Dec 31, 2018

Posted by in Life & Musings | 0 Comments

2018 Year in Review: The Good, The Bad, The Terrible

For me, the even-numbered years always seem to be my less-wonderful years. There are always lessons to be learned, and good things do still happen, but they’re never what I’d call great years I want to go back to. The odd-numbered years however… those are usually good years. I made a promise to myself many years ago to stop wishing away time (we don’t get so much that we should wish it away), but this year I was ready for 2018 to go die in a ditch somewhere. I am really going to have to struggle to find the good in it, because it’s so overshadowed by everything else. It’s just been that kind of a year. Shall we take a walk down memory lane? I think we shall.

The Terrible

Let’s just dive in and get the worst out of the way, so this can end on a positive note. That, and so much garbage happened that between this and the bad, it is going to be a some-what long two sections.

First and foremost, the worst thing to happen this year was the loss of my dear mother. If someone had told me in 2017 that I was going to lose my mother in 2018, I probably would have been concerned but not really believed them. You knew my mother wasn’t doing well just by looking at her (and knowing who she used to be), but she didn’t seem like she was knocking on death’s door. It was a shock that really shook the foundation of everything I knew, and it’s been quite the transition. I’m still not done transitioning, but the shock of it has worn off at this point, thank goodness.

My mother wasn’t the only one to pass, though. Exactly one year ago today we lost her sister, my Aunt, to lung cancer as well. So December 31, 2017 we lost my maternal Aunt. August 10, 2018 we lost my mother. There would be other losses, though I didn’t know the people who passed so much as the people who lost someone. That’d be my cousin’s wife’s mother (the cousin from my aunt who passed, so they both lost their mothers within a week of each other), my surviving maternal aunt’s father, my brother’s fiance’s grandmother, an older gentleman in my cousin’s extended family through her husband, and finally a close friend of the family dropped dead unexpectedly. So in the span of one year, that’s eight deaths. Even if I didn’t know all the people, just having so many deaths and trying to be there for others is a lot. I always said it was kind of weird that I can better tell you how a wake and funeral goes than a wedding, but after this year that’s even more true. It’s honestly really sad. As a kid I always had a set of funeral clothing ready (and still do to this day), but if a wedding comes along, I’m going to scramble to find something. Says a lot about the longevity of my family (and why I go to the doctor regularly now for my physical, yikes!)

The scary thing about the loss of my mother and aunt, is that they both died from lung cancer, and both types were hereditary. In addition, my maternal grandmother and maternal great-aunt also died of lung cancer. Lung cancer, in all different forms, has effectively claimed two generations of women on my mother’s side of the family. While they did smoke, in my mother’s case her particular type of lung cancer is more common in non-smokers, and I am the only one who has never smoked in my immediate family. So even though I try to make good choices, I’m at the most risk. My sister and I have both asked our GPs about how one pre-screens for lung cancer, my GP is looking into it and will get back to me (not sure what my sister’s GP is doing, likely similar). Clearly our genetics have a pre-disposition for lung cancer, and I don’t want to die of it so… gotta get on top of that. But how scary!

Along with the loss of my mother, and the stress leading up to the loss of my mother, my mental health took a massive nose-dive. I have a lot of mental health issues with depression and anxiety, but I think I can honestly say it has never been this bad before. Thankfully, I have a much better self-care and support system in place now than when I was in High School, so I’m getting through it (and I’ll discuss that more in the Good section.) Still, this year I can clearly identify that during the heat of the summer, I hit a point that not only did I want to die, I had a plan, and I was very close to putting it into action. This was maybe a month before my mother passed away, and I’m glad I did not do that to my family (or myself), but I was very, very close. It’s terrifying to look back and realize it, scary to think about it happening again, and even worse to know that this is a demon that never really goes away. Unlike a broken bone or the common cold, depression and anxiety aren’t things that one can really cure; or at least I’ve never heard of anyone managing it. You just find better ways to keep it under control, and keep damage to a minimum when the demon escapes. It’s exhausting. As such, this has been an extremely exhausting year for me.

