I had grand plans for my current and future writing projects. I visualised novels, screenplays and another collection of poetry, thinking it was just a matter of time before these would come to completion. Unfortunately my mental health reminded me that things are always subject to change, that no real plan can really be made.
As it stands at the present moment, I’m no longer able to work on the novels that I had wanted to get published or self-publish and the future ideas that are always calling to me. I’ve written four novels thus far and have been circulating my work with agents, but all of that seems to be a closed door right now.
My works of poetry have also suffered because of my mental health - the pressure I’d put myself under and being unable to compare myself to others, which came with it’s own stresses. The reason I started writing poetry was to have an outlet for my mental health and ironically it’s now having a direct impact on me in that area.
Everything in regards to my writing seems to be up in the air. I’m not sure what’s next. I am going to publish a zine hopefully in the coming weeks, which I had worked on a while back, that will be available from my etsy store. I still write poetry here or there, but it’s about taking it day by day and if these writings inspire another collection or more zines great, if not, I have to be OK with that too.
This phase of my life seems to be a lesson on letting go of expectations and in some ways it’s helping me to be more in present awareness and less in my head all the time. It looks as if this blog is shaping into being a kind of journal, so perhaps I can try and continue posting on here when I’m able to for those who are reading.
Right now I’m thinking of making a post on writing advice. Of course there’s plenty of advice available out there, but I thought it might be nice to share my take on a few things I’ve come across and learned along my creative journey.
until next time…
This week I launched my Patreon page. To some this may not be a big deal and quite a straight-forward thing to do, for me this was terrifying and still is. One thing I’ve always struggled with as a writer and spoken-word artist is putting myself out there. I’m uncomfortable with attention. I’ll need to go into this further to fully explain the extent of which I am.
When I write a Facebook status, tweet, promote myself on Instagram, I’m plagued with anxiety. My mind flows with negative questions and comments that brings up feelings of rejection and failure - its speciality skill is comparing myself to others.
During this time I do my best to withstand these negative effects, though there comes a time — usually days — when my emotions crash and it all becomes too much for me. While promoting myself this past week and making an effort to be more personal on social media, I endured a lot of stress. My mind has been racing almost non stop, as if I’ve had too much caffeine. I’ve been holding out for as long as possible while pushing myself to do things out of my comfort zone and now has come the crash.
I’m so aware how important it is having a constant stream of promotion and interaction with your audience on social media. I’m surrounded by other creators who are doing just this and it’s a constant painful reminder that I’m just not able to, which perpetuates the feelings of failure and comparisons with others.
In the last hour or so before writing this, I’ve been working on my Patreon page ‘About me’ section. I wasn’t satisfied that I got myself across clearly enough and it has seemed to calm me a little by just focusing on something. I’ve tried not to think about posting this for everyone to see, but just write what’s on my mind and what I feel I need to write.
I don’t know where I’m going to go from here. I’ll probably engage in this battle many times and try and try again because this has been the pattern for a while. Perhaps now is the time to just put my energy into being creative - the reason why I decided to write a new blog post (as I watch the French Open tennis and breathe in the lavender steam from my oil diffuser).
It took me years to accept that I wasn't well enough to work due to depression and anxiety. Part of me still hasn’t. I know deep down that I'm more unwell than I want to admit, to even myself.
After a couple years out of work, I got over my shame, embarrassment and pride and applied for Employment Support Allowance benefits. Within months I was booked in for a face to face assessment. At the time I was studying to become a Teacher Assistant. I freaked out when I got this letter, detailing my impending appointment, and figured that I had enough financial support to help me until I completed the course and find a job.
It wasn't long before I realised I didn't have the mental strength to read all of the teaching course materials and write the essays. Accepting I couldn’t help support myself, I went through the benefits application again and this time I went to the assessment.
I was asked a lot of questions. About the ability to bathe, communicating, to plan and complete a journey - these were just some of them. I was nervous. I felt defensive. Sitting there in that office I was unable to access my pain and lack of ability to take care of myself.
