Categories
Writing Process

ON MY PROCESS OF WRITING

The room smelled stale. The sheets were not clean. The pink floral wall paper and king size bed did nothing to soothe him. His muscles twitched with agitation. He looked down at her, he smiled. Her big blue eyes stared up at him and she smiled too. He loved them like this. Willing to hand over their body, unwittingly handing over their soul. A single drop of blood fell from his mouth onto her cheek. She winced.  “I think your nose is bleeding.” He continued to smile. He arched back and with a swift movement plunged into her neck. He gulped, drinking her in. As her viscous fluid – beautiful, sweet, plentiful – slipped down his throat, as he felt the diminishing thump of her beating heart, her body convulsing on the soft bed, it occurred to him that she did not scream. He paused. He looked at her. She appeared calm. No matter. He felt strong. He felt good. He felt vindicated. In moments, she lay lifeless before him. He stared down at her, cold eyes staring back at him. Immortality. The very definition of the circle of life. And yet, in that moment, the hunter had just become the hunted.

Hello!

I decided this week that it was time to stop talking and to start doing.  After a week crippled by depression, I needed to have something on which to focus.  And so I decided to enrol on the Australian Writer’s Centre Creative Writing Stage 1 course.  We have just completed week 1.

My nerves, frankly, are shattered.

As writers, there is such a vulnerability about our work.  And that is scary.  Poo-in-your-pants scary.

Firstly, we had to introduce ourselves.  As I read each introduction, I wondered what the hell I was doing thinking I could be a writer.  Everyone seemed to have much more experience at living than I did.  I mean, I barely leave the house.

But then, a strange thing happened.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been doing Morning Pages.  A strategy suggested by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.  The idea is that every morning, before you do anything else, you write three pages.  Three pages of stream of consciousness writing.  Every morning.  And you will find your creative spark.

I’ve managed to keep at it for about 10 days now.

During the week, motivated by my spurt of bravery for signing up for the Creative Writing course, I thought I might sign up for a degree in Creative Writing.  (It is true, I tend to get over enthusiastic and ahead of myself).  Reading through the units to be studied, I noticed that there was a unit called Horror Writing.  I flinched.  I do not like horror.  I do not like blood and gore and suspense.  My family tease me when I watch a thriller from under a blanket, peeking through a hole with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.  I am not joking.

But then I also read that sometimes that which we revolt against is the very thing we need to lean into, to savour, to sit with it, to overcome it.

And so I leaned in.  I wrote a paragraph about a vampire in my morning pages (amongst other depressive stuff you seriously do not want to know about).  It was stream of consciousness, no story line in mind, just writing.

Our assignment this week was to write a scene that left the reader feeling like the character’s life was about to change forever.

Easy, I thought.  I can do that.

But the main character couldn’t be anything like us.  It had to be someone totally NOT like us.

This was a problem.  I am a depressive recovering alcoholic who writes about her experiences on her blog.  By my very afflictions, I am a narcissist!  All my characters and stories in my head are a derivative of me!

And so I looked at my Vampire and thought perhaps I could so something with him.  And as I was writing, a pretty amazing thing happened.  I started to think about extending the story.  I started to think “What if?”

And before I knew it, I wasn’t focussed on my misery, my angst and trying to translate that into a character whose miserable story would become a derivative of my own life.  No, instead I was developing a story of fantasy and wonder and amalgamating a gazillion different life forms and eras into one messy, but gloriously delicious story.  Suddenly, rather than seemingly arduous, this writing journey took on new meaning, new zest, new life.

I’m not saying for a second that I am going to write a vampire novel, or become a gothic horror author.  I mean, I might, if I can get some meat out of it.  And if I can face my fear of gore.  And if I can find my copy of Dracula, because apparently you have to at least have read that one to know something of the genre! And if I can go the distance.  It takes on average two years to get a novel published for new writer,  did you know that?  That is from the conception of the story, to the published product.  Two years!  If nothing else, writers have to have faith and perseverance.

And so, here I am, finally starting this new journey.  And that is what it is – a journey.  An unknown journey.  And who knows where it might end.  It may be a short trip, or it may be a long one with a happy, serendipitous outcome.

But that is one of the joys of living, the unknowing.  Actually, I don’t normally like that, but in this instance, I am liking it very much.

It just goes to show.  Sometimes, you just have to take a leap.  A leap of faith, a leap of vulnerability, and just give it a go.  Go on, you know you want to.  And I will be here right beside you.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

PS: Please do give the AWC a go if you are thinking about becoming a writer (unsponsored plug there), they are fantastic!!

PPS: If you do buy The Artist’s Way, I do receive a tiny commission.

Categories
Mental Illness

DEPRESSION AND HOPE (or rather the lack of it)

It is with some trepidation that I write about my long term relationship with depression.

Recently, I have been drawn to people who talk of happiness as a matter of attitude.  People who have had their fair share of struggle, but have looked that struggle square in the face and said “Fuck you!”  Their souls, whilst changed, have not been broken. It is a matter of attitude they say.

I read these blogs, books and articles in magazines and my heart breaks a little bit more.

