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.