Today marks the one year milestone since we started on this unexpected journey. It’s certainly been a bumpy ride, but in so many ways life has become easier.  The initial fog that shrouded me has lifted and I continue to see clearly, not in to the future (I gave up trying to second guess some time ago and I feel better for it), instead I see the present clearly and now I can make a comparison to the past, even the recent past, and see just how far we’ve come.

There have been dark days, rainy days, days that feel like they’d never end, days that I didn’t ever want to end, moments of sheer joy and moments when I felt so lost I wonder if I’ll ever find my way back again, moments of complete fear and moments of sheer elation. I’ve learnt a lot over the past year and one of the things at the forefront of my mind these days is that the dark days pass, the feelings of being a failure, of frustration and of not being good enough don’t last forever. In comparison, neither do the wondrous days, so I hold on to those now and let the cloudy days pass me by without holding on to them.

If I notched up all the things that have happened over the last year it does read rather like a black comedy. I’m still not running following a car accident I had last summer, but hopefully I’ll be able to return to that in the next few months. I’ve come to realise just how resilient I am, and whilst there will always be chinks in my armour, I’m more confident about my ability to do the very best for my children than I have ever been, so I will keep holding my sword and shield high as I continue to do battle for what Anna needs educationally and what both my children need now and in the future.

The last year has tested me to my core; it’s tested my relationships, my ability to make big decisions, my ability to resume normal service whilst inside I’m screaming, my ability to get back up each day knowing it’s going to potentially be a fight (not with Anna, but with the additional needs education system here in the UK). It’s helped me to both recognise and accept that at times it does seem like ground hog day but a change is always around the corner. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that life is hard, not always and not every day, but you have to be able to take the rough with the smooth and not give up on chasing your dreams. This last year has taught me just how important it is to look after myself. To take time out and not feel guilty about it, after all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Somebody told me recently that they thought I was very brave. I don’t feel very brave, so I was quite taken aback. Courage is one of the most important attributes I try to teach my children every day, and somehow, despite the bumps in the road we’ve experienced, I can only hope that I am leading by example.

I’ve found myself having conversations that I never thought I’d have to have, but nowadays, when I hear the words coming from my own mouth, I know they are mine. It doesn’t feel as if I’m talking about somebody else’s situation and I am so incredibly proud of Anna.

This year has taught me two things; one, if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. After the initial meetings with Anna’s previous nursery, nothing sat right me with me about the way that they talked about Anna, the way in which they talked about what Anna needed or indeed their general demeanour about children with additional needs. I will be forever grateful that we took the decision to move Anna, and whilst jumping head first in to the unknown is never easy, I know it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made. Anna’s current nursery has allowed Anna to be Anna, whilst still ensuring that boundaries are set, and Anna’s progress there has been astounding. It is a wonderful caring environment with an overwhelming sense of fairness, with children being treated as the wonderful little human beings that they are.

I’ve learnt that so often it’s not Anna’s comfort zone boundaries that need to be pushed but mine! Anna is adaptable and inquisitive and we can do things together as a family now, that we couldn’t do just a few short months ago.

When I was younger, and certainly before I had children, I always thought that the world ran on money by people wearing suits in high places. Now that I’ve had children, and especially after the last year I see that in fact, it is love that makes the world go round. It’s a strange world that we live in; on the surface it is seemingly full of negativity and hate, after all sensationalism sells newspapers and makes people read more online. But I think you have to just look at the world a little differently to see that love really is the answer and it is Anna who has taught me to look at the world in a different way. Unconditional love is the strongest bond in the world, it may be seemingly invisible at times, but it is always there and it is extremely powerful.

The late and very great Rick Mayall puts it better than I ever could in his ‘5 mantra’s for a happy life’. These are indeed wise words to live by;

Rik Mayall’s 5 Mantras for a happy life

1. All men are equal therefore no one can ever be your genuine superior.

2. It is your future. It is yours to create. Your future is as bright as you make it.

3. Change is a constant of life, so you must never ever lose your wisdom.

4. If you want to live a full and complete human life you have to be free. Freedom is paramount.

5. Love IS the answer.