Looking Back at 2017: How Was it for Me?

With just a few days left of 2017 it’s a good time to reflect on the year…how has it gone, and what I have achieved?

My word for 2017 was ‘Illuminate’ – I chose it because it is full of life, light, hope. It is also about enlightenment: knowledge, learning, connections, and empowerment.

You can read more about why I chose the word on my other blog, Looking for a Bright Side. I set up that blog late in 2016 because I felt like I needed an alternative blog where I could truly be ‘me’, and explore the ‘fun’ stuff – Headspace Perspective was the blog for the ‘serious’ stuff, and the two areas felt at odds with each other.

As it turns out, I haven’t written much on either blog for months…and I’ve come to realise that I don’t need two blogs. The ‘serious’ stuff and the ‘fun’ stuff are all part of me – and that is the way it is. I’ve missed writing – the creative outlet, the therapeutic outlet, the flow of the words…In short, Bright Side will be quietly retired, and I’ll be writing more on here in 2018. That’s a spoiler alert! …keep an eye out in the next couple of days for details of my 2018 plans.

In the meantime, back to 2017. Highlights of my year include:

The Awesomeness Challenge

For Hugo’s third birthday (which is also the third anniversary when I could have died but didn’t) I wanted to do something special to celebrate my boy and being alive, as well as raise money and awareness of premature babies, and HELLP syndrome.

With the support of my local gym I came up with the Awesomeness Challenge, which included a range of cardio and strength exercises with reps or distances relevant to both me and Hugo’s care and treatment.

I smashed not only the challenge, but my fundraising target too – at £1,668 my wonderful supporters helped me raise 167% of my initial £1000 aim, to be split between Tommy’s, and First Touch.

Thank you to each and every one of you who contributed financially and / or by virtually cheering me on. And I am still blown away by the anonymous £500 donation that came as a result of watching my challenge video.

I’m wondering whether to repeat the challenge for Hugo’s fourth birthday, or try a new challenge…watch this space!

The general fitness has continued: in the spring I started heavy lifting – deadlifts and squats which I thoroughly enjoy!

In October I completed the FitBrit challenge for the second year running – this time in 21 minutes.

…and I’ve also got back in to running. Physical activity feels incredibly empowering, and is still a crucial part of helping me manage my mental health.

Awareness Raising

Most of 2016 was incredibly challenging because of going through EMDR therapy. There were times when I wondered why I was putting myself through it because it seemed like it was making my symptoms worse. At times I was convinced I would not work again because my head was broken.

With that in mind, I was incredibly proud to talk in a fancy London building about my mental health, what I do to keep myself as well as is possible, and how I am supported to remain in work.

My head still disappears down a dark vortex from time-to-time. Those occasions present a struggle, and are horrid to have to deal with. Deal with them I do, though. I am better at living with my mental health difficulties rather than being in constant battle with them. Knowing that the difficult times will pass, and having myriad tactics in my coping toolbox helps keep me moving forward.

APPG

One of my proudest moments of 2017 was presenting a paper (co-authored with my friend Victoria Morgan) to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss at the House of Commons. The paper, about including bereaved parents in the neonatal and maternity feedback surveys, was well-received and supported by MPs and other stakeholders. I’ve received an update: the CQC (who conduct these surveys) are now in support of including us, and understand why it is important. This will take time to implement, but considering the response I received when when I first raised the challenge (in 2015) this is very positive progress indeed.

In 2015 I was told the exclusion was because of sensitivity and ethics. A patronising excuse that has resulted in the loss of evidence, intelligence, and information to improve care and experience for all families cared for by these specialties. I am immensely proud to have been involved in influencing this change.

Through my campaigning on social media, my blog, and the talks I have given, culminating in the APPG presentation I have been helping break the taboo – we can talk about baby loss. I cannot bring my son Hugo back, but by campaigning in his memory I can contribute to improved services for the benefit of all families and the staff who care for them.

 

Launch of New Bereavement Guidelines

The change to the CQC surveys will take time to implement, and in the meantime there is further positive progress with the launch of new bereavement guidance for listening to bereaved parents – I attended the launch in June.

Parliamentary Launch of Baby Loss Awareness week

This event was hugely positive, and underlined the commitment by everyone involved: politicians, charities, and families to work together to prevent avoidable baby loss, and to better support bereaved families.

Nobody’s Patient

In April, I co-presented with Gill Phillips and Catherine MacLennan an Edge Talk about the Nobody’s Patient project. If you missed it, you can watch the recording and view the presentation.

You can also watch a video I made about my involvement in the project – it was for the SANDS/Bliss/RCM Uncertainty and Loss Conference where Florence Wilcock and Sam Frewin were presenting. I’d been invited too, but was already booked to speak at NHS Expo (see below…)

NHS Expo

NHS Expo was an epic day! In addition to being involved in sessions for my substantive role, I was very excited to be part of MatExp’s session on the main stage – a huge achievement!

I read Helen Calvert’s poem Theoretical Mummy, which shares many similarities with my experiences with Hugo.

Becoming a Fellow of the RSA

I’m incredibly proud to have been invited to be a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. It is a huge honour, offering many opportunities stepping in the footsteps of many great figures, both historical and contemporary. The library is incredibly epic, too.

Me outside the RSA

Sketchnotes

I might have slacked off on the writing during 2017, but I have indulged my creativity by learning a new skill: sketchnoting. They are such a brilliant medium for articulating concepts in an engaging way, creating conversations, and sparking insights. So much fun, too!

My sketchnotes have been shared hundreds of thousands of times, adorn the walls of many workplaces, and have featured in many of the talks I have given. There are more to come in 2018!

Me presenting at the NHS London Commsference

Words of the Day

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I love my words of the day. They are a bit of fun learning – they might be words from another language to which there is no direct translation in English, or an obscure definition that I find interesting. Another way of building knowledge!

Turning 40

In July I celebrated my 40th birthday. It was an event I was really looking forward to, in sharp contrast to my 30th a decade earlier…for some reason I dreaded that milestone! I guess the difference is I reflect I am lucky to have reached 40.

I share my birthday with Prince George, and as is customary an Official Birthday Portrait was revealed for the little boy’s fourth birthday. Deciding to get in on the act, for a bit of fun I released my own official birthday portrait on Twitter (randomly, in terms of likes it’s one of my most popular tweets…)

Writing posts such as this can feel challenging because they can seem boastful, or like showing off – we’re not ‘supposed’ to do that, are we? Reflecting on my year’s achievements has been a very fruitful and positive exercise, however.

Complications in my personal life kept me away from writing, and adversely affected my mental health – all on top of the usual difficulties. Life has been blinking tough at times, and I have kept going. I will no doubt have more down periods in future for one reason and another, so this post will be a useful resource for me to read to remind myself what I am capable of when my head disappears down the dark vortex.

So, 2017 has been a year of illumination. I followed an life, light, hope, enlightenment, knowledge, learning, connections, and empowerment.

Here’s to 2018, and whatever the next 12 months might bring.

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