This has been one heck of a year, for a lot of reasons. Very few things went as planned, but over all it has been a very giving and interesting year. I want to sum up some major plot points in my life, and reflect on it slightly. This may end up much longer than I intended, but here goes!
January through March
The beginning of the year was kind of hectic, I was still studying while very fatigued and I managed to hurt my arm just before an exam which made everything extra hard. I spent time with some of the other students who failed that same exam and we did our best to get through the re-exam. This hiccup meant I wasn’t getting my student loan in the beginning of the year, which was a bit painful. By a bit I mean very painful. Being without money caused a lot of internal, if not external, panic.
In early February, which was when that re-exam took place, my partner went home to the UK for Lunar New Year. I had completed my Bachelor’s paper the spring before, but needed one more course to complete the actual degree, I took those points during the fall. So, by now I had sent in to get my certificate and it arrived while my partner was away. It had happened, I had finished my degree!
When he came back to Sweden one of the first things he said to me was that he wanted us to move back to the UK. It was something we’d talked about a few times and decided against, until now (then). We had just found out that his sister was pregnant, which was also one of the reasons we decided to move. It’s very rewarding being around infants and small children in general, so this was a big draw for me.
Another one of the reasons for us not moving back to the UK was that I had not finished my degree yet, which was why we lived in Sweden to begin with. With me receiving my degree certificate, it meant that I was now done. Even though I was currently enrolled in studies for a lot of practical reasons (but that’s another post which may or may not happen).
In January / February I also worked on reviving the ForkTogether project with a few other people. We published a blog post about it, where we announced the new name, Florence, and got to work. This blog post will probably not talk much more about Florence, but it’s a project that’s very dear to my heart, and something I will keep working on in 2020, as well, and our latest update is here.
Overall my health was pretty bad at the beginning of the year, I had very low energy and I couldn’t really do much, walking anywhere left me exhausted unless I wore compression socks. Over Christmas, my mother had offered to buy me compression tights to make my life easier, but since I had been considering going to see a private doctor I, in turn, asked her if she would be willing to put that money towards helping me go see one, as a way to look for the underlying cause instead of just treating symptoms. She agreed. I don’t remember when I actually made the appointment, but I made it for April 9th, a day before my birthday. And it was in Gothenburg where my mom lives, so I planned to go see her as well.
I don’t remember much of what I did in March. I know I was studying this term as well, but I don’t remember what we did. I’m going to assume I was trying to study as much as possible, while planning for moving to the UK, and spending time with my partner before he went over there. The plan was that he’d leave early April.
April, and the beginning of change
April came, he left to the UK a week before my appointment and I went to my mom’s place. We went to the doctor together, who had scheduled two hours for me. I was finally getting checked out properly for the first time in probably 7 years. Yes, the care centers had done some small things to help, but a lot of the time they just let things slide and we had to start the process all over again, and most of 2018 I had just given up on the Swedish health care system.
My appointment was in the afternoon, so I had missed the slot for some of the blood tests, and they sent me home with a kit to bring to any lab at any clinic. However, this did not go nearly as smooth as I would’ve liked it to. I ended up having to go to two different places and none of them knew what to do with the kit. Turns out that the instructions got lost somewhere along the way, they were supposed to be inside. Eventually I got the blood drawn and I got to go back home and rest.
At the appointment my new doctor and rheumatologist had quickly diagnosed a few things which felt obvious, EDS (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome), and a high possibility of Fibromyalgia, she suspected psoriasis but mainly in the nails. I was also given cortisone to rule out other rheumatic issues. The blood tests would later show that I also had hypothyroidism.
