Why I’m glad I dislocated my shoulder for the 15th time

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Last October, I was taking an aerial yoga class when I dislocated my shoulder for the 15th time.

Picture this: I was lying on the floor with my butt in the air and my thighs floating in one of those silk things. My back and shoulders were on the floor and, as the yoga teacher tried to help me reposition for the next pose, POP! Out went my shoulder, and the class was over for me.

It wasn’t the yoga teacher’s fault, though. My shoulder has been dislocating roughly once a year since I turned 18 years old. In fact, my first shoulder dislocation happened at my 18th birthday party. It was a pool party (since I grew up in Florida) and we were all having fun, until a friend threw me off a floating device in the shallow end of the pool and… Well, it was basically either I crack my head open on the underwater stairs or I stop myself. But in stopping myself, I dislocated my shoulder for the first time and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here is what most people do not know about shoulder dislocations: They don’t happen the way they do in the movies.

In the movies, it’s usually some crazy action scene where the star dislocates their shoulder during some life-saving stunt. Then they simply pop it back in place as if it’s no big deal. Sure, it usually looks like it hurts a little but that’s about it. Well, let me tell you, it is not like that at all.

When my shoulder dislocates, it is SUPER visible. In the movies, you can barely see anything! Not to mention that it hurts. A LOT. And you can’t really do it yourself because you could fracture or shatter your bone. So, when my shoulder dislocates like it did last October during yoga class, I go straight to the emergency room, where they patch me back up — a process that usually takes several hours.

My dislocated bone hands below my shoulder and there is definitely a gap you can see (it’s gross, sorry). Every little movement I do hurts, so I can only really walk by holding my arm up and moving veeeeeeeery slowly. As soon as I can, I ask for pain medication and it usually takes something strong to get my shoulder back into its socket.

Lately, the doctors do what is called a “Twilight Sedation”. I’m basically knocked the F out for about 10 minutes, during which they maneuver the shoulder back into place. This also requires X-rays (to confirm my shoulder is indeed dislocated and then to make sure it’s safely back) and lots of doctors. After they patch me up, I’m sent on my way. Sometimes they give me additional pain medication but usually it’s just a sling and off on my merry way.

The one thing that also always happens whenever I end up in the ER with a dislocated shoulder is that I am given a recommendation to see an orthopedist as soon as possible.

That’s a shoulder doctor, basically. (Well, they do a lot more than that, of course).

In December 2009, I saw one and had surgery to repair my torn labrum. This was a surgery that was supposed to prevent me from ever dislocating my shoulder again… But then I had a big accident the next December (falling down the subway steps in NYC, where I lived) and it dislocated again. And another 10 times after that, bringing me to the grand total of 15.

When my shoulder dislocated for the 14th time back in May 2016, I had just moved from NYC to FL and met my now-husband Adam. He took me to the hospital and took care of me, which was really nice. When it happened again in October 2017, he came to get me at the yoga class and took me to the ER. It felt like the same old, same old to me.

I’ve been so used to my shoulder popping out and the doctors popping it back in that I was no longer looking at the bigger picture: My overall health.

Well, that changed with my 15th shoulder dislocation. Adam and I were engaged now and talking about possibly moving up our wedding date to get married before the end of 2017 (which we did). One of the reasons we wanted to move up our wedding date is because of health insurance concerns… and, to be honest, we started to talk about what it would mean for me to have better health insurance and the possibility of me getting surgery to permanently repair my shoulder. Again.

When I had a busy career and kind of shitty insurance and was dealing with my recovery and was generally just… not wanting to deal with it, to be honest. My shoulder dislocation had become an inconvenience that I was fine dealing with once in a while. It was something that I knew happened once a year or so and that was fine. I wasn’t worrying about it too much because it hadn’t gotten worse, but it hadn’t gotten better either.

