Welcome back to my blog! It has been a LONG time since I sat down and started writing. The last few months have been chaotic, I’ve been so busy! Being totally honest with you here, I blog because I love it, not for any other reason. I’m not going to force myself to sit down and write average posts about things I don’t really care about just for the sake of having something to post online.
With that in mind, despite my lack of motivation, I have really missed blogging. I love writing and I love interacting with you guys. Maybe the New Year has triggered something but I am all of a sudden feeling extremely motivated with loads of ideas of things I want to write about swimming round my head.
I thought a good post to get back into blogging would be to do a little review of 2018. I do realise it’s been nearly two weeks since New Year (where is time going?!), but I love reading posts like this and I’d love to look back on it in the future to remember everything that happened in 2018.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or follow me on Twitter, then you will probably know that 2018 was a tough old year for me. I got very unwell with extreme anxiety towards the end of 2017, and so this year for me was focused on the frustratingly slow process of recovery. If you want to know a bit more about my anxiety then I will leave a link to a post about that HERE. This time last year I was unable to drive (I struggled even being a passenger in the car), I couldn’t leave the house, I was having panic attacks even walking five minutes away from home, and the medication I had just started taking was giving me horrible side effects. To put it bluntly, life was pretty crap.
In January, I was really working on being able to leave the house and even just walking down to the village with my parents or sister was a really big deal. Driving was causing me to have horrible panic attacks and so I was trying to practice driving round the block every day to prevent myself from getting a full on phobia of driving. Unfortunately on one of these trips, a van drove into the back of my stationary vehicle, giving me a terrible shock and writing off my beautiful car. Fortunately neither of us were badly injured, and I just want to take a minute to appreciate how wonderful the paramedics and police were. They were so understanding of my anxiety and were so kind to me, I don’t think they will ever understand how much I appreciated that. I then started a loooooong process of trying to sort out insurance, I do not want to go through that process again any time soon!
My auntie came to stay in January which was so lovely. I used to be so close to her when I was little but we drifted apart as we moved away from each other and I grew up. She was so kind and we went on a lot of walks together with her dog. Since then she has messaged me every single evening before she goes to bed to check in with me and we’re now closer than we have ever been. I appreciate her kindness and effort so so much, I know how lucky I am to have her in my life.
February was a BIG month for me anxiety wise. Two of my friends came to see me and as I watched them chatting with their children, I realised how much of my independence I had lost and how badly I wanted it back and to be like them. That afternoon I asked my mum if we could go for a walk at a National Trust place which is 7 miles away from my house. This was the furthest away from home I had been since November and was the real start of me starting to recover. That week I also went into town for the first time in four months and went to the cinema; it was the first time since becoming ill that I started to feel some sense of normality.
My sister also turned 21 in February, and due to my growing confidence we were able to go away to CenterParcs for the weekend. I did find this really challenging and did have bad panic attacks (as well as being absolutely exhausted!), but I took being able to go away as a sign that I could start to get my life back and wasn’t just trapped at home.
March was a notable month because I started blogging again! I originally started my blog in February 2015 but I had fallen out of the habit of writing and stopped completely when I started teaching. My blog really gave me a sense of purpose at this time; I was finding it really difficult not being well enough to work and blogging gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I admittedly haven’t been the best at being consistent with it, but that’s something that will hopefully change in 2019!
In April I turned 23, a day that was mixed with happiness and sadness. My incredible friends had organised a surprise afternoon tea for me; I had only been expecting to go with my mum and two friends, so it was such a lovely surprise when I arrived and they were all waiting for me. It made me feel so loved that my friends had gone to the effort of all coming back home (they’ve mostly all moved away from home now) and the fact that I could go into town and enjoy myself was a huge step forward for my anxiety. However, my birthday was also tinted with sadness; there were so many goals I had hoped to have reached by the time I was 23 and I felt heartbroken that my anxiety had prevented so many of them from happening.
My family and I also went on holiday to Norfolk in April. Again, being away from home was a huge achievement, and while I found it difficult, I did feel that normality was beginning to return to my life.
In May, a friend suggested that I see a hypnotherapist that she had been to before. I decided to give it a try; although I was seeing a psychiatrist regularly, his role was more to manage my medication and recovery rather than provide therapy. At this stage I was feeling too anxious to go and have conventional therapy sessions where I would need to talk, so the hypnotherapist was a good alternative as I was in a state of relaxation which didn’t require me to talk. She didn’t provide me with the miracle cure I had been optimistically hoping for, but I really do believe that she helped me by increasing my confidence and making me feel that I COULD do things that I wanted.
In June, I was continuing to try and challenge myself by getting out the house, seeing friends and I really concentrated on practising driving. Not only did driving trigger my anxiety, but my car accident in January caused me to get frightened when I had cars behind me, especially if they were on my tail. My dad (bless him) would take me out in the car every single evening and we’d practice doing routes over and over again. Driving was also a theme of June because I finally got a new car! It had taken until then to get my insurance sorted out and received the money, and so, while not quite as beautiful as my first car, I was very excited to have my own car again.
At this point in the year I also decided to have 8 inches of my hair cut off! I’d already had a few inches cut off in April, but having such long hair just reminded me of being so ill at the end of 2017 so I decided to just chop it off!
