Looking Back at 2019 and Challenges in 2020

I’m over halfway through my final full work day of the 2019, and most of my tasks are done. I have a few little stray tasks to complete, but, as is usually the case, I am waiting for other people to get back to me. Even a few years ago, I would have been really anxious about it, but I think counselling has helped me understand that I can only control what I can control. That has mellowed me out a bit.

At this immediate moment, I think about how I will miss our students who are graduating on Friday. This happens at the end of every intake, usually, as I have had a chance to interact with some, if not all, of the graduates, and I always seem to find the good in most people, which makes me fonder of them. If they feel the same way about me… well, I’ll probably never know, but I do find saying good-bye (after spending an entire year seeing those students every day nearly) very difficult. Good-bye is a very difficult concept for me to deal with, still.

So, 2019. I think I’m like a lot of other people who are ready to say good-bye to this year and this decade. I’m not wishing my life away, but the 2010s have been a very difficult decade, and 2019 has not been an easy year in some ways.

In March, a terrorist attacked our city and killed a good many people. That hurt very deeply, even though neither I nor most people here were not responsible for it. How we reacted, as a city, as a nation, was inspiring.

On 19 July, a house in our subdivision exploded. We were home and mere blocks from the explosion. It sounded like a dull thud, but strong enough to shake the house and bring the whole neighborhood out to check out what was going on. With helicopters thump-thump-thumping above our house, and sirens screaming constantly, it brought back memories of the February 2011 earthquake. Especially when an helicopter was hovering overhead, and our house was shaking slightly in the downdraft and the sound, I found it difficult to cope.

I tried to repair the friendship, or find closure in that same relationship, after The Man I Once Loved reached out after the 15 March 2019 attacks, experienced radio-silence back, and then I preempted the next text post-house-explosion. For a short while, we spoke, but he ghosted me again, and I sent a text to him, letting him know I deserved better than being ghosted constantly. (Don’t worry; it was a nice text.)

It hurt. I’m not going to lie. Incidentally, Miley Cyrus came out with the song “Slide Away” around the same time the last ghosting and my final text occurred, and even though it isn’t the most lyrically-complex song out there, it did hit me hard.

The lyric that hit the hardest, as it reflected some of the final parts in our conversation, and lack thereof:

“Move on, we’re not 17,
I’m not who I used to be,
You say that everything changed,
You’re right, we’re grown now.”

Then, suddenly, like a cloud lifted, I was fine. It hit me in the shower when I was home in Chicago visiting my family and friends. Just like a light switch, something clicked, and the sorrow gave way to resolution to move on. I’m not sure if there was a certain thought process attached with it, but if there was, it was basically that I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I was being treated, I had the right to grieve, but I also had the right to stand up for myself and move on. The problem, as I kept finding as I mulled it over in my mind, was with him, not me.

As 2018 switched to 2019, I also walked away completely from some friendships which, well, seemed anything but. That also was hard, and it did hurt, too, but as I recover from depersonalization, I feel like I am getting stronger and more able to cope with these sorts of events. I am learning again that I need to have pride in myself and care more deeply about myself than I have been. Self-care is very important, and I don’t nearly do enough of that lately. It’s something to work on more in 2020.

2019 hasn’t all been bad, though.

Depersonalization, for me, is on the way out. I am feeling things more roundly and evenly (for lack of better words to describe how I feel), and this has been a great relief to me. I still need to work on not letting other people shut me down when I am angry or frustrated (which makes me even more frustrated) so I can work through those emotions instead of internalizing them, which helped cause the depersonalization itself.

The best feeling, out of all of them, is when I feel happy or have a good laugh. It feels so freeing and joyful and back to where I once was in those emotions.

In 2020, though, I need to work on getting my imagination back again. Depersonalization is anti-creativity, and I have struggled with creativity throughout this whole illness. Pre-depersonalization, I would be able to drift away in my mind, and things would unfold for a story I was working on or some idea I had. This doesn’t happen so much any more, sadly, but I think with some hard work and patience, it will come back.

