The year that wasn’t mine

I’ve been wanting to put this out for weeks, but I’m in full blown insomnia mode (I don’t think I’ve had a full night’s sleep since September) and have no time to work on my own craft lately.

Disclaimer: since I first started writing this post, a lot has changed. A lot.

2018 was not my year. And that’s ok.

I feel a little silly now as I look back on the end of 2017. I had stepped out of a career I loved to move into another career I loved so I could travel more and work on my own creative projects.

That was just a few weeks before Mom first went into surgery.

My memories from that time are so crystal clear, it’s hard to believe they happened almost a year ago. I remember the first terrible morning, weeks later. I awoke to a bunch of missed phone calls from Central Health. I called the number back and it was Mom’s resident doctor informing me that Mom’s oxygen had dropped too low that evening and they were waiting for permission to intubate her. They couldn’t reach my Dad, because he had already heard about what was happening and was on his way to Grand Falls-Windsor with my little brother. So I became the next of kin, and the decision was up to me.

I remember that silent 7am walk to the hospital with the hollow crunch of snow underneath my feet. It was so quiet. Then the resident taking me into a private room while I cried and cried, and eventually I gave them permission to intubate her. They stuck a giant tube down her throat so she could breathe.

Loneliness is making a decision for your Mother’s life when there’s no one else around to guide you.

Eventually my family did show up. But the worst days came later – the worst days happened when I was told her kidneys had failed and she only had a few days left to live. All my family was there when we got that news.  And then I remember air lifting her to St. John’s, where the ICU team saved her life. And then Mom being so sick that she didn’t recognize me. And then another round in ICU due to sepsis, and so on, and so forth.

It was six months of constants ups and really low lows. My little 100-pound mother is amazing. She stubbornly defied every medical strike against her. Two major operations, two ICU stays, several bouts of pneumonia, and a vicious leg wound caused by an IV later…she went home.

I didn’t know what to do with my newfound life. I had spent almost every single day at the hospital with Mom; I had put on weight and I was stressed beyond measure. At one point I realized that I hadn’t had a day to myself since the beginning of the year. My incredible family was there to help me when they could, but I was alone most of the time. And around this time, my Dad was diagnosed with pretty serious COPD and was dealing with his own health. My brother is unwell too. Sometimes it felt like it all came down to me.

So naturally, I took off to Berlin for a few weeks to spend some time with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my travels. I can certainly say now that those were the best days of my year, by far.

Summer carried on, and life felt good. Then my relationship started deteriorating. As my then-boyfriend pulled away from me, I spiralled into a dark place. Was he cheating on me? Was it because I gained weight during all those days with Mom? My insecurities were out of control. I knew he had his own problems and I didn’t want to make it all about me – but it was killing me. I was trying so damned hard. You know, that pathetic neediness you only have when you know someone isn’t into you but you refuse to believe it. Around that time I started having “flashbacks” from when Mom was sick. A forgotten memory would resurface at the strangest moment, and I’d lose my breath.

At the beginning of September, I set out on an incredibly luxe 10-day media trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan. A few days before, I had asked my then-boyfriend about what was going on. He had zero interest in me. He didn’t touch me, ever. I knew something was happening. Then, two days later in Hong Kong, he told me he wanted to end things. I was expecting it but I wasn’t prepared to handle it there – on the other side of the planet, surrounded by strangers, with no support network. The next couple of days were a blur as I threw myself into fine dining, sightseeing, and meeting important media members. I didn’t sleep; I could hardly function. I took no notes. I was distressed and could not do my job.

There was a singular moment where I can pinpoint a major crack in my emotional health. I was at the Farglory Hotel in Taiwan, sitting at an oak desk in my bedroom, chatting with my aunt. She had come online to tell me that Mom was back in the hospital with pneumonia. I remember placing my forehead on the desk and blacking out for 20 minutes. I don’t even know what happened in those 20 minutes. But I needed my Mom so very badly and suddenly she wasn’t there either.

She’s been in and out of the hospital since then with a seriously compromised immune system. Fortunately, that second stay wasn’t too long. But I had no way of reaching her; it was impossible to think I couldn’t speak to her.

Those days were an unbelievable whirlwind. Despite the awfulness back home, Hong Kong and Taiwan were incredible and I hope I did my publication proud. Even in my darkest moments I could see the beauty of life around me. I had to spend a few days in Texas on my way back to St. John’s, which was another nice distraction. And then back to St. John’s to face this new life of mine.

I never saw my ex again. I still don’t understand what happened, and I probably never will. That’s okay. Whatever he thinks of me, most of his friends removed me from Facebook. That stung too.

So I busied myself to the point of exhaustion. I started dating again. I went to the gym six times a week and worked 50 hour weeks. I drank a lot. I dyed my hair and bought some clothes to make me feel like I was in control of something. I came across his profile on Tinder where he was actively seeking dates and I broke down again, for a few days. Then I went back to being busy. I lost weight and I started feeling sexy, empowered, strong. I was making active changes.

