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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 31/12/2011 | 5 Comments

In between cleaning the house for the bells (an old Scottish custom) and going up to our local hall for a hogmanay party  I thought I would write my personal reflections on 2011 and why for me it was truly an 'annus horribiles'.

2011 was a cataclysmic year in lots of ways. In Scotland we had the SNP's spectacular victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections which completely transformed the Scottish political landscape overnight. Internationally there has been momentous changes including the fall-out from the Arab Spring and the growth of 'the occupy movement'.  Economically we have witnessed a stupendous financial crisis and also confronted the possibility that the whole system could fall about our ears. 

Closer to home, the Centre was the casualty of cuts and in the first few months of 2011 we had to make some difficult adjustments to our reduced funding.

But for me 2011 was earth-shattering for personal reasons as I discovered that I have hepatitis C as the result of a blood transfusion 35 years ago. This is a virus which is communicated through blood and so initially my biggest worry was whether I could have passed it on, not just to my two sons at birth, but to other members of my family through various types of household contamination.  The idea was agonising. Fortunately their tests were all negative. I only had my own health to worry about. 

Hepatitis C is a very nasty virus  and is now the leading cause of liver transplants. It is possible to have serious liver damage and yet still feel reasonably well. Over the years I have found it increasingly difficult to drink alcohol and have had various 'livery' episodes. I had just decided that my liver was my weak spot – the place that I was most hit by stress.  At one level this is true. Looking back I can see that  periods of major stress in my life were usually accompanied by liver problems.  It is not that stress causes hepatitis – rather it is that acute emotional stress on top of the hepatitis is particularly debilitating.

Indeed it was the stress induced by a nasty and personal attack  on me in a Scottish journal which brought about the latest episode with my liver and this time, thanks to the thoroughness of a new GP, led to the diagnosis of this potentially fatal liver disease.  I'm pretty sure that there is a distinct physiological mechanism at work: stress of this kind leads to restricted, shallow breathing and impedes the liver's functioning – something which can have serious consequences for someone with a liver virus.

It is more than  six months since my diagnosis and I've had more tests than I care to think about. I'm really fortunate as I have no damage to my liver and none of the other various auto-immune diseases which often accompany hepatitis C. But to stay well and keep the virus at bay I really have to put my health at the centre of my life by eating well and making sure I get enough exercise. I have to be careful about stress.

This sounds easier said than done. Does this mean, for example,  that I need to keep my head below the parapet and avoid articulating any controversial opinions for fear of the consequences?

Interestingly after the publication of the offensive article various women (who thought it 'misogynist' in that they can think of no equivalent attack on a male writer) urged me to say nothing about how I felt as it would make me, and other women by extension,  look 'weak'.  But I just can't see how this is the best option.

I am no shrinking violet  who is feart of criticism (I'd never have written a controversial book if this was the case) but this was verbal abuse and I felt wounded by it. I am no exception here as it is normal for human beings to feel hurt when their motives are twisted beyond recognition and their views ridiculed. Health, both emotional and physical, can suffer.  And it is fear of this happening that often keeps people from saying what they think.  Given this, how can we develop an encouraging atmosphere for debate and discussion in Scotland if we collude with the notion that personal attacks are of no consequence? 

For a variety of reasons I'm very resilient and I have recovered fully  from the challenges I had to meet earlier in 2011. In comparison to others of my age my health is remarkably good and I have no plans to put my gas at a peep. Indeed thinking of what we have planned at the Centre for 2012 it should be one of our best years.

Comment By Comment

Comment Posted: 13/01/2012 15:25
Best wishes Carol
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Joined: 17/02/2012

Comment Posted: 17/02/2012 15:25
I have just read this while browsing for resources and I was sorry to hear it. The old phrase what doesn't kill us will make us stronger comes to mind. You are already an incredibly inspiring person and I can only imagine that this 'annus horribiles' will make you even stonger and more inspiring.

all the best. Ann.
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Joined: 15/10/2009

Comment Posted: 01/03/2012 12:29
Good morning Carol
I have not spken with you for some time but we met at a couple of events last year when I attempted to persuade you to come and speak in Aberdeen - now I understand your reluctance!
You are clearly a lady who responds at a human level but deals with life with such dignity and measured thought.
I wish you well.
Kathlyn Taylor
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