Two different, negative job situations escalated. I left my job. I thought I was pregnant. I started intensive therapy and in half a year still have only processed my recent breakup, not the trauma that kicked off my depression. I received a new diagnosis (PTSD). I had to back out of commitments because of my health. I experienced dangerously low blood pressure, shortness of breath, fatigue and weight gain as side-effects of medication (right now, as I’m writing this, I am dizzy). I stopped and started so many medications I’ve lost count. I lost friends and I lost family relationships, some of my own initiative and some like tumbling dominoes. I spent too much money on drugs and doctors. I was told to stop drinking (and didn’t). I fell and hit my head on some ice and thought I had a concussion (I didn’t). I ran on a broken toe. I did not date, at all. For at least one full week, I did not get out of bed. I felt trapped and depressed and angry and desperate and hurt and betrayed, most of the time.
I also adopted a cat. I was a bridesmaid in the Seattle wedding of a close friend. I got a new car. I got a better job. I got published in several new outlets for work that was different from anything I’ve done before (essays about hiking, depression and my dating life, in The Washington Post and Quartz among others). I participated in a writing workshop. I started writing fiction again and finished a novella. I read 75 books. I built three websites and attended several developer workshops. I climbed Mt. Evans and Mt. Quandary. I survived a 10k and a triathlon sprint under difficult physical conditions (see above). I made friends — among them coworkers and neighbors and other writers. I explored Colorado, including hot springs. I learned a lot from therapy and heartbreak, from other people and from myself.
I hate that all these things are mixed up together in the same year but they are.
My new year’s resolution is to pursue the good as well as I can, as often as I can — because I can’t control the bad things that happen in a year and because I don’t always have the energy or motivation I want or think I should have. All I can do is work on making my list of good things in 2017 longer than the 2016 one. I can work on balancing the bad with even more good.
This post was previously published in part on The Mighty.