What to write, how to start? Should this be all about me, or about a review of the world in 2020? I could mention all things Covid related, as of course this has been the dominant feature, but really I set up my blog as an escape from all that. And anyway, why set up a blog if it isn’t an excuse to talk about yourself, haha! I’m not a key worker, I have kept my job, and although the main breadwinner has only worked for one month since March, we have no complaints. It would be spectacularly insensitive to complain at all. I have managed to see my parents, my close friends, and continue with my hobbies, apart from a brief 2 months when I was unable to drive to the sea. As people's complaints grew, I realised that my life was already very small. I have stripped away much of the excess over the years, surrounding myself with good friends, taking part in hobbies which for the main part simply involve being in the great outdoors. I am extremely content to live where I do, and it turns out I have a life of simple pleasures anyway. I took my wedding ring and other rings off back in March when it was advised to do so to avoid spreading the virus (no idea if that advice still stands), and I haven't really put them back on. Made me wonder why I have them anyway - to show other people, or for me? Funny how the world is waking up to material possessions being so...immaterial. People have taken to wearing comfy clothes and no makeup, to taking pleasure in just Being. So in many ways, people have just started to live the way I have done for years!
Along with most people, we have sacrificed holidays, trips to see family, and done what we can. It’s been frustrating in many ways to have our wings clipped, but I’m focused on the long term goal – I think that I am used to digging in and getting on, not taking short cuts or opting for the quick way through, which might make you happier in the short term, but would make the long term goal even further away. So for me, I have found it easier than most. After huge trauma, you learn to stop fighting against things you can do nothing about, be patient and take it each day at a time.
So what has 2020 done for me? As we know, I randomly started a blog at the end of July, and within a week had been on BBC Radio Newcastle which prompted me to start my website. The week before I started my blog, I had jumped (fallen) out of a plane at 15,000 ft, an unbelievably terrifying experience, and one which I will never EVER repeat as long as I live. This was the ultimate challenge for me, as I am terrified of flying and heights, but during the following week I began to hunger for something else. And so came the blog. I had had no idea what to expect and it has been one heck of an experience so far.
I very reluctantly started up on Instagram too, very wary of the focus on attention grabbing images, and all too aware that here lay the land of the filtered photograph. I have navigated my way through this social media minefield, remaining committed to my no frills and filter free ethics (in both terms – I say what I like but don’t cover up how I look, either). I have come across so many lovely women who either have been, or who continue to be, hugely traumatised both physically and mentally by their child birth experiences. I have met women whose lives will never be the same. I have met some extraordinarily brave women, as keen to support other women as they are to share their intimate stories of how their trauma continues to affect them. I am grateful to these women for taking that hit for us all, as I tend to steer away from that side of my story – not because I find it difficult to talk about but because for my own mental health I have had to make the break from the before and now. I have done a podcast which will be coming out in the New Year, and during that I discuss in much greater depth and detail my own traumatic experience, so I hope that this will help some people when they listen to it - to realise that yes, I too have suffered, but here I am. Here I am, happy, healthy, content. It is possible to overcome trama and be happy again.
My bikini challenge has received overwhelming support from so many quarters – the open water swimming community, mothers, friends, the general public out walking on the beach, the media and of course all of you who follow my blog. I never expected it to take off like it has done, and I’ve done things I would never even have thought about before. Three podcasts under my belt, two radio interviews, newspaper and magazine articles and a tv news slot. I am having my first article published by the Huff Post in the new year, which I am really chuffed about. I have also started a fabulous relationship with Hollister Incorporated and Dansac, which came about after I contacted my former stoma nurse who has moved to be with Dansac, to tell her about my blog. The response was immediate and kind. The companies have given me so much support and encouragement, not just the financial backing for my solo Channel Swim in 2023, but in terms of enthusiasm for my goals. All they want is what I want – for people with stomas to realise their potential, and to help people who are struggling with the mental side to maybe see things a little differently. I am enormously grateful to Nicola Napier, Sue Lennon, Elly Steers and team for being so welcoming.
This year I have dipped in water as cold as 1.4c, I have worn my bikini out in public for the first time, and signed up to swim the Channel solo in 2023. Did I know in January 2020 that I was going to do any of these things. Nope. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be doing in 2021!
Thank you everyone who has followed my blog, which has gone from 1 follower (my husband) to 742 on Facebook (not that I count every single one....).
Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me to keep on going, and to those who have sent me private messages of support.
Thank you to everyone who has shared my videos, my post and my page. You have all helped me to reach people who needed a little positive boost in their life, and I know of at least 3 people who have taken their first bath with their stoma since seeing my posts....such a seemingly small action but you have no idea what a big deal it is to some of us. Thank you for caring enough for strangers to share my posts to try and help the silent people suffering behind closed doors.