The year 2023 is upon us and my GAWD I hope it’s better than 2022.
With a few very notable exceptions in the form of my wedding, my honeymoon, a visit from my USA-based father, a trip to London for my best friend’s 30th, moving into our new home in Arklow and the addition of Willow, Bramble and Clover to our family, 2022 has been a considerably difficult year.
The Prologue of 2023
Last year (it’s official, 2022 is now last year), as you might know if you’ve been following this blog or following my mental health updates on Instagram, was one of the most difficult for me navigating my mental illness. There are probably a few cumulative reasons for that, and many of them overlap with some of the best parts of my year.
Getting married is no easy thing and moving into our new has come with endless difficulties, but that’s another story for a different day. I am, of course, very grateful for all the wonderful things that landed in my lap in 2022 – home ownership is nothing short of a miracle in contemporary Ireland! But the reality is the good things can’t erase my mental illness. And last year, I was very, very ill.
Support from others and supporting myself
There was a point when my long-term best friend strongly urged me to seek inpatient care, and it was an option I strongly considered and even brought to my GP.
The first step, though, was to seek time off work and I did that with the help and support of my wife, many friends and then my colleagues. It was supposed to be a four-month period of unpaid leave but now that’s been extended to seven months – yet another blessing for which I am very grateful! And during my time away from work, I embarked upon My Quest For Joy, which is basically a way of saying that I started making active attempts to do things that used to make me happy, such as podcasting, tiptoeing back into the D&D world, writing, blogging and even taking up the ukulele as a new hobby.
My quest was fairly successful, I have to admit! I was doing well. Coupled with a change in meds, I was seeing some real progress in my day-to-day life. I even put a pin in the idea of inpatient care because of my progress.
But then I finally got called for counselling after several weeks on a waiting list, and I found myself backsliding. I know, seems kinda counterproductive, right? I’ve only done four sessions so far and each one has been so emotionally difficult that I’ve been sick for up to two days after the fact. But. I have to do this if I want to make any progress, right? It’s bloody hard, but how will I ever get better without putting in the work?
My quest faltered
Along with my sick spells following counselling, some family obligations arose.
I realise that’s vague as can be, and I’m happy to be an open book when it comes to my own life and mental illness, but I have to protect my family’s privacy. So all I can say is that I now have to pull my weight when it comes to some ongoing family commitments, but as soon as that anomaly popped up, I completely lost the run of my quest.
I stopped blogging because time and energy were in short supply. Plus, it felt disingenuous to write a blog about my struggles while leaving out a bit family-shaped gap in what’s going on. So I just stopped writing my Confessions, one of the key things helping me along in my recovery.
I also hit pause on the idea of learning to play the ukulele because the lessons I planned on taking clashed with both counselling and my weekly trip to Dublin to visit my family.
Then, I really lost the run of my quest when I got kicked off Instagram.
I was trying to make up for my lack of blogging by really being active on Instagram and documenting my day-to-day mental health struggles through the stories feature. I even read a book called Instagram For Fiction Authors, because ultimately that’s what I want to be in the long-run. So I started following the tips laid out in the book, which basically told me to get involved in the #Bookstagram community, because that’s a ready-made group of readers and writers.
I started participating in ‘follow trains’, whereby #Bookstagrammers connect through engaging with a graphic and then they all follow each other and make bookish friends. That’s the idea anyway, but twice I got put in Instagram jail for following too many people too quickly. I thought I had cracked it and I was pacing myself more steadily, working on bookish content to do with both writing and reading. I was really enjoying it too! It was like micro-blogging to tide me over while I was on my Confession hiatus. Plus it was all about reading! #Bookstagram was a blissful place to be!
But then I got entirely kicked off the platform for using a third-party app to do my Instagramming; apparently, that’s a no-no and it led to my digital exile, which hit harder than I would have expected. I had finally felt like I was building something, and then suddenly it was all gone.
So then I wasn’t blogging or micro-blogging or really engaging with much of the world at all. I got sucked into the reality of my day-to-day and my sick spells and I didn’t really even try to find an outlet. It was a downward spiral that swirled all the way down to 2023.
I f*cked this Christmas up
This was our first Christmas as a married couple and our first year living outside of Dublin, so we set ourselves the enormous task of navigating Christmas between three different households, complete with ferrying our two dogs and two rabbits around.
In short, it didn’t work.
We didn’t really get enough time at any given household, we definitely didn’t get enough time together and it was just too draining going back and forth so much. By the 28th, I was feeling pretty poorly and by the morning of the 30th, I was back in another vomiting spell which I’m still recovering from on New Year’s Day.
It couldn’t be more clear that I need to make some real change. I have to be able to listen to my body and predict when something is going to be too much for me. At the moment, I only seem to know after I’ve already overexerted myself, but my intention is to be more attentive to my own needs in 2023.
I have to make this change. I just have to. My body can’t take it anymore.
As for 2023...
I don’t want to be a cliché and promise myself the world of changes this year. I know 2023 isn’t going to be some silver bullet magical year when everything just falls into place. It will take work, I know that, and I know there’s only so much I’m capable of working at right now.
But I have set myself some intentions for 2023, which I hope will make my year a little bit more Saoirse-friendly. There are a lot of them, but the ones you need to know about are:
- Get back to blogging Confessions, whether that’s daily or weekly; just be as regular as possible with it
- Write an article per week for Medium
- Publish Dear Blue; if not this year, then give up on the project and move on to something new
- Read a book per week
- Prioritise sleep; no late-night aimless scrolling
- Complete my therapy with Living Life Counselling
- Draw a picture every day
- Restart Instagram focusing on my author platform/#Bookstagram; reach 7,000 followers by September
- Get the house guest-ready
- Upgrade the rabbits’ living quarters (i.e. move their base upstairs and give them more free-roam time)
These are more like guidelines I hope to live by this year rather than resolutions, per se, but at the moment I’m not clear-headed enough for a more solid plan than this. I don’t need an exact roadmap for 2023; I just need to get back on the right road.