I have never understood the point of making New Years resolutions. All of this “New Year, New Me” nonsense goes out of the window when you’re reaching for your ninth Quality Street or your fourth glass of wine. I have never made a New Years resolution, nor do I plan to, but what I did decide this year was to make some changes and start the year as I mean to go on.
I have decided that 2016 is the year that I shall become a much more positive person. I shall embrace life and all of it’s challenges, throw myself into every opportunity that comes my way and most of all, I shall enjoy myself. Be that eating chocolate, drinking alcohol or sitting on my couch eating cake. This is the year that I plan to stop beating myself up about all of the things I can’t do and all of the things that I am not, and realise that actually, being me isn’t so bad after all.
I haven’t always been such a negative person, there was a time when I saw the good in everything and everyone. I was so happy, so carefree, so excited about life. And it was very hard to pin point exactly when I became so sceptical, so cynical, so negative. It seemed to simply creep up on me through a series of events, of tragedies and heartbreaks, until eventually I found that I was unable to find the positive in very much at all. And I had no idea how to find my way back.
This last year has seen me reach my limit. I worry about everything. And when I say worry what I really mean is, I have made myself ill with these thoughts, convinced myself that all of my fears would become a reality and missed out on so much of life through panic, anxiety and fear. It had gotten to a point where I was having several panic attacks each day, avoiding certain situations and people, where I would lie awake in bed at night, unable to sleep, hyperventilating and panicking about the most ridiculous of scenarios, about my family, my health and ultimately, my sanity.
Eventually I reached my limit and, under the doctors orders, signed back up for therapy. And I was even negative about that. “I’ll go, but it won’t help!” I had told Gaz, who, ever the optimist, had told me to be open to it, to listen to what they had to say, to allow myself to imagine a life where I could discover the positives again.
And initially I was very sceptical, I have had countless sessions of CBT over the years and always found that while they had helped a little short-term, once the course was over I would nose-dive pretty quickly back into a negative mind set. But as I got to know my therapist, a really lovely lady named Emily, and we explored the reasons why I have become so negative, we finally stumbled across the root cause and the key to finally being able to make some changes.
And it takes a lot for me to share this with you, as I have beaten myself up over this for almost an entire decade, but I also think that it is an important part of making changes that I do. Nine and a half years ago, two days before we discovered that Joseph had died, I had been in the garden just pottering around, enjoying the sunshine and passing the time until his arrival. And I can remember it as clear as day, where I was stood and what I was wearing, how he had done a series of strange movements in my stomach, an indescribable feeling of frantic kicks and punches. A desperate struggle. And then nothing. And I distinctly remember a fleeting thought had popped into my head, so brief it was almost as if the thought had never even occurred at all, this is the moment that my baby died. And yet because I was a positive person, because there was no reason whatsoever to suspect otherwise and because the thought was so morbid and ridiculous, I had pushed that thought out of my head and carried on with my day, completely unaware of the tragedy that may have just occurred.
Two days later when we heard the news that our precious baby had died, most likely a couple of days earlier, I told myself, you already knew. You knew what had happened and you did nothing at all to help him.
And so, in a bid to prevent any further tragedies in life, I sub-consciously began to act on every thought that entered my head. All of those fleeting moments that we all have, those ridiculous thoughts that come and go, I acted on each and every one of them. And the more I listened to those thoughts, the more that I heard them. The more fears that I allowed to become a reality, the more I looked for them. And the more negatives that I allowed into my mind meant that there was no longer a space for the positives. And before you know it, a decade down the line, I have spent so many wasted years simply waiting for the worst to happen, merely existing in a world where everyone around me has continued to live.
And the discovery of that, having pin pointed the reason behind my anxiety, my panic and negativity, was a momentous discovery. I had sat in the therapists office and sobbed my heart out, tears streaming down my face, gasping for air, breaking my heart for all of the years that I had beat myself up over that one tiny thought. One fleeting moment that may have had the biggest repercussions. We shall never know should I have acted on that thought whether Joseph would be here today, perhaps it was too late, perhaps there is nothing at all in my power that could have prevented it, but letting go of that was never going to be easy.
I realise now that since that moment, I have lived my life in such a way that I believed if I always prepare for the worst, I shall never be disappointed. And yet my therapist had explained to me that even if you live that way, constantly expecting the worse, in a constant state of heightened panic and anxiety, when the worst happens you will still be in no way prepared for it. You cannot prepare yourself for something that has not yet happened. And that was a bitter pill for me to swallow, having to accept that, to relinquish that control and accept that actually, she was right.
And it has been a tough few months, I can’t deny that much, having to re-live those memories which I had tried to hide away in the back of my mind. It has been more difficult than I ever imagined to try and push away those fleeting negative thoughts, that absolute fear, those alarm bells and warning signs. There have been many ups and downs, weeks where I felt I made huge progress and others where I felt I had relapsed right back to square one. But I persevered, I looked for the positives and slowly but surely I have learnt, and I am still learning, to let go of some of that anxiety, to relinquish some of that control and to simply live my life again.
I have been reading several “Positive thinking” self help books, something which I would have been hugely cynical of just a couple of months ago, and am practicing those techniques every day in the hope that eventually, it will become second nature to me again. I have plans for another round of CBT in the Summer, a little booster should I feel myself struggling, and I have the biggest positive influence in my husband, my children, my family and friends. There will always be challenges, difficult moments and hard times, but with a positive attitude, with the desire to see the best in everything and to accept that you cannot plan out your entire lifetime, I think that I am just about ready to get out there and start facing them.
And I think that this quote is quite apt, given that I have my four little rainbows and our beautiful shining star, when it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars. And I am looking, albeit through the storm clouds some days, and I won’t give up until I find them.
New Year, New Me? I think I’m going to pass on that. It turns out that actually, I’m doing okay exactly as I am….