Signs My Body is No Longer My Own: A Draft

Let me begin by apologising for how barren my blog has been of creative thought recently.

In my post about blogging and creative writing, I talked about the connection between my writing and mental health. Thus, my poetry has always been inspired from strong emotions, the numbness of depression meaning that before starting this blog I hadn’t written a thing for two years.

For those of you who have been following my journey into writing, you will be aware that other than my first efforts (which were essentially homework) my poetry has come from a place of uncertainty, illness, pain and grief.

There are still some earlier pieces that I hope to share with you, but it has been far too long since I produced anything new, that I liked. I wanted to change my creative drive from a place of darkness to one of positivity.

That is at the heart of everything I feel throughout this pregnancy, even with all the recent unpleasantness, I feel incredibly positive and uplifted by being pregnant.

With the awareness and deep appreciation that not everyone finds joy and security in their pregnancies, I wanted to capture how I feel about my situation.

I have received criticism in the past for being too personal in my poetry, but I was so thrilled to have written something this morning that I was too excited not to share.

It is essentially a piece of free writing, my favourite, and I do hope that in some way it will resonate and perhaps bind the two different aspects of this blog; the public and the personal, together (#Idonthaveaniche).

As always, your thoughts and feedback are greatly appreciated, I look forward to reading them in the comments!

Signs

I feel nauseous
As my organs
Shift, squeeze
Into the narrowing space
Around my womb.

I am weary
With a tiredness I have never known
Physical, mental, emotional
It feels eternal;
Pregnancy’s constant companions.

I vomit
Retch
Rinse and repeat,
But whoever said that
Miracles came easily?

The midwife called him a parasite
But this is not a hostile take over
My body is a vessel
A cradle
Carrying a new life forward.

The marks on my body
Are not weakness.
They are not cracks or fractures
But glaze on my porcelain sides,
They bare the truth of my task.

 

 

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Lessons from Blogging: Blogging and Mental Health

So the Month of Writing didn’t happen, and it’s not looking good for this month either.

All advice to new bloggers focuses on regularity of posting and consistency of content. This blog is eclectic at best and irratic at most. Thus, my apologies to you generous souls who have taken the time to read, like, comment and follow this blog. You are greatly appreciated by me.

For a young woman who was drowning in depression at the beginning of the year, who felt she had no voice and nothing to add to the mass of information media, the past few months have been astounding. Thank you for being part of a blogging experience that has led to increased confidence and value of self.

Benefits of Blogging for Mental Health

I have posted a few times in the past about the benefits of Blogging and Creative Writing for mental health.

For me, blogging provides a  space for focused reflection and increased freedom of expression. It can be a platform to help you feel connected rather than isolated through your thoughts and writing.

The anonymity of an unpersonalised site, such as this one, can help you feel secure enough to explore the personal, whilst keeping the most intimate details – the when, where, who – private. You are in control of sharing your experience and choosing to reveal your blogging identity to others.

This security for exploration and expression can build strength and self worth and empower others to reflect on, or even share, their experiences.

Blogging Challenges 

There were (well, are) two main difficulties I encountered when I started to seriously consider blogging.

1) Anxiety.

It can be very daunting to put anything online for the world to see (coupled with the worry that no one in that world is looking). This feeling may decrease or diminish over time, but personally, I still get an adrenaline rush before I press ‘publish’ and I am always editing and agonising over individual words and phrases (even after publishing!).

2) Consistency.

To be frank, that I jump about with the topics I cover doesn’t really concern me. This blog was always intended to be a personal exploration, and as I detailed in the post Dreaming of the Temple, I deliberately chose the name because of the scope I felt it had for content.

I do, however, find myself getting a bit jittery if I haven’t posted for a while.

Partially, this is because I really enjoy blogging, it has become my cathartic hobby, but also due to concern for blogging reality.

There is so much information media that without regular new content even the most dedicated visitors to your blog (again, thank you!) will slip away and your site will lose interest. This introduces yet another pressure for those who are trying to use blogging as part of a process of healing.

