Saturday, 31 December 2016

Waiting For A Light That Never Comes

Well, 2016… What a year it’s been!

It’s only just occurred to me that it is in fact exactly a year ago to the day that I published my last post, so I thought I’d break the prolonged AWOL and with a hint of optimism attempt to write a brief few paragraphs. So, without further ado! (Please excuse the lack of formatting/images).


It really has been a strange one, on so many different levels. I think I’ll keep this post purely anecdotal, otherwise I fear it may take me a large proportion of the upcoming 365 days to summarise but a few of the major global events of this past year.

Personally, 2016 has been arguably my toughest year to date, but with those seemingly never-ending challenges have come a multitude of experiences from which I have been fortunate enough to learn about myself, people, life and to grow from, for which I am immensely thankful. Given the possibility (most probably by Doc Emmett Brown in a souped-up DeLorean, I’d presume), I wouldn’t change one single second of 2016, despite having endured its unrelenting hardships.

Well, actually, come to think of it… Maybe there are a few things I’d change, but I won’t get started on my manic spending sprees, or the summer romance that could have been.

As this year draws to a close, for my own closure, I firstly need to express my infinite love and gratitude for those family members and close friends who have stuck by me through even the toughest of times, because I hate to imagine where I would be now without their continued love and support. There’s no need to refer to anyone by name – apart from my dear Mummy, of course – because you know who you are, and that’s all that matters. Thank you <3

Okay… maybe you too, Sebbie ;)

And secondly, I thought I’d attempt to summarise exactly what has been going on with me since I last posted. So, with the aid of my Instagram feed and a few forgotten-about drafts, here goes nothing!

The New Year itself did bring a renewed sense of optimism, alas the effect was short-lived and so in only a matter of weeks I continued mostly with where 2015 left off – namely, incapacitating pain from a mysterious undiagnosed chronic illness, with more invasive tests to follow, and in essence a complete physical shutdown.

I continued to attempt to live life as before, as a normal, healthy sixth form student and young working adult, but of course, eventually something had to give. By the spring term, with mocks and finals fast approaching, I wasn’t really making it to many lessons and think it’s fair to say that I was heading for rock bottom. As is the case with quite a few of the situations I’ve found myself in this year, it’s only looking back now that I realise how difficult things really were, and question just how I/we (as a family) managed to get through it.

Fast-forward to the end of March/early April, having lost around 16kg, experiencing rather quite peculiar hypoglycaemic episodes and frankly physically struggling to get out of bed, a planned appointment for a few further advanced blood tests turned into a rather quite unpleasant two-week stint as an inpatient, broken only by a few days of discharge when it appeared that things were on the up. Unfortunately that appeared not to be the case, and so it was that I was referred to a handful of so-called ‘specialist’ consultants at another hospital, in addition to being prescribed steroids and other emergency meds for fear of experiencing another episode not too dissimilar to that of adrenal crisis.

Although there is more to this experience than first meets the eye, I am again nonetheless perpetually indebted to my immediate family, but also to the incredible nursing staff and consulting team who looked after me over this period. It wasn’t the easiest of times, but they did everything within their power to make it as comfortable a stay as possible, and I’m grateful, even, to be able to call a few of the team my friends. After all, it would be rude not to having stayed up all night talking to the night-shift staff and then, let us say, developing my sense of humour during the daytime.

For a little while after that, my chronic bowel issues seemed to markedly reduce in severity, and I seemed to be returning to my old self, but unfortunately this too was not meant to last. By this time I had begun sitting my A2 exams and I think it’s fair to say that no one, including myself, held out much hope of me being awarded the grades I had been predicted, but more importantly needed in order to accept my conditional offer to study Physics at the University of Bath.

As is probably quite obvious, I opted against living away from home this year, however by August it was revealed that I did somehow miraculously manage to exceed expectations and come away with A*A*A! To this day, I have absolutely no idea how that happened. Seriously.

