“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were really meant to be in the first place.” -Anonymous

With each new year, we create a new set of goals. We make plans and rededicate ourselves to our own personal missions. For most people this means hitting the gym, eating healthier and saving money. The past year was a complex year for me, as it was for many people I’m sure. The highs and lows left me with a lot to work on.  My “New Year Resolutions” are specifically geared towards improving and working on my mental health. I’ve compiled a list of my individual tasks I’m dedicating myself to so I can be healthier, stronger and happier.

I think many others who struggle from mental health problems can also benefit from this list, and take the steps needed to become the best versions of themselves too.

1. Fight the stigma from others, and from yourself.

Clearly, I’m not very shy about discussing my mental health struggles in a public way. I have a series dedicated to my own journey on my website, Red Wagon Diaries. I think that’s one important element of fighting stigma. We have to speak up. We have to be vocal, open-minded and accepting, so it gives others the courage to share their stories and feel less isolation. That’s an important resolution for all of us in the new year.

That said, there is also personally enforced stigma. Shame, embarrassment and disappointment often plague my thoughts. I don’t have negative feelings about the fact that I have depression and anxiety, but rather that I cannot overcome it as easily as I think I should. I have a very strong, dominant, genetic predisposition to depression, and that’s something I know I can’t control. Still, I can’t help but find myself frustrated that I struggle as much as I do. I made it through my mother’s neglect and my father’s death, but I know I still require the assistance of medication and the therapy.

So, this year, I’m choosing to be more patient and understanding with myself. I will not feel bitter about my dependency on the medication.

I will not shame myself for being imperfect. None of us ever should.

I think we should all do this for every aspect of lives. Accepting and loving ourselves for who we really are, good and bad, is always a step in the right direction.

2. Improve your physical health.

There are physical struggles that come along with depression and anxiety. The struggle to sleep during normal hours or even to sleep at all, and the battle of your stomach telling your brain you’re hungry when your brain is telling your stomach to get over it are two examples for me. But not this year.

Let’s work on normal 8-hour sleeping cycles and healthy meals. Let’s work towards regularity and physical empowerment. Eating has become a difficult thing for me. Most days, I need to force feed myself. This year, I will eat three full meals a day. I will not let depression deprive me of my physical health as well as mental. Let’s make 2017 the year of physical and mental improvement.

3. Make plans and stick to them.

My sweet mother-in-law surprised me with an awesome planner for my birthday because she knows I am a huge list-maker. I have to write things down to organize my thoughts. This year, I am promising myself that I will make plans, and stick to them. No more lame excuses to reschedule and flake-out on scheduled activities. Anxiety and depression won’t keep me from the accomplishments, memories and moments I know I deserve to have. This year will bring clear direction and experiences we can all count on. We just have to fight for them.

4. Expose yourself to new experiences outside your comfort zone.

I’m taking a break to work on my mental health. I work from home, and only really go out for necessities and family events. Hanging out with my dog and my husband are my only weekly interactions. I’m not going to school while I get my depression and anxiety under control either. By the end of 2017, I will be back in school and working a job away from home. It’s good for me to take this time to get myself and my illnesses together and I am not ashamed about my current condition. Many of us have to take this time away, and you too may have had to take some in this past year as well. That’s OK.

That said, I like to think I am a smart, dedicated, and goal-driven person though. And because of that, I know that I will never truly recover until I am doing things that challenge me like school and a good  job will. I need new experiences to challenge and excite me. We all need that. So let’s take the time we need, and then make moves outside our comfort zone to new waters and exciting stages of life.

5. Work towards your goals, and allow yourself to feel proud of your progress.

This is critical. It has been really important for me to set goals that are within my reach for the upcoming year. I am so blessed to have the support of my husband and family, and I am sure you have a support system as well to lean on and confide in. Let them rejoice in your wins and understand your losses. Trust them. That’s what I do.

I put my trust in their love, my ambition and the strength of my treatment. I trust that I will be healed enough to achieve the goals I have set for myself, and as I achieve them, I will allow myself to feel proud of my own progress. If you face the struggle of mental illness, I challenge you to make goals specifically focused on managing and recovering from it this year. Embrace your aspirations and believe in your heart that you can achieve them. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year for all of us.

“For what it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

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