It is challenging, especially for those affected by ill mental health, to maintain an established posting frequency. This may be due to a whole range of personal life factors; a new/additional job or increased workload, a change in circumstances or situation, or any other element that you feel impacts upon your ability to post at the time or frequency you had intended.

Stop the Vicious Cycle

I have yet to encounter anyone who has not, at some point, felt that they should have done something differently, or better. But the truth is, for most of us, most of the time, what we did was the best that we could do in that particular moment, in that particular situation, with that amount of time, and those resources.

Consequently, we all need to stop telling ourselves that we could do better. This results in the negative Thought Spiral  that culminates with us not only beating ourselves up over the unchangeable past, but also being pessimistic about the future.

Stemming from the idea ‘I should have done that better’, leading to the notion ‘I should be better’, resulting in unrealistic, unmotivated targets that we then beat ourselves up for not achieving and perpetuating the cycle.

Whilst I am confident that if you truly have an element of yourself or your life that you are eager to work on or improve, that you will achieve your goal, it needs to be a positively motivated change to succeed. The cycle described above is not positive. It drains your energy and diminishes your capacity to achieve your goal.

This is my most recent lesson from blogging. 

Whatever your motivation for blogging, personal or business, it can be tough going in the beginning. To develop a voice, a niche and a sense of regularity. Therefore, you need to enjoy it. Blogging can be stressful but also great fun. Let it be fun.

I was getting jittery because I didn’t post at all last week. My mum and her partner came up from England to help us decorate four rooms ready for the new arrival. It was fast-paced but we did it. I was in what my colleague refers to as the ‘dormouse phase’ when the developing baby makes you want to sleep all the time. At times, the pavement has looked quite comfortable!

I was exhausted, covered in paint and had no clue what to write about. I felt I had lost my voice, I had nothing to say, and that this was it for me and blogging.

However, as with anything else creative, it needs and takes time. It’s not something that you can knock out in 5 minutes, it usually takes me 2 hours to just draft a post that I am content with. It isn’t something that you can force or squeeze into a tea break. The more pressure you feel the harder it will seem. Take a walk, a deep breath, and suddenly something will spark inspiration. Let it be fun.

Blogging and Creative Writing

Over the last few days I have talked about the connection between mental health and creative writing and posted up some pieces of my own. I am very grateful for the positive response those pieces received, as a very amateur poet, posting online is especially scary. But I think posting anything online must be very daunting, even when you have edited and edited it and are feeling quietly confident that it is good. Whilst I know some poets who manage to write about completely fictional scenarios, for many, their writing is very personal and for me at least my poetry comes from a place of very raw emotion. Most of the poems I compose are completed within 10 minutes and are not very good. They are unrefined and really are as if I just took what I was feeling and threw it at a piece of paper.

Sometimes, just sometimes, some parts stick and become workable. If I am extremely lucky, the poem has written itself and there is just the smallest bit of tweaking to do. This is why poetry will never be more than a hobby for me. I was part of a student poetry group at university and witnessed the extensive editing of my fellows and the labour of love their poems became. They made statements, not just expressions.

For me, blogging has become an extension of creative writing. The expression of feeling is not as dramatic as it was when I was younger and charged with teenage hormones, but it is still a flow of consciousness, and perhaps to an extent unconsciousness, as sometimes the posts still feel as they are writing themselves. My hands hit a variety of keys just as my conscious mind manages to construct a sentence. I never used to be able to type like this. I used to always have to have pen and paper, the pen feeling like an extension of my arm. I was a real tortoise when it came to typing too, to the extent that it became quite the joke at school. So blogging seems to be developing all sorts of skills. I have enjoyed reading back over old poems these last few days as I selected what to post online (something like blogging I never dreamed I’d actually do). Perhaps the fact that I haven’t written anything for a couple of years has made me more aware about what is reasonable, workable and what just needs to be deleted and let go of. I’m becoming more aware of grammar too as I edit my blog posts, although my spelling is not improving!