I think, perhaps, I am beyond help.

My head hurts.

My heart is broken.

I stumble through my day wondering why we exist at all?

It hardly seems fair to be created with sentient awareness, but to have no true purpose.

I have been told that my purpose is to write.  And it is true, I do feel it in my bones.

But I am ruled by fear.  People afflicted with this hideous disease are ruled by fear.

That is the truth of depression.

Some hard wiring has gone astray and we live in a perpetual state of fear.

The voices in our head, that nasty little creature that revels in our misery, tells us, constantly, how it is all going to go wrong, how we will make a laughing stock of ourselves, how we are arrogant to believe that we could be talented in anything, how our lives, really, are just a waste of the space we inhabit, how we just need to die.

And so we sit.  We wait.  To die.

We don’t really want to die, of course.  We just feel incapacitated.  We feel isolated and we feel hopeless.  And hopelessness is the killer.

I once watched an episode of Bones where the serial killer would brick women up into a room with no food nor water.  He would stream video footage of their families to them and then he would watch them as they would scream.  But no-one would come.  And eventually they would lie down and wait for death, all hope lost.  At the end of the episode, when he had been captured, he said that it was this hopelessness, so all encompassing that they would willingly lie down and wait to die, that he could induce in these women that gave him the thrill.  Pretty awful really, but a very good mirror on the human condition.

We need hope to survive.

Survival is dependent on hope.  Hope for a better future, hope that tomorrow will be better, hope that life will be okay in the end.

People who end their lives no longer have hope.

To have no hope is to be empty, to have nothing left.

To have no hope is to die.

I fight for hope.  Every day I wake up and pray for hope.  Depression and hope are interdependent.

It is not self pity.  Many people think it is.  Many people think it is a case of wallowing in our own misery.  Which is why mental illness is still so badly stigmatised, why it is underfunded and why it is now touted that not 1 in 5 but 1 in 2 people will be afflicted with a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime, and only a fraction of those will seek help, and only a fraction of those again will receive the help that will set them on the path to recovery.  That is to say, on a path that will enable them to see hope.

At this point in time I see no hope.

It’s horrible.  Shocking even.  I am a middle aged housewife living in a beautiful home with a beautiful family.  I have no right to feel depressed.  Or so they say.

But the reality is that I do have a right.  I have a right, because it is my reality.  It is a reality I wish didn’t exist.  It is a reality that I suspect will be a part of who I am for the rest of my life.  I will always struggle with finding the joy in a simple day, finding the happiness in a bird’s song.  I will always struggle to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough, a waste of space, not worthy of love.

It is reconciling that reality, marrying it to a life of less pain, more vitality, less anguish, more evenness, that is the key.

Today, I am losing the battle.  But as of this day, I am winning the war, for I am alive.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share.html

 

Much love,

SHW Signature

Categories
Mental Illness

ARE YOU FEEDING THE WOLF OF DEPRESSION?

My word for this year is HEALTH.  Whilst I intended this primarily to mean physical health, due to the fact that I had an awful physical time of it last year, I realise that health means good mental wellbeing too.

I have clinical depression.  I try to ignore it, but like most things detrimental to our health, unless you deal with it, the black dog will not be silenced.

This past week has seen it rear its ugly head good and proper.

Partly, it’s hormonal.  My PMS is shocking.  I become suicidal and demented and I want to rip my eyes out.  It is a type of manic darkness that is frightening, nay terrifying, and one I wouldn’t want to wish upon my worst enemy.

Partly, it is because I am tired.  It was a long year last year, and whilst delightful, the long school holiday break has not been all that restful.

Mostly, though, it is because I haven’t really dealt with it.  Not really.  Not at the level I need to if I am to see any sustained recovery.

And so with my word HEALTH in hand, I decided to sign up for Rick Hanson’s The Foundation of Wellbeing course*.  Rick Hanson for the uninitiated is a neuropsychologist who has written a number of books on happiness and wellbeing.  The course itself consists of 12 pillars and it is recommended that each pillar be taken over  a period of a month in order to assimilate and practice the skills learned.

The start of the program, January for me, is about self caring – the foundation upon which all else comes.  It is about befriending yourself, being your own advocate, being your own cheer buddy, being there for yourself when times get tough.

I am so bad at this.  I advocate for other people all the time, yet judge myself so harshly.  Mr C will often lament that I take the best parts of everybody I meet, mash them together and try to be an amalgamation of all of the best bits of all of the people I ever meet.  An impossibility of course.

The result is that I fail, time and again.  It feeds my lack of self worth like a self perpetuating downward spiral.  And because I am constantly scanning other people for their “good bits” and trying to apply them to my own life, I have lost my own sense of self.  And that is a terrible thing to live with.

Have you seen those things that say “find your purpose”, and in it they say “what is your passion, for that is your purpose,” or “what is the one thing you would do if money was no object?”  Do you have an answer ready?  I don’t.  I don’t have a bloody clue.  I just stare blankly at the page, because I don’t seem to have a passion, a burning desire, or one thing that I would rather be doing.  I’m too busy trying to assimilate traits that I feel would make me a better person, a more valued person, a less judged person, a person worthy of life and living.