The Bad

Not everything is terrible, some things are just bad. There was definitely a broad-spectrum of garbage this year though, so some of it was muddled in an awful in-between of how-bad-can-it-get. I don’t recommend it to anyone, try to avoid it if you can.

The most notable thing is probably on top of my mother’s death, my father had a health scare. Thankfully that’s all it was, a scare, but there was a moment where I was worried we were going to lose him, too. In no way could I have handled that, there definitely would have been a total mental breakdown if that had happened. So thankfully it didn’t, and he’s very much on top of his own health to keep things in check. My mother hated going to the doctor and didn’t want to know, my father is the total opposite. He’s not a fan of doctors, but he understands the necessity. Now if I could just get him to follow doctor’s orders…

Another side-effect of losing my mother is that we have to shut down her business. For a bit we thought maybe we could keep it going, but it’s just not in the cards. If you’ve never had to do this, be thankful. It has to be one of the worst processes ever after losing someone you care so deeply about. It’s truly a catch-22, because you can’t fully grieve with it still around, but because you’re grieving you also can’t deal with it. Terrible, terrible cycle. More than that though, I was relying on having the income from this job as I transitioned full-time to being a massage therapist. Since I was working for my mother, I was going to have the flexibility to work my hours around when I had massages, until I was doing enough massage to support myself; thus always having a paycheck. That’s no longer the case. While my fiance is able to support me, it definitely changes a lot of things.

This year we also saw my paternal grandmother have to be moved to a home for those with Alzheimer’s. She has progressed to a point where it was necessary, and that is sad. Her disease has hit a point where she only knows me as a young girl in elementary school, and her memories are definitely muddled. This is a terrible disease I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and it’s really difficult to watch it happen to someone else who you love and care about.

We also lost our pet rabbit this year (she was like 11 years old though, very old for a bunny), and the family dog is not doing well (he’s 14 and the loss of mom hit him hard). In addition, my brother’s fiance had to put her elderly dog down and that was sad. I loved that dog too, such a cutie pie. The death of a pet is definitely easier to take, but on top of everything else this year… yikes.

With all the loss this year, I’ve also acutely felt the estrangement of some family members (all of their own doing.) When I was a kid I remember family gatherings being lively and boisterous on both sides of things (maternal and paternal). Now when we get together, on either side, it’s a much quieter affair. As much as large crowds exhaust me, I really do miss being surrounded by family.

Then, the mental health stuff has rendered me quite the insomniac. I cannot seem to get my sleeping under control, and that is frustrating to no-end. At this point though, I do believe some of it is the lack of structure and routine to my days, which means I have to try and put something in place. Much easier said than done, but at least there is something of a solution there.

The stress of this year has also thrown my IBS into orbit, which is not fun. I’ve been having flashbacks to my fears and anxieties surrounding this chronic issue from when I was in High School. The constant worry about having an attack while I’m out doing things, and the concern and anxiety about holding a job because what if I get sick!? It’s a terrible sense of anxiety and paranoia that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and one I thought I was overcoming… but apparently not. The year has definitely brought a lot of demons to the surface, and I don’t have the energy to deal with them all at once (nor did I want to deal with them at all again.)

I also have my own health to be concerned with. At my 2017 physical we noticed that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels were slightly off, and I was diagnosed with a sub-clinical hypothyroid. This means I had the potential to swing to a hypothyroid, but I wasn’t there yet. I’m having the test for Hashimoto’s Disease done with my bloodwork this year, because we’re concerned that nothing has changed (based on my overall physical), and it’s a possibility. If I do have Hashimoto’s, that means I have an auto-immune disease that is basically my body trying to kill its own thyroid. Fun stuff. On one hand, it would explain a lot of stuff. On the other hand, I really don’t want a disease that will put me on meds for the rest of my life. I’m actively trying to not have that happen. So we’ll see where that goes, won’t know anything until the labwork comes back.

The Good

Enough with the debbie-downer stuff though. Life is not just a series of bad experiences, and so to finish off the year it’s time to focus on the good stuff that happened. The year certainly has not felt like a good one (and really, it wasn’t), but it wasn’t all bad either.

