I remember that my end-of-year post in 2013 was… um, a bit bitter, but optimistic. I guess both feelings were valid. Now, I’m just optimistic.
It’s been a heck of a year. This time last December I was admitted to Respite after being pretty much unable to cope with getting sick, and all that had resulted from it. I’d been forced to give up my job, give my lifestyle a radical rethink, and become an almost complete recluse in order to just survive.
In January this year, I wrote a memo in my phone: “I am moving from survival mode to recovery mode.” I don’t think I had actually done this at that point. It was more a statement of intention. A “setting my mind to it.”
But I guess it worked, because a lot of this year has been about recovering – from my initial falling sick and hospitalisation, from the depressive episode that followed, from losing a huge chunk of my life, and from being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis.
A few days ago we went to the night markets here in Cairns and I found this wee cat I wish I had bought. He was called Happy Cat. He was posed sitting up, and it didn’t matter which way you pushed him, he popped back to that position. A magnet in the bottom or something, I’m not sure. Anyway, it reminded me of me. I get knocked down, but I get up again. (Sorry, inevitable ear worm).
Every night, I write a gratitude diary. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have, encourages me to reflect on the day and what I got out of it or gave to it, and keeps a record. One of the things I often note that I’m thankful for is my own fortitude and tenacity. It feels a bit conceited sometimes, to be thankful to oneself, or maybe misguided, because those things are – where do they originate from? Genetics? Experience? Hard work? I don’t know. What I do know is I’ve had many people say to me that they’re amazed at how I keep going. My answer depends on what sort of day I’ve had, but I usually think “What else do you expect me to do?”
Everyone deals with life changes differently – career, illness, death. Many of these things are associated with grief. As David Whyte says “One half of life is about letting go.”
I had to let go, and I had to go through the stages of grief, and it wasn’t fun. There’s a reason the first stage is Denial and Isolation, and the second is Anger. I’m guessing I hit Anger right around March. (When the WINZ media stuff happened). I didn’t stay long in the Bargaining stage – I gave up and cycled back to Depression. While it didn’t get quite as bad as it had been, things weren’t good. Then I got my diagnosis.
There was definitely another cycle back through Denial and Anger, but I think it was surprising how quickly I hit Acceptance. That’s really what made all the difference. I’d already been so ill, with no answers, for so long. I was ready to move on. I was ready to be given a pathway. Taking the first steps down it wasn’t hard – it was only hard if I looked back.
I wrote something last year about letting go in order to move forward, and that’s what I’ve spent this year doing. I let go of the idea of living by myself, so that I could be in a much healthier and happier environment. I let go of being self-employed in PR, so that I could focus the valuable energy I have on being a writer. I let go of the image I had of myself as this independent career woman who didn’t need anyone or anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with being that woman – but it was making me sick. Trying to match my ridiculous expectations with my reality was keeping me locked in place, and the only way to move on and get better was to let go.
Don’t get me wrong: getting used to the idea that I have a chronic degenerative illness was not exactly a task I embraced. There was (and still is) a lot of crying and much more “why me?” than I’d ever feel comfortable admitting. And I’m still in Denial about the future, to be honest. I can’t predict the course of the condition – it may be that I never get any better than I am now. It may be that I get much worse, much quicker than anyone hopes. But I don’t picture either of those things happening. Maybe because I’m too scared, or they just don’t seem real to me – but either way, I think it’s best if I don’t keep those images in my mind. It’s much better to picture myself recovering more and more from this initial flare that caused everything, and then managing the illness so well that it barely impacts on my life.
That’s the best case scenario, anyway. And there’s no reason it can’t happen that way.
What else happened this year? I got published as a columnist for the Mail. I’ve got 27 amazing patrons who support the work I do here on the blog. I went up against a government department. I came out to my parents. I did almost 40 sessions of psychotherapy. I got a rheumatologist who listens to me, started physio, hydro, and massage therapy. I got to meet several personal heroes. I read several incredible books. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words. I made new friends and spent time with old ones. I’ve got partners who support and love me. I’m currently writing this in tropical North Queensland listening to parrots, kookaburras, and my niece singing in the kitchen.
I’m not unhappy to say goodbye to this year, though I’ll admit I greet the next one with some trepidation. But it’s far outweighed by hope. I have a lot of goals for 2015, and every intention of achieving all of them.
Here’s a list of a few of my posts from this year. Hopefully I’ll be much more prolific next year, if not here, then elsewhere.
So, that’s it. Happy New Year, everyone. Thank you all for being part of my life. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and that the next year brings much happiness.