In sickness and in health

I know, I know. Long time no write. Some of you might be thinking I’ve given this author business up, and instead run away with the circus while travelling, abandoning responsibilities for a more exciting life. Not quite. I did spend 12 months backpacking around the globe with my partner, living in the back of a van for some of it (we dubbed it “The Marriage Tester”). We worked in bakeries in the French alps and taught English in the middle of Poland’s Black Forest. We hiked the Inca trail and swam with sea lions in the Galapagos Island and paddleboarded in Canada where the mountains meet the sea. And oh, the cheese I ate.

It all sounds quite idyllic, doesn’t it? That’s the thing about travel; or life in general, really. When you’re telling the story, you can make it sound as wonderful as you like. And while many of my 365 days overseas were pretty wonderful, there was a good chunk of it spent in utter despair. I spent some days sobbing in bathrooms while throwing-up endlessly, while my husband made frantic phone calls to English-speaking doctors, trying to see if any hospitals would admit me. See, it turns out I have a chronic illness called cyclical vomiting syndrome, and it’s basically as shitty as it sounds. It’s something I’ve probably had for many years, but it decided to really dial up a notch when I started travelling, and by the time I arrived back in Brisbane and settled back in to full time work, I was averaging an attack every 10 days. When I say attack I mean endless vomiting only interrupted by me a) blacking out from pain or b) hyperventilating my way into such a panic attack that I black out. It’s not the most productive way to live, and getting a diagnosis and treatment plan ended up taking months of my life and thousands of dollars and a considerable amount of my mental energy. Which didn’t leave much energy left for writing, or really doing anything other than existing.

A selection of beautiful places I've puked above...

I’ve found a treatment plan and I’m working to rebuild my spoons so I can invest some energy in fiction writing again (the non-fiction has been ticking along nicely, more on that soon).  Seeking help for a chronic condition is time-consuming and expensive and it’s something that is going to impact me forever – this is just a reality I have to adjust to. In theory it doesn’t sound like a big deal and I feel bad complaining about it: lots of people deal with much more significant problems. But it really does touch on so many aspects of my life – fear that I’ll have an attack has stopped me attending events and celebrations, means I’ve refused to visit places where I’m not comfortable suddenly spewing (not as many places as you’d think, my standards have really lowered). Part of managing it includes sleeping certain hours and only expending so much social energy (because anxiety and panic attacks are part of the condition) and so my social life and basic ability to be a good friend has diminished. I get nervous on long drives (where will I spew? Will I be able to pull over in time? What if I black out?) and even more nervous on public transport (what if I spew in front of all these people? What if I spew ON all these people? What if I’m so disorientated from pain that I miss my stop? What if someone takes advantage of me while I’m disorientated?). My biggest fear during my studies this year was that I’d have an attack during an exam, and while I managed to avoid that, I did get an attack every time I had an assessment due – stress can be a trigger for some people, but for myself it’s more a case of perpetually poor timing. I have to carry around a small pharmacy and a card to show doctors if I end up in hospitals. And medication to treat attacks, and ongoing treatment and assessment and preventative medication – it all adds up. Emotionally and financially. Which is why I started writing this post. Because, miracle of all miracles, every now and then I get a royalty cheque. A ROYALTY CHEQUE! My little book, two years after its release, is still being bought and borrowed and recommended. Which means every now and then I get some sweet, sweet cash (which promptly goes on medical bills, or food, but sometimes goes on pointless fun stuff like silly earrings and MORE BOOKS), but I also get some beautiful validation; a glorious self-esteem boost that reminds me that while my book might not be changing the world, it’s out there making people smile, or think, or helping them to sleep because they find it boring (still good!). So thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who picked-up a copy, or recommended it to a friend, or got it from the library, or reviewed it online. It means a lot.

 Was too excited at getting another royalty statement to get a non-blurry photo.

Was too excited at getting another royalty statement to get a non-blurry photo.