Updated: Jun 20, 2021
It’s fair to say that 2020 was rubbish globally, the lockdown yoyoing (whilst I understand why we have been sporadically grounded by the Government), I also understand the potential impact this isolation is having on the mental health of the world and this fact troubles me. I feel like the UN or the WHO (not the band) should be looking into how we can start proactively offering mental health support to anyone who needs it which is likely to be millions.
Though this isn’t why I’m glad to see the back of 2020 it’s because it’s the year my dog died.
Flash was 13 when he passed, and I got him as a rescue when he was 6 months old. For 12 and a half years he was my best-friend and like all dogs do, he taught me what unconditional love looks like (wet not and wagging tailed). He was diagnosed with Cancer a week before the first lockdown in March and lost the battle in September.
I have lost three grandads (one was a step grandad) all within the space of two years, and they hit me hard, but to be perfectly honest understanding the true finality of death is not something I experienced until Flash was picked up by Tinkerbell and taken to Never Never Land to play with the Lost Boys for eternity.
Seeing in the New Year was bittersweet, because a part of me was happy to see the back of 2020 but a larger part of me realised that this was the first year since 2007 that I was starting without Flash. The physical symptoms of loss were not something I had thought about, I somehow ache in different places at different times that started the day he died.
I’m hoping that in time I will learn how to live without him.
Three weeks after he passed, I started my Foundation year at University, I had romanticised the experience of spending hours in the library and meeting likeminded people who would in time become friends. This of course has not happened because we aren’t allowed on Campus much(currently not allowed at all). Zoom is not a good place to meet people, and the few seminars that we have been able to attend we have to wear masks which whilst I understand why, totally hinders the learning experience because I struggle to hear anything.
It’s annoying but it what it is.
I have struggled at many points in the last year, but the positive side of all this is recognising that my mental health is so much stronger because of the way I’ve handled it all these stresses.
In the past, prior to 29th December 2018, I would have got drunk at the news that Flash had cancer, and basically stayed drunk ever since. There by fuelling my depression and anxiety and probably reaching crisis point, and probably more than once finding myself alone in the dark nursing a bottle of wine and a hangover whilst sobbing uncontrollably how I didn't expect my life to be this rubbish.
I would have felt that the world is against me, that no one loves me and that I’m losing the best friend I ever had and the only way to cope with it is numb my senses.
Instead I re-drew the cognitive behaviour triangle on my kitchen cabinet, I created a tracker for Flash to make sure I wasn’t missing notable changes in his capacities (in other words making sure I wasn’t holding on to his life at the detriment to his own quality of it).
I also got involved in some 30-day challenges and mapped out a new training plan for my running. Instead of constantly feeling sorry for myself about Flash, I actively made myself think of at least one good time per day that I had with Flash whether it was a particularly funny thing he did, just a lovely cuddle or trips to various beaches/fields/woods/forests.
When he passed, I allowed myself to grieve in whatever that looked like. For me it was sporadic tears in between which I cleaned up the flat and did some rearranging, I took time off work (before I would have just pushed myself to keep working and therefore made myself ill), and I then went to stay with my friend. A friend who on occasion had looked after Flash, so we could reminisce about Flash together.
It has been a 4 months since Flash passed now, and aside from all the positive wonderful memories he has left with me, the other thing his passing has done is helped me realise just how far I have come since that day I decided to break the habit I had spent 15 years creating.
During all the things thrown at me during the last 12 months at no point have I even wanted to pick up a boozy drink.
Despite everything that has happened, there have been some really good things that have happened as well and I feel that during difficult times such as the yoyoing lockdowns, it’s all the more important to celebrate the victories no matter how small, so here it is in numbers;
5,793,035 is the number of steps I took.
1017.6 is the number of miles I have run.
38 is the age I was when I started University.
12 is the number of 30-day challenges I have completed.
1 is the number of marathons I ran (Beachy Head).
0 is the number of alcoholic beverages I have consumed.
When it comes to weight loss, it is of course an achievement to lose weight, for me that total was 6 stones which I lost between 29th Dec 2018 to 29th Dec 2019 – since then I have successfully maintained my weight which in itself is an achievement and not one that people celebrate about enough.
My goals for this year
Brighton Half Marathon in June
Brighton Marathon in September
Beachy Head Marathon in October
One 30-day challenge per month for the year
Beat my annual steps count and my annual mileage count