In so many ways 2016 was a good year for me. Which flies in the face of every single round up of the year I watched on television over Christmas.
I would probably go as far as to say it was my favourite year of my life so far.
I felt I really got into my groove and lived with greater vulnerability and confidence, which for me is a winning combination.
I started last year by making the decision to begin to take anti-depressants again. I have written about this extensively here. It was a tricky multi-faceted decision not prompted by any one thing. In short: I had found myself increasingly anxious throughout 2015 even though I was doing all the good stuff (which incidentally I still do – because the benefits are so obvious) meditating, exercise, eating well and looking after myself. Despite this I was still not well and often on the edge of a panic attack and so, after chatting it through with my therapist and my husband, I went to see the Doctor again.
This proved to be an excellent decision as this past year I have felt more like myself. Not the myself who just got through the day or weathered the storm, but a myself I haven’t been for a long time.
One highlight of the year for me, and an obvious sign I am doing so much better, was attending a writers’ workshop in North Carolina in November, something a year previously I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing. I wrote about it here.
Here are a few other things I loved last year.
Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
I have never before read a book which has depicted so accurately and helpfully the battle with depression and anxiety. Although not always the easiest read, it was all a little too familiar, this book moved me, inspired me and encouraged me. I think about it often and recommend it to most people.
(also worthy of mention; Just Kids by Patti Smith, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett, and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.)
For a long time my viewing habits were rather limited. I wouldn’t watch anything even mildly scary, or about illness, or children (which really limits your options). I couldn’t watch a thriller without dreaming about it for nights on end. An unexpected perk of wellness is that I am watching all sorts of brilliant drama again. Two of my favourites being The Bridge (the Danish version – I’m a sucker for subtitles and the slightly bleak landscape), and Happy Valley (series one). I didn’t watch this at the time of broadcast (due to aforementioned reasons) but caught up with on Netflix. The script and Sarah Lancashire’s performance were knock out. (Although that valley is anything but happy).
Is it ever going to be anywhere other than Anglesey? I love growing familiar with this beautiful countryside. The sweep of the beaches, the lack of people, the clifftop walks all make it for me a very special place.
(it is not always this sunny).
I loved attending two very special weddings in Bristol and Guildford and reconnecting with people I dont get to see often as geography and the price of international air travel doesn’t permit it. People really are the only thing that matters.
And in October we (my husband and I) hosted a weekend retreat (again, in Anglesey) with a group of wonderful people. A dear friend delivered the content and we ate, walked and chatted the weekend away. It felt like a breath of fresh air to be with like-minded people I love gathered from all over the country.
(Incidentally they were laughing at me here).
Best blog posts:
The posts that seemed to get the biggest response this year were:
A blog where my husband and I have a conversation about my mental health and what it has been like living with me. Read it here.
A blog where I describe anxiety as my superpower. Read it here.
And finally, a blog where I discuss the conundrum of loving Jesus and taking antidepressants. Read it here.
Thank you so much for reading, commenting and sharing, I feel honoured that you join me here.
Worthy of special mention:
By far my favourite thing of all in 2016 was my marriage.
Anyone who has been married for any length of time will be able to tell you it isn’t easy. We have been married for sixteen years and together for over eighteen, and have had our fair share of tough times, times when we didn’t like each other much and times of confusion. A lot of the time we have been together I have not been well (although undiagnosed for a long period). This has been hard and at times created distance, isolating both of us. Gradually over the past few years and we have learnt how to listen to each other again. Really listen. We have tried to stop assuming we know what each other means, or is about to say. We are curious again. We debate and discuss.
Because we know we are both human and fallible – we try not to expect perfection from each other. And over the past few years, we have built muscles that enable us to carry each other for a time when things have been difficult.
It is the countless small decisions to prefer each other, or to stay in the conversation when it would have been easier to avoid it that have brought us closer together. This year we have rediscovered not that we love each other – we knew that already – but that we really like each other too. We are a team. It is excellent.
It has not always been like this. But it is now. There is hope. Things can change.
(I have found, in relationships at least, this involves effort from both parties, but it is possible).
(incidentally I am laughing at him here. Photo credit: Chris Norman).
The year was not wall to wall joy, but it was a distinct improvement on previous ones. We had our fair share of trauma and loss, as well as the normal amount (and by that I mean quite a lot) of squabbles and family melt-downs. We are normal.
But 2016 was a year for me marked by moving forward, by confidence to try new things, by enjoying my work (here) and dreaming up new ideas for the years ahead.
I dont know what your last year was like, but I am praying for all of us for greater honesty and courage in the year to come. Happy New Year!