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“Please don’t be afraid to put yourself first – if you don’t, no one else will.”

I think we can all agree 2020 has been a strange year, and one many of us will be pleased to see the back of. But amongst the chaos, stress, uncertainty and devastating news, this year has also brought communities together and shown the true kind nature we possess as a species. It has also, oddly, as someone who is housebound due to chronic illness, made me feel more connected to the outside world than I have in years.

On a personal level, 2020 has been an absolute bastard. Everything I knew and relied upon, was suddenly pulled from under me, and I found myself living alone for the first time in 18 years, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown. And as someone who relies on others for my care – this was a scary prospect.

Although these dramatic changes were out of my control, it was my responsibility to find a way to navigate this new life – no one else could do it for me. And as the first wave of panic began to subside, I became aware of an exciting personal journey of discovery I had started, and for once in my life my only responsibility was to myself – what a liberating situation to be in.

I was so scared about being alone. Apart from the practical side of caring for myself, my mind isn’t always a great place to be trapped in. Intrusive thoughts, and overwhelming panic aren’t much fun. But with help from family and friends, and a realisation that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, I not only started to cope, I actually found myself thriving on my own (within the limitations of my chronic life).

I needed to be selfish

I’ve discovered a lot about myself this year, and one thing that is blatantly obvious is; I’m a people-pleaser – so much I do in life is for the benefit of others. I have a desperate need to be liked, and I’m constantly going out of my way to help others. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, we need more encouragers and helpers in this world. But when my health and wellbeing suffer, I must take a step back.

To be able to survive, and to rebuild my life I’ve had to be selfish. Potentially for the first time in my life, I have put myself first. Every choice I’ve made has been 100% mine, and for my benefit. Although this has been a game changer, it has also brought a lot of guilt. I may discuss this more in a later post.

Taking a break from my blog, and from all my responsibilities 

I have worked so hard for the past three years to build up my blog, and I love the little community that has grown up around it. I appreciate your love and support, and I see you all as friends.

But advocacy work is exhausting – physically and mentally, and I needed a break from the constant reminder of my own ill-health, and my own vulnerabilities. I just don’t have either the motivation or energy for it right now.

I also needed to step away from the whole chronic illness community for a while, not just my blog. I needed something in my life that wasn’t centred around sickness. I have realised the importance of a life away from the stress of illness, and I found this through music, and the James Bay fandom.

Photo of James Bay on stage. Quote by Hans Christian Andersen: “When Words Fail, Music Speaks”

Music used to be such a big part of my life, but it was missing for many years due to severe illness. Now it’s back, I can’t get enough of it. Music really does make me happy – it makes me feel alive. I’m thoroughly enjoying playing guitar again, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.

I have written about this in my blog post; Do What Makes Your Soul Shine – please go have a read.

If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will 

By being selfish, and doing what I love, I have survived this difficult period in my life. I have worked through the guilt, the panic, the grief, and the feelings of failure and despair.

Setting up a James Bay fan account may seem like a strange step to many of you – the idea certainly took me by surprise. But it became something that was 100% mine. All the content I create, and everything I post is for me, and I need that right now.

And through this account I have learnt lots of new skills including video editing. I have also thrived creatively, made new friends, and most importantly, had fun. By taking time off from my blog, and being selfish, I have mentally recharged, and I’m a lot happier.

Please don’t be afraid to put yourself first – if you don’t, no one else will.

What I do know is; I’m not prepared to sacrifice as much of my limited energy on others anymore – this includes my blog. It has been exhausting and so full-on for three years – it’s time to find some balance. I also need to find ways to add fun into my blog – to include more lighthearted and less stressful content – any ideas? Obviously music plays a big part in my life, so maybe that is somewhere I could start.

A New Life

I have been living alone now for 6 months. I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy, in fact it’s been the toughest period in my life so far, but I’m OK, and I now enjoy time by myself – it’s so precious to me. I love that I do not have to consider another person when making decisions. I love that I can do what I want, when I want. Obviously this isn’t completely true, my broken body doesn’t allow it – but I have much more control over my life, and happiness now. I’ve learnt to say ‘Fuck It!”. I’ve learnt to be selfish. I’ve learnt my own worth, and I’ve learnt I’m pretty damn awesome!

How do I move forward from here? I’m not sure, but I know I need to find some balance. I don’t think I want my blog and advocacy work to play such a big part in my life anymore. Don’t worry, I’m not going to abandon it altogether, but I do need to set some boundaries, both for myself to stick to, and also for others to respect.

I need fun, I need to take a step back, I need to take the pressure off. I need to remove the ridiculously high expectations I have for myself. I need just to ‘be’ for a while. 

I have no idea what the future holds, but I know I’m no longer afraid of it – I’m not scared to be alone. I will continue on my personal journey, and continue to prioritise what is best for me. I’m confident the rest will fall into place.

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