Picking up the Pieces

January started without me really, since I finally had my much-needed and long-awaited surgery on the 2nd, so I haven’t been able to dare make resolutions or a fresh start as I’ve spent so much time hurting quite badly, on very strong painkillers or asleep. I’m still a wobbly mess, but I am getting better, physically at least.

Last year was the worst in terms of my health since I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2004, and the effect I think it has had on my academic career has been a disaster. I am grateful for so much understanding from my employers and colleagues in archaeology and the digital universe. I have cancelled everything from lectures to conferences and looking back, and I feel ashamed that my illness impacted so many other people in my working life. How will that look in the future when I look for my next academic position? Am I a bankable prospect? Will people still want to collaborate with me?

I’d like to resolve that 2016 will be ‘my year’ and all the papers I have to write up, all the presentations I have booked to give and all the abstracts I have submitted will be given by the healthy Lorna I desperately want to be. But I am aware that my illness isn’t finite and solved, that it could come back, as it has done so many times before, and that I am still not out of the woods. Finally after a long fight for treatment, I am in the hands of one of the country’s best endometriosis consultants, so that at least is encouraging.

Academia feels a precarious place for me right now. I already feel a little passed my sell-by date, and that I have missed too many opportunities through sickness. I will have to work twice as hard to get back to the place I want to be at – researching and publishing, and using this research to achieve something beyond the academy. My peers are speeding ahead and I am struggling in a fog of anaesthetic and co-codamol and DF118s – which I didn’t realise had such a long term effect on memory retention and concentration.

But I am trying to be positive and wallow only occasionally in self pity. I am a hugely privileged woman, and grateful for what I do have. I have some amazing data, some really interesting projects to work on, fabulous colleagues, a life in a country I dreamed of working in, and deep snow to look forward to when I get back to Umeå. So I’m back, sort of. And now I am off for a nap.



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