Tēnā koutou, e hoa mā! As 2018 quietly transitions into 2019, there's no time like the present to reflect on the year that has been, while looking forward to the year that awaits us. One popular way to do this is Instagram's '2018 Best Nine', but if you're anything like me and really can't be bothered downloading a whole app for that, sometimes it's just best to do a little bit of self-reflection. So, I've decided to make my very own 'best nine' to look back on what has been a massive year for me; mentally, physically, spiritually... 2018 was huge!
To reflect on my year, I'd like to share my 'best nine' moments with you. It might get a bit long and heavy, but overall I really do feel like I'm entering 2019 on a positive note!
So without delay, here is my 2018 Best Nine.
CW // long post
My highlights of 2018, all neatly put together in a photo collage.
1. Moving into a new flat
In April, Jordy (my partner) and I moved into a new flat. It’s amazing how we take things like ‘being able to open windows’ and ‘actually allowed to exist’ for granted in living situations. Our last living situation was OK, but it caused Jordy and I quite a lot of anxiety. We weren't allowed to open any windows because the pets were indoor pets. We weren't really able to use any 'communal' space, so we were confined to our room pretty much all the time. Looking back, the situation made me a lot more anxious than I realised. So moving to Te Atatū South, and out of Glen Innes where I had been living my whole life, was a very exciting and stressful time.
I remember waking up after the first night, walking out onto the deck with the sunrise, and just feeling like I was able to breathe again. And after getting in a new flatmate later in the year, this is now a place that feels safe; that feels like home. The energy in the house is light, our flatmates are both lovely and supportive, and overall it's a place that I just feel so lucky to be in. Not to mention we live with two cats as well, which is always nice! Honestly, making this move was the beginning of a lot more good things to come this year, and I'm excited to do more flat bonding activities in the new year!
2. Surviving while my therapist was on leave
This one sounds a little bit dramatic, but I think this was a real turning point for me in terms of not only my mental health rehabilitation, but also my creative practice, AND developing a clearer sense of self and my spirituality. It wasn't until much, much later that I realised just how much of an impact my therapist's absence had on me (in a positive way!) It allowed me to recognise feelings of emotional attachment, as well as facing into the idea of graduating the Intensive Day Programme and having to say goodbye. The absence opened me up to grief that I had never experienced before; something I still find hard to put into words even months later.
It was this profound sadness that helped push my art in a new direction. Not only that, but it was this grief of missing my therapist so much that sparked another creative avenue: poetry. My first poem was written about this experience, and I haven't stopped writing since.
I think it was also this point in time where I really started to understand myself a bit better; in terms of how I relate to other people and how my past influences the different relationships in my life. The four weeks my therapist was away was spent doing a lot of self-reflection, and one of the things I was reflecting on was my spirituality. This in particular was sparked when my flatmate gave me rose quartz because I was struggling, and the very next day my therapist gave me a little rose quartz stone to hold on to while he was away. Rose quartz is a stone that represents the heart, and unconditional love, and I remember my therapist saying something along the lines of, "it says something about your energy." I wore that rose quartz around my neck every day until he got back.
I think back to that time a lot, actually. It really was a life-changing experience (forgive the drama, there just aren't words to do it justice, really).
3. 100 Illustrations in 100 Days
For the 100 Days Project this year I decided to do one A5 illustration a day. I'd always felt like my illustration skills were lacking somewhat, so getting into a routine of doing something illustrative every day was a really rewarding experience. The most rewarding thing about it though was how people interacted with my work. I set up a whole new Instagram account just to track my progress for this project, and it's now turned into my main art account.
I've also recently started to trial putting my illustrations on apparel, which is a strange and wonderful feeling! I'm aiming to have a shop set up on my website in the new year (a 'resolution' if you want to call it that). I haven't done any illustration recently, but it's definitely something I want to continue exploring, especially after completing all 100 illustrations!
4. Had Laparoscopic Sterilisation Surgery
August 29th, 2018. I had underestimated just how important this surgery would be for me. I had always known that I never wanted children, and so two years ago I went to my GP to ask what my options were (but basically asking for sterilisation). She referred me to a gynaecologist, who flat out told me that she would never perform a sterilisation surgery on someone my age (I was 22 at the time), so she ended up referring me to someone higher up. Long story short, I agreed to have an IUD (Mirena) put in, and if after five years I still wanted the sterilisation, they would do it.
Fast forward 18 months; the Mirena didn't agree with me at all. It affected my moods severely, to the point where I was dangerously suicidal for months. I was in near constant pain, and had been bleeding for almost half the time I had it in. Almost two years after my initial appointment, and I finally got the answer I'd been wanting. I wrote a whole poem about this. About how this wasn't just a two year wait, it had been almost seventeen years in the making. About how the surgery made me feel like my body was my own. Not only did I get the sterilisation done, but I also had the Mirena removed. It was like a light switch had gone off in my brain; I went from 5/5 suicidal urges to 0/5 literally overnight.
Four months on, and I still have no regrets about my decision. I had most definitely underestimated just how important having this surgery was for me though. It was the first step of many to reclaiming and loving my body.
