Yesterday, as Britain woke up to the panic of running out of Marmite and news outlets told us that Russia might be mobilising for war, I myself had a rough day emotionally, publishing a couple of unhappy, lonesome posts. Afterwards, I participated in the #TalkMH chat on Twitter. I had been looking forward to it all day, but by the time it came around I wasn’t feeling up to it. I took part anyway and am so glad I did. I spoke to a number of amazing, inspiring and amazingly-inspiring people. With the topic itself – medication – and a flurry of supportive messages between all the participants, I found it quite an emotional experience – but so rewarding. I highly recommend it – #TalkMH, Twitter, Thursdays, 8:30pm.
Today, one of those two crises has been resolved – although a gorilla has apparently escaped from London Zoo. Meanwhile, October has been a busy month for Whatever Words. There’s been four poems (two poems of positivity* (‘The Shortest Fuse‘ and ‘The Kindness of Seasons‘ ) and two less chirpy ones (‘Loving Our Monsters‘ and ‘Tell Me‘)); an album review; musings on White Maltesers and Status Quo; and an old gig review from 2009; among other things. This post is #25. The tweet upon which I am sending this out is #1000. (What can I say? I’ve met so many wonderful people in the blogging community I’ve ended up being a little active in the Twittersphere…) To mark these milestones – and in light of a string of less positive posts recently (see above) – I wanted to do an update of sorts for another October post, ‘My Favourite Blogs‘, as well as talk a little about what a wonderful experience I’ve had blogging and the even more wonderful people I’ve met. It is also Follow Friday (#FF), so what better time to share some love for people and their blogs? (On that note: the lovely Laura Cloughley has a new post out this evening – so watch this space!)
In my original post of 6th October, I pointed to four blogs:
For each, there were particular posts that stood out to me, most notably: ‘Faith and Mental Health‘ (Laura); ‘You Are Enough‘ (Sarah-Louise); and Mel and Lauren‘s open letters to one another (Mel’s letter; Lauren’s letter). I still adore all these bloggers and their blogs – not least their more recent posts – but the point of this post is to highlight even more which I’ve had the incontrovertible pleasure of reading.
This morning I read a post by 22-year-old blogger, Megan Rees, entitled ‘Why I Write About Mental Health‘. In it, she describes being “TERRIFIED” of writing about mental health, but wanting
to create a space where people can come to learn about mental illness, a space where loved ones can come to be able to help those in their life with mental illness and, most importantly, a space where you know that you’re not alone, you are loved and it is worth it.
I find this not only a beautiful way of describing her intentions, but also an admirable (if you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll notice I tend to repeat adjectives; I just think they fit) intent, not least in light of the admission that she “still find[s] every single post frightening”. On the same day that I published my original post of favourite blogs, Megan and Mel of Geek Magnifique published interviews with one another (read Megan’s interview here and Mel’s interview here). Both of their words brought tears to my eyes.
When asked “what is the most important thing friends of people with mental illness can do to help?”, Megan replied:
Love! As a friend to those with MI, as well as a MI sufferer, reassuring those who are suffering that they are loved is always going to be the most important thing. Countless bands haven’t sung about love for no reason! It can be a simple gesture of making time to see them, getting them a cup of tea or a little text seeing how they are. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it can make all the difference. You never know, that one text might save someone’s life.
I also liked the way Megan described herself. I can’t think of the appropriate adjective but I think you’ll have the same feeling I did.
I am not defined by my mental illness. I’m Megan. I like skiing, makeup, sloths. …
Mel has listened to me cry a lot, and I’m proud, and privileged to have had the opportunity, to have written at length about the incredible support she has given me (here, here and, to a lesser degree, here). I stand by this tweet. (‘Jingle Bells’ is a reference to when I was in a band with her husband, and we played a Christmas gig, dressed in Christmas hats with tinsel draped across the stage, opening with ‘Jingle Bells’ special guest starring Mel on keyboard!) Her words always bring tears to my eyes. This, to Megan, struck me profoundly:
You might feel like the old you is gone, but you’re still the same strong, fun, amazing person you always were. There is help out there and you will beat this.
I’m happy to put myself out there for the sake of others, we’re all a bit crazy in this world and it’s lovely to feel not so alone.
The author of Little Thoughts, Hannah Rainey, is the creator of the #TalkMH chat on Twitter, and even without the rightly-laudable reception it receives, merely by its inception it’s clear what a splendid person she is. But Hannah not is simply responsible for connecting people and creating an online community of care and compassion – she also writes. I read one of her pieces yesterday evening, and it was much needed; so, thank you, Hannah. ‘An Open Letter to Depression‘ is so bloody brave as well as brilliantly written. It is eloquent, honest and inspiring. One comment, by Millie, I absolutely endorse.