What my 15th shoulder dislocation did for me, though, is that it forced me to think (and talk to Adam about) what it means to have this problem for the rest of my life. How is it going to affect my work? How is it going to affect me when we decide to have kids? How much is this problem going to cost us, as a family, if I have to continuously go to the ER and, well, pay those medical bills?

These were all big concerns and big questions that I finally had to face, all thanks to this shoulder dislocation…

And, let me tell you: It was really good that I finally faced them. Yesterday, I finally had a consultation with a doctor about my shoulder. He figured out that I have weak collagen and am too flexible, which is probably why I have such a problem with my shoulder dislocating (and why I was born with a dislocated hip). Then he recommended I get an MRI, which I am doing later today, and we may even have a plan in place to do something about this whole continuous shoulder dislocation issue.

For that, I am excited… and, to be honest, grateful that I dislocated my shoulder for the 15th time last fall.

It’s not every day that hurting yourself actually does something good for you. For me, it was all about recognizing that I can’t stop ignoring a health problem and hope it goes away. This will never go away. At least not without me actually doing something about it. And, well, now I am.

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How this night owl is going to attempt to become a morning lark

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I spent a good amount of time last night researching ways to become a morning lark instead of the night owl I naturally am. And today, despite going to bed later than I planned to, I am up again at 6 am, trying to form a habit that I hope will stick in the long run. We shall see.

When it comes to being a night owl, which is what I have always considered myself to be, I don’t know if that’s actually true. Yes, I feel active and not even remotely tired in the hours before bedtime, but does that actually make me a night owl?

I’m not one of those people who easily stays up till 3 in the morning. Although I can be fairly alert if I do (and sometimes get a second wind late at night), I have always prided myself on being the kind of person who went to sleep by midnight. I don’t really know if that was the result of me actually being a night owl or somewhere in between night person and morning person, but I tend to think it’s mainly because I need sleep.

Ever since I was little, I knew that I needed lots and lots of sleep. My mother is this way too. Even on weeks or days that I don’t have any “sleep debt” (which is not a thing, by the way, since your body can’t really recover from a lack of sleep—especially not a prolonged lack of sleep), I could still easily sleep 9-10 hours a day most nights. So what is it?

When I was in high school, I consistently went to bed by midnight no matter what. I was in an intensive academic program but, whether I finished all of my homework or not, I made sure to get to bed by midnight. I guess it must have been some sort of instinctual understanding that I would have likely lost all of my friends if I didn’t get at least some semblance of sleep. At the time, though, I had to wake up at 5 am so my sleep for the duration of those four years was basically 5 hours a night… except on weekends, of course, when I stayed up till 3/4/5 am and slept for 12-14 hours (no joke).

I formed mostly better habits in adulthood. My midnight bedtime continued to be the norm through college, unless there was a party or something (though those were rare, because I was a nerd and enjoyed studying but mostly enjoyed sleep, I think). Whether I had to wake up at 8 am or 10 am the next day, midnight tended to be the sweet spot for falling asleep. And, let me tell you, I never regretted that decision.

The same remained throughout my 20s. Sure, I would often break the midnight rule on the weekends, but I knew that I had to typically get up between 7 and 8 am to get to work, so a midnight bedtime it is.

I guess that’s just what always felt natural to me, so I went with it. On the weekends, it also felt natural for me to sleep 10-12 hours a day, so I usually went with that too. I’ve always thought that it was best to let my body have its rest when it could have it, and let it decide when it was time to wake up.

It was a system that generally worked very well for me when I was living in New York City and single. We were all a bit sleep deprived anyways, weren’t we?

Well, now neither of those things are true. Not only am I recently married but I am also a Florida resident (officially as of last fall, but really since April 2016). Although I resisted getting an official Florida license for a while, relying on my New York State ID to get me around, I did adapt new sleep habits when Adam and I got together.

One of the most important habits is better sleep.