Blogging and Mental Health

As I hoped, just as creative writing in the past helped me to process how I was feeling, since I have started this blog I have experienced a marked improvement in my mental health. I don’t feel as highly strung as I did two months ago, I am more inclined to reflect and by typing up and publishing some events I have been able to reduce their presence in the front of my mind. Of course they are still there, loitering somewhere in my memory, but they no longer appear as flashbacks, suddenly spiralling me out of control. Another comparison I have noted since starting this individual post is that just like my poetry, my posts are very personal. They are expressions of how I am feeling with the odd generalised observation thrown in. This is a criticism that has been made in the slam scene of my poetry, not necessarily meaning the poems themselves where bad, but that they didn’t suit the fast-paced, powerful and clear statements usually found in slam-style poems. Again, its the case that the poems made statements, not just expressions.

This comparative statement links back to every bloggers fear, that what they are typing and publishing online has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. Even when it is personal, human nature often seeks approval and desires to feel useful. That there is some value to ourselves and in what we do. The first few posts I published were very much just for me. I didn’t expect anyone to read them and I wasn’t too concerned about what they were saying, as long as I didn’t make a fool of myself on the internet. Then I started putting up posts that I hoped might be beneficial to someone else but me. Not helpful or advisory or anything like that but that they might find a solidarity in them. One of the reasons I began volunteering in mental health organisations was because I didn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as I did when my father died. I felt that I had no one to talk to about how his death affected me or about the grief I was feeling. Everyone just wanted to hear that I was fine so they could move on to another topic. All aspects of mental health can feel the same way. I was lucky that both my mum and dad had prepared and responded to the situation in a way that meant my mental health remained stable even after his death. But a few years later a number of things happened and my mental health did decline. I hoped that posting about these experiences would let someone else know that they weren’t alone in that experience and that there was something beyond it.

Moving Forward

Now I am looking into maybe trying to make my blog a little more substantial. I am enjoying blogging, it’s great to be writing again and, as I mentioned, there have been a lot of positive outcomes so far. However, in the reading that I have been doing (it’s still pretty minor at the moment, the idea of really getting my teeth into blogging is a very recent one) the recurring theme is not just to find a niche, but also to solve a problem. I’m not sure that writing posts expressing my own experiences with mental health in the hope of instilling solidarity and presenting empathy to hoped-for readers can be classified under problem solving.  I’m also pretty convinced that I am either too niche or not niche enough. I am quite an eclectic and, I suppose, erratic personality, even as an archaeologist and historian, I know a little about the whole expanse of human existence, from early hominins to the 1980s. But I am not the person you want on your team in a pub quiz because I don’t know enough about the specifics. I don’t specialise well.

I have come to terms with my eclectic blog, writing about all the little bits and bobs bouncing about in my brain was the reason I started blogging, its the reason its helping my mental wellbeing and I’ll just have to hope that someone else finds it enjoyable or useable, perhaps by accident. It is perhaps possible (and as soon as I have finished typing this I will sit for a while with my fingers crossed) that by pursuing and documenting all these little bits and bobs, I might stumble into a bit more of a niche and maybe that will solve the problem of problem-solving for me. One can dream.

 

New Blogger

I am having a lot of fun! Probably too much fun. You see, I am very much a technophobe. Or technically illiterate. Basically, very uneasy and easily confused by technology. I used to have to write a blog to track progress for an award I achieved at university. I couldn’t work out how to post entries or even how to view the page itself. All I could access was the text box…

Today, I discovered categories!! And tags!!! I’m so excited I’ve used a ridiculous number of exclamation marks and started a sentence with ‘and’. Terrible.

In the past, a few of my friends and relatives have kept blogs to promote businesses, to keep far-flung family members in the loop or to track their travels. I really can’t believe that I have started one myself. What will I write about? Really. I’m not sure I have anything worth sharing. I have no burning thoughts or desires that I think someone else should hear or pay any attention to. But I do have questions. Spiritual, academic and familial. I don’t intend to get deeply personal but as I have mentioned before, this is me talking to myself. Mulling over these questions, writing up my thoughts and letting them go by publishing the post. It’s not very relevant but I am hopeful that it will help me work through some of my anxieties, and if someone else finds it useful too, then that’s wonderful.