2016 has been quite the year for me.
In so many ways, I am so relieved to say goodbye to this year. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve struggled. I’ve fallen. I’ve had a lot of days where getting out of bed is a struggle – but without these days, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without these days, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I did this year.
In order to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017 – I wanted to take the time to do a blog post. I wanted to take the time to look back on the lessons I’ve learned and how they’ve carried me throughout the year. These are lessons that I know will continue to carry me into the new year and beyond.
- Self care – You guys know how hard I woke and how hard I push myself. I push myself too hard, all the time, and I ended up completely burned out. This year I wanted to take a different approach – and I did. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that with my health going downhill, I had to start practicing some self care. I had people remind me often to do so, in whatever way I could. I took a step back when I needed to. I took a hot bath to escape and relax when I needed to. Yes, there were even days where I slept as long (or as much) as I could in order to take care of myself. Self care is such an important aspect for everyone – if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you really can’t help others to your full potential.
- Letting go of things I cannot change – This year has been… interesting. I have learned this lesson and learned it hard and quick. This year I had to learn that letting go of things I cannot change is something I must do. I can’t change the toxic and at times crippling behavior of family. I cannot change the fact that I’ve been pulled around in all different directions since my parents divorce. I cannot change the fact that I am chronically ill. I cannot change the fact that some people I love dearly and have always been in my life will never change and will continue to be manipulative of others. I have to let this go – allowing this to continue will only hurt me in the long run. It took a lot of guts for me to say “Next Christmas, I am spending it at home quietly with my girlfriend and we won’t be running around all day.” … that took a lot of guts and a lot of tears, hurt and anger before that. I cannot change parts of my life, but I can let go of them and begin building my own life where my needs are taken care of and put first.
- Kindness – I cannot tell you how many times people have reached out to me this year. Whether it be donating what they could to the GoFundMe I had to create in order to survive an extended period of time off of work or people telling me they support me. Kindness has been a big theme for me in 2016. Even the kindness of strangers has pulled me through some of the hardest moments of my life. I’ve learned that I have an entire community behind my back. I’ve learned that there are people out there that I don’t even know that want the best for me. The kindness I’ve been shown this year has been amazing and I’ve worked hard to repay that kindness whenever and however I can.
- Advocating for my health – Let me tell you how hard it was the past year to find a doctor who was willing to listen to me and willing to help me. I went through several ER visits with no help, being sent home with pain medication and told there’s nothing they could do. I’ve gone to several doctors who flat out refused to help, listen and even treat me (one going as far as refusing to treat me because she thought I was overweight and didn’t need the help I needed to have a life). It was ultrasounds (vaginal and abdominal), days and nights curled up and crying in pain. It was appointment after appointment as I fought and learned how to advocate for myself and my health. Eventually, it all paid off when I met my current doctor. At the first visit, this doctor agreed to treat me and give me the surgery I needed to have any sort of quality of life. At the first visit. In August, I went in and had surgery and while it ended up being more extensive and severe than we had hoped, the end result has been amazing. My day to day pain is gone aside from some lingering tenderness. My periods are nowhere near as heavy and painful as they were. I am gaining my strength and energy back. I can work. I can keep up with my school work. I have a life again – and it’s all because I learned how to advocate for myself and my health.
- Finding my voice – If you know me, you know how shy I typically am. You know how quiet and hesitant I can be. This year, you may have noticed a change. I’ve found my voice. Whether that means I’m speaking up about my experiences with mental and/or chronic illness to calling out unacceptable behavior. It means I am standing up for what is right and using my voice for good. Finding my voice has made a difference in so many lives this year and to hear that someone has learned something from me is confirmation that finding my voice and using it has made a difference. It wasn’t an easy thing to do – but little by little, I found that voice. Day by day, I stood up and began to speak about my own struggles. Day by day, I began to advocate and fight for others. Day by day, I started to stand up against injustice and racism in a community I love so much. Is it scary? Hell yes, it is. I learned to speak up about abuse (and the abusers I’ve encountered). I’ve learned how to encourage healthy conversations with others. I’ve learned that while some people will never change, I can use my voice to make a difference. I’ve learned I can use my voice for good. I’ve learned that I can use my voice to help, inspire and encourage others. 2016 was only the start of finding my voice – and you can bet 2017 will keep this trend going.
2016 hasn’t been easy, but it has taught me several lessons – and I’ll be taking each of them into the new year with me.