2018 has been a cruel, long, testing year, but there were also many lessons to be learnt. Without a single doubt, this has been the hardest, most challenging year of my life. Illness, recovery, anxiety, and dealing with the ugly side of University politics.
I’m back with a new post, just in time before the dawn of a New Year. I hope those of you who joined me enjoyed Blogmas as much as I did!
I have wanted to do this post, because of the year that I’ve had. But its been a battle in my head about whether I really want to post about it or not. Here we are though, and I think I would like to share it and have it in writing, and let the year out in words.
Life Lessons – 2018
I was also tagged by the lovely Jessie for the 12 lessons in 12 months tag, so I thought it would be the perfect time to tie two posts in one, and join the two posts together! You can read her post here, be sure to check it out.
So here we go!
2018 has been without doubt, the hardest year of my life. And it all started at the beginning, on the 23rd of January 2018. I had been ill with a severe fever for a week before being diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, which has a 70% death rate. After numerous tests and investigations, knowing that it was my University lab that made me ill made me so angry. Having a life threatening illness also changed my perspective on life, not that I realised at the time, being too ill to think about anything. I was incredibly frail, and my weight plummeted to 38 kg. I had never felt so awful in my life.
Your life is precious – treasure it
Thanks to my amazing doctors and parents, this was my month of recovery. My pneumonia from Legionnaires’ disease cleared up, I no longer was having high fevers, and the antibiotics were working well. My mother never left my side, and looked after me every second of every day. But then came the pain. The nerve damage made my legs agonisingly painful, and my memory of February is pure pain and suffering. I remember on Valentine’s day, my boyfriend sent me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. He had been to scared to see me as any chance of being in contact with any illness would’ve almost killed me. I also received flowers and cards from so many people, and well wishes from people I know. Those who didn’t care – I decided then and there I have no space for them in my life.
Cherish the people that care about you – focus on those who matter, forget those that don’t
Towards the end of March, my boyfriend turned 25. That set a goal in my head – I wanted to get back out into the world, even if it was with tons of help by his birthday. I was desperate to celebrate his birthday with him, and I had already missed out on so much. 2018 so far had been mostly spent with doctors, and in bed, and I wanted to recover enough to spend his 25th together. It was my aim and mission, and although my liver, pancreas and kidneys had not recovered, I did it, and I managed to go out into the world, take a walk and treat my boyfriend to dinner. I felt so happy, felt like I had really come a long way, and this was the biggest accomplishment for me. Even though I was out of breath constantly and walked at a snails pace, I was happy.
Give yourself time and space – nothing is too small to appreciate
My recovery continued, and I was feeling better week by week. My organs were improving, and I moved back to my own house later in the month. I had my life almost back with me. Not well enough to do anything alone, but this was a big change for me. I met my work (PhD) supervisor for the first time since January. I wanted to cry, I was so angry about what had happened to me, but also glad that everything was slowly but surely piecing back together. But life can be cruel, and my boyfriends mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Another battle, and it felt like life was truly testing us all.
Nothing is more important than family
Still recovering, I was spending more and more of my days out of bed and doing housework, trying to get my energy back up. I was constantly exhausted, and struggled with my anxiety. Because of the nature of how Legionnaires’ disease is contracted, I struggled to go anywhere alone, and would have panic attacks in public, if there were any signs of air conditioning, air vents or heaters. I struggled a lot, but wanted to push on, and have my life back.
Stay calm, and be patient – especially with yourself
The start of June was my turn to celebrate my 25th birthday, and I had a brunch with a group of friends. And I really, truly appreciated it. There was a time that I wasn’t sure if I would make it to 25, but there I was, living life and fighting both my illness and my University. I had made it, and I felt so grateful. Not just to all those who had helped me along the way, but for simply being. Not being in pain. Not suffering. Being able to walk and talk and laugh and eat. I was grateful for it all.
Your birthday is a celebration of your life, for overcoming all of its obstacles and challenges – you’re never too old to celebrate it
My doctors appointment in July gave me a clean bill of health, apart from some permanent scaring on my lungs from the pneumonia. My lungs recovered, my kidneys, liver, pancreas and everything else had gone back to normal. I was fine. I was normal again. I had so much blood drawn from me during the past 7 months, that I had become so used to it. So I was surprised when at my last one blood started shooting out! My clean bill of health meant I could start doing things again alone, and building my stamina back up. I had to give up running, yoga, almost everything I loved, I was too tired to do. But I could start again.
Believe in yourself that you can overcome anything
My first work assignment since January – attend a conference in Orland, Florida. This meant travelling alone, staying in a hotel alone, be in a foreign country without my family or my partner. It was a big test, and I’ll never forget having a panic attack at 7am in Heathrow airport. But I challenged myself, I did it, and I pushed through. I made it to Florida, presented a talk at an international conference, and treated myself to a day at Epcot, in Disney World. As an extra, my partner met me in New York. After the year the two of us have had, we deserved a little weekend break together. 20 minutes before my talk, I got a message – my mother in law was officially cancer free, and the chemo had been a success.
Things can change in an instant
The start of September, we went to Portugal for my boyfriends sisters wedding. A proper little holiday for ourselves after a horrible year, which was full of celebration and happiness. We had so much fun at the beach wedding, and exploring Portugal. I was finally back to living my life, and after returning home, I went back to work for the first time since January. The “scene of the crime” – for me the anxiety of being in the very place that almost killed me was extreme. But I made it and I kept going. We also made the decision to move back with my partner’s family to be closer to them.
Don’t let darkness ruin the highlights of life
My boyfriends brother had a baby, and this marked the first time we became auntie and uncle. I went to visit the baby in hospital, the day after he was born, and he was perfect. Life had taken a turn halfway through 2018 for the better, and now we had a beautiful addition to the family, and a first grandchild for my partners parents. It reminded me of how precious life is, all over again, and how far we have all come. Being there for the baby was the most important thing for everyone, and the celebration of life felt extra special, after the year we had gone through.
Remember the important moments in life, whether they are good or bad – they form who we are
Having been back at work for around 2 months, I was really struggling with getting back into the work mind set. I was slow, sluggish and unproductive, and I felt unmotivated and disappointed in myself. I couldn’t code like I used to, I couldn’t write papers or read journals in the same way or speed. But I had come a long way since January, and there was no need to compare myself to people who hadn’t gone through any of the set backs I had. They have their own path, and I have mine. I was battling my University, and had my own timeline.
Getting back into things is difficult, and takes time. Don’t compare your progress to others, including yourself in the past
The final month of the year went past in a blur. This had been a testing, difficult year, but I was going to celebrate the festive season. I made another trip to a conference, this time to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I gave a big talk, to a UK audience this time, but it put the lid on work for the year. I was happy to have everything finished for the year, and my supervisor reminded me to truly enjoy the holidays. Christmas was so special, spending it with both my parents and my partners parents, and I am so grateful to be alive. In Japan, New Years is much more important than Christmas, and I’m so happy to be ending the year with them, doing the things they have always done, year after year. I want to one day have the same traditions and values with my own children.
Traditions are important – don’t overlook them
Thank you so much for reading and joining me on my blog this year! It was a long post, and it was at parts hard to write and look back at. But I’m glad I did it, and please share your year with me too.
Wishing you all a wonderful New Year and a prosperous New Year.
See you next year 😉