Something had irreparably changed in me, though. For weeks my mind would slide backwards to the times when me and my ex were happy, or to when Mom was critically ill, and the hurt was endless. I really struggled with that guilt – the pain and grief raging inside me from heartbreak was often more intense than when Mom was sick. But I hadn’t thought of it as grief at first, until a friend pointed out it’s possible to grieve someone who’s still alive.

It’s weird to write about break-ups because it’s not just my life I’m talking about. But he was my first love.

My plan was to busy myself until eventually one day I realized I was over all of it. But there were days in November where I just couldn’t stop crying. I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t get out of bed and even when I did I couldn’t stop crying then either. I remember making dinner, and chopping vegetables one second and then leaning over the counter sobbing the next. I know you’re supposed to allow these feelings in, but it was so much. It was so different from anything I had experienced before. I just knew that a terrible shift  had happened somewhere inside me and I needed to fix things. So the next day I called my doctor and arranged for some counselling and treatment.

So much has changed since then. I’m not the kind of person to sit around and not take action. I know things will always be fine. When I walked the Camino, I learned a lot about gratitude and those lessons have stuck with me over the years. I love my life. I love the world I’ve built for myself here. I love my family, and I love my friends. I work hard and I have accomplished everything in my life I have set out to do. There’s not much I would change about it.

I did some incredible things in 2018. I discovered an inner strength during my mother’s illness that I never knew was there. I made great travel memories. I was published a hundred times over. I lost 15 pounds and took complete control of my physical health, and even completed two five-kilometre runs in December – something I never, ever dreamed was possible.

I started meditating and I stopped drinking so much. I ironed out my morning routine, cleaned up my eating habits, and gained a new, better focus on my daily work. And a few months ago I started dating a wonderful man who treats me like an absolute queen.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2019, including a six-week trip around Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. I plan on buying a house – all on my own. I feel more focused and better than I have in a long time. So, thank you, readers, for sticking around with me during that awful period in my life. I think you can understand why it’s been so quiet. My traffic has plummeted and I’m ready to rebuild.

I do hope I make better choices about who I give my heart to in the future. I do hope I can climb out of this mess and finish writing my guidebook. I do hope I go on more adventures in 2019. I do hope I can sleep a full night again sometime in my life.

2018 wasn’t my year. And that’s okay.

  • January 09 2019

    You are a very strong person. You write so very well about the stress you’ve gone through this past year, and knowing about extreme stress myself, I could feel your misery and admire how you have survived it. I wonder why it often happens that one stress situation is followed by another or piles right on top of the first.Wishing you continued strength and good health for 2019. PS: May my post below give you a few drops of endorphins.
    Miss Footloose recently posted…Expat Drama: How (Not) to Buy Eggs in a Foreign Country

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thanks so much! :) Yes, kind of nuts huh? While Mom was sick Dad became ill and it was just one thing after another…I’m sure it’s not by coincidence that these things happen. I’m off to read your post!

  • January 09 2019

    Oh Candice! Missed your blog while you were sorting out life but I’m glad to see you back. This kind of vulnerability is exactly why you’re one of my favourite bloggers. I hope 2019 is kinder to you, you deserve everything good!
    Elina recently posted…Year End Recap: the Pretty Mess That Was 2018

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      That means SO MUCH to me Elina, thank you! :)

  • January 09 2019

    I had a few years like that over the past ten.
    Being ‘next of kin’ and making those decisions is horrible.
    Jillian Mullowney recently posted…Chicken Devan (High Protein)

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Yes, it’s a responsibility nobody wants to have, and I’m sure it’s equally as strange for my mother having her daughter make life decisions for her

  • January 09 2019
    bean

    oy. that’s. a. lot. in so many ways, the observation is that you need time to absorb. so glad to hear that you are taking control …which is important when so many things are out of our control. the boyfriend? best now than later. if he was willing to break up with you when you were halfway around the world, then he was going to do worse when you were nearby. hurts? of course. a million years ago, my boyfriend broke up with me when he was in Philly and I was in Singapore!!! Brutal. But, ultimately, I understood that it was his nature and I deserved so much better. I’m married 28 years now…a real partnership. Sending light and love for you and your family.

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Aww, thank you! :) I love hearing those kind of stories. Quite honestly I have zero ill feelings towards my ex. He was going through something too and I knew it. But in the long run, it’s for the best.

  • January 09 2019

    Sending you so much love, Candice. Thank you for taking us to your most private of places.
    Lola recently posted…Work Update: How 2018 went as a freelancer [Pie Chart]

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thank you, Lola! It was a challenge to publish

  • January 09 2019

    Candice, thanks for sharing so openly. The breakup while you were away is something that really must have been traumatic. I think it WAS your year though. I mean, wow. With all that going on, you accomplished so much and came to a better, stronger place in your life. Here’s to a new year, new love, new challenges, and new triumphs.
    Heather recently posted…Expat Heather is Moving to…

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thanks so much Heather, I really appreciate that! It’s true, things have really turned around since then. I hope it stays this way for awhile.

