My regular readers and followers will know that I frequently write for mental health. I’m also aware that this often turns people off too.
“Oh great, she’s going on about depression again.”
“Why does she always focus on the serious stuff?”
“She must be pretty unstable if she has to keep focusing on all that.”
I “go on about it” because it’s incredibly important to me, and because I believe that one of the best ways to change things that aren’t working, is to address our challenges and to talk about them.
I’ve not been my best self recently. I’ve been demotivated and anxious, and I had failed to kept up with my daily writing routine. I felt like it wasn’t bringing me the level of joy I had become accustomed to. I wasn’t sure why at first, but I also recognised that I had been giving out a lot of energy, without feeling like I was getting any in return. I wasn’t feeling seen for what I was doing. As a result, I’d lost sight of my real purpose and goals.
Amanda Palmer talks in her book “The Art of Asking” about the basic human need to be seen by others.
“There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen. When you are looked at, your eyes can be closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight. When you are seen, your eyes must be open, and you are seeing and recognising your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light. One is exhibitionism, the other is connection. Not everybody wants to be looked at. Everybody wants to be seen.”
I had fallen into the trap of believing others were “stealing” my energy. Merely taking what I was offering them and giving nothing in return. This wasn’t true, my self-doubt demons were whispering in my mind and making me think the worst.
I am a Wild Woman. I am connected with myself and I recognise and understand the many paths my life journey has led me along. I am done with asking for permission to take up space. I don’t believe you measure your own self worth by the opinions of others. I believe in living your life with authenticity and integrity, and that you become a better person by lifting others up not by putting them down. I don’t listen to people who tell me what I cannot do, and how people treat me or respond to me says nothing about me and absolutely everything about them. I also know most people — myself included — are works in progress. I try to always be kind, or at least strive to understand others’ motivations.
I am a Wild Woman, I know this without a doubt, but I’m no Wonder Woman. I’m still human, and I still fail sometimes.
I realised that not only was my writing not enriching me in the way it used to, I had stopped exercising and moving physically as much as I did. My daily routine always involved me reading or catching up with a good TV show while hula hooping in the morning. I’d been under the weather, I had a cold, it was as good an excuse as any to “take it easy”. Except, when I got better, I didn’t return to my routine. I got a lot of headaches, especially in the morning, one almost every day. I was starting to worry that something might be wrong with me. I felt constantly tired and I wasn’t getting outside enough. I wasn’t walking around and getting fresh air. I was squirrelling myself away at home, hiding behind a computer screen, being “busy”. Except my being busy also seemed to end up becoming some strange form of self-flagellation while worrying about what people thought of me. Tweeting excessively but getting no likes. Refreshing the browser just in case I’d missed something. All the many toxic things I turned my back on when I gave up Facebook.
Social media can be amazing. It can inspire, connect, heal and educate. It can also be a heaving cesspit of narcissism, trolls and and irrational behaviour. I don’t want to get into a larger discussion about social media, but for me, and knowing my own personality and behavioural traits, it is not always a very pleasant place for me to play. For me, right now, “The only winning move is not to play.” (WarGames, 1983) I am still working on strategies where I can use the positive parts of social media without getting sucked in completely.
And so, I had realised I needed to clear my head, and get rid of the ball of anxiety which seemed to be turning my stomach to stone every day. I took a walk on the beach.
Whenever I need to quieten my mind, or just get a sense of myself again, I go to the sea. The sea doesn’t care who you are or what you do — it can be beautiful and calm, or mighty and terrifying. It just does as it wants, and it needs no validation. I can identify with that. It’s the same feeling I get when I get up somewhere really high. It puts everything in perspective and gives me space to focus. If you want to get a sense of that feeling, watch Carl Sagan’s “The Pale Blue Dot” on YouTube https://youtu.be/GO5FwsblpT8
The sun was bright but the wind was bitter, I had to keep walking to stay warm. It was late in the day and the sun dipped towards the ocean, bathing everything in a strange yet peaceful light. I walked to the rocks at the far side of the beach and watched the waves flick up and over their jagged edges. I found pieces of smooth beach glass, which always makes me smile, and I held it in my palm as I walked. I stopped, and breathed deep. I let go of all my negative thoughts. I felt fully seen by the elements and the land.
This morning I returned to my usual exercise routine. I felt so much better for doing it. I chose turmeric tea over coffee and I didn’t get a morning headache for once. I turned off Twitter and logged out of everything else, and sat down and wrote for a while. All those old feelings of joy returned. Satisfaction through artistic development and my personal creative journey. I felt more like myself again. Not so stretched. Balanced and more calm.
Recognising your unhealthy behaviours can be a necessary and important process, just as any self-care is essential to you. I’d fallen into a very common trap of expecting to gain validation through the opinions of others. Letting comments and likes dictate how I felt. It made me miserable, and unfulfilled. Because, ultimately, I know that while support and praise are wonderful, you cannot be emotionally satisfied if you pin all your happiness on that which others give you. You have to give it to yourself too. Recognise your achievements and celebrate how far you’ve come. Because if that attention is not forthcoming, or is lacking in some way, it can be far too easy for you to convince yourself you’ve failed. And that’s simply not true.
I write about writing for wellness, because without it, when I stop writing, I stop being well. I don’t have to write *about* mental health, to be writing *for* it. I write to bring focus to myself and my experiences, to put things into proper perspective so that I can acknowledge and assess the impact those experiences have had on me. I write because sometimes it is easier to put my thoughts on paper than to verbalise them, especially if those words are difficult to say. I recognise that writing every day helps me challenge my anxieties, release tension and frustration in my mind and body, and brings order to my daily routine.
I am “well written”. I write to feel well, and it works.