Despite the energy we spend trying to figure out who we are, very few of us could actually give an elevator pitch about ourselves if we had to. Yet, we know for certain when we are not ourselves, when something is off.
Wouldn’t it be great to have algorithm that estimated how soon you could get back to the old you? Waiting it out is the worst, especially because sometimes you can’t do anything to speed healing. So, the first flutter of happiness or inspiration or calm — whatever it is you’ve been missing — feels like coming back into existence. You start to remember that, hey, you are an awesome person. It’s going to take some more time, but when you start to notice these things, the old you is not far behind:
1. You’re thinking toward the future, and obsessing less about the past. Regrets, you’ve had a few. But now, instead of replaying would’ve/could’ve/should’ves, on repeat, you are looking forward. You have goals and feel like you’re worthy of whatever you’re willing to work for.
2. The weather doesn’t control your moods. You might see a rainy day as an opportunity for a sweaty, cleansing jog or a cup of tea with a novel. Either way, gray days no longer equal sadness, and bright sun is not the only time you leave your apartment. Now you first decide what you want to do each morning, and then you consider how the weather will affect your plans. Not vice versa.
3. You’re excited about…anything. It could be something as big as feeling butterflies when you see a certain person to something as trivial as being eager to try a new veggie burger recipe. Endorphins are pumping again.
4. You pet dogs because they’re cute, not just because they provide you comfort. When you’re down, you cuddle with animals in large part because looking into their eyes seems like the only way to see good in the world. But now you’re starting to see it in other places too. Not that this little puppy cares about the reason you’re scratching behind her ear; it just feels so good!
5. You’re reflecting on lessons you’ve learned. And you’re making a game plan for how to manage tough times like this in the future.
6. The temporary therapist position held by your parents/best friend/partner is winding down. Thanks goodness for the people in our lives who listen to us for hours without complaint. It’s nice to feel strong enough to begin to ease that burden on them, though. Especially after they saved you $150, multiplied by X number of hours, in therapy fees.
7. You are happy for other people. When you hear that someone is getting married or got a good grade or ran a marathon (how?!), there’s no bitterness there. You don’t talk behind their backs about how they don’t deserve it. Maybe you’re still jealous, but that’s OK.
8. You have a longer attention span. Being upset can sidetrack thoughts to the point where you read an entire newspaper article and still don’t know which union is striking and why. When you’re almost back to your old self, your brain is less busy, and you are able to focus on the page.
9. You are proud of yourself. You recognize that things have been pretty rough for a while, but you’re still going. That’s an accomplishment.
10. You’re picking hobbies back up. That paintbrush/bike/rock garden/etc. has been gathering dust in the corner. It’s a very dusty corner. When you do hobbies again you’re reminded of what makes you, you.
11. Making plans to go on a trip seems worthwhile. Instead of looking at getaways as a waste of time and money because you aren’t in the right mood or with the right person, you’re now excited to visit somewhere new for yourself.
12. Little, everyday things are funny. You trip. You muddle cilantro in your mint mojito. You walk into the wrong classroom. None of these ruin your day anymore. Maybe they even make you giggle. Derp!
13. You’re watching TV shows for a mere 30 minutes at a time. Netflix marathons probably got you through a lot of hard times. That’s what they’re there for. But when you’re almost back to your old self, TV is not your only escape. If you can watch just one episode of Parks and Rec and close your laptop, things are definitely looking up.
14. You’re getting back into a regular eating schedule. Whether you deal with stress by completely losing interest in food or binging — during which Sunchips may or may not be involved — your body hates it. Now you’re eating meals that Michelle Obama would approve.
15. That lump in your throat is gone. Tears aren’t an any-second-now inevitability.
16. Alcohol is casual. A six-pack every night by yourself isn’t your only way to relax; it’s not self-medication. Now you’re more of a one-and-done happy hour drinker; it’s social and balanced.
17. You are genuinely interested in what others have to say. When you’re not yourself, your own problems and concerns make it hard to sympathize with other people. Though you might be nodding and “mmhmm”ing through a conversation, you’re not really paying attention. You know you’re almost back to the old you when you can process what someone says and thoughtfully respond.
18. You are perfectly happy with your current hairstyle. How many times have you thought, maybe if I cut my bangs it would be a fresh start? And then you did, and guess what — the only thing that changed was your hair’s sensitivity to humidity. When you realize that a haircut isn’t going to solve anything, you’re on solid footing.
19. You’re prioritizing health for health’s sake. It’s not about getting in shape to impress someone. It’s about balanced eating and activity, which you already knew. But now you feel like you’re worth working for it.
20. You are eating more meals at a table than in bed. This is a telltale sign. The fewer crumbs you find in your pajamas, the closer you are to the old you.