2018 didn’t start well. Six months of being unhappy in Vancouver and a disastrous psychiatrist experience landed me in the emergency room at St. Paul’s Hospital. I’d been dealing with anxiety and depression and was becoming overwhelmed. During a particularly bad episode, I hit myself in the face and cut off all my hair. After explaining what had been going on to the doctors there, and a follow-up visit shortly after, they told me I likely had an adjustment disorder.

Having a name for what I was experiencing helped, especially one that made so much sense. In only a few years I’d changed careers, moved across Canada, moved again from Victoria to Vancouver, and returned to school. Whether the changes were good or bad was irrelevant, the number of them had exhausted my ability to cope. Megan and I decided the best thing to do was move home to Halifax. The doctors agreed.

Going back to Halifax was a surprising decision for both of us. We planned to live in British Columbia for five years, give or take, but neither of us had any intention of returning to our hometown. Victoria was a revelation, proof that smaller cities could still be exciting, vibrant places. Living without a car was easy: most places were walkable, and transit was dependable. The food and drink scene spoiled you with choices, and something was always going on, from pub quizzes at Northern Quarter and shows at Lucky, to Royals hockey games and the big yearly music festival, Rifflandia. We wanted to go somewhere that offered us the lifestyle we’d grown to love.

After a summer trip that was part vacation, part city-scouting, that somewhere looked like Ottawa or Quebec City. But living in Vancouver had drained us, financially and emotionally, and we needed our families and friends, so we threw out the plan and went home.

It wasn’t a smooth move. I expected to struggle, another cross-country move with an adjustment disorder was never going to be easy, but I wasn’t ready for how much worse my anxiety got. Suicidal thoughts and self-harming were frequent, panic attacks happened daily, and I ended up at the emergency room twice. The doctor I saw on the second visit suggested that, while the diagnosis I received in Vancouver was probably accurate at the time, since things hadn’t improved after coming home it may be time to consider medication. I agreed and headed to the pharmacy with a prescription for Sertraline.

The first few days weren’t pretty – that drowsiness warning is no joke – but it’s been a remarkably positive experience. It feels like someone flipped a switch on my anxiety: I don’t think about hurting myself and my panic attacks have stopped. I feel like myself again. I’m seeing a counsellor and will try tapering off the medication in the future, but it may be a long-term thing and I’m okay with that.

While this was going on, I made another surprising decision and accepted a job at a small software company. I was disillusioned with software development following a string of bad experiences. I switched my program at school to focus more on business and less on technology and planned to leave the tech sector behind. But finances made that unrealistic, so I accepted another programming job. Five months later, it’s proved to be the best job I’ve ever had. Sometimes it can be the wrong kind of challenging – juggling overtime and school isn’t rewarding, just exhausting – but overall, I love it. The team is fun and supportive of one another, the product is genuinely useful, and I get plenty of opportunities to learn and interesting problems to work on.

Last year surprised me. Nothing happened the way I expected, but I’m happy with where things ended up. Halifax is a great place to live, I’m chalking it up to both of us changing since I moved away, school is going well, and work is great. 2019 is looking good.

At the beginning of 2018, I tweeted about my goals for the year. So, how did I do?

Be nicer to people, myself included

I think I did this. I’m certainly nicer to myself, and I feel like I’m more pleasant to be around in general.

Learn to draw

I still have plenty to learn, but I feel good about my progress.

Start playing my guitar again

I didn’t do this, but I did buy a synthesizer and am having a blast learning to play it.

Release a game

This one didn’t happen either. Two co-workers and I did take part in a month-long game jam, and while we didn’t finish due to scheduling problems, we had fun and learned a lot. I’m carrying this one into 2019.

Write more

Well, better late than never.