This is 28

The morning of 28. The un-glossed, imperfect, makeup-free face of old age

I turned 28 today. I’ll admit, there were times I didn’t think that would happen. But here I am: alive and ancient. (And don’t you senior citizens start harping on me… you probably felt old at 28 too. I actually have wrinkles now.)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I present my life to the outside world. Through brief intervals of honesty, I have sculpted a narrative that is just vulnerable enough to be respected, and just glossed-over enough to be enviable.

World traveler. Teacher. Adventurer. Hiker. Writer. Crafter. Musician.

Truths about myself, yes, but only half-truths. They paint a picture of me that is precisely as imperfect as it should be and not less. Social media has helped mold an ideal version of myself to show the world. I’m more concerned about what people will think of my photos than I am about the experiences happening behind those photos.

The truth is, 27 was hard. So were many of the 26 years before it. 28 is probably going to be hard too. In the last year, I overcame a lot. I went from taking daily doses of Ativan and alcohol just to get through the day to thriving without any medication at all. I got fired from my job. I started a writing career instead. I joined a band and learned to create music with a team. I abandoned my community in Thailand for yet another start somewhere else. And when I did, the stability I had built in my life suddenly fell apart. I reverted back to requiring medication, and found that even that was not enough. I quit drinking. I quit dating. I started seeking a more stable life, no matter how hard that sometimes seems to attain.

There are times when the discouraging reality of my life seems too difficult to bear. The struggles I face are relentless and returning, year after year.

But the beautiful thing I have come to see is that as often as my difficulties come back to me, so does my strength.

I’m 28. I made it another year. I have not been overcome. And I dare say I never will be. Because the one thing I have in ample supply is the most valuable weapon in my battle against mental illness. And that is friendship.

Cheesy? Maybe. But that’s the truth. So many days I wake up with the drowning weight of depression, anxiety, and physical ailments threatening to crush me. And each time, I defeat them. And I do it because I am not alone in this world. Because life can be scary and hard and relentless, but not as relentless as the love shown to me every day by people who understand these human struggles just as well. People whose kindness can drown out even the worst fears.

A sister who supports me without question. A brother who makes me laugh. Parents who would do anything for me. And the vast array of friends who bring such astounding beauty into my life, even during times when I cannot find it myself.

Last year on my birthday I wrote about having depression for the first time. Unsurprisingly, I still have it. But that’s ok. My life is no less amazing because of it. It’s just a little bit harder.

I think my word for this year is “resilient.” The power of bouncing back. I am beyond grateful for the people in my life who have reminded me that laughter and tears go hand in hand, that just because one exists, that doesn’t mean the other can’t. That life is a constant mix of really hard and really great, and it is always, consistently, worth it. No matter the struggles, we remain strong.

So here’s to 28. And here’s to being a resilient badass for another year.  Here’s to embracing the beauty despite the pain, and to caring a lot less about appearances and a lot more about vulnerability. Here’s to new homes and fresh starts and the hope of stability. Here’s to resiliency.

28 started out strong with brunch shared with my bestie and her family, including my favorite lil niece, Rosalie. A good start to a good year!
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6 thoughts on “This is 28

  1. Hey woman, me too, all of those things and I am 67 soon 68. August 3rd. I let the bible be my psychiatrist. Do you still have a bible Caitlin? And yes alcohol and stuff they help but moderation, we try. Remember A.J’s room here in Eden is yours if you need the peace and quiet and the river. When I turned 30 I freaked out. For some reason the twenties seemed safe. Rediculous! So, I rented a cabin in the woods alone in Lk. Placid, NY for a week. Went to town browsed around, ate out and hiked my ass to exhaustion. It was great. Then I looked in the mirror and saw the same person I’d always been. God loves us, no matter what and He is there for us. To me knowing and loving Christ Jesus, I knew I’d be all right. Settle into you Caitlin because you are a child of Father God and He gave all for you. His Son. Do you believe? I think you do. Lean on that, be alone for a while, do stuff just for you and talk to God. Smile at yourself and say, “you’re awesome, smart, healthy, funny, etc., etc.” Accept yourself with all imperfections and perfections. Write a book!? I’m not a writer so I hope this all makes sense. I love you. Mama Ellen Bye for now. Peace.

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  2. Hey, Caitlin, I love your posts. Your honesty about your struggles is what sets your blog apart from other travel blogs, and I’m sure that it has also strengthened readers who have shared some of your more difficult life situations. Hope your life continues to be awesome and that the acquisition of new and different experiences will both enrich your life and give you additional tools to manage and conquer the healthcare issues.

    I want to share something with you — and also with your readers. (Pls feel free to delete this part if you don’t care for it; I won’t mind.) You mentioned previously including alcohol as a tool for self-medication. I recently started doing some volunteer work at Joshua’s Place — a free center in Eaton Rapids, MI that is focused on helping people addicted to drugs and alcohol to break and remain free from their addictions and on providing an emotionally safe, non-judgmental space for not only them but also for anyone suffering from grief, mental health issues and any other situation that leaves them feeling bruised and battered by life and without hope. It was established by Joshua DeLong, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who isn’t much older than you, and his mom. I have heard and been pained by the stories of men and women who come to the center who never had addiction in mind when they tried alcohol and/or drugs either out of curiosity or as self-medication tools, but then discovered that they were caught in downward spirals that were almost impossible to break out of and that robbed them of choice life experiences that many of us take for granted – peace, stability, a home, a family, children, self-respect, etc. For you and anyone else self-medicating with alcohol and prescription or street drugs – please, please, please don’t do it. It can lead to appalling dark places, and it can lead to untimely death. There is an opioid crisis in the US that is so bad that in Ohio, a city councilman has proposed a three-strikes-and-out rule for people addicted to drugs – if a person overdoses twice and 911 is called, they will be taken to a medical care facility; if they overdose a third time and their name is on file as a known user, there will be no official attempt to save them. Totally tragic. I admire and respect what Josh and Laura DeLong and others are doing to break this cycle. Contact information, for anyone interested is: https://www.facebook.com/thejoshuaprojectbook/

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  3. I’ve wanted to comment a few times, and tried at least once, but I don’t know if it made it through the interwebs.

    You are the same age as my youngest daughter, and when I read your posts I often think you two would be good friends of you knew each other.

    Your spunk and honesty in your blog always move me, and I’m certain many others feel the same. Keep plugging away, and know that life continues to get better as you age, or at least it does for me. I’m now 58 years old.

    I am aquainted with your father – we’ve paddled together a fair amount, and he told me about your blog a few years ago. I’ve looked forward to each new post. Anyway, I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop, but I wanted to give you some encouragement. You go!

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    1. Thank you! That’s encouraging to hear. My blog doesn’t have a huge following, but it’s always nice to know when it has an impact on those people who do read it 🙂

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