New Year, New You?

Hello chaps!

I’d like to pick your lovely brains on something.

I’m writing an article for One in Four on the subject of the New Year.  I celebrate the New Year (capitals and all) as a means of a sort of bookmark. “Done!” It used to be a celebration of, “Holy shit, I’m STILL ALIVE! Who’d have thunk it?” I think that does have a value.  It’s a more acceptable way of doing, “one day at a time”. And I will say I am personally a person who likes markers- like I said, bookmarks.  I need those little milestones, and I value them, and January 1st is as good as any.  I also like having that acceptable time to assess where I’m off to.  And 2011 has been a great year for me so damn right I’m going to see it out with a raised glass. So I’m aware a lot of people reading may feel similarly to me in that they value the bookmark of a new year as a means to move on.

But I bloody hate all this, “New Year, New You!” bullshit that gets hysterically vomited out of the press starting September.  I hate that the Old You isn’t enough anymore. I hate that in particular that it shrinks huge facets of your humanity down to easily marketable packages and does it under the loathsome guise of self improvement.  “Shit, you’re fat! Don’t be fat anymore! Buy this!”, “Shit, you look like a purse! Buy this purse, accessorise your purse face!” and etc.  I also detest the implicit message that if you just had enough willpower you could do anything!

It sets anyone up for failure (which is why I’m not making resolutions this year) but I think it can be even more so of a trap for people with mental health problems.  What if January 1st is just a day?  If Christmas was just a day? You’re still the Old You, with the Old Life.  And the, “willpower” aspect of getting over mental health problems- that you might have had in 2011, 2010 and before- is not a pleasant thing to play with.  You can’t be well by wishing alone, and the assertion that you can get anything by basically closing your eyes and wishing hard enough is dangerous.  Willpower can be good, it can help you quit smoking etc- but I don’t think that willpower alone is going to cure someone of schizophrenia or drug addiction, or loneliness.

I also think that, particularly for people with depression, the bollocks of a New Start is a bit of a kick in the nuts.  Some people may find it helpful, and that’s cool, but I think we should drop the superstitions around New Year and take what we will from it without it being shoved down our throats.  A new year could simply mean, to a lot of people, another year of shit and dread and wondering if you should be alive at all.

What do you think?  I’m having trouble getting my thoughts in order about the topic (maybe it’s not a strong topic?) and it would be helpful if you could tell me what you think and maybe what things you’d like to be discussed in regards to new year and mental health?

Thank you!

12 Responses

  1. No idea what I’d like discussed, I’m afraid. But for me the New Year will primarily be me saying, I hope, “well, thank God I made it through Christmas without having any alcohol”. It will be the biggest challenge to my sobriety, sobriety I’ve maintained for a bit over three months now.

    I have decided on a theme for 2012: it’s going to be my year of studying British modern politics (1970s onwards). It’s not so much a resolution as a primary focus for voluntary work I do. I’ve written down a few more goals as well. They’re not really resolutions so much as things I ought to have got done ages ago (clearing out my room) or stuff I want to buy that will mean saving up for (new specs).

    I’m sure this is all absolutely useless in terms of writing your article. I suppose if you cast resolutions in terms of them being a “plan” then you could maybe talk about how mentally well people don’t seem to manage to follow through on their best intentions and that it’s arguably even harder for someone with mental ill-health?

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  3. I think you have a good point. Holidays are so stressful already but especially if you’re struggling with mental issues but then add a “crazy making” family (as a counselor calls them) who have trouble with empathy/sympathy and WHEW!

    And suddenly it’s time for NYE which is always bittersweet. On the one hand, you have the promise of a “new beginning” which can inspire hope but it’s almost arbitrary. It’s really just a day which was created by human beings to keep track of “time”. There’s nothing truly cosmic about it. It’s just a day in reality. On the other hand, I have the dreaded age thirty to look forward to and I’m still not where I need to be mentally, especially having to live in Mississippi to care for my father who’s lucky to be alive after being in a coma last NYE. I look back and am thankful that my father will be with us this holiday season but also become depressed and ashamed of how little I’ve accomplished mentally and emotionally.

    I don’t make resolutions. It ends up setting myself up for failure which leads to stress and depression. I have some goals: lose a few pounds, make a real effort at being neat, quit beating myself up so much (forgive myself), stop being such a judgemental bitch ;), make myself a better person, more love – less anger – esp

  4. (Oops! Accidentally posted without finishing)

    … Especially myself. These are goals I have for every day, one day at a time. So I only value NYE for the amazing concerts and parties. Lately, though… Not so much.

    But bless the vacation time!

    Also, concerning shopping, I can’t do it. Not this time of the year. I’ve always felt so incredibly panicky in crowded malls and stores. I am short and people act like they can’t see me so I find myself doing a self-defense dance trying not to get run over. At this point, I usually end up just sitting on the floor rocking back and forth with my thumb in my mouth. Well… That’s really an exaggeration intended as comic relief but … I do frequently have to leave and get fresh air before I have a panic attack.

    THEN there are the gifts, most given simply out of an obligation to give things that most people don’t even really want. This adds to my low self esteem as I can’t have a job and can’t ever afford descent gifts. I’m almost thirty and I can’t afford thoughtful gifts for my family. Working on creative ideas for that Selina.

