New Year. Same Me.

I haven’t written anything for What a Pain since November, but I wanted to sit down and write something as 2018 draws to a close.

As some of you know Dave and I ventured to New York for the trip of a life time in November and I will be sharing that trip with you all on here, and on my YouTube channel in the New Year. Here’s a little taster of Day One of our trip if you want to check it out.

Less than a week after landing back in the UK I received a call from hospital to say my thyroid surgery, originally planned for January 2019, had been moved up. I had four days to get my self organised for surgery and it was a pretty stressful time in the Tait household. Surgery went well, but the recovery has been a lot more challenging than I expected and I still have a way to go before I am back to “normal”. I’ll share more about my experience of a hemithyroidectomy, and the recovery, in a later article. For now, I want to reflect on 2018, before closing my laptop and enjoying a quiet night in with Dave and Blue.

I honestly thought 2018 would be a great year. 2016 and 2017 were probably the most difficult years of my life, I lost my job, my health decline significantly, I became unable to work and I spent almost a year fighting my previous employer in an employment tribunal over disability discrimination. It was necessary, and entirely worth it, but it left me pretty broken. I hoped that 2018 would bring peace and perhaps pass without any dramatic life events. I was wrong. In fairness, anyone who knows me would laugh at the idea of my life being without a little drama. I really had hoped for an uneventful year though.

From the get-go 2018 was a bloody nightmare. Last December 31st I discovered a lump on my breast and had to dash for an emergency doctor’s appointment delaying our new year’s plans a little. That was just the beginning of the fun to come in 2018. Over the course of the first half of 2018 I had three separate issues, all requiring the dreaded C word to be ruled out.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am that each, and every, time the issues were found to be benign. The latter of these issues was a large lump on my throat, which turned out to be two large nodules on my thyroid. It wasn’t causing any problems though, so once ruled to be benign I decided to leave it be. Sadly, it started to cause issues later in the year, and by summer it had grown and was pressing into my windpipe causing discomfort. The decision was made that the lumps needed to be removed, and that is the reason I now have a scar across my throat and haven’t slept lying down for almost a month. It is also the reason my Christmas dinner was painful to swallow, and my voice still has a mind of its own. Some moments I have a voice, other’s I don’t. It’s been a super fun, pain filled 3 weeks!

A lot of other crap happened this year, and more than once I felt like giving up and just hiding in a dark room and never leaving. However, I thankfully had a lot of support and somehow, I’m sitting here writing this in pretty good spirits.

I don’t want to talk about all the crap though, I want to talk about what I learnt this year and what I achieved despite the many obstacles.

My biggest achievement this year was starting this blog. What a Pain was born on the 11th of July 2018 and I posted my first article on the small Hebridean Island of Grimsay, where my parents live.

What a Pain began after a particularly bad week for me. The UK was enjoying one of its hottest summers on record and it was bloody brilliant to finally spend some of the summer outdoors. If you live England, you will understand how magical this summer was. We were making history in the World Cup and the whole country momentarily forgot about Brexit and austerity as we joined together in countless BBQ’s, waving the St George’s flag with pride and chatting with total strangers in the street about football and the wonderful weather. It was so typically British it was heart-warming. The beaches were filled with pasty, topless fat blokes, small children running amok covering in entire bottles of sun cream, pub gardens over flowing and Carlsberg and Kopparberg sales must have surely tripled. Honestly, it was a great summer to be British.