5. I passed my restricted driving test
If you had of told me a year ago that I would be driving on my own before the year was up, I wouldn't have believed you. I'd had my learners since I was about 18 years old, and it was basically serving as a form of I.D. because I'd never really made any moves to obtain my restricted licence. I used public transport a lot, bussing to and from Segar House almost every day. This was fine, but I knew that getting my licence would be easier for me in the long run. I also knew it would give me a lot more independence and confidence.
I'll be honest, it took me three tries to finally get my restricted. I've only been driving for about three months, but my confidence levels have risen so much just by having this small amount of independence and freedom.
6. Experimenting with my appearance
Speaking of confidence, I think one of the major indicators of my progress this year is my outward physical appearance, and how I'm choosing to present myself to the world. This year I felt that the term 'non-binary' felt right for me, and so simple things like cutting my hair short and changing the way I dressed made me feel more like me. These aren't things synonymous with being non-binary, they're just things that made me feel more like myself.
I found myself experimenting with different clothes, new colours, new styles... things I never would have imagined myself wearing a year ago. I remember when I first started Segar House, all I wore was hoodies and leggings. Now, my favourite thing is plaid. Plaid pants, plaid dresses... you name it! I've tried to develop a style for myself, and the best thing about it is that I'm having fun while doing so. My wardrobe is a lot more colourful now than it was this time a year ago, and it's only going to get brighter!
Changing clothes and putting on a bit of make-up may seem like superficial things, but it's so much more than that. It's the conscious decision I'm making to take pride in how I present myself. It really is as simple as look good = feel good.
7. Writing poetry
I really have my therapist to thank for this one. I wrote my first poem to process my intense emotions about him being on leave, because there was no other way I could express these emotions other than art. I haven't stopped writing since. Writing has always been a way for me to process my emotions, whether it be through Twitter, or blogs, or Instagram. But I had never delved into poetry because I thought I wouldn't be good at it. When I started writing poetry, I wasn't so much concerned with whether or not it would be good, I just wanted to get my emotions out. And it's proven to be a helpful tool in processing my emotions.
More recently, my writing has become a lot more deliberate. At first, poetry was just a way to get my emotions out of my head, and so the writing was very raw. I was finding that sometimes writing would keep me in the emotion, and so it was suggested that perhaps I should try writing mindfully. By writing mindfully, I'm more aware of my emotions, and the more aware I am of them the better I can work with them.
I share some of my poetry over on a Tumblr blog, and some of it I bring to therapy, but mostly poetry has become something that I do for myself. There's something magical about how emotions come to life perfectly through words and verbal imagery. Who knows, maybe I'll try publishing some of my work at some point? For now though, I'm just grateful that I've discovered this new avenue for processing and sharing my emotional states.
8. Asking for help
Another major indicator of my progress this year is finally getting to a point where I was able to ask for help (and accept it) during times of distress. One of my goals was to notice when things would start to 'build up', so I could intercept them with skills before I reached crisis point. It took a lot of trial and error, but just last month I was able to notice that things were getting a bit too much, and I was able to ask for Respite. This is MASSIVE for me; often feeling as though I'm a burden, or that I 'should be coping', I'd avoid asking for help. I'd take the 'old road' and give in to self-destructive habits. But this time I was able to use skills enough to bring my distress down, and when my distress was lowered, I was able to ask the appropriate mental health professionals for some time in a Respite facility.
Not only was asking for help huge, but the fact I spent two days (and one night) in Respite when for the past three years I have adamantly refused Respite was also really big progress. I'd always been worried that spending a night away from Jordy would make me worse. At most, I found it a little bit hard to sleep, but being in Respite gave me the space to really think and process what was going on for me. I was finding it hard to find things to celebrate, but I'm reminding myself that progress isn't linear. Sometimes progress means making decisions for yourself that you would have never considered before, and that's what I did.
9. Finding and holding on to faith
I suppose this is something that has always been with me. I've always been pretty sure about what I believe in; The Universe, Karma, that kind of thing... I started thinking a bit more seriously about it all when my flatmate and therapist both gave me rose quartz within a day of each other. Since then, I've opened myself up a lot to the different energies around me, as well as trying to be grounded within myself.
As I said, this is something that has always been with me. I was raised in a home of superstition and witchcraft. But it hasn't been until recently that I've actually started to take it a bit more seriously. In a way, it seems like the final piece of the puzzle for me to get my life back on track; some sense of believing in something bigger than myself.
Some other things that have happened this year that I'm super proud of: burning my 'final letters', setting a date for graduation at Segar House (21st March), working through conflicts with my therapist and staying in contact with Segar, starting freelance work, participating in both zinefests, holding on to joy despite sadness, finding time to return to things I used to enjoy, practicing regular self-care... I could go on.
Overall, I've found so much to celebrate this year. There were some dark times, but there was also a lot of light too. "There is a crack in every thing / that's how the light gets in."
Some hopes I have for 2019? I hope there's more light. I hope there's more love. I hope to continue on the trajectory that I'm on at the moment; that I'm able to overcome difficulty with skill and integrity. I hope for more laughter. I hope for more quality time with the people I care about. I hope there's more colour, and art, and poetry. I hope the dark night of my soul will pass, and that the Sun will rise on a new day. January 1st, 2019.
Aroha nui. Ngā mihi o te Tau Hou.
Welcome to my blog! This is where I post recent things I've been up to, mental health updates, and other cool things! Thanks for stopping by!