You see, when I met him, my husband had been misdiagnosed with narcolepsy. It wasn’t the kind where he all of a sudden passed out asleep but more that he pretty much always felt tired and could fall asleep in just a few seconds. He needed a LOT of sleep but since work is still generally a 9-5 grind, and his commute is currently an hour long, we had to adjust.

Like any new couple, we spent a lot of our early days and months talking late into the night. But it wasn’t long before he couldn’t handle that sleeplessness (nor could I) and we had to adjust. He also went back to a sleep clinic and was re-diagnosed as having hypersomnia—which basically means he has “excessive sleepiness” and trouble staying awake during the day. And, let me tell you, him sleeping 10-12 hours a day doesn’t help. No matter what, he wakes up tired and remains groggy during the day.

Now, why am I telling you all this?

Well, for one, my husband’s hypersomnia definitely affects me and my lifestyle. One of my absolute favorite ways to connect with him is and has always been our end-of-the-night snuggle routine when we both get into bed and just lay there and talk. Although that may not seem like anything revolutionary, since we talk all day long, it’s actually the only time of the day where I feel truly connected with him. It relaxes me and allows us to talk about our days and, sometimes, naturally leads into deeper discussions. I treasure this time with him… And this time has to come earlier for someone that needs a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep just to function.

As such, I’ve adjusted mostly to his schedule. We go to bed around 9 or 10 pm most days of the week, and both of us feel it BADLY when we do not. He currently gets up at 6 am in order to play video games for a bit (a tip he learned recently from reddit, about getting up and doing something you truly enjoy for an hour, and it has dramatically helped his morning routine). He also takes medication for his hypersomnia so that he doesn’t, ya know, fall asleep at work and while driving. All of that being said, though, it’s still a condition which I am constantly aware of and worrying about.

I know he needs a lot of sleep, so I make the effort to go to bed as early as he does.

The problem, however, comes in with my whole night owl thing. My body is still used to years and years of conditioning as a night person. Pretty much every night, it takes me at least an hour to fall asleep. Lately, I’ve also gotten into the bad habit of pulling my phone out and reading until I start to feel tired (blue screens are bad for that, don’t ya know?).

So now I find myself between a rock and a hard place: Wanting to get to bed early with my husband in order to have that all-important connecting time but not being quite tired enough when he dozes off in minutes and I am up tossing and turning for the better part of an hour. Which is where this whole morning lark thing comes in…

Last night, during my usual “oh, I’ll just read a bit before trying to fall asleep” routine, I decided to research whether someone can actually become a morning person if they’re a lifelong night person.

To my surprise, the answer turns out to be a resounding “um, maybe”.

According to Slate, the research seems to point to it being a genetic predisposition whether you fare better in the morning or at night. However, it’s only about half of what makes you one or the other, so most doctors and researchers do think that it can be changed. The internet is filled with essays of night owls like me attempting to change with varying degrees of success. Some gave up after a week or two, some forced themselves to try it for a month and it worked, others adjusted and eventually began to see the benefits of being a morning person.

In almost every one of those articles, there was a lot of struggle. The truth is that most of us night owls want to BOTH stay up late at night AND reap the benefits of waking up early in the morning. Most of the night owls trying to make the switch recognized that they can’t really run on 4 hours of sleep, but man if only they could… They also tended to admit that being a morning lark has made them very productive and, even when their experiments failed, they seemed optimistic about trying them again in the future.

So here’s where I’m at: I am going to myself attempt one of these experiments. I’ve read all the research and a ton of the usual tips.

I don’t feel wholly confident going into this experiment, but I think it is worth a try. Why? Mainly because I want to line up better with my partner but also because I would like to reap the benefits of getting shit done first thing in the morning and feeling that productive high all day long (as many morning people say they feel).

