Sunday, 5 August 2018

Anniversary: five years on from hospital...

I will start this post with the same preface as the last three years "I have just written a 'status update' on my personal Facebook page to my friends and it occurred to me that I also want to say thank you to all of YOU. So I'm going to paste in what I wrote word-for-word on here. 

This isn't something I thought I would ever feel comfortable doing. I try to keep Life In Recovery and my personal life reasonably separate. Not because I am ashamed of the blog but because I think it works better if I don't use this as a platform to air my private life and that I use my past and present experiences in a constructive way to help others who may be struggling. That won't be changing.Keeping this blog, creating videos and posting little (or a lotta) bits on Twitter has been an absolutely wonderful experience. I hope to continue the work I have only just started and love interacting and discovering all of you 'out there.' This is why I felt it was relevant to post the message I sent to my friends and family to you all as well."

For the full effect (and for the new readers amongst you) you can read my first year anniversary post here, my second here, my third year here and my fourth year here.

It’s that time of year again – my unedited-stream-of-consciousness-brain-heart-soul-dump-thing to mark the anniversary of me leaving hospital. Yes, it’s 5th August and FIVE YEARS since being discharged. This anniversary post will probably be my last – those of you who have been subjected to five years of these will no doubt be relieved! I just feel that now is a good time to stop. I will always mark today in a small way, but I don’t feel the need to publicly prove how far I’ve come or keep a running reminder of so many years unwell now that I have moved so far forward in life. However, I do reserve the right to resurrect these in the future!! So…here goes…

I recently found some videos taken while in my last hospital. Two of me on a treadmill in a harness with my physiotherapist – getting used to walking and re-training my body. And a few from five years ago exactly: my discharge day – removing my name from my hospital room door and wiping down the whiteboard of my schedule of ward rounds, drug rounds and therapy appointments. I sat and watched myself grin, gurn, grimace and gnash my teeth. I watched me hobble and limp, hurt and labour, be happy and laugh, reach new heights (literally and figuratively) and achieve life goals. And if that’s not an accurate summary of those videos and also the last five years I don’t know what is.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched those videos before. And the overriding feeling was that I knew I was watching me; I remember being in the harness and I remember the day I was discharged, but that person is not the ‘me’ I am today. I barely recognise her – and that can be no bad thing. In last year’s post (or was it the one before..?) I wrote about now being me. Being myself fully. And moving so far from my unwell years that they had become a hazy and distant memory. Those twelve years are now like the mist in the early morning that gets burned off so easily by the first rays of the sun. And the last five years have been so full of sunshine that the mist has all but disappeared – leaving behind the memories, but not having an effect on the enjoyment of the day(s) to come.

In these posts, I like to look back and reflect on the past year and how far I have come. I like to take the opportunity to thank all those who have been with me; by my side, on the phone, in letters, in voice notes, in spirit, in laughter and in tears. Those thanks can never be put into words – and this measly post will never sum up how grateful and lucky I am to have had so much care, support and expertise over the past umpteen years. This year was the year I finally stopped going to hospital appointments, and that was a massive deal. I wrote a little something on Instagram about it – so I won’t repeat myself here. Safe to say it was an emotional day – one that I thought would never come; one that I wasn’t sure I wanted to come; but one that I worked so hard to reach. It meant saying goodbye to the doctor who had spent the last five years with me since my discharge – helping me find my feet (factually and figuratively) and being such an inexhaustible source of support. That was a bittersweet moment. And this year has been full of both the bitter and the sweet. Just as life – a ‘normal’ life, a full life ought to be. I wrote about that last year too I think; that when you live a full life, like a heartbeat – there are ups and downs – but that just shows you are alive. Not flatlining. Not like I had been. Not like I almost did.

This year I could talk about all the mind-blowing things I have done, the achievements that bizarrely keep coming and the over-eager excitement I have for the future. But for me, the most important part of this year – and the one that marks out this year especially – are the people who I have lived my life alongside. The people who I have let in, and who have let me in in return. These people – my friends and family – have made this year lovelier than I could have expected. And lovely is the word. Love-ly. Full of love in all its forms. And as I reach the point in this post where I talk about the thing that means the most – you – this is the point where the tears have come! So, as I sit here, with an old episode of Bake Off to keep me company – with tears streaming down my face – I want to say thank you. This year, despite all the incredible milestones and giant leaps forward in my work/uni/inner and outer life, things have not always been the easiest. There have been hard choices, heartbreak, headaches, hellos and hasta la vistas. I have moved on, moved forward and moved house. There have been tears, triumphs and tests. But through all the ups and downs, the times I thought I was falling to pieces, the “you’re not going to believe this…” and the “I did it” moments, the stresses and the successes - there was always someone to share those times with and always someone who wanted to share their moments with me too. Always someone to call, always someone to come over or visit, always someone to toast with/toast to/hug/laugh with/cry with/cry for. This last year I made a concerted effort to open up, share the bad and not just the good, say “this is me”, say “I like you”, carefully choose who I surround myself with and put a lot of time into my friends – and that has meant that my world has grown and ballooned, rather than narrowed and shrunk. I always thought I would be someone who valued ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’, meaning that I would have a smaller group of people to go through life with – but the quantity of quality I now have amazes me. If you are reading this, it is because you have added some quality to my life. And for that I am blessed. I am excited for the times to come and the lives we will lead. Even if our paths cross or diverge, lead away from each and then back – know that you make a difference to those around you. Know that you can have a positive impact on someone’s life so much more easily and effortlessly than you realise.

As I look back – on five years of healthy life, and twelve years of ill-health – I get flashes of faces, snippets of memories and twinges of pain. I know that there will be things that sometimes ache, things that will never completely heal but that will throb and tingle like old scars are wont to do, but I also know that I will never be beaten, never be alone, never be empty. I will always have the good memories as well as the bad. I will never unlearn the lessons that were taught to me in times of pain and darkness. I will live my life in the light – having known the blackness and never be afraid of the dark. And I will be me. Whether that is me being sad, being silly, being soppy, being sarcastic or being sensationally ecstatic.

Ronan Keating – that poet – sung, “Life is a rollercoaster – just gotta ride it”. But it’s not just about passively riding it. It’s about queuing to get in (waiting patiently or impatiently), measuring yourself up to make sure that this is the ride for you and you won’t fall out of the contraption, strapping yourself in, having your crew sitting beside you and in front of you and behind you – while you all scream and laugh, be afraid and be excited, get nervous and get sick. That’s what life is. It’s about living it out loud; in all it’s stomach-crunching, white-knuckle-inducing, when-will-it-begin, hair-flying, stop-start, loop-de-loop, “I want to get off” moments; it’s “Ooh, look at the view”,  “Actually, this is quite fun” and “Let’s do it again” times. That’s how life is a rollercoaster, and that’s how to ride it.

With love, thanks and countless other emotions

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