And it is tiring.  Oh my word, it is so tiring.  Judging oneself so harshly takes effort.  Enormous effort.  And of course, because they are other peoples’ traits, it is almost impossible to make them my own.  They are counterintuitive to who I am, yet I no longer have a clue as to “who I am” is anymore.

And so I become demented.  Crazed.  An internal inferno burning my mind, like a fuse lit at one end of my brain that rages through every neurone that exists until I feel an imminent explosion.   It is at this point I can sympathise with those people who self harm, because it is in those moments that I feel the very same urge, though have never gone through with it.

Have you heard the story of the two wolves?  I have heard a number of versions of the story, and forgive me if you have heard it, but it goes something like this.  A boy asks his grandfather how he came to be so wise and so contented in life, how he always manages to see the good and lets the bad just pass on through.  The grandfather looks at his grandson and says “My boy, there are with us at all times two wolves.  One is full of hate and anger, one is full of love and peace.  I just give the one full of love and peace more attention.”

At this point in time, I am aware that I am giving the wolf of depression, as I like to call him, way more attention.  It consumes me, baring its teeth at me, orange eyes flashing wickedly at my soul.  I love wolves, but I know too that they represent a shadow side to me that feels like it has control.

This is my year to wrestle back that control, to give the wolf of love and peace the attention it deserves and to find some respite for my mind that is so weary, so beaten, so broken.

Depression is such a horrible thing, so debilitating, more debilitating than most people imagine.  But I can’t give up.  I have to realise my quest of what peace of mind actually feels like, of what a life of meaning and purpose feels like, and until I find it, until I achieve it, I will not give up.

I hope you don’t give up either.

I have hope for the Rick Hanson programme.  I like him and I certainly enjoyed my first session.  It makes total sense to me.  First be a friend to yourself.  I can do that.  Surely, I can do that.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

* This is not a sponsored post at all.

 

Categories
Weightloss Chronicles

HAPPY NEW YEAR DEAR DIARY {Weightloss chronicles #2}

Happy New Year Dear Diary,

2015 and another year of promise.

You know how ill I have been this past year.  And you know that illness has gone so much deeper than skin deep.  And you also know that I have been avoiding the inevitable, the obvious, the thing I must confront before I can even begin my journey back to mental health.

HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND

I haven’t wanted to face it. I haven’t wanted to take responsibility.   I have been waiting for some divine intervention, some bolt of motivation to enter my body that would render me incapable of doing anything but answer the call of fitdom.

None came.

And so my body broke down.  Again and again.

I am a slow learner it seems.

I will often imagine the time when I die and pass over to wherever it is my soul might go and I interrogate the people that handed out willpower and motivation and ask them why they didn’t dole out copious amounts to me.  And I imagine imploring them as to why they not only decided to make me fat, but also bald and an alcoholic as well, like some cruel twist of sadism.  I imagine them cowering at my anger, spewing out excuses promising never to do that to me again.  I look at them, smugly, nodding my pleasure at my indignant voice and how they bowed to it.  I feel vindicated, pompous, my job is done.

Except it isn’t done.  I’m dead.  I lived my entire life lamenting my weight, my hair, my inability to drink and a whole heap of other things besides.  And in all likelihood because I failed to act, my demise has come early.  I never did get to taste the sweet taste of health, vitality, peace of mind.

And that is the point.  As far as we know for absolutely sure, we only have one life.  We only have one crack to make it a good one. What a good one looks like is different for everyone and what looked good yesterday might not be good today, but without your health it doesn’t matter.  Without health we have nothing.  And when we have done being not healthy, we die.  Often earlier than expected.

Nearly two years ago, I came across this youtube video.  Two years.  Despite all the evidence I ignored all the signs.  I did not want to get up off my ass and do something.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo]

But today, dear Diary, this the first day of the new year, I am making changes.  My body is not liking it one bit.  My body is yelling its displeasure at me, but I am overruling it.  For today, I am overruling it.

For that is how I conquer my addiction to alcohol each day.  I simply don’t drink for one day.  Nor the next, or the next.  One day at a time, I am taking my sobriety to five years in just a couple of weeks time.

I have to be able to replicate that for my body.

And so it is, my first step to HEALTH this year – Exercise.

Just writing it, my mind recoils.  We have never enjoyed exercise, my mind and I.  I have stark memories of coming last in every race, of never hitting the hockey ball for the entire match, of being selected for the netball team based on my height alone and being told to avoid the ball at all costs due to my inability to actually catch the thing, of being wonderfully at home in the water swimming, but never being fast enough for any team.  My brain is screaming at me “why are you putting us through this!

But this time, all I am doing is walking.  I have invested in a Fitbit and all I am going to do is move my body every day.  For the recommended 10,000 steps.  I am told that this is about an hours worth of walking every day.  I can do that.  I absolutely can do that.

