Level-Up: Part 12

Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.

Part 12! I suppose that means I’ve been ‘Climbing’ for three months. Technically I’m about two months away from doing it for four years, but you get my meaning. When I started this series I had no idea where I was going with it. I just needed something to keep me from slipping backward; somewhere I could record all the good stuff and hold my mistakes accountable.

At the beginning I felt that I had to follow a formula. I needed to list each achievement, explain why something that seemed so insignificant to everyone else was such a big deal to me, and list the lessons I learnt from that week. I needed that structure and I wanted people to understand why simple tasks were and still are difficult for me. About half way through these three months I started noticing that every week presented a new theme or one overriding lesson. Much as I love list-making, it probably has something to do with being a writer that I preferred discussing a theme over hitting the bulletpoint button. So that’s how I’ve continued.

Yesterday I read back through all 11 posts. It was quite the rollercoaster, reliving all those successes and failures. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read Part 6 without crying. Only one other person properly understands just how big a shift that week was for me.  Living those stories in real life and writing about them every week was even more a physical and an emotional rollercoaster than reading them.

Looking back, what I’m sure of is that writing these blog posts has pushed me to move forward in a way I’m not sure I would have without them. Reading Part 1 again gave me shivers. I remember how bad I was feeling that weekend. I recall that fog of failure and embarrassment with no fondness whatsoever. But it also showed me how far I’ve come. I’ve had some low moments, some frightening times and I’ve had several days where I’ve felt like giving up, but I’ve not been back to that place in 12 weeks. That’s pretty amazing to me.

I’ve tried not to shy away from the bad stuff in these posts. As I said at the beginning of the series, there is no straight line in dealing with chronic illness. Bad days, tears, pain and defeat are realities that don’t go away by just ignoring them. But what I’ve always tried to do is look for the silver lining within each week. Making an effort to find the bright side of even the most challenging weeks meant that no week was without purpose. Recognising that the lessons you learn from getting things wrong are just as valuable as the wins.  And even the times when I achieved things I had no clue I was capable of were preceded by some kind of struggle.

Christmas week is never easy. It had its highlights but I still found it tiring. On Boxing Day I crashed in every way. I just had to rest, be quiet and allow my body and mind to restore themselves. I still don’t feel fully over it yet. I’m wobbling all over the place today and the floor feels  like it’s made of rubber. My head still feels a bit foggy. But there are a couple more days before I have to fully throw myself back into work again, so the rest continues.

Surviving Christmas has been an achievement in itself, but there was one little milestone that made the week extra special. One of the things I missed  most when this illness stopped me in my tracks was going to Starbucks. It saved me a lot of money, but having the things I enjoyed taken away and rarely having someone who had the time to go on my behalf or escort me made life pretty miserable at times.

When I started taking slow walks to my local shops a couple of times a week I picked up a Coffee #1 loyalty card. Buy ten hot drinks and your 11th is free. Over the last few months I’ve racked up the red stamps and this past week I got my free vanilla latte. For me, they’re not ten coffees. Each stamp represents one walk taken by myself to and from the coffee shop. Numbers are good. They let you quantify your achievements. Ten walks sounds like an awful lot. Without the card I’d have forgotten them with each cup. Few hot drinks have tasted as good as that 11th latte. Apart from maybe a £4 Starbucks soy chai tea latte (extra hot) sucked through a straw in the car park of a motorway service station. But that’s a story for another day.

Thank you for staying with me through these 12 posts. I hope you’ll stick around for the next three months and beyond.

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