One question that was asked: 'Can you read a set of instructions for a washing machine?' I answered a cool, calm and collected 'yes, I can.' In that moment if she gave me a set of instructions I would read them, out of fear and nervousnesses. But this assessment wasn’t about what I was able to do under stress of a watchful eye, this was about how I was on my worst days in my own environment.
I tried my best to communicate the challenges my mental health posed, but I ended up instead putting on a brave face. I didn't give myself a chance by not communicating my struggles clearly enough and this resulted in scoring the lowest possible score on their assessment rating system, meaning I wouldn’t get any financial help to support my daily living.
I took it hard and used my disappointment and anger to try and continue my Teacher Assistant course. I even paid for an extension on my essays, hoping I could just use my pain to push me through, yet nothing had changed. I struggled with concentration and the stamina it took in applying myself, and eventually I couldn't go on with my studies.
I'm not sure how many months passed when I reached a stage that I felt strong enough to try and apply for a job. I went to several interviews - each was incredibly stressful, more so than the usual stress an interview can bring. Soon I started my first day at a retail store - it turned out to be my only day there. My head couldn't take the pressure, the learning, the hectic environment - I don't have the words to fully describe my feelings. I did know that I couldn't cope. With the amount of learning required I already knew I didn’t have the capability in that time to go through with it. I made the decision to leave, instead of trying to hang on.
Calling this a setback would be putting it mildly. I was a mess, not knowing if I would ever be well enough to work again. I had thoughts of how will I be able to take care of myself amongst others.
I eventually got the courage to try and get help again. Due to cuts in mental health the only benefit I could apply for was Personal Independent Payment - a disability benefit. I went through the long process of applying, including spending over two hours filling out a form describing in detail why the simplest of tasks can be too overwhelming for me.
Two months later I was told I had to attend an assessment. This time I felt more prepared - I understood that I had to speak up for myself and answer the questions based on my most challenging days. I thought the assessment went OK, in that I managed to convey my difficulties clearly. I felt I could've said more, I guess I would always feel this way.
I was hopeful during the long wait, where they would assess my answers and decide whether to give me financial support. Once again I scored no points for their model of how my disabilities affect me. Not only that, but I received feedback from somebody who I had never met, who sits behind a computer screen telling me that they disagreed with my answers and my capabilities of daily living. To me this just shows how fraught the mental health services is. I’ve also read many accounts where people who are severely unwell are not getting the help they need.
I was devastated reading this feedback. How can somebody, who wasn't even at the assessment, just decide I'm OK to do certain day to day tasks and negate everything I've been trying to say? It feels this system is designed to only help those who fit a certain mould of disability. Maybe this is down to cuts in mental health and the lack of understanding that mental health challenges pose.
I had a chance to appeal, but by the time I felt able to, the deadline had passed. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to get help with trying to submit a late appeal / reapply.
It's been challenging writing this, because I feel so worn down from this experience. My feelings from this are still raw and it frustrates me that I can't be clearer in putting across how difficult a time this was and how it still affects me. I thought by writing this it would be a healthy outlet to deal with my emotions (and dust off my blog).
If you would like to support me and my writing you can find my Patreon page here:
Thanks for reading.
Her eyes open prepared for sunlight
Still a black cloak remains
No position is comfortable on this bed
The body aches as though this mattress is a slab of led
The alarm tricks her and remains silent
A bolt of fear strikes her eyes staring at the lateness
A hundred things to do
Now is the time chaos will ensue
All the cars on the road are working against her
Pedestrians shake their head
Her stomach rumbles pleading to be fed.
She forgets the directions told to her
Round and round she goes
She wishes she could start the day again
She closes her eyes for a moment of zen
It has just gone nine
A sigh of relief as she parks
Her interview is due to start at quarter past
The waiting room is a chamber of torture
The ticking clock counting down her demolition
A man then steps outside with a glint of sorrow
He tells her she has come on the wrong day, her interview is in fact tomorrow