Being Emotionally Honest

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week and all week I’ve been wanting and meaning to write something to share with you, my lovely readers. But I’ve had a funny mental health week and have just not quite been in the right frame of mind. I’ve felt edgy, restless and anxious, as if something is bubbling just under my surface. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.

When anxiety starts to prickle like this, I try to acknowledge the feeling. In the past, I used to work hard to ignore it, or would make myself feel guilty about it, which only made things worse. It has taken a surprising amount of effort to reach a point where I can allow myself to just feel what I feel, without judgement. Like much else in life, there always seem to be ‘should’s and ‘must’s crowding in, making me feel bad about my feelings, wants and needs. But by acknowledging the truth of what I’m feeling, without trying to tell myself I should feel something different, I’m far more able to deal with those emotions. This is true of more than just anxiety.

Emotions are human. And as humans we experience a full spectrum. It’s no good trying to repress what might be seen as ‘negative’ emotions. If you feel angry, be angry; if you feel resentful, be resentful; if you feel sad, be sad. These aren’t necessarily pleasant things to feel but feel them we do. If, when one of these emotions crops up, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be angry, or we should be grateful, or we have no right to be sad, we are denying some of the truth of ourselves. And the real truth is that you can’t force an emotion away. You can pretend. You can try to bury it in falsehood. But that emotion will still be there and, if you let it, it will fester.

Like a festering wound, a festering emotion can make you very ill indeed. You have to let the ‘bad’ stuff out if you ever want to heal. One of the things that I used to worry about a lot was how my emotions might make other people feel. When something or someone made me angry, I didn’t want to be angry with them in case it upset them, especially if that person was someone I loved, who loved me, and who I knew probably didn’t mean to make me angry. When something or someone made me resentful, I didn’t want to behave resentfully towards them, and when something or someone (or often nothing) made me sad, I didn’t want to show that sadness because I thought my privileged life meant I had no right to be sad. But by being so focused on what other people might feel in response I put myself in some really dark and painful places. And the thing is, allowing yourself to feel what you feel isn’t about rubbing it in someone’s face. You don’t have to take the festering wound and smear it on the person who accidentally gave you a paper cut, or whose success distracted you from what you were doing so you accidentally gave yourself one.

It takes a conscious effort but I will now (most of the time) deal with those emotions in one of two ways: I will acknowledge it out loud or in writing, just to myself; or if it’s really eating at me, I will speak to a friend or family member who is outside the situation and, as honestly as I can, explain what I’m feeling. These acknowledgements are usually prefaced with lots of ‘I know I’m really lucky to have X, Y and Z, BUT…’ or ‘I feel like I’m being a bitch/ungrateful/overreacting, BUT…’. With the effort of being honest about my feelings, to someone else in particular, comes the need to qualify that I know I speak from a place of privilege. The process at the moment is still partly one if seeking approval for what I’m feeling, which I hope to move beyond eventually. But this has been a huge step forward for me because I used to keep everything I considered vaguely negative bottled up inside. I would not allow myself to be imperfect in my emotions. I would not allow myself to be human.

What I have found is that once I have acknowledged whatever it is out loud, I either feel better immediately and am able to move on, or it gets me to a place where I can then address the person/situation with a greater degree of honesty and clarity. My feelings will usually have subsided to a point where I can express them in what feels like a reasonable and healthy way. It’s a work in progress and sometimes it still takes me a while to realise I’m letting something fester, but I can feel the difference this has made to my emotional life.

I’m also getting much better at self-care and making time every most days to check in with myself and have a moment of honesty. Some of my favourite ways to do this are by reading, listening to a podcast, taking photographs, writing and journaling. Here’s what that looks like currently:

Reading:

The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Circe by Madeline Millar

(I know, I know, four books at once seems a lot. I always tend to have a lot of books on the go because I’m such a mood reader!)

Listening To:

The Happy Place

The Guilty Feminist

Harry Potter and The Sacred Text

The Quibbler

Made of Human

Photographing:

Books

Nature

My dog!

Writing:

Poetry

Blog posts

A young adult fantasy novel…

Journaling:

Quotes

Doodles

Tracking sleep, mood, steps

Daily gratitude

This Mental Health Awareness Week, and beyond, I encourage you to be emotionally honest with yourself, make the time for self care, and help continue the conversation about mental health, whether online, with friends and family, or even with strangers.

What do you think is important for maintaining mental health?

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The Joy of A Moment

Yesterday, I walked in the spring sunshine with snow swirling round me on a wintry wind. I watched my spaniel companion try to catch snowflakes in her mouth and leap amongst the tussocks with sheer joy and abandon. I had taken my kindle with me because I was so engrossed in my current read (A Thousand Perfect Notes by C G Drews), and so I walked through two worlds, alternately losing myself in the music woven into the words of the story and revelling in the beauty of the snowy, sunny, spring world around me. I had the works of some of my favourite composers playing in my ears, the twining melodies and harmonies lifting me from the inside and somehow heightening the many and varied beauties around me. All these little, everyday things, in which I found such delight, came together, as I reached a small rise at the edge of the field, and I felt a profound moment of joy and peace.

