It seems like only five minutes ago that I was creating my Stellar story and publishing my post about why I had chosen ‘Blossom’ as my word for 2016.
I had procrastinated about writing this post. I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered: I wanted to look towards the future, to leave the sorrows of 2016 behind. But then my post about my word for 2016 popped up on the Facebook Memories and I had a read.
Funnily enough, I hadn’t really looked at the post, or the quotes contained within, beyond January. While it provided inspiration, they did not give motivation – or not consciously, anyway.
Reading the post, and the picture quotes I had so lovingly created in December 2015 produced a warm fuzzy feeling inside of me. Reflecting on where I am today compared to 12 short months ago I feel so proud of where I have come from and what I have achieved.
Those quotes are no longer an aspiration, or a dream. They are my reality. Most of the time, at least.
“You are here not to shrink down less, but to blossom into more of who you really are.”
Oprah Winfrey’s quote perfectly articulated why blossom was my word of the year. I wanted to find myself, as pretentious as that might sound.
We all evolve through life, of course, and change to some extent according to our circumstances.
Hugo’s death, my own brush with death, and everything that came after changed me, irrevocably. Most of those changes were positive: a passion that burned brightly, a passion that inspires change through Hugo’s Legacy and #MatExp.
But some changes I did not like: the legacy of trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The anger, the panic attacks. The feeling that I had little control over myself, my emotions. Fear.
By September, however, that feeling was easing thanks to EMDR therapy. That therapy was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, next to losing Hugo and there were times when I wondered why on earth I was putting myself through it. But I persevered, and I know believe it is the best thing I have ever done. I have accepted that I will never be ‘fixed’, that there will be a part of my brain, my soul, that is forever damaged. My brain continues to process memories and there continue to be times when I worry I am going completely mad. But thanks to EMDR therapy I am better able to rationalise those thoughts, and I am better able to recognise and manage my symptoms.
Those are great gifts, and enable me to blossom.
My ‘best nine’ photos on Instagram
These sum up pretty well my year: Hugo, sorrow, determination, moving forward. It’s interesting that the central image bears the quote ‘When you feel like giving up, look at how far you’ve come. Be strong. Stay on your path. Never stop going.”
That has been my mantra for the year.
“She believed she could, so she did.”
Thinking back on my achievements during the past year, I honestly – no false modesty – question whether that was actually me. Did I dream it? No, I didn’t….proof is on the internet, so it must be true!
In March, I was beyond proud to be named the winner of the Tommy’s Mum’s Voice Award at a ceremony in London. The day itself was very special, with Martin and my dear friends Susanne and Jenny and the opportunity to celebrate the life of my beautiful Hugo.
I still pinch myself that Nobody’s Patient exists. When I discovered the bid I co-wrote had won funding, I cried. It was the culmination of more than two years of campaigning for the voice of women and families like mine to have their voices heard. To show that we should no longer be in the ‘too difficult’ pile, that to listen to our stories gives services the opportunity to improve experiences for other families. Taking the workshop to St George’s was a surreal and incredibly proud day.
I spoke at the Department of Health with Flo about #MatExp and coproduction; and at the King’s Fund and the launch of the annual MBRRACE report about Nobody’s Patient.
I spoke about my experiences of perinatal mental health at the House of Lords, and was the guest of Bliss at a House of Commons event to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week.
In September, I was incredibly proud to be named in a shortlist of the Mumsnet Best Campaigner award.
“Every flower must grow through dirt”.
The year brought joy, which was swiftly replaced by heartbreak: in early July I discovered I was pregnant again. Martin and I were delighted, but an early scan revealed I had suffered a missed miscarriage at just six weeks. I had a D&C to remove the baby, but the procedure was incomplete. To add to the stress it took another six weeks or so to clear, and my body continued to think it was pregnant for that time.
The positive side of that was that I had got pregnant naturally, even though doctors had told me that was impossible…
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
In a strange twist of fate I should thank the fertility doctor who so upset me, because he inspired some of the most important changes in my life: exercise. Discovering a love of working out, and through that gaining confidence through smashing through my physical comfort zone has helped me manage my PTSD, and get pregnant naturally. It has also opened up new horizons: people love the videos of me working out, and have even started their own fitness programmes as a result (another pinch myself moment!). These are things I could not have imagined a year ago. I have proven that doctor wrong, with bells on, but it is about SO much more than that….because of his ill-chosen, insensitive words and manner, I have truly blossomed.
Stubborn and determined, me? Guilty as charged!
“I don’t want to be another flower on the wall.”
“A flower does not think of competing with the one next to it. It just blooms.”
I have followed my own path. While I have taken inspiration from others (who doesn’t?) I have done things my own way in my own time.
In the early days of blogging about Hugo I felt uncomfortable about many things: ‘profiting’ from him; not ‘fitting’ anywhere; concerned about being ‘pity porn’. In the turmoil of grief and trauma I no longer knew who I was, where I was going, or which way is up.
Gradually, I have figured that that is okay. No one has it all figured out, irrespective of their circumstances.
And Hugo; HELLP syndrome; my quirky sense of humour; love of colour; creativity; being an awesome badass in the gym; love of style, clothes, shoes…they are all part of what makes me, me. I cannot extricate or separate any of those things.
And finally, thanks to the EMDR therapy I am accepting that Hugo’s death was not my fault. That I did not fail him. That I am not the world’s worst person.
Those statements are no exaggeration. They are burdens with which I tormented myself daily for more than two and a half years. The therapy hasn’t made it all better, as I say, but it has liberated me from the worst of those emotions.
Those emotions can be all-encompassing, and exhausting.
I now have more energy to spare. For living. For blossoming.
I landed my dream job (mid missed miscarriage and while I was undergoing therapy – I don’t like to do things by half!) which I love, and feel blessed to have.
I started a new blog, Looking for a Bright Side to showcase the lighter side of my character, while retaining this blog for campaigning work, and launched the Awesomeness Project to help others reap the benefit of exercise and wellbeing in the way I have, without having to go to the same depths.
In short, I am glad I have written this post. Taking time to reflect is often worthwhile: when we are in the midst of life we can forget how well we have done.
My word for 2017 is
It is a beautiful word, conjuring feelings of light, brightness, and hope.
In 2017 I hope to:
- Brighten my own life as well as the lives of others through my writing and campaigning
- Celebrate life, and my achievements, however small
- Enlighten, with knowledge, through Hugo’s Legacy in this blog, and about wellbeing and fitness through my new blog.
You can read more about what this word means to me on my new blog.
Thank you for being there during 2016 (and before). I look forward to seeing what is to come in 2017, especially with the knowledge that having survived and blossomed in 2016 I can shine through the next 12 months, too.
I hope too that this post shows others that no matter how crap life can be, no matter what life throws at you, and irrespective of those times when you think you might as well give up,
keep going. Look at how far you have come. Keep moving forward. Even if you are on your hands and knees, keep going. Step by small step.