Goodbye 2013 : a look back

What a year it's been. I can honestly say that I never expected so much positivity to happen within 365 days. For so long I had been trying to just keep my head above water, and not really making any forward progress. That certainly changed this year, in so many ways.

The start of this year was very dark. I was severely depressed and one false move away from re-admission to the psychiatric hospital. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. I was put on venlafaxine and I can confidently say that that drug saved my life. I was also referred back to the day hospital, for the millionth time, and worked my butt off. I had always struggled to engage with the staff and the groups purely because I was so terrified, but being older definitely made a difference in that respect.

I had to work hard. I absolutely had to give it everything. Why? Because my place at Sussex University depended on it. You can only defer once, twice if you've got a strong case. But I didn't want to defer again. That would be admitting that I'd failed to use my time in a good enough manner to get to a point where I was functional enough to study. At the grand old age of 26, I'm not exactly in a position to postpone my education much longer!

Being unemployed and living on benefits from the age of 18 really was starting to eat away at my soul. I know I couldn't help being so disabled, and not having the option to live at 'home' meant it was either the benefit system or live on the streets; but there is such a stigma surrounding the entire situation, it's not something I ever managed to get to grips with.

I am so thankful that I was able to get the benefits awarded so I could live in my own flat, and have Lily for company. I know how many people are rejected for whatever reason and my heart breaks for them. The system is broken and those with mental health related conditions are being targeted because they think we won't fight back. I was on the 'old' system, which meant that I managed to escape all these confusing new changes for the most part. It was only when my national insurance number was put into the Student Loan system that I got the ESA letter of doom.

On 28th June I reached my first full year of sobriety. Two days later I was on a plane to Nerja, which is in southern Spain. That was the most incredible week of my life. Despite being heavily sedated for the flight, I was able to dare I say enjoy the experience and process all the thoughts and feelings, and fears I had prior to that very first flight. Was I scared? Of course. The unknown is scary, and when it's the unknown in a foreign country where you have no grasp of the language... Oh gosh it was exhausting. But Nerja is beautiful, and being with Alex and his parents made for the perfect first non-UK holiday. We're going back this summer and I'm already bursting with excitement!!

Upon returning to the UK, we had to start looking for somewhere to live. By now Alex and I had been together for over 4 years, so it was about time we took the plunge. I also could not afford to keep a flat by myself in Brighton. It's vastly too expensive! I had always said that we would live on a particular road, and low-and-behold, we managed to grab our current house from someone else just in time. I don't know how I knew we would live here, but it felt like we were meant to.

August was hard. Two friends passed away within a week of each other and it was also the anniversary of another friends passing. Not easy, at all. 

We moved on 4th September after a very stressful month, and the move itself went far from smoothly. Thankfully I had my team of boys to take care of things and do all the heavy lifting while I cleaned for basically 48 solid hours. My welcome to Brighton was pretty horrific, when we were confronted with a severely soiled and maggot infested fridge that has been placed in our kitchen. I don't think I'll forget that for as long as I live. It smelt like hell and took me ages to get it out of the floors. Our relationship with our letting agents is not exactly great, and I am not really allowed to talk to them anymore.

Their contractors began letting themselves into the house without notice or permission. This is illegal. It also set me back quite significantly. My anxiety exploded, depression kicked back in and I was suffering dissociative and psychotic symptoms. I couldn't leave the house and everything felt like it was unraveling  faster than I could ever have planned for. Shortly prior to this, I had been discharged from mental health services. Exactly one month later, I was referred back to Brighton CMHT as a matter of urgency.

I was behind with my work. The quality of my work was awful. I failed my maths exams. At this point I was ready to just curl up in a ball and resign myself to a life of nothing but fear. But I didn't. Something gave me the strength to keep going. I have no doubt my friends where guiding me onwards, and in the right direction. I asked for help. I sought support from the disabled students service and now have educational and practical support in place.

In terms of my mental health, things are at a stage of day-to-day management. My medication has been increased significantly: 300mg venlafaxine, 450mg quetiapine, 160mg propranolol, 100mg cyclizine and 20mg buspirone, and nexplanon - the contraceptive implant. So it's safe to say my body is a chemical plant at the moment. I hate the side-effects. Of course, the most common with high-dose anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication is weight gain. Nexplanon also causes weight gain. 

I have gained weight. A lot of weight. In January 2013 I started the year off at around 53kg and was fairly stable there. Fast forward 12 months; January 1st 2014, I was confronted with the ugly truth: 74.3kg. Holy shit. I have deliberately not being weighing myself because I knew it would be bad, but I didn't expect it to be THAT bad. My BMI is 25.3 and I am wearing size 12 to 16, depending on the brand. My boobs have expanded from a 34C to a 36DD. I have stretch marks. I feel disgusting.

This is the price we pay for functionality. But when you throw an eating disorder into the mix it gets ugly. I am having the nexplanon implant removed next Thursday. I desperately want off of the psych meds but I feel that would be a stupid mistake to make. I am going to commit to juice fasting as soon as the food we've bought has been used up. I am going to give the Jason Vale programme a try first and see what happens...  I have to be down to a BMI of 20 by the time I go back to Nerja in June!!!

One of the most wonderful parts of the year gone by was getting to meet fellow bloggers, both in Brighton and London. It's so amazing to me to make new friends that are 'normal' and don't necessarily have a foundation of ill-health like some of my other friends I've made via support groups for various mental illnesses. This might sound really soppy and gross but it really has been so incredible to have more people in my life and I absolutely cherish every single person!

So. What plans do I have for this year? Well obviously I want to do well at university. That's a given. I am also considering moving into the fashion side of blogging; daily OOTDs, university style and all that good stuff. Of course, I need a tripod so I can take half-decent pictures first. I have also considered expanding onto YouTube but that's a very scary step to take! I also want to try and make Lily a bigger part of the blog. We're working to get her to explore the garden, so that's something to write about!

I would like to ask you, my amazingly wonderful followers, what you would like to see more of, in terms of topics and post frequency.

2013 was a pretty monumental year. I'd love to carry on that trend!

A huge thank you to every single one of you for reading, following and sticking with me! :) I never expected this blogging lark to really take - it was an experiment in distraction - but oh my, how I love doing this!!

Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.

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