On Not Being Able to Function

In the spirit of mental health awareness week, I wanted to write a post about how my brain has [not] been working lately, in the hopes of starting a discussion and minimising the stigma attached to such topics.

I had been planning to write a reading and writing update, first, though. I’ve been planning that post since January, but I especially wanted to push forward with it now since A. it’s been FOUR(!) months in coming and B. I wanted a break from the heavy topics I’ve been discussing on this blog recently.

The thing is, I am so stressed out I haven’t been able to push ahead and just finish it. I know logically that it’s such a simple thing, but it’s like I’ve got a mental block when it comes to even thinking about work.

As you’ll probably be able to tell from the posts I shared at the end of last year/start of this year, my mind has been all over the place. I’ve been trying to rest and breathe and work through that but, honestly, the issues are still not fully resolved.

I don’t know where burnout from client work ends and burnout from being a carer begins, they are inextricably linked at this point, but I do know I simply can’t keep the client work up. I feel awful about having agreed to take on projects that I now don’t have the time or headspace to complete, but I think I’m going to have to face facts and tell my clients where I’m at. I’ve been avoiding it. Been avoiding so much, and it’s only been making me feel worse. I just feel panicked, like I need to escape from everything RIGHT NOW or else.

Today I unpublished my business Facebook page and I’ve redirected my business website over here to this author site. I’m doing everything I can to just get by with my sanity intact.

To those of you reading this who think I’m being overdramatic, maybe I am. I often doubt myself when it comes to these things. But even if I’m not drowning, it certainly feels like it.

Update on ‘The Situation’

To everyone who has shared and commented on my previous blog post, I want to give you many, many thanks. Steve and I really appreciate the love and support we’ve had from everyone.

I thought I should probably give a bit of an update on how things are now. I know not that much time has passed, but there have been a few developments.

Some of you asked if we have a representative to help us through everything and yes, we do. Although our appeal against Steve’s DLA decision was unsuccessful, our representative has told us that we still can challenge the decision at a higher level, so we have formally requested more details on that.

Regarding our claim for ESA, we now have a tribunal date and are in the process of preparing for that, having met with Steve’s GP today.

The past week has maybe been one of the hardest yet, as Steve’s health has suffered more due to stress and I’ve also started feeling burnt out again. We’re just trying to get through one day at a time and all of the kind messages we’ve had has really helped. I cannot emphasise that enough.

To answer another question we’ve received a lot, I don’t think there is anything else anyone can do to help us at this stage (other than the aforementioned well wishes). I have been toying with the idea of starting a petition to submit to the ombudsman, urging him to reconsider the DLA decision, but have been advised to hold off on that just yet. If it becomes necessary, I will share the link around and would appreciate it if people would pass it on.

A couple of local politicians have shared our plight and someone has been in contact to ask if the media can run a story. Time will tell what, if anything, will come of that. Steve is reluctant to draw attention to all this, almost, but it is important. We just hope it won’t be held against us somehow.

On a different note, I feel the need almost to proactively defend myself. I know welfare is such a contested issue and it engenders a lot of strong opinions. I would like to urge people to question things before they judge.

Maybe you’ve seen me post a status about attending the theatre in the past week, and maybe you think to yourself that it’s terrible we are pleading poverty while spending money on seemingly frivolous things. If that is what you think then to you I say that things are not as simple as all that.

As hard as things have been, it’s a fight to find positive things in our lives to focus on and keep us going. It’s vitally important now more than ever to make the most out of the good days.

We may have little money and an uncertain future but, to paraphrase something Churchill once said, if we stop investing in the good things in life, then what are we even fighting for?

I Miss My Husband

Just a couple of months after I met my partner, I went away for a week to do some voluntary work. 

During that week, I joked about being “halfless”, which is to say, missing my other half. The thing is, it wasn’t a joke. We both knew pretty much right away where our relationship was headed. We were just at the right stage in our lives and those lives slotted together naturally very well. 

Steve has changed my life and, in a lot of ways, I couldn’t be happier. In one way, though, we really struggle. 

For those who know us personally, you’ll know that Steve is sick and unable to work. I don’t think most people really understand just how sick that is, however. He spends most of his day asleep, exhausted from seizures, fluctuating blood levels, and mental health issues. The hours he is awake, he has no energy, no motivation, and now, very limited government help. 

Since moving in together, I have become Steve’s carer, making sure he eats and takes his numerous medications besides a ton of other seemingly insignificant things that add up to constitute a full-time job. 

