This goofy picture was taken exactly one year ago today on New Year's Eve. I was a senior in high school, had just received my first college acceptance letter, but was probably giving the biggest, yet, fakest smile I could. I was not taking the first months after my Papa's death well, and as I've written in many posts before, I had severe anxiety attacks daily, followed by an overwhelming sadness, emptiness, and loss of self worth. If you look at a photograph like this though, along with all of the other smiling photographs taken during that time like Thanksgiving family photos, my senior portraits, you would have no idea what was going on inside me. A smile can be a mask, a photograph is just a captured moment. When I look at this photo, I do remember laughing as I found a selfie-stick in my closet and brought it down for John to put together. You can see I'm being my silly self as I'm in my pajamas, no makeup, messy hair, bunny ears on top of my mom's head. Though, I look deeper into the memory. After the photograph was taken I was going to head back to my room and pack my duffle bag, for the next day where I would be beginning the new year of 2016 by driving to Martha's Vineyard to visit my family.
New Years Day began with an accident. Miles from home I was lying on the side of the road as an EMT rolled me onto my side and strapped a thick neck brace under my chin. At the time, I remember feeling ashamed more than grateful. It was an accident, but I still put the blame of my totaled car on myself and the fact that I hadn't yet reached the Cape was considered another "failure" of mine. I did not understand after wishing for an ending for so long, I was still here.
It was when my mom looked at the remains of my car and started to cry, and the EMT's called it a "miracle" that I began to realize how special this situation was. "You certainly had an angel looking over you." they had said. My mom cried and looked at me and said, "I just don't know how you are okay."
Do I thank the Subaru for keeping me safe? Chance? Was my Papa my angel that made sure I stayed safe? Am I supposed to view this as a reason about why I'm meant to be here? Or does shit just happen, and I was just lucky?
2016 began with a BIG bump, but I think that BIG bump jumpstarted something that I needed.
I took initiative when I made the decision to return to therapy for my anxiety, and find a therapist that was a good fit for me. I made that decision on my own, and I got myself there. I was proactive and did some online searching. I sent my first email out, recieved my first response, and booked an appointment for later that week.
It is weird where everything went from there.
I needed help, and I got it. I spent time in the adolescent unit of a hospital for my mental health; not where myself, or my family, or anyone would have imagined me to ever be. My nickname has always been "Happy Haley."
You don't expect these things to happen to you, or you expect this only happens to a certain "type" of person, but that isn't true at all. Mental health is serious, and can be so delicate, and is just as important as physical health. A broken bone needs to heal, and I needed help in healing as well.
Yep, that is the bottom I had reached. I sure hope that was the lowest I will ever reach, and that I can only bounce up from here with everything I have learned.
Soon came being discharged, graduating high school, continuing writing, deciding to share my voice and story with others, and getting articles published on the internet. Beginning to discover the worth.
By Fall I had moved to the city and was beginning my college career.
I read a 5 page speech aloud at a banquet and began my college journey by sharing some difficult parts of my life, and how change turned for the better,- to a room full of my peers, professors, other faculty members, and the president of my college.
Kicking social anxiety right in the ass!
"Did I really just do that?"
By October I stood up in front of a different room of people, and shared a toast I had written for my mom and John on their wedding day.
I am resilient. I fall down, sometimes I stay down for a while, but I get back up and I keep working on all that I need to work on.
Mental health struggles are isolating, and terrifying places to be.
My mom has reflected on the year with me. She said that with showing a lot of effort, good things will come from it. It takes time, but they always do.
You can't snap out of it, you can't change your thinking immediately, you can't just "be happy", but you can work work work at it.
I'm writing in a coffee shop right now. A place that I probably would have been too scared to drive to alone this time last year. When my anxiety led to a fear of parking lots, sitting in a restaurant, or public places in general.
I have been laughing and smiling and finding comfort at this year's latest family parties, whereas last year I would've needed to leave early due to an anxiety attack when nobody had known what had happened to me. (Not related to my family themselves they rock)
I still get anxiety attacks, but infrequently, and know now that they always pass, and I can/will rise above them.
When I think back to 2016 I can only say, "Weird." It has been weird how things have turned out. How can the absolute worst and the absolute best things happen in the same year?
I am not sure if this has been the worst year of my life. Or maybe it has been the best year of my life because of all the accomplishments. Maybe both. Years come and go, and I don't pay much attention to the solid view of them. I do know, 2016 will be a year I won't forget and will encourage myself to remember and keep in my heart.
Who knows what challenges and heartaches 2017 will bring, but I know that I will get through it somehow. I've seen, felt, and survived the lowest of low places and feelings, so bring on what is yet to come!
Resolutions don't tend to last with me.
Instead I will create reminders:
Thank you thank you thank you 2016, and all of you amazing people that have been an active part of it.
I hope this brings some hope or perspective to those wondering or fearing what the new year will bring.
I wish for strength for us all.
I will kindly say,
"Hey, Welcome, 2017, join the club! :-)"
but also firmly say,
"Bring it on, 2017, this girl's ready for ya"
My site is named "Very Haley" for a reason. I have always been very clear about who I am and what makes my soul shine. If my mom saw something in a store she would say "this is very Haley!" Or a video of another person doing something silly or dancing around looking like a fool, "that's very Haley." In other words, this is me. I fall down, I get up, and this is my story. Very Haley. As real as can be.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.