What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
(Author: Kate Inglis)
This is a tough one as there have been so very few moments where I felt everything was going to be OK this year.
Truth be told (and I am not looking for sympathy-just telling it how it is), this year has been a bad egg for me, personally...never mind what has been happening to this country and the world at large.
Things became so unbearably bad that when my long-term friend and fellow soul-mate begged me to let her fly me out to Australia for her wedding and six weeks of healing sunshine, I thought to myself, "What have I got to loose?"
I had already lost practically everything bar the roof over my head and the clothes on my back.
The flight, as I am sure you can imagine, or know from your own experience was horrendous. I didn't sleep, I was fed a diet of seeds and carrots and possibly grass because I had been booked on as a vegan (I am not a vegan) and was seated next to a very fat lady. We had two brief stops: Dubai (I got lost trying to find my connecting flight) and Bangcok (I got lost and was also treated like a suspected terrorist because of my leaking nail varnish.)
My friend came to meet me at Sydney airport but almost walked past me as she didn't recognise the pale, bloated,broken-looking woman that was limp-waddling towards her.
Other friends from the UK were staying at her house as well as me. I had the sofa and therefore no personal space. With my condition, I NEED personal space. It was a bit of a 'mare for the first few days. I had gone from a confirmed agoraphobic and Princess stay indoors and sit in the darkness to someone with absolutely no escape route surrounded by loud people continuously.
After about three days of being "forced" by my situation, to do things I wouldn't normally do, I found myself brave enough to wander around Newtown by myself, engage with my friend and her fiance's Staffie dog and even be civil to the partner of our mutual friend staying with us, who was the most despicable example of humanity I had ever encountered.
On my third night in Upside Down Land, I met my dear friend, the bride to be, for a shared bottle of Cava in a beautiful roof-terrace bar near the station at Newtown after she had finished work.
This became a regular ritual over the next six weeks and she always referred to it as "Lizzie Time"
I had not talked much about my situation because she was due to be married and things were frantic as all of us had been helping to prepare for the day.
However, she insisted upon me telling her all my woes, so I did.
I told her about how I had got sick without warning, my terrible symptoms, how frightened they had made me, how it had impacted on my (well paid and well loved) job so profoundly that the new Head booted me out despite 11 years of exemplary service, how my OH didn't really love me any more and was using emotional blackmail on a daily basis, how I had no money and there were no jobs out there and how I was so SICK of this condition and how my doctor had been of no help and how I feared losing my home...and other things that were happening in my life.
It all poured out.
She did what she does best and held my hand, calling me "sister".
"We'll sort this out Baby Girl," she said.
"For the next six weeks all you will have to worry about is getting enough sunshine and proper food in you. Don't let money worry you. The best wedding present I could ever have is you being here and me being able to help heal you."
That's when I KNEW.
My dad hadn't been there for me. My OH and his family hadn't been there for me and neither had the NHS or my Union when my evil ex-boss shattered my world with a harsh and unnecessary decision.
I hadn't been there for me either- I had given up trying.
But she was there for me.
She believed in me.
She loved me.
It was then that I knew things would be OK somehow. I had the strength to get myself to Oz even though normally I barely had the strength to leave the house.
I had the strength to allow someone to look after me for the first time in my life because, and here's the thing, I had the strength to ADMIT that I needed help.
With Lou by my side, I could do ANYTHING.
And, over the weeks, I DID do anything and everything. I slowly began to remember what a wild, adventurous, bright, inquisitive, stupidly optimistic person I was- the real me.
Lou bundled me back on the plane six weeks later- brown as a berry, a stone lighter, completely off the Beta Blockers and other meds and ready to face the crock of shit that awaited me back home.
Now, the tan is faded, I still have an OH that is less than attentive, no job, no money and all the same fears and worries.
But thanks to my time in paradise- a window into another world that could be mine, I cope.
Were it not for my Lou and her loving friendship, I am not sure if I would even be bothering to write this by now.
Were it not for the mantra I have now indelibly etched into my subconscious- "What would Lou do?", I would not have had the self esteem to try and whore myself on the job market again. I would not have had the confidence to phone a random stranger and say "Gis a job mate, I'm brilliant me and just what you need!"
I would not be in a position where I now have my first interview lined up since I lost my job. Sure, I probably won't get it, but the important thing is, I have built up enough self-esteem to at least try.
Without my "inner Lou" I would not have made the decision to change my behaviours and bite my tongue enough for my rather cold and distant OH to be tempted into this whole Christmas malarkey.
The skills and confidence I gained in Oz have allowed me to brave crowded shopping centres with fearless abandon and chose my Christmas gifts for the immediate family myself. Last year, OH had to do it as I was too afraid to leave the house.
I am now able to drive again and go to pubs and see friends and do all the normal things that many people take for granted.
It is like being reborn. EVERYTHING fascinates me and almost nothing vexes me or sends me straight back under the duvet any more.
I get bad days, oh yes- but now I hear Lou in my head, whispering gently to me: "Come on Baby Girl. It's just a blip. You can do this, beautiful."
My future is very, very uncertain.
However, thanks to my friend, who knows me better than anyone in the world, I feel that I can at least face the unknown as it bites-and I shall bite right back.