New Year’s Resolutions

What is a New Year’s resolution? Is it a goal to eat healthier, keep the house cleaner, spend more time with family?

Oxford Dictionary defines New Year’s resolutions as “a firm decision made on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to do or refrain from doing something over the course of the coming year.”

But I think it’s more than that. It may sound cheesy, but I’ve never made a new years resolution unless it’s really going to mean something, possibly even change my life or give me an amazing experience I would have missed out on otherwise.

For the first time in years, I’ve made a resolution for 2020. My blog, my readers, and my friends & family have inspired me to write a book – a memoir of sorts. Something to raise awareness for something I’ve always believed is worth fighting for… Mental health.

The new year doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people, maybe just a chance to party. But for some, it’s a chance for change. A chance to start over. A chance to either put a crappy year behind them, or celebrate the amazing accomplishments from that year.

My health struggled to the point where I had to resign from a job and company I love this year. That wasn’t so good. But I still feel the need to celebrate this year. For the chance for change and growth. If I still worked in that job, I probably wouldn’t have the goal to write a book next year. I probably wouldn’t have found my passion for writing and sharing peices of myself in the hopes of helping others. I found my true passion this year, and I found hope and strength. To me, that is most definately worth celebrating.

So what did 2019 bring you? Even if it felt like a horrible year, think about the positives, think about what you gained, and spend your New Year’s eve putting the bad behind you, to wake up fresh and ready for change on New Year’s day.

Maybe it’s just like any other day. But you can choose to let it be a symbol, to be a trigger for change.

I have a goal that I’m going to make happen in 2020 – what about you?

The Importance of Mental Health in Chronic Illness

For most people with a chronic illness, there comes with it a care plan that includes multiple specialists. One of these specialists is a psychologist. This makes complete sense, given the toll it takes on the person, body and mind.

However, I hadn’t really been thinking much about it lately, just going along with the flow. Going to each doctors visit and every specialist like a good little patient, without really thinking about what each of them means in my care plan. I hadn’t received the answers I needed from any of them, so I stopped expecting anything from them, and in turn stopped reaping any benefits.

I just kept going to the appointments, adjusting my medications as instructed, doing whatever else they told me, in a numb like zombie state. I thought I had simply accepted my lack of diagnosis and was going on with life, but really I was avoiding feeling that constant frustration, disappointment and guilt.

With my health condition (which may or may not be Lupus) comes many symptoms and many obstacles – the latest being chronic (almost daily) migraines. Even if I don’t have a full blown migraine, I do have some degree of head pain or malaise. If you have never had a migraine, imagine something that caused you horrible pain… Like menstrual cramps or being kicked in the balls (sorry boys.) Now imagine feeling that pain on varying levels daily… It would become kind of hard to think about anything else, right?

That’s what I realised was happening to me as I sat in front of my psychologist after not having seen her for 3 months. I realised in all my effort to look after my physical health, I had actually forgotten something just as important – my mental health.

Now imagine this – I’m sitting in front of a highly experienced clinical psychologist, with 24 years of experience and a PhD. After approximately 40 minutes of her trying to find out what’s been going on in my life and how I’d been feeling, she actually laughed at how difficult it was to get an answer. She was so stumped that she actually laughed, in a very awkward way. I’d once been told many years ago by a different psychologist that getting information from me was like getting blood from a stone. In this moment, I finally understood her frustration.

Now, let me be clear, I wasn’t intentionally being difficult. I’m a very honest person. If I had known how I’d been feeling lately, I most definitely would have shared it with her. But the thing is, I hadn’t thought about it much. When she asked me how I’d been feeling, the only answer that came to mind was physical pain – which wasn’t actually what she was asking about. But when I tried to think about emotions in regards to any situation we had just been talking about, my mind actually went completely blank!

We did get somewhere in the end, she managed to get one emotion out of me and we managed to get to the root of it. All in the last 5 minutes – proving what a skilled doctor she is! But the entire session did actually highlight one major issue to me, and probably to her. That I was not looking after my mental health in the slightest. I was… I AM, so consumed by my physical health, and in my chronic pain, that I completely overlooked my mental health.

That is an incredible mistake – one I’ve never made before. I was genuinely shocked by this revelation.

This highlighted for me the importance of managing your mental health, even while in the midst of a physical health debacle – ESPECIALLY while in the midst of a physical health debacle. Both physical and mental health go hand in hand, and one most certainly can affect the other.

This brings me briefly to the topic of trauma. One would expect trauma to come in the form of a car accident or abuse – but it can also come in the form of an illness. During or after a trauma, people can experience a kind of ‘numbing’ effect (I don’t know the exact clinical term.) This is something I’ve experienced in the past, so I was deeply surprised that I had slipped up and forgotten to focus on something so important.

This is something that should be remembered not only for those suffering from any kind of chronic illness, but also for their loved ones. There is a VERY good reason why psychology plays a part in our care plans, and it’s not something we should be taking a part in just for the sake of it. If you’re going to look after your health, look after ALL of it. If you’re going to check in on someone suffering from a chronic illness, ask them how they’re feeling emotionally also. It may just be the reminder they need.

Our Mistake? We both put him First

I’ve been putting off writing this one. Partly because it’s one of those pivotal moments in life… The moments that you only get a few of, the kind that changes you in literally the most profound way. That’s pretty darn personal! But also because it paints my boyfriend, Aiden, in a negative way. Though let’s be real for a second, he was definitely acting like an ass on this particular day! (Sorry Aiden)

I’ll start with this, before any judgments are made. For months leading up to this event, Aiden had been working insane hours. I mean 7am – 1am kind of hours. He had also experienced the loss of his grandfather. He was stressed, he was exhausted, and what he really needed was a day to just wind down and forget everything else. I, unavoidably and not by choice, almost took that day from him.