Despite my 6 am wake-up call both yesterday and today, I didn’t really feel tired the previous nights until it was about 11 pm. So one of the tricks I read about was about buying melatonin supplements and taking them about 6 hours before you hope to fall asleep. I will be doing that later today. The other trick is about doing something you enjoy first thing in the morning (for me that’s going to be blogging since it’s a thing I never, ever make time for otherwise). I also read that you should take melatonin supplements, stop drinking caffeine by 3 pm and try exercising in the morning, but I’m not sure if I am yet ready to tackle the latter just yet.

Oh yes, and here’s the worst of it: Absolutely NO naps in the beginning while your circadian rhythm adjusts to the new schedule and you HAVE to get up at the same time every day… That means weekends, people.

As a huge proponent of sleeping in on the weekends, this was the toughest thing for me to read. What do you MEAN I have to still get up at 6 in the morning on a Saturday? Don’t you know that I actually have better things to do, like “catch up on sleep”?

But the truth is that this experiment isn’t meant to exhaust me during the week and let me make up for it on the weekend. Instead, I am actually aiming to become a so-called morning person and wake up at 6 am fully rested after about 8-9 hours of sleep (what I know my body typically needs). Yes, if you’ve done the math, this means falling asleep between 9 and 10 pm, which thankfully my husband and I are already more-or-less trying to do.

I’m sure it won’t be easy and I will likely regret trying this experiment in the next few days or weeks. I’m also not sure how long I will keep it up and I know for a fact that this weekend is going to be rough. I might become a much bitchier person due to having to go to bed so early on a Friday night (or, as the doctors say, it’s more important to wake up at the same time each morning than to go to bed early). We shall see…

To be honest, I’m a little excited. I mean, not like YAY excited, but excited to be doing this for myself. I think blogging first thing in the morning is going to be good for me and, if I can truly become a morning person after a lifetime of resisting, then perhaps I’ll finally stop moaning and complaining every time that damn alarm rings.

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How moving out of NYC was great for my mental health

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When I was younger and growing up in Southwest Florida, I got it in my head that I wanted to live in a big city because I was SO very bored with my life back then. I set my sights on New York City (the biggest city in the U.S.) and moved there for college with the plan of staying there forever.

Everything was going according to plan until, almost twelve years after I moved there, I left New York City for good. Although there were some weird parts about moving out of the city I loved, I know that I made the right decision because, ultimately, leaving NYC has been good for my mental health.

Here’s the thing: A part of me feels like a failure for saying that. I feel as if the city was “too much” for me and that I ultimately “couldn’t make it.” But the truth is that living in New York is a lot more complicated than just making it there and being happy forever.

When I was in NYC, I had a successful career and a ton of friends I loved. In fact, I had a very happy life and am still in touch with most of my friends from New York… but I was also constantly busy and overwhelmed. And, even scarier, I never realized how much being constantly busy and overwhelmed was damaging to me.

What I didn’t know at the time is that I suffered from anxiety. I also didn’t realize that I was putting a LOT of pressure on myself to always be perfect and successful and how that eventually led to overload. When I started what I thought was my dream job, things quickly spiraled. The pressure that I put on myself to do THE BEST JOB EVER eventually led me to calm my fear of failure anxiety with alcohol.

I’m still figuring out all of the things that let to my alcoholism, but I know without a doubt that feeling overwhelmed at work and being busy all of the time was at the very top of the list.

In fact, I recently talked about how being busy all of the time damaged my mental health and the steps I have taken since to calm the F down.

One of those steps was leaving New York City.

To be honest, leaving NYC was a difficult and easy decision at the same time. For a very long time, New York was the only city that I could picture myself living it. I was a total stereotype in that way, but I felt (and still sometimes feel) that the world revolves around NYC and I was A-OK with that. I loved being there because I loved my career, my friends and the plethora of opportunities that NYC provided.

Working in media was a lot easier because I was in the media capital of the world and I won’t lie and say that sometimes things aren’t difficult because I am no longer at the epicenter of journalism.

But I’m not… and I am so much healthier for it.