My brain, as you know, dear Diary, is telling me I can’t and I won’t lie the walk around the lake was tough.  As Mr C and I walked, all I could think of was the jiggling belly and the chaffing underarm fat, and the sweating back fat.  I kept imagining people looking out of their net curtained windows, in shock, some laughing, at this lily white obese woman walking past their door.  But 7,000 steps later and I had made it home.  Sweaty and slightly red in the cheek I grant you, but after my 30 minute walk I had made it two thirds of the way to my goal.  I still have to walk the dogs tonight, so I am hopeful I can achieve it.

Fitbit

It’s so much more than just losing weight isn’t it Diary?  People think that willpower alone would cure the obesity problem, but it won’t.  It doesn’t.  It requires facing your demons.  It requires facing your fears and doing it anyway.  And that is no mean feat.  No one tells you that really.  No one tells you the gut wrenching fear that grips you as you step out into the sunshine to take your first walk, or your first healthy food shop, or your first green smoothie (which taste surprisingly good, by the way).  No one tells you that.

You see it, of course, on programs like The Biggest Loser, but until you experience it, you can’t know.  Much like giving birth.

But today, I pushed through that fear.  I did it.  And tomorrow I may just do it again.

Until next time Diary,

SHW Signature

Categories
Mental Illness To You

A love note to myself {and I encourage you to do the same}

Below is a love letter to myself.  It is Day 12 of the #reverb14 and this was the task for today.  I found it incredibly difficult to write.  It felt narcissistic and wrong.  And yet, by doing so I was able to acknowledge the value of myself as a person.  As a person with depression I find this almost impossible to do.

It ended up being reflective, encouraging and extremely cathartic and, dear friend, I truly encourage you to do the same.  It will feel strange.  We are taught from the very outset that any self love is really vanity which is wrong.  It isn’t vanity or wrong.  It is something we don’t do often enough.  We don’t visit ourselves and acknowledge our strengths and gifts.  Perhaps if we did, the world we live in might be a little nicer and kinder place to be.

 

Dearest Sarah,

Today is Friday, 12th of December 2014.  This time a couple of years ago there was much hype about the impending end of the world due to someone in the Mayan culture not continuing their calendar, silly person.  It worried you though.  You were only 44 years old and there was so much you felt you had not done and it scared the crap out of you to think you may never get to do them.  What frightened you most though was the fact that you knew you had all this unrealised potential inside of you and you didn’t want to die without getting some chance  to put it out into the world.

It would take you another two years to start to work towards realising your full potential.  And you are still very much a work in progress.  That is okay.

It was a fortuitous day in January that you met with that art therapist who urged you to start your blog.  Even as you felt you didn’t know what you wanted to blog about, or what you wanted to say, or what niche you should have, or if indeed you had anything to say at all, you knew deep down inside that all you had to do was show up and start writing.

I want to thank you for doing that.  For just showing up, week after week, and just writing.

So often you would have no idea what to say, but somehow as your fingers danced across the keyboard, the words would tumble out.  Sometimes your life seemed so dark that all you could write about was that darkness that inhabited your soul on that day.  

What you didn’t know is that by answering the call to write, by spilling your guts out onto the page and into the cyber/universe, you were healing the toxicity that had inhabited your soul for so very long.  That writing was allowing the light to shine through those cracks of that damaged heart of yours and it was beautiful.

You had no idea the people you would touch, or the people you would meet, and your instinct was to withdraw.  History had taught you not to trust.  But you didn’t withdraw, you ignored your head, you listened to your heart and you took a deep breath, mustered your courage and went to those gatherings, and online meetups, you made your contributions and with it amazing connections.  

I know you still struggle to see what goodness people see in you, how surprised you feel when someone says how kind you are or what an amazing writer you are.  This is because us creatives never believe our own self worth.  Which is why we have to look at our craft as an act of service, to put some goodness out into the world, expecting nothing in return.  That way, we safeguard ourselves from disappointment and anguish.  The irony is that once we start to do that, as you have started to do this year, the universe responds.  It starts to give back in ways you never imagined, as you now have begun to see.

Please do continue with your kindness bombs.  The world needs them.  I know you doubt yourself and wonder if the words are just frivolous noise in a sea of online noise.  I know you wonder if they mean anything.  Let me say this:  Anything that is positive and kind and nurturing is worth putting out into the world.  There is so much negativity out there that anything that counters that is a good thing.  People let you know that they love them, so please do continue with them.

I want to thank you too for your resilience.  I know you don’t feel that you are resilient, but you are.  I know how hard it is for you sometimes when the black dog comes to call, how you want to slink away, how you convince yourself that no one cares, how sometimes just drawing breath seems more effort than it is worth.  But you do, you draw that breath, you get out of bed, you meet with your friends, you go online, you write.  You show up every single day and my dear dear Sarah, that is worth celebrating.

You are just beginning to realise that life is something that is for living.  You are just finding out that you are a good person who has something to offer the world and believe me when I say that 2015 is going to take that momentum and catapult you even further to find more joy, more happiness, more peace and contentment than you ever imagined would be possible.  So much so that when the world is in fear of ending again, you will be able to hold your head up high and say “That’s okay, I’ve lived a good life, I’ve given the world all I can”.

