I talked about how last year was a momentous year for me. It saw so many adventures and memories being made, studying, working and battling my health as well as dating. Whilst I was proud of the progress I made, a part of me struggled with the lingering aftermath that followed.
I made a mistake last year and it’s taken me almost a year to admit that to myself. My plan was to make as many memories as possible, get a little healthier and focus on my health – for the most part, I succeeded. I would say that I accomplished more than I had originally set out to do. There were more adventures than I had planned, with my heart and head running away with me. I’d even managed to push forward with my progress in the gym, feeling more and more confident, as well as make huge strides towards improving my health.
There was one thing I had failed to account for, which seems a little ironic considering it has been a stumbling block of mine in the past. I forgot to plan for what came after. By the end of last year I had begun to feel burnt out, I was tired and my mind was hitting overdrive. In short, I felt like a game of Pinball, only it would seem that I was the ball that went pinging from one side to the other. I couldn’t see the way out, I suppose because I’d loved what I had managed to achieve and wanted to keep going.
I think the root cause was that since getting ill, I struggled with my identity. Almost as if I were losing myself, or the little parts that made me, to a newer, and sicker, version of myself. I was convinced that this small voice inside my head was right. If I stopped it, my illness would catch up to me and I wouldn’t be able to venture outside as the ‘real’ me anymore.
It wasn’t until my mum had sat me down at the end of February this year, and said that I looked tired that I should rest. I couldn’t hide it anymore, nor could I could pretend my illness wasn’t happening. Someone had already noticed, there was no point in denying it anymore.
I was exhausted. I was stumbling around from one thing to another, and whilst it was enjoyable – I still hadn’t balanced my time. There was no time to rest or lazy weekends with books, Netflix shows and PJs. Barely a chance of a cuppa between each little thing I’d planned. It was like I denied myself this because this is what I’d convinced life would always be like now I’m ill. Stuck on the inside looking out. It was like I had forgotten that these were just as enjoyable as painting the town red and that I had always been ill, I just had a diagnosis that confirmed it.
What I hadn’t considered, was that I hadn’t given myself time to process my adventures, recuperate and regroup before ploughing into another – at this point, it was like a routine I had found myself in. I hadn’t paced myself and what was worse, I wasn’t really living in each moment – always stuck planning the next one.
I loved the adventures I did, and I wouldn’t change any of them for the world. I’m grateful for getting the opportunities that I got, the places I’ve seen and the things I’ve done. All of them are invaluable to me.
By moving from one adventure to another, I had decided to run from my diagnosis. I wanted to prove that I hadn’t given up, that I was still me. It felt that I had to choose my adventures and happiness or my health.
I hid how ill I was instead, always doing one more adventure instead. No one saw how exhausted or tired I was, how much pain I was in and how miserable I felt. I didn’t want anyone to worry or think I couldn’t manage, much less tell me how ungrateful I am. I should be enjoying myself after all, the things I achieved in a year.
Only my mum had noticed, and I’d like to say I heeded her advice earlier this year. How I slowed down, paced myself more or at the very least, been a bit kinder to myself. I didn’t.
If ever there were a twist of fate, it would take this year to show it to me, as a pandemic stopped me in my tracks. In the middle of March, I was asked to shield and for the first time, I felt stripped back. No more running to the office, gigs or coffee dates. Nowhere to hide.
Before I shielded I promised to FaceTime friends and family, see adventures postpone to next year, appointments rearrange and be put onto waiting lists and even the end of my relationship. I was starting back from square one.
It took a little while getting used to being at home all the time. I won’t even pretend to say I got used to it, I didn’t. Did anyone though, really? Some days were better than others, on those days I wanted to climb the walls!
On a positive note, I took a much needed step back. I took self-care to a whole new level. Treated myself to new make-up, clothes, skincare (and of course, books); and I followed up with all my appointments, including (with the help of my GP) taking the steps towards therapy so I can work on feeling better about myself post-diagnosis.
I laid old chapters to bed, had a spring clean and then decided to make my space a little more friendly to me when I’m having a bad day; as well as find a space for my growing number of books. Kept in touch, virtually, with friends and family too.
My biggest lesson to myself was that I needed to pace myself, and admittedly, it’s still one I am learning. I’ve become more accepting of good days and bad days, and getting better at asking for help; as well as when to admit I was wrong and apologise.
I just need to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and to be less harsh towards myself. I’ve still made great strides this year, but they didn’t come overnight.
It took me six months to decorate, and with help from my mum and sister (when she could join our bubble). Messages from friends come and go as we have work/life to take care of, but that they’re a short message away. Eight months to get the right medical and therapeutic help. The main thing is I am making progress, even when there’s a voice inside me that believes I haven’t.
I’m learning to be more accepting of myself. I can have adventures as long as I take time to be in the moment, as well as rest afterwards. I can make positive progress and still be me. A person I hadn’t realised I’d lost, until I stopped. Sometimes, it takes a fall back to ground zero to work towards a stronger version of yourself. It’s okay to turn over a new leaf.