To do this, I have cut back on my client work and am now only doing a couple of hours a week towards being self-employed. I do this gladly because I love Steve and I don’t resent a moment of it. I’ve had to get better at recognising when I’m becoming burnt out and finding a way around it. 

But back to the government help thing. Last week Steve had a tribunal in which he appealed a DLA decision that said he didn’t need care. We went together and explained in person to a room of six people his needs. 

And they upheld the decision. They consider him not in need of care or the financial help to provide it. 

It took a year for us to reach that point and to say we’re devastated is an understatement. 

Three days before our wedding, we heard that Steve was losing his ESA (a different kind of benefit that we use for all kinds of crazy things like food and electricity). So we then began a second round of the appeals process. 

It took them over a month to decide to pay us while that process is ongoing, meaning we had to use money we received as wedding gifts to allow us to live. 

The stress has been unbelievable, and it’s not over as we wait for the ESA tribunal date to be decided. Part of me doesn’t want it to come, because we have no backup plan for if it fails. There is no possible way we could have a backup plan, as the (reduced!) amount they are currently giving us doesn’t allow any spare money that could go into savings. 

Meanwhile, my awesome, lovely husband is forced by stress into ever increasingly bad health and I miss him. I love him to bits, and we spend a great deal of the day side by side, with me awake and him out of it. 

As things are, he isn’t able to focus on getting better. 

Not wanting to end on quite such a bleak note, I want to instil within you the importance of voting out the cruel, uncaring government who has put Steve and so many other thousands of people in this position. 

Further details here

The Thing About Buffy

When I was in my formative years – fourteen, fifteen, sixteen; probably before that, if I could remember – I was a lot of things: frustrated, depressed, creative, hopeful, and incredibly, incredibly lonely.

High School was hell, home was… not a place I would actually define as a ‘home.’ But I found that music helped, some, and the creativity and hope kept me thinking that if I could just make it to eighteen I could go wherever I wanted and be and do anything.

The day to day, though… that was tough. I’m not going to go into it and I’m not going to try and pretend that I had it hardest. But it was still tough. Hardness was my reality.

I closed myself off, repressed the pre-teen years, and become someone who, frankly, wasn’t very nice in return. Someone who literally didn’t understand what being nice meant. Again, I’m not saying I was a bully who tortured small animals and wished death upon children, but life was hard and so was I.

And then there was Buffy – this innocuous little TV show about teenagers living on a Hellmouth. A TV show that had layers, and pain, character development that was mind blowing and just so many things that, amongst all the vampires and demons, were just so damn real.

The show dealt with sex and relationships, domestic abuse, betrayal and, yes, death. Everything in between. The scary and the funny and the dramatic and the exciting and the gross.

And the thing is, it made me – broken teenager on the verge of suicide me – it made me feel things. It made me feel all of the things I’ve already mentioned and a million besides. It connected with me, and I was obsessed. I was mocked for it – still am, sometimes (screw you, Steph!) – but I didn’t care. I’d found my thing and it mattered to me more than anything.

That thing is now twenty years old and still touching lives. How freaking crazy is that? THAT is what I aim for in my art. And that is what I am forever thankful to Joss Whedon for.

Aloud All This Week

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2017 – which is tomorrow: Wednesday 8th March – Women Aloud NI have once again put together a fantastic program of events. Below are just the ones I’m involved with, with many more listed on their website.

Feel free to come along – both men and women are welcome to join the audience.

Wednesday 8th:

Saturday 11th:

  • A Reading on the Train to Dublin! – 8am Enterprise Service leaving Belfast Central
  • Readathon at the Irish Writers’ Centre (this one isn’t open to the public)
  • Mass Reading – Outside the Irish Writers’ Centre, 3.30pm (please flock to this one if you can, it should be quite impressive!)

Catching Up

Taking a break from things can be great – it has been for me, the past few weeks (now that I’ve actually got a handle on resting!) – but there is the unfortunate side-effect of life carrying on without you while you’re gone, meaning there’s plenty of new things to come back to. There’s also the thing about everything taking much longer than you expect (it’s not just me who experiences this phenomenon, right?).

Point is, I’m only now starting to get back on track with things after my honeymoon. Catching up with reading, writing, client work, housework (god, does the housework EVER end?!), trying to maintain a social life, making lists… things like that (can you tell my brain’s already feeling fried?). *insert cliche joke about needing a holiday to recover from your holiday*

Anyway, that’s pretty much where I’m at: catching up. At the end of this month (March) I’ll probably put together a mega-post about everything I’ve been writing and reading since the start of the year (no, I haven’t forgotten and yes, I have still been keeping notes).

Going forward, there are a lot of events coming up that I’m taking part in (details here), so please check that out.

