As I sit here at 5 AM, waiting for sunrise, with one friend passed out in the backseat of her car that’s parked in the Caesar’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino parking garage (because, as we found out, rooms are $799 tonight) and another dozing in the chair next to me, I can’t help but think about how I got here. In this abandoned corner of Caesar’s Casino, Natalie Merchant’s “Wonder” is the unfortunate soundtrack to my thoughts. Our goal is to see the sun rise somewhere we never have before. So, we decided to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic for the first time of 2014 in Atlantic City.
I’ve seen the sun rise in Paris, the Shenandoah mountains, Connecticut, California, New York City, all over Virginia, Penn State, and more places than I can remember, but this is probably the most significant sunrise for me (and I’m in New Jersey, of all places). I’m finally feeling a shift in my heart. All I’ve hoped and prayed for after struggling with depression for eight years is a change in perspective and attitude. It’s something so small, but so seemingly impossible for someone with depression. But, I’m feeling it and the most exciting part for me is that I know that I’m doing it. I’m finally learning from the mistakes I’ve made in the past few years and from letting five years slip away from me because of chronic pain and depression.
I can’t change much about the pain I deal with every day, but I can stop it from stealing away the parts of me that make me who I am. I can feel myself emerging the person I used to be, a little more every day. The person who cared most about her family, friends, helping people, and seeing the world. The person who would laugh so hard my throat would hurt. I think I’ve laughed harder and with more heart in the past month than I have in the past five years. The double-edged sword of antidepressants is that they may make the lows more bearable, but they make the highs dull. Being numb to everything to avoid the negative spectrum of emotions robs you of the best feelings. That’s the effect they had on me. I guess I see now that when my friends told me a few years ago that I changed, they were right. And, if it were back then, I would be mad about it and I would argue I couldn’t help it. But, now, I just feel acceptance. Things unfold the way they do and I believe there is reason behind it.
2013 was an unfortunate, but necessary year for me. I went through a lot, but more importantly, like I said, I actually learned from it. I decided to end a significant relationship, and I’m glad that I did, because I came out of it broken. I don’t know who I’d be today if I had remained in that relationship. He was manipulative and wore down what little self-confidence I had over the course of our 1.5-ish year relationship. And, after it was over, I had to hold my ground and stand up for myself repeatedly, because he didn’t respect my demands that it needed to end. It finally did, though. While I would rather have avoided the heartbreak altogether, I can appreciate that it happened and that it was important. I literally had to build myself back up, one brick at a time. Most days, I backtracked and self-sabotaged, but it eventually made my foundation stronger. I am more realistic now about my expectations of myself and others.
The main theme of my 2013 was fear… crippling fear that held me back from so many things. Fear disguised as what doctors told me was “anxiety.” I never associated anxiety with fear in my mind, because I didn’t have a reference point for anxiety, so it seemed to be something separate. I never really understood it. I feel like I would have handled things differently if someone had told me, “Hey, you’re just scared!” It wasn’t until I finally made that simple and, frankly, obvious connection that they were one in the same that anxiety made sense to me. I realized that I just needed to identify what I was scared of.
My goal for the new year is to embrace the fear, as terrifying as that sounds. Forcing yourself outside your comfort zone is a sure way of getting to know yourself and seeing what you’re capable of. That’s why I am challenging myself to say “yes” to at least one thing I’ve never done before every week (which is what I will write about under “new adventures”). Seeing the sun rise in Atlantic City definitely falls under that category.
Here’s that sunrise. 2014 is going to be my best year, yet.
P.S. If anyone knows where the title of the post is from, without a Google search, you’re awesome.