The Seeds of Doubt Fire Us All

Reading the Metro this morning, more details have emerged of the death of comedian Robin Williams, following his suspect suicide on Monday. The star apparently slashed his wrists before hanging himself with a belt, after suffering with severe depression.

Having experienced depression myself for many years, I know how it feels, and it has taken me to some dark places. One of the things that shocked me most was upon telling my doctor about these dark moments, they were dismissed as nothing. I guess nobody ever really listens until you turn up dead with a tag on your toe. By which point it is too late.

Before you get worried, I have never been tempted by these moments. There is a strength inside me, something that has always been there, and I hope will always remain. But that doesn’t mean that life is not so very difficult, because it is. Depression is a dilapidating illness which snatches your self confidence and makes you doubt yourself and your abilities to do even the smallest things in life. Sometimes I wonder how I can write a whole book when I can’t even be bothered to write a blog. Or something even simpler like brush my teeth.

Right now I am battling the seeds of doubt. I feel more lost in life than ever and I don’t know what to do or where to go. This gets me down, and frustrates me beyond belief.

One thing that Robin’s death has inspired me with is the fact that there are six films which will be released posthumously. Six. Wow. The papers report that he was taking film and TV roles he didn’t want to pay the bills, mainly caused by his two divorces. Whatever his reasons, I don’t doubt that they will display his talents and showcase what he was good at: making people laugh. He was still doing, to a degree, what he was passionate about, even during his most difficult times.

Because people do battle through depression, and many creative types suffered for their art. Virginia Woolf is considered one of the greatest women writers, although she ended her life by filling her coat pockets with stones and drowning herself, putting an end to not only that great talent but to her mental suffering.

I still need to learn to harness my depression for my creativity. This blog helps that, but occasionally it will draw out the worst in me, like the three-line blog Little Miss Grumpy that I wrote on Monday. But short blogs like that are not so much art; they are more like Facebook posts. They really do nothing to enhance my creative self. I want my writing to inspire people; to laugh, to cry, to feel brave.

Life is a journey, and depression is a travelling companion that never leaves your side. You may occasionally get a break from it, while it goes on an excursion that may take it days, weeks or years, but it will always leave its passport in you, a stamp that promises you it will be back one day. I dream of the day that I can purge that passport completely out of my life.

For now I take inspiration from those who provide their creativity for us all to enjoy, and hope that one day I can follow in their great footsteps, without my most persistent travelling companion following me.

Jogga-Blog No. 4 and 5: AKA The Return of 33andlostinlife

Out of all the titles you could possibly have expected me to pick for my first blog post in almost two months, I bet you didn’t expect to see the words “Jogga-Blog”.  In fact, this is the fourth and fifth Jogga-Blog combined, because my first London-based jog occurred on Thursday evening.  While afterwards I was most pleased with myself, the closest I got to blogging about the experience was thinking about it.  Well, you know what they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Today I was up early, so I decided to take advantage of the nice morning, before the heat became too overbearing, and take myslf off on another jog.  Once round the park without stopping this time.  I was most impressed with myself.

You may be wondering why it has taken me so long to write another blog post since the publication of The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 1.  I’ll do my best to fill you in on what has happened in my life over the last seven weeks, and from then onwards I shall attempt to keep you updated on a more regular basis.

I managed to find a lovely flat in West London, which I’ve settled into now.  My “housemates” are slightly older than me, but it’s nice to be with people who are full of stories from their lives.  I love listening to them talking, because it gives me inspiration for writing.  While this is the first time I’ve put virtual pen to paper in some time, I’ve been jotting down notes in my mind.  My little notebook that I use for my writing ideas got dusted off the other day, and I’m delighted to say that some of my ideas made it onto the page.  But I finally feel like my creative juices are starting to flow, which makes me happy because the pipes have been clogged for some time. Now though, that all my university work is finished, I can write for pleasure, without having to worry about deadlines, and I am thrilled that my ideas may finally find a place in the world.

It took me a while, but in mid-June I finally found a temp job, working in the Head Office of a high-end retail company.  The office is located only four tube stops from where I live, so the commute takes around 30 minutes door-to-door, which is not too bad considering I work with people who commute up to four hours a day.  The work is very similar to what I did in the NHS, analysing data, but instead of patients, it’s handbags and high heels.  I had a job interview for a writing position for one of these Daily-Deal websites just before I was offered this post.  While I was slightly disappointed not to have got the job, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that, for now, I’m happy with a nine-to-five job that I can do without having to stress out over it, where the people are nice and the commute isn’t too long.  I can get work on getting my finances back into a manageable condition, and use my free time to do what I have wanted to do for so long: write.  This job is temp to perm, which means it may become permanent in a few months.

