A year to celebrate: Reflections from the seat of depression and anxiety.

It’s easy to look back on a year and see it clouded with the struggles I went through, wondering when I’ll have a year that sums up as good and meaningful. It’s especially easy to see a past year through this lens when that “cloud of struggles” is actually a depressive one that’s followed me around since I was 12.

I have a filing system in my head. Each year is a story of the events that kept me from happiness, and I can pick through and hold up their stories one by one.

As I look back on 2017, I can finally put a file away of “the year I got my life back.” My good year came.

In the world of depression, I’m a lucky person, as it’s incurable for many. I will respond to new, better circumstances with happier moods, and I’m privileged enough in this world to have used adulthood to build my life around those sorts of circumstances.

In that process, I also learned about certain dietary changes and herbal treatments that made incremental improvements in how I could feel in the day-to-day. Whereas before, it was so easy to feel a real emptiness inside and always be able to count the slow pace of my heartbeat, these shifts brought me into a place of functioning. I could have good days. I could do things without fighting against a pit in my chest.

2017, though, this year, I feel in control. The circumstances got harder, but I knew where to ask for help. I watched my response to those circumstances get better. The worst insomnia I’ve ever had turned into becoming the master of it with the help of a handful of plants.

Amazing opportunities to partake in travels that had only been dreams before fell at my feet, and I mastered the anxiety and fear that came with them too. I know my helpers now. They give me freedom.

The newest shift came when I messed up my spine and couldn’t get out of bed one morning. A trip to the chiropractor taught me I’d given myself scoliosis and spinal degeneration from staring at computers. That sucked. At 28, I’m working with an issue that may take years to fix.

It got me into restorative yoga classes 3 – 5 times a week, though. These are the classes with all the old people on Tuesday mornings when everyone else is at work. I always wonder if the other participants think I don’t have a job or something because I’m there.

The stretching is making my spine better, slowly…very slowly. The hour a day of clearing my mind, breathing, and listening to the physical sensations each stretch produces also brought a large dose of emotional strength — the unexpected side effect that’s changed everything. As I watch my body relax and strengthen, I feel my emotions ground and root. Imagine your mind always looking the way a cold lake does when wind gusts pour over it. The choppy water looks so cold. Getting anywhere through it means a fight, and you’ll certainly end up soaked and with frozen fingers, which means dread every time you look at what’s ahead of you. And then suddenly, the wind stops, the water looks like glass, and the sun brings warmth. The problems are still there, but working through them is fun because you’re on a lake. That’s my world now.

People say yoga makes a difference, whether it’s because of the breathing or a mind-body connection or all the above. I didn’t believe them. Clearly, now I do.

I’ve spent my whole life chasing magic, wondering if it exists, and if it does, where to find it. In spirituality? In nature? In meditation? In those pretty crystals people keep in their pockets? (By “people” I mean me.) I never want to knock these things, but the changes in 2017 have brought me to the fullness of the present – something I couldn’t experience before. Now, I can see the magic in the moments right in front of me. It’s in my garden and the unexpected 2nd blossom of the mango tree. It’s in the sound of the tiny snores I hear when I’ve rocked my son to sleep. I can see it now, because I’m here now.

This New Year, I’m not setting resolutions or looking to the future with hope. I’m sitting in the present with joy.