(Not) 2022 In Review

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.

🥳 Happy New Year 🥳

To my friends (and family) who don’t have fibromyalgia.

Hey,

Thanks for being you, for listening, watching, reading and learning about my condition whilst riding this wave with me. I know it’s been years now. I know it ‘gets old’ boring even, to hear me talk about it ALL. THE. TIME. Part of me is sorry, though I’m not sure I’ll ever stop, because the thing is…. I’ll always have this condition now.

A few people have dropped off along the way, stopped asking, stopped listening, stopped sympathising, I’m learning to be ok with that. I have to be. Yes it hurts my feelings, even when I don’t tell you it does, and when I do.

It hurts my feelings when you ignore the honesty of my illness related posts, and only engage in the cute pictures of my kid. It hurts my feelings when you ask me how I am and I’m honest about how I’ve been feeling and you don’t reply. But, I do think about how hard it is to be around me sometimes, how difficult it can be to know what to say. With that in mind, I’m grateful if you’re still here, even when it might seem like I’m not grateful for anything.

You see, this illness makes me irritable, I get angry with my body, often. On some days, better days I might seem totally ‘normal’ I might even resemble ‘the old me’ but please know, that I am never not thinking about how this illness impacts my life. I am never not considering how activities like having fun with you today, might affect me tomorrow or days later, for days, sometimes weeks after the event.

I still want to do all of the fun things you suggest and sometimes I’m able to, but there will be days when I need to cancel last minute. There will be times when we are out together that you might roll your eyes because I can’t walk back up the hill we just descended, or I can’t come and dance with you when our song comes on. I’m rolling my eyes at me too. I’m annoyed at my body too. What I can promise you, I’m not doing though, is faking it. There is never a time that I want sympathy more than I want to have fun. Believe me when I tell you that, because it’s important you understand, this illness is real. It’s also interchangeable, it’s sporadic. It could be down to the last minute that I am living it up and having the best time then crashing in bed for days afterwards. This is partly why I’ve pulled back from making plans. Pulled back from committing to things. This is why I’ve not reached out to ask if you want to do anything for ages, because I fear that if I do, and then I become suddenly unable, that you will think I’m flakey. You might start to resent me, and drop off the radar with the rest of the people that couldn’t fix me.

I am not broken, not entirely, I’m just bent, learning to live again (almost a quote from a P!nk song there) Please know that I still want to be included in your plans and I still want to include you in mine. I just can’t assure you I’ll always be able to fulfil them. Just know, when I make them, it’s always with the best intentions. I’m trying, all the time, new ways to manage this condition. I’m always trying, to be better, to do better, to make better choices that will benefit me and ultimately our relationship in the long run, even when you might not think I am.

I wish I could go back in time and do more things with you before I got sick, but sadly time travelling isn’t a side effect of chronic illness. Though it’s hard for you to see me like this, though I’m hard to be around sometimes, I am a better, more compassionate and caring friend because of my illness. Of that, I am certain.

If in the past I’ve rolled my eyes at your struggles, I’m truly sorry. If I seem lacking or caught up in my own life, I’m sorry for that too, because I do care. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the solutions – but I still care. More compassionately and with more integrity than I’ve ever cared before.

If you’re still here – thank you and if you’re not, I understand. Letting go is something I’ve had to get used to, and it’s something I’m trying to do without resentment. We all have to look after ourselves and sometimes that includes making changes and protecting ourselves from negativity, including negative people, and whilst I do feel like I am a good and loyal friend, I’m fully aware I’m not always a positive one. Like life itself – It’s a work in progress. And I’m forever trying to be better than I was yesterday.

Love, me X