Little Miss Independent

On the day we moved, a kind friend gave me a present to be unwrapped only when I’d arrived in our new home. As I opened it on that first evening, surrounded by boxes and dirt and dreams; I felt a little teary. For it was a sign saying “She believed she could, so she did”… and never had those words felt more appropriate. Because that day I’d accomplished what me-of-a-year-ago would never, ever, have imagined possible. I’d achieved what had made my tummy a-jiggle with worry and excitement, since deciding to give it a go. With my Little Miss Independent inside, cheering for me to try, I’d driven to our new house… myself. 120 miles from Oxfordshire to the Peak District. With Phil on final packing; I’d driven ahead -solo- to collect the keys and move in. My biggest ‘finding my freedom’ feat yet. 🙂

When I developed Pulmonary Hypertension, in 2013, my confidence and independence went in to free-fall, as well as my health. Overnight, I became too breathless to walk to the toilet, too fatigued to chat on the phone, too weak to drive the car or cook my own dinner or even get washed myself. It was terrifying. Truly terrifying. Every time I realized I could no longer do something, cracks appeared in the internal image I had of myself. Every time I needed someone to help me do the previously easy, pieces of who I thought I was, were broken away. Until one day I realised I didn’t know me anymore. I had no idea who I now was or what I could now do. Even my Little Miss Independent inside was confused, and had shrank to barely nothing. My own cheerleader, my number one believer, kinda no longer believed in me.

Over time I grew to love my new life, and the new me that had emerged from the rubble. But my Little Miss Independent remained quiet, as my illness prevented me from going places alone. Weakness and breathlessness and fatigue and incredibly limited energy levels meant I needed constant support outside the home. So I was driven around, accompanied, and looked after, everywhere I went. Mainly by my wonderful hubby. He was the scaffolding that stopped me crumbling away. My biggest cheerleader, when my internal one was missing. And as the years passed, and my health slowly improved; he encouraged me to remove some scaffolding poles, take baby steps to regain my freedom. Go places alone, whilst he waited outside. But I never felt well enough or brave enough or confident enough, to make that final leap and truly venture on my own, out of reach to be ‘saved’. The unpredictable nature of my illness had left me nervous and vulnerable in the big ol’ world, and haunted by What-ifs and worst case scenarios. What if my scooter stopped? I ran out of oxygen? The car broke down? I was suddenly fatigued? I didn’t have faith that I could look after myself, or the confidence that I could find a solution. So I never dared remove those final bits of scaffolding, and truly venture solo into the world.

But then last November, the scaffolding was whipped away from under my feet. Completely unplanned and forced by circumstance, I had to drive our car to a garage myself (read the blog). My first taste of freedom in nine years. My Little Miss Independent was reawakened. 🙂 By some miracle, that same month, my body had randomly and unexpected improved again. I could now sit up for longer, be active for longer, even walk for a little longer. Not for long, never for long, but I could be more active that I’d ever managed since becoming ill. And it was that one little change, that altered everything. If I could walk a little; then if my scooter broke, or car stopped, or I faced a problem, I could get help. With a little extra energy, I could save myself, solve it myself, sort it myself. And with that realization, my world opened up.

These past ten months, I’ve challenged myself to do more and more on my own. Slowly braved life without a constant guardian angel by my side. I started with nearby village trips- collecting a Marketplace purchase, driving to the coop, parking in the town square and walking to the butchers. A lovely Tesco cashier cried when I excitedly told her it was my maiden supermarket voyage. 🙂 I plucked up the courage to walk the dogs away from the village, then across the fields, and even on an adventure to a National Trust spot- all on my own-some. There was the first time I filled up the petrol myself, wandered a garden centre myself, drove myself to my Oxford hospital appointment. Every time, my beautiful Lottie would be in the car beside me. Super support dog. Driving myself to the Peak, initiated turbo independence seeker. Solo trips to B&Q, solo scoots to quiet viewpoints, a solo scooting summit of my first Ethel! Sharing the driving with Phil on trips. When the car broke, I waited for the RAC, and found a garage to mend it… myself. And I’ve solo explored every shop in town! 🙂 This self-confidence has extended to other parts of my life. Organizing tradespeople, signing up for art classes, building my very first flat pack! I want to try everything, just to see if I can. Last week, I even dared to read aloud at a local creative writing open-mic! 🙂

Every successful trip, restores more of my lost confidence. Every foray into freedom, ignites a greater determination and want. My Little Miss Independent is coming back, and gees it makes me so happy. So incredibly happy. Life feels exciting, full of opportunity, bigger. And this change couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve a new town, new county, new national park to explore. 🙂

Every morning whilst drinking my tea, I read my sign, and plan my day. She believed she could, so she did. 🙂

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