Be More Edison

Last year, I published a post about Thomas Edison. 2nd January 1879 was the day that Edison began work on his first generator, only to see his life’s work go up in flames in 1914. Yet was he deterred? Not at all. Almost 70, he simply began all over again.

For me this is what January, and New Year, is all about. It is a time of year when everyone is reflecting, looking back at the year gone by and making plans for the year to come. It is important to be aware that this reflection makes it a challenging time of year for many, especially if personal tragedies have occurred. I like the Thomas Edison anecdote because it is all about renewal and rejecting regret. Regrets, and the expectations that lead to them, are the biggest foes of mental wellbeing in January.

Be More Edison

This year, I too am starting over. Our little family has grown and new life has brought rejuvenation. The past year was filled with personal reflection and emotional exploration as I attempted to regain some past integrity I felt had been lost through traumatic experience.

The initial ambition when I created this blog was to find solace, and perhaps provide some too, along the way. Now, I feel refreshed, thanks to you dear reader, I have persevered and gained confidence.  Like Edison, I have begun rebuilding, forming a disposition that I recognise from before my mental health broke down and becoming suicidal. Recovery, especially from an emotional injury, is a long journey, but I do believe it to be possible, however long it takes.

Take your time.

Where to Start?

Mental illness can be all consuming and because it is invisible can take longer to recognise, diagnose and understand.

Identifying the triggers for episodes of mental ill-health is an important place to begin. The trigger is the connection between the symptoms you experience and their root cause, most frequently a past experience. It’s working backwards to move forwards.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will be aware that the trigger for my depression and suicidal thoughts was a series of negative relationships and intense academic anxiety. However, my anxiety is much more ingrained and has a root buried much deeper in the past.

Over the last year, I have begun to mentally excavate around the root. This began by assessing my panic attacks and identifying when the latest one started, working back from the obsessive behaviour to its trigger.

This is a good place to start because it does not require going outside, getting dressed, or even leaving the safety of a duvet cocoon.

Once identified, triggers can be used during grounding to re-centre and gradually gain control over mental illness, instead of feeling that it is control of you. It took me years, but I can now identify activities that are more likely than others to affect my mental wellbeing. As a result, I can be selective in my actions. This does not mean avoiding triggers outright. But it means that I can choose to engage with a stressor and feel in control or disengage from it if I am already feeling overwhelmed.

This isn’t about ‘Saying No’, which so many people find difficult. This is about self-awareness and being able to use that awareness to cope with the things you say yes too. Personally, I think it is generally good to say yes. Yes is positive, it makes you feel capable, because you are capable. If you didn’t know that on some level, you’re subconscious wouldn’t have jumped in and said yes on your behalf before the rest of your brain had thought it all through.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities, even if, like Edison, you have some rebuilding to do.

 

Out with the Old, In with the New

Here we are again. Another New Year, another birthday.

I hope you are recovering from your celebrations, are feeling hopeful and excited about the year ahead. To those of you who find this season challenging, I wish you strength.

For me, this is always a day of reflection, I suppose a bit delayed; I should really look back on the last day of the last year, not the first day of the new one.

So much has changed, and I have so much to thank you for! Truly, I do. Thanks to you I have persevered and can now celebrate my blogging anniversary.

I had so many ideas of how this blog might be and what I would explore. I knew going in that it could be a cathartic process but I could not predict the extent of healing I have experienced.

I have been quiet over the past few months as a result of facing some of my toughest experiences. I achieved my goal of exploring traumatic events and the struggles that followed. In November, I gave birth to a healthy baby, having banished the shadows of the past. I wanted so much for my baby’s experience to be untainted by my own trauma and through blogging I have managed to gain closure and process the emotions enough to separate the present from the past.

I leave that trauma behind in 2018, having carried the pain with me for over two years. I finally feel free.

I am future-facing, forward-looking and excited as I embark on a New Year of experiences.

Showtime!

Maternity leave seems to have extended to blogging as well as employment. I feel that this is part of the nesting process, as priorities change and focus narrows as birth approaches.

I came up with the title for this post several months ago. As I was preparing for birth I was concentrating on the natural, instinctive cooperation between my body and baby. As the process of childbirth remains almost indescribable to those who have not yet experienced it first hand, first time mums will I suspect always feel that they don’t have all the facts as they approach this astounding phenomena.

As such, I tried to quell any anxieties I had by trying to focus on birth from the baby’s perspective; of arrival, of action and of his first breath.

For the past nine months he had been flexing in my womb, developing organs, practicing breathing (you can feel them do this by the way). He had been rehearsing.

Now, as labour commenced, this was showtime!

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.

 

 

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.

A Month of Creative Writing

Challenge Yourself to a Month of Creative Writing

Throughout this month I have shared ideas to combat writer’s block, practice techniques and my own efforts to get back into writing. For the first time I have openly shared some of my own work and have grown in confidence as a result. I was really terrified about posting up my first ever poem but since then have been going through my back catalogue, editing and developing older works. It is now time for me to get back into writing so for March I am hoping to put some of the techniques I have banded about into practice.

I have challenged myself to a month of creative writing.

