An Intentional New Year With Narcolepsy
New Year’s Eve is often thought of as one of the most important nights of the year. This is the night that you’re meant to spend with the ones you love, set a course for the path of the rest of the year, and make some goals you’d like to reach going forward. These concepts work well for some people. For others, the mere thought is a minefield of anxiety traps and depression spirals.
Years ago, I truly hated New Year’s Eve. Every year it was a painful reminder that I still hadn’t come as far as I’d like. I had no one that I felt truly connected to and felt zero confidence in my own ability to meet my goals. Predictably, I blamed my narcolepsy, I blamed my mental health, and I blamed myself. I worried I’d never feel like a functional human being.
Trying only leads to failing
Occasionally I’d set some New Year’s resolutions, usually about my weight (which my narcolepsy made it hard to control). Sadly, each year my motivation and high expectations soon gave way to guilt and anger at myself for not being able to stick to anything. I’m sure many people with narcolepsy are familiar with this feeling.
This sense of failure, coupled with my anxiety about not having any fun plans, made the New Year a pretty terrible time for my mental health. That was until a few years ago when I finally learned my lesson and decided to start spending the last night of the year alone on purpose.
Getting intentional about NYE
It was 2017 when I realised I’d had enough. I’d learned enough about my narcolepsy and anxiety to know that I function best when I know what to expect. The best way to do that was to block out the 31st of December early on. I turned down any invite that came my way. If NYE is to be spent with those we love the most, I wasn’t ashamed to say that my biggest priorities were myself and my mental health!
With the focus on self-care, I spent my night having a candle-lit bubble bath, reading a book, making a delicious dinner for one, and going to bed early. Importantly, this also gave me the time and space to focus on myself, what I’d achieved, and what I really wanted for the year ahead.
Reflective on perspective
Taking the time to reflect on the year that had passed, as well as previous years, it was much easier to see the progress that I’d made. While each individual stage felt like its own struggle, together they made up the steps towards a better more functional life. While my version of progress wasn’t comparable to some of my peers, I found pride in my resilience.
On top of this reflection, I also began to look forward. I knew I didn’t want to fall back into old patterns of disappointing resolutions. Luckily, in the week prior, I happened upon an Instagram post about setting intentions. The idea resonated deeply with me. Here was a chance to direct my thinking in a positive way while stepping away from the unhelpful “success or failure” mindset.
My approach to intentions
For me, setting an intention is about deciding what's most important to work on in the year ahead. I usually stick to just one, and let this be a guide for all the decisions I make over that period. This helps me to stay true to my values and focus on areas that might be easier to overlook.
Importantly, an intention should be more like a general life philosophy e.g. “Treat others as I’d like to be treated.” This is different from a resolution, which is often one specific goal that we can succeed or fail at e.g. “I will go to the gym twice a week.”
Knowing my own worth
Here's a great example... At the start of 2019, I set the intention to “know my own worth.” At the time, I felt that I was being taken advantage of - both in relationships and in my work life. I was so sick of wasting my time in dead-end situations because I didn’t believe I deserved better.
Over the course of that year, I changed a lot. I quit the job that I’d long outgrown. Turned down positions that didn’t feel aligned. Finally decided to pursue an entirely new career path where great opportunities fell right into my lap. I also started being more proactive about my needs with other people. This led to some tough conversations, but ultimately led me to a great relationship with my partner.
I know that all of this may have happened whether I had set these intentions or not. On the other hand, it became easier every step of the way to ask for something better when I knew doing otherwise would be going against my own values. I couldn’t continue to ignore the things that bothered me. I’d promised myself to stop accepting the status quo just because it was easier, and I did.
Letting go of success/failure thinking
The best part of setting an intention is that you can’t really “fail” at it. All you can do is keep it in mind and try to let it influence your everyday decisions in a positive way. The best intentions will help you stay aligned with what matters to you. This should be a little bit challenging, but ultimately doable!
This is important for those of us with narcolepsy because it’s so easy for us to see failures in our lives if we go looking for them. However, if we change our perspective away from the black and white, see mistakes as an opportunity for growth, and learn to switch self-punishment for self-compassion, we set ourselves up for more sustainable growth.
A compassionate start to the New Year
Whether or not you choose to set resolutions this year, I hope you can take something away from my story. Living with narcolepsy is hard, but this doesn’t mean we need to give up on our goals! It just means that we have to be extra careful about caring for ourselves while we’re still on the journey. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
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