I’m sitting here writing this on Sunday December 30th, at the exit station of this rollercoaster of a year. Looking back in exhausted bewilderment at the 365 days just gone. Thinking ‘What the f%#k was that?’
For me, 2018 has proved to be a major evolutionary stage. I’m still coming to terms with this transformation and allowing it to integrate into my life, and so I have decided to sit down and write these posts to process the year just past. Life has its trials and tribulations, and I am reflecting on the events of the year, and how they have impacted me, particularly as a writer. I have chosen to share my experiences in the hope that anyone, especially other writers, that have had similar experiences will know they are not alone in their challenges.
I don’t know about you, but for me this year was purely about survival. Getting by, month by month, week by week, day by day, hour by hour, second by second. This year was merciless. I could never have imagined the relentless stream of challenges that 2018 would present: uncertainty and fear in every aspect of my life, including employment, finances and health.
This year I battled with the basics- staying positive, clearing my energy, practicing forgiveness. I’ve been shown who I am without resources and help, and although I know I have been strong to get through it, I have still felt so weak. 2018 has completely broken me down. I know this is so that I can be born anew on the other side, but at the moment I’m still feeling dazed and confused!
I’ve worked hard to keep my writing goals afloat throughout 2018. Being young with no children, no mortgage, little debt and relatively few responsibilities, my writing time has never been challenged. Up until this point in my life I had lots of spare time to write, and this is how most of my days off work were spent. This all changed when my fiance suffered a debilitating back injury at work in 2017. I’ve posted about my experience as his carer if you’d like to read it HERE.
My passion for the written word has never known challenges like it has in 2018. I did my best to keep pursuing my writing goals, I found I was being met with blockages in everything I tried to did. During my unemployment between January and April, I barely worked on any writing at all. I treated job searching as an absolute priority, and even after spending all day applying for countless jobs, I didn’t allow myself any writing time. My energy was depleted by the mundane and soul-destroying task of searching and applying for jobs, and writing was the one activity I could draw some joy from amidst all the ongoing stress and instability. But I had also convinced myself that dedicating any time to writing- even just a few minutes at the end of the day- would be irresponsible.
Thankfully, this didn’t last long. After awhile of denying myself the joyful reprieve of writing, I realised I could no longer stand to endure another day without indulging in the written word, and I began chipping away at some ongoing projects.
In January 2018 I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and sought professional help. I was just about to leave my Christmas casual position at The Body Shop, and was once again looking down the barrel of unemployment, whilst also dealing with the physical, mental and emotional impact of Greg’s injury on us as individuals and as a couple.
It was this year that the stress of our situation started to show physical symptoms in my body. I was suffering severe tension headaches, which became so bad I was physically sick on a number of occasions. One particularly intense episode sent me to the emergency room. I went to the doctor who sent me for an X-Ray, but the follow-up appointment would reveal an unexpected health scare.
While the X-rays showed no problems with my neck and back, a recent Pap Smear test had returned am abnormal result. While this is common and does not mean you have cancer, it is still scary, even more so as I have known of two women who had sadly passed away from the disease. I was referred for a colposcopy, an exploratory procedure for which I would wait four months for an appointment. Despite the doctor’s reassurances, it was a nerve-wracking wait.
My neck and pack pain persisted, but MRI tests showed no complications with my VP shunt and no fluid retention in my brain. After all those tests, these symptoms were put down to stress-related muscle tension. I sought out a physiotherapist who specialised in treating headaches, and I have been receiving progressively positive results.
These health scares were a big wake up call to me to ensure I was looking after myself properly.
In April, after almost two months of unemployment, I took a month-long temporary casual position at Typo during the Commonwealth Games, and just as that was finishing up I was offered a position with Jeanswest. During my time working there I gained substantial skills and confidence and worked with some genuinely wonderful people, however unfortunately my overall experience with the company was negative. Overall, I felt very unsupported by some members of management. I not only felt that my questions were not answered, but also that management were actively resistant toward training and supporting new staff. I felt the high expectation of performance and customer service placed on store staff by the company was not matched by training and support from management.
In July I was given the all-clear for my colposcopy, which was a huge relief. On the 20th of that month I published Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two, the third and final book in the series I had been working on since 2016. It was the end of an era, but I was ready to get started on something fresh.
In that same month Greg and I were given a notice to leave our apartment at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast. The owners wanted to renovate the property, so we had to move out. It was at this time I decided to take a break from writing and publishing. There were some pressing non-writing matters that were increasingly demanding my attention. Since leaving my full-time job in September 2017 my attention had been reduced from all things creative to merely surviving financially, emotionally and mentally. But I didn’t want to just survive anymore. I needed to re-establish stability so that I could properly focus on my passion again.
So I decided to take a break until mid-late September. I wasn’t not going to stop writing completely- I simply couldn’t! I was just going to take a step back from blogging and social media. I was not going to be launching any new books in 2018, however I had planned to republish all of my short stories as individual Kindle ebooks.
I never thought I would take a ‘break’ from writing and publishing, but for some time I’d felt the increasing need to pause. I had pushed through the challenges and was determined to stay on track with my writing, publishing, marketing and promotion. Trying to maintain consistency. I wanted to take some time to review my strategies, to ensure I was making the most of these platforms and not wasting time.
We relocated to Coolangatta on the Southern Gold Coast in early September, and this was the hardest house move I have ever done. Greg helped where he could, but he was extremely limited because of his injury and pain. It was mostly up to me to get the place packed up. I also performed the bond clean, with help from my mum and aunty.
After the move I resigned from Jeanswest. The performance expectation placed on staff was high, and I felt that the company was somewhat out of touch with the impact of these tasks and expectations on frontline team members, and personally I would like to see the company place more value on the health and wellbeing of store staff. My expenses had been reduced by the move, and so there was space for me to leave and find something more suitable. By moving house I was purging many stress contributors from my life, and that job was just another stressor I simply did not need and could do without.
Once we had settled in to our new place at Coolangatta, I was keen to get back on track with my writing projects, however it was not as easy as I had thought it would be. In my next post I will share with you the challenges I faced trying to re-establish my writing routine, and how this paved the way for a complete transformation of myself as a writer and as a person.