In With the New

Blogging has done what I hoped it would and kick started some of my old creativity. I used to be writing all the time but when my mental health began to decline it slowly grounded to a halt. When I was at school, poetry gave me a way to express my negativity. The pain of my father’s illness, of teenage romances and the rage of hormones flowed out of me and on to the page. Some of the results were very poor, violent and messy but some are poems that I am quite pleased with such as Hunters, Grief, and Listen to the Bees.

I can’t pin point when I stopped writing, but I am confident in saying that Love Letter was my last good piece of work. No longer writing reflects how insular I had become, no longer expressing my feelings resulted in them accumulating, eventually leading to the disintegration of my mental health. Blogging has been part of putting myself back together.

I have found a renewed energy this month. I has made me realise that during the past 2 years there has been very little stamina to my enthusiasm. Now, however, I have a spring in my step, a refreshed spirit and a string of ideas.

Finale

With this rediscovery of enthusiasm I wanted to wave goodbye to February with one final piece of old writing. Once again it is something I did when I was at school and is another exercise that I wanted to share that I think might be a way of either easing oneself back into writing or overcoming writer’s block.

Just as in that previous post, this is a piece of work inspired from the work of another author. This is why I am only sharing these pieces as a suggestion of getting into writing, great care should always be taken when gaining inspiration from the work of others to avoid plagiarism.

At A Level, following on from War Poetry we studied Love Through the Ages. One of our texts was William Shakespeare’s Othello. Our assignment was to write a soliloquy in the style of the villain Iago. For anyone unfamiliar with the play and its characters I have included some notes from the Oxford School Shakespeare text:

Othello: The Moor: a black African prince living in a European, colour-prejudiced, society where he holds high rank in the Venetian military forces.

Iago: Othello’s ensign (standard-bearer): a Venetian and a professional soldier, he conceals his real nature under an appearance of ‘honesty’.’

The text below forms part of Iago’s soliloquy from Act 1 Scene 1, lines 145-159:

Farewell, for I must leave you
It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place
To be produc’d, as if I stay I shall,
Against the Moor. For I do know the state….

Though I do hate him as I do hell’s pains,
Yet, for necessity of present life,
I must show out a flag and sign of love…

The crux of the matter is that Iago hates Othello and sets about sabotaging his relationship with his wife Desdemona. He plants seeds of jealousy, making Othello think that his wife is having an affair. To reveal anymore would be spoilers.

The piece I am posting today was part of a school assignment to write our own soliloquy for the character Iago. As such it uses the same archaic language as Shakespeare and is not intended to be disrespectful.

How I abhor the ancient
Who does me many an injustice;
Old Oak of Moorish association,
Standing erect above all forest dwellers.
Your towering majesty holds all else in shade.
I shall embed an ivy in your roots
That will feast upon your succulent sap.

Ivy! Entwine around Oak in lustful embrace,
Slide between his bark and poison his core.
Choked shall he be from heat and mist-
Throttled in your charming snare.
Slow and gentle be
Like a breath of sweet fresh air-
He will not detect the sourness beneath.

Sun and Moon shall dance their courtship.
Summer shall slide away.
He shall lose his darling season
To a more gallant, virtuous suit.

Infested with louse and worm
That scuttle in his bough and quench
their appetite upon his wounded pride –
He shall be green!

He shall spew his leaves as the Cobra spits his venom.
They will fall in a cascade of red and purple.
He shall lose faith in his Golden Sun,
As he turns black and festers-
His acorns wither
And fall
Upon the fiery earth below.

 

Writer’s Block

I was part of a creative writing club at school and every Tuesday lunchtime we would gather around the tables in the library, write for twenty minutes or so and then share what we had written before heading back to lessons. The English teacher who ran the club, along with the lovely librarian, would spend the week devising writing exercises to help us develop our understanding of English Literature. Sometimes these exercises focused in on specific literary devices (such as the Alliteration Writing Exercise I shared recently) or aimed to develop our skills at writing speech, developing characters and using plot devices. Many of these exercises double as resources to combat writer’s block.

One week we were all given a quote and told to use that as our first sentence. It was the first line of John Keats’s poem When I Have Fears That I Shall Cease To Be. As a result of this exercise I wrote my first ever sonnet. I have been reluctant to post it as the rhyme scheme is a little forced and a bit dramatic as a result. As ever, any comments and constructive criticism you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I propose that next time that you have writer’s block, you open a book at a random page and take the first sentence as the start of your new piece. Just make sure that you acknowledge what you have used as your inspiration as I have done here, or that you change the sentence should you ever pursue publication. Plagiarism must be avoided at all costs!

Promise

When I have fears that I shall cease to be
Before I reach the age of twenty-one –
Shame is that time was not increased by three
Years of life together, we achieved – none.
Death has hacked dreams of freedom into dust,
Reduced rivers of Hope to streams of mud,
Yet, Sweetheart, press upon you this I must:
For one more kiss I’d sacrifice all blood –
I would endure the agony again,
Treasure each second of waiting. I’d savour
Broken hearts for this eventual gain.
I only regret that we had not told her;
Having made my choice – I make it anew:
That I shall be, eternally, with you.