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Why I Won't Be Setting Health Expectations on New Year's Eve

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It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we are constantly bombarded with the phrase “New Year, New You.” It’s a classic saying, but one with very little merit. We all deep down know there’s not huge leap between December and January. Things don’t suddenly change or improve, but there’s this great sense of hope and energy. It’s OK when you half-heartedly aspire to eat a little healthier, lose some weight, cut down on drinking or something along those lines. But “New Year, New You” becomes a problem if you have heavy expectations that a new year might just mean a fresh start to your fight with chronic illness.

This is where I went wrong last year. I was about six months into my fight with functional digestive diseases and thought that the end of the year meant it might be over. It had been a horror year starting with a simple travel bug and ending with an undiagnosed mystery chronic illness, losing the ability to eat properly and moving home to Australia. I’d had enough. But even though I was told I should be improving, I could feel my body continuing to deteriorate. It was getting harder to keep up with daily functions.

Things weren’t looking good. But I thought the New Year might just bring a new start. “Thankfully that horrid year is over,” I’d say to my friends. “Things will surely get better in the new year.” Spoiler alert: They didn’t. In fact, my 2017 made 2016 look bearable. It was a year of misdiagnosis, confused doctors, hospital visits, surgeries and utter mental and physical depletion. No surprise, I had to quit my job just two months into the year and completed a year of part-time university study from my bed.

2017 was just never going to be my year. There wasn’t much I could have done about the physical side of things. Chronic illness doesn’t leave much room for control. But what I really wish I’d done differently was lower my expectations. I’m not saying people shouldn’t stay positive and hope for the best. But a new year ultimately doesn’t bring anything new to the battle with chronic illness. It doesn’t bring a time machine, miracle cure or better diagnosis. Maybe in 12 months’ time things will be better for you. But maybe they won’t. And you can’t just leave all the pain of the previous year behind overnight.

This year I understand the new year will bring some happiness, sadness, frustration and challenges. Hopefully, my fight will get easier. I’ll use the positive energy and motivation of New Year’s to channel my energy towards my recovery. I’ll hope 2018 is a better year for me. But I won’t put all my eggs in that basket. This year, I’ll be prepared to face what really comes with New Year’s – honestly not a whole lot!!

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Photo via Viktor_Gladkov on Getty Images

Originally published: December 29, 2017
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