Towards the end of April I received medicine for hypothyroidism, Levothyroxine, and it started making a difference within 3 days. Which was when I noticed it by biking. Biking had been something that while it was easier on a lot of my other body parts, like knees, hips and neck, it still always felt like I was dying. Not because I couldn’t breath, but rather because I didn’t have energy in my muscles. That said, breathing was hard too, but more like a weight on my chest. I had never been able to fully put it into words, and most definitely thought that I had worn myself down so much that I couldn’t bike because I had 0 fitness. This was something which had stayed with me for 5 years, at varying degrees. Logically I should’ve known it wasn’t my fitness level, since in the beginning of this happening to me I was going to the swimming pool regularly. (I could go on a tangent here on how I most likely have POTS as well, as it’s common together with EDS, which was somewhat alleviated by the swimming pool because of the extra pressure it put on my body, remember me mentioning compression socks?) Going to the pool was the few moments I felt sane. When I stopped going was when my health started to deteriorate more, and with less swimming, and less relief it was harder to go back to swimming and get that relief. Most of this I did not connect the dots on until quite recently.
So, it was the end of April and I could bike without feeling like I was dying. Mind you this was just the first step in getting stronger, as it improved over time. I had two other benchmarks which really helped me realize what a difference it made, the 2nd one is completely lost to me right now, but the 3rd one was biking on the highest gear without problem (I had been biking in the lowest gear for the past 3 years, at least).
In April I had also gotten in touch with someone who needed a dog sitter, and as such I met Hamilton. He became a staple of my daily life, and also helped me with some of the benchmarks in my health. I was still sick when I had accepted this, because I felt like if I’m home all day every day, unable to do anything, I may as well do that and make a small amount of money.
May and meeting Hamilton
In May I was still trying to stay up with school, and study. However about halfway through the month I threw both hands up in the air and said “FUCK IT, I need to live, and I’m finally able to do so”. I came to the realization that I had been residing in Malmö for 8 years, but I hadn’t LIVED in Malmö during most of that time. Now was my chance.
Most people that know me know that I’m polyamorous, it’s not something I hide, but for the sake of this particular blog post, I am not going to chronicle what I got up to once I got some underlying issues treated, and got energy back, while my partner was in a different country for 5 months (which is how long we stayed apart). I will however say that I was quite lovely to feel my sex-drive return, and me just being kind of high on life and willing to go out there and meet new people. And for the love of everything that is holy: Do not read this as I only went out to meet new people to have sexscapades with.
Anyways, I made friends with some more polyfolx, and went to two meetups, one which I arranged (for women and trans folx). The first one, the pub meetup, I met up with an enby whom I become close friends with on Facebook first. We talked about lot of things we had in common. And slowly it turned out that we were both the same age, and born in the same city. We doubled checked the early background, but we had not crossed paths in our youth, however we could connect to childhood memories with each other because of the spaces we had occupied while not at the same time. We had even moved the same path to end up in Malmö, and it was just very serendipitous moment to connect with them.
Towards the end of May there was a Poetry Slam competition in Malmö, the Swedish Championship. I went to that event alone, for 2 of the days I mostly hovered, and the 3rd day I dared to speak with people a bit more.
One of the evenings I went and sat at the bar at the afterparty afterwards, and just relished in the feeling that I could sit in a crowded and loud bar and not get completely exhausted from it. So I sat there alone and wrote for a few hours before I decided to go home.
The poetry slam did inspire me poetry wise, which is to be expected. I wasn’t able to get a lot of the inspiration channeled into anything, probably because at this point in my life I was all over the place. I was just about recovering energy and able to experience life, and after doing one thing I was always ready to go on to the next thing.
The last evening I made another friend whom I’m definitely still staying connected with. Another serendipity, we only started talking the very last night, but seemed to get each other very well and understand certain ways that the other thought or experienced certain types of things. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like we both managed to share an experience with each other that the other understood well.
The mornings I spent with Hamilton, and the afternoons and evenings I spent at the Poetry Slam. While the dog may not be written about a lot, he became very important to me during these summer months. He kept me company and forced me to rest when I needed it to. He’d insist on me sitting on the sofa with him instead of the computer. So I’d often sit down with a movie or series and have his big head in my lap. He was with me about 2-3 times / week.