It was a great summer for me, I enjoyed all the above and discovered that making slushies alcoholic is really the best combination of childhood and adulthood. However, my health was really suffering and some days I was too ill to get out of bed and missed out on some of the fun things others were doing. It was after one such day, of missing the glorious sunshine, that I decided enough was enough. I had moped around since the end of the court case in April 2017, I had started my Law course at university and then been too unwell to continue it this year and I was so miserable. I couldn’t stand feeling that way, I couldn’t stand feeling defeated and hopeless. I had to find a reason to get out of bed again (or even something positive to do from my bed on those bad flare up days). I had an idea, but self-doubt crept in. I loved to write, but why would anyone care about what I had to say? They say you can only write what you know, but what I knew was crappy health and a frankly miserable version of being in my twenties. Turning thirty was on the horizon and I needed to find my motivation, I needed a new passion, I needed a purpose. Why would anyone want to read about life with chronic illness though? And would anyone really care about ending disability discrimination? I decided I was being stupid and wrote the idea of starting a blog off, but a tiny voice inside me said I should at least bounce the idea off someone else. So, I called one of the people I trust the most in this world, and someone I know will never bullshit me. If anyone was going to be honest with me, and tell me if this was a stupid idea, it would be my little brother.

I called my brother Dan, who is two years younger than me and someone who I respect and admire beyond belief. He had, like me, experienced that rut in his working life, he was miserable, and he knew he was destined for more. He took a risk, went big and went full time with his business DS Media this year. I have never met someone more hard working or more determined than my brother, and to say I am proud of him and his achievements would be an understatement. I sat on the sofa and called him, stuttering something about a stupid idea and I just felt something inside me that said I should call him and tell him about it, but I knew it was stupid. He jumped on it straight away and in no uncertain terms told me I was doing this. He picked me up in his whirlwind of organisation and commitment to the idea, and What a Pain was born. He even named it ‘What a Pain’. Within days he had used his skills to create me an incredible website, a logo, he began talking about a YouTube channel, told me to go figure out how to use twitter and a host of other things. Suddenly he was teaching me about WordPress, SEOs, managing media, optimising social media, creating content, stats, promotion, how YouTube worked and about a million other things I literally hadn’t even heard of the week before. Before I knew it, I was sat on the side of the water in front of my parent’s house, enjoying the tranquillity and writing my first article. What a Pain was born, and it grew and grew.

I haven’t been able to do as much as I would have liked with What a Pain this year, but by its very nature chronic illness is unpredictable. Yet despite not writing anything for almost three months, out of the six months it has been live, What a Pain has reached over 3000 people around the world and the articles on it viewed almost 7000 times collectively. My website has been viewed by people in the UK, the USA, India, Canada, Finland, Germany, Australia and more. It is mind blowing to me, that so many people not only read my articles, but share them, and actually care about what I write. I’ve had people message me from all over the world to say how they can relate to what I’ve said in an article, or to share their own stories of heart break and triumph, who have reached out and told me I made a difference to them by taking the time to write down my own experiences. I can’t tell you how many times in the last six months I have read a comment or a message from a total stranger and cried. The response has been overwhelming, and I am so thankful that my brother saw passed my self-doubt and pushed me to make What a Pain happen. It has given me so much, and this is just the beginning.

Everyone has their own beliefs, and I respect that. My personal belief is in Christ, and the Christian faith. Now, whether all that has happened to me in life, and me losing my job and starting this blog and the success it’s seen in such a short period is just coincidence, well I don’t know. I am not arrogant enough to assume that what I believe is right, and everyone else is wrong, it is faith and faith is personal. However, I do believe that this was all meant to be, this culmination of events has led me to exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am meant to be doing. I never thought something so amazing could be born from pain, literally from pain. I think God’s hand was in this, and I believe that everything so far led me to making this blog. To wake up every day and feel like I have a purpose again has been life changing for me. Whether three people or 3000 people read my next article doesn’t matter, because it’s not about the numbers. It is about the fact that some “stupid idea” has helped me make sense of my pain and my illness. It’s given me a positive focus, motivation and a voice. It’s opened my eyes to what so many others go through. I’ve spoken to, and become friends, with people from all over the world, and tapped into this incredible support network that I never knew existed. Whether it’s on my blog, my Instagram, my Facebook or my Twitter, there are thousands of people who understand exactly what living with a chronic illness is like and want to support you day or night. Being unable to work left me with many problems, but perhaps the most unexpected one was the loneliness I suddenly found myself immersed in. I cannot believe how lonely it can be to be too unwell to work, I had no idea how much of my social interaction came from my job and how damaging it would be to my mental health to lose that. What a Pain has enabled me to have that social interaction again, from the comfort of my own home, even on days when I am too ill to get out of bed. I will forever be thankful for that, and for every single person I have spoken to via this blog on any of its platforms.