For work, I completed two major course approvals. In total, there have been 4 course approvals over the last 2 years. With starts and stops, it has taken me about 4 years to complete them.

These documents span 1,333 A4-sized pages and clock in at 269,633 words. The average novel is 100,000 words. War and Peace has 587,287 words. And all these pages and words don’t include the supporting documentation submitted as well.

So, this has been a major accomplishment for me. I don’t know how many people actually understand or fully appreciate how much work that is to complete, but I did it in addition to my normal roles and duties, which was very difficult at times.

After getting sick earlier in 2019, with a skin infection on my leg which walloped the rest of me, and with a blood test coming back with higher-than-normal liver readings, I was told by my doctor that working 7 days a week was having an adverse effect on me and my body, that it wasn’t sustainable, and I’d just have to cut back a bit or he’d give me a medical certificate to force me to do that.

So I cut back. It didn’t help my anxiety in trying to get the approvals for 2019 done, but I did finish them (albeit later than I wanted), and they were approved. There you have it.

I was accepted into the New Zealand Society of Authors in December. I’m only an associate member because I haven’t published any novels. Yet. But it is great to involve myself again with other people who write. (I am not super-active on Scribophile, but plan on taking up that mantle too in 2020.)

Ah, 2020. A new year. A new decade.

I’ve decided to get back into writing some of my works again. I have several short stories, anthologies, and a few novels at various stages of development in the works at the moment. Now that I’m nearly clear of depersonalization, I feel the call back to writing. It might take me a while to get back to where I was emotionally connected with my work, but the flood gates will open once I get back into writing more frequently.

A few weeks ago, a friend’s graphic novel about the period between his 40th and 41st birthday was released posthumously. This friend’s journey with creativity and writing mirrored my own, including struggling between the work that pays you and the work you want to share with the world for possibly less (to no) pay. The graphic novel ends with my friend’s diagnosis with advanced pancreatic cancer. He wrote the full story out and illustrated some panels before he became too sick to complete it.

After his sudden death, many of his comic artist friends got together and completed the graphic novel about his life. It was an amazing tribute to an amazing guy, whom, even though we weren’t the closest of friends, I miss incredibly. (I admit, I had a really massive cry after reading the graphic novel and looking at the last messages we exchanged with one another.)

The whole parallel between his pre-cancer life and mine struck me hard.

In the months before I turned 40, I decided I needed to start writing again.

I started writing a novel. I got about 30,000 words into it, then I decided that I wanted to take a bridging class from my Bachelor’s to my Master’s to hone my skills.

That was an amazing experience, and I loved every second of it.

Then depersonalization struck at the end of that course, and my creativity evaporated. Things like even day-to-day living were a struggle some days.

After reading my friend’s graphic novel of his life, I opened up some of my writing, and had a real critical read.

What did I think?

Far out, Scott. Why the hell aren’t you writing again? This stuff is pretty good.

So one of my main goals in 2020 is to get writing again. A big goal is to try and finish a few drafts of a novel or anthology so I have some sort of work that I can start casting out to publishers for consideration.

The New Zealand Society of Authors has a mentorship program, where 13 lucky authors who are working on various types of writing are selected and paired to work with experienced authors in the industry. When I saw this, I knew this was a path I want to try to take. Just having someone with a wealth of experience and knowledge to guide me and share that with me is an exciting thought.

I want to try to engage more with those friends and family who mean the world to me, who have stood through me thick and thin. This is so important now that I am feeling better. I find strength in these relationships, and research is finding more and more that good friendships and good relationships with family are very important for good mental health.

I am pretty sure Chronicle, a Star Trek fan audio production I play a main character in, will be coming out in 2020 too, and work for season 2 of that well-written production may start in 2020 as well. I find it very interesting that Star Trek: Picard, a show I am excited about seeing, revolving around one of my most favorite Star Trek captains of all time, comes out the same year as an audio work with yours truly as a main character, is a good omen.

So 2020 is a year to work on me and things I want to do. I think this is so important for me, to help my final recovery out of depersonalization, and on my journey to recreate the self-care I need and develop the hobbies and skills I once had and miss terribly.

We will see what 2020 holds.