A yearly review seems to be the in thing right now. Originally, I wasn’t going to do one. That’s because this year has been far from plain sailing.
Then a dear friend of mine, Jessica Sunshine, convinced me to embrace this year, own what it has taught me and see the value in sharing my experience from the heart.
So here it is my own year in review. This post details those desperate struggles, joyful celebrations, difficult lessons and one (rather embarrassing) outtake!
The Hard Stuff:
Your Health Is Not a Given
The year actually started out extremely well. I worked hard to launch my online coaching and I was confident enough to apply for financial support from the government to go ‘all in’. Unfortunately, the winter months scuppered my plans. The season change knocked my feet from under me health-wise. I became so sick I was bedridden and had to make the decision to hang up my hopes of a successful business.
I’m quite proactive when it comes to my health. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be managing so well despite the odds stacked against me. Having tons of questions and speaking medical lingo though is likely to get you labelled as inventing your illnesses.
Indeed, that’s what happened to me. It even led doctors to miss my (life-threatening) diagnosis. This delay has left me with mild brain, heart and lung damage. Luckily, the preventative treatment for this disease is simple and I’m already feeling much better.
Having to give up everything I had worked for and not being able to solve the problem was terrifying for me. I am a perfectionist. I’m also Asperger’s and I like to control as much of my experience as possible to reduce the anxiety I experience from change.
It was a valuable lesson too. I learnt that change can be good. It forced me to relax and become comfortable with not doing and achieving. Rediscovering my enjoyment of gaming strengthened the relationship with my partner as well!
I learned how to communicate better with doctors. It’s much better to go in there with one aim and up to three pre-prepared questions you need answers to. My anxiety had always turned me into a gibbering wreck and they assumed I had health anxiety (Nope. I had GP anxiety!).
So, You Think You’re a Good Parent?
Alongside my own health issues has been the struggle to find support for my (now six-year-old) son. He’s had behavioural challenges ever since he could move and I have been requesting support with his outbursts since. For five years they turned me away saying he’ll grow out of it. He didn’t and the strain took its toll on our family.
The intervention came but only after school were also unable to manage his outbursts. As is often the case, all fingers pointed at our parenting to start with, rather than his challenges with everyday life. With them completely ignoring my own diagnosis of Asperger’s, we had to prove we were good parents before they would refer us for the support he needed. And let me tell you… the ‘good parent’ bar for accessing support is set waaay higher than most good parents I know!
I’m happy to report all is now resolved, we are accessing some support. We are respected, not only as good parents, but as an expert in the challenges my son presents with (aren’t all parents?!).
The most difficult part of this experience by far was feeling scrutinised. It taught me how to focus on the best outcome possible. Living in fear would have completely ruined this past year and would have done much more harm than good.
And now for the good stuff!
The Good Stuff:
We may have struggled as a family since the littlest two were born, but the love in our family has always been there. In my book, if you have unconditional love then you’re onto a winner. The past two years have been a steep learning curve for us. The upside? Ending up with such deep knowledge, not only about ourselves but about each other.
I am blessed to have a partner, Alex, who trusts me to act in the best interests of the family. He knows my background in coaching and listens to me if there are aspects of family life he needs to adjust. I’m grateful too that he won’t hold back and is capable of telling me when I need to buck my ideas up, all without appearing confrontational!
This has led to us having a relaxed year, despite it being quite difficult as a whole. We’ve even had school holidays where we weren’t tearing our hair out by the end!
Attitude Is a Game-Changer
Whilst we were seeking support for my son, we had more than a few run-ins with the head of his school. But then, something changed. The relationship rapidly resolved to where we were working together for the common good. What happened to cause this change? It was me. I changed my views and my attitude.
Consumed by bitterness and frustration that no-one could see the situation with our son from our point of view, I had forgotten who I am. I am a coach and one who believes in the spiritual nature of the universe at that. The importance of balance is one of my principle beliefs. It is the nature of everything and we should always seek to see the bad and the good in every situation. It is human nature to focus on the bad things. As a survival instinct that’s great. Not so good for a wholesome existence though.
