I hope you had fun (2023 in review)

Deanna Strasse
5 min readDec 11, 2023

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

Damn, John Lennon. I’m a thirty-three-year-old struggling artist who lives in a tiny apartment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is trying my best. Why do you have to be so judgmental?

Every year this song plays (in its original rendition and its countless covers), and every year I feel appraised…like some used car that’s been taken in as a trade-in again. “What exactly have you done, Deanna?” “We gave you a whole ‘nother year; did you waste it?” “Didn’t you have resolutions last January? How are those going?”

So, in an attempt to appease the metaphorical mechanic who looks a lot like John Lennon, here are some things I did this year…

I hit rock bottom. That seems like a good place to start. One fateful night this past September (the 20th to be exact) after downing a whole bottle of Kendall Jackson chardonnay, lost in a fit of ennui and desperation, and on a new medication that was supposed to help my anxiety but really just let my depression run wild…I hit fucking rock bottom. At my version of rock bottom, you’re listening to sad Hozier music over and over again; your mouth is dry and your stomach is uneasy from the wine, but you still crave it. You want more alcohol because that’s the only thing that makes the demons in your brain shut up. Or so you think. Rock bottom for me looked like being strewn out on my bathroom floor, knowing full well that I have to be up in a few hours for work but unable to sleep because what’s the point if he doesn’t love me? Who cares if I live or die or write or make another latte or travel the world or do anything ever again if he isn’t there?

The sad part is that this isn’t the first time these thoughts had crossed my mind; this was par for the course as far as I was concerned; use it for my art, I’d scream into the abyss. Who he is and exactly what power he has over me is inconsequential compared to what it all comes down to: I wanted to die. Had I the means to do it, I would have killed myself, but pills are slow and fickle and my knives, not sharp enough…it was the one time I wished we were a pro-firearm household.

I’m not sure how I made the jump from desperately wanting to end it all to thinking maybe I should get help; perhaps the lack of means forced me to seek other ways of curing the raging self-loathing inside me. For whatever reason, I pulled out my phone and Googled “Should I check myself into a psych ward?” That led me to sending a message on Facebook Chat to a friend…a message I promptly deleted but she saw, nonetheless. That led to a phone conversation which led to more conversations which led to an emergency virtual meeting with my prescribing doctor who quickly took me off the offending medication which led to several impromptu conversations with my therapist which led to the question: what if I could be free from all this? Not in the sense of death, but what if I could crawl out from under this rock of depression and obsession? What if there was peace? The thought wasn’t concrete but fleeting, like a ray of light trying to penetrate an ocean trench. It fluttered here and there until it became so aggressively annoying that I had to pay attention to it: what if I was free from all this?

Nearly three months out from September 20th 2023 and I’m still here, the scars of that night are visible and the war in my mind plays on, but I’m still here. Starting those conversations with my friends and even my therapist was extremely difficult (and awkward at times). I like to see myself as a champion of mental health, but I was clearly struggling despite all the life rafts that surrounded me. I didn’t want to be a bother, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, I didn’t want to add to someone’s already towering list of woes, and the list goes on.

Healing isn’t linear and I have since had one-too-many glasses of something only to fall back into a similar pit of despair, I’ve “doom-scrolled” on Instagram until the heartache fills me, and even planned an elaborate trip abroad that only ended when I told myself, “You’re tired. Maybe take a nap before you book anything.” Conversations about my issues seem to be the same thing over and over again, leading me to sometimes think that healing isn’t possible at all; I’ll just always be in this riptide. It can feel as though everyone else has moved on from that night, but I’m (in many ways) still there on my bathroom floor and listening to Cherry Wine on loop. The best that I can say is that I’m still here and that things are better than they were September 20th 2023.

Aside from that, this year I went Disney World for the first time, saw world premieres of three of my shows (Greetings From Green Lake, Exit Stage Riley, and Leannán Sídhe), got to watch my nephews grow into wonderful boys that they are today, saw Season 3 of The Mandalorian (it was bad), saw the return of Doctor Who (it was amazing), saw my favorite ghost hunters (Ryan and Shane!) live in Chicago, saw the illustrious John Oliver live in Milwaukee, cried like a baby as we sold my childhood home, starting writing fanfiction again (solely because it’s fun!), am currently sporting a 288-day streak on Duolingo, welcomed a new cat into our home (Tobias AKA Toby AKA Mooey AKA Moo-Burger), and so much more.

So, yes, John Lennon, I did do stuff this year! No, I didn’t pay off all of my credit card bills like I had planned on, and, yes, I’m still living in the same tiny apartment, and, yes, capitalism will kill us all, but damn it, I’m healing! I’ll see you next year for my routine assessment.

The moment I let go of it was the moment

I got more than I could handle

The moment I jumped off of it

Was the moment I touched down

-Thank U, Alanis Morissette

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Deanna Strasse

Playwright, wannabe vegan, critter enthusiast, INFP, Hufflepuff, intermediate crocheter, barista, auntie