An Apartment of Firsts: A Personal Story

Health & Wellness

dining room white table kate arends wit & delight
Photos by Collin Hughes

This week, I’m packing up my apartment of firsts. First time living alone. First big furniture purchase. First time leaving a job. First time I admitted to being truly lost. And while my divorce was being finalized at the very end of 2011, in this apartment, I said for the first time, “I need help.”

framed drawing fan books living room kate arends wit & delight

When I hit what people call “rock bottom,” I flopped around in that ugly emotional state for quite some time. A good part of the year, to be vague. During this time, I was three parts overwhelmed, terrified, and devastated: Overwhelmed with a plethora of conflicting emotions (which I later learned were real feelings), terrified of the amount of work it would take to understand them, and devastated I had treated people closest to me so poorly. And then, I decided I needed to peel myself off the floor and do something about it.

So I sent myself to therapy and built a home to ward off the bad feelings. The darkness of depression. The deafening sound of anxiety. And the shame that followed my Adult ADD diagnosis in July 2012. Ironically, once my home was comfy and safe and made perfect for a time of healing and self-discovery, the idea of actually living in it, alone with me, myself, and this now self-aware person, scared the shit out of me.

dining room gallery wall kate arends wit & delight
kate arends bedroom working wit & delight

My friend Collin Hughes shot these images in May 2012, when I was hovering just above what felt like my lowest point. Wit & Delight had started to gain a broader readership, and everything looked shiny and perfect from the outside. But those who knew me, or met me in person, even the friends I made via the interwebs, knew things were far from good. They were patient and kind as I spilled my guts (and many times got flat-out drunk) over beers and dinners across the country that summer, from NYC to Palm Springs, San Francisco to Napa, and Pacific Grove to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I spent my weeknights alone in my kitchen, whipping up meals for one, crying to Neko Case. Basically, I went Bridget Jones on y’all and I was owning it. With this support system and some QT with myself, I started to gain confidence (the real kind) in the person I had learned I’d become. Being on my own was starting to have more pros than cons, and suddenly, it was THE BEST THING EVER.

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desk wit & delight kate arends home

Rebuilding after a setback takes time, and to be truthful, I’ll always struggle with anxiety and compulsivity. It’s in my DNA, part of who I am, a defining and sometimes lovable antihero in My Story. Through accepting imperfection and “weaknesses,” inner peace has finally trumped my lifelong companion, Anxiety.

ikea shelving unit styled kate arends wit & delight

That’s my story of firsts. The important stuff I didn’t want to share with you last year because I was scared of sharing something REAL that I have FEELINGS about, because I hadn’t quite processed it all, and because I was scared of what The Internet would say in response to my said vulnerability. But you know what? Fuck that business. I hope that sharing an abbreviated story of firsts (derived from a much longer and messier one) touches at least one person who struggles with anxiety, ADHD/ADD, or depression. I spend less time alone these days, but I learned, through spectacular failure, that taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for the people you love.

kate arends living room wit & delight

So, in closing, here’s an abbreviated list of truths, lessons, and cliches I learned in this, my beautiful apartment of firsts:

– Being alone is good for you.
– Happiness is elusive, and peacefulness is underrated.
– A long run is an effective medication for many mental afflictions. And a good substitute for Adderall.
– Accepting you need help is healthier than denying it, but it hurts more. A lot more.
– Trust your gut and listen to your heart, especially if you don’t like what they’re saying.
– Be good to yourself and you’ll be good to others.
– Forgive. It’s good for your heart.
– Forgive yourself, too.
– Love manifests itself in many different ways.
– Know what you need, and know how (and when) to ask for it.
– If people tell you you’re crazy for trying, you’re most likely on to something.
– Your weakness can be your strength, but only if you know how to use it.
– It isn’t over until you’re dead.

BY Kate Arends - August 27, 2013

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August 27, 2013 12:44 am

You are really really good. Thanks for this. More than you could know.

August 27, 2013 12:50 am

And the girl crush only grows. Thanks for such a raw, real post. Hope it felt as good putting this together as it does for those reading it.

August 27, 2013 1:20 am

you rock! thank you so much for this post – i´m living in an apartment of firsts, too and i never thought about it that way…

August 27, 2013 1:24 am

good for you kate! i loved your honesty. may it all just get better and better.

p.s. fabulous home!

August 27, 2013 1:30 am

I’m crying as I read this. Thanks for being vulnerable and real and flawed.

August 27, 2013 1:30 am

thank you.

August 27, 2013 1:53 am

Kate, from a girl with anxiety, depression, and possibly ADD — thank you. Say more, anytime.

And yes, as others have said, your home is so so beautiful. What a place you made.

not sad anymore
August 27, 2013 3:36 am

now this, this is great. keep up in this direction. we need true, honest writing, much more than product placement.