Look back at this year, Sarah, and see how far you have come.  Know how proud I am of you, how proud your family is of you.  Know that you are well loved and valued for what you bring to this world.  Know that you have so much more to give.  As you head into 2015, continue with your courage and your tenacity, your kindness and your love.  The world truly does need it.  And do not stop writing.

In closing, I want you to know that I love you.  You probably don’t know that, but deep down inside I value you and I cannot wait to travel with you as you realise that full potential you have burning inside of you, and to live a life of self worth and inner contentment.  Let’s walk those 500 miles together and then 500 more.

Lots of love,

Sarah x

Categories
Ramblings

Out with black and white, in with shades of grey

 

The world is not black and white.  It is in fact full of shades of grey, with a good heap of colour, definitely not black and white.

Yet, as humans, we are committed to this notion that life has to be exactly that – black and white, right or wrong, yes or no.

It is this notion that feeds our own critical natures – we are either good at something or bad at something.  It also feeds our opinion of each other – a person, or group is either right or wrong.  It feeds our tolerance levels – if they are in, we forgive the person or group a multitude of sins, but if they are out, even when we actually agree with their behaviour, we don’t want to admit it.

On a day to day basis I am extremely critical of myself.  I am too fat, too lazy, not active enough, not a good mother, not a good housewife, not educated enough. I reinforce the idea that I am a “bad” person and it is this opinion of myself that drives my depression.  My brain tells me I am not good enough, and to drive the point home, it points out all the things that I am bad at.

Yet, when I analyse it, a life lived is a journey and the skills we acquire are on a  spectrum.  Here is what I mean:

I am overweight yes, but certainly not to the point where my life is impeded except for circumstances where I choose to it do so.

I am not lazy – I do not enjoy housework and certain other tasks and I do put them off until I have to do them, but indeed that doesn’t make me lazy, it makes me human.  Some people are born for domesticity and good luck to them, I am not one of them.

On balance, whilst I do not run, swim, or partake in any formal activity, I can shop up a storm like nobody else and quite often my pedometer will tell me that I did over the required 10,000 steps just by moving from shop to shop.  I am active, just not in the conventional sense perhaps.

Being a mother is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.  Being a mother of a child on the spectrum even more so.  Your sanity comes under fire almost daily.  Your confidence as a person capable of making sound decisions is questioned.  This is because you are acutely aware that you are bringing up another human being and that your responsibility to ensure that human is good, kind, respectful and happy to boot is enormous.  I find I question my ability to fulfil this task all the time.  However, despite my lack of confidence, I have never given up.  My own daughter now has a child of her own and my son, who is on the spectrum, has managed to make it through mainstream school and only has two years to complete his schooling.  He has dreams and aspirations of becoming a video game designer.  He has aspirations.  That comes from being a tenacious parent who may make mistakes a long the way (plenty of them), but who also is prepared to do battle on a daily basis for her children.  I may not be the stereotypical domesticated mother, but my children know I would do anything for them.  That makes me at the very least an okay mother (spectrum, remember?).

I am an okay housewife.  I hadn’t intended on becoming a housewife at all.  I intended on working in the corporate world.  Then Master J was born and his needs superseded my own need to earn money.  I do not clean house very often.  I, in fact, have a wonderful cleaner called Tom, who is my life saver.  I tell myself, as I have mentioned in another post, that I am boosting the economy by providing employment for him.  My house is neat and tidy and my friends tell me that they love coming over as it is a relaxed place to be where I am always with them, not rushing around cleaning up after everyone.  It is true, I don’t even try to do the dishes until everyone has left.  Largely because I hate doing dishes.  It isn’t uncommon for them to be sitting there a couple of days later.  But they do get done, eventually.

My feeling of being uneducated has dogged me for years.  At school I was considered very clever.  The problem is that I hated learning things that I didn’t like.  I loved English and Drama, and other Arts subjects, but as for the other required learning, that really grated me.  The upshot is that whilst everyone expected me to do really well, my school life ended with a mediocre result.  I then went to university to become a biology teacher, because that seemed like a good and noble profession at the time, not because I loved biology which I didn’t.  I hadn’t thought it through as I clearly had no idea how much science was involved.  Who knew biology was a science?  This “failure” set me on a path that would dog me for years.  I could not consider myself educated unless I had a degree – black and white, see?  Life experience and my wealth of knowledge garnered through extensive reading didn’t count in my book.

I am nearing 50.  I have learned that what we thought was absolute 25 years ago does not hold true today.  I have learned that there is no black and white, only greys and that life is smattered with colour along the way.  I have learned that life is a journey.  I have learned that as a species we evolve, that what the media tells us is true today is almost certainly not true tomorrow.  We make decisions in the absolute, but life is not static, it is dynamic and those people that “go with the flow” are the ones that are the most happy, the most well adjusted, the most able to adjust their sails for stormy seas.  I am learning to be that person.  I am learning to be the person that just bobs along on the ocean, not trying to control the direction, but allowing life to take her wherever it sees fit for her to go.  Yes, it feels counterintuitive at times, a lot of the time, but with practice, I am getting better.

