what i learned from the worst new year's eve of my life
“Never have I ever been high.”
It’s my go-to statement whenever I find myself caught in a game of “Never Have I Ever.” It’s always bound to get the majority of people to lower a finger, and it’s also true. Or at least it had been until now. I had basically been high as a kite since coming home from the hospital on December 28 (I had surgery done to fix a torn ligament in my right foot) and, while the percocets were knocking out some of the pain, they were also knocking out my ability to think.
Apparently my body hated it as much as my mind did because my relationship with narcotics came to a violent end on December 31, 2015. New Year’s Eve.
I woke up to my alarm at 4am, the time I was supposed to take my next dose of Oxycodone. My head was pounding with a fierce, sharp pain that I wasn’t used to, but I was so concerned with doing every single thing right post-op that I ignored the pain, took the pill, and closed my eyes, ready to sleep until my next dose in 4 hours.
However, when I woke up again at 8, the pain in my head was excruciating. I’ve had migraines before, but this was ten times worse than anything I’d experienced. Forget the pain in my foot, I could barely see because of the intensity of the headache. I figured I’d just “wait it out” and see if skipping the next dose would help: not really.
My dad, who’s been taking care of me while I’m on bed-rest and whose house I’ve been overtaking, came downstairs and could tell right away something was wrong. He suggested I eat something, but nothing sounded like a worse idea at that moment. He brought me a banana anyway. I took a tiny, minuscule bite (like the kind of bite a toddler takes when you tell him he has to finish his vegetables before dessert), and that was it. I grabbed the bowl next to me and, not to be graphic, but . . . it was graphic. I lost everything I had consumed since coming home from the hospital three days earlier.
I was getting pale and sweating profusely with my foot still propped up on my dad’s reclining chair, right next to his Christmas tree which was full of bright ornaments wishing me a season of “Joy” and “Peace,” and for the rest of the morning I got miserably and violently sick.
The pressure from getting sick was causing my head to throb even more and I went back and forth between leaning over the bowl, to leaning back and grasping at my head desperate for the pain to stop, to crying, to sobbing, to coughing, to gasping, to getting sick some more. Then it would subside for a half-hour or so and I would find a position that was semi-comfortable and wait there until the process started all over again. My poor father had to witness (and clean) it all.
Finally the nausea decreased, or maybe I had just finally emptied everything out of my system, and I was able to sit up again. I was able to slowly take sips of water, then try a bite of bread, and then some brown rice. Everything was staying down. My headache was still present but nowhere near what it had been. At least I could function again. At least now I could remember why I was in this situation in the first place: my foot. And at least now I knew for a fact that I really never should do drugs.
When I was finally able to think clearly again, I started thinking a little too much. So . . . this is how I was saying goodbye to 2015: crying, throwing up, withdrawing from narcotics, in pain, confused, sad, lonely, and insanely bored from just sitting around all day. This was not the end to 2015 I had envisioned. And yet somehow, it fit. It was the culmination of a kind of not-so-great year. I thought the twelve months previous were rough, but this definitely took the new year’s eve cake.
Everything in my life changed in a split-second during an insignificant play in an early-December college basketball game. I went from being an athlete, and defining myself as such, to being sidelined and reminded 24/7 of my life-long struggle with body image issues and the issues I have with controlling food, counting calories, hating myself, and treating my body and mind unhealthily.
It took that one brief moment, three minutes into the second half, for all of my trust issues to resurface, anxiety issues to resurface, and the depression that I thought I had beaten to resurface. This was the hardest thing I had faced in 2015, and it was coming in right at the buzzer. So close to the new year in fact that it was, inevitably, going to transfer over into 2016.
But did it have to transfer? I mean, obviously my foot was still going to be a bummer in the new year. Obviously I was still going to be on bed-rest for at least another week and a half in January. And obviously I wouldn’t be able to run or participate in sports for months. But, the depression? The obsession with counting calories? The negative body image, the fixation with control, the self-loathing, the anxiety? Did that all really have to transfer?
When you’re forced to sit in a chair all day, there’s really not a whole lot to do other than think. Eventually you get tired of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, so you log off. You put away the electronics and you’re left with . . . your own thoughts. Terrifying.
When I flashback to new year’s eve 2014, I think about the optimism I had. I had just broken up with “the love of my life” (spoiler: turns out, not actually the love of my life) and I was devastated, but I was hopeful. Damn, was I hopeful. Although a little nervous about it, I was excited about being single and learning to love myself again after a relationship that had left me insecure and lost.
