The Slightly More Planned Year (So Far)

Published in Mental Health / Wellbeing / Featured - 8 mins to read

Well, it’s been a very long time since I wrote anything in this blog, and I think an update long overdue at this point. In December things were bleak, I was in a very dark place and had struggled for months with feeling like I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. I was frustrated at the lack of progress with therapy, putting a huge amount of pressure on myself at work, and felt undateable and unloveable in my social life. I was scared, lonely, and desperately trying to find a way out that didn’t involve hurting everyone around me.

Perhaps it’s obvious given that I am writing this now but fortunately I did find said escape route, and subsequently a lot has changed in a short space of time. It all started with a website (which I’m not going to link) devoted to the topic of suicide, discussing its many facets with as little judgment either way as possible. There were studies and statistics, discussion of different methods, ways to get help - the tone was meant to be impartial even though the subject is one of extreme taboo. After perusing through the areas of the site dedicated more to practicality than sentimentality, I decided to read the ‘my story’ section, written by the site’s creator. In it, he described his own unsuccessful attempt to take his life, and his long road to (relative) happiness. On paper, he had it all - a respected, well paying job, he was a handsome guy and in good shape so he got plenty of romantic interest, he had a great network of close friends around him. Or at least, so he thought. Some time after regaining consciousness following an overdose which was intended to be fatal, the individual in question eventually realised that the reason he was unable to contentment was because he was not himself with any of the people around him - he hid away his true feelings, his personality, the things which could have brought him a genuine connection with the people around him.

Oh shit, I thought as I read it. It’s me.

The gauntlet had been laid down - to be authentic with the people around me. Not to pretend everything was fine; to express my emotions no matter how terrifying a prospect that may be. So slowly, painfully, I gave it a go with a couple of people, and lo and behold, they were both amazing about it. They listened to me, withheld any judgment, and helped pull me out of the hole I was mired in. Spurred on by this initial success, I became increasingly vulnerable with a larger number of people, and the result has been incredible - where I once felt totally isolated, now I have so many relationships that matter to me and that bring me happiness, it’s sometimes difficult to make enough time for all of them. I took the risk by telling the truth, and it has paid off a hundredfold, now I cannot espouse it’s value enough. Honesty has made me so happy in the past few months, and brought me closer to people now than I had previously thought possible.

So far, this year has gone significantly more to plan than last year. I’ve yet to get kicked out of the new flat which I moved into with Sam in January, and actually I’d like to think we’re rather good tenants. I was a little more realistic with my nest-flying plans this time around, so admittedly I am still living quite close to my folks, but the sense of freedom and autonomy that comes from living on my own once more has brought a certain peace and purpose to my life. I’ve got a new job, which I started in May, still following the developer path, but this time doing more software-based work and less on the web. The people there are lovely, the stack is powerful, a lot of the problems we’re solving are ones that interest me, and overall I’m very happy there - the stress levels are markedly lower, and it really feels like I have the rest of my life back. I’m sleeping better, eating better, and finding it easier to make time to see friends or go to the gym after work.

The job switch is one of two big, perhaps even life-changing events that have happened in the past 7 months, the other being my somewhat well documented trip to New York. That experience was one that I hope will never forget, and the connections that I strengthened and made while I was there were so strong and brought me so much joy, that they really solidified for me what I suspected when I read that story of recovering from a failed suicide all those months ago - that what will make me happy in life, is other people.

The confidence in myself gained on that transatlantic voyage translated into my once-barren dating life becoming rather spicier, and any notion of myself as unloveable has been swept back under the carpet. Furthermore, recent events have meant that my long-held belief (read: excuse) that if I want to attract the kind of people that I’d like to be in a relationship with then I’m going to have to lose weight/look different has similarly evaporated and I’m left with the slightly concerning by-product that actually, there’s nothing wrong with me and maybe I could have a healthy relationship one day.

My lifestyle has changed a lot too - it’s astounding how much of a difference not being miserable all the time will make when considering whether or not to go for a run, or see friends at the beach. For the past couple of months I have been out of the house with friends more evenings than not, and while the introvert in me is writhing in agony, he now occupies a far less significant portion of my consciousness than he needs in order to have a meaningful effect on my wellbeing. Guernsey is beautiful - the sun, the sea, the beaches - and I have taken them far too granted for the majority of my life. My friends are all beautiful too, even though they all have their fair share of flaws (not least having poor taste in company); now I am in a better place, connecting with them has been easier and more rewarding than ever.

So yes, things are going well, and I hope it does not come across as some kind of brag, because I really don’t want to be that kind of person. The aim is very much more that it serves as an example of how things can get a lot better in a very short space of time, even when the present situation may be dire, and that there’s great importance in not giving up hope.

There’s still work to be done though. While it’s important to acknowledge that progress has been made, and to revel in that, it would be naive to think that that is the end of the story, that I am now destined to ride off into the sunset on my horse made of pure serotonin. I’m acutely aware that my current state of relative wellbeing may be precariously balanced atop a run of fortunate life events, and while I have the motivation to do so, I ought to put preventative measures into place to avoid any future backsliding.

There have been plenty of moments where I have felt the spindly fingers of anxiety wrapping themselves around my brain, or I’ve been unsure of how to handle a problem and the ever-present solution of yeeting myself off a cliff has re-emerged in my otherwise serene thought processes. The latter is no longer a valid option though, and while I am going to allow myself to feel anxiety when it’s appropriate, I’m not going to let it control me like it used to. My relationships, both with other people and myself, will always need active and frequent work, and I still want to try every day to push to be a better person lest I stagnate in my comfort zone.

Now that I am feeling better in myself, I want to devote more of my time and effort to standing up for the causes I believe in, and to finding a hill to die on. Wanting to be accepted by everyone around you is fine when you hate yourself and need the validation, but once you love yourself, if you don’t fight for what you think is right then you’re failing at the very thing I said was what made me happy: being honest.

I don’t really know what form all this is going to take yet. Maybe I’ll write a tonne of preachy blog posts about social equality, maybe I’ll become a vegan, maybe I’ll start a punk band and write lyrics about The Man. All I know is that it’s not enough to do nothing anymore.

See other posts in the The Unplanned Years series