As I get older it amazes me how fast time passes, how quickly the years fly by. 2017 is no different even though it has been a challenging year. But looking back at it, as I always find myself doing at the end of a year it has been also productive one that I will remember.
When I went in for my hip arthroscopy operation to repair a labral tear and remove a cam lesion this day last year. All I wanted was to improve my pain levels, so I could live with less pain killers. I am glad to say I have achieved that, I am no longer on four hourly Tramadol or having to use lidocaine patches every night. Admittedly I am not free of hip pain completely and wont be, but it has much improved and make my overall pain levels more tolerable again. I will be honest the recovery from this operation was longer and harder and required more work than I had expected. I might of thought twice about having it done if I had known how hard the recovery would be. But from what my surgeon said things were far worse in my hip than they had expected so if I had not had the op things would of only continued to deteriorate, so thankfully it was the right choice make. Plus the positive outcomes of my hip operation went much further than improved pain.
It was during my pre-op that my new heart murmur was detected and that the clots in my repaired mitral valve were found and treatment started. Whilst the pesky things still had not gone at my last scan they hadn’t got worse, had they gone unnoticed the outcome would have been quite disastrous.
As my hip recovery took so much longer than I had expected, I ended up having to be away from work for much more time than expected. Whilst a most of this time was taken up doing hydro, physio, blood clinics, cardo appointments and loads more, this time away from work was so precious and I made sure I used it wisely. It gave me time to re-evaluate my life/health balance, to introduce some well-being practises that I had always thought I was too fatigue or busy to try. Such as mindful meditation, gratitude and journaling. I also used this work free time to start this blog and be brave and have ago at portraiture, something I had always stayed well clear of.
I would love to say I unexpectedly found out that I had a secret talent for portraiture drawing and painting that I hadn’t known about. Sadly this is not the case. But what I did learn was practice, time and effort equals improvement with perseverance that improvement will only continue. Most importantly I found out that I loved and not hated the artistic challenge. I love battling with likeness, with shading, exploring the colours that exist on the face and try to inject life into the eyes. So amongst all the challenges and hard work of recovery this year I found new passions, enjoyments and routines.
I returned to Teaching at the day job in September with a new found vitality, energy and positive outlook. Yes I still had clots in my heart valve but my hip was finally in a good place so I knew it was time to get back to work. I loved being back in the classroom, there were loads of changes and challenges at the college as we have merged with another college in the city, but I was happy to be back at work.
However sadly it didn’t take long for me to be on a slippery slope downwards into unmanageable fatigue. Stupidly it shocked me. I really thought I was just on the up in terms of well-being and health. The reality turned out to be quite different.
When I had first suffered my strokes and lost speech and swallow and more. The doctors had said I would never teach again, that my speech would probably never return enough and if it did the fatigue would be too intense. I remember thinking what a load of rubbish and simply ignored them. It took time, a ridiculous amount of hard time and rest and despite the odds I did get back to teaching and proved them wrong. And for the past 12 years I have manage to teach one day on one day off. It was been far from easy and yes fatigue and pain have been a challenge but I have done it, I have lived independently on a part time wage and been very proud of this achievement.
After returning to work this year, I realised that whatever the reason, clots in my heart, stroke fatigue, age, early menopause (another unwanted gift of 2017) or the combination of all of these, it became very clear that I could not teach three days and maintain the health, well-being and energy I had experienced in the summer. At first old ways of thinking started to seep in, momentarily feeling sorry for myself, worrying me about how I was going to manage, thinking how unfair it was. However, all my efforts of this year kicked in and I didn’t stay in this pity party long and made a very conscious decision to find solutions prioritising health and well-being, not work or money. As a result my husband and I have decided that I should try teaching for only two days a week and see if that helps my energy and wellness return. So I dragged myself to the end of the term and will start teaching for only two days from January. It is was hard not to feel this as a failure, a disappointment and a financial worry. But the roller coaster of 2017, the contrast of all the challenges and positives, when push come to shove I know I want to be as well as possible and for now that requires me to teach less and earn less. Hopefully this change will give so much in terms of quality of life and will be worth every penny lost.
I know without the time I had at home during the first part of the year this I would not been have been able to make this decision. I would have continue to flog myself in to the ground totally unaware that with life changes I could enjoy a life with less pain, less fatigue. and therefore more happiness.
It is amazing how life and perspective can change in the midst of difficulties. This is certainly the case for my 2017. I started the year with a very simple hope to for less pain and I end it hopeful that the changes I have put in place for 2018 are the stepping stones to a new chapter of wellness. I have not felt this hopeful and determined to be well, live well and enjoy life this much since 2004 when stroke change me forever.
I recognise that whilst my health and pain difficulties bring lots of things I would rather not have to experience, and that life would be easier if I was in good health. But this year has reminded me with chronic illness, pain and fatigue come valuable life lesson, prompts to work on yourself, to be the best you can be. To see value the in friendship and family that bring light in to the dark days. To truly experience gratitude for the good days and the little things that are so easily taken for granted. These are all the precious things that can so easily pass by unnoticed in good health and the crazy busyness of modern life. At the end of this very difficult year, still facing many health and family challenges I actually feel hopeful, excited even for the new year, for turning 40 in February, for the prospect of renewing myself to the energy levels I experienced in the summer and for my next chapter along my artistic journey. 2017 taught me that there can be more to my life than work and fatigue and making do with my lot. 2017 taught me I can enjoy higher levels of wellbeing and that whilst my health brings me limitations it is vital that I use my energies on the people I love, things I valve, things I enjoy that matter to me now. That there is no failure in to adapting and changing to suits my changing needs and ambitions. For these reasons 2017 is a year that I will always be grateful for.
What about 2017 has made you grateful what has made it memorable for you?