2018 saw me discover a new passion, which ties into passions I have always had. Fighting to end discrimination and giving vulnerable people a voice. I will be taking this mission to another level in 2019, joining many others to work towards making the world more accessible and giving disabled people a voice. I want to end 2019 by writing a blog just like this, only bigger and better. I want to have spoken to thousands of people, heard thousands of experiences and made sure those in power have heard each, and every, voice loud and clear. I pray my health allows me to do this to the best of my ability, and that the coming year is a little less rough for me heath wise.

I couldn’t write an end of year roundup without mentioning those nearest and dearest to me, and the many adventures we have shared this year.

This year hasn’t been an easy one for many people in my life, and I am once again blown away by the strength, love and faith of those people. I watched people in my family fight cancer, surgeries and a host of other health issues with more grace, grit, strength and faith than I can begin to explain here. I hope and pray for all those in my family battling heath issues, that 2019 sees you in good health and you continue to shine a light and inspire so many people, as you have done this year. 2018 has brought tough times for many of my friends too, in a whole host of areas and they too have amazed me with their strength, resilience and love. To love and support others, while you are suffering it not only admirable, but quite beautiful in a world so often filled with selfishness and hate. I hope 2019 is a little kinder to us all, but whatever happens I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible, loving, generous, funny, wonderful, inspiring people.

I should end this blog by thanking some of those people by name, without you I would not have survived this difficult year. Despite the challenges, you have given me some incredible moments and adventures. You have reminded me of my strength and helped me find my smile on days when I thought it was lost. I would not be who I am without those closest to me, and nor would What a Pain be what it is.

My parents have once again been a source of strength and love that knows no bounds. I celebrated 30 years on earth this year, and for every single one of those years you have been my biggest supporters, and my best friends. Not a day goes by where I am not thankful for you. I know I am unbelievably blessed to have a mum and dad that would do anything for me and will love and support me in all I choose to do. Distance means nothing when love is this strong. Whether it was in person, or on the phone, you have mopped my tears, given me advice, reminded me of my strength, cheered me on, celebrated the good, helped shoulder the bad and made even the worst days brighter. I hope 2019 brings you an easier year, a healthier year and so much adventure and love!

My brother Dan, without whom this blog wouldn’t exist. You have been so patient with me, teaching me a whole new skill set, answering your phone ten times in a row when I remembered yet another question about my new camera or my website. You helped me believe in myself again. I was a bit lost at the start of this year, I’d forgotten how strong I am, how determined I am and how much I have to offer despite my illness. Thank you for helping me rediscover my passion and build a new dream. I am so excited to see what 2019 brings for us, let’s take over the world!

Emma, my sister in law, who really is the sister I never had. I love how much you love my brother, and how you have supported him in his dreams, despite the risks and how difficult it has been at times. You are absolutely incredible and have one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever met. You have achieved awesome things this year and our family wouldn’t be complete without you.

My parents in law who have just made this difficult year so much easier for us. Nothing was ever too much trouble and we really couldn’t have coped without you. Most people are lucky to get amazing parents, Dave and I hit the jackpot to both have incredible parents. You are my second parents and I cannot imagine where we would be without you. Thank you for all you have done this year, to help us keep going when my health was at it’s worst. From the practical hands on help, the cleaning, the meals, taking care of Blue to the mum cuddles when my own mum was far away and the many laughs, fun days and happy moments.

