My Battles

My 2020 – The year that changed my life and shaped my future

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Introducing my 2020

This blog entry will be a more personal account from the founder of Proudly.blog, Aaron Spencer. For our final piece of the year, I will be openly sharing my mental health experiences, my battles and never told before confessions that I myself struggled to really acknowledge and accept before today. This is my 2020.

Nearly a year on following my first blog post back in January this year titled ‘My 2019’ this blog has seen a lot of changes.

Proudly was once called Mental Health Facts Figures Fascination (yes I know that was never going to catch on) where it was purely me opening up about my battles with my mental health becoming unemployed, losing my best friend and becoming emotionally and physically unwell.

Proudly’s first logo when it was a mental health blog back in January 2020

Originally intended as a diary of sorts, this blog was used as a form of expression to document my journey battling my demons which would hopefully end with a happy ending. Oh how wrong I was.

But a year on from ‘My New Years Resolution’ post this blog has become so much more than just my story.

This is my year in review.

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New year, new start

As a new year dawns closer, it is time to reflect on what it was like living in the year 2020.

Wish me luck.

It wasn’t long before my blog began exploring sensitive subjects in my life that I’ve never addressed publicly before such as my mental health deteriorating since the loss of my best friend to meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia in October 2019.

Following on from my first post which was ‘My 2019’ I delved deeper into specifics of my mental health that affected me over the years.

Firstly I spoke about being unemployed with ‘Dear Future Employer’ which was my biggest reality check.

I wanted to be a journalist so bad with dreams of working for Birmingham Live or the BBC but in reality, I was snubbed so badly my applications weren’t even met with a rejection email.

Living with 31p in my bank balance, having no income and at an all-time low mentally, I was just digging deeper into depression. I just hadn’t known it yet.

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Isolation and demotivation

Always an optimistic person with a positive outlook on life it felt like life was really beginning to test this ideology of mine.

I’m somebody who is focused on achieving a dream and struggles to accept failure. This is why becoming powerless by a lack of opportunities was really getting to me.

A goal of mine was to remain strong despite all the obstacles thrown my way and continue this blog to showcase my determination to better myself every day which lead me onto writing the ‘Resilience is Key‘ blog post.

As time went on sadly the stress only grew. I began facing money problems, ever-growing anxiety issues about an emerging pandemic and no exciting events to look forward to, just isolation.

This came at a time where the inner voices of doubt start getting louder in my mind. Am I a failure? Why do I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough? Why is everybody judging me? Why do people not like me? Most of all I kept asking myself this question repeatedly. How do I make these thoughts stop?

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Goodbye old friend

My nan on her last birthday

These pressures just kept on amounting to a point I just needed to stop. To make matters worse, my nan became terminally Ill and I couldn’t even see her on her final days because lockdown was at its peak when I was with my boyfriend in Derby.

Blissfully unaware of what was to come, when I left for Derby a fortnight prior, my nan had no signs of illness. Nobody was to expect the tragedies that followed. After a short battle with an irreversible disease, my nan passed away at our home in April.

Thanks to modern technology I was able to FaceTime my mom overnight and say my final goodbyes to my nan before she passed away.

One distinctive memory what will always stick with me is the moment I was made aware of my Nans passing. It was Owen’s housemate’s surprise birthday party and it was my job to keep him occupied so the other housemates can help set it up. At half-time of our Fifa match, I quickly checked my phone to see my dad leave a message saying ‘nan has passed away‘.

Never one to get overcome with emotions I replied and carried on to make sure my grief didn’t burden his special day. Thankfully I could maintain my feelings long enough to not dampen the celebrations.

I took myself upstairs and just laid on the bed for 30 minutes. This was when I made the quick decision that I simply can’t be here anymore. I need to see my nan one last time. The rules stated for personal emergency people can travel and I had no other answer I needed to be at home.

This was sadly my last goodbye to all of the incredible people in the Derby household who I was lucky enough to meet and live with throughout lockdown. They supported me during the most difficult time of my life and I will never forget them welcoming me not only as Owen’s boyfriend but as an individual too.

I’m forever thankful for all the happy memories I shared in Derby with these amazing people and I will never forget my time there.

