Last year wasn’t at all what I expected it to be.
What felt like the longest January EVER, soon turned into some of the most emotional months of my life in recent years.
Where I thought I knew myself, I discovered that I didn’t.
I learned that I had lost my passion and had a distorted view of my capabilities.
Where I thought I had addressed my demons, I soon learned I hadn’t and my Inner Child was tired of being ignored.
The biggest lessons we learn are sometimes the ones we weren’t even looking for.
While I could dwell on the awful parts of last year, it would be totally unfair to not give any mention to all the things I loved.
So, in no particular order, here are a 5 things this year that really, really made me smile.
1. I graduated with a 2:1 degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
On this day, every part of me smiled. Light shone in my deepest and darkest corners. Worries were replaced with joy and I felt so proud of myself.
Going to university has been a lifelong dream and when my mum died, I’d given up hope of ever getting to go.
But at the age of 28 I enrolled as a mature student at the University of Wolverhampton and, as cliche as it is, it is the best thing I have ever done.
2. I met my favourite author, Dorothy Koomson.
This divinely talented woman is my writing hero, and she knows my name.
I’m have been a fan ever since I read My Best Friend’s Girl.
A long time ago in 2006, a year after my mum had died and my heart was still broken, I had hardened and a numbness consumed me. I shut off my emotions, a coping mechanism I learned from a traumatic childhood, and no emotions seeped out for years. Just numbness.
I read My Best Friend’s Girl and it made me cry. Me. Cry. The story, the characters, the words, Dorothy’s writing connected with a part of me that needed a release. The taps were turned on and I cried and cried. And I loved that book for giving me the opportunity to do that.
It was the same with Goodnight, Beautiful. I finished the book and sobbed my heart out, not even for my own pain; I cried for the characters I had connected with and their losses and heartbreaks.
She doesn’t know it, but her writing made me feel emotions again, albeit temporarily, helped me feel represented in some way (Ice Cream Girls and When I Was Invisible in particular), and helped me feel less alien and more human.
And years on, in 2018 I traveled to London for Motherhood Reconstructed‘s first book club, ESPECIALLY to meet Dorothy Koomson. And she knew my name.
3. I gave my home office a much-needed makeover.
After a few months of writing at my desk, I’ve since reoganised the space so that it feels more practical for me.
The incredible thing is that I’ve been writing for years without a desk and without a dedicated area in my home to write. Imagine what I will create now…
4. I finally got help.
I’ve been in and out of counselling for the last few years.
It’s no secret. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been living with anxiety and depression for a long time, a souvenir from my experiences of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
This year has felt different. My anxiety and depression has reached unbearable heights and I’ve been forced to take action.
This has meant speaking to my GP about how I’ve been feeling, which was challenging in itself. I’m not used to asking for help. I’ve had a lifetime of minimising my struggles, but it hasn’t served me well.
It also meant accepting the support available, from medication to counselling. And while I have been through this process before, everything is different this time.
With the counsellor, I’m speaking about things I’ve never said aloud, allowing myself to be vulnerable and feeling the emotional agony instead of blocking it out.
With the medication, the low dosage has been enough to help me cope with everyday life. My thoughts are no longer erratic or intrusive, I’m feeling more present and like I have a quality of life again.
It’s okay to ask for help, really it is. I’m so glad I did.
5. I rediscovered myself.
I really have felt lost this year, honestly. But I’ve spent a lot of time in solitude, focusing on myself and stripping back anything that doesn’t resonate.
I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and finally given myself permission to really be Annika Spalding.
And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I know what that means.
What have you loved about 2018?