August 27, 2013 5:20 am

wow. This post is beautiful, it is brave and it has given me hope. thank you, a million times over. It is so rare to find people talking about overcoming anxiety, it seems easy to forget the hard times when the darkness lifts. Thank you for sharing, your writing is so very raw and honest.

August 27, 2013 5:33 am

posts like this keep me inspired. you are one brave, self-aware, honest, and beautiful person (inside and out).

August 27, 2013 6:24 am

Thanks so much for this post. I jumped out of bed to read it. I hoped you would share some wisdom that I can relate to as I start down this same journey (and am currently coping by building a home) and you definitely did.

My favorite mantra of late: “Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”

Thanks again for sharing (and for continually being amazing). Your honesty helped me this morning as I inch toward a time when I’m ready to share my own story.


August 27, 2013 6:40 am

Thank you for being so brave to put all of this out into the world! Glad to hear everything is heading in a more positive direction these days and I really like your apartment! 🙂

August 27, 2013 6:43 am

I found your post really encouraging and heart warming, especially as someone who suffers with anxiety. I think the section about what you learned was also particularly good. My only question/criticism is about trusting your gut especially if you don’t like what it is saying, my gut, particularly my anxious gut tends to tell me to run away a lot, usually from the people who love and care for me best, it tells me I don’t want them and to run and usually hide. this is something I really find upsetting because I don’t want to leave my loved ones.… Read more »

August 27, 2013 6:45 am

Kate, thank you for sharing with such honesty and grace. I have long admired you and your work, and this post reinforced that. I feel I can learn so much from your experience, and I truly appreciated this.

August 27, 2013 7:09 am

Kate, thank you for sharing your story. It’s refreshing to read, especially when I’m beginning to feel lost myself.

August 27, 2013 7:13 am

In all the time I’ve been reading (going on two years now?), I’ve always thought your apartment looked like an amazing refuge. I had no idea it was so much more. So meaningful to know more of the story.

My own times living alone taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

Tara D.
August 27, 2013 7:40 am

Thank you for sharing. Such an intimate post. Our spaces are so much more than what we see. What you went through has taken courage and persistence…know you have and continue to do well. Keep listening to your gut!

August 27, 2013 7:51 am

I needed this more than anything. Thank you for sharing this incredibly relatable and honest piece. Really and truly, you’re a huge inspiration for so many people, myself especially.

Thank you.

August 27, 2013 7:58 am

Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s a gift to all who read.

August 27, 2013 8:05 am

This? Is fucking awesome. You go get it, lady. Brava.

August 27, 2013 8:10 am

A truly amazing and inspiring read. I think we have all been there at one point or another. It takes an unbelievable amount of strength, and you are always much stronger than you think.

August 27, 2013 8:11 am

I’m so glad that you have gotten through what sounds like an awful year. I, too, struggle with anxiety and always have… and am currently going through a tough breakup, so seeing that you triumped gives me hope! Thanks for sharing. XO

August 27, 2013 8:19 am

Oh dear Kate…..what a beautiful story of resiliency and how the heart can grow and overcome some of the most difficult things this life can bring us. I am sure you have encouraged and helped so many people with opening up about your story ( I am one of them). It is nice to know these feelings of anxiety/depression that make you feel so isolated from this BIG world out there, that in all reality you are NOT alone. I have also been lost for over a year and the pain can be unbearable at times. Hopefully my journey will… Read more »

August 27, 2013 8:36 am

Your words were moving and beautifully written. Thank you for such an open post.

August 27, 2013 8:38 am

Beautiful post! Life is beautiful even with those complicated moments. Love this part: “taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for the people you love.” Be happy, be proud of your history, we all have one and yes, it isn’t over until you’re dead! Beijo, Jé

August 27, 2013 8:45 am

It was really wonderful to see you the other evening at the book launch! Even though we’ve only met a couple of times, I am so happy for the love that you’ve found and I think your story is incredible. Thanks for sharing, lady!

August 27, 2013 8:48 am

Thank you for sharing, I’m moved by your honesty! All the best to you!!!

August 27, 2013 8:50 am

What a wonderful post, with advice that is often very difficult to hear (and put into effect). Thank you for sharing this part of your story. May you have many more firsts in your next place (hopefully all good firsts, or at least firsts you can learn from).

August 27, 2013 8:54 am

I’m not sure how to say this, or if I should, and I hope it doesn’t come out wrong, but I actually feel kind of relieved to read this. As much as I love your blog (I do! so much!) to be honest it sometimes got me down that it seemed you had this perfect life going for you and it sometimes had me feeling bewildered about my own place in life (and not just your blog, but many others contributed to this feeling). anyway, showing that you are human gives me some hope that i can overcome my struggles… Read more »

August 27, 2013 9:00 am

You are inspiring. Reading something so real was absolutely refreshing. Wishing you all the happy thoughts!