In the chaos of everyday life, and particularly through the struggles of coping with mental illness, it is so easy to forget what an exquisitely beautiful place the world is, and just how miraculous it is that we exist at all. As the height of that poignant moment passed, and settled into a quiet contentment, I found myself wishing I had a way to catch that peace and carry it with me, a way to hold it inside me somehow and bring it out when I needed it.

I have a lot of joy in my life. I am exceptionally lucky in my friends and family, my love and livelihood. And yet I sometimes lose myself. I become mired in worry and fear and an unfounded conviction that life is just too difficult and I can’t do it, despite evidence to the contrary. I have come to realise that this is one of the reasons I write – one of the reasons I want to write more: so I can capture those moments of joy and peace, and so hold on to them. So I can capture those moments of panic and fear, and so let them go. Writing has the magical property of allowing me to do both.

I have recently been practising (albeit sporadically) mindful writing, a concept I discovered through the book ‘The Joy of Mindful Writing’ by Joy Kenward. I have found it invaluable in helping me focus on those small moments and recalling past joys. I have found that the exercises help me feel centred – in a way that other mindful practices have not – and have the dual benefit of getting me to write and getting me to engage in some meditative practice. If you’re looking for a way to combine creativity, particularly writing, with mindfulness, I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

I really just wanted to write this today as a reminder, both to myself and to anyone who happens to be reading, that there is joy to be found in the everyday, even when life is hard or the world seems dark or you just feel lost. When you notice it, do what you can to catch it and carry it with you.

Wishing you all a peaceful week.

It’s #TimeToTalk – What Is Normal?

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Image found here.

When we are struggling with mental health it is easy to fall into the trap of wishing to be ‘normal’. Wishing to be like everyone else. Believing that because we struggle we are somehow not normal. Well normal is an illusion. What is ‘normal’ for the spider is chaos for the fly. The ‘normal’ we think we see everyone else enjoying is quite probably not what it seems at all. It’s very possible that the person who’s normal you envy is looking at your in jealousy of your ‘normal’. Don’t get sucked into craving something that doesn’t exist. Life is complicated enough without that.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.
x

Searching For an Anchor

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I am tossed back and forth on stormy seas.
Certainty,
Fear,
Inadequacy,
Elation,
Inspiration,

Buffeted by indecision,

Buoyed up by hope.

Too many winds to follow.
They fight for attention,
Brewing up a storm in the
Tiny,
Infinite spaces
In my head.

In my heart.

The mundane and the magical,
Are one.
Both will bring sunshine and clouds
To this beautiful chaos of mine.

My compass spins,
I am directionless,
And full steam ahead.

Soar with gulls in cloudless skies,
Go with the flow
And swim against the current.

I am the raging squall.

I am the lull.

I am searching for an anchor.

For a moment
Of pause
Inside this invisible chaos.
It is beautiful,

But

I’m tired
And searching for an anchor.

The Year Draws On…

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It’s getting colder, and busier. Which must mean it’s nearly Christmas. This poor little corner of the internet has been very neglected as we try and get through all the DIY bits that need finishing, the presents that need wrapping, the super busy time at work, Christmas dos, visiting friends and family and all the other lovely exciting chaos this time of year brings. I will, at some point, get round to sharing some of then exciting things that have been going on, but for now I hope you are enjoying all the anticipation of December and wish you the happiest of festive seasons.

The Best Sort of Busy

Well the chaos has definitely been thriving over here the last few weeks, which as you may have noticed means my lovely little corner of the blogosphere has been rather quiet.

So I thought I’d give you a little insight into my current busyness, just to reassure you I’m still here…

Buying our first house is well underway now, it’s very exciting and scary and expensive! We can’t wait for it all to go through and finally have a home of our own to play with. What do you think of the first page of our mood board book?

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Work has been busy busy busy, filled with lots of ups and downs and feeling uncertain. It’s been tough but I think things are working themselves out. The Easter holidays was going to be the time to plan lots of lovely blog things but I was too poorly the first week to do much other than sleep, which inevitably then meant the second week was filled up with seeing friends and cleaning the house! Hence all the ad hoc blogging and the quietness.

I’ve been on a bit of a book series binge over the lat few weeks having read the entire Mortal Instruments series, the Mistborn Trilogy, the first two books of the Stormlight Archive and now onto the third. I am inhaling books. And I love it!

I’ve made a start on another page in my art journal, which I’ll share when it’s done, and made a bit of jewellery as well…

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Lovely leaf earrings…

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…and a little lightbulb necklace!

So life is currently filled with the best sort of busy and I’m keeping track of it all through my #100happydays posts on Facebook. When I reach the end of the hundred days I think I’ll do a blog post showing all of them together.

I hope all your days are happy and busy as well. 🙂

Silence.

Today I don’t really have words. There seems to be a lot going on, and somehow not very much at the same time.

There is both chaos and silence behind my eyes.

I tried to think of something to post, something to share, something to write. But all I kept getting was a buzzing in my ears.

So apart from these few words of nothingness I’m leaving the page blank.

Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.