How about you?  Is it time to let the black and white go and to finally love your shade of grey?

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  Today is Day 9 of the initiative.
Categories
Ramblings

Connections

 

Master J finished school on Friday.

He bounced into the car, full of as much joy as a nearly 17 year old boy can muster.

I’m done.  I’m done for 8 weeks.

I smiled.  I love the school holidays.  It is just he and I at home.  Mornings are lazy.  No time frame constraints and we can do what the hell we like.

Today is Monday, the first day of our summer break.

It is raining outside.

I’m ironing sheets and duvet covers (really exiting summer break this one!).

The holidays are so boring!” Master J has just emerged from his room.  It is 8am.  On the first day of our summer holiday.  The one that we love so much.  The one that, whilst our paths don’t cross that often (meaning he immerses himself in his computer in his room and I busy myself readying for christmas, then relaxing and pottering), we are acutely aware of each others’ presence.  His autism means he finds communication really difficult, but I communicate with him.  I communicate with him through silent connection.  I love that so much.  I love him so much.

What do you mean the holidays are boring,” I protest, “they have barely begun.

Then a few seconds later.

Do you want to go for a movie?

He shakes his head.  I knew he wouldn’t want to – no self respecting teenage boy wants to be seen with his mum in public, autistic or not.

We don’t have parties anymore.  Why don’t we have parties any more?  It is so boring in this house.

It is true.  We used to entertain a lot.  We bought this house for its entertainment value.  Then six months later we became sober, then six months after that my mom died.  I lost my desire to connect.

Then we had a couple of parties,  nothing as plentiful as before, but a few.

Then this year Mr C ended up in hospital.  And I ended up in hospital.  So we haven’t had any parties this year.

Children on the spectrum struggle to connect.

We have parties at our house, and Master J will not move from his room.  But the other children will seek him out and sit with him.  This is him connecting with the world outside.

What he was really saying to me is that he feels isolated, that he needs to connect.

Which may seem weird to people who don’t understand autism, to people who have a stereotypical view of children on the spectrum.

The truth is that whilst anxiety drives them and their subsequent isolation, like any human being, like EVERY human being, they desperately want to connect, even in the smallest way.

I, on the other hand, am driven by depression.  I do not want to connect.  Not right now.  It is christmas and I am sad.  I want to stay indoors with just the two of us.  He in his enclave, me in mine, aware of each other, connecting in our own way.

I look at him.  “It’s really late in the year, Master J, people won’t be available for a party.  But we are going to The C’s for christmas drinks.

It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  That will require effort – to get ready, to travel, to meet people he won’t know.  His face drops.

I tell you what.  How about we have a New Years party?  I don’t know who will be around, but no doubt some people won’t have plans.  Everyone can bring their children.

He nods, contemplating first, then accepting my offer.

I make a mental note to make sure I email everyone to see who might be around.  I also make a mental note to organise a few parties next year.

Connections are important.  They are important to Master C and despite my depression, they are important to me.  And it is important to maintain them throughout the year.  No matter how busy we are, or how ill we may be.  It is too easy to hibernate, to isolate, to lose connection.

You see, we are all connected on this crazy planet we call home.  Whether we like it or not, we are all connected.  We all have a burning desire to belong, to have a tribe of our own.  Even, or perhaps especially, children on the spectrum.  And so it is that I will be working hard to maintain those connections.  And so it is I have written a couple of dates in my diary next year to hold a party or two.  So that I can feel connected.  So that Master J can feel connected.

And so it is that my “I can do what the hell I like” summer holiday has now turned into “who the hell is around on NYE?” summer holiday.

Connections.  They drive us no matter what.  And that isn’t a bad thing.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  Today is Day 8 of the initiative.

 

 

Categories
To Others To You

Piece of mind vs Peace of mind

If you had the opportunity, would you go back to that one person who hurt you so badly and let them have it?  All that visceral anger that you have been harbouring, unleashed.

One of the traits of someone living with depression is that we tend to ruminate, especially on those people or incidents that left us feeling unvalued, hurt, humiliated.  We tend to play over and over in our minds the details of the offending event, imagining what it would have been like if only we had been braver, more succinct, able to think better on our feet.

Oh my how that person would suffer at the hand of our witty, but cutting, repartee.  The look of abject horror in their eyes, knowing full well that they had been non-violently beaten into submission.  We would turn on our heals and leave, their dropped jaw gleefully seared into our brains, and we would know that, finally, we had won.  Vindication would be ours.

But it never quite happens that way.  Victory is rarely won by any form of confrontation.

In humanity, there are people who delight in causing mayhem and harm to others.  They are ignorant, unaware, pigheaded.  There is no reasoning with them and whenever you are in their company they always leave you feeling less than, never valued.  Often they create drama wherever they go and they always seem to pull you into their web.  You don’t want to be there, but somehow you are powerless to avoid it.  More often than not if you were to ask them what type of person they were, they would reply that they are good, kind people who only want to bring goodness into the world, completely unaware of how their bombastic ways leave people feeling.  This is part of the human condition.  It is unavoidable.  We cannot change this.