With this in mind, I asked for a few moments of the headteachers time. She stood there, a weary look on her face (no doubt wondering what I was about to throw at her this time). Then I told her how much I admired her. I told her that I respected how hard she’d worked to get where she is in her career. I told her that I appreciate the challenges she faces working with a chronic illness. That I understand how hard it must be some days to pluck up the energy to do such a challenging job.
Once the initial shock had worn off we had a giggle-and-moan about how some people just don’t ‘get’ chronic illness. Since that day, I’ve seen a visibly more relaxed woman and our ability to work together for my son’s benefit has improved no end.
The Health Detective Retires
Let’s take a little trip back through time to when I was 18, sat in the dining room at moms house. I told her that I would not rest until I had solved the mystery of the family illness. We have experienced non-specific yet disabling symptoms over three generations. Starting early with joint pain then fatigue, mental health issues and breathlessness. Tests are always normal until the heart and lung issues take hold. Finally, a stroke or other blood clotting event claims either a life or our most of our functioning.
I didn’t realise it was a problem that would take 20 years to solve. The NHS is not geared up for diagnostics when it involves the whole body. Communication between departments is not a strength of our health system.
My search for answers intensified a few years back. My mum had suffered a catastrophic stroke and my kids had started to show the beginnings of the disease.
2018 was the year I solved our mystery. I had hit the nail on the head two years prior when I took my GP information on AntiPhospholipid Syndrome (APS). This disease can cause non-specific symptoms in all areas of the body and a diagnosis of APS can only happen over time. It is also a disease most GP’s aren’t familiar with and that is why my positive tests went unnoticed for 9 months.
Having the answers I need has left me with a large chunk of my time that is empty, no longer spent searching for answers. I did feel lost for a while but, on the whole, this is an amazing achievement for me. I just wish I could explain the outcome to my mum…
As autumn drew close, we received a phone call from the Headteacher at school. She could barely hold in the giggles and I struggled to make sense of what she was saying…
This is never a good way to stop someone freaking out…
“Noah has said something and though we all know that you’re amazing parents and he’s a little socially awkward, we’ve had to make a report…”
Oh god, what has he done?!?
That familiar feeling of dread washed over me. You know the one. It also occurs when you hear your child get up and close the door to his room for no reason or with phrases like “Mum, Mum, Mum…. You gotta come and see this…!”
When we all got to the bottom of it, he had been playing in the play area with a boy in his year. The boy’s sister is already known to me, having been in my older son’s class at school and she’s unashamedly loud and proud. Nothing wrong with that.
Their year group had been doing sex-ed that term. She’d decided to tell her brother all about sex and he’d decided it would be great to tell all his friends.
Including my son.
The one with no internal filter.
He chose to pass on this newfound knowledge… loudly… to his teaching assistant. :facepalm:
I’m eternally grateful that everyone did their jobs but assured us they didn’t think there was anything to worry about. Mortified doesn’t quite capture the sentiment for that week though. We have since been working with Noah on what is appropriate to talk about or not….
Early results aren’t promising 😳
The Lessons of the Year:
- Enjoy the road. Relax regularly and balance work with something you enjoy (even if you think you enjoy work).
- Know your limitations.
- Plan ahead for difficult conversations and have questions you need answers to.
- Focus only on your inner truth. Especially during the tough times when it seems no-one believes who you are and what you know.
- Even though you know you and your family need support, help from external agencies takes time. Though it may seem simple to you, they have procedures to follow. Pushing only makes their job harder and the process take longer.
- Seek balance in all that you do. When a situation appears to be going wrong, treat it as your trigger to tip the balance in your favour.
- Always have a Plan B for if (and when) you life’s main quest comes to an end.
- Never (ever!) underestimate the phrase: “Out of the mouths of babes…”
What’s Coming up Next?
These past few years have taught me not to be too specific about goals, particularly if you have health challenges. For that reason 2019 is going to be my year of challenges. Small steps toward big goals.
It is also my year of expression. I have been re-nurturing my creative side and have some yummy news coming up soon. Stay tuned to find out more!
Now, how about you? How did 2018 treat you and what do you have planned for this year?