  • January 09 2019
    Ali

    I’m so sorry you had such a rough year. I felt so terrible for you every time you talked about your mom taking a turn for the worst or your ex dumping you while you were in HK. (Seriously? He couldn’t have just waited until you got back?) But you’re an amazingly strong person to have gotten through it all and it sounds like you’re doing even better now. That’s so wonderful that you’ve been able to improve your diet and workout routine and all of that. I don’t have nearly the stress you’ve had, and I can’t manage to get myself to do those things! I really hope 2019 is a better year for you. Sounds like you have some great plans ahead!
    Ali recently posted…Can you bring a lighter on a plane?

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Don’t sell yourself short Ali, you have your own health issues to contend with! But thanks so much. You’ve really paid attention through all this and I appreciate it.

  • January 09 2019

    Missed you but totally understand. Not my year either. Wishing you love, fun, success and good health to you and your family.

    Will always be a fan!

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      hanks Julie! I’m hoping I’ll be more connected this year. I’ve missed blogging.

  • January 09 2019

    You definitely had a rough year and I’m so glad things have started looking up for you – you deserve it! Yep, grieving for someone that is still alive is definitely a thing and it is painful as hell. It’s been three years since I broke it off from my ex fiance and partner of 9 years and even though I’m now married to someone else and I love him, I’m still grieving my ex. It does get easier though. I hope 2019 is amazingly awesome for you

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Wow Katie, thanks for sharing that. Love and relationships are still so strange to me. I’ve spent most of my life being single. Thanks for your words <3

  • January 09 2019

    I want to give you a hug! 2018 was clearly a very tough year but you survived. I hope your 2019 is amazing!

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thanks Barb! I’m hoping so too!

  • January 09 2019
    LC

    That’s… a lot. Too much for one person to deal with. Sounds like things are balancing out. Enjoy the trip. Good luck with the house. Look forward to hearing more from you – missed you in the blogosphere!

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thanks LC! It was a lot but I had an incredible support system around me. Seriously, I am so blessed.

  • January 09 2019

    First of all: fuck that guy. There’s nothing more immature than becoming distant and waiting for someone to leave town before breaking up with them.

    Secondly, you are a superhero for handling all this stuff this year. I’m proud of you for seeking help. I’m (finally) doing the same myself.

    Good riddance, 2018.
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted…Adventures in Transportation: Central America

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Thank you Caroline! It was so good seeing you in Austin. I wish I was in a better mind frame during that time. In all seriousness, I have zero ill feelings towards my ex – he was going trough something too, and I have a good deal of empathy towards him. It was handled poorly and we’ll never connect again but I sincerely hope he’s doing better too. <3 <3

  • January 10 2019

    I seriously get it when one of your parents gets serious and you have the sole responsibility of them!! I really had been in your position and we still have to adapt to it even though we are not ready for it!!

    • January 11 2019
      Candice

      Yes, so true! But I guess we’ll never be truly ready for that sort of thing, right?

  • January 12 2019

    Hi Candice,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented before. But I wanted to say something now because your post just brought tears to my eyes. I had a terrible year about 6 years ago, when I was so depressed and burned out all I could do was stay in bed and cry all day. And when I finally started to feel better, my boyfriend of 7 years broke up with me, leaving me heartbroken. So this post really resonated with me.

    It’s so great to see how you manage to stay positive and optimistic despite everything that happened this year. And how much you achieved despite all the hardship! I’m glad you’re feeling better now, and I hope 2019 will be a much better year for you.

    Good luck with everything!
    Marieke van Gastel recently posted…My First Impressions of Mérida

    • February 10 2019
      Candice

      Hi Marieke, I SO appreciate you commenting! Thanks so much for your sweet words and I’m sorry you went through something similar. It really is nice to know we’re not alone in this.

  • January 13 2019

    My first thought was YAY A NEW POST FROM CANDICE! Second thought – I’m sorry that 2018 wasn’t the best, but you are a wonderful writer/person. This post really resonated with me. It brought me back to 2015 when my partner of 5 years and I had split up and I wasn’t loving my job/city. A year later, I was living in Japan and meeting the love of my life. A lot can change in a year, and it sounds like 2019 has already been off to a great start (and you are really motivating me to work out/exercise more)! All the best to you and looking forward to reading more posts! xoxo
    Tharani recently posted…New life, old city

    • February 10 2019
      Candice

      Awww, thanks so much Tharani! I really appreciate that! :) It’s incredible how much changes in a year, right?! I hope things are on the upswing from now on

  • February 03 2019

    Hello Candice, I admire you for writing your emotions out. Your so tough and I like it. Best regards from Taipei.
    Agness recently posted…Protected: Technological Travel – The Best Resources to Make Your Adventure Easier

    • February 10 2019
      Candice

      Thanks so much, Agness!

  • May 08 2019
    lou

    i agree 2018 was awful. yours worse than mine by the sounds…but though the stickiness the phoenix rises and now life is unrecognisable and full of beauty. stay strong x

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