It was the year I turned 25, a quarter of a century old

Written on
Contribution by
Nick Hughes

It was the year I turned 25, a quarter of a century old. I had decided New Year’s Eve 2019 that this was going to be the year I travelled, got a new job and made something of myself. Nothing could stop me, apart from the world it would seem…

We all know the lockdowns and the COVID story itself, so I won’t go too much into it. I remember showing up at the local pub for my bar shift and seeing the news. We had to close there and then. No one really knew how long for but I didn’t expect to be writing this a year on, in the same position.

To begin with, the weather was good, I was out exercising, messing around at home and not realising how bad this pandemic was. I reached out to friends both old and new and felt like I was in a reasonably good headspace, without the stress of work and having lots of time with my family.

It was also the time I found love. A lockdown romance is never easy, but we made it work for the most part. The anticipation of being able to hold each other kept me going. During this time, I went back into care work to help where I could. This meant I was without my family for weeks at a time. It was so tough, but the work was so rewarding. At work, I didn’t have time to worry or struggle with my confidence or low self-esteem which I have throughout my life.

After the first lockdown, I went home and was finally able to see this new girl I had become smitten with. Things progressed and I ended up travelling with her to her university house and staying for periods of time whilst working remotely. I was at the happiest I had been for a long time and I was reasonably thankful for lockdown for helping me find a new job and love. Things got tough when I was back home as we struggled to see each other, and this coincided with the return of my physical issues. For the last few years, I have been unable to naturally pass urine “the traditional way”. All my tests and appointments were cancelled at the hospital due to staff shortages and being needed elsewhere which I perfectly understood.

Unfortunately, this is where my 2020 spiralled downwards into a darkness I had never felt before. The year had moved at a rapid pace and by this time I was in November. I ended up rushed into hospital due to urinary retention. The stress and pain this caused meant I had to be catheterised which as a 25 year old man is not pleasant (I doubt its pleasant at any age actually). My relationship also broke down due to several reasons, so I was heading into Christmas without my partner and a tube in my doodle! Looking back now, it was the better outcome. What followed in the immediate aftermath of my relationship breakdown was cowardice social media messages from fake accounts and the correct services getting involved to help me. This has now stopped, and I am very thankful for that. It was not what I needed alongside these urinary issues. Over the run up to Christmas, I had countless issues with the catheters bypassing due to issues with infections. I tried self-catheterising numerous times and ended up with worse infections, causing me to be hospitalised on numerous occasions. I felt bad as the NHS are already short staffed and struggling with beds. The fact I could not have any visitors affected my mental health a lot as well. This mixed with the horrible messages saying how I was a burden and worthless caused me to be helped by the in-house hospital liaison team for mental health. Due to my low self-worth and low moods, they referred me to the home treatment team. I was unfortunate that all these things had occurred in a short space of time and I was struggling to cope. I could not see any way out with the lockdown restrictions getting tighter and I was definitely not in the Christmas spirit. Luckily, my body gave me a break and I was able to enjoy Christmas with my family without any accidents or infections stopping me. My brother ended up getting a positive COVID test result, so we all had to isolate after this, until just after new year.

I have since had a suprapubic catheter fitted and am much better physically, awaiting a surgery to try something else. I am still having help with a therapist and I have applied for university. 2020 taught me a lot of things about myself and others. Without my family, friends and the workers that keep this country going, I do not think I would be sat here writing this now. For that I am thankful. I still have bad days, but we all do. I use services such as SHOUT, Clic and Mindline, when I need help or support and I also try to talk things through more. With the vaccines now being rolled out, we can finally start looking forwards, even if it is just one day at a time. Things can and will get better. If you are reading this, you can get through the bad days, and the best thing is you will appreciate the better ones more.

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