Turning 26: A Reflection on 25

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It’s strange to look back over a year of life and search the archives for what went right and what went wrong, so I’ll save that for the end of the year. For now, let’s talk turning older.

My birthday is tomorrow, and I’m moving from the lovely age of 25 to 26. It’s odd, being on this side of the 25-year-old hump. I am now closer to 50 than I am to my actual day of birth. Eek! BUT, no matter how seemingly scary the process of turning older is said to be, I refuse to be someone who tries to stretch out years and deny age, lamenting the turn of another calendar year. Rather, I want to be fully present in each moment, celebrating each shift and change, no matter how mundane or exhilarating the process may be.

So that’s what I want to do today—celebrate what the age of 25 has given to me and look ahead to another year with great anticipation.

In many ways, this past year was a much healthier year for me. I made myself take at least one walk every day (having a pup helps!) and started working out regularly again. We cut meat from meals at home to start building a plant-based diet. I took to reading again and started submitting my writing to other blogs and publications.

But the biggest change I encountered this past year was in my mental health. I’ve discovered that deep sadness and blinding joy can coexist, that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And embracing that truth has given me much needed space to begin unraveling the trauma that laces my depression, to figure out the thought patterns and memories that trigger my panic attacks, and to fight for healthier ways of dealing with both.

Along the way, I’ve found that I’m not alone in my mental health struggle. As an enneagram 4 (shout-out to my enneagram peeps!), I’m prone to think that people just won’t or can’t possibly understand me and my experiences. As a result, I’m an intensely private person, which led to isolation whenever my mental health faltered.

I realize how contradictory that may sound as I share these personal struggles here in one of the most public of spaces, but even in my public openness, I don’t often go deeper than about 100 feet in my five-mile-deep mind. Friend, I’m so terrified of being misunderstood by you. . . but mostly I’m afraid of being misunderstood by those closest to me.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this too—that sometimes we choose the wrong people to trust. Sometimes we share deeply personal truths and fears only to have our listeners brush over them or disregard the conversation entirely. Sometimes we share bits of our trauma only to be told to “get over it.”

Without even being aware of it, those experiences taught me to fear sharing because I heard voices saying, it could have been worse. When measured dictionary definition against dictionary definition, my own trauma was less traumatic than what others had faced and survived, and that made me feel ashamed of how deeply I had been impacted by it. For a long time, I tried minimize it—I tried to ignore how angry and hateful and sad and lonely it had made me.

But the thing that I’m learning now is this: everyone (including you, my friend) has experienced some form of trauma, and that trauma, along with its effects, is relative to each person. Knowing that, really truly understanding that, has given me the courage to invite a few strong, beautiful people to walk alongside me as I begin to unearth the root of that pulse that beats behind my turbulent mental health.

This hard, gritty, painful work—the kind that sometimes leaves a body lying face down on the ground, numb, deplete—can't and shouldn't be done alone. But it’s necessary work because, in a year from now, I don’t want to be the same person I am today. I want to be stronger still, more resilient. I want to be softer, and I want to carry more peace in my soul.

So here’s to another year, to becoming wiser, to doing the hard soul work it takes to get there.

And dear reader, wherever you are, whatever demons you’re fighting, whatever your mental health looks like, know that I truly am in your corner. If you need someone to talk to or simply need to share your struggle so you’re not alone, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be honored to walk alongside you.

In your corner,
Angelina Danae