As is usual for this time of year I have been reflecting on the year and I think, as most people will also agree for their own reasons, it is not one I will look back on particularly fondly.
Unfortunately, on January 17th my year took it’s first nose dive when I was admitted to Southmead in Bristol with Appendicitis Round 1. Yup. That was a gift that kept on giving. After 5 nights there, I was discharged, complete with appendix and thanks to subsequent events I’ve still not been able to properly make it up to our friends we were staying with for the weekend! I promise I did want to go on that day trip to Cardiff, this wasn’t a get out plan that escalated!!
I had fairly high hopes for 2020. I was finally in a job I enjoyed and felt capable of undertaking, I seemed to be somewhat getting a handle on things and I wanted to try my best to enjoy it and make some positive changes.
3 weeks into my 4 weeks of being signed off work, Appendicitis Round 2 arrived and over the following few weeks, so did rounds 3 and 4. Except it probably wasn’t appendicitis any of the subsequent times. Thanks to remarkably similar pain symptoms and havjng just had round 1, all signs led to it having come back but I am currently part way through further investigations into something else after all. Yay… More on that later.
And then there was Cellulitis in the Summer too and 7 days of having a cannula in my arm, well three or four in the end (I honestly lost count) because they were not being successful for more than a couple of days.
If there is anything 2020 has taught me, it’s that I have a real problem mentally around cannulas and that increased exposure does absolutely nothing to help and a lot to worsen that. Cannulas and lower right abdominal pain have been the bain of my year. I have had more nights in hospital this year than any previous one, more time spent in the Outpatients bit of Peterborough Hospital than I care to dwell on and frankly, I would be happy never to have another blood test or cannula again in my life.
So about Appendicitis rounds 2,3 and 4 (and maybe 5? Was there 5? I have no idea anymore). I am currently undergoing the investigations but having ruled out pretty much everything else, it looks like that is Endometriosis after all. Endometriosis diagonsis relies on ruling out lots of other things first which was all done by the beginning of December via a pelvic ultrasound. I have now spoken to my GP having got the results from that scan (which showed everyrhing else was good) and she is now confident to diagnose Endometriosis. So that’s fun. I don’t really have a strong opinion on it yet other than ‘add it to the list’ really because in the grander scheme of things, right now it’s a little further down the pile of ‘Beth’s Body Issues’. It is being managed by painkillers at the moment as I am in the fortunate-for-Endometriosis of it only knocking me for six for about 24-48 hours each month.
And then there’s ADHD. I should soon have my official diagnosis but all discussion so far is that this is the case and this has been one of the toughest aspects of this year. I am grateful for answers, but for the past 28 years I have been in the fortunate position of having conditions, but them not affecting my day to day life, or at least when they do that just being for a while, i.e when I had my surgery in 2013, about 8 weeks after that I was pretty much up and running again.
This though, this is different. Although it gives context to my daily struggles and reassures me I’m not just ‘not getting it’ about life, it has made me face up to the fact this is day to day, this does impact me and the shield I had from my health’s impact on me most of the time has been well and truly lost. There will be help, there will be a better understanding of myself that will allow me to better manage things, but it has been increasingly difficult to come to terms with and those positives are going to take a while to truly embed.
And belive it or not this is all without the added impacts of Covid. Apart from a distinct lack of Husband for 10 weeks whilst he kept the Tube running and lived in London to avoid putting me at risk (hero!!), I will admit I quite enjoyed my house arrest during Lockdown 1. There were difficult days for sure and days where it wasn’t hard but felt massively inconvenient and a drag, but for 10 weeks I had very little responsibility or pressure to deliver, which was quite frankly, lovely- it was probably the most relaxed I was all year.
But Covid did have it’s impacts, it has meant a lot of the appointments I have had I attended alone. It meant trips to A&E by myself and no visitors when I was in hospital in the Summer which for someone who has ~issues~ with being in hospital, was really, really tough. There were a LOT of tears the times I was in A&E alone. I often feel like I’m still a child when I’m struggling with basic day to day tasks, but that was another level of feeling vulnerable, sad and childlike.
It also meant redundancy from the one job I have truly settled in post-Uni. The only one in which I have felt truly valued, supported and able to excel in, making it all the harder to have to leave in such an unfortunate way. From the word go I have only ever been sad about leaving there, it was a series of unfortunate circumstances and I know that it was not a reflection on me or my abilities, one of those things that couldn’t be helped and my only regret in the whole thing is that none of us got to say goodbye properly, which again was no one’s fault but a shame all the same.
It has been a bit of a struggle since then careerwise, when combined with all my health things this year and I feel a bit stuck with how to move forward in that area in 2021. I am sure at some point I will be ready to process and write about the feelings surrounding this challenge in more detail but right now I’ll hold my hands up and say this is still a struggle and one I am not ready to talk through yet. Turns out there are intrinsic links between this and ADHD (quelle surprise…) and one of the tougher aspects of it too, so for now I am working through other things until I’m ready for this one!
I am grateful that the impacts of Covid on me were limited to the fringe impacts on my hospital visits, 10 peaceful weeks of house arrest, a redundancy, some extra precautions and a host of cancelled plans. I would do almost all of it again to ensure that I and my nearest and dearest continue to be fairly limited in our impacts from Covid.
I am also incredibly grateful to all my friends and family for their unwavering support this year. They have all had their own things going on too, but in a time where I could have felt increasingly alone, I have been so lucky to have felt continually supported and cared for during my various situations and I will never be able to thank people enough for this.
And finally, I am so very, very grateful for my GP. I was very scared to face up to the possible ADHD and just fed up with the abdominal pain and never having heard back from Peterborough Hospital as promised (I appreciate, pandemic, but appendicitis can end up being fatal if it goes south quickly so having heard nothing for 8 months I am a little disappointed…) when I rang her back in November. I was also quite scared, due to some experiences a few years ago, that I wasn’t going to be listened to or would be quickly dismissed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
She listened and most importantly took on board my experiences as a patient, she also had the blessing of some extra experiences that allowed her to be fairly confident in both situations from the get go and she has fully supported me through both situations which has been a true blessing. I really believe that some people are put into your lives seemingly by chance, but for good reason thanks to God and for me, she is certainly that person. I know I am incredibly fortunate as others are not so lucky and I will never take it for granted.
Overall, I appreciate this has been a pretty crappy year all round for most people and this is just my reflection on my own experiences. I don’t feel like I have had it all that badly overall, but I do have to remind myself, and sometimes others, that comparison of struggles is not really beneficial to anyone and that they don’t need to be ranked less or more severe than others. Everyone struggles with different things happening and we all deserve to be heard and supported when we talk about our own.
No, I don’t have to keep essentially yelling mine to the internet, but the process of writing and sharing is theraputic for me, it really helps with processing my experience and emotions and if one other person feels slightly less alone then that’s no bad thing. I guess it’s just paying it forward from every other time reading/hearing about another’s experience of something has made me feel less alone.
I am overwhelming looking forward to shutting the door firmly on 2020, but a small part of me is thankful for the lessons it has taught me in courage, resilience, tenacity, facing up to failed ideas, overcoming fear and learning to roll a little smoother from all the punches. I am ready to take on 2021 but forgive me if I don’t set my expecations too high!
Bonus points for you if you made it all the way to the end of this mammoth post.
Extra bonus point if you got either of the references in the title! (Country crew, where you at?)