Disclaimer: Photo was taken in February 2020

Everybody in the Derby household completely understood my reasoning for leaving and I do not regret it one bit. I was in the safety of my own home and isolated until I moved permanently to Cornwall in April.

The loss of my nan was not only surprising but was more heartbreaking due to the circumstances. I never got to say my goodbye or have one final hug.

We used to always hold each other’s hands and say good morning and goodnight, my nan was there for me from my first breath, was always the first one to greet me when I got home with a cup of tea and biscuits always prayed for me with every exam, job interview I had and was always my biggest fan even when I failed.

I didn’t just lose a family member that day, I lost my oldest friend.

The last time my mom held my nan’s hand. Rest in peace Maureen Largey
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Here’s to the light and soul of the party and so many people’s lives. Rest in peace Maureen Largey.

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The next steps

It began to get to the point where I just had to get away. Everywhere I went around the house was constant reminders of precious memories I shared with my nan.

I started to suffer from severe déjà vu back when I suddenly lost my best friend Jessica last October. Although one added obstacle this year was the fact we were currently living during a global pandemic at its peak. This was a point where everybody’s mental stability was at an all-time low and I was no different.

My boyfriend noticed my rapid decline in my mental health becoming a ghost of who I once was. No optimism, no emotions, no hope. I couldn’t be trusted to be alone because I really do not know how deep my depression would go.

I can’t thank Owen enough for him supporting me and most importantly Owen saved me. Thankfully this blog gives me a platform to express myself and share to the world how much he means to me. This is when I wrote an open letter to thank Owen for sticking by me and being my lifeline. Here’s to my boyfriend.

Quite simply put, one article of recognition was not enough for all the support Owen has offered me. So here’s to my boyfriend part two.

Since living together in Cornwall from April, I would openly say that this has been one of the happiest times of my life. From our weekly quizzes to the summer family bbq and our wine drinking weekends watching family tv, I’m forever thankful for Owen’s parents welcoming me into their household.

To the whole Forrest family, I will be eternally grateful for everything you have done for me.

You have truly gone above and beyond to make me feel part of your family. Cornwall will forever remain my home away from home.

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Proudly beginnings

It wasn’t just my living location that began to change too. As my blog began to grow so did the variety of content I created. The blog concept went way past just sharing my story.

Noticing that my first LGBTQ+ post ‘Coming Out Story Like No Other’ received the best reception and engagement from readers, it was clear that these stories caught the most attention.

From that moment I started writing more LGBTQ+ centred pieces. The next blog posts I created was titled ‘Odd One Out‘ and ‘Stereotypes within sexuality‘ which are two of my most favourite pieces of writing I have created on this site.

As my stories started gaining more recognition it was clear that this blog has become so much more than a place for me to vent. I think the last personal piece did was my birthday blogs back in May.

This blog was no longer a platform where I could just share my story, it started to become a safe space for all our readers to share their experiences, relate to people’s stories and most of all it became a place that promotes acceptance and equality for everybody and somewhere you can be proud of who you are.

In June 2020, my story became our stories and this blog has singlehandedly became my greatest achievement.

That was the birth of Proudly.

Proudly.blog
Proudly.blog logo
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How Proudly changed my life

We are still only just starting out and looking to build into the new year but not for a second have I taken the opportunities Proudly has given me for granted.

I have shared the stories of Hollywood A-Listers such as Sir Ian McKellen. Interviewed RuPaul Drag Race UK royalty with Divina De Campo and met some of the biggest LGBTQ+ names within the media thanks for our original series ‘LGBTQ+ influencers making strides in the media‘.

To all the people who have come into my life the past twelve months, supported my dreams and helped build this blog into something special I honestly can’t thank everybody enough for the love and support you have blessed me with. I owe you everything.

From every contributor to the supporters, this is for you. To every follower on our socials to every sharer of our content, this is for you. To our first time readers to our devoted subscribers, this is for you.

Who knows what the future will hold but before I finish this personal post I have one thing left to say to all of you.

I’m still here because of you and I assure you I will not let you down.

Here’s to 2021 and a better future together x

Cheers to 2021 to all our Proudly readers love from Proudly founder Aaron Spencer x
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