I am not sure if it even needs saying, but I will say it anyways…
It has been a while since I have been here, in this space. Sure, there have been a handful of posts but those were sponsored posts.
I mean, it has been a while since I have been here.
August – it has been since August. Fuck.
And I do not have a good explanation for that.
So, be warned.
This may be a bit of a ramble.
2021 Through the Looking Glass
Last year was weird. Like, really fucking weird.
And not because of all the global pandemic stuff. It was an off-centre year for me.
Here are some highlights:
Diabetes kind of kicked it off…
I was encouraged at the beginning of the year by an increased involvement in the diabetes community. Especially with an organization that I deem responsible for catapulting me into the community in the first place.
Headway was being made in the mental health sphere and merging that with physical health has long been a mission of mine. It suddenly felt like things were heading in a harmonious way. And I was grateful to be a part of it.
Then things dropped off and I remain a little unsure of where my fit is if it existed at all.
And there were hurdles.
I welcomed myself back to this space and brought diabetes with me after receiving a lot of negative feedback about a space I created to help those living with diabetes and mental illness.
No matter how many times I explained the name, I was met with hostility and misunderstanding. To salvage my motivation to share my experiences, and be mindful of others, I shit-tanked that blog and resumed residency here but with a more filtered focus.
Another failed feather in my cap was a venture with my dearest pal that never took off; we received tremendous support from a few but in the end could not build off the niche we thought we had created. Many t-shirts and stickers were gifted away.
At least the GIFs created from that venture live on…
Then I was approached about a project for the anniversary of the first successful injection of insulin, celebrated earlier this year. I agreed and collaborated with a friend and fellow Type 1 to create an online telling of the story from Banting’s idea to that first injection.
That project reignited my motivation and I finally finished up my Pod art piece – Phoenix Rising.
I also continued full steam ahead with a wonderful partnership with my insulin pump company. They continue to keep me active in the community and I am tremendously grateful for that. In fact, there blog requests were the bulk of my writing last year.
As you can tell by the lack of posts, I did not accomplish much published written work in 2021.
Diabetes threw a lot and nothing at me in 2021.
My own relationship with my diabetes was pretty good and stable, but that relationship is complicated by the fact that I have a strong desire to help/be part of the community and am related to a prominent historical figure in the diabetes world.
Last year the world celebrated 100 years since the discovery of insulin. And my hope was to be a small part of the events happening around the world, especially since it was my cousin Banting who co-discovered it.
There. I said it. To someone other than my husband and close friends. I was really bummed about not being included in ANY of the celebrations. Save an ask by JDRF UK (who are always wonderfully supportive of me) for a campaign they ran during National Diabetes Awareness Month.
Alas, I stood on the sidelines and quietly pined away.
Then there was the publication of my children’s book…
I wrote the story about fifteen years ago. I was proud of it and shopped the manuscript to a handful of publishers. And was rejected by every single one.
So, I tucked the pages away.
Shortly after my son was born, I found a hot minute of inspiration and attempted some artwork for the book. But his early years were a massive struggle for me. And while many times my creativity helps my mental illness struggles, it also suffers for them too.
Over the years, I would read him the story from those five typed and tattered pages. And every time I finished, he would tell me I should make pictures for it.
After a few years in the shadows, I came across the story again and found a new want to revisit it.
I sent in the manuscript and some digital sketches to a publisher.
Note: I have no real clue how to do digital drawing and still find it beyond my skill set. I am an old-fashioned sketch and paint kind of gal.
They seemed keen but did not like the illustrations. So, I sent in a sample of my typical style and that won them over – I was enroute to publishing my book!
Until I was not.
I worked steadfastly to illustrate the story, alongside working from home, and homeschooling my son. When I finished the final page, I was really pleased with myself and the book. I sent it back in and they rejected it. They said the story was no longer a good fit for them.
I was devasted.
I had shared the journey on my social channels and had so many people cheering me on, I felt I had let all of them down, but especially my son. But everyone was wonderfully supportive and encouraging, even offering suggestions to self-publish.
So, I did.
And now my little book is out there in the world.
My health struggles did not help make 2021 any better…
The mysterious weight gain and (new) tummy troubles I experienced have been well documented here and across my channels. Last year found me getting lab work nearly every month and sent for all sorts of fun tests.
To no result. They still cannot pinpoint what is going on, so on top of being tremendously uncomfortable, I am also still without answers.
Which is fine. Really.
I have started to sort of accept my new body.
Seriously, fucking no. I am not sure I will ever accept my body… and those are issues that predate any current struggles. Even at my smallest size I grappled with self love and acceptance.
And I cannot really remember a time in my life where my stomach has not been an issue. I have seen every gastro specialist three or four times over, had ever test and procedure. I have done the FODMAP thing five or six times. And after it all the best they could come up with is IBS.
So, it is fine. I am fine.
And will be carrying on with tests and procedures in 2022.
Then there was all that family stuff…
I am very fortunate to have a communicative relationship with my husband. Our communication styles differ but everything ends up out and there is never anything left to go stale.