My best friend Lianne, who is the best friend you could ask for. Despite a difficult year yourself you have always been there for me. You have achieved so much this year and I am so proud of you! I could say so much, but it’s hard to put into words how much you mean to me. I wouldn’t be me without you. We are more like sisters than friends, and this year we celebrated 10 years of friendship, both turned the big 3-0, celebrated wedding anniversaries, had many more adventures, spent countless hours on the phone, drank plenty of gin and put the world to rights. You deserve the very best in 2019, and I’m excited to see another year with you.

My many other amazing friends, too many to name. I want to name two in particular though, Cass and Jenna. Cass you are taking over the world with Tomorrow is Lost and I have never been so proud of you. You are finally sharing your incredible talent and I am excited to see what 2019 brings for you. It hasn’t been an easy year, after your over enthusiastic stage jump. I know your leg injuries are life changing in many ways, but I also know it won’t slow you down and you are going to do great things. Jenna, you came into my life a year ago and totally changed it for the better. You’re my sister from another mister and you just make me laugh until my belly hurts. This year has been unbelievably hard for you, and at times it’s broken my heart to see all you have had to contend with, but you are a total warrior. You have overcome it all with strength and against the odds have achieved incredible things, I am so excited for all that is coming in 2019! The world is yours for the taking, never forget that!

Finally, to our wonderful neighbours. It is rare in this day and age to even know your neighbours, let alone call them some of your closest friends. You guys have helped us so much this year, and it has meant so much to us. Thank you for countless nights spent laughing until we cry, being completely weird, thank you for supporting my love of prosecco and actively encouraging it, for sometimes being so honest it’s borderline inappropriate and being people we can always rely on for moral support, practical help or just a therapy session! You all deserve an amazing 2019 and let’s aim for at least one party this year that crashes the estate forum entirely?

There are many, many more people I need to thank for getting me through this year, sometimes dragging me kicking and screaming through this year, but it’s getting late and cocktails await me.

So, I will end by thanking the most important person in my life, my husband Dave. Where would I be without you? My fellow explorer, my partner in crime, my sunshine, my rock and my best friend. What a year? What a bloody year it’s been! Yet here we are, stronger than ever.  I would be here all night if I listed all you do for me, so I’ll keep this short. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and always believing in me. Thank you for sitting by my hospital bedside for way too many days this year, I’m sorry there’s been so many, I hope next year there will be none. Thank you for taking care of me, and never once complaining. The partners of those with a chronic illness are so often forgotten, it is so hard for you, you are living it every day and have to watch the person you love most suffering, knowing you can’t take it away. You are so strong, you have grown so much this year, you have achieved so much and you continue to amaze me every day with your gentle, kind, loving nature. Every single day this year you have made me laugh. You have held me as I cried, and somehow every time you’ve managed to make me laugh and smile again. That is an incredible quality to have. You really are my sunshine. This year we have relived our youth seeing bands from our teens, we have been on so many adventures, you made my 30th birthday magical, you made Christmas magical, we smashed New York city and had the best holiday of our lives. We saw and did so much, and it was all made so much better because we did it together. We have memories that our only ours to hold, we share secrets that are only ours to know and I cannot think of anything better than ringing in 2019 cuddled up with you and Blue. Who knows maybe in 2019 our little family will grow, who knows what we will achieve in careers and in our personal lives. One thing I do know, is that as long as I am doing life with you, I am happy.

So, to wrap this up, I want to thank all my followers and every single person who has read my blog. You guys are amazing, and this blog wouldn’t be able to exist without you.

There has been so much good this year, to balance the hard times. I believe there will always be good if we look for it. Sometimes it’s a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, but if you’re struggling right now please know things can, and do, get better. You matter, you are enough, and you make the world better by simply being in it.

Whatever you are doing tonight, stay safe and enjoy. Wishing you all a happy, healthier 2019, filled with love, laughter and adventure.

To wrap this up, here are a few of my favourite memories of 2018. Happy New Year or as they say in the Hebrides “Bliadhna Mhath Ùr”.