I didn’t really realize how busy and overwhelmed I was when I was still in NYC, but when I left, I felt better. Although I still sometimes feel as if I am a failure because I couldn’t “make it”, I know that building a happy life in the city that I loved for almost 12 years was definitely making it. My career wouldn’t be where it is today if I didn’t start in NYC, and I am eternally grateful for all of the years I spent there.

But I am also grateful that I was forced to leave.

Leaving New York made me face up to the way that my lifestyle was affecting my mental health, the way I was constantly allowing myself to be busy and thus not taking care of me.

Once I left, I was able to face up to some serious and much-needed changes. In fact, I was forced to enact some serious changes in my life. Not having a busy lifestyle (because I was back in my hometown with very little to do and very few friends) allowed me to take a breather and recognize what was happening with my mental health.

A year before I left New York, I lost that “dream job” and went to rehab shortly after. Although eventually I came back to NYC, it wasn’t long before I was back to where I started—overworked and overstressed. I did start therapy during the eight months between coming back to New York and leaving again, but I needed more. I needed a change of scenery and it wasn’t until I got it that I realized that’s what I needed.

And so, in April 2016, I left New York and moved back home… It was difficult because I was basically single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk but things slowly go better.

I met Adam a week after moving, decided to become a full-time freelance writer and editor (instead of seeing another office job), eventually moved in with Adam, paid off some debt (though I’m still learning how to save money), inadvertently lost weight when I became a PT vegetarian and haven’t had a sip of alcohol since before leaving NYC.

Being outside of New York allowed me to de-stress and be less busy, which ultimately helped me to realize what a toll those things were taking on my mental health.

Although I still see my therapist on occasion (which is definitely not a bad thing!), recognizing when anxiety is striking has been an important part of my recovery and mental health. These days I am able to see it coming from a mile away and, even when I can’t fully prevent my anxiety, I am able to deal with it so much better.

Having the support of a loving partner and a great therapist definitely helps, but living a more stable, peaceful life outside of the “always busy” mentality of NYC has been what really counts.

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On writers… and our middle-of-the-night insomnia

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Writers all have those nights, don’t we? I know I do.

It starts out innocently enough. I get up to go to the bathroom. I quickly check my phone. Then something happens in my brain… and I can’t seem to turn it off.

I’m writing this at 4 in the morning because I haven’t been able to fall asleep again since somewhere around 2:30am. I’m starting to realize that these nights happen to me once every couple of months. They come, and they go, and then they disappear again. But they always come back.

It wasn’t always like this, however.

In my past life of living in New York City and being a full-time employed editor, I don’t remember nights like this.

I do, however, remember the stress. Stress from work and constantly feeling overwhelmed and behind, along with editor perks like press events with free-flowing alcohol several nights a week, led me to develop a problem with alcohol. I’m in recovery now, thank goodness, and haven’t had a drink in well over a year. I am grateful for that.

But now I have these nights.

I’m not sure what it is, really. Maybe it’s because I am now in a different life, in a different mindset, and my creative brain is set free to roam however it needs or wants to.

I know that when I was living in New York, the nights were often late. I would stay up till midnight or later easily, and wake up the next day to go to work. Then, when my alcohol troubles began, I often used drink to soothe myself into sleep after an exhausting day. It became a pattern that I couldn’t keep up, that eventually led to losing jobs and entering rehab and coming out on the other side of things.

Now that I live in a place that is low-stress, and with a supportive partner to boot, things are easier. My life is happy and filled with the kind of joy that I never thought was possible. Yet now sometimes I still can’t sleep, and I do not have the option of a drink to lull me back to bed.

So what’s a writer to do?

For one, today, I decided to write about it. Cause, ya know, I’m a writer and all.

Usually, I lie in bed, tossing and turning, and hope to go back to sleep. Typically it works within a few hours, and I wake up in the morning exhausted and grumpy and having to tell my partner why I might be a bitch that day. He’s always patient and kind, and asks what kept me up. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing all about my sleepless nights, but yet here I am. At it again, as it were.

