Monday, 29 December 2014

What 2014 taught me

Frosty mornings follow wintry nights; sunsets greet us eagerly in the mid-afternoon chill. The year hurtles unwaveringly towards its dignified end, taking its final, icy breaths as we wait patiently, hoping to discover better things on the next page.

The year has passed by in a flash of light and dark, highs and lows, hopes and fears; it seems like an eternity has flown by since I said hello to 2014. It has been an incredible, hugely formative year - and one which has thankfully treated me a lot more kindly after the despair, pain and utter bleakness of 2013. Here is my list of lessons learnt, as I look back on the past year with a mixture of fondness and relief. 

"Uncertainty is the refuge of hope" (Henri-Frédéric Amiel)
I stepped gingerly into 2014, unsure of what the coming days would hold, let alone the year to come. With my health so unstable, and frightening new symptoms appearing at every turn, uncertainty plagued me like a dark smog; thick and impenetrable. I felt like the only thing I could be certain of was that I would wake up the next morning and feel just as ill, with just as many questions left unanswered. In the words of my GP, the future looked bleak and, though I wouldn't admit it at the time, I was terrified. In a resolute, final attempt to delay what seemed the inevitable bowing out of my university course, I transferred to part-time study with the possibility of having a full-time live-in carer. Just as hope was dwindling - and the familiarities of severe illness prepared to encroach once again - my health gradually begun to stabilise, and though things are still a struggle, I can now look back on the last 18 months from a much better place.

The New Year is often a difficult time for those with chronic illness: while the healthy can look forward to the exciting opportunities the new year offers, the chronically ill can be sure that their symptoms will follow their every move, undeterred by resolutions or the change in calendar. Even more, anniversaries marking months, years or even decades of illness, or perhaps particularly memorable relapses and deteriorations in health, will only add to the difficulty experienced. However, the events of this year have taught me to hold onto hope, even when only the tiniest shred remains - because you never know what's round the corner.

"I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the night" (Helen Keller)
2014 has taught me a lot about friendship. I've learnt the hard way that friends can change, and that the people you once trusted can insult, upset and disappoint you more than you thought possible. More positively though, this year has been incredible for the amazing friends I've made - and for the friendships rekindled. I know now that true friendship can be rediscovered, and that years apart matter as little as seconds when it comes to reconnecting with an old friend you feared you'd lost. I've learned also that the best friends can be found when you least expected - but most needed - them.

One of the most special moments of 2014 was celebrating my 21st birthday (which I 'donated' to M.E. Research UK) because I was able to spend it with almost all of my closest friends - many of whom had travelled far and sacrificed much to be there. It was a privilege, and despite all the frustrations and losses M.E. brings, I consider myself truly blessed to have such great friends - alongside the most supportive family possible.

Meeting Rachel has been by far the highlight of 2014. She's truly incredible and our friendship brings me so much happiness - I can't wait to see all the great things 2015 has in store for us.

"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth" (William Faulkner)
This year my confidence has grown in leaps and bounds - I've even made a YouTube video to announce my fundraising and hopefully raise some much-needed awareness of M.E. in the process. I may be naturally more quiet and reserved, content to just determinedly grin and bear it, but I am incredibly passionate about this cause. I want so desperately to do what I physically can to help those suffering more severely, to tell the truth about M.E. and to dispel the unfair stigma. If I could, I would shout from the rooftops - but for now, I'm doing all I can with what I've got.

"My thinking is my fighting" (Virginia Woolf)
One of the most memorable days of this year was a visit to the Virginia Woolf exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (Woolf has been perhaps my biggest inspiration throughout my illness; I hope to write more about this in the coming year). This sentiment runs true for me, for while my body may be weak, my mind is not. Writing my blog this year has brought me a feeling of peace that had been alien to me since developing M.E. 6 years ago, because I know that through my thinking - and my writing - I am fighting against circumstances that for a long time seemed insurmountable. After all, "Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic - capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it" (Albus Dumbledore/JK Rowling).

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and helped me through 2014. I hope that the next year brings great things to you all - especially those for whom this year has not treated with the kindness you deserve. 


  1. Aww you are amazing. 2015 had better be kind to you or it will have me to answer to! Lots and lots of love <3

  2. I hope 2015 is a great year for you :) and I'm so glad you made a great friend this year :D

  3. Hi :) I just started reading your blog! I think you are amazing, I love the way you write and the way you express yourself! I can genuinely say that I can feel your strenght through your words! I wish you all the best!

    Claudia :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I could have sworn I'd left a comment on here when I first read this post at the start of the year, but obviously not!

    It was such a pleasure to read this, and to really "hear" your voice in your writing now I've heard it in real life!

    Your words never cease to encourage and inspire me dear Katharine....I'm so very glad you're sharing them with all of us on this beautifully written blog.