This year was a year I didn’t think I’d survive… and Christmas is as good a time as any to be honest about it.
Not that I haven’t been honest about it before now, but at the end of the year and looking into 2015, it’s definitely a story worth sharing.
Believe it or not, the time has already come where it’s time to ask the question, “How has your year been?”. I can’t believe how quickly it’s come up.
So, how’s your year been? What was it you loved about this year? What were some of the things that maybe broke your heart or took you off course?
For me, 2014 was one heck of a crazy year, and I didn’t think I’d survive a few of the things that happened earlier in the year. By “survive” I don’t mean I was going to die or anything like that, but there were some things that I thought would leave me never the same again, and not in a good way.
That said, the year has also had a lot of good things, and a lot of new things.
I’d like to share with you what my 2014 was like, to take you on a journey of what life was like for me this year, and hopefully in looking at my year we can help look back over yours.
A Messy Start
The end of last year and the start of this year featured a number of things that really spun me out. I had a few relationships in my life that were leaving me quite confused and unsure of people’s intentions and expectations, leading me to a place of deep uncertainty and confusion on multiple fronts in my life. In addition to that, around January and February, I had a number of friends (more than 10) who were looking to me to help them out and support them who found themselves burning out and disappointed in their volunteerism. Me being a pastoral kind of guy (as in my primary concern is the real wellbeing of others in most situations), my heart bled for them as they found themselves questioning their involvement and even to a point, their value and calling. I found myself unsure of what to do and couldn’t find a way that would help them through.
At the same time (can you see the snowball forming here), I found myself not getting the support I thought I needed from the people I thought should be providing it. It’s one thing to go through something difficult, it’s another to feel like the people who you feel are supposed to be helping you continue on life as usual, while you still seem to be struggling through your issues.
At the same time (again) as these elements of life coming into play, I found myself under enormous pressure in my career. Part self-induced, part factors beyond my control, I found myself feeling trapped. As an IT professional who has been in some more senior roles in recent years, I had always been used to working with large amounts of pressure and functioning well under a set amount of stress. I’d always thrived under those sorts of pressures and deadlines, and actually enjoyed it. But a particular team and a particular set of projects that didn’t seem to be getting the results I felt were needed started to destroy me.
It even got to the point where I was having at least one major panic attack every day (literally) for about 2 months. If they happened on a work day, my productivity would half for the remainder of working hours. If it happened with friends or family, I would have to excuse myself til I’d calmed down a bit. If it happened at church, I would have to stick to much smaller groups of people than I usually love spending time with. It wrecked my health, it wrecked my involvement, it wrecked my energy levels and schedule, and it really threw me off course. If you’ve experienced them before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I still remember the first time it happened, standing at the top of my staircase, unable to think of where I was or what was going on. Fortunately one of my housemates helped me find a safer place to lie down and get through it. You’re a good man, Max.
At the same time as all this, I was still studying and finishing a Graduate Diploma part time. Where once I would thrive with a full schedule and have much more room in my life for others and for my work, I found myself questioning if I would ever be able to undertake a high pressure position again, whether or not I could continue my part time study, whether or not I could continue my church involvement, and even whether or not I would be able to function normally again.
Getting Through It
Pretty heavy stuff, huh? But that is the reality of my 2014. I wouldn’t really want to do any of it again.
So in facing all this, I was determined that I had to find a way through it. Whatever was getting me down and ruining my life, I had to find its source, and I had to deal with it. And there were a number of big things that helped me make my way through a very difficult time.
As soon as the panic attacks started, I immediately contacted my church’s community arm and asked if I could see a counselor. Fortunately, they were quite prompt about it and I was able to see a leading counselor who specializes in the issues men face, particularly Christian men, as well as in dealing with anxiety. Having such a counselor was fantastic – he was able to help me talk through all of me with great understanding of each of the components in my life and work through how all the parts were fitting together, understanding my reactions to what was happening, and help me see exactly where the sources of my issues were coming from. Thanks to him, I was able to see that I was feeling trapped in a number of areas, and made some decisions to set myself free from the things that held me down. Two of the big decisions I made was to change some of my volunteer involvements and to move on from my old job.
