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A new chapter: Why it’s okay to choose you for once

The following article was written by our guest blogger Aimee Nanney. Aimee spends her time sharing the testimony of her past, openly talking about mental health and learning to love every part of herself. She is avid cat and coffee lover, an amazing friend and a loyal listener.

Photo by Jen Veloso

“You can rise up from anything. You can completely recreate yourself. Nothing is permanent. You’re not stuck. You have choices. You can think new thoughts. You can learn something new. You can create new habits. All that matters is that you decide today and never look back.” -unknown

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year. It started off promising and then turned into an apocalyptic bingo card game with forest fires, aliens, murder hornets and a never-ending pandemic. Like many people, I worked from home but returned to the office after about two months. Even though I’m an introvert I hated working from home. I needed that separation of home and work so returning seemed like the best option.

My battle with depression last year felt like a losing battle right out of the gate. I didn’t want to burden anyone in my life, so I just focused on getting through each day. I gained 20 plus pounds, slept as much as I could on my days off and cried a lot alone at night. My thoughts were dark and absent. I just wanted to completely check out. I knew that something needed to change but I wasn’t sure how that was even possible. I needed a reset button.

I had been at my job for almost eight years and loved leading a team but being a manager in the middle of a pandemic while navigating depression felt like I was drowning. I felt like I owed it to my employer to stay for the long haul, so I wasn’t looking for a new job or actively taking steps to pursue other options. Out of nowhere I was offered a new job and I was terrified. Starting over seemed foolish and like I was breaking the rules of being an adult. I was grateful for all that I had learned over those eight years, and I did owe a lot of who I was as a professional to them, but I had a choice to make.

For the first time in a very long time I chose myself. I knew that taking that risk was the reset that I needed.

It’s been almost six months since I made that decision, and I can honestly say it’s been the best six months of my life; I’ve experienced a level of joy I didn’t know was possible. I kept waiting for the sky to fall or the rug to be pulled out from under me but every day I found another piece of myself. I’ve laughed more, I’ve spent more time building relationships and I’ve wanted to work on myself outside of work instead of going home to sleep and binge eat.

I always thought that I wouldn’t experience this kind of happiness unless I found it in a romantic relationship, but it turns out I found it by choosing to focus on myself and work on my mental, emotional and physical health. I’m going to the gym, eating better and setting boundaries with others to protect my heart and mind. I’m waking up every day and choosing to love myself regardless of the flaws and opinions of others.

Choosing me felt wrong and selfish but I was drowning in my life. I wanted an out and it wasn’t a pretty option where my thoughts were taking me. Depression is a bitch and often it can be a fight for your life, so I chose me. I chose to fight for something better. I quit my job, cut my hair and said “no” to a lot of people and things. Regardless of age or experience we can in fact start over. We can recreate ourselves because at the end of the day that job or relationship can and will replace you the moment you leave. Choosing to love yourself enough to take risks that are terrifying can set you on the path you should have been on all along.

Photo by Jen Veloso

My depression didn’t magically disappear but has been more manageable. I can recognize when I need rest or when I need to talk through my thoughts with someone. Focusing on my physical health by going to the gym, taking vitamins, and eating food that is good for my body improves my mental and physical mood immensely.

I’m changing my relationship with food; I still enjoy chocolate and bread, but I don’t rely on food to make me feel better when I’ve had a bad day. I’ve lost weight but it’s not about the pounds lost but how I feel after a workout, that feeling of accomplishment even if it was just a 30-minute walk.

I keep catching myself smiling and have this feeling in my chest you get when you fall in love, but I’ve literally just been falling in love with my life. I have butterflies for my life and it feels so damn good, like anything is possible. I don’t know what the next six months hold for me, but I am excited for what’s to come. I’ve had a few friends tell me “This is your year, Aimee!” and they are right! This is my year, and I will keep choosing myself, my happiness, my health over everything.

I started off 2021 afraid, angry, lonely, depressed, suicidal and extremely unhappy, so I took a risk that changed everything. There were so many factors that I could not control, and I know that often depression robs us of some of those choices. I took steps where I could. I took a step back and examined my life. I didn’t like what I could see so I changed what I could. Risk is scary, change is scary but remaining the same is scarier. Make changes where you can even if they scare the shit out of you, be more afraid of being stagnant then making dramatic shifts.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.”

I want to create a beautiful life and right now the foundation I am rebuilding looks pretty damn good. I may be 36 but I still have an entire life ahead of me and I plan to create something beautiful.

I encourage you today to make one small change to get closer to the life you truly want and deserve. What is one thing you can do differently to get there? After that choose one more thing. You are worthy of a great life. I hope you believe that.

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