I only wrote one blog post this year?! That can't possibly be right. I guess I haven't written much this year because it hasn't felt like much has been happening. It was a sort of quiet, low-key year — which is no bad thing, of course. But I guess I also feel like I sort of stumbled through it with my head down, watching my feet but not really watching the path, if that makes sense. How did 2021 already slide by?
The main thing I remember about this year is the progress I made overcoming grief and trauma. I started seeing a therapist (or counselor? I'm not sure which is the right term) sometime in June. She diagnosed me with PTSD from the shit that happened back in 2018. That diagnosis marked an important shift for me. It validated the struggles I was having with depression and anxiety, especially the panic I felt every time I thought back to 2018. And putting a label on the otherwise nebulous blob of memories and feelings made it easier to talk about and deal with.
To treat the PTSD, my therapist recommended EMDR therapy. I didn't know anything about it, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try it. In the version we used, I held a little vibrating buzzer in each hand. My therapist controlled a little device that caused the buzzers to alternate their vibrations back and forth, left hand and then right hand. A typical EMDR session went like this:
Each session lasted about 45 minutes, and we did one session a week for about 8 weeks.
The results were astounding. Honestly, I was very surprised at how effective it was for me. After 8 weeks, I was able to think about the very worst memories from 2018 with virtually no emotional or physical response at all. I still felt sadness and resentment, but I no longer felt like I was going to have a panic attack. The grief remained, but the crises and out-of-control spiralings were defused.
To be clear, I don't know which bits actually made the difference. My improvement could be attributed to EMDR, but it could also have been caused by talk therapy generally, or by spending time focusing on horrible memories in a safe space, or by being mindful of my mental and physical responses, or by the combination of all of the above. In other words, your mileage with EMDR may vary. But some combination of those factors was very effective for me.
I mentioned above that applying the label "PTSD" to my thoughts and feelings helped me to deal with them. In fact, one of the most important lessons I've learned in therapy so far is that labels are extremely powerful. When prematurely or inaccurately applied, they can box us in, become self-fulfilling prophecies, and prevent us from seeing things as they really are. But when they are accurately applied at the right time, they can bring clarity and concreteness to otherwise murky or amorphous states of affairs, enabling diagnosis and treatment. And in a meta sense, the word "label" is itself a label, and by using it my therapist illuminated and brought into focus the categorizations that I was thoughtlessly making or failing to make and enabled me to be more thoughtful about them.
One negative on the mental health front, though, is that I'm still struggling to get my medication right. Plus, I'm convinced that one of my antidepressants caused me to gain a bunch of weight, and now I can't lose the weight and I can't stop taking the antidepressant without spiraling out of control. So, that sucks.
In other news, we went on vacation to Galveston this summer. I don't think we'd ever been on vacation as a family before. It was wonderful. It rained most of the time we were there, so we only went out on the beach two or three times; but even spending time just hanging out in the hotel room and eating at a few local restaurants was so relaxing.
I also made some new friends this year, which is awesome.
Oh, and I don't know how I almost forgot this, but we bought our first house this year. Yay? That whole process can fuck all the way off. I hate everything about every part of real estate. But I'm glad that we were finally able to find something; I was sick of paying rent to landlords. Once we got moved in, there were a billion little (and not so little) maintenance things that needed doing, but I think we're mostly finished with the non-recurring ones. It's starting to feel a little bit like home.
And lastly, I finally got around to ordering a USB-to-SATA/IDE adapter so that I could hook up the dozens of old hard drives I had lying around and wipe them. The wiping itself was immensely satisfying, but it was also fun and a little sad to find old pictures and music and documents on them. I hardly recognized myself in the pictures. So much has changed in the last few years.
Thanks for reading. I hope you have a good year in 2022! 🥳