2015 – The highs, the lows, the woes

My last blog post of the year … and what a year it has been for me. There have been soaring highs, crippling lows and more than a handful of woes.

The year started with a visit to the doctor where I finally admitted that I had been suffering with depression and anxiety for the last few years. To sit there and have my wonderful GP tell me that it was going to be ok, that I could get better, that she’d be with me every step of the way … it was like some of the heaviness lifted, I could breath a little easier. I will be eternally grateful to my GP who has been a constant presence in my life this year and who has been amazing. I could not have battled this without her. It is with her help that I can get out of bed in the mornings.

January was a never-ending nervous wait to hear from Firefly Press to whom I had nervously submitted my manuscript. They had applied for an individual book grant from the Welsh Books Council for my book, Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners. The panel would meet at the beginning of February, so January crawled agonisingly by in a nail-biting, stomach churning fog.

To try to keep my mind off the looming date, I wrote a short story and was thrilled to have it shortlisted in Writers’ Forum magazine.

February arrived … I had no nails left to chew, the churning had reached the final spin of its cycle and my feet ached from all the pacing. Then it came, the e-mail popped into my Inbox and I sat staring at it. I couldn’t open it … I had to know … I couldn’t … eyes scrunched closed I clicked. Taking a deep breath I slowly opened my eyes and read.

And that’s when the soaring began (along with the shrill shrieking that caused panicked alarm around the house).

‘What’s wrong?’ asked my husband.

‘I’m getting published,’ I said through tears and snot.

I don’t think anything compares to that feeling, knowing that you’ve achieved your dream, whatever your dream may be. All those wasted years of saying ‘one day I’ll write a book’, then the distressing time in my life that made me actually sit down and start writing … and there I sat, staring at an offer of publication for my first ever book from the fabulous Firefly Press.

So began an incredible high. I felt like I was someone else. When I sat supping coffee with my editor (I mean, I have an editor!!), it felt like we were talking about someone else entirely. But it was me. I had achieved my lifetime goal. I had written a book and it was being published and it felt so flipping amazing.

I was off work on maternity leave at the time and therefore had more time than usual to write, so I dived straight into a new manuscript. It started well, the words flew, my excitement bubbled. But slowly the self-doubt crept up on me. It was like those freaky spiders that nestle on the corner of your bedroom ceiling … waiting … then it’s there, dangling right in front of your nose as bold as a strutting peacock. I struggled to write a thing. What if I never wrote another book? I couldn’t shrug it off, it hovered in the air and clung to my skin. It made me sit and stare vacantly at my laptop, tears plopping miserably onto the keyboard.

I eventually managed to battle my way out of it and decided to leave my manuscript and write another short story. Once again, it was shortlisted in Writers’ Forum magazine and gave me a much needed boost. I then wrote a piece of Flash Fiction which I’d never tried before. It was longlisted in the Flash 500 competition and I was thrilled. I got back to my rested manuscript with renewed determination.

September came and I had to return to teaching after being off for 16 months. It was hard, really hard. That first morning I had to pull over three times on the 30 minute journey to throw up ungracefully at the side of the road. It was my amazing GP who managed to pick me up and kept me afloat. We aimed to get me to Christmas, only one term, and then go from there.

My writing went well and I finished my new manuscript. I had it critiqued and pitched it on #PitchCB and had three agents favourite it. Whoop!!

The end of term was nearing and I was so happy and proud that I’d managed to stay in work – it was a massive achievement for me. Then came the letter that I knew was due to come. I had to go into hospital for a hysterectomy. Luckily I was given a date quickly so didn’t have too much time to get myself into a panic.

I had the operation a week and a half ago. It’s a strange feeling. I knew I couldn’t have any more children. In fact, a few years ago I had been told that it was very unlikely that I would be able to have children at all. I have three beautifully rambunctious boys and feel so incredibly blessed and lucky. Yet it still feels like one part of my life has ended, but I’m not going to dwell on this. Rather, I’m looking at it as a new start. A new beginning.

So looking ahead to 2016 …

I have to make a decision about my career. Sadly for me, teaching has become such a sickeningly stressful and de-moralising job and it saddens me deeply that the job I once loved broke me and left me a crumpled wreck on my kitchen floor. Can I continue as a teacher? I don’t know. That’s the horrible decision I have to make and it’s so difficult with a young family to support.

My debut book will publish *scream* … I have not felt this excitement since Christmas mornings as a child. There will be a book out in the world filled with my words, with my name on the cover. Wow!

I have a story for younger readers currently under consideration with another publisher. My new manuscript has been submitted so it’s wait and see. I’m going to write a sequel to my debut book and I have another story niggling away at me to get written. Yes, I know it will be slow. There will be much waiting and excessive e-mail checking. There will be crippling self-doubt. There will be tears … but maybe, just maybe there will be another soaring high. And it’s that possibility that keeps me going.

And of course, I have three little men (and one big man) who fill my life with happiness and dirty washing.

2015 has taught me that dreams can come true as long as you go for them. I’ve learnt that depression and anxiety don’t define me. I’ve learnt that life can be tough. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve learnt that life can be amazingly good too.

So whatever your dream is, don’t sit back and say ‘One day I’m going to …’ Go for it or you’ll never know. And if the dream is to be a published author, don’t give up, because whilst there’s a possibility …

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a magical 2016.

Nadolig Llawen!

Hwyl am y tro x

 

 

 

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