This year, we asked the OC87 Recovery Diaries team to ponder the following question:
What is your mental health “wish list” for yourself in 2017 — in what areas would you like to grow personally? And how will you make it happen — where will you look for inspiration and strength in 2017?
Here are our responses. Hopefully you’ll see a bit of yourself in some of our thoughts. Sending you warmest wishes for a healthy and happy 2017!
Editor In Chief
My mental health wish list for 2017 consists of one thing: to be more connected with people. I drifted away from that goal in 2016 and became a recluse — not good for someone who runs a mental health website and tries to set a positive life example for others.
In 2016, my fears of intimacy increased — and not just fears of the romantic kind. I shut down my feelings this year just as I became closer with people. The fear of vulnerability was too great. I didn’t want to be hurt like I was thirty years ago. A close friend emotionally crippled me. We are friends now but it’s still tough for me to trust.
In 2017, I hope EMDR therapy will help me to take the chance to trust and risk hurt. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s used for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) victim trauma and for low-level trauma that many of us go through as children, such as being bullied or being told repeatedly that what we value is stupid or inane.
Successful EMDR therapy can be helpful because it allows you to revisit traumatic and emotional events from your past but from the safety of the present; you re-experience these touchstone points in a healthier way. The freeing up of past events can have profound effects on your current beliefs and behavior because you can deal with things from a healthier, adult point of view.
I am also more committed to EMDR than I was in the past because I’m older (I just turned fifty-six) and I don’t want life to pass me by.
Hopefully, I will be able to tell you next year at this time that life has improved for me in 2017.
I wish all of you the same success in the new year!
It is important to note that, while this piece will be published right around the end of 2016, I am writing this on election night, beginning my writing at 11:33pm, as results are rolling in, as my jaw is on the floor, as my temples pulse with anxiety, dread and despair. That said: there is but one item on my mental health wish list for 2017, and that is acceptance. My consistent, and sometimes volatile, inability to accept is one of my biggest human failings. I struggle accepting large things, like presidential elections, for instance, and more local, personal issues centering on my family, friends, and myself. The internal struggles are, for me, the hardest: I falter at graciously accepting my flaws, and even my strengths. I cannot accept praise. I cannot accept achievements. And I cannot accept failures.
So, where do we go from here? How do we get to that golden egg of acceptance? Well, when you get all hot and bothered about everything in life, when you feel passionately and fight fiercely and brood deeply, it’s exhausting, but you can’t relax because you’re getting up the next day ready to do it all over again. I suppose what is essential is stopping that pattern, is realizing that it doesn’t have to be that way. Like all firmly established patterns, it takes a lot of work to undo learned behavior. It takes therapy, it takes noticing negative thoughts before you can change them, it takes a lot of effort to, well, relax. I’m not ready to nail up the hammock just yet, but I am at least considering buying one.
LEAH ALEXANDRA GOLDSTEIN
Designer & Website Manager
This year I’m focusing on my physical wellness since I know that impacts my mental well-being in so many ways. Exercising produces endorphins and endorphins help me to feel happy. When I move my body I feel strong, confident, and clear-minded. Developing discipline in this part of life is becoming a non-negotiable in terms of my mental health.
I’ve recently started training with a fitness coach who is preparing me to run in my first 5k race in early spring 2017. In addition to running and doing calisthenics with her, I’ve returned to my long-term yoga practice, and I’m committed to attending a fast-paced dance class a few times a month.
I feel excited to be working with a coach and going to group classes since self-motivation in this area of life hasn’t always been a strong suit of mine. I feel especially relieved to be engaging in physical exercise through the cold winter months when it’s typically easier to lean into isolation and a sedentary lifestyle — both things that do not benefit my mental health.
Through this physical fitness/mental health journey, I’ll be sharing my goals and challenges with friends who are making similar commitments to their own well-being. I’ve been chatting with friends in person about my workouts and I’ve also been sharing the fitness experiences I’m having on my blog for more social accountability.
Graphics & Website Assistant
In 2016 I struggled with a bit of anxiety. With my husband’s job we move a lot, like seven-times-in-seven-years a lot. You would think I would have the moving thing down, but I struggle with the unknown. I struggle not knowing where we will be living in a year, if I’ll have friends, if my children will have friends, traveling with two children long distance, packing our things, and the list goes on. It’s hard for me to realize that some things are out of my control, and I must go with the flow. That’s easier said than done when you like to be in control 100 percent of the time.