You may be wondering why I bothered to do a degree in American Studies, if I was only to get a job the same as what I was doing before.  Well I got my degree results the other day, and I will graduate from the University of Lincoln in September with an upper second-class honours, or a 2:1.  This is reflective of the work I’ve done over the last four years, and while last year I may have been disappointed not to have received a first-class honours, right now I am just glad to have made it to the end with some sense of sanity.  When I started my degree, my life was very different, and what I want to gain out of a degree now is not necessarily the same as it was when I enrolled back in September 2009.  While I would still love to have the opportunity to work in America, I am learning to pick and choose my fights, and the opportunities for someone like myself to make the USA my home are slim.  What I’d rather do is focus on what I want to do, which is writing, rather than where I want to do it.  Days like today, where the weather is 26 degrees centigrade (79 Fahrenheit), and the forecast for the next six days is much the same, I’m more than happy to be in London, which is like a little greenhouse full of heat, where I can spend my lunchtimes sunning myself in the park, and the early evenings in the garden.

So I have somewhere to live, a job, and lots more time on my hands.  One thing I don’t have, is a relationship.  As you know if you’ve spent any time with me or my blog, that is high on my list of wants.  Right now, as much as I’d love to meet someone, I don’t have the money to spend on dates, or buying new clothes for dates.  But that is ok, because knowing myself as I do, it would be wrong to rush into finding someone, and people do always say it happens when you don’t expect it.  I can enjoy settling myself into my new life, and eyeing up the hot guys on the tube…

For now, life is good.  This chapter is still very new to me, and I’m very much finding my feet.  I’ve put on weight since my arrival, hence my desire to jog, and knowing that I won’t be able to afford to join a gym until possibly later in the year, I’m going to have to rely on my own resources and free exercise such as jogging and walking, in the tree-lined areas close to where I live and work.  By the end of September, I will have graduated from university, signaling the true end of the previous chapter of my life; potentially have secured a permanent job, and have made myself financially stable.  All the key ingredients for the basis of a happy life, on which I can build the foundations of the me I’ve wanted to become.  Please join me as the journey continues.  I’ve missed talking to you guys.



The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 33

I hold my hands up.  I’m rubbish at this getting-blogs-done-on-time crap.  This blog is now over twelve hours late, and I have no excuse.

However, yesterday, I did manage to get a fair bit of dissertation work done.  I knocked out 400 words and structured it a little more.  That took me all morning and most of the afternoon, but after dinner, I just wasn’t in the mood for more work.  I had intended to pick it up again later in the evening, but my mood had been soured, resulting in watching television and doing puzzles.  I decided around 10pm to get an early night, and took my laptop with me, with the intention of writing the blog before I slept.  But while procrastinating over the blog, I fell asleep, and awoke the next morning with the realisation that I had yet again missed another deadline.

When I woke up yesterday, not having written my blog from the night before, I made writing it the first thing I did.  This seemed to work. I got the blog written and posted and then for the rest of the day worked on my dissertation.  But today, I didn’t do that.  I watched my two episodes of Frasier, and then started working on my dissertation.  I’m writing about women writers, their female protagonists, and the links between, marriage, creativity and self.  I guess I’m trying to find some answers myself.  I’m using two well-known stories (in academia, anyway) from the 1890s,  Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, and comparing them against novels by two contemporary female writers; Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult, and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs.

Yesterday the 400 words I wrote were on the chapter about The Yellow Wallpaper.  A story about a woman, suffering with post-natal depression (although it wasn’t recognised back then) who goes mad, after being locked in an attic by her physician husband.  I can relate to that (the going mad part at least).

The second book I’m using, The Awakening, is about a married woman who leaves her husband and goes on a sexual and emotional journey; an awakening.  This is a journey I too, I have taken, and in fact, am still taking.

This morning I have been working on my favourite novel of them all, Jodi Picoult’s Harvesting the Heart.  Like a modern-day version of The Yellow Wallpaper, maybe a what-happens-next?, Picoult’s character, Paige, leaves her three-month-old son, Max, and husband, Nicholas, and goes on a pilgrimage to find her mother, who left her when she was five.  Harvesting the Heart is about finding the answers, and the journey you must take to do so.  Perhaps the reason I can relate is because my own journey, these last three, well, six years, if I’m honest, has been about finding the answers.  Why do I feel this way?  Where should I be in life?  What should I be doing?  When will I start to feel happy in my own skin?  As I have mentioned before, this chapter is coming to a close, and perhaps that is why I am panicking.  Because I don’t feel like I have all the answers yet.  I have a huge bundle of memories; of good times and bad, of lessons learnt, some easy to grip and some hard to swallow.  But how I put those memories together into one final picture that makes sense; well that is about these last few weeks.  Recently I feel like I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle where most of it is done, but all that is left is a hundred little bits of blue sky, that all look the same.  Until recently, I couldn’t face finishing the puzzle because I didn’t know where to start.  But now I seem to have managed to find one piece that fits, and this has given me the push I needed to try and fit the rest.  It’s a painstaking job, though, like my dissertation.  I must take the notes and references I’ve collected so far and put them into a piece of work that flows; from the introduction, through all four chapters, to the final conclusion.  This is the story of my life over the last six years, and it’s time to read back over it, and see what I’ve learned.

