Letter To Myself: On 2014

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Hey there, chick.

So it’s December, and at the closing of a year we like to do that thing where we reflect on what we have done, the achievements we have made, all the awesome stuff we did in 2014. You know the thing. Everyone does it.

But the thing is, 2014 wasn’t an awesome year. It wasn’t even quarter to an awesome year. It was downright miserable.

I know you had all these plans for 2014. You were going to start your PhD, you had been offered a scholarship that only 10 other university students received. You were going to present your research findings at a big interstate conference. After all these years of struggling you were finally making some money. You were going to have a baby. Or at least have fun trying. You were going to look at building a house. Everything seemed to be going right. 2014 was going to be your year.

Well, that didn’t happen.

I know that you look back, and you try, but you can’t see anything particularly positive about 2014. I mean, yeah, you’re alive. And yeah, the rest of your family is healthy. But everyone around you seems to be going on fancy holidays (or even unfancy holidays), building houses, having babies, getting promotions, actually being able to eat out at new restaurants without having to come home to barf. Living their lives, basically. And you’re sitting here now, typing in bed, with a fever, a queasy stomach, and a new script for Lithium, just like you have been for the past 11 months.

But you see, I think you’re looking at it all wrong.

Yeah. It was a shit year. But that doesn’t mean it was wasted.

You see, you learned a lot this year. You learned how to treat your body and your mind, and what happens if you ignore your health. You learned to put yourself first. You learned what changes are necessary for recovery. You learned what you are allergic to. You learned what medication and treatments work for you – and which ones don’t. You learned about your diagnoses. You learned the value of health. You learned who your true supporters are. You learned that your marriage can make it through the toughest of times, and you can still laugh together. You learned how resilient and strong your son is. You learned that stigma is still ever present, and this fuelled your passion to pursue stigma reduction research . But most importantly, you learned that YOU CAN DO IT. You can get through it. You can survive. Because you did.

You’ve come a long way, baby. Less than six months ago you were in a locked ward, periodically being shocked (as in electroshocked…although I’m sure you witnessed various shocking events as well. Actually, looking back. YOU were probably the one instigating the shocking events) and medicated. You were hallucinating. You couldn’t keep down, like, ANYTHING. You were being fed cans of formula. Dude, you could barely even walk. You were so sick.

And now, look! You can walk. You’re even exercising. You’ve withdrawn from fifteen of the seventeen medications that you were put on – a feat which is pretty damn amazing in so little time. Yeah, you have the odd vomit attack, but you can eat a whole lot more than cans of formula, chicken and rice. You’ve lost nearly 6kgs of your medication weight gain in the last three weeks.

And as for the other stuff…chill. You’ll get there. Stop trying to DO everything and BE everything when you’re barely out of hospital and still dealing with chronic illness. Give yourself a little breathing room.

The house? It will happen. You know you are an expert at making things happen. It will just take more time than expected. The baby? Relax! You’re 28 years old, the biological clock does not have to start ticking yet. So what if your kids have a big age gap? That’s life. And it totally saves on daycare fees (and quite possibly, sanity). The PhD? You’ll go back in January and it will work out or it won’t. If it doesn’t, if you are too unwell, you can ALWAYS go back to it in a few years time. You could work somewhere. Or you could become an awesome stay at home mum. It’ll work out. And however it works out will be for the best.

So cut yourself some slack. It was a crap year for sure. But you have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and are ready to try again. And that perseverance, that determination, that positive attitude that I know you have at least SOME of the time. That’s what counts.

Life isn’t a competition, and it isn’t a race. You’ll get there, chick. It’s just been one helluva set back. But don’t forget –  EVERYBODY has their struggles.

2014 isn’t a year that should be commiserated. 2014 is a year that should be celebrated. Because you did it. We all did.


H

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