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It’s customary

I always write a post to mark the end of one year and the start of another. For whatever reason, the turning of the calendar never fails to prompt reflection and review. Despite paying little attention to New Year’s Eve from a celebratory perspective, there is no escaping the momentousness of a brand new year.

I appreciate that I am contradicting myself and, quite possibly, confusing you in the process.

Allow me to clarify…

From the point of view of social arrangements, I give little thought to my New Year’s Eve these days. I find it something of an anti-climax. If I’m entirely honest, I always have done. As far as I am concerned, I would rather sit in with people I love, than spend a fortune on transport and pay over the odds for dinner in a restaurant where I am rushed out of my seat because the table has been booked four times over.

In real terms, every morning is a new date. The only difference on New Year’s Eve, is that for the first, fleeting moments, we feel an overwhelming sense of possibility. There is something about a startlingly empty calendar or diary which makes us feel like we can conquer the world.

Why else would people make resolutions at New Year? Why not make those promises to ourselves throughout the year, as and when the impulses strike? Why wait until December 31st to vow to diet, quit smoking, join a gym, start meditating?

Even so…

All that said, whether you make resolutions or not (me, not so much) there is something about landmark dates – birthdays, anniversaries, year ends – which automatically leads us to ponder the year that has just passed. It is something of an instinctive reaction, to consider where we are in relation to where we were. It is natural to look back and wonder how many of our goals we managed to fulfil and how many we will carry over or let fall by the wayside.

So, what do I see when I look back over the year that has just ended?

Vast amounts of change. 2018 has certainly been an eventful year, both personally and professionally. There is so much I could reflect on; so many things I could tell you about.

If that’s true, then why am I having such a hard time deciding what to write?

Some of that could be down to how infrequent my posts have been since Nelly came out. The longer I stay silent, the more difficult it seems to make noise again. With that in mind, I decided to re-read my most recent ramblings. Believe it or not, that helped. It was quite an eye-opener to relive some of the highs and lows of the latter half of 2018. 

Life post-Nelly

Having spent seven months without Nelly, I am finally starting to feel more confident in my ability to sustain a crutch-free existence. For the time being at least. That’s a pretty powerful feeling. Don’t mistake that for a statement of being symptom free, or suddenly having piled on the kilos – neither is the case.

I am, however, enjoying food more these days. I have well and truly made peace with my need to sustain a high calorie diet. It is true that it took an awful lot of negotiating and reasoning with myself in the early days. My own historical hang-ups and body dysmorphia meant I had always avoided having bathroom scales of my own, instead opting for a weekly weigh in at my parents’ house to honour the promise I made to my dietician when Nelly went in. Moving into a flat of my own in May pushed me to re-evaluate. I realised I had grown enough and could finally trust myself to have scales without fear of over-zealous weight watching. My commitment to maintaining a healthy BMI ensures that I stay on top of things and my freezer remains well-stocked with home-baked spelt goodies and vegan ice cream (imagine my delight when I discovered that Unilever had brought out a vegan Magnum range!!!)

More to it than food

Life post-Nelly has been different in so many more ways than that. I suppose that’s where the most significant reflections of 2018 can be found too. In the collisions between my health and my professional life.

2018 saw me forced into a new kind of acceptance about my Crohn’s Disease and the real-life implications of being open about it. Where I had previously feared the ways in which people’s perceptions of me would change, I came to realise that if this were to happen, it would be their problem rather than mine.

I knew that having Nelly changed nothing about my ability to do my job, so all I had to do, was acknowledge and embrace that fact.

A whole new level of embracing

If someone had told me a year ago, that I would one day appear as the lead story on Look North, working to generate the funds to make a documentary about living with chronic illness (go fund Nelly : The Elephant In The Room), whilst redrafting a stage play written to help raise awareness about the impact of hidden disability, alongside making public appearances to speak about my own personal triumphs in the face of adversity, I might have laughed you out of the room.

Photo Courtesy of Claire Bartfield

Yet that is exactly where I am.

I suppose having the tube, gave me permission to let people see a more real portrayal of life with IBD. Now that Nelly is gone, I almost feel as though I have a responsibility to increase awareness, and encourage dialogue. In that sense, my professional life and my health have collided head on.

Who knows? Maybe I really will be able to put my lifetime of illness to good use in 2019.

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