For some reason, May has always been a pretty pivotal month in my life.
Two years ago, it meant the end of homelessness, sleeping on friend’s sofas and finding my own place. I also found an amazing guy.
A year ago it was the beginning of learning to live with a chronic bowel condition.
This year, it’s meant the completion of my degree after a two-and-a-half-year gap, leaving my job for something new, and unfortunately the loss of a friend.
So, every year, I like to reflect on how far things have come for me.
I think after losing my home after a pretty rough break up (I’m not going to go into detail, I’ll spare you that) it’s made me more grateful than ever, and appreciative of the things that I do have. I lost all my self-worth and confidence, and a lot of personal items with it. I don’t think I’ve ever reached such a low point in my life and it was, for the first time since I was a young teenager, that I ever considered suicide. I spent a few months diving in and out of unhealthy coping mechanisms but was lucky enough to spend a long time with a very good therapist who helped me unravel the tangled knot of myself, and rediscover who I was and make peace with the past. I also had an extremely close support network for the first time in my life, with friends and a new relationship that helped me every step of the way.
At this moment in time, I love myself for who I am, and have learned that you can’t please everyone. My little room in my shared house is mine, the things I have in it, though I don’t own a huge amount, are mine – I feel safe here and everything in it I have earned myself. I wear what I want, I do what I enjoy, and for the first time in a long time have stopped worrying what others think.
Learning to live with a chronic bowel condition was tough, and I thought life was trying to punish me for being a terrible person for a long time. Imagine feeling so nauseous that you can’t eat, and every time you tried to your insides just felt like they were on fire. Over the course of a couple of months I lost a lot of weight, nearly a stone in around 4/5 weeks, which was mostly through starvation. It took a long time for doctors to consider that it was down to my gut health and eating habits rather than a medical condition they could fix with medication or surgery. I had ridiculous amounts of tests for pregnancy and STDs (yeah thanks for that assumption guys!) appendicitis, bowel cancer, liver damage, ovarian cysts, gallstones…ultrasounds, blood tests and even the fun time of a colonoscopy! It’s been an adventure finding out that my bowels just decided not to work one day.
People often laugh and joke about IBS, and don’t really view it as all that serious, but more like having a case of the shits every now and then…which admittedly is partly true! It has changed my relationship with food and made me more aware of the things that I was putting into my body. The silver lining to it, is that it’s caused me to make even more healthier choices than before, and due to gluten and dairy intolerance it makes it hard to go on massive binges when I’m craving sugar or high fat junk foods. For a long time, the foods I ate became incredibly bland, as I can’t have garlic, onions or most vegetables/pulses that bring a lot of flavour to food, but you learn to adapt and find new ways to flavour your meals. It also meant that it put a stop to take-aways…but it won’t stop me risking a pizza every now and then! (if you see me looking grumpy or pale-faced, you’ll know why!)
If you take some time to look at the FODMAP diet, you’d see how restrictive it can be. Thankfully with a diagnosis and the help of a specialist I was able to regain some control and learn to live with it. It still flares up occasionally, and I can’t prevent it completely, but knowing why my body is reacting a certain way is more reassuring than being left in the dark.
This year, the biggest event for me has been completing my degree. When I failed third year thanks to some really shitty tutors, and a summer retake I wasn’t able to do due to losing my home, I had really given up on it and myself. It wasn’t until I’d gotten back on my feet that I really found my drive again and wrote a letter to every University that taught Architecture to take me in and let me finish. In the end it was my previous University that took me in and gave me the chance, and I somehow managed to get through an incredibly tough and intense nine months. I apologise to everyone I studied with about the amount of times I cried during tutorials, presentations, site visits…(emotional mess much!?) But with the mental battles, I also had some amazing experiences both abroad and on campus – my tutors were some of the best and more supportive people I could ask for.
Somehow, I got through it and made some friends along the way, and now it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. All I need to do now is make it to graduation day!
The most recent event has been leaving my job. I didn’t think it’d be quite as emotional as I thought, as my relationship with the team is really what kept me there for a long time. I made some amazing friends and had some great times, but I knew it was time to move on when a new and better opportunity was offered to me. On my last day it hadn’t really sunk in that I was leaving, and waking up the next day and not having to get up, be anywhere, put on uniform….that’s when it really hit me. I’m so thankful for the support that I was given during my time there, and I will miss seeing the lovely faces of my team every day.
Today however, brought with it a loss. An old work colleague and friend passed away and it’s hit quite hard – though he left months before me we always got along so well and he always made time for me. We’d often laugh and joke about how terrible the world and the struggles of mental health were, and he was someone to confide in when you were really struggling. It’s rare that I meet someone more sarcastic and cynical than myself, but my god, he really was a laugh. Beneath the harder exterior he was kind and cared, but was also honest and would never bullshit to you.
I was so looking forward to you being with us at the weekend, as I hadn’t seen you in a long time, but we’ll buy you a beer anyway. You crazy fool.
To reflect on the last few years, I’ve learned that life can be hard and throw some really fucking difficult struggles at you, but with it has come some amazing opportunities and events that have shaped me. Life was made to challenge us in ways we never expected, and through all of this I’ve come out the other side with the biggest fire under my arse. I’ve pushed myself to limits I didn’t even know I had and learned a lot about myself along the way – and I can say that I am proud of the things I’ve achieved. Alongside part-time study, I’ve not only worked a full-time job, but gone through an immense prep journey (which I will blog about soon!) as well as training for a half marathon. I look forward to what the next year brings for me, and I can’t wait to stand on stage in September.
Until next time.