Tonight it wasn’t anything spectacular, really. I was too warm to sleep and woke up to go to the bathroom. I grabbed my phone to shine the flashlight and checked it from the toilet (glamorous, I know, but I wanted to set the scene). Then, when I got back to bed, I started to think about some of the podcasts I had listened to earlier in the day.

You see, my partner and I have recently both rediscovered podcasts… and basically fell in love, hard. He’s got a longer commute now and I suggested he start listening to podcasts as a way to distract himself from the misery of traffic. Meanwhile, as I heard him talk about some of the cool new ones he discovered (and did my own search to help him along the way), I decided to try them out too.

The truth is, I have long been a bit anti-audio.

One of my best friends has been raving about audio books for years, but I always made fun of him. We created a funny hashtag just for him, because he #doesntread despite being an accomplished journalist, writer and producer in his own right. But he still consumes media and, to be honest, he’s probably “read” 10x the books I have in the past five years.

I’ve resisted the audio book thing, though, and in turn resisted podcasts.

Maybe it’s because I see myself as a writer so somehow listening to something just felt kind of wrong. It felt like I was taking away from the author, from the written word, from my own love of reading. And yet, I don’t actually read nearly as much as I want to in my head. It’s not that I don’t want to, but that I often keep myself busy with other things… like writing or being social or cooking. Things I enjoy and clearly prioritize over reading.

Then earlier this year, a friend of mine and I started a book club focused on books that have turned into movies. We did Hidden Figures for March and, let me tell you, I barely got halfway through reading the paperback copy I got with all of the ladies of the movie on the cover. Then, in April, I decided to try Audible with my 2-book free sample.. and I absolutely LOVED it.

I devoured Jurassic Park that month and then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in May, and I didn’t look back. To be honest, I shocked myself with my own love and appreciation of the written word spoken out loud.

I think part of what drew me to audio books and, now, to podcasts, is how easy it is to listen throughout the day. Although I can’t really do it while I am writing or editing or doing any kind of work, I can definitely do it while I am showering in the morning, taking the dog out, cooking myself lunch or dinner, and doing a number of other random activities.

In fact, one of the best weekends I spent recently was when I was “reading” a huge chunk of Jurassic Park while cleaning the house and organizing all the shit I needed to organize. It was weirdly thrilling for me, someone who prides herself on being a multi-tasker, to be able to do it in the most extreme way: Read a book AND do errands at the same time. I could check off things from my To Do List and still enjoy myself!

It was thrilling, and I shocked myself by how much I loved it.

So now it’s podcasts that I listen to, since for some reason this month I decided to actually read our book (WILD by Cheryl Strayed, one of my favorite authors and, as luck would have it, one of my favorite podcasts: Dear Sugar). So what kept me up at night once I started to think of podcasts around 3am this morning? Creating my own, of course.

That seems to be the big pattern on nights like this when I can’t fall asleep: I am unable to turn my brain off with the thoughts of, typically, some new creative venture.

Sometimes I am just thinking about story ideas, particular chapters in my memoir, or other writing quandaries. Other times I literally have some new I-think-genius idea and am just mentally trying to figure out how to make it work, whether I have time for it, if I really want to do it…

I know what my partner would say right now. Besides “GET BACK TO BED!”, he would advise me to calm the F down.

I’m an extrovert and a feelings-based person at that, so when I get excited, I get really freaking excited. I can spend days talking about some new idea or some new venture or some other new thing that has me all in a tizzy and thinking about it at all hours of the day, like right now.

I can’t put myself to sleep or, even worse, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and end up losing sleep.

And let me tell you: I love my sleep. One of the things I appreciate the most about Adam is that he likes to get to bed early. It’s helped to reset my own bad sleeping habits and, even though I am not a morning person and will consider myself a night owl forever, I am very much enjoying the 8-9 hours of sleep I am getting on a consistent basis.

