A recurring question in interviews seems to be to ask someone what the most difficult period of their life is. I don't understand that. I don't know why, if there are no guarantees that someone has moved past that period, anyone would ask that question.
So here's the thing - I don't want to be asked that. If anyone wants to know what, at the time of writing this blog post, the worst period of my life was, they can just look here, for a glimpse at that time. There's some stuff I'd rather not talk about at all, online, which you'll just have to accept. Anyway...
It started in February 2010. In the space of a week, I lost my job, an online friend went missing, and - less catastrophically, more upsetting with the others happening at the same time - my iPod broke. (Actually, it was dropped on the floor by someone else and broke, but that's not the point.)
I felt broken inside, lost and confused and with no idea how any of this was going to pan out. I didn't know how I'd fund any sort of writing career, if I ever hoped to have one, and I didn't know whether or not my friend was going to turn up safely.
While Darren Shan helped me cope with the job-loss-writer-problems, bad news was around the corner. My friend, a young writer by the name of Jonny Havron, was found. He had fallen into a river on a night out with some friends.
A couple of months later, my aunt was admitted into hospital, having just given birth to her second child. She went into a coma, and stayed that way - undiagnosed - for several weeks. During that time, while studying for exams, we had to accept that this was not going to end well - if she woke up, she wouldn't be the same. If they couldn't wake her up, she would remain in a coma. And if they couldn't fix what was wrong with her, she would die.
I can't say I coped very well with that idea, the finality of which hit the week after my exams. It took a lot for my best friend to calm me down over the phone.
A couple of weeks later, after a "successful" diagnosis of vasculitis in her brain, she entered the recovery stages. When she eventually woke up, she had no memory of giving birth, of naming her daughter, of feeling ill before her hospital visit.
There's more, things the family as a whole are still dealing with, but four years later she's still in permanent care. She's not the same woman she used to be, emotionally, mentally, in terms of personality, but she recognises her children, she recognises her husband, and she has some good days when she makes her family laugh.
Anyway, back to 2010.
After six months of hell, between the job (which I got back - Rise of the Phoenix sort of stuff with the company), my friend, my exams, and my aunt, I was on edge. That's putting it lightly.
The icing on the cake came in September, when my best friend - the same person who calmed me down after our fears over my aunt - left college. (There were circumstances, but that's not my story to tell.) That tore me up inside in ways I can't really describe (not without explaining the circumstances, anyway.)
It felt like I'd lost him as a friend - which I didn't, not really - and after everything else I'd gone through, it just felt like too much. It was a couple of months before I really integrated myself back into social groups properly, and longer still before I could talk about a lot of this stuff with people without getting upset all over again.
I'm putting it all down now for one very clear reason: this isn't something I want to talk about all the time. This is a time in my life I want to put behind me. I will always remember it, but I don't want it to rule me, and I don't want it to be something other people fixate on about me.
Let it be clear: I have moved beyond these seven months of my life. I finished my degree. I published my first book. I'm about to start a Masters - which I saved up for myself. I'm happy with my life, and the fact that it took me a long time to say that doesn't make it any less true. Sure, this isn't the full story, but the end result is the same. In the four years since all of this, I've learned to cope, I've learned to grow, and I've done a lot to make myself proud.