2020 – Year in Review

The most gobsmackingly weird year to date.

Reading back on my 2020 goal post, written in the early days of 2020 feels like another time. A different time. Because who could predict anything that has happened, would actually happen? It feels like a cruel joke.

But, I look at the goals I set back then and actually, they were really complex issues.

As for goals, I set myself the following:

Only one of these things has failed to come to fruition because of COVID. I mean, of course, my exams were delayed due to COVID too but they were also delayed due to my surgery. But I can look at this set of goals with pride.

I did indeed pass my AAT course by the end of the year. In fact, it was a week before the end, because I rallied after my operation to get my final exam done with its six-week marking turn around for the end of December. And I SHOCKED myself with the grade and the pass mark I got. A huge achievement.

I still remain on no IBD medication. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions because being medication free feels like such an alternative, after having many years being on some sort of medication or another. I can look at this year and say with some certainty that my surgeries – all four of them! – were my saving graces. They were painful and difficult – recovery from Proctectomy surgery and a hernia repair is NO joke – but they have removed so much of the evil of my IBD from my bowel, that my gut can function so much better now.

And I am getting better at my trauma workshop. I say ‘workshop’ but its just me, processing my emotions and recognising the signs and symptoms of my GAD. I can tell you, that dealing with GAD on top of the expected COVID anxiety, it’s been challenging. But I’ve found some real clarity on my own underlining issues, so that’s chalked up as a win in my books.

Relocating – that was the stickler of the year. While we had planned to move back home to be closer to family, it’s just really difficult when I’m not working still. Recovery from hernia surgery is long and the job market is rather… uninspiring while we have this pandemic on, understandably. So I am continuing my studying and we are open to other opportunities; because that is the vibe I am going into 2021 with.

So, what have been the highlights of 2020?

  1. Hernia surgery – being without that mother in my abdomen is fantastic.
  2. Passing AAT with a Merit!
  3. Managing my mental health at home during a pandemic
  4. Surviving another year of health
  5. Not losing my marbles during lockdowns
  6. Getting to grips with Type Two Diabetes
  7. Finally being able to find ways to relax!
  8. Continuing to be a valuable IBD patient – on and offline.
  9. Perfecting some really great recipes.
  10. Reconnecting with reading.

I’ve built on the key achievements I had in 2019:

“I continue to see most of the hospital as an outpatient – hallelujah – but even as we draw this year to a close, it’s been a while – in my world – since I’ve been inside there. It’s not been an easy transition and it is still coming along, but I am hopeful that I will see less and less of it as the months go on. I am not certain but hopeful, remember that; it could all change, as we know it often does with IBD!”

While I didn’t have any emergency admissions, I did have my surgical admission. That involved a couple of appointments in the hospital prior to it, along with alot of COVID precautious, so my time in hospital in 2020 was a weird one. I had a scan, lots of blood work done, some consults and of course, my post-operative follow up with my surgeon and stoma nurses. Everything else ‘routine’ has been done by telephone, except for my B12 injections; which I am thankful I still received during the lockdown.

“My proctectomy changed my stoma, for sure. While my surgeon did not touch it, it definitely reacted to being operated on. This has been good though, I know how to cope and deal with changes in that area much better now. Moving out of that sphere for my employment has also made my own stoma easier to manage and contemplate. It still sometimes gets lonely and I occasionally feel lost but the community is always there, and rightly so, for those moments.”

My hernia operation refashioned my stoma, as it was impacting heavily on gut function. So I now have a new one – Pricilla 2.0 if you will – and it is without issue. I still have a dip on the right side, but it is much less noticeable since surgery, meaning that it doesn’t need to be filled with paste – a big win. Managing it has become easier – possibly because I am now very adept to having a stoma in general – but this one feels good in itself. It doesn’t cause me any grief at all.

“Living with someone is hard and even harder when one of you is ill and undertakes surgery. My partner has taken this year all in his stride; it’s changed our relationship and made it more grounded. We have more unspoken language and I love that at this stage.”

Life at home has been tough during the pandemic and lockdown. Far away from family but with my partner in the house, it was a challenging time. Luckily, once I came through my initial post-op period, things got back to normal.

So, what have I learnt living with a chronic illness in 2020?

  1. There is no comfort like a heated blanket when you’re in pain.
  2. Being open to change makes change easier.
  3. Get involved with your medical team – it’s never a bad idea.
  4. Saying thank you is something that should happen more.
  5. Kindness is the currency of 2020
  6. Things happen, you can’t lose sleep over ‘what if’s
  7. Medical trauma is REAL and it is never to be underestimated.
  8. Determination can supersede negative thoughts, every damn time.
  9. Meditation really can help your overwrought mind.
  10. Finding peace in the noise of the world is bliss.

Alot of the country found out what it’s like to be housebound this year, so there was much sympathy for those who have chronic illnesses and are unable to do much either due to disease or pain. It was nice for people to see just how much that lack of independence can affect your mental health, but I had alot of tools to help me through the worse parts. Each lockdown has been challenging, because we don’t always know how long for or how deep it will be embedded in society. Each one has gotten deeper and harder, and the drag of going through it again is hard. I know why we do them, and how important they are so, I am not moaning but it is hard on your mind. I’d feel better if I could actually be in the same room as my parents for an afternoon, but it’s just not possible, yet.

But with all this going on, I have spent more time looking inwards to myself – reassuring myself that what I feel is just my anxiety and is not a true reflection on me. That lockdown is hard on everyone and being productive is so individual and not to be compared or judged against. I have found more positives than ever before, and I am trying my best to roll with the new changes each day.

So 2021, I intend to continue to make the best of my time.

Much love,

Further Reading:

Reflecting on 2020 – The Six Month Update

2019 – Year in Review

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