In keeping with a recent blog I wrote that had a very clear yet totally metaphoric ‘food’ theme. I wanted to continue the metaphor and write another blog in similar fashion, about my year.
I’ll start by saying, it’d be easy for me to write a tick box of the things I’ve achieved professionally in 2022.
Quit a job where the hours didn’t support the limitations of my disability ☑️
Published my first newspaper article and my first short story ☑️
Got nominated for a Mental Health Blogger award ☑️
Found a job that fuels my passions and hours I can work around my sick days☑️
But this isn’t LinkedIn and whilst these are great achievements, they’re the icing on the cake – not the cake itself. For me, the actual cake is all about the ingredients. The ingredients which I collected, gathered, thoughtfully and responsibly sourced and lovingly cooked up, once I realised what kind of cake my life had been lacking for, well…. ever!
Ok, let’s drop the metaphors for a moment. I think what I’m trying to to say is, for a long, long time, I was basing my value and happiness on the things I could do that weren’t limited by my health, both physical and mental. For example, I can’t run because of limited mobility, but telling people I was walking my way back to health just didn’t feel good enough. Spending a lot of time resting to avoid things that trigger my poor mental (and physical) health, well, it just doesn’t sound very productive. I always feel lacking in some way. I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, drink alcohol for most of 2022 because of medication, but saying I went for a really great breakfast date with my friend just felt lame amidst conversations of wild nights out and instaworthy excursions. I’ve seen friends so scarcely over the past year while watching everybody else, including my own mum, have a social life that would trump that of Kate Moss in her halcyon days.
I didn’t stick to regular baby groups or devote my time to the school’s PTA. I spent half of 2022 unable to even do the school run at all, because I couldn’t lift my son, and definitely not his pushchair out of the car on my own. Not least do both while holding my daughter’s hand. Instead of these things, I spent months trialling hormone replacements and cholesterol lowering medications, to lower my risk of both suicide and heart attack. And when the most exciting thing you did all year was stay overnight in a Mollies Diner with your six year old…. Well, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘I partied with my girlfriends on a hen do in Ibiza’ or ‘I took the family to Lapland for Christmas’ (Though Lapland is 100% on my bucket list)
That said, the ingredients I ended up finding and mixing for my own special 2022 cake, are worth sharing. They’re worth sharing because they’ve kept me alive, but not only that, they’ve actually made me pretty happy.
So here’s a list of that extra special ‘cake’ recipe I discovered during 2022.
Therapy is something I talk about a lot so won’t dwell on too much here… but it was previously something I had determinedly avoided really seeing through – that is until this year. I’ll say, one last time that I recommend everybody have a course of good quality therapy at least once in their lifetime. It really is life changing.
Liking myself was a close second in non negotiable ingredients for the perfect slice of life cake. Once I’d completed therapy and the shock of reliving past trauma had passed, I got serious about cutting myself some slack. All of the things I mentioned above that had me feeling lacking, were more a result of me just not really being okay with who I was and how my life had turned out. I didn’t do anything special to help like myself better, I just tried (and continue to try) to make sure that everything I do, I do with integrity. I’ve stopped doing things that leave me feeling bitter and agreeing to things I know I don’t really want to do. I could list many changes but the bottom line is self compassion.
Acceptance is the hardest one. It’s an ingredient I thought I would never be able to find and keep. I’ve spent a life time pretending I don’t care about situations I’ve been in, pretending to have accepted something unchangeable, but then remaining tightly wound and seething inside. Learning to really accept things for exactly as they are – is not easy, but once you master it – or in the case of the metaphorical cake – add a dash of it – it tastes great!
Quality time with the people I love. Real, meaningful, wholesome time. Conversations I’ll remember forever because I was present and listening. Being a reciprocating participant instead of being someone who shows up at surface level.
When I look back at this list of ‘ingredients’ I know that by following the ‘cooking guidelines’ consistently, that happiness can be found in a big ol’ slice of this cake.