Lincoln and What Happened There

***Trigger warnings apply to this post. Please read at your own discretion. 

My recent post about my time in Lincoln has got me thinking about a lot of stuff that happened back then. It’s things I’ve touched on elsewhere, previously, but not really something I’ve gone into detail about to any great extent.

I want to go into it now.

At some point, I want to really delve in and talk about my childhood as there’s: A, a lot to say there, and B, it gives so much context to all of this. For now, though, I will preface by saying I had very limited experience of life and/or the “real world” when I went to uni. I had very few social skills and even fewer social graces. It’s not that I wanted to be rude, or anything, I just literally didn’t know any better. Having had just one friend in high school can kind of leave you blinkered to what’s acceptable. But anyway, the point is I was fairly clueless. So there was a steep learning curve.  Continue reading

Things I Wish I’d Known About Counselling

I finished a series of counselling sessions recently which I found very helpful. I’ve had good counselling experiences before that, too, but I’ve also bad ones. Because of this, and because getting help can be a daunting experience, I wanted to impart some advice. So, here’s some things that I feel should be common knowledge but aren’t, necessarily:

1. There are different types of counselling

There can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to mental health because we’re individuals and all of our issues are entirely unique. When most people think about counselling, they imagine sitting talking through their issues, either one by one as they occur to them, or as a kind of word vomit that they’ll then sift through (hey, no one said it would be pretty). This is ‘talk therapy’ and it’s what I personally prefer, but there are a million other ways of doing things. Some will suit you, some won’t. Some are best suited to dealing with different kinds of things, it depends what you want out of therapy. If you want to change or stop a destructive habit, for example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) might be for you.  Continue reading

On Headspace

It’s been just over a month since I published a blog post about having limited time/energy and how that finally made me decide to cut out some things from my day-to-day.

Before that, I had been trying to cut back on my responsibilities for a long time, gradually decreasing the number of hours I spent volunteering and doing client work; because I was strongly aware I was doing too much but couldn’t find another way to live. I can’t think how many times I burned out just in the past two years.

For a while, it seemed like I was going to be permanently exhausted no matter how much I tried to lessen my load, because it was still too much. Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. Well so, it seemed, did my calendar. Before I even began a month, it would be filled with so many appointments and events that I felt exhausted just looking at it. Not exactly the best start.

The problem, I think, was the mental energy my responsibilities were taking more so than the physical work or literal hours. I get anxious, and everything seems worse in my head. Overwhelmed became my state of being.

So how’s it been, now that I’ve gone from trying to do less to literally giving up some of my roles? In a word: amazing. Finally, my calendar is under control and I can actually think straight. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference it’s made to both my mental health and to my writing.

What a novelty, I can actually write! You know, that thing that was always supposed to be my main priority and the main reason I tried to do all of the other things to “support” it.

The number of blog posts I’ve been able to write in the past month alone speaks volumes. They’re like my journal to the world, bringing all of my thoughts and feelings into a single narrative and making sense of them. There’s a direct correlation: if I’m blogging a lot, my mind is processing things well and not just stuck on sending out distress calls.

The way I was[n’t] functioning before was counterproductive. Now I’m back to being productive, and nothing makes me happier than getting shit done.

Lesson learned; experiment successful. Yay me!

Inconveniently Ill

I feel a bit all over the place. There’s a lot of cool and exciting things going on for me at the minute, as well as in the long term, and that’s obviously great, but I’ve also found myself in this headspace where I can’t fully appreciate it. Maybe I’ve come into a new season of depression, maybe I’m burnt out again, or – I was considering this option earlier – maybe I’m feeling stressed about this busy month because I know how stressful such times have been in the past and I’m really only feeling it because I expected to feel it, in a placebo kind of way.

I don’t know.

What I can tell you is that I’m exhausted, and a bit nauseated; I have a clouded mind that can’t quite seem to settle, and the physical health issue from the start of the year that I mentioned previously still ongoing.

When I said in my new year’s resolutions that I wanted to deal with my health in 2018, I didn’t mean this.

But I’m not here to bitch and moan. What I want to highlight it what it’s like being in this weird state where I’m both happy and sad. For those who haven’t experienced mental health issues, it might sound a bit ridiculous. That’s because it is. But it’s also 100% a thing that can actually happen.

On the one hand, I had a brilliant few days with Women Aloud NI that I’ll probably remember for years to come. But, on the other hand, while I was having those great, positive experiences, I was really struggling.

When I get exhausted like this, my emotions go haywire. I find myself forcing myself not to cry at, well, nothing. There is no logical reason for me to be upset. That only makes how I feel all the more annoying.

I wrote a tweet along these lines a little while ago, but one of the things people don’t really talk about in terms of illness is just how damn inconvenient it is. It’s unpredictable, and can’t be planned around. That’s a headache in itself.

I care for my husband, which is fine when I’m on top of my game, but when I’m sick, everything falls apart just that little bit.

I don’t want to sit here and complain about my life. Really, I, don’t. I just want to sleep, for like a month, and then get on with it again. That’s where I’m at right now.