June, July—Diagnosis confirmed
Now we’re up to June, as the Poetry Slam ended just at the beginning of June, and the summer really began to hit us. Very warm days started to come on, and I realized that Malmö is a very underrated Beach City. Like it’s less than a 20min walk from the city center (or central station) to the beach, by the ocean! And I began swimming regularly, almost daily, even starting a group on Facebook just for women (and trans people) looking for other people to go swimming with.
Now, I want to reconnect to some of my medical stuff that I was going through. I was following up with my doctor in early June, and while the cortisone hadn’t really done much while I was still exhausted from not getting energy from eating, I later asked my doctor for another course of the cortisone. This time my pain levels went down significantly. Unfortunately, while I was on this cortisone course I caught a really nasty cold. I had gone swimming in the ocean, which probably wasn’t the best idea, but I was just so happy to finally be able to live, and I had trouble stopping myself.
This cold lasted for almost a whole month (there’s more details here, but I lost my voice for 1.5 weeks among other things, and it wasn’t just one cold, but rather one cold and then a bacterial infection, bla bla), from end of June to mid-July, by which I received a course of antibiotics from my doctor in Gothenburg. I had noticed that the infection made most of my pain go away. And she was like, “okay that confirms you have an auto-immune”, at this point I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis.
I got prescribed Etoricoxib to take down the inflammation and reduce the pain. I think I was lucky to get prescribed this immediately, it happened that way because I already knew that my stomach was too sensitive for long term Ibuprofen. And considering I had just about recovered my stomach after 5 years of suffering with issues, I did not want to screw it up again. It actually worked very well, even if I’d complain in the afternoon that the pain meds stopped working. But days I did not take it were a lot worse, which helped keep me humble. It was prescribed to be taken every day.
So, the antibiotics helped me, and I began feeling better quite soon. My mom had noticed major changes in how much energy I had, but was still often very worried. However, she had her own benchmarks to notice what was up. She’d reflected on that after I was out and about I was still able to go with her to the store. In the past I’d rarely even been able to be out and about while visiting.
This had marked my 3rd visit to my mom’s place since the first doctors appointment. And it was lovely that I had the kind of energy where I could just pack up my bag and head to her place on very short notice. And I could go visit a lot of my old friends.
End of July, Seeing Old Friends
Speaking of visiting friends, in mid-July after this appointment and antibiotics I went on a big trip to visit friends and family, because I wanted to take the opportunity before I moved to another country.
For this trip, as I didn’t know if I was getting better yet, I only booked one leg of the journey at the time. I started in Gothenburg, since I had been to see my doctor. And over the next 2-3 weeks I went through 5 cities: Kristinehamn, Västerås, Stockholm, Falun, Gothenburg again, before I returned to Malmö. I had originally planned to go through Uppsala as well, but those plans had to change unfortunately, lucky I didn’t book all tickets in advance.
Through these cities I was visiting a load of old friends, catching up, going to museums, attending my first 40th birthday party of one of my friends, visited my grandmother’s grave, strolled through Stockholm on the hottest day of the year (thus far at least), went swimming a lot, worked on my tiny netbook (which a friend helped me install an ssd drive and Linux to revive it slightly), I got to spend time with my family, both my mom and my dad (who live in different cities) and my sisters, their family and kids.
At this point I was doing (and had been for a while) so much every day or every few days, compared to before I got any medicine, that my sense of time was very skewed. I had gone from being able to do one thing a week, usually going to class, and then spending the rest of the week at home, and now I easily did 3-5 things in a day, and rested to keep my balance. The biggest difference when it came to resting was that it could be enough to just lay down for 30min, in order to ground myself, or watch an episode or two of a TV series, before I was recharged enough to head back out on more adventures.