I was getting asked to speak and sing for middle and high schoolers about mental health issues, and I was excited about that, too. It was everything I had ever wanted to do with music: help others heal.
And musically, I was on cloud nine. I was set to go into the studio the first week of January with a producer I admired, a band I was excited to work with, and songs I was so ready to release. Music was going great, and I was elated.
Flash-forward a year later and I’ve never been so confused about music or its role in my life. The new songs are still out there somewhere, wherever unfinished songs go to rest. Maybe an unfinished song limbo of sorts, probably providing the soundtrack for all the socks that go missing when you do laundry. Who knows if they’ll ever be seen again, and honestly I’m not even sure at this point if I want to see them again.
My identity as a musician has dwindled to the point that I don’t even consider myself a musician anymore. Once wildly in love with music and how it made me feel, I’ve found that in 365 days music turned drastically from being my biggest outlet and source of comfort to being my greatest source of anxiety, and I’m ending 2015 on the lowest musical note (not really trying to make a pun, but I’ll go with it) in recent memory.
I am still single 365 days later, although I’m incredibly happy about it and much healthier (emotionally) this year. I’ve re-learned how to love myself and have stopped searching for romance. I have become maybe a little too independent (another life lesson I’m learning from this whole foot thing) and I’ve adopted the infamous Taylor Swift attitude circa 2014 when she was all “I’m never dating again and I’m done with men and it’s just gonna be me and my cats in NYC forevs.” Except I’m allergic to cats. And NYC drives me crazy. But other than that, basically the same thing.
A year later, and I’ve lost my identity as an athlete. I won’t be able to participate in sports until after months of rehab. But then again, as I’m sitting here having my little new year’s eve pity party, I realize that maybe I missed the key word in that statement . . . “until.” I can’t participate in sports until . . . Until. The word itself inspires hope.
It means that this is not forever. It means that I am lucky. This was not a career-ending injury. I will be able to run again. I will be able to play soccer again. I will be able to shower standing up again (although to be real for a sec, seated showers are kind of amazing and why aren’t they more of a thing?).
So, there I have it. Temporary. This situation is temporary. 2015, although kind of shitty, was temporary. And a lot of good did happen in the year. I met a lot of amazing people that I want to be in my life for a very long time.
I learned to let go of dreams, and people, that maybe were not meant to be in my life at all. I learned that some people may say they believe in you, but that’s only because it sounds nice in the moment. I learned that words and actions are two magnificently different things, and that I’m tired of people who say one thing and do another. And I consequently learned to stand up for myself, and for others, and to walk away when necessary from the people who are unable to support their words with appropriate actions.
Maybe this is all a gift, then. One big ugly beautiful gift. Because while I might be sitting here in pain, isn’t it the most painful moments that inspire the most healing? I could have opted to avoid getting the surgery, but it would have left me with a semi-functioning, highly arthritic foot, and in my twenties I would have been done with athletics forever.
So it turns out the pain, although highly inconvenient, is also highly necessary. Maybe in the same way, the lows of 2015, though highly inconvenient, were necessary. Maybe they were necessary to get me to 2016. To make me appreciate what’s coming next.
Because if 2015 started with an optimistic high and ended with a slow, steady, downward spiral that landed me in my dad’s chair on December 31, to the lowest point of the entire year (so melodramatic, I know, but cut me a break I’ve been trapped inside by myself for days), then why can’t the opposite happen? Maybe 2016 has no where to go but up.
When the clock strikes midnight and it becomes January 1, I will still be in this freaking chair. I will still be in a crap-load of pain. I will still be lonely. And I will still be confused, sad, and a little (OK, a lot) depressed. But, what if the lowest point of my 2015 is also the lowest point of my entire 2016? What if instead of a downward trajectory, I spin upwards towards the highest I’ve ever been?
What if on December 31, 2016, one year from now, I’m sitting somewhere thinking about how fan-freaking-tastic 2016 was and how grateful I am that I started it at the very bottom? What if each day of 2016 I only get stronger, healthier, happier, and more of myself than ever before? If that’s the case, then I’m glad this happened. I accept the low in pursuit of the high. Just not the drug kind of high . . . dude, that was horrible.
So then, here’s to new beginnings. Or a beginning that looks a whole lot like the end, but really is a gateway to something bigger, better, and more wonderful. 2015, I can honestly say you really were not that great. But nonetheless, I am grateful for you. Thanks for everything.