It’s probably one of the reasons why I feel so at peace and happy these days (though being sober and having love and support in my life is certainly a much being reason), or so Arianna Huffington would have us believe. Trust me, I am all for getting more sleep… except tonight, it seems. And on other nights when this happens.

The funny thing is, of course, that I am sure this happens a lot to many other people, to many other writers and creative types perhaps.

It’s not necessarily exclusive to those of us who venture intro creative fields, but I would bet that we are natural insomniacs at times due to these “holy crap, what an idea!” moments like I am having now.

So how do we cure those moments and how do we help ourselves?

To be honest, I am still trying to figure that part out. I honestly have no idea what to do in these moments when I am up in the middle of the night and can’t seem to shut my damn brain off. What I’ve done when they come for the past year is simply try to get through them.

I shut my eyes, I tell myself to go back to sleep, I ask my brain to please stop, and then I wait until I get too tired and drift back into sleep. But it often takes hours. Sometimes I pick up my phone and jot down the idea. Other times I simply lie there, telling myself it’s dumb and to just please oh please get the F back to sleep.

I do, eventually.

But tonight I decided to try something new. So here I am, writing out my thought and it’s been about 20 minutes of rambling. Maybe it’s time to stop?

Not sure what all of this will mean to me in the morning, but here it is. And now… to sleep. Or at least to try.

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A year ago, I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk

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Exactly a year ago, I had just arrived in my hometown of Fort Myers, FL.

After 11 and a half happy years as a resident of New York City, I had decided to move back to Southwest Florida with my tail between my legs. Unknown to my friends at the time, I had just come out of the darkest place of my life and decided that what I needed was to restart.

So in early April 2016, I accepted my parent’s invitation to move back home for a little while and set about changing my life. I packed up my apartment, sold as much furniture as I could, had a goodbye party with the friends I loved but couldn’t yet tell the full truth to yet… and finally left the city in a van with the rest of my stuff, my faithful kitty Jack and my mom helping to drive the next 1,250 miles.

When I arrived at my parent’s house on the night of April 22nd last year, I felt completely defeated and lost. I didn’t know what the next month or six months or year would bring, and I was scared.

At the same time, however, I was ready to face up to defeat and admit that I needed to make some drastic changes in my life. As this post would suggest… When I woke up the next day, I realized (albeit half jokingly) that I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit there.

The whole idea behind the title of this post actually started after an idea I had while working on my Map Your 30s blog on my portfolio site. While I ultimately abandoned that idea like so many of my writerly fantasies, the thoughts still persisted.

At the time, I knew that I needed to make changes and figure out some stuff in my life. I had decided to blog about those changes and that “figuring it all out” mentality with the idea that life continues to change and evolve even after turning 30, which I had done exactly a month before my big dramatic move out of the city. I categorized these changes into six different sections: relationships, career, home, money, health and confidence (my code word for mental health and recovery from alcohol addiction, which I wasn’t yet ready to talk about publicly).

Those were the categories in which I thought I needed to make some changes… and although my life might not sound quite as dramatic as the title of this post implies, I was in fact all of those things:

I was single (no long term relationship in the past six years, and the ones back then were pretty freaking crappy). I was unemployed (I had just lost a new job that I realized too late wasn’t going to work out anyway). I was homeless (living with your parents isn’t exactly being the self-sustaining adult I had known myself to be). I was broke (no real savings or any money to speak of, and what little I had was used on moving expenses). I was fat (my health had slowly deteriorated in the past few years to the point that I was 20 pounds higher than what I wished I was, 40 pounds higher than my lowest weight post-weight loss surgery, and 30 pounds higher than my goal weight). And I was drunk (in that I had just suffered from a horrible-but-brief relapse into alcoholism after my first and only stint in rehab in July/August 2015).