Now, normally, in the absence of all that other drama, you would have thought anyone would be ecstatic to see those grades on their results sheet. I’ve thought about writing this chapter of the episode for a while now, and it really does sadden me to say that by this point I no longer felt anything at all. No excitement, no relief, nothing. I didn’t feel anything inside. I couldn’t, even. I just felt empty, and had done so since my 18th birthday, which also happened to coincide with my very last exam. I have to be honest, by this point I had lost all interest and enjoyment in everything, and I didn’t know why.

It’s a funny phrase, mental illness… One of those things you don’t understand until you’ve experienced it first-hand. Certainly, in my case anyway, I was absolutely oblivious before being diagnosed and treated for low mood, anxiety and depression. And I think that’s wrong. Don’t hear me wrong, there has been a big push for awareness in recently years – 2016 especially – however I think more should be done to educate people from a young age in order to aid them in noticing the signs sooner and better understand the condition so that strategies that are known to work can be put implemented. And that’s one of the big things I’ve learned this year – you can throw a tablet at something/someone, but unless you treat the person as a whole, looking at the cause instead of the symptom, their problems will never cease.

Of course, alongside this new challenge, I still had no answers for physical troubles, and so exasperated, with the help of my guardian angel Mummy, I did the only thing possible and decided to take control of my own health. I came off all unnecessary tablets and re-evaluated my diet. Simple as that! Forget the further inconclusive investigations, and honorary consultants telling me my physical problems were all due to my mental health, this was on our terms now.

At first, naturally, the uncertainty only served to heighten our anxieties, however over time the remarkable improvement in my health was enough to put those worries to the back of our minds. If I remember correctly, I think it was something in the order of 14kg that I regained in a matter of weeks. Crazy, right?! And although some days are still better than others, which is just something I’ve had to accept and am now trying to learn to live with, the gross reduction in physical pain and other very real symptoms is quite extraordinary.

My secret? Although it may work for some and not others – the key being to tailor it to suit your needs – cutting out foods I am known to have a bad reaction to, including wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, garlic, sesame, meat, anything from concentrate and/or not in its natural form, opting for a more wholefoods, plant-based, lifestyle has had an insanely profound impact upon my health and wellbeing.

Forever in search of that silver lining, this side of things has opened me up to a whole new world and community that I would otherwise possibly never discovered. It’s really quite remarkable just how many other people there out there who have had similar problems and turned to diet in order to solve, or at least improve, them. I could name so may, and I’m incredibly thankful to each and every one of them for sharing their stories and giving me the confidence to pursue the only variable within my control. These people are so compassionate and inspiring, you have no idea.

Also, whilst on the topic of food, to nip a common misconception in the bud, without labelling one type of diet or another, it is actually mind-blowing just how creative these supposed ‘restrictive’ lifestyles are. I can honestly say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this part of the process, and if you follow me on Instagram then I think you will be able to understand why.

So, where are we now, I hear you ask? Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, 2016, and I am not long going to be leaving to see friends for a little while before coming back home to play games and see the New Year in with my family. I may have mentioned it already, maybe not, but I just wanted to thank my friends and family once again for their patience and unrelenting support this year, for I know it’s not been easy.

Come almost as a culmination of everything I have experienced over the past couple of years, I am now in fact being treated for mild bipolar disorder, however I am determined to stay off medication and continue building those foundations in order to get myself better. I fell a long way this year, but it really does work both ways. I can truly say that I’m excited to see what next year will bring, so much so that I’ve already got a few plans for summer ’17. And please do keep an eye out for our newly-formed band, @BLOODBROTHER_UK… Exciting things to come!

Stay balanced, keep smiling, and always be receptive to those mystic ‘Angel Numbers.’ I had an absolutely brilliant Christmas with my Mum’s family, I have to say! Never stop dancing, and I wish you a very happy New Year.

Although it isn’t always up, let’s hope 2017 is another step in the right direction!

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