Follow Up Post: Weight and Waiting – Health Update (May 2018)

A Long, Long Year

I want to write an update on life and writing and everything quite literally in between, but I’m having trouble knowing where to start…

Flicking through past blog posts, I can see that NaNoWriMo last year didn’t quite go to plan for me. After that, in December 2016, I tried to take a break. That didn’t quite work out either. I’d been so heavily involved in client work, I’d built up a ton of momentum and found the sudden stop incredibly jarring.

Next, the come-down happened. Burn out from doing too much for too long hit me once I finally stopped and took a breath. I think I allowed myself three whole breaths before New Year hit and I was right back to expecting the world from myself.

I wanted to hit 2017 running but found that I couldn’t go straight back into top gear having stopped the engine for a bit. So I beat myself up for a while, wrote a couple of stirring blog posts about how I was determined to do better. And then I got married, which of course was wonderful but also a bit of a whirlwind that left my head spinning. Months of building up to a single event can kind of have that effect.

Home from honeymoon, I told myself ‘this is it, time to be serious now, get back to work for real.’ So I threw myself into the Women Aloud NI events in March. I had a birthday, and then a little bit of a breakdown in which I admitted to the world just how sick my new husband was/is and how burnt out I was still feeling.

I carried on caring for him, and battling the government on his behalf, and trying to keep up the level of client work I’d been doing before, and trying to write and everything else. And the writing was pushed to the side because I didn’t have the time or the energy, and I felt worse and worse about that. (Writing keeps me sane, I swear. When I can’t do it, I really come apart at the seams.)

During that time – May until like September – client work became increasingly stressful and time-consuming to the point where I snapped and couldn’t do it anymore. I had pushed aside practically all of my clients to work on one main contract and it became too much, so I quit, leaving myself with no income from my business.

I actually stopped operating as a business somewhere along the line, knowing that I needed to focus on my craft as an artist.

The lead singer of my favourite band died during this time, too. A big part of the band that had got me through my teenage years without killing myself killed himself. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely think, much less write.

Then a big relief came when my husband won his welfare appeals, and we finally were able to get the pet we’ve always wanted.

And then I got swept up in launching Belfast Writers’ Group’s two new short story anthologies.

And now I’m here, about to start NaNoWriMo 2017. I had hoped that I would be going into this year’s writing challenge with the backing of the Arts Council, but I have just gotten word that they have turned down my application for funding.

So, I’m going to redraft my novel anyway; not doing much client work or taking a wage besides. I am going to write and relax and try not to traverse any further into burn out territory.

Not gonna lie, I’m exhausted before I even begin this next leg of my journey. Please, please wish me luck.

On Getting Help

So, it’s mental health day again. I’ve seen a lot of great posts floating around on the internet – poems and blog posts about what it’s like to have a mental illness, ones intended to inspire and uplift those who are feeling down, and a lot of statuses advising people to reach out and get help if they need it. Which is all great.

Except, what does reaching out and getting help entail, exactly?

While I was at university, I had what I now describe as a breakdown. At the time, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know who I was, what I was doing, or how to stop hurting. Needless to say, it was terrifying.

I had a decent sized social circle, so a lot of people knew I was having problems. Some knew more than others, of course. But no one really knew the full ins and outs of it – how could they, when I didn’t understand it myself?

In a lot of ways, I was crying out for help. And many of them tried to help, but only a few actually did.  Continue reading

All of the Thoughts

I feel seventeen again, and not in a good way.

I’m feeling like I was last September, when the poems were running out of me like blood and my mind was lost in space.

…and it’s all in my head, I think about it over and over again

I can’t stop thinking in song lyrics. Can’t stop thinking.

There’s so much more I want to say about Chester, but I don’t know where to start.

I may not get over this. I mean, Linkin Park have been with me 15+ years. Over half my life.

I may not still be living without them. How do I start to get my head around that?

wake me up, when September ends

Chester

I am devastated. That’s not hyperbole. Not an exaggeration. The death of Chester Bennington has rocked me. I’ve spent the last couple of hours crying.

Every so often a celebrity dies and there is public outcry. Often, a small portion of the population consider such reactions to be ridiculous, as if celebrities don’t count as real people, or as if someone can’t be crushed when someone they’ve never met passes on. Thankfully, most people aren’t as stupid as all that and know that music is one of the most powerful things on the planet and that, through it, singers and songwriters can touch you, and change your life.

Linkin Park changed my life. Again, I don’t care if you just read that as dramatic or whatever. Truly, the music they made saved my life and made it bearable. They have been my favourite band since I first heard them, in my early teens. Along with Buffy, they helped me through such intense highs and lows that are beyond words.

It cost me an absolute fortune, but I got to see the band live when they headlined Download a few years ago. I went on my own, and I sang my heart out, and I didn’t give a shit how it looked. I will treasure that experience for the rest of my life (even if I am kicking myself that I didn’t take any pictures).

I’ve spoken on here in the past about my checkered history with mental health. Many of you reading this will, I’m sure, understand what I’m feeling right now. Part of me is angry that a life is gone, but I know exactly what it’s like to just… not be able to continue.

For those of you with me, let me share some words that have come to mean the world to me:

Weep not for roads untraveled, weep not for sights unseen. May your love never end, and if you need a friend, there’s a seat here alongside me.

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.

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.