Basically, everything was wrong with my life a year ago.

I wasn’t happy. I knew I still loved living in New York City, but I also knew that I needed to get out of there in order to clear my head. Recovery was harder than I thought and being an adult had become increasingly more difficult. And to be honest, being single in the city sucked.

I’m not blaming the problems of my life on where I was living, but I knew at the time that it wasn’t helping. I had loving, supportive, incredible friends… but it just wasn’t enough. My health and career had stalled, I never had enough money and somehow the support system I knew I had just didn’t seem like enough. And so I went home.

Well, as hard as it is to admit… that’s probably the best decision I could have made.

At the time, I remember feeling ashamed. My friends knew I was leaving the city, but not a single one of them truly knew why until weeks later. I just wasn’t ready to come clean as I packed up my boxes and said goodbye to the only city I had chosen to call home, to the friendships I had spent my entire adult life cultivating. It was hard.

But it was also good for me.

I took the wounds that life in the city had slowly cut into me, and I healed them.

In taking myself out of the environment I thought I wanted, I discovered that I am still the person that I always was – I had just gotten a little lost somewhere along the way.

I don’t know if it was the job troubles or the drinking or the not taking care of my body or the frustrating dating life or the living alone or the feeling constantly penniless for 12 years, but I finally broke. But in breaking and admitting that something in me shattered, I was slowly able to put myself back together again.

Shortly after moving back to Florida, I unexpectedly met the love of my life.

I know how ridiculous that might sound, trust me. The “love of my life” is not a phrase I ever thought I would utter. But in meeting my partner Adam, I realized that I had never known love before. He was the first – and very vital piece – of putting my pieces back together.

Afterwards, I got my old job back. Then I moved in with him, just as we both started to eat much healthier and started to take care of my finances again. I rebuilt friendships new and old, reconnected with those I left behind in NYC and those I have missed here in FL since I originally moved away.

And most of all, I haven’t had a single drink since last April.

The life I left behind slowly faded away into this new life I created for myself. I realized that I wasn’t all gone and that taking some time to take care of my mental health was nothing to be ashamed of. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have parents who were behind me when I needed them, and even luckier to have found someone who loves me and supports me (and still wants to see me naked) despite all my horror stories of the past.

Now, a year later, I almost can’t believe the changes I have seen in my life since leaving New York as a single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk mess of a person.

I’m now in a loving relationship with a man that shows me more support than I could ever possibly deserve, happier than ever working as a full-time freelance writer and editor, carefully decorating a beautiful home that I share with my love and our two fur babies, slowly paying off all of our debt and saving money for the first time in my life, back to a really happy weight thanks to my mostly-vegetarian diet and going to proudly celebrate two years in recovery this summer (and just celebrated a year since my last relapse).

I’ve rebuilt my life in completely unexpected ways, and it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t admit to myself back then that I was lost.

When I set out on this journey a year ago, I didn’t know what the year would bring. I didn’t know how lost I was and, to be honest, I hadn’t yet realized just how dark of a place I was in until I was fully out of it. But that’s what happens sometimes, I think. Insert joke about hindsight being 20/20 here…

What’s true now is that I finally feel like I have my life back together. I’ve taken all of those little pieces that slowly crumbled around me without me noticing and I collected them all, meticulously glued them back together with my own brand of crazy glue, and just kept on going.

It’s incredible how I feel today in comparison to this day a year ago. I wouldn’t even know how to describe it except to say that my life is 1000x better than I ever could have imagined.

I know that a lot of that is in part because I found someone who is there for me all the time, no matter what, and who proudly calls himself my number one fan. Gotta love that!

But most of it is because of me, and because of the strides I made to pull myself out of that dark place I was in.

The smiling picture you saw at the beginning of this post was a mask… I was smiling to keep from crying as I took that picture in a restroom somewhere along the drive from NYC to FL. But now my smile is bigger than ever, and it’s genuine.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

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