    All in all, I’d say it’s mixed. I LOVE the tradition, decorations, family (sans drama and criticism), yummy food, vacation time, the music and gifts are great!
    Then there’s the exhaustion of family obligations, nonstop football, drinking too much, road blocks, family and friends not understanding when I need to have moments to myself and find me staring off… But I guess they’ve figured out I’m “not right” by now. I find it exhausting to have to put on a forced smile and politely pretend to be interested in whatever is being discussed.

    At least I’m not massively depressed as I was during several holidays as a teenager.

    Sorry if this seems rambling. Still not quite awake. Also, didn’t mean to go from NYE to the Holidays. What if you just do the broader category of end of the year Holidays: Thanksgiving (though… You don’t do that outside of the States), Christmas/Hanukkah, NYE.

    Either way, great post. I very much agree with your points and, in summation (finally! an end in sight!), I feel that it’s definitely more stressful for those with mental issues. They say (they = the voices in my head) that Christmas-NYE are the times of the year with the highest suicide rate. Pretty sure that’s good proof.

    Don’t know if it helps but thanks for reading!

  5. Sounds like you’ve got the beginning of an article with what you wrote! You concisely express the uncertainty about how to handle “New Year” for people with depression etc. Leaving the reader with a question is no bad thing – you don’t need to write an article that has all the answers.

    As for me and my depression, New Year is the worst time of year. That was when it all started for me, so it brings it all back. And it means it’s another year when either I haven’t got better (whatever that means) or I haven’t had the guts to kill myself (depending on how I’m feeling). And it means Christmas, festivities, enforced happiness = loneliness among people, the disappointments of how few friends I have and how little they know me (which I know because of how few cards I got and how crap the presents I got were), and the endlessness of another year of crap ahead.

  6. New year is the worst day of the year, well that and my birthday. Another year wasted. 2011 has been particularly cruel and I have no faith 2012 will provide me with some miracle turn around. A milestone it is but one that continually says ‘your getting older..things are slipping further out of reach’.

    Knowing everyone is out happy, knowing I am in alone, knowing each year passess quicker and quicker has left me in A&E for a few NYE.

    (Hmm- cheerful aren’t I..)

  7. Yes, I agree with people’s mixed feelings about NYE, the hype is really stressful – I believe NYE and Christmas are some of the busiest times for the Samaritans, and we can all see why.
    As for “A whole new me!” – very stressful, around mid January the disappointment than kicks in +++ if we are not all new (= ‘improved’) Me.
    So how about a pledge to only be a little different, being kinder to ourselves?
    It is a really good article, thought provoking, thank you!

  8. I absolutely HATE New Years Eve! All of my friends seem to feel the need to go out and get completely off their faces on booze and drugs. I hardly ever drink as I find it greatly affects my depression and I dislike the feeling of losing total control of myself.

    I like to look at New Year and reflect on achievements I’ve been able to make over the last 365 days and look at my mistakes as well.

  9. I can see why some people might find it helpful. Yeah, it’s arbitrary, but it’s something to focus the mind. It’s just an extension of the mindset of people who say they’re going to start something they need to do on a Monday, or the 1st of a month…you have some time to prepare yourself (and usually, to do exactly the opposite of what you’re planning on starting to do), and then you have a set day to begin whatever it is, and you feel like you have to, because it’s a day for beginnings.

    There are three big problems with having New Year as the start of improving your life, as far as I’m concerned. The first is that New Year’s Day comes directly after New Year’s Eve…and a lot of people, by the time they wake up on January 1st, have already done myriad things they regret since midight, so it’s like they’ve missed the chance start behaving how they want to. Yeah, you might think you’ll start now, but you’ll always know that there were a few hours at the beginning of the year in which you didn’t do what you’re trying to do, and you feel guilty, and like you’re lying when you say that you’ve been doing something “since New Year”.

    Then, of course, there’s the problem of the build-up. It’s fine when you’re saying “I’ll start that on Monday”, because you’ll have only spent a few days psyching yourself up for it, and if you do make a mess of it, you can always try again next Monday. But you might spend weeks saying “2012 is the year I’m going to change my life, starting January 1st”, and if you fuck that up, you feel like a much bigger failure because you’ve put more pressure on yourself, and it’s longer until you can try again at the same point.

    The other problem is that New Year happens at such a shit time of year. Maybe it’s just me, but…the weather’s shit, you’ve got less money than usual, and you’re spending more time than usual with your family (who, however much you love them, are often stressful). Combine that with – for a lot of us – more alcohol than usual, and the entire holiday, but especially New Year, is a time when you’re MORE likely to do stuff you regret.

    I once spent New Year’s Eve running down the streets of a strange city, crying and telling strangers that I wanted “to be with the sky”. It’s difficult to wake up the morning after that and feel ready to improve your life.

  10. I remember one year when my anxiety was at its worst. I was in my second year of university. I was so excited about going home and having a new years party with my friends (my home town was far away from uni). It felt so joyous that much of my anxiety went away, and then I had a big crash around Jan 2nd, the day after new years day, after the afterparty. I felt horrifically miserable and I realised that except for a few beers in my gut and lots of xmas weight gained, nothing had changed.

    It’s important to take some critical distance to what the messages tell you about how people ‘should’ behave and have fun during the holiday period, and in the run up to it. I think you have the right approach, Seaneen. I’m still keeping strong to my 2009 resolution (scrobble all my music on – rituals are important for me), and my 2011 resolution: go to the gym regularly, is coming along just fine! I don’t believe in shallow resolutions, I dont know if I really need to make another one this year, as I have lots to commit to already with trying to keep well.

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