My wish for 2017 is to realize that somethings are just meant to be, and that not everything can be planned. I need to take some time to relax, breathe, and focus on the things that I can control. I need to also try to be more organized. Next year is shaping up to be an amazing year, and I’m excited about the new beginning it will bring.
PR & Social Media Assistant
Wheeeee — a list! My type A personality just did a few back flips. Shopping list, morning reminder lists, work day goal lists, home improvement lists, after-work productivity lists, I could go on… Needless to say I do not discriminate against lists of any sort. So why is a mental health list for myself such a challenge for me?
This thought alone has inspired my 2017 mental health wish list:
Create more me time. I wish to do more things I enjoy because, well, just because! I’ve come to realize every action I do seems to have an underlying motive, whether it will make a unique addition on my resume or someone else happy. It’s difficult for me to list my hobbies and I do not like the sign of that. I plan to challenge myself in 2017 to discover what makes me feel good and set aside time each week to do something fulfilling for me!
Focus on a better sleep routine. I wish to prioritize sleep. Staying up late to complete my day’s to-dos is a daily occurrence at the expense of my cognitive and mental health. Waking up foggy and sleep deprived can throw off my whole day. I plan to become more regimented (with the assistance of my trusty iPhone alarm). I owe that to myself.
Grow my tribe. I wish to surround myself with contagiously positive people. It’s a “no-brainer” that the people we surround ourselves with shape us from our style to our thoughts and doubts. I currently have a wonderfully supportive “tribe” of family, coworkers, and friends. 2016 was a year of unexpected transition in many facets of my life and I thank them for their love. In 2017 I plan to extend my network with the intentions of sharing strength, creativity, and energy with others along the way.
In 2017 I hope to find empathy for myself. While it is so simple for me to be gentle with and understanding of my loved ones, family, friends and strangers, it is not always as easy to do so with myself. Part of the healing process is to find a kinder inner voice and seek out understanding ways that allow me to have empathy for myself. I hope to be in communication with trauma and triggers, which will allow for a new understanding of my experiences. I want to think of myself as a friend, and I want to be kind to that friend.
I always look for inspiration in the books I read, the films I see, the spaces I exist within, and the people I interact with. I hope to seek out these resources more often and be conscious and aware of them and their needs.
PR & Social Media Manager
My mental health wish is to be more present and aware of the personal energy that I have and how it affects others. The intention is to inspire and elevate others so that they feel appreciated, respected and cared about.
Although I lead a spiritual life through prayer, I still feel like there is work to be done in this area. Life gets in the way and being present and aware is sometimes lost in this busy-ness of my days. I would like to introduce the practice of daily meditation in 2017. It is not an easy thing for me: to quiet my mind and focus inward.
I also wish to get better at focusing on now and on the people that I interact with more. I believe the daily practice of quiet stillness can help me achieve this goal.
Producer / Director
At the top of my mental health “wish list” is an invention that will help me filter out all the noise (“all the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!!!” as the Grinch would say) that is part of our new internet-based reality.
Perhaps a pair of glasses that will cloud over whenever I glance at my phone, or a pointer finger brace that will prevent me from scrolling up and down to see what the latest news is, or a thumb lock that will stop me from responding to said messages. I’m actually serious.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love technology, and 2016 was full of great adventures. I had a film released and much of the good word about it was spread on social media. This site, OC87 Recovery Diaries, greatly benefits from folks liking and sharing our posts, and we’re all super grateful. However, if I am to be honest, I was simply weak when it came to resisting the pull of social media, and keeping it in its proper place. The election in the U.S., in particular, grabbed a good deal of my attention (still does), and I became sucked into the tornado of news/un-news/thoughts/opinions/rants/pleas/memes that filled my feed from sun up to sun down.
Here’s when I knew I had a problem: one day on a film shoot a production assistant asked me, “Is everything OK at home?” When I replied, “Yes, why do you ask?” he said, “Because you keep checking your phone. I thought there was something wrong.” At that moment I thought, “Gee, this is a little bit out of hand.” I realized that I have to pull back. For my mental health: less technology, more human interaction.
So for 2017, I promise to check my email less (how about instead of every five minutes, maybe once every couple of hours?). I’ve taken Facebook off of my phone, and instead of looking at my feed, I’ll look to art, literature and conversation with my family and friends for inspiration, and the latest updates on the here and now (and the past as well).
Wish me luck!