This is truly amazing. Xxx
I don’t want to quote the letter at length because it’s not that long. But I will quote two lines which stood out most to me.
You gave me hell, but to live now is heaven.
Just reading that again, I can feel my eyes warm as if to release a tear or few. This second line, much like Megan’s words above, is further proof of how caring are those who comprise this community.
I know what it’s like to have you in my shadow and because of this I work every day to stop you from destroying other people’s light in the way that you did mine.
We are all lucky to have Hannah in our lives, if only digitally.
I’ve been following Rachel Hawkins on Twitter for a while now. She is a treat to follow. She is hilarious. When I used Twitter before, I used it primarily as a convenient, quick-fire news source, following hundreds of different media outlets. Now, I’m enjoying the tweets of individuals, and I’m enjoying Rachel Hawkin’s tweets the most. Go follow her! [@ourrachblogs] Whilst I’ve also enjoyed the odd post on her blog, I haven’t read as much of it as I’d have liked to – her Twitter feed has kept me more than entertained(!)
But today she has posted what she described as “the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write”. It is a post about living with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This week has been OCD Awareness Week (#OCDWeek), and a number of people have published posts describing their experiences of living with OCD. I am grateful to them all for their posts, because it was something about which I was unfamiliar: I was ignorant of its extremities, its seriousness, and its debilitating effects – all of which now seem so clear; thanks to the bravery of these people and the brilliance their writing.
Geek Magnifique and Laura Cloughley have both written about it. It is probably clear, if you’ve read any number of my posts – at least, I hope it is partially apparent – that I like words and think carefully about their selection and application. That being that case, I want to clarify that in this instance I place no greater emphasis or importance on either of the two words that I will shortly use; they are, for want of a better phrase, interchangeable. Put simply: having read both Mel’s and Laura’s posts, I thought that OCD seemed like hell. Reading Rachel’s post – and taking into account the variety of OCD she, as a new mother, suffered, apparently known as Maternal OCD – it sounds traumatic. (I hope neither of those words sound, or are, disrespectful.)
I was exhausted of the vile, horrendous thoughts that would besiege me.
She speaks of OCD no longer controlling her life, but noting that one “intrusive thought” did enter her head whilst she was on holiday recently. However, “with the help of my friend and remembering what I’d learnt in therapy”, she was able to “pull [herself] out of the abyss [she] could see [herself] heading for”. And I’m so glad to hear that, because I know (thanks to her Twitter feed) that she was on holiday celebrating – I hope she doesn’t mind me drawing attention to! – her 30th birthday, and it would’ve upset me to read on to discover that this ruined the holiday. So, for what it’s worth; Well done, Rachel, and Thank you, that friend.
I particularly love this line of Rachel’s:
I treat the unwanted thoughts with the contempt they deserve.
As someone who does not suffer with OCD, but now believes it to be a dreadful condition (again, I hope that word does not sound disrespectful; it is used with love and compassion), I find that line inspirational.
There are other blogs I could go on about at length, but this post is already pretty lengthy, so I’ll save those for another time. For now, a few words about my experience of blogging.
I have been constantly taken aback by the courage of people who talk about their experiences. It cannot be easy. I have on more than one occasion found conversations emotional not only because what people say resonates so profoundly, but because they are capable of such kindness; and sometimes, in this world, and when you’ve been hurt by those you trusted most, it can be easy to forget about the goodness in people.
My own experience of issues pertaining to mental health have been quite different from the majority of people I have conversed with and at times – such as yesterday, when I was feeling particularly down – I feel guilty that I sometimes struggle so much myself when others are faced with far more daunting and difficult challenges to overcome. However, the magnificent thing about this community is that no one is ranked; there is no ‘competition’ – it is simply about supporting one another. I think Lauren Chassebi has described this better than me, so over to her:
Every person that I’ve met within this small hub of people have been so kind, brave and welcoming. They’re the types of people who will go out of their way to put a smile on your face, even though they’re also suffering.
The simple truth is, as these fantastic people will assure you time and again, there are people who care, and you are not alone.
Have a look at the blogs I’ve mentioned here and (happily) see for yourself.
At the risk of overdoing it, I’d like to end with a passage from Matt Haig’s wonderful book, Reasons to Stay Alive, in case there is indeed anyone