I’ll jump on the reminiscent band wagon. However it’s a bit of a mixed bag this year. The vast majority was quite awful. In fact 2013 was hands down the worst year of my life. That said, some pretty amazing things also happened.

First off, the biggest kicker – being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Nothing shakes up your life more than being diagnosed with a mental illness you don’t really understand. Luckily I knew about the Bipolar Babe and connected with their women’s group. The group changed my life. It’s more than a support group, it’s a sisterhood. We’ve joked that it’s the Sisterhood of the Travelling Ativan. It’s not too far fetched. We’re there for each other through good and bad. This was also the place that I met my little “sister” Julia. Since meeting Julia she has been by my side through the good, the bad, the hellish, and my darkest hours. I would not be here to write this blog had it not been for Julia. She is truly me closest and best friend. A true blessing. A blessing I would not have had it not been for mental illness.

Mental illness also cost me my job as a paralegal. Which in many ways is really another blessing in disguise. I had lost interest in the legal system. There used to be justice. Fighting on principle once had it’s place. Unfortunately now the legal system is all about who is more apt at not upsetting the judge. It didn’t even seem to matter who was right and who was wrong any more.

But I digress; losing my job and having to go on disability to make ends meet ended up a good thing. For one, not having to go into an office freed me up to teach classes during the day. Having a mental illness also gave me a new direction with my yoga. After being prescribed yoga by my psychiatrist I began researching how yoga affected the brain and how it helped with mental illness. I began offering one class a week specifically for mental health issues. This new direction also opened up doors for me. I was selected to teach a workshop on Yoga for Mental Health at the 2014 Victoria Yoga Conference. I was also invited to a workshop on Trauma Sensitive Yoga in order to be apart of YoUnlimited’s YoUnlimited Yoga.

Being apart of YoUnlimited Yoga, to me, is a HUGE honour. There were six instructors in the workshop. I was by far the greenest yoga instructor. Two of the women, Tracy Noseworthy and Carmalita Heron, women I look up to, were part of the training. It was such a humbling experience to learn with them and from them.

However despite my awe of being at the workshop, I had something they didn’t. I had mental illness. I had Post Tramatic Stress Disorder. I had a deeper understanding as to how trauma affects the body and how yoga can help with trauma and other mental illness. It’s interesting how having an incurable illness could give me a leg up in my yoga career. Another direct result of how having a mental illness worked out in my favour.

Unfortunately while losing my job left me with free time, living off disability benefits meant less money in my pocket. Less money in my pocket meant the loss of my car and my home. But wait, there’s a silver lining, the $500+/month it cost to have my car turned into an $85 bus pass. Far more affordable. Taking the bus was also more relaxing. Instead of focusing on the road I zoned out on music or enjoyed more quality time with my son while riding the bus. I also got more exercise because since Victoria transit isn’t so stellar and walking is actually faster than busing. However the walks still could take up to 30 minutes. Horse trails don’t make for good modern day streets.

The loss of my home was tough to handle. I had a gorgeous basement suite with amazing landlords; space to teach yoga; nice, friendly neighbourhood. Unfortunately, like many Victorians, the rent was a killer. I rallied to keep my place as long as I could. Then on faith, without any place to go, I told my landlords I just couldn’t afford to stay. They were sad but knew I was struggling.

Never in my life have I experienced panic attacks like I did between giving notice and moving into my new place. First there was the finding a new place. With assistance from Burnside Gorge Community Centre I started looking for a place to live. In addition, I had submitted an application to the BC Housing Registry. For weeks I cried and prayed and searched. Friends were praying. One lady at church even called the prayer line at 100 Huntley Street on my behalf. Well, all the prayer worked. A miracle happened. I got into subsidized housing. Now I have a beautiful, newly renovated two bedroom apartment close to everything B and I needed for a MUCH more reasonable rent. Again, what seemed bad at first turned into something amazing.

I wish the list of bad things stopped there. Unfortunately this was only the first half of 2013. The second half was pretty much the same except there was more bad and less blessings. Trial after trial came my way. Life kept beating me down and I kept getting up and pressing on. If I had to sum up 2013 in one word it would be “brokenness”. Throughout the year I was so fragile and so broken. Yet so many good things came from my brokenness.

My hope for 2014 is that it will be a year of healing. I plan to focus on more self-care and self-discovery. I want to take care of my and actually get to know who I am. 2013 I spent so much time and effort trying to distinguish what was illness that now it’s time to find out who I am. One personal intention is to enjoy more live music. Simple. No brainers. But still challenging. 2013 kicked the shit out of me. I spent much of the year isolated. 2014 will be different. No isolation. I’m taking back my life and going to live it.

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