Peace and love!


P.S. As of February, I have now been blogging for ten years. How cool is that? Happy blog birthday to me!

My Name…

If you’ve known me since before university (when I made the change from Elaine to Ellie) or have seen that I have two different names listed on Facebook, you may be confused about what to call me. Here’s a breakdown:

Ellie Rose McKee – my pen name.

Elaine McKee – my birth name (note: no official middle name)

Lady Elaine McKee – what my legal name became after one of my best friends bought me a token title.

Lady Elaine Herron – updated legal name to reflect my new surname. Which is to say… I GOT MARRIED!!  🙂   😎  😆

I am, of course, deeply excited about this development and can’t wait to update all my official documents. But, all that said: please call me Ellie.

This has been a public service announcement 🙂

A Mental Health Issue

After I wrote my previous blog post, I decided to cut myself off from social media – cold turkey. The theory was that it was a distraction holding me back from writing. Not a crazy theory, really. But in the few days that I’ve been offline, have I managed any more time for writing? No. No, I have not. Pretty much the first thing I did was have a major energy crash. Then I was hit with some stressful personal stuff, and then I had to pick myself up and get back on with life – housework, business stuff, wedding stuff.

I’ve said before that I do a lot, and that I’m really hard on myself, but I think I’ve come to realize just how bad that is. I am getting married in a week, I should not be stressing about my novel. The last thing I need is more pressure.

I mean, yes, it has been frustrating me for a very long time how long it’s taking me to get this novel down and out into the world, but novels take time. It’s a fact of life.

For some people they take more time, and for some people they take less time, but for everyone they take time. Why should I expect myself to be one of the people who can power through a first draft in a week? It’s nuts, and it’s not helpful. I think, actually, it’s the opposite of helpful.

That’s a thing that has been more clear to others than myself, it seems, as I’ve been told to consider coaching, counseling, and – y’know – taking an actual break.

I’ve just had so much going on in my head, and my life (did I mention I’m sick on top of all this?), I was too busy to stop and really take in what I was hearing. Maybe being away from Facebook and Twitter has helped me with that if nothing else. But I’m listening now. I’m breathing.

I still want to focus on my writing, but mostly I am breathing.

I’m going to enjoy my wedding and my honeymoon. I have it on good authority that the world will not end if I do. My book will be waiting for me when I get back.

Over the past month I’ve gone from up to down to round and round and back up down and round again. Maybe it’s winter getting to me again. I realized in Autumn 2016 that the lack of sunlight affects me a lot more than I’d previously realized. And, outside of that, I’ve always been very… ‘moody’ isn’t the best way to describe it. It’s more like a minor case of bi-polar disorder, truth be told. There are highs where I think I can do everything, but there are mostly lows in which I beat myself up about not meeting the ridiculous standards I set for myself while I was on top of the world.

I’m sorry if documenting that journey here and across Facebook and Twitter has made anyone else’s head spin and/or made you worried about me. My partner has been very good at talking me through so much of this. And I’d like to say I have it all figured out and am all better now, but no one is ever all better for good.

I’m okay for now, though, and that’s enough.

Still writing, still breathing. Also taking breaks.

Glow!

Meet Glo.

Glo is an artist. Or she would be, if she ever got started.

She has all the inspiration.

All the plans.

 

Glo gets caught up in doing lots of little, unimportant things.

Glo frustrates the f*ck out of her friends.

They can see everything she’s got to give, but all they hear are her excuses.

I’m gonna stop being like Glo.

 


My name means light. I have a coaster somewhere that says that. It also says that I have so much potential, I can’t be pinned down, and I never get anything finished. Well SCREW THAT!

From here, every time I get pissed at people like Glo, I’m gonna use that energy to go out and hit my targets and stop being such a damn hypocrite.

Yes, I love art. And photography. And animals. And precisely six-point-two-five million other things.

I know logically I can’t become an expert in all of them, so the logical thing is to stop and focus on one thing, maybe dabbling in other things along the way, and maybe giving something else my full energy and attention when I’m done making it as a writer. But I’m gonna be a writer first.

Now begins the season of quality over quantity.

Glo’s gonna keep me right.

New Book Editions for 2017

I’ve been working on a new set of covers for my back catalog of poetry and short story books, which you can see below.

In addition, I’ve quietly relaunched the poems from my youth, am in the process of bringing out a new book of micropoetry I wrote towards the end of last year, while starting work on a second micropoetry collection that I plan to spend all of this year compiling.

Once proof copies have been received and approved, I will be updating links here on ellierosemckee.com.

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