By this time every year I find myself quietly contemplating all that’s happened to me and around me, and often speak to the passing year directly – as if it can hear me from within my head. There are some ‘thank yous’, as you’d expect, but most of them are cloaked in a thin veil of resentment. I’ve put off writing this standard farewell to the year because I’ve been struggling coming to grips with its end and all that’s taken place. I don’t know how I feel about the year as a whole, but I can assign thoughts and emotions to certain aspects. So I guess that’s what I’ll do. Partly to dissect it myself and partly to inform my dear friends following my life journey. I present to you, my 2017 adieu.
As most of you know from following my social media channels, 2017 started out with a whopping amount of stress and anxiety that followed for the majority of the year. My husband had spinal surgery as our last ditch effort to relieve him of his chronic, debilitating pain. January and February were spent trying to sort out the surgery, which simply translates to lots and lots of appointments, phone calls and uncertainty. Eventually, the time came. From the end of March, I became the nurse I never wanted to be until he got back on his feet and gained some independence back. It was a rollercoaster. It was emotional. It was absolute hell. But we got through those many months and the surgery was successful. We had an entirely opposite outlook on life suddenly, thrilled we took the chance and grateful for medical science’s breakthrough for his nerve condition. The improvement was so massive that we were even able to book a long holiday to Hong Kong and Thailand where we were able to do SO much that we’ve quite genuinely never been able to do. Things that normal people do without thinking about it: exploring new cities by foot, swimming, being silly… not thinking about restrictions or worrying about triggering a pain flare up. It was relaxing and blissful and we felt like we had a new lease on life. I can never properly express how amazing this holiday was.
We had about 6 months of this wonderful high before it came to a screeching halt. I haven’t spoken openly about it to most until now. It’s been hard to admit after all our friends and family were so happy with the surgery’s success. I mean – put yourself in our shoes and I’m sure you’d sympathise. We thought we fixed everything. We thought we had our youth back. We were celebrating. We were making plans… and then one day, my husband woke up and he was in pain again. Pre-surgery pain. Unbearable. How could I tell everyone now? I couldn’t. So I didn’t and did my best to hide my emotions even when they were overwhelming me.
We’ve tried lots of things already like adjusting the device, getting scans to ensure it hadn’t moved or became damaged in some way. It’s been about 3 months since the pain came back, and it’s looking increasingly like this is just it. We’re trying not to think too hard about it because I think we both have a gut feeling that there’s nothing left to try… and that’s the toughest pill to swallow. Especially now. He’s back to being unable to walk or stand for longer than a few minutes before doubling over in excruciating pain. Square one is staring us directly in the face, unflinching. Honestly, how do you cope with that?
In the midst of all this understandably stressful, scary stuff, I’ve been dealing with a slew of my own things. My wonderfully unique childhood dog, Olley, passed away just before we set off on our holiday. Now, if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a terribly emotional person so you can imagine how hard I took this. I still can’t speak about it without tearing up and I’m struggling to type this now so I’ll just say: I miss him terribly and wish I could’ve known that when I saw him last it would genuinely be the last time I ever saw him. Man’s best friend sure isn’t easy to say goodbye to.
It hasn’t all been bad, though.
When my personal life became too overwhelming, I knew it meant I needed to make adjustments elsewhere for my own sanity. I wasn’t happy in my job and I knew I couldn’t handle that sort of distress on top of the mayhem I was facing beyond the office doors. When it became clear that my only option was to leave, I did. A new opportunity came up that I simply couldn’t turn down, and I’m happy to report that, so far, I really quite enjoy it. My new coworkers are friendly and supportive and I’m thrilled to be a part of a team that has the same passion and focus as I do. I’m a much smaller fish in a very large pond now, but I still feel valued and important and it’s already done wonders for my self-esteem. I think it was a change I needed more than I realised. I’m excited for my 2018 career, and so grateful the opportunity arose when it did. I really needed it.
We also bought a house! If that isn’t hardcore adulting, I don’t know what is! Of course, that’s come with its own set of challenges, but c’est la vie, eh? We love its location because it is zen, zen, zen in the middle of the city, which we clearly need buckets of!
I’m also beyond thrilled to report that my grandparents are doing much better – my grandpa is in remission! It’s been a scary year, but we’ve had good news from doctors and renewed optimism. I’ve struggled with being so far away and not being able to help, but we’ve got all fingers and toes crossed that it continues upward. We’re hanging in there.
2017 was absolutely much more difficult than 2016. My strength was tested to its limits. My ability to function without completely breaking down was minimal at best. It’s been lonely and frustrating and severely emotional. At one point, I was apparently so stressed that I experienced extreme bouts of vertigo, migraines and my skin has completely rejected my once-pristine complexion. I had nearly broken myself before the year was over. I’ve recently found coping mechanisms and have a bit better footing, although my poor skin hasn’t yet responded… oh, vanity. Picking my battles, though.
I’ve found it more difficult to speak to my friends about my life as it becomes increasingly complex and depressing. I’ve turned down countless invites because I’ve needed to be home or wanted to be home. The invites have since lessened significantly – understandably. For the vast majority of 2017, I’ve felt very alone and very isolated. Mostly from ‘normalcy’. I’ve often felt on the outside looking in in nearly every scenario. It is difficult dealing with something that literally no one you know understands or can relate to. Harder still to try to explain it all to them in a way that makes sense to them. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the support we’ve been given so far despite everything. The brief moments I have away from it all, not thinking or worrying or hyper-focusing… I’m grateful for these breaths and the people I’ve spent time with.
Above it all, this year I’ve learned most about resilience. I remember with embarrassing clarity how often I’ve escaped to the bathroom to sob in private over various things this year, but still managed to collect myself enough to walk out with my head held high and get back to business. I’ve been proactive and maybe not unwavering, but I’ve bounced back. I’ve learned to give myself time to grieve. I’ve learned to try to see the good in everything – the happy times, the wonderful memories made. I’ve been brave and faced some of my biggest fears this year. I’ve found control in situations that often feel out of my control. I’ve held on. I’ve found my voice. I’ve made changes. I’ve forgiven.
It’s been an unbelievably tough year. And while I am constantly trying to redirect my anger and disbelief, I’m still growing and I think I’m doing quite well. Considering the circumstances. And for 2018, I resolve to continue being resilient.
To those of you who’ve been there: thank you for being a part of my journey. Despite my perceived isolation, I am so glad I’ve got a support system and people who will listen when I’m ready and able to talk. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what 2017 had in store, but it sure taught me not to take anything for granted. 2018: bring me some blessings. Preferably not in disguise!
When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents. And these moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living. You are wrapped in endless, boundless grace, and things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday.