It’s definitely been a year, hasn’t it? Trump? Brexit? Distracted boyfriend memes. Tide pods. Black Panther. Female genderqueer Doctor Who. Oceans 8. Increasing ways to fuck monsters on the big screen.
I suppose I should start with the illness
Personally, I started the year sick as a dog. Sicker than a dog. I had the Australian flu. And then every other bug going around at about 10 times the level of ill that other people had them.
It was gutting. I had to take time off work at a crucial point and some of my coworkers never forgave me for that. I was lucky in that I had a really understanding boss who insisted that I take time off when I was ill, but it was still awful.
I accidentally ended up seeing a different doctor to usual and at first it looked like that was a good thing as he seemed to take my condition seriously and be willing to help. But that just set me up for even more gutting disappointment when he declared that he couldn’t find anything and it was all in my head.
Fortunately, he suggested I try a different doctor for a second opinion before just trying me on a different anti-depressant medication again.
She’s been great. Slow. But great. Slow because my doctor’s surgery has actually been rated inadequate. They literally can’t handle the number of patients they have, but there also aren’t any viable NHS alternatives in the area. It’s been a barrel of laughs.
Anyway. More blood tests. I’m anemic again. More iron tablets.
A weird pain in my lower right-hand side. New blood tests in case it’s my appendix. It isn’t, but it might be an ovarian cyst.
Blood tests reveal that my iron levels are technically back to normal (as in, the lowest number there is in the normal range) but apparently you can still be symptomatic up until 50. I am at 30. I do not know what of, but that is the iron number of my blood.
The good thing is that technically being back in the normal is all my doctor needs. I have been sick, pretty much non-stop, for six… actually probably more like seven years now. It isn’t normal. I had a week this year – one week – where I almost felt OK.
I cannot go places or do things. When I get home from work I cannot do anything. I mostly live in my bed. At work I am tired and I know I could function better than I do.
I have had blood tests. So many blood tests. I’m not going to go over my medical history again – I have talked about it ad nauseum and you, dear reader, are not going to be able to tell me anything me and my doctors have not considered, so please, please don’t try.
They don’t think it’s ME or CFS. It might be Multi-factor Fatigue Syndrome. It might still be the iron. It might be a sleep disorder (I doubt it – I have always suffered from insomnia, but there have been periods where I have slept quite well over the years this has been going on). But having technically normal iron means that I am finally being referred to the Chronic Fatigue clinic.
The thing I find most hilarious is that one of the reasons they don’t think it’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is that, while they insisted for years that it wasn’t anything at all, they now say that it’s been going on too long for it to be CFS.
But the fact is that I am still ill. Debilitatingly ill. I’ve seen people just about every other day this Christmas, and have ended up sleeping most of the following day to recover. And it’s not just being tired. I feel nauseous. I have headaches. I can’t think properly. It makes dealing with anything emotionally taxing very hard.
And this has meant that I can’t get on with my life. I just can’t. I can’t write fiction. I can’t publish philosophy. People have stopped believing that I ever will and hence treat it as a joke. I’m not being lazy, guys. I’m ILL.
I gave my most successful and most enjoyable paper ever at Nine Worlds this year – to a really huge packed room – and people were coming up to talk to me afterwards. It was amazing – it should have been amazing. I was too ill. I had four or five things to do that day and I had to run away to recover before the next.
It could have been a relaunching of my online presence. All kinds of people followed me and were asking for an online version of the talk – on The Ethics of The Good Place – and I haven’t been able to do it. I have been too ill.
It’s boring to dwell on this. It makes me seem whiny – I know. But it really has affected every part of my life, personally and professionally. It’s very difficult to find any kind of hope for the future when you literally can’t do anything but the bare minimum required to survive.
Let’s talk about this, then. Overall, objectively, it’s worked out to be a good year.
For the most part I worked with good people and achieved great things and really diversified my experience. I played a substantial part in bringing two prospectuses to print and I think my contributions to those look great. It was a shift, moving from mostly website and social media work to print, but it was wonderful to be writing so much, at such a high level, and to play such a key role in how a university presents itself.
The last two years being paid to write and create graphics and web content for a university I love has been amazing. I’m very sad to have had to leave such a creative environment, but yet another short-term contract came to an end, and I couldn’t live like that anymore. I have needed a permanent job for a long time, and I am very grateful that one came along when it did.
Now I’m a Content Specialist. Which at the moment seems to largely involve technical writing. That’s a new field for me. I have written, proofread, and edited fiction, academic writing, marketing materials, even poetry, but not technical writing. Although much of the work seems very similar to what I’ve done before, there’s still a lot of uncertainty involved in doing something new.
I will be a lot happier when I’ve seen out my probation and know that this really is a permanent job.
It pays a lot better than anything I have ever earnt before. Which is good. Frankly, I need the money – my credit card bills need the money. And I don’t like having to rely on teh generosity of others so much.
I’m also hoping it will mean that I can get private medical insurance soon. I love the NHS, but the Tories have gutted it and I need to sort my health out. I can’t go on like this – limping from one thing to the next. I want to actually live my life at some point.
I am writing. Not as much as I would like. But I am. As of yesterday I have 48,000 words on what I am referring to as Courtly Intrigue and Dragons.
I am determined to finish a novel this year. I know I say that every year, but it has to be done.
It’s hard to write at home because illness usually means the place is a tip and my own despondency seems to sort of seep into the walls, but I’m hoping that once I’ve made a proper dent in the credit card bill I can afford to get away – a writing retweet. Or maybe even just a weekend away in an AirBnB in Edinburgh or something.
It would be good to sort out my study, but illness has made that hard. It is overflowing with stuff that I don’t have the time or energy to sort out.
I’ve also gotten back to writing poetry this year. I think I’ve written some good things – working in Marketing has really honed my ability to write within hard limits and to set requirements. Having always written freeform before I have tried my hand at sonnets and I’ve been pleased with the results. I read some at the open mic at Fantasy Con and they seemed well-received. Nothing published as yet, but I have some out to submission. I’ve had no luck at all with my short stories this year, so it’s been good to try something else.
I have also written a very great deal of fanfiction. But less than last year, I think. My obsession with Dragon Age is finally cooling, so I’m able to throw myself behind the original fiction more.
I treated myself to a notebook earlier this year, and I think that’s really helped.
Holidays and Conventions
I actually got to go on holiday this year. Nice was nice. It was hot and sunny and I got suitably sunburnt. I think it did me good. I hope this year I manage to get to a proper sand beach, but the pebble beach in Nice was pretty good, and I enjoyed being able to swim in the sea again.
I’m hoping this year involves some time to get away and write, but I have less leave to work with so need to have a proper think about where I go and when.
Nine Worlds was good in some ways this year. I enjoyed the Toilet Panel, my Good Place paper, and my talk on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and the Modernists. But it was also smaller, less diverse, and with much less involvement from the publishing industry. I now know that this is because the con was in a kind of crisis and over the past few months its been in the process of changing hands and sorting itself out. Only time will tell what becomes of it, but it is a shame – local friends had just started saying that they might go in 2019.
I am tempted by World Con and Easter Con and Fantasy Con this year, but I can’t go to them all. There’s also the fact that I really enjoy taking part, and I know that more traditional cons tend to focus on inviting guests who have something to plug, instead of encouraging enthusiastic fans and academics the way Nine Worlds did.
Maybe this year I should spend the time focusing on my writing instead, so that I actually become the sort of person those kinds of cons want. But I also need to get out and meet new people, and at the moment, cons seem to be the best way for me to do that.
My resolutions for this year are very similar to those of every year.
I need to lose weight. It’s very difficult to do when you’re ill, but I am the fattest I have ever been and I hate the way my body feels.
I’ve started again with what I used to call Boredom Calisthenics – doing sit-ups and whatnot in the little bits of empty time when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the rice to cook. I did this before and was able to maintain my lowest adult weight for several years that way. I’ve also started on the weights. And I’ll need to eat better.
That latter is inhibited by the free-flowing of food and drink at work. I need to be better at saying ‘no’. But that’s difficult when you’re anxious, and I’ll need to settle into the work a lot more before my anxiety reduces.
I also want to finish writing a novel.
And I want to be published again. I used to manage to get at least one thing published every year, and I’ve not been able to do that for a while now. That needs to change.
I’d like to go back to my allotment and do a good job this year, but I may have to give it up because, you guessed it – my health.
A lot is dependent on my health. Writing is, exercise is, eating well is, the allotment is.
I will keep taking the iron pills and try to hope that something comes of this referral.
I also need a better sofa. That will help in getting me down out of bed and into the rest of the house.
So… as year reviews go, this is fairly dull. I feel like I should have been talking about Black Panther and Doctor Who and Shape of Water. But I haven’t the energy.
That’s what I most want for 2019: energy.