Illustration by Gabrielle Conlon

 

This year has not been an easy one. Or the year before that, or the year before that one.

Every few months, I make a pact with myself to become a better person. (The theory being if I become a better person, I’ll have a better life.) A person who is more confident, who works harder, and who is kinder to others. But I have not been very kind to myself, and I am facing the consequences of my own self-destruction.

Becoming brand new, something bigger than myself has been my biggest focus. Why are other people my age doing things I’m not doing? Why do I feel so far behind on my goals? Why am I not enough for myself?

What I have learned recently is that everything really starts at the core. I have been reaching for goals unattainable to me because I did not see about myself first. I am learning to slow down my self-hatred and need for a very narrow kind of progress to say to myself: Are you okay? Are you grounded? Is everything okay inside?

And nothing has been okay inside for a long time.

I’ve started to call my process of setting goals I’m not ready for as “The Brand New Syndrome.” Since giving the process a name, I’ve seen it in my everyday life. I started to exercise to lose weight, but I still felt terrible about myself. I realized I would still pick apart my body even if I reached a lower weight. The same thing happened with makeup and social media–I realized I felt confident momentarily posing for selfies but felt really ugly in real life. Every time I’ve scored a new job, I’ve still felt like something in my life was missing. What was wrong–and why were these great things I was participating in not solving my sadness?

As most readers and friends know already, I have depression (among other mental illnesses). Even after being aware of my illnesses, I really tried to avoid all my internal traumas and issues in hopes that functioning as a “normal” person would make me feel better. The reality was that I was running away from the responsibility of really taking care of myself.

Every house is built only because it has a good foundation. I kept crumbling constantly because each time I tried to build myself up, I neglected the foundation. As mundane and boring as it might be, the foundation of a house needs to be done properly for the rest of the house to thrive.  

Obviously “The Brand New Syndrome” won’t apply to just those affected by mental illness. Someone reading this is neglecting themselves in an attempt to be brand new. What is it you are avoiding? Don’t you think you deserve better than the foundation you’ve laid?