I am so ready for 2016 to be over. I really am. It’s been horrible in so many ways, it’s been, well it’s just been crap. Or has it? Am I ready? Isn’t there a small part of me that doesn’t want 2016 to be over? 2016 has been a year of unbelievable achievements, a year of learning so much about myself, a year of hitting a new all time low and reaching dizzying highs, a year of standing firm and sticking to principles, of being confident and smiling when inside everything was crumbling into tiny little pieces that didn’t seem like they would ever fit together again, a year of walking away, of giving up, of re-building and of persuading others that I am brilliant when I felt anything but. 2016 taught me that I am superwoman – a very very fragile and breakable one, but superwoman. 2016 has been a bitch, a complete bitch but here I am right at the end of 2016 and I’m going on – the bitch isn’t. 2016 will turn into 2017 and there is something about the turn of the year that I like. It’s just another day but somehow it is a day that holds promise and excitement…
So let’s take a look at 2016.
- In January I travelled half way round the world (well, sort of) to run 48.6 miles in 4 days. The training leading up to it, the Disney World escapism and the running itself helped me make huge steps towards recovering from the anxiety and depression that had been with me for longer than I care to admit. In January 2016 I was physically fit and healthy but my mind was still a bit of a mess. Messy mind or not I dragged my butt round the 26.2 mile Dopey challenge marathon after having run the half marathon the day before, 10k before that and 5 k the day before that. I may have hated most of it at the time, I may have walked almost all of it but I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got to the finish. I went through every emotion on that journey but I never wanted to stop. I thought I might not make it but I did not want to stop. Stopping is something I had to learn.
- In April I had another go at 26.2 miles and as I made my way round the iconic London marathon course I decided that 26.2 miles are not for me. I don’t like that distance, it’s not fun and I never want to do it again. I didn’t want to stop though. I remember the finish line, I remember the excruciating walk/tube ride/walk back to the hotel and I remember feeling completely empty. I had nothing at all left physically, emotionally and mentally. I felt like I should be proud and excited but I was just empty. Looking back now I wonder whether I needed that. Looking back I wonder whether after that complete emptiness I slowly started rebuilding.
- Work was – for the first half of 2016 – hell. I went back to work after the Dopey Challenge after a period of time off sick . I kept going, I didn’t stop. I did my best and it was, I know now, better than good enough, in some ways too good for the institution. Looking back I can see the bullying, the nastiness, the unreasonableness of it all. I accepted panic attack after panic attack, I accepted the tears, the exhaustion, the lack of support, the loneliness and isolation; I accepted it to get a job done. But as I went through the rest of April and then May it became increasingly clear that I needed to change something. And yet I kept going
- In summer my previous institution went through a ridiculous process they called an Academic Review – the paperwork was idiotic but I did it, the review was bizarre (more so in the light have what has happened since) but I did it. On the days of the meetings I had panic attack after panic attack, I had to get off the bus several stops early because I couldn’t breathe – and yet everyone said I did an amazing job. As I walked out of the final meeting I knew I had decided to leave. I finally gave up. I finally learned to stop. I had to stop. I was once again off sick
- Through August I began to get my shit together. My brain started working again, slowly and the running was fine too – I was getting out at least. Then I started my new job and somehow the rest of 2016 has been uneventful really – trips to Paris and California to complete the Disney running journey – it ended in a failed half marathon but that’s ok. I found a better balance between work and the rest of life. I have been panic attack free since the day I resigned. It’s all good
- Or is it. My anxiety levels are normal but there is that silly black puppy dog that is just waiting on the other side of the door and every now and again it nudges the door open. It’s bounced it’s way into the room just recently and is zapping all my energy. I haven’t run since the abandoned half marathon in November. I sort of want to but I can’t be bothered – what’s the point, I can’t do it anyway (erm – look at points 1 and 2!). I am slow with everything I do. Writing anything useful is taking an age, preparing for teaching is taking far longer than it ever has, just getting through a day without doing anything in particular is somehow hard work. My reaction to any world events are extreme and I cry at anything. But it’s ok. It’s ok because I know. It’s ok because I understand that I’m ill and that getting better takes time, more time than I will ever really want to give it because I’m a perfectionist and impatient.
- I look back at 2016 and apart from the world going totally mad with Brexit and Donald Trump, senseless violence and hate as well as heartwarming acts of kindness and the beauty that can be found in just sitting watching birds in the garden – here’s what I see: 2016 has seen me being stronger and more resilient than I ever thought I could be. I had the strength to hold my head up high, to walk out of a high profile high paid job, not lose it completely and to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. 2016 saw strong legs and a stronger, if sometimes wobbly mind, that made me rise to the Dopey Challenge and the London marathon. In a year where so much went right and so much went wrong I didn’t once waiver from my principles, I didn’t once compromise on the important shit and I didn’t once cross a line I didn’t want to cross. 2016 showed me that however crap,anxious, depressed, wobbly, dark or whatever I feel, I like being me and I can be me – no more than that, I’m good at being me. 2016 has shown me why I am so drawn to the picture and mantra below – it’s because it’s true and I believe it. At the start of 2016 it was a mantra to focus on and keep repeating to myself in the hope that I could fake it – at the end of 2016 I mean it.