It can all feel so disempowering.  And it is that feeling of disempowerment that leaves us with residue anger that can live with us for years.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

It doesn’t seem right, I know, but the single most liberating thing you can do is to let them go, to let the incident go, to move forward, to live free.  Free yourself of the weight of the anger, frustration, injustice.

It isn’t easy.  The brain tends to replay incidents in our minds.  It is a biological response, you see, to replay that incident that caused us harm.  It is a way of protecting ourselves, preparing ourselves if the incident should ever happen again.  And our body can’t differentiate between what is real or imagined.  When we ruminate, it is as if we are living in the moment of that incident.  We feel wretched, angry, hurt all over again.  We are stuck.

The only way to stop the cycle is to let it go.

In recent years I have had a couple of incidents that have left me reeling.  And I carried them with me like medals of a battle I should have won.

I was torturing myself.  Every time I was alone, it seemed, with nothing but my own thoughts to keep me company, I would replay those incidents over and over again.  A stuck record, searing a scar so deep into my brain it felt like I would never be free of the misery.

But then I realised that I am master of my own destiny.  I do have control over my thoughts.  I do have control over how they dance across my mind.

I consciously chose to sublimate those thoughts.  It isn’t easy and it can be a good few minutes of ruminating, self talking, imagining my responses before I become aware of them.  But then I close my eyes.  I breathe in and breath out.  I say the words “breathe in, breathe out.”  You see, it takes conscious effort to speak.  It diverts your mind from those ruminating negative thoughts to your voice.  “breathe in, breathe out.

Before I know it, my heart rate has lowered, my breathing has slowed and a calmness has settled over my mind.

It takes practice.  A lot of it.  Sometimes, it is a real struggle.  My mind fights with me.  It wants to be heard.  It wants to warn me of the impending danger, remind me of the pain and hurt I felt so that I can be better prepared next time.

But I have learned.  It isn’t real.  The hurt and anger is futile.  The event has passed.  Retribution isn’t coming, and it is pointless to hold onto it.  And so I consciously let the person go.  I say the words, “You can no longer hurt me, and I let you go.  Breathe in, breath out.  I let you go. Breathe in, breathe out.

I also choose never to have anything to do with them.

This seems harsh, and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.  But I believe in my right to choose whom I have in my life.  After a lifetime of allowing people to dictate my worth, I have taken ownership of it.  And so I choose to let them go.  Not with hatred.  For they acted in response to their own demons.  And I take ownership of my part, for there are always two sides to any story, good or bad.

Still, I choose not to dance with them any longer, to not engage in their little game that seems to drive them, thrill them, control them.  That is their internal fight, not mine.  I choose to walk away.

And I feel so much better for it.

Do I wish I could yell and shout, and give them a piece of my mind?  Sometimes.  But mostly, I choose peace of mind and that makes all the difference.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  
Categories
To You

Time to let go, time to release

 

Frantic is the only word to describe my life at the moment.

The silly season is upon us and I am the proverbial chicken without a head, trying desperately to get it all done before the big day.

It isn’t going to happen.  I have to let some things go.

I have lost my christmas mojo.

I don’t like to admit it, but I have.

Partly, it is the seasonal grief that the loss of my mom brings.  Grief is a funny beast and the silly season is one of those times when, for me, it manages to find me and cling to me like sand brought home from the beach.

But I also think it is the notion that I have to have a perfect christmas, full of feast and festivities.  And because I suffer from depression, with my list ever growing, I find that my motivation is ever waning.

I am tired.

It has been a difficult year.  A year of growth, yes, but we only grow when we are prepared to confront those painful aspects of our lives and let them go.  I have done an awful lot of letting go.

Writing has been therapy for me.  Toxic, ugly therapy.  Therapy is not meant to be rainbows and unicorns.  And I’ve grown.  But with any growth there has to be a period of rest.  To recharge, to gain strength.  I am finding my body desperately wanting to rest, my mind begging me to stop.

But I can’t, I tell myself.  I have so much to do.

What is it that drives us to do so much?  To aim for perfection?  A perfection that is a moving target since it means different things to so many different people.  For each of the 12 people that will sit at my christmas table, perfection will mean something different.  I am chasing an illusion.

I have to release this notion of perfection.  I have release this notion that unless I can achieve perfection, I will be viewed as not good enough.

I am enough.

Done is better than perfect.

Done is better than perfect.

Be kind to yourself.

Let some of it go.

The greatest gift we can give to ourselves is the permission to let stuff go, to put things out into the wider world that show imperfections, that are less than, but more than enough.

My to-do list is enormous.

If I don’t get it all done by the time Santa arrives, that is okay.

The world will not come to end.

Life will not stop.

Deep breaths.  In. Out.  In.  Out.

Let.  It.  All.  Go.

Dear Universe, I really wanted to get this shit load of stuff done by the 25th, but I am simply not going to manage it.  I am releasing those less important things to you.  Chances are no-one will notice.  I will notice, but that is okay, I am handing them over to you.  I am a fallible human, and at this time, in this moment, I just simply cannot do it all.  I am choosing my mental health over home made christmas bon bons, hand crafted gift bags and a number of other homestead-y type things.  I know you will  understand.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

 This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  
Categories
Mental Illness

We need to talk about mental illness, depression and suicide NOW!