August, packing to move
Finally back in Malmö, it was already August, and it finally hit me. I was moving, and soon. I had only 3 weeks left, and it was time to get a battle plan together, I still hadn’t really started to pack that much stuff. At the same time I needed to wind down from my trip.
I honestly do not know how I managed to get through the last push of packing, selling and moving. I was lucky with a few things, I got the bed sold for a decent price, and a friend was just moving back from Sweden after a few years abroad, so she came by and bought a lot of my stuff.
There were some hiccups with the moving company, who wanted to come after I needed to be out of the house, and some fun things like that. Which were incredibly stressful.
At the end of it I just got through it thanks to pure stubbornness. I cried through some of the last of it. But the very last night, I was with one of my new friends, and we had really good food and watched a movie together (at their place because I was staying there), and they helped me just wind down, now that it was all over.
September, visiting Prague
In the middle of moving I went to Prague for a week, before I went to the UK. I was in Prague for 2 conferences, first something called Rebooting the Web of Trust, and the other conference was ActivityPub. This week I got to spend with old and new friends, but none of whom I’d ever met before.
It was an interesting week, which I definitely should’ve written it’s own blog post about, as I’ve not actually done much reflecting on Rebooting the Web of Trust, yet. And we’ll get to in this blog post why I haven’t nearly written as much as I would’ve liked to this autumn.
I made two very good new friends, people whom before that week was even over felt like I’d known forever, and they seemed to feel the same thing. And the other people who I spent a lot of that week with definitely are closer to me now than they were before.
I think one of the biggest things for me this week was, balancing and recovering from the moving stuff, even if I was in the middle of it, and busy with these two events. I was definitely testing my boundaries, and stretching them, in a way which was definitely risky.
I was invited to come to Prague as a speaker for the ActivityPub Conference. And it was a great experience meeting everyone, as well as finishing off the week in Prague with all these people working on different things within the same space. I even wrote a really big blog post about it.
Entering the UK
I arrived after a really long week, and a long day, at the Manchester Airport. In Prague I had tried to get on the wrong plane because I was just completely drained, and then I started crying because… well I was completely drained and stressed out. Luckily I caught the right plane, and I was finally seeing my partner of 5 years, after being apart for 5 months.
When I first arrived I just slept, for a week probably. I was just so tired. I kept being tired, and even into October I wasn’t feeling better. And I began to worry that I had screwed up, that I had burnt myself out even more by doing all the things I did during the summer.
Lucky for me it turned out that I was on a too low dose on one of my medicines because me and my doctor had experimented with a lower dose, but because of the move we hadn’t followed up to see how it was going. It was one of my anti-depressants that had been on a lower dose for quite a while, and I believe that the additional stress just made it harder to recover without that extra crutch. Towards the end of October I upped the dose again, and started to feel better.
In October we also had family wedding celebrations to attend to, and we both had it close to where we live, as well as going to London for a weekend. This mostly took up most of October both time and energy wise.
November, December, cold season
Early November the entire family caught the flu. Me and my partner caught it worst, and were more or less strapped to bed for over a week each, and he took much longer to recover than I did.
In early December I caught another bout of a cold, and I slipped down the stairs, and was sick for about 3 weeks. During this period, I was so tired of being sick, but I wanted to not repeat the summer’s mistake, so I did my best to rest properly and get better.
Just before Christmas I was finally rid of my cold, and able to spend it with the family (my partner’s) here in the UK, instead of going home to Sweden like I had planned. And on Christmas day the entire family got hit with the Winter Stomach Flu. This lasted for about 3 days.
And this is literally where the year ended. The last 3 months of it I was very low energy, and sick most of the time, or drained due to too low medicine.
If any of you wondered where I went during those months, that’s pretty much the explanation, and it’s made some of my projects suffer, and me emotionally suffer as well. Because I’m happy about being here and meeting a bunch of my new and old friends here in the UK as well.
Hopefully 2020 will be a much better year, and we’ll see more of each other now.