It was Anzac Day last year. We both had separate plans. Mine were to catch up with a friend I’d lost touch with, his were to go to the local pub with his best friend, eat, drink, and just relax.

My body had other plans.

We woke up early to take our husky for our usual morning walk. But a few minutes into that walk, I experienced sudden crushing head and chest pain, trouble breathing and debilitating fatigue. In Aiden’s defense I should point out that I am no stranger to pain or illness, so masking it has become quite easy for me, especially when I’m scared. And man, was I scared! However, I think my struggle was still somewhat obvious. Especially when I called a nurses hotline when we arrived home to find out the best course of action. That’s not something I do on any given day for no reason at all, so really should have tipped him off!

I stood on his balcony while he played a game on his phone, and I spoke to a nurse about my symptoms. I explained that I had been experiencing hypertension for the last few months, and then explained what I was feeling right in that moment. She calmly explained to me that I needed to go straight to the nearest emergency department, and that if I had no one to take me, she would organise an ambulance. I cried while talking to her, I very rarely cry. When I got off the phone, I took an extra couple of minutes to calm myself and walk back into Aiden’s room, the mask of composure.

What happened next actually is kind of funny in a ridiculous way. To this day, we do laugh about it.

When I walked back into Aiden’s room, I asked him to take me to hospital. His response wasn’t exactly what you would expect… He told me he had to “take a quick shit first.”

Okay, I’ll roll with this. Let him do his business and then we’ll head to the hospital, no problem! So I calmly got dressed and waited. And waited. And waited. Forty minutes later he came back into the room and asked me how long we’d be at the hospital for and if he could take a shower. At this point I just stared at him. I mean, really?!

He got the hint. No shower. Off to the hospital we go! When we arrived at the ED, I was quickly sent to the fast track section, which Aiden kept pointing out was the ‘it’s all in your head’ section. I swear he just jokes a lot, he’s not actually that much of an asshole… However, on this day, it did get on my nerves. I was sent to that section because I had been in the ED a couple of months before for a similar reason. Basically they just needed to make sure I wasn’t dying of stroke or heart attack, and send me on my way.

Here’s the weird part. As I lay there, getting bloods taken, strapped up to an ECG machine and a blood pressure monitor, I wasn’t thinking of myself at all. I was doing what I was told by going to hospital, but I wasn’t really thinking about me. I was thinking about Aiden. I was worrying, stressing, that I was ruining his day off to relax. The ENTIRE time. That’s insane isn’t it? I’m lying there getting tests done on my heart to check for any abnormalities causing this sudden crushing pain, and I was thinking about him.

I was overwhelmed, and I could see him getting agitated as the time passed. That’s not normal for him, he’s normally so patient and supportive. So that really worried me, and I HATED that I was aggravating his stress.

And then the moment came. The doctor came back and said my blood test to check for heart attack had come back normal. He explained that occasionally that could happen and that sometimes it doesn’t show until some time had passed, and asked if I wanted to test again just in case, in the unlikely event, I was having a heart attack. In my overwhelmed and anxious state, I missed the part about it being unlikely and really didn’t know exactly what he was asking. I was also mostly focused on Aiden as he stood in the corner and looked at the ground. He was pissed off at the situation before I had even answered. I said yes to the blood test anyway, for my own peace of mind. And you know what, he would have done exactly the same if it was his health on the line. I looked to him for help before I answered but he was looking at the ground, thinking about himself. So I made the decision that I knew he would if the roles were reversed.

After the doctor left, I asked Aiden if he was angry, and he said no (bullshit answer.) He then said the one comment that snapped something in me. He said “I do think the 2nd blood test is overkill though.”

… … … … REALLY?!

And that was the moment. I’m VERY patient, I rarely go off at anyone. But in that moment, I did the only thing I could do. I told him to “fuck off.” I told him to fuck off and that I’d call my mum to come get me, and then asked him how much I owed him for parking because I wanted to owe him nothing for that day. I was furious, I was hurt, and I was profoundly changed. I realised in that moment that I was putting the wrong person first.

The funny thing is, Aiden is the one who has been trying to drill into me for years that I need to put my needs before anyone else’s. That no one would look out for me like I could. He’d been trying to instill that in me, and he was the one who’s actions forced me to put that into practice. Since then, I put myself first, and I realise now that it’s not actually selfish to do that… It’s imperative.

As soon as he left the hospital I cried, and the whole next day I continued. A dam had broken. I barely spoke to Aiden for 2 days after, and when I did talk to him I told him he would never ever treat me that way again. That I wouldn’t be forgiving the next time, and that if the roles had been reversed, the situation would have played out VERY differently. I refused to tell him the conclusion of my hospital visit. If he’d really cared to know, he would have been there. He’d lost that right, and I made sure he knew that. From that moment on, I went to every doctors visit and test alone. I became my rock.

That moment changed him too. He realised how his work had been affecting him, and that his actions and emotions were now hurting me too. So he quickly got his act together, and he has been insanely supportive and patient ever since. He’s shown nothing but pure unconditional love for me, and stuck by me through a hell of a lot! But while I have forgiven, I will never forget that day. That he went to the pub while I laid in the ED crying because I’d had to tell him to fuck off when I needed him the most. I’m going to be honest, that memory haunts me. If I need to go to the ED again, I’ll be going alone.

No one should ever be treated that way in that situation. Chronic illness, no matter how invisible, is valid and not only demands attention, but deserves it. But I do have to say that I am eternally thankful for that moment, because it did change me for the better. It awoke a fight in me that has pushed me through this health journey.

Self care isn’t selfish. Putting your needs first isn’t selfish. You can care for others too, but no one can care for you or fight for you like you can.

Aiden and I both made mistakes that day… We both put him first.