August 27, 2013 9:04 am

This brought tears to my eyes. I struggle daily with all of the above. I have depression and ADD. It’s a hard balance, but I work at it, horribly, because I have 2 little girls that need me too. Despite my feelings I have to somehow pick myself up daily and carry on. I’m so glad things are on the brighter side of a very dark time. It gives me hope. =)

August 27, 2013 9:07 am

It’s been said that those who live the most emotionally healthy lives come from an open place of constant vulnerability. Bravo for being brave. You’ll never know the full impact of the lives you have touched. I hope you continue to get stronger and more comfortable in your own skin, it’s a gift to the world.

August 27, 2013 9:08 am

Very brave Kate. I have been there and it’s rough. I’m so glad that you had the courage to ask for help and are on the other end. Those crashing waves can be hard to take. I find that losing my shit to a certain degree is the best medicine. Letting it all hang out makes it a little easier to reassess and figure out what you want to manage, leave behind, and/or pick back up.

August 27, 2013 9:17 am

If there’s one thing I learned in my twenties (now that I’m newly 30 I’m so wise) it’s that life is super flippin’ hard and no one tells you that. Pushing your story of strength and struggle out into the world is a risk. I sure know that. But the good that comes from that is great. The kind of great that feeds you, makes you even stronger, and builds a fan base of those sending well wishes. Keep taking first steps. We’re out here cheering you on.

August 27, 2013 9:27 am

I should write down all your “truths and lessons” and read them once a day. They’re really helpful, thank you so much for being absolutlely sincere and pleasant.


August 27, 2013 9:45 am

Related to this a lot. Thanks for being open and vulnerable.

If you’re not familiar, check out Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability. Her books are wonderful, too.

August 27, 2013 9:59 am

Lovely post. My favorite I’ve seen here yet. The beautiful photos are elevated to something else entirely with the sentiments expressed here. I hope this isn’t the last time we’ll see such personal writing on Wit & Delight. It’s a little much for me to say, maybe, but it truly took the content to another level for me. More than just beautiful, aspirational photos and content, this was something I could relate to. Best of luck out there.

August 27, 2013 10:03 am

In love with this post! I also went through very similar experiences in my apartment of firsts, two years ago! I also live in Chicago and this is where my alone time began. Best and hardest time of my life!

August 27, 2013 10:13 am

You Rock, Kate. It’s amazing how you feel you can relate to someone you don’t even know but having experienced the same situation, I could feel every word, every emotion in this post. I’ve always admired Wit & Delight, for many reasons, but this takes the cake. That and I still think you should write a mini-book about your transit stories. Have a great week.

August 27, 2013 10:46 am

well done, love. so inspired by your honestly. hugs

August 27, 2013 10:58 am

wow Kate, thank you for sharing this with us. Your home looks amazing and I hope you’ll find everything on an upswing now. You are inspiring.

August 27, 2013 11:03 am

<3 you are awesome! thanks for honestly.

August 27, 2013 11:05 am

Thank you so much for this, i’m going to save it to my Evernote in my ‘Wise Words’ notebook. I’ve given up my job to move home and concentrate on starting to get well after suffering from depression and anxiety pretty badly, so hearing your story gives me a little bit of hope. Interestingly, after looking up the symptoms of Adult ADD, most of them seem to fit in line with the unexplainable things I suffer with and have always felt were just little ‘quirks’, but instead of being scared or feeling knocked down, I feel comfortable and ready to… Read more »

August 27, 2013 11:21 am

Your honesty is moving in its vulnerability. Thank you for sharing so candidly with your readers. I always liked you, but now I feel like I also know you.

Carry on!

August 27, 2013 11:33 am

Solid post lady. Tough stuff for sure but I’m glad to hear there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck on the move – and welcome to the neighborhood!

August 27, 2013 11:52 am

Oh my god Kate, I really needed to read this today. Just got laid off from my first ‘grown up’ job, just figuring out where and how and what I want to do, plus moving this weekend. This was so, so so good. I see a lot of nesting in my next few weeks.

August 27, 2013 11:53 am

I’ve just started following your blog but I always love reading posts like this – it feels like the internet is this place where everything has to be perfect, just because we “can” sensor what we put out there, but that’s not real life. And I identify most with, and aspire to be more like, the bloggers who can reveal some of their real lives and aren’t afraid to do that and who know that doing so might help someone else on their whole journey, on-or-offline! So thank you for sharing, really. I’m sure it wasn’t easy but know it… Read more »

August 27, 2013 11:54 am

Thank you for sharing – I admire the bravery and honesty that takes. Difficult times can be very isolating so it’s helpful and comforting to hear about your journey thus far. Thank you!

August 27, 2013 12:38 pm

This is beautiful. I have a fear of being alone as well and it comforts me knowing that I am not alone in the struggle and that there is nothing wrong with my fear. There is so much pressure especially with social media to constantly be with people, but I believe being alone even for a bit is necessary to understand who you truly are. Thank you!

August 27, 2013 12:42 pm

Thank you for being so honest and sharing your struggles. Your list of lessons was very inspiring to me.

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