2018: A Thank You
Following on from my psychotic episode in 2017, 2018 started in a vulnerable and scary place.
Though my immediate circle of friends and family knew I had been ill and what my illness had been, I hadn’t shared anything with anyone beyond that and I don’t think I had even alluded to being ill on social media. As I chatted about not long ago in my psychosis Q&A (it’s in the Mental Health Highlight on my Instagram page), the shame of keeping my psychosis to myself was so great that I hope I never have to keep it to myself ever again.
Twelve months later and more magical things have happened this year than I could ever have seen coming. I talked about a lot during my last therapy session this week, but in particular it was wonderful to note how much my illness has changed me for the better; I’m hoping to write you a blog post on exactly this, so keep an eye out…
If one thing was shown to be true time and again in 2018, it is that you never know when something wonderful is waiting around the corner. Countless times I found myself in a situation where I was scared and thought the situation I was in wouldn’t end or would do so in a painful way, but time and again things turned out better than I could ever have imagined. I find myself now in not simply a “positive mindset” (which conjures up slogan tees saying Cut Out Negativity or similar) but rather in a grateful one; I know I have the strength to ride the waves of whatever comes next and feel no fear in facing what's painful in life, but I’m also in touch with how lucky I am too.
So, here’s to 2018!
2018 In Review
January & February
My word for 2017 was “Community”, so I chose “Courage” for 2018. It could not have felt more apt if it tried. The start to my year was slow, as I began working full-time again after easing back into work from September 2017 onwards. My predominate memories of January simply involve snow, snow and more snow – essentially being so cold I forgot what warm felt like a good 90% of the time!
February wasn’t without difficulty; following my second, completely out of the blue seizure in a couple of months, I was investigated for the cause. My doctor explained that though epilepsy was a possibility, cancer was too and I needed to get my smear test done as soon as possible. It was such a confusing time, where I had no idea what the tests meant and whether I was okay, plus trying to wrap my head around the possibility I might have a brain tumour was terrifying. I remember being so overcome with relief when I was diagnosed with epilepsy; given everything else that has happened and what it could have been, treatable and manageable epilepsy feels like a walk in the park.
March & April
Though March heralded yet more snow, I was happy to let it off given how much more established in my work I felt – but April that was the month I won’t forget. My bestie and I flew to New York, my third time there, having visited twice during my summer in the States in 2016. This time round we stayed in Brooklyn and only headed into Manhattan once during our visit; we came away feeling about as in love with a place as you could possibly be! (I have consistently promised to and consistently failed to produce you a When In Brooklyn guide, but please let me know if you are still interested and I’ll get on it… finally… ) We were also able to spend an evening with the wonderful Coline of Topografille; I saw her last time I was in the States and it was amazing to catch up with her again!
In April, I also hit “Publish” on a blog post that would, at the risk of hyperbole, truly change my life. “My Name Is Anna” was the name I gave to my piece on my acute psychotic episode; I chose it because I wanted to foreground that I was me, and not my illness. I wrote about my story and, upsetting though it was to go back and look at what had happened in 2017, the way it was received was nothing short of incredible. It’s the most read blog post I’ve ever shared and I’ve never received so many comments, emails or messages about anything else. Sharing it was terrifying, but doing so meant that I got to not only hear from people who felt they’d been able to learn something about psychosis, but also received messages from people I knew but didn’t know had experienced psychosis too. It was such a powerful experience.
May & June
Though the main thing I can remember of May 2018 was the royal wedding, it was June where magical things began to happen. I came off my psychosis meds after a year, and it felt like my personality was coming back to me. It was nerve-racking and by no means a linear, smooth process, but it’s now six months since I stopped taking them daily and it surprises me still. I also became vegan again but, best of all, I found my co-working space in Northampton.
Not since uni have I found such a loving family of like-minded and brilliant people, and it’s been amazing to go from having a handful of friends still in my hometown to finding a circle of folks I now love. It feels weird that I didn’t know any of them existed this time last year, and that the wonderful friend I met during my first week would become my bestie and flatmate just a few months later… (I know, it sounds crazy to me too!)
July & August
The summer of 2018 was one of my best ever – I met more lovely people, got so much sun, worked with some brilliant clients and fell in love with my hometown for the first time ever. (Seriously, I love Northampton – I’m not even sorry!) August was also the start of my body confidence portrait sessions, which have become the most rewarding work I have ever had the pleasure of doing… Working with amazing women with a variety of concerns and goals for their shoots has been beautiful, and I hope I get to shoot even more in 2019.
September & October
I’ve been looking forward to writing this bit as it’s utterly jam-packed with lovely things… September started by seeing my best friend of 14 years get married, then another bestie surprised me with a trip to Berlin for my birthday, and at the end of September we moved into our first grownup flat. Our space is so, so special to me and already full of such happy memories, including having a load of lovely folks together for my birthday in October. Most exciting of all, I became an auntie for the first time just days before my 26th and I’ve been in love with my tiny nephew ever since!
The only instance of there being a psychic twin link between myself and my twin brother and newbie daddy occurred (or as I called it, twintuition) when I was told the big news in February. A few days before it was shared with us all, I chatted to a friend saying I wished there would be children in our family but that it was likely to be such a long time before there were… and then as my twin came to find me so he could tell me the wonderful news, I looked him dead in the eye and blurted out “Are you guys pregnant?”
The magic is real folks!
November & December
And then we come to the close of the year, and the last two months have involved big doses of work, friendship and family. Working hard with regular clients has been so exciting, and I’ve been balancing things by spending time with my nephew as much as possible too. I’ve spent quality time with my favourite people and all in all I can’t believe what a gem 2018 has been!
Lessons From 2018
1) Do things that scare you; the scarier the better.
2) Let people surprise you.
3) Conflict can be the source of amazing depth and honesty.
4) Ride the wave, and trust all will be well.
5) Dream big. Way bigger than you think you should.
LOOKING AT 2019…
My word for 2019 is “Rise”, inspired by the incomparable Maya Angelou. I hope that this coming year will be a chance to overcome the little bit of pain I still hold around my psychosis, and that it’ll be a chance to not only rise above my doubts, but to help others do the same.