As challenging as 2018 was for me, it was also one of the most love-filled years I’ve had in a long time. Amid the upheavals and changes and challenges and uncertainty, I found so much stability in the love of those who surrounded me. Last year, I learned how to really let that love in and let my guard down enough to absorb the healing and hope offered to me.

2018 taught me how to not be okay. It taught me how to ask for help and even ask for space, because I went through some real shit, fam (As the kids say. Is that a thing the kids say?). I began the year realizing how devastatingly afraid I was of being with myself…but also how much I isolated myself from the healing energy of the people who want to love me.

I didn’t realize how closed off I was to any kind of help until I was getting frustrated at my now-boyfriend for the same crime of not letting me in. As he let himself trust me, I learned how to fully trust everyone else a little more, too. I never considered myself a closed off person, but sometimes “I’m fine” is just as isolating as brooding in the corner alone.

It’s funny that 2018 is the year I finally started leaning on others, because I feel like it was also the year that I became more self-reliant than I ever have. I faced challenges like my anxiety and anorexia with more courage and determination that ever before, and even learned how to stand my ground and become a better self-advocate.

I wouldn’t have found that personal strength without the compassion and guidance of my loved ones. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of those who love us to clean off the lens we’re viewing ourselves through and clear away the distortion of negative self-talk. As I strengthened my relationships with friends and family, I was able to explore my relationship with myself and begin to heal it.

Eventually, I learned I could make space for new relationships as I got to know myself again, which gave me a freedom to love and allow myself to be loved that I’d never really felt before. I began the year thinking I needed to be alone to get to know myself and to resolve my fears of abandonment and solitude, but ended 2018 knowing I just needed the right kinds of companionship to balance with my relationship with myself.

I also learned how to create distance from relationships that were draining or didn’t serve me well, sometimes even without feeling guilty! This was one of the newest skills I cultivated last year, because I have always been very much a “self-last” person when reflecting on relationship needs. In a shocking (read: logical) turn, limiting or eliminating toxic interactions left more space for healthy, joyful relationships without sacrificing the solitude and individual growth I still need.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down with all the challenges I faced when reflecting on 2018, but ask I sat down to think about today’s letter I realized that the true theme of my 2018 was love: love for myself, romantic love, familial love, friendship. I am overflowing with gratitude to know how utterly surrounded with love I am, no matter if it takes shape as (incessant!) teasing from my boyfriend or surprise cards from my best friend.

I always feared I would somehow betray weakness by leaning on others in times of challenge (but of course, never think the same of anyone else who needs to lean on me!), but what I’ve found is a tremendous new strength gained through the courage to be vulnerable.

I’ve become a fiercer lover and more compassionate human because I’ve let myself embrace support in my most uncertain moments. I’m so proud of the woman I’ve allowed myself to become because I’ve stopped layering on the armor to keep everyone from finding out my “shameful secret”: I’m human!

2018 was full of more love than I thought could exist in the world. I gave love, I got love, I shared love, and I saw love. Thank you to everyone who loved me and continues to love me, even when it’s challenging. Thank you for helping me grow.

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