Almost all years I do very little reflecting at the end of the year as it tends to send me into a pit of despondancy and self-recrimination as I wonder what on Earth I did with the last twelve months. 2018 has been a charming trashfire in many ways, but in my own personal little bubble, I find it’s not actually been all that awful. I can actually point to a bunch of things in the past year, personally and professionally, that I’m actually proud of. It’s weird. And rather nice.
Probably the most important thing was the change to my medication. I suffer from major depressive disorder and another thing that I’m not comfortable talking about publically. My medication has been excellent at keeping me alive, and I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about medical costs. However, when you’re a bit mental, it can be difficult to recognise when you’re not doing well, and to advocate for not merely managing but improving your condition. And it can also take time to learn how to do that effectively, and get medical people to listen to you. Fortunately I’ve had a superb psychiatrist this past year, and I was put on a combo of meds that was brilliant. It pretty much eliminated some symptoms and diminished the rest so that while I did have difficult spots, it was the healthiest I’d been in my adult life. Alas, one of the drugs also meant I was permanently hungry. I coped. For a while. Because the changes to my brain were worth it. But then it started to mess up my relationship with food, and the constant eating was having its own effect on my mental health. My psychiatrist gave me alternatives, and the first one worked just as well, but the only lasting side-effect is dry mouth, which is infinitely more tolerable long term, and means I’m remembering to stay hydrated.
And the thing about good mental health is it has a knock on effect on everything in your life in so many ways. In the same way that your illness can send things spiralling horribly down, when it’s being treated effectively it can send things spiralling up. Suddenly you can cope with so much more, you can do so much more, you have more energy, more creativity, more joy, and the normal happiness and contentment things are so much easier to find.
(I feel terribly vulnerable talking about this, but given how much other people talking about their mental health online helped me, I’m trying, when I feel able to, to do the same.)
One of the knock-ons with that was trying to fix some issues I had with my diet. I’ve been a meat-eater all my life, but I was growing increasingly unfond of it. June or July I think I found I just didn’t like the taste of pork anymore, and it was making me uncomfortable eating it. But meat was the nice, easy, familiar thing, and I hate so many vegetables and how do you make vegetables a meal anyway? I’d (very) half-heartedly tried vegetarianism before and I hated the *effort*. I had to learn new stuff about food, and food just didn’t interest me all that much.
I forget exactly what convinced me to say sod it and try anyway, but I did. And I’m so much happier with my food. I’ve found fake chicken I like better than real chicken, discovered how marvellous garlic is, and learned how to make many a vegetable taste delicious (not courgettes though; courgettes are the worst.) It’s not strict vegetarianism (I’ll maybe have chicken or fish once or twice a month, and a burger or steak when I’m away from home as a treat, but I don’t eat pork and I’ve never even tasted sheep or lamb) but it’s got so more more veg in my diet and I’m snacking so much less, and, damn it, have more energy just like I was told healthier eating would do. And I’m actually *enjoying* cooking, which is weird but terribly satisfying.
Creatively, I’ve written a lot of words this year. I’ve finished one novel, and started another. I’ve been part of another wonderful year of the Verity! podcast (and we got a second Hugo nomination!), and had a delightful first year of Hammer House of Podcast. And I’ve been lucky enough to guest on a plethora of other amazing podcasts. I wrote Big Finish’s very first twelfth Doctor story, I’ve written some actual words that’ll be in Doctor Who Magazine next month (and I believe my picture will be in there too, horrifying, but also I know my six year old self would be ever so amazed), and thanks to this year, I’m working on some very spiffy things for this coming year.
So, on the final day of 2018 I’m caught in a weird flux of optimism and pessimism for the coming year. And now I’m going to go play some lovely computer games.