A Gate at the Stairs, is as the title suggests, about confinement.  But it is also a story about identity and about not making the same mistakes.  Learning, from past mistakes.  Tonight I must get my blog written on time.  If I want to move forward, I need to learn that self-discipline.  I cannot keep making the same mistakes, or how will I ever move on?

The ‘Why Can’t I Sleep?’ Blog

Captain’s log, star date 13 September 2012, 5:18am.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been awake at such a ridiculous hour.  It’s very rare these days that I am able to enjoy sleeping right through the night.  My six month old nephew sleeps longer than I do.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s 3am (and I must be lonely, in the words of Matchbox Twenty), 4am or 5am, these days, I wake up at a random hour, but just can’t get back to sleep.  Luckily for me, I am a Lady of Leisure, or so my Facebook profile says; most days I do not have to be out the house any earlier than 11am.  With the exception of Thursdays, where for the last few weeks I’ve been dragging my sorry ass out of my pit to sit in on Alex Lewczuk’s Midweek Drive Morning Edition show on Siren FM for 8am…well, 8:05 or 8:15.  Timekeeping is not my best quality.

So, anyway, I wake up at ridiculous o’clock, can’t sleep so end up reading a book, or doing a Puzzler, after firstly checking, in order, 1) Hotmail 2) Facebook 3) Twitter.  The only problem, of course, which isn’t really a problem, more of an “I love you but…”, is that with having so many international friends, if they see you on Facebook or Twitter, will inevitably strike up a conversation with you, which is fine for them at 11pm; not so much for me at 4am.  But, even without international friendly conversations, it is usually an hour or so which passes before I can switch off my lamp and go back to sleep, making it impossible to wake before, say, the more reasonable hour (for a Lady of Leisure), of 10am.

Anydoos, I guess there could be many reasons for my awakedness.  Firstly, I am starting back at university in less than two weeks (hooray!).  As you may know, I suspended my final year at university last December, and since then, have been trying to find the motivation and concentration I was lacking previously, in order to successfully complete that elusive final year.  In fact, not really even a year; by this time in May, I hope, no, I WILL, to use my Life Coach Jon’s positive thinking, be on a jet plane flying far away.

Secondly, perhaps my life is just far too exciting to sleep for too long?  Tuesday saw the return of our The American Dream Team radio show, after a three-week summer break.  We were lucky enough to have crime writer John Connolly joining us in the studio, who was in Lincoln promoting two of his new books, after I contacted him about an interview.  I also have another well-known American band whose lead singer has agreed to an interview; I am just waiting for his management to get back to me with dates.  In my attempt to be more organised, guests for the show are being lined up well in advance of each show, with the well-known names being not just an exciting experience for us, but something I can put on my CV, in an attempt to impress those publishing types with whom I shall be applying for jobs after graduation.

Thirdly…well IS there a third? After two and a half years, I have finally submitted divorce papers to the court.  It’s not something I particularly wanted to drag out, more a point of trying to justify the money for the court fees.  After finally finding out I’m eligible for fee remission, I submitted papers twice, which were sent back twice, asking for more evidence.  I’ll have that shortly, but for now, the fee is paid, the papers are in, and that part of my life can finally come to a close.

I almost deleted the sentence above (and the one that follows) which begins “After two and a half years…”.  I got as far as highlighting them, but just couldn’t delete them.  On the bed, next to me, is Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty: An American History, in readiness for when I finish this blog, and open up my dissertation.  My dissertation; which has a new working title of “Women’s Literature: Confinement of Marriage vs Creativity and Self”.  Tucked into Give Me Liberty, is an A4 sheet of paper; a copy of an address, which prominent women’s suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave to the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress on January 18, 1892, some 120 years ago.  In it, she talks about women’s rights, as an individual, a citizen, a woman and lastly, in her capacity of “incidental relations”, such as mother, wife, sister and daughter.  She asked the Committee to give women the right to education; “for the full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear – the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life.”

It is thanks to women like Stanton that I write this blog, that I co-host a radio show, that I am undertaking a Bachelor’s degree (although I would like to request that this be renamed in this new world where women are equal).  It is thanks to those women who stood up for women’s rights, who dared to allow women to be the holders of their own destiny.  I do not regret getting married, nor the ten years we spent together.  But I have learned, in order to have my own creativity and self, I need to not be afraid to be honest about how I feel about things in my life.  I am getting divorced; yes I have waited longer than I might have liked, but finally, that chapter is coming to a close, ready for me, for both of us, to start new chapters in our now separate lives.

I can’t say for certain whether any of the above issues are why I can’t sleep.  But insomnia aside, here I am writing another blog entry, another opportunity for me to work on my creativity and self.  Before getting back to looking at those women writers before me, who paved the way in literary history, to do exactly what I am doing in real life.