Another highlight of June was going to one of the University of Cambridge’s May Balls. I did my teacher training at Cambridge so one of my best friends and I could get tickets as alumni and I got a guest ticket for my other best friend. When I’d bought the tickets in January it had seemed like a far-fetched dream that I would be able to go, so as I got my makeup done and put my dress on, it all felt a bit surreal. I had the best night, it was challenging but I had such a lovely time with my two best girls.
July was mainly spent hanging out with friends and my sister in the gorgeous heatwave we had. I was becoming a lot more independent; by now I could get the train into town by myself and meet my sister for coffees. I also managed to drive myself to a friend’s BBQ independently; everyone was so surprised I’d managed to come on my own and I felt so proud of myself and like I could do anything!
In August I went on holiday to Southwold with my parents and sister. I still can’t go on dual carriageways or motorways even as a passenger, so we had to find somewhere we could get to on back roads (although it did take 5 hours, I think I’d have been in much more of a state if I’d known that when we set off!). My anxiety was still difficult to manage on this holiday, but I did actually enjoy being away and it made me determined to get myself better so I could continue to live my life to the full and make amazing memories.
It was on this holiday that I decided to give the Thrive Programme another go. If you’ve read my anxiety story then you will know that my anxiety all revolves around severe emetophobia, which is a phobia of being sick. I’ll leave a link to the Thrive website HERE. Thrive is a programme which basically gets people living their best life – thriving! The guy that developed it has a particular interest in emetophobia and so he created a Thrive Programme specifically for people with emetophobia, which he says is the only proven cure. I got in touch with one of the Thrive consultants and she very kindly agreed that we could do our sessions over Skype, as I still didn’t feel that my anxiety would allow for me to see her in person. I completely dedicated myself to Thrive, I worked so hard every week and along with the consultant’s support, I improved drastically. It really, truly has given me my life back. I still would not say that I’m over my emetophobia, but I am continuing to work at the Thrive and hopefully one day I will be able to say that I no longer have emetophobia. (If you would like me to do a post where I talk about this in a bit more detail then let me know!)
Due to the Thrive Programme aiding my recovery, September was a BIG month for me. I had arranged to meet my sister in town for brunch, but when I went to get the train it was delayed, meaning that I would miss her lunch hour. I eyed up my car, took a deep breath, got in and drove to town by myself for the first time in 10 months! I was terrified but SO proud of myself. This marked the start of me having a lot more independence as I no longer had to rely on lifts every time I wanted to go somewhere.
September was also a huge month for me because I got a job! I’d been too ill to work since November and so this was a HUGE step forward. I got a part time job working at a nursery and I will honestly never be able to express how grateful I am to the staff and manager for how sensitive and understanding they were about my anxiety. If it hadn’t been for them, returning to work would have been a lot more difficult.
At the end of the month I also went to CenterParcs with my sister, my best friend and my sister’s best friend. We’d all been looking forward to it for so long and we had the BEST time. It really hit home how much I had improved when I compared this trip to the last time I had been with my family in February. I honestly get a bit emotional every time I think about that weekend because it was the first time I had actually felt properly happy in well over a year. I will cherish that weekend (and my wonderful, understanding friends) forever.
October was quite an uneventful month, I carried on plodding along with work, going into town and seeing friends. I also looked after a friend’s dogs for the week and I loved having them so much, I adored taking them for walks and cuddling up on the sofa in front of a film in the evening. I cannot wait until I can have my own dog when I’ve moved out and have settled down a bit!
My confidence with driving was continuing to increase, and in November I drove in the dark for the first time in a year. It was scary but I coped and this again increased my independence so much! I can now pop into town to see friends in the evenings without having to worry about train times or bothering my parents.
November was also a bit hard for me as my sister went off travelling in Australia and New Zealand. We have both been to New Zealand a few times before as we have family there, but it’s always been my dream to go back in their summer and for a longer period of time, as well as going to Australia for the first time. My sister was very sensitive about it and I know the last thing she wanted to do was upset me, but it was so hard to watch her go and do everything that I so desperately want to do. I’m so happy that she’s had an amazing time though, if nothing else my illness has shown me that you should live every day fulfilling your dreams while you are able to and I would be devastated if she hadn’t gone purely for the sake of not upsetting me.
At this point I also realised that working at the nursery just wasn’t the right thing for me at the moment. I loved working there and really enjoyed working with the children, but with my emetophobia and fear of germs and sickness, I was just finding the whole thing very difficult so I made the hard decision that I should maybe leave childcare until I have more control of my anxiety. I got a job working on a makeup counter which I have absolutely loved; I am definitely interested in pursuing a career in beauty and makeup as a result.
December marked the end of a very difficult but remarkable year. My sister was in New Zealand, and with all the memories of being so unwell last year I decided that I didn’t want to be at home for Christmas, so my parents and I went away and stayed in a little cottage in Norfolk. We had the most magical time and it was a chance to reflect on how far I have come this year. I have so many hopes and goals for 2019; I have no idea what my life is going to be like or what I’ll be doing this time next year, but I can’t wait to find out.
Thank you for coming along on this journey with me, I value each and every person who reads my blog and interacts with me on social media more than you will ever know.