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    Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018


    Dear 2017,

    You were the best and worst year of my life. There were times when you really tested me, and sometimes when you broke me. But, there were also many times when you built me up. There were times when I could not believe how badly things were going, but there were also times when I could not believe how well things were going. My instinct is to complain about all of the negative aspects of the year, but I will fight that and instead focus on my growth throughout the year.

    Chronic illness, depression, anxiety, and fatigue were my biggest battles of the year. I’m still bitter about all the pain and challenges you put me through, but I also have to appreciate the fact that you gave me the perspective I needed to keep growing.

    2017, you started off on a bad note. I was too sick on New Year’s Eve to celebrate with friends or family, so I started off the year feeling left out, sorry for myself, and scared that this would be yet another year where my illness dictated my life. Luckily, as the year progressed, my EDS and POTS did not worsen or cause me as many problems as they had in years passed. My depression and chronic fatigue, however, were a different story.

    I had never been so crippled and discouraged by depression and fatigue as I was in 2017. Oftentimes, it got to the point where I was skipping classes, plans, and staying in bed all day. From that, you helped me learn that I could handle more than I could have ever imagined. But just because I could handle these hardships on top of the normal stresses a millennial goes through (pressure to manage school, work, internships, familial expectations, a social life, personal wellbeing, etc.), it did not mean that I wanted to continue struggling to balance it all.

    I’m hoping that 2018 will be better to me than you were. My hope for 2018 is that I can get my depression and fatigue under control to the point where I no longer feel as though they are keeping me from living my best life. I know you can’t just “overcome” chronic illnesses. That’s the thing about them: they’re chronic. They’re here to stay for a while, and they will be difficult to deal with. But in the meantime, I’m working on cognitive behavioral therapy

    with my psychologist to more realistically and positively frame my challenges and accomplishments. I’m hoping that this will help me to realize that my challenges are something that I can get through, and that not everything is going as badly as I may feel it is. As a matter of fact, a lot of good actually happened in 2017.

    2017, you were lowkey my year. And I say lowkey because I was the one who did not give myself enough credit for all I did. Despite all of my struggles, I managed to finish both semesters with a great GPA, I cultivated new and old friendships, and I learned ways to cope with the obstacles that I was going through. And those were just my day-to-day accomplishments!

    I did things that I have been wishing to do for years, like traveling to Spain! You read that right -- I went to fucking Spain! I owe it all to my parents for allowing me the opportunity to fulfill my years-long dream of studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country. And of course, I could not have done it without the support of the UVA in Valencia program. The most impressive thing about this trip was that I did it by myself. I never thought that I could leave the country and all it familiarity by myself, but I did it. And although I struggled, and I mean struggled, with my depression while I was abroad, I made it through. My depression and suicidal thoughts got so bad that my family wanted me to come home, but I’m glad that I reached out for help there and decided to stay. Spain was the best experience of my life. I wish I was not so consumed with depression that I could have enjoyed it to the fullest, but the sites that I did get to see, the people I did get to meet, and what I did get to learn are memories that I will treasure always.

    Later in the year, I fell into sort of a rut. I had kind of expected my trip to Spain to make my depression better, but I was still struggling when I got home. But despite that, I managed to land my first internship with an organization that I respect and admire, EDS Wellness. I absolutely cannot wait to start working with them in 2018. I never thought that I could manage an internship with school, since I am already part-time due to my illnesses, and it takes so much effort to keep up with that and health. But I am blessed to have found an organization that understands what I am going through and is willing to work with me so that I can still participate as much as I can. Ugh, I’m just so excited about it!

    Another thing that I’m super proud of that I accomplished this year is getting a job! Working is another thing that I did not think I could manage along with my current commitments, but in 2018, I will be babysitting part-time while taking classes part-time and interning part-time. I can’t wait to have a schedule filled with things that will both educate me and fulfill me.

    When I write it all out, I realize that you weren’t as bad as I imagine, 2017. I really kicked ass despite all the obstacles I had to face. So thank you, 2017, for being a year that taught me about patience, determination, and helped me reflect on my growth.

    I plan to take everything that I have learned from you into 2018, and continue on this path of doing the best that I can, and accepting that as my best, while also never giving up on my dreams. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has to offer.

    Love,

    Dineo