It is not always pretty and sometimes we end up far apart. But we work through it until it is sorted, and after nearly 20 years together we have yet to not find our way back to middle ground.
Homeschooling went brilliantly. Our son is an exemplary student and an eager learner. He cruised along in his studies alongside me in our “creative learning space” and it looked like we were going to knock out two full grades in 2021.
Until he made an announcement that would shake up our entire world.
He wanted to return to public school.
In the middle of a fucking pandemic.
I guess you could say our parenting style is unique. We have always been open and honest with our son, believing the better equipped he is for the world the more positive his experience will be. So, we often follow his lead offering guidance and unwavering support.
After a great amount of discussion and weighing of options, we had a virtually meeting with the (new) principal then went for a visit to the school.
Yes, the school he left three ago.
We entered the winter holiday season with a registered public-school student who was nerve-cited (our made-up word for things that make us nervous and excited, just wait, it will catch on) to start school after the break.
Honestly, we had very little apprehension about sending him back into the fold. We were really encouraged after meeting his teacher and learning about all the changes the school had experienced in his absence.
I was fucking terrified though. I did not know what it would mean for me. And I do not mean that as selfishly as it may sound. My mental illnesses were much less burdensome while distracted by his presence and the responsibility of homeschooling him. It has only been a few weeks, and thankfully they have been busy ones.
But I am still worried for that inevitable bad spell to arrive…
Families grow and change, and ours is no different.
My Mental Illnesses & Me
Just before the kiddo announced his want to return to school, I felt something stirring.
As someone who has lived with diagnosed mental illness for over 25 years, I have come to be pretty good at knowing when an episode is set to appear. But this *feeling* was different.
To prepare myself for the impending time alone at home, I cut off all my hair.
Surprisingly it was not a manic moment but a well thought out one.
The initial thought was it would be easier to grow out the undercut if there was less distance between it and the end of my locks. But I worried that I could not “pull off” a shorter do with a rounder face. Then I argued that it would be good for me to have to style it (as I could no longer tie it back) because it would mean regularly spending time doing something for just me.
It was a scary thing to do because my struggles often present in an odd way.
Big breath in, here comes a share…
My depression presents in the form of bad personal care.
When I experience an episode, I tend to stay put wherever those struggles started. So, the same clothes can be worn for days on end, no bathing or effort put into my appearance. I just seem to get stuck in a mode that finds me unworthy of those things.
Circling back to the hair, it was a lot easier to just tie back during those dirty hair depression days. And I can no longer do that.
The sadness I carry with me feels heavier and harder to hide.
Over the winter break there were several secret cries that I just could not contain or logic away. So, I let them come to surface with the hope they would make their escape and take the sad with them.
But they did not.
They came and went, and the sadness lingers. Ever present. Just below the surface.
My anxiety seems to be experiencing more dramatic pendulum swings these days too. But I cannot figure out if that is a change in me or if it is due to the current state of the world. My public attacks have been minimal but the come down when we get home from an outing have been epic at times and my skin picking is worse.
What I have employed, and what seems to be helping, is the notion that I just muster what I can and do what I can do, because that is all that I can ask of myself.
Focusing on what I can do has found me a lot more able to do than I thought.
Time for Me
I have never been very good at doing things for myself.
I mean, I am perfectly capable of tying my shoes and making a sandwich, but I totally suck at doing things for just me.
Most of the time in my days is dedicated to doing for other people. And that goes well beyond the people in my house, my family, my friends.
Nothing I ever do is for “the money” – my husband always jokes that our finances would see great increase if I was ever to be paid for all the things I do – but everything I do takes time. Sometimes I spend a day answering DMs or chatting with a stranger about their current struggle. Sometimes I create extensive content for non-profit organizations or send off a design to a pal as a favour. Sometimes I do media spots and write copy to raise awareness.
I am so humbled to be asked to do those things. I will never stop doing those things. But those things take time. And just before 2021 ended, I decided I was going to take payment for all those things I do, in the form of time for me.
No matter what.
It started with getting up a little bit earlier to sit in the living room alone, and regular walks alone with my dog. Then the promise to engage my creative side by doing more art and sharing it.
I even created a separate Instagram for my art and stories!
And then the 30-day yoga journey.
I never participate in “challenges” – the world and life are fucking challenge enough, thank you. But I love the idea of a journey, so I thought why not.
There was something enticing about committing this time to me every single day. And I did. I did all fucking thirty days. I was probably the most shocked off us all. You see, other than hugging my child and managing my diabetes, there is not a great many things I can say I have stuck to daily.
But for me it was never really about the yoga and not about getting “in shape” or even moving my body.
It was about possibility.
I needed and wanted to learn if it would be possible to gift myself time for me. Would it be possible? Would I try to carve out even 12 minutes to stand in solidarity with myself on that mat, in that space, and with love?
And it is.
Now that possibility has emerged a priority.
And that means, even in this small way, I have too.