The biggest, best thing that happened this year was definitely starting up acupuncture. I’ve struggled my whole life with anxiety and depression, and certainly the stress and sorrow that came this year only increased those. However, the acupuncture has done more for me than medication did in the past. Not only has it helped keep my head above water in even the darkest of times, it does it in a way that I still feel like myself and not some weird inhabitant in my own body. Meds always made me feel off, so I’m not a fan of them in my personal situation. I know they work for many, and they did get my mood up, I just didn’t like how they made me feel otherwise. So I’m extremely grateful for what acupuncture has been able to do for me. In February I’ll have been receiving it for a whole year, and at this point I cannot picture myself not receiving it, it’s done so much for me. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’m glad I found it as something beneficial in my own life.

I was also able to experience what it’s like to be included in a close-knit family of friends this year. I’ve only just dipped my toes into the living history reenactment community as far as I’m concerned (three years is not that long), but the Civil War group that organizes the Timeline event at Menands does not care about that at all. My mother passed away at the beginning of August, and it wasn’t even a month before we had that event. They cleared it with me first, but their group organized an event-wide memorial for my mother, because they feel I’m part of the family. In addition to that, once they knew my sister was there as well, they included her in it, too. It was absolutely beautiful, and at the end it was pretty exciting to get to fire a cannon shot in her honor. Such, such good people. I never imagined myself having such a circle of people around me, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve met a few bad eggs in living history, but the majority of them are so good it makes up for the rest. ♥

One of the biggest life-changing events for the better this year, maybe the biggest, was taking the NYS exam to become a licensed massage therapist (LMT), and passing it! I absolutely dropped the ball on blogging about all that (life was a little crazy haha), but I did take the exam and pass the boards with an 88. That’s a really good score! So I got my license to practice massage, and right at the end of July, not long before I lost Mom, I signed a lease on my first space. I’m practicing at a salon and spa too, but I’ve always wanted to have my own business so I’m going for it full-force. If you’re at all curious about that, you can check out everything on my dedicated massage website. It’s a really exciting step in my life, as much as it is a scary one. I’m super grateful that my fiance can support me on this journey, because without him it wouldn’t be happening. I’d have to start at a much more commercial place and save up, and I’m just not feeling it! Business is slow to start (always is), but I have a few loyal clients from when I did my Pathology Research Project in school, and I love them to pieces. Between that and my friends and family working to help spread the word, I have a very good feeling about this. đŸ™‚

This year also saw my fiance purchasing an old school bus, which we are working to transform into our camper and Viking encampment hauler. Aside from it being a fun and exciting project, we even got to give her a test-run as we went up to Peru for Coldwood’s Closing of the Inne event (SCA kingdom). Those were some fabulous people, and I had so much fun at my first true SCA event. We’re going to be camping with them for Pennsic, so I’m glad I got to meet them all already, too! It also meant I finally got to meet a lot of Pete’s friends that I’ve heard about in stories and nothing beyond that. I love the historical timelines we do, but I can see me loving SCA events just as much.

So in conclusion…

So many more things happened this year, we were so, so busy; but those are the first items that come to mind and definitely the ones with the biggest impact. It truly was a year where things were very, very rocky. Had a lot of ups and downs, but you always have to take the good with the bad. This year just saw some pretty extreme bad things, and perhaps not as many extreme good things.

We are a culmination of our experiences though, and I’ve definitely seen where I’m starting to grow from these experiences. No one wants to lose those who are important to them, but in a way I feel like it has transformed me for the better. I definitely feel ready to be more independent, and to try new things. I feel that I loved my mother so much that I was holding myself back, because I was afraid of straying too far from her. A silly thing, but we all have them. Now though, she’ll be watching over me as I do all manner of crazy things and live my life to the fullest.

I’m also coming to know what it means to have closer friendships, and to really set boundaries with those who unintentionally aren’t helpful to my life. I don’t think anyone I come across has ill-intentions towards me, but there are definitely people I’ve given a bit too much latitude in affecting my life when they really shouldn’t be. Losing my mother has really taught me that life is short, so be happy as much as you can.

Truly too much to put into adequate words, so I’ll just say at this point, fuck off 2018, onto 2019 where things can grow from the destruction that has happened. Here’s to having a happy and blessed new year!


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