The week after I finished up, I took a trip to Japan that was absolutely amazing. In just under 4 weeks, I visited 11 cities all around the country – Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Tokyo, Sapporo, Otaru, Wakkanai, Aomori, Akita, Hiroshima, and finally Narita. I saw snow, I sat under Sakura trees in bloom, I saw the mountains and volcanoes, I saw tsunami and earthquake damage, I traveled under the ocean by train (twice), I regularly used the Shinkansen (bullet trains), I saw the only building not destroyed by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, I went to Nintendo, I visited two of the great Lifehouse campuses in Osaka and Sapporo… and so much more.
It was a great time away from everything to help process everything. With the exception of two of the cities, I was by myself the whole time. I remember sitting at the very top of Japan in the town of Wakkanai, staring out over the La Pérouse Strait and looking at Sakhalin Island of Russia, and just praying and thinking about what had happened so far. And I remember being able to articulate a sense of failure in multiple areas of my life, and in doing so, being able to take the remainder of the trip to process and recognize that failure is not who I am, nor was it realistic to expect so much of myself under the circumstances.
I also have to make mention of the friends in my life. Thanks to a key group of people who would regularly check in on me and encourage me, I was able to process all that was going on in my life from a much stronger position. The people in our lives are one of the greatest blessings we could ever know – let’s never take them for granted. I know for sure that I was endlessly grateful for their encouragement and support in my life through everything that happened, and I’ve made sure to tell them too.
And where would I be without my faith. Without my faith, I probably wouldn’t even still be here. Who knows. One thing I do know is the sense of purpose and support that I find in the Way is completely invaluable and the core of who I am. Sometimes you wonder in situations like that if God really cares, but I can definitely say that he does. I remember sitting in Hiroshima, the “uninhabitable city”, in front of the Genbaku Dome, the only building not destroyed by the bomb, and having a real moment of clarity. The city had been so destroyed that people would say no life would ever grow there again. And here were 2 million people with all their technology and love and life going strong. My life at the time had felt so destroyed, and I thought it may have been beyond repair.
But new words are spoken over the destruction, and new life grows in its place.
Changes, Changes, Changes… New, New, New
And I am happy to report that the second half of the year has been full of new things and good things. I got a new job at an amazing IT firm. I took on some new involvement at my church that allows me to still do what I love and serve the people I love to serve. I finished my Graduate Diploma. I got a new laptop. I got a new phone. I took on some new investments. Not that my old housemates were bad, but I got some new housemates – just some other new things in my life. Walking The Shoreline continues to grow. New new new new new.
New life growing in places I thought may have remained destroyed forever.
And my whole life at the moment is full of new and increased productivity and freedom. My health is once again back on track and I haven’t had any more issues, even in recent situations where the pressure has been back on. It really has been a miracle turnaround.
And I’m so excited for 2015. What a platform I’ve been given to continue to grow and influence others. The opportunity, the clarity, the freedom – and all these amazing new avenues and ways to see my life increase.
So how about you?
This Christmas, this New Year, this 2015 – I don’t know what’s going through your mind as you face this reflective time. Maybe you’re stoked with your 2014. Maybe like me you had parts of it that have felt like a write off. Maybe you still feel that way. Hopefully through reading my journey this year you find some things that help you process and work through things.
But wherever you find yourself, I pray that you would find the strength and clarity to be honest about where you’re at and about where you want to go, and to move into those places with boldness and strength like never before.
You haven’t seen the best yet.
So to you and yours I wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May your heart be full of joy and rest this time of year, and may you enjoy these precious days among family and friends.
And if you know someone who had a rough year this year, why not send this story their way and let it be an encouragement to them that they’re going to make it through. I didn’t think I’d survive, but I’m glad I was wrong.
How was your year? Anything in my story you’d like to comment on? Share your thoughts in the boxes below.