What a year it was.
I love a good year in review whether it’s from taking a look at my images from the previous year or whatever Facebook or Instagram curates for me, I enjoy that moment of reflection. 2017 was a mixed bag, both the greatest and worst year yet if I’m being honest with myself.
Looking at my Instagram best in nine roundup, it’s clear to see that this year was surrounded by love. Matthew and I tied the knot in August and had the #bestdayever. We were surrounded by our close friends and family and thinking about that day now a smile automatically comes across my face. The wedding and the honeymoon that followed were definitely the highlights of the year for me and speaking for Matthew.. him too!
But 2017 was also a very challenging year. I think it’s a bit serendipitous that the centre image in the best in nine is a picture that I shared about my back pain as that was the yin to this year’s yang.
While I opened up a bit about the experience with my back before, I guarded just how much I shared. There were a number of times when I was feeling low that I started to write but then I kept myself from sharing because I didn’t think it was worth it.
Over the past few months, while my pain has subsided I’ve thought about how I should try to open up more moving forward. When I was in the thick of it I searched for others experiences, craving the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. It was a tough time and my pain went well beyond the physical.
For some reason when I’ve talked about my experience with chronic pain I’ve been inclined to separate it into two distinct categories: back pain and mental health. Now, when I look back on the experience, it’s so clear that holistically I was in pain, suffering, unwell… I’m not sure what term to use but essentially, I wasn’t doing well. When I’ve discussed my experience, I’ve talked about how the back pain led to depression.
Depression. That was a new one for me. I spent a good few months of 2017 stuck in pain and swimming in sadness which was something I had never experienced before.
I’ve dealt with the side effects of a bad back since I was 14. And since then, every time something has flared up it’s been worse than the time before. I can’t have that happen again. I know that I can get passed it, I know that I’ll survive but I want to do what I can now to avoid the next one. Or, when a bad spell comes around again because it no doubt will, I want it to be manageable. I want to be able to walk. I want to be able to made myself toast or get myself a glass of water.
This time, the pain was a different feeling. Like many people, I tried to hide just how bad my pain was and how poorly I felt. I became reclusive which was easy because I could blame my back for that. I found myself in a vicious circle. My nerve pain keeping me from doing things, not doing things made me feel terribly sad for myself, feeling down and out made me not want to do things and the pain made it certain that I wouldn’t. It was a struggle.
Before this experience this year, I was more or less able to keep a positive outlook. I always say, “if this is the worst thing I have going for me, I’m pretty lucky. Everyone has something they are struggling with.” It’s true, and I believe it. I’m so grateful for my family and my workplace for being so understanding and supportive. For allowing me to take the time I needed and helping me get back to myself – though not necessarily my old self. An experience like this changes you and it’s forever changed my outlook. I catch myself smiling as I make myself tea or walk down the street just because I’m able to do that again and secondly, I’m able to do it with no pain.
While I’m smiling now, I was crying a lot this spring/summer. Daily. Multiple times a day even. I would try to hide it from Matthew as best I could. Taking a shower while he slept so I could try to sob out my frustrations before facing the day. Even during my most difficult days, I tried to remind myself how lucky I was and what I was grateful for but, that more times than not made me feel like an asshole for feeling sorry for myself. Another vicious circle.
Now I sit here asking myself why am I writing this? It’s time I suppose and the New Year is a time for reflection. As I said, I tried to write on those rough days but something always held me back. The fear of things being too raw, the fear of letting people get a glimpse of how I was really feeling. But now while I’m on the other side of chronic pain, at least for now, and I have a desire to share and acknowledge the experience.
In the thick of it, I felt very alone. Even while I had Matthew and my parents close to me, I feared them knowing everything because I saw the pain that my pain was causing them. I turned to Facebook groups and hashtags like #spoonie with people sharing their experiences. I found comfort in reading about other people and their experiences. Knowing that I wasn’t alone, that people experienced similar things. So, I’m also writing this for my friends and strangers who are on their own journey with pain. To let you know that I’m here for you and cheering for you. You are strong. Tackle your day and celebrate your wins. And if you need an ear or a shoulder, I’m here.
At the moment, I’m feeling stronger than ever in a holistic sense. I’m writing this for me. for the next time, this life-long rollercoaster I’m on decides to take a dip and throw me for a roll. I’m writing this as a memory. To remind me that next time, let people in. Don’t be afraid to be a burden. Those who love you will be there and will help you. If it’s just sitting with you while you cry or helping to make you dinner, fetching you a glass of water. Keeping you motivated and communicating.
What 2018 has in store for me is unknown and I’m ok with that.