The year that was: 2023

Note: This post is purely personal. I am not unaffected by the ongoing war and genocide, which remains front of mind at almost all times, but I don’t feel capable (or emotionally ready) to write about it here. If you would like to help: 6 ways you can support Palestinians in Gaza.

In August 2014, I was terrified. I’d been sick for 5 months, with yet-to-be-diagnosed ME/CFS.

I found myself in the Temple at Black Rock City for the first time in my life. A borrowed Sharpie in hand, I wrote on the wall:


Later that week, the Temple would be reduced to ashes while around 70,000 of us sat in the dust, watching the flames in near silence. Like many others, I wept quietly as our words, photographs, and letters rose into the air with the smoke.

Back then, to survive, I had to believe I wasn’t my body. I had to separate my self – my identity – from the seemingly failing physical apparatus I was relying on to move through the world. I railed against the idea that illness would define me as a person, even though it eventually did.

Missed events, lost days/weeks/months spent lying in bed, the inability to generate an income… it all added up. As I healed, and started treating my body with the same amount of care and respect I was treating my mind, I learned that my mind and body were inseparable.

The brain is an organ of the body. Physical health is not separate to mental health. When our body dies, we die.

I absolutely am my body, and I always will be – and it took me nearly a decade to fully accept this.

I spent much of 2020 and 2021 focused on my mental health. Endless therapy sessions, hard resetting of key relationships, and many difficult conversations. The worst of the pandemic ended up aligning with my proverbial dark night of the soul.

It was… rough.

In 2022, I finally felt like I was resurfacing. I began reaping the benefits of the effort I’d put in. Relationships began to repair, and when a family crisis hit in October, instead of breaking down, I managed to handle it using all the skills I’d acquired through therapy and hard work.

(I’m not done with that work. I don’t want to be done. I want to keep growing, changing, challenging myself forever. I don’t want to be the same person year after year. Staying the same is easy, and comfortable, but I’ve seen that can do to people, and I never, ever want that for myself.)

2023 was the year I focused on my physical health.

The preceding emotional turmoil felt like it was settled for the moment, so I could move out of crisis management mode (focusing mostly on mental health) and into general management mode (looking at the bigger picture).

In my 20s and early-to-mid-30s, the only time I’d start a new exercise regime or diet would be with an aesthetic end goal – sadly, the goal was usually weight loss. Back then, the idea was always “do this thing until I reach Xkgs, and then I can quit and go back to normal.”

But this year, I took the opposite approach. I looked at my last set of bloodwork, measured my blood pressure, and assessed my general strength and fitness.

Next, I took stock of the things most important to me:

  • being with Jesse, present and in good health
  • spending time with family and friends
  • dancing for hours on end to music I love
  • hiking in nature without worrying if I can handle it or not
  • gardening and manual labour
  • walking through cities, both local and foreign

– and I made a conscious choice to put in regular effort to make those things easier to achieve, and achievable for as long as possible.

Without realizing it at the time, I started incorporating small doses of discomfort into my daily life. Instead of browsing the internet in short breaks between meetings, I started lifting weights. I set my alarm at 6:15am to go for walks. On rest days, I started genuinely asking myself if just 10 short minutes on the stationary bike was achievable (the answer was usually ‘yes’).

Initiating tasks that you don’t want to do is really, really hard, especially if you have ADHD. To make things even more difficult, I don’t like getting sweaty and out of breath. Cold baths after a sauna are fucking awful (I curse like a sailor every time I do it). Riding a stationary bike during meetings isn’t nice.

It’s work. It’s not comfortable, like scrolling on my phone in bed, watching TV, or even typing out this post.

But I pushed myself. Just one little thing each day. And I found that the more I made myself do things that were hard to initiate in the moment, the easier it got to initiate them the next day, and the next, and the day after that… until suddenly they were just part of my routine.


noun: a sequence of actions regularly followed.

adjective: performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.

This year, I finally embraced the realization that putting constant effort into my health – this routine – would be part of my life forever. That taking care of myself wasn’t going to be “just a 2023 thing”.

I’ve worked with doctors, found and adjusted medications, eaten intuitively, prioritized sleep, and moved my body frequently.

Most importantly, I’ve finally accepted (and embraced) that this routine:

  1. will always require effort;
  2. must be balanced with rest to avoid getting sick again;
  3. is a job that will never be “done”, and;
  4. makes me feel better and better the more I do it.

If I were to try and sum it up, I’d say that 2023 was the year I learned that daily doses of discomfort are what makes life (and the things I love the most) infinitely more comfortable. And that investing time, energy, and effort into my health is the greatest ongoing investment I’ll ever make.

Good health is not guaranteed, no matter how well I take care of myself. But I’m not trying to live forever. I’m just trying to feel good for as long as I can, and boy do I feel good right now.

I’m dancing longer and harder at music festivals. This year, I comfortably walked and hiked my way through Melbourne, Victoria, Sydney, Italy, and San Francisco. I have more social stamina, and I’m genuinely enjoying being around people again. My mental health is better than I can remember it being since… maybe ever?

If you’re wondering whether all this effort is worth it, and if it’s worth making 2024 the year you invest time and energy into your health, I’m here to tell you: it is. More than I can express in words.

My only resolution for 2024 is to keep doing what I started in 2023, and to actively enjoy feeling this good for as long as it lasts.

Here’s to a safe, healthy, and peaceful 2024, with just the right amount of discomfort.