I always make a point of reflecting on the past year when it’s drawing to a close. I think it’s important to take a look at the challenges, the successes and everything in between.
2018 has been a strange year for me. It’s been one of the toughest, while also being one of the most rewarding. I sank to new depths, and rose to new heights. I fell apart, then started piecing myself back together again. It’s been a rollercoaster.
January, February and March
The first three months of this year are a blur. I can barely remember them at all. Maybe that’s because I’m choosing not to. Maybe it’s because so much has happened since then. A whole lot of pain began piling up, before coming to a head in April. My job made me unhappy. I felt alone. I tried desperately to make the most of it, but it ultimately got the better of me.
Here’s what I do remember (with a little help from Facebook.)
In January, I celebrated the New Year with my sister, with party poppers, snacks and drinks. I’m still finding confetti around my flat now. I turned 27, and had Nando’s as my birthday meal. Baking became a short lived hobby. I rustled up two batches of cupcakes, before feeling sorry for myself that I had no one to give them to, and didn’t want to eat them myself. They were good, though.
As for February, Neal ordered a stunning heart shaped rose wreath, and made sure the flat was immaculate for me coming home from work as my Valentine’s Day gift. He nailed it. He always does.
March was a mixed bag. In the middle of the month, I went to Glasgow and saw Niall Horan perform at the SEC Armadillo. The tricky thing with this is I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. His performance was brilliant, I think. Most of it was spent fretting about the fact I was the oldest person in the room, and feeling ridiculous for showing up. Nevertheless, I’ve watched it back on YouTube and been able to fully appreciate it since.
The 23rd of March was my brother’s 30th birthday, and I travelled back for his surprise party. This date also marks 10 years since I got Juno. Though we weren’t together, I made up for it with cuddles when I got home.
And it was on the train journey home that I read Matt Haig’s “Reasons To Stay Alive”. When I started to see the way I had been feeling wasn’t how it had to be, or how it was supposed to be. With the prospect of going to work the following day making me feel terrified, I burst into tears and told Neal everything. He held me as I cried, listened as I fumbled my way through some sort of explanation, and promised everything would be okay.
April, May and June
This is probably the most significant part of this year. It changed my life.
In April, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I quit my job because it was only feeding into negative feelings. My doctor prescribed me some anti depressants and handed me a number for a counselling service. Blissfully unaware of the journey I was about to take, I followed the instructions and did what had been recommended.
Shortly after, I started blogging. My medication had started to help and I was gaining some confidence. Though I was nervous, I felt compelled to write about what I was going through. I had ambitions of helping others through my own story; of encouraging them to get help rather than suffer, and that’s what I set about to do. My goals quickly shifted to just doing what I could to make the world a little brighter. I wanted to be helpful, through whatever means I had. The response surpassed any expectations I could ever have imagined.
In June, I started counselling. I was apprehensive, but committed to improving my life. My counsellor was kind, and patient, and understanding. I knew that instantly. Safe in the knowledge I was in good hands, I began attending regular appointments, every Wednesday.
Towards the end of June, I had braces fitted. This had been a long time coming. After a miserable couple of weeks when I couldn’t eat much, I began to adapt. To finally have taken the step felt amazing, and I’m delighted with the progress I’ve made so far.
July, August and September
After several counselling sessions, I felt ready to confront an ugly part of my past. That’s what I did. I shared it with my family and friends, who had been previously unaware. I confronted the person who had hurt me. The process gave me closure, and some peace of mind. It was only a step in the right direction, but it was enough.
Later in the month, I had the pleasure of seeing Sarah Millican perform live. This has been one of the highlights of my year.
My blog continued to grow from strength to strength. In August, I decided to accept guest posts from other bloggers, and felt deeply moved by the amount of people who wanted to be featured. The submissions I received were incredible! This was also the month I had my first collaboration with another blogger, and it was with one of my favourites. It was fantastic.
September brought my first blogging opportunity. I received brownies from Kiss and Bake Up in exchange for a review. They were delicious! Though my intention hadn’t been to use my blog for this purpose, it was an unexpected and wonderful bonus. I love looking back at this post, because I’m really proud of my photography.
Mentally, I was in a good place. I had spent a week with my family. Two of my best friends had come to visit. I felt somewhat whole again.
October, November and December
At the beginning of October, Neal and I celebrated two years together. If 2018 has taught me anything, it’s that I have absolutely made the right choice of partner. Throughout everything, Neal has been patient, loving, kind and incredible. Westlife kindly decided to give me the best anniversary present of them all by announcing their reunion. This was the best day of 2018.
On the 23rd of October, my blog turned 6 months old. During that time, I realised this was something I wanted to pursue as a form of income. Through the support of others, I considered the fact I might actually be good at it, and should take it further. This is an ongoing mission. I reached 10,000 followers on Twitter – much to my disbelief – and ate cupcakes to celebrate.
Unusually for me, I won a competition in October, too! Luck is very rarely on my side with these things but I entered this post into Etsy’s affiliate competition and received a £100 gift card. That was a good day.
November rolled around, bringing its own surprises, like the fact I was through to the voting stage of the UK Blog Awards. I can’t help but smile when I think about this. When I started blogging, and I saw people with “UK Blog Award nominee/winner” in their bios, I thought about how amazing that must feel. To be in the running is a privilege I never saw coming this soon in my blogging journey, if at all.
Counselling came to an end. I simultaneously felt ready, yet unsteady. It had reached a natural end, where I recognised it was time for me to try going it alone. But feeling that security fall away was unsettling. Nevertheless, after an emotional final session, we parted ways.
In an attempt to become even more productive, I started getting up at 5am. It took some getting used to, but it certainly enabled me to get more done. I even went for a run outside for the first time in my adult life.
I got my head down in November to get ahead with Blogmas so I could enjoy December. This is the first time in many, many years when I haven’t been working in retail. It felt a little strange, to not be in the midst of all the chaos. I never anticipated saying that. Make no mistake, though, I don’t miss it.
Anyone who has been following me since the start may vaguely remember my goal being to work my butt off so I would be able to enjoy this time. That’s what I did. As a result, December has been less work, and more play. I took a trip to Edinburgh to celebrate my sister’s birthday. This is a tradition I’ve been forced to miss out on for the last four or five years because of retail holiday restrictions. Being able to go again was priceless.
The rest of the month has been embracing all Christmas festivities and appreciating the fact I have the freedom to enjoy it. It’s been worth all those long days I’ve put in along the way.
2018 has been a defining year in my life, for both good and bad reasons. Writing all of this down has made me see just what a year it’s been.
None of us can ever know for certain what next year will bring. I’m hoping for better. I’m hoping I can get out of my own way, and start to make things happen for myself. This year has shown me what I’m capable of. It’s made me see the strength I have inside of me, and the good I can do.
But, I know I haven’t fully let go. I’m being weighed down by a fear of failure, and the impossible pursuit of perfection. There is still a piece of me resisting. There’s still work to do. If I can continue to grow in 2019, I will be happy. If I’m able to keeping helping others, that would be delightful. What I’d love by this time next year is to be sat writing a post like this, having touched many more lives, and been able to take my blog to the next level. I hope you’ll stick with me to find out.