 

I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 today.  It was awesome.  I loved the book and I loved the movie.

But throughout the movie I could not help but feel sad.  As Philip Seymour Hoffman graced the screen in the effortless way that was his acting style, I couldn’t help but wonder where it had all gone wrong.

Just before the main feature began, an advert for another movie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, was shown.  In it, glimpses of Robin Williams were to be seen, reprising his role of Theodore Roosevelt.

As I watched The Hunger Games, I kept thinking of Philip and Robin and what a great loss they were.  How they were so brilliant at their craft, so revered, so loved, and yet how inadequate they both must have felt to be pushed to the fatal end they both endured.  As a recovering alcoholic, I know only too well that addiction is born out of a feeling of not being good enough.  I have felt the pain that comes with inadequacy and the lure of suicide, knowing only too well the pain this will cause to family and friends.  In that moment, the pain of living is worse than the pain of knowing the devastation your loss will cause.  The promise of release from that pain all too seductive.

This week the internet has been all agog at the comments made by Mark Latham about Lisa Pryor’s comments on how she copes with motherhood.  In his Financial Review article, he likens the stress of tending of his garden to the work pressures that she felt as a mother and full time medical student.  He trivialises the pressure that women feel in this day and age, and goes so far as to disparage the choice of a woman to work for reasons other than financial gain.

Additionally this week was this post by Sarah Wilson in which she poses the question of whether or not her autoimmune disease can be caused, or at least exacerbated by stress.  The headline was unfortunate – Is Self Hatred Making Us Sick.  The backlash to this post, which was reposted on News Ltd’s website was enormous.  Whist I questioned what she wrote and didn’t agree with some of it, I admired her ability to stand back and take a look at what was and wasn’t working for her.  I certainly didn’t feel she was being prescriptive about what was causing my own autoimmune disease or how I should manage it.

What shocked me, though, was the unabashed vitriol that was espoused in reaction to this post.  Blog posts popped up all over the place denigrating what she had said as quackery and attacking her personally.  They questioned her qualification to dish out medical advice (which she was not doing) and called her credentials into question.  If stress does exacerbate Sarah’s condition, the venom spat her way must have caused her great discomfort in the autoimmune department.  It is this kind of cyber bullying that causes journalists to take their own lives.

And what is all the point of all this?  What do the deaths of actors, the challenging of women’s coping mechanisms and a post about autoimmune disease management have in common?

At the heart of all these things is mental illness.  And we don’t talk about it nearly enough.

Depression as an illness, is still a major cause of morbidity and death, and we need to understand it better, and we need to prevent people from killing themselves because they are depressed. – Changing Minds, ABC

When I got home from the movies, I decided to watch the the ABC series Changing Minds.  I had taped it weeks ago, but for some reason could not bring myself to watch it.  Maybe it is because I suffer from terrible clinical depression and I did not want to face the fine line that keeps me on this side of a psychiatric ward. Maybe it is because mental health is stigmatised so much that I try to lock my illness inside a cave somewhere deep inside my head, pretending that it isn’t there at all.  I advocate for mental illness, yet I myself still feel stigmatised by it.

I watched the series and it shocked me.  It shocked me because we simply do not talk about it enough and because of that people are not getting the help they need, especially in the wider community.  People try to ignore it, they do, but it cannot be ignored.

Actors are buckling at an alarming rate because of it, Sarah was trying to connect the dots between anxiety (read mental health) and physical well being, and Mark Latham was stigmatising mental health in women in the way only he (and many others like him) can in a publication largely read by men.

Men are three times as likely to commit suicide than women.  This is because the stigma is so rife, that men, in a world largely controlled by men, do not feel that they can talk about their mental illness.  And if they do, they are often turned away.  So they choose to leave behind loved ones and take their own lives.  Does Mark Latham think he is helping the cause of those men?  Never mind the women he is berating, how about the men?

Those people who chose to call Sarah a quack for her beliefs about her own condition, who chose to insult her as a person, as a journalist and as a personal blogger, did they think they were encouraging dialogue for those people who suffer from mental illness and feel that they cannot seek help?  Upon reading her article, I did not see as her attacking them personally.  I saw it as her seeking answers to her own condition and citing things that made sense to her, recognising that during times when she feels better mentally, she also feels better physically.  She was, in fact, talking about mental health.

All of this is about mental health, about when we feel better mentally, we can operate better on a physical level too – we are better human beings.  Without mental health we have nothing.  Our physical systems seem harder to cope with, our demanding jobs are harder to cope with, life itself is harder to cope with.

We live in a world where pressures increase exponentially and yet the discussion of mental illness is just not happening.

The dialogue of how to address the increasing mental illness and suicide issue needs to begin in earnest.  It needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

If you are experiencing any depression, suicidal thoughts or extreme mental anguish, please talk to someone you can trust, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Until next time,

SHW Signature