Disclaimer: this is going to be a long story. Buckle up. ;-)
What with the year coming to an end, and finally being in a better place, I decided it's time to give you a Life Update, a.k.a. The Things That Happened In 2017.
It’s been a hard year.
2016 ended with the news that I was going to lose my job, along with everybody else at the office, so early 2017 was reserved for Job Hunting and Life Decisions. Did I want to stay where I was? If not, where would I go? Maybe to Spain, something I’d been thinking about for a long time, or something else entirely?
I ended up accepting a job in Newcastle upon Tyne, four hours north of where I lived. It meant another move, a new start, and leaving friends behind.
And it was… hard. Much harder than I expected. Much harder than when I left my life in the Netherlands behind in 2014, and moved to the UK. On my own. While I loved the new flat, I had a hard time adjusting to my new job.
It stopped me from writing. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t. And then… then came the point where I didn’t even want to write anymore. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to do anything. Slowly but surely, I disappeared into this hole that swallowed me up, a hole that had started winter 2016, and became bigger and darker and all-consuming.
A much-needed visit from my dad in June brightened my world for a few days, as did the surprise visit from my family on my 30th birthday in July, and spending time with my lovely bookish friends at YALC at the end of that same month, but outside of that, everything was bleak. I spent hours staring at nothing in particular, alone with my brain.
I’ve always struggled with tiredness and winter blues. At 19, my doctor referred me to the hospital to have blood taken, and tested me on several things before concluding I was suffering from a winter dip. Many people did, he told me, and he gave me tips, and that was that.
What he didn’t know at that time, what I didn’t know at that time, was that this mild winter dip, a very common phenomenon, would over years turn into Seasonal Affective Disorder. Looking back now, it makes a lot of sense, and I can point out 4/5 winters where I was depressed, something that disappeared each time as the days lengthened. Luckily, my new doctor in Newcastle immediately recognized what I was going through, and diagnosed me with SAD. We talked through options, and he thought it was best to put me on antidepressants because of how much I was struggling.
I was relieved I finally had a diagnosis—and then reality hit me, and I crashed. Because I now ‘officially’ had mental health problems. I suffered from a severe (albeit seasonal) depression (one that, for the first time, had carried over from winter to winter). It took a few days, maybe a week, before I was able to shake that off. I told myself it was okay. So many people are on medication—just because it’s something nobody can’t see, a mental illness, doesn’t mean it’s not true. With support from amazing friends (you know who you are!) I kicked myself, and made a promise to be open about it. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen tweets. I’ve told people at work. I’ve told people I met on holiday. Because if there’s one thing I can do, it’s spreading awareness about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and maybe help other people, or prevent them from feeling as bad as I did. Because it’s not worth it, and no one should feel that way.
My parents visited me at the beginning of October, and we had a good talk about where I’d come from, and how I felt, and all I can say is that my parents are the most amazing human beings on this planet.
At the end of October, my best friend flew over from Germany, and I had a few amazing days. It helped spending time with Kim, who understands me the way I am, and was just simply there. We had long talks, lots of fresh air, and even more fun. We geeked out over Harry Potter, went to the cinema, and spent way too much money while shopping at Primark (more Harry Potter stuff).
Then, on Halloween, I dropped Kim off at the airport and drove to Wigtown, where Victoria Schwab was spending a week in an AirBNB that came with a little book shop. I’d checked with her beforehand if it was okay to stop by, and when she said yes, I packed two collector’s editions of A Darker Shade of Magic and some gifts, and went on a road trip to Scotland. I’d met Victoria twice before (YALC 2016 and 2017), and she immediately recognized me. After signing All The Books, we had tea in the little tea room across the road. When I returned home that afternoon, I felt So. Much. Better.
This is what spending time with genuinely nice people does to you. Between Kim’s visit and drinking tea with Victoria (as well as that at this point, I’d been on medication for about a month or so), I started feeling like a human being again.
In November, I received feedback from my wonderful editor friend Kaitlyn, and I edited RESIST, a futuristic sci-fi, which I’ll send to my agent Kelly soon. I also picked up writing MULADDIN/THREADS again, and secretly began to hope that maybe, even though I’d not been writing from April to October, maybe I could still finish a first draft.
As it stands, I have about 52K, and I’m flying to my family in the Netherlands on Saturday, so completing that first draft is not going to happen.
But that’s okay, because I found myself again. I’m no longer surrounded in darkness. My steps are a bit lighter. They have a slight bounce. My passion for has writing returned, and despite all my fears, I have not forgotten how to write.
And that new start I made in Newcastle? Turns out it was the right decision after all—three years in the Midlands and I didn’t have any writing friends in the area. Now I have the goofy Anna Day and wonderful Laura Steven nearby, and though I’ve not known them long, they’re already brightening my life. Thanks, girls. <3
2017 was a tough year, but it’s made me stronger. There’s no doubt I’ll fall again, but I know I can get up, dust myself off, and continue. I know I’m not alone. And that’s all that matters.
With that in mind, I got my first tattoo over the weekend (see below).
Wishing you all lovely holidays, full of love, laughter, happiness and hope. May 2018 be filled with books!
Anoshe – “Until Next Time”