Sitting here now, reflecting on the year just gone, I really want to tell you that 2017 was every bit as wonderful as it appeared to be. I want to tell you that every snapshot we shared was a true reflection of our lives, that every beaming smile, every family photo, every moment where we appeared to be having the time of our lives, was completely real.
And yet I think should I sit here and tell you that, I’d be lying.
Because although our year has been filled with so many wonderful moments, it has been filled with so many terrible ones too. The truth is that behind those happy holidays and perfect family photos, I’ve been going through hell with an on-going battle with my health, one I’m certain which many assumed I had long overcome.
The reality of our lives isn’t that which you see on social media. The snippets I share are carefully edited, meticulously arranged, selected purely to look back on and remember the smiles, the laughter and the memories we made. And there’s nothing wrong with that, we all do it, but it’s not a true reflection of our year, not by any means.
My reality has been the hospital, sometimes two, three, four times a week, the long list of doctors and specialists I have frequented – neurologists, gynaecologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, stomach doctors, liver doctors, orthopaedic surgeons, sleep specialists and a whole team of physiotherapy.
My reality has been repeated procedures, a gastroscopy, hysteroscopy, x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI’s, biopsies and bloods. It’s been a barrage of back procedures, epidurals, cortisone injections, flailing around in hydrotherapy, gritting my teeth through acupuncture, limping to and from appointments.
My reality has been the cocktail of drugs I take each day, sixteen tablets just to function, each with their own side effects, none providing a miracle cure. My reality has been waking in pain, going to bed in pain, bone achingly tired but unable to sleep, wishing that I could wake up feeling like the old me, my diary clear of appointments, my thoughts free of worry.
My reality has been crying in carparks and doctors surgeries, holding my breath as I wait on more test results, terrified every time my phone rings or a letter lands on my doorstep. My reality has been feeling torn between wanting to read up as much as I can on an illness I don’t yet understand, but being terrified of the answers.
And yet with every bad day, and every appointment, I have returned home and left my fears, and my tears, at the front door. I have plastered on a smile, held the children in my arms, and protected them from a single moment of worry or upset, even when I’ve been falling apart inside.
And it’s been tough, I can’t pretend otherwise, even more so when I haven’t felt able to share this with the majority of people in our lives. I think if the last three years has taught me anything it’s that other people find it incredibly difficult to be supportive of an illness which they don’t understand and physically can’t see.
And I get that, I struggle with it too, and for that reason I simply gloss over my reality to those around me, make light of my ailments, act oblivious when they roll their eyes at the first mention of hospitals, laugh along at my own expense, shrug when they ask me, “So what exactly is wrong with you??”.
Sometimes it’s easier to just keep pretending, even to those I am closest too.
And I don’t tell you any of this for sympathy, I tell you because I want you all to know that there are parts of my life which I am unable to share for the sake of my children, for a 13 year old Lewis who is more than capable of reading my blog and taking on those worries and fears as his own. I tell you this because I want you to know that, as a Mother, I will do my utmost to protect my children from the thoughts which keep me awake at night, from a year of uncertainty and upset, from questions I’m really not sure I have the answers to.
I tell you this because I want to publicly thank those who have supported me this year – my parents who have dropped everything to be there for the children during my many appointments, my friends who never question when I have to cancel our plans or haven’t been up to answering my phone, who send me love and kind thoughts, support and understanding, who remind me that even when they are far away, they are never far from my side. And Gaz, who has been so positive, even when I have not, and who has fought to keep our lives as normal as possible, even on the days I have wanted to hide away from the rest of the world.
In that way, I have been incredibly lucky.
And I guess you’re thinking, why now? Why share this with you as the year is about to end? Well the good news is that, after months of worry, my latest brain scan has come back with no progressive changes since the last scan. I’ve been discharged from several of the specialists I’ve been under this year, have plans in place for my back, to build up my strength, and to regain my health both mentally and physically.
Whatever “this” is which has attacked my nervous system over the last three years, may not have a name, or even a cure, but the fact that all major tests have come back negative is, in simple terms, the very best we could have hoped for.
I’ve learned so much about myself this year, about how strong I can be when necessary, how resilient I have become with time, and how a mothers instinct to protect her children is truly immeasurable. I’ve learned that there is no shame in breaking down, sharing your fears, leaning on others, and accepting that it’s okay not to be okay.
And I think my proudest achievement this year is that regardless of how tough my year has been, I still gave my children the most wonderful year possible. If I achieve nothing else this coming year, I will strive to do exactly the same.
There’s a quote I love which I remind myself of daily,
“On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possible endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good.”
So as we wave goodbye to 2017 and welcome in the New Year, I shall be counting myself lucky to be surrounded by the most wonderful family and friends, to have the support of all of you who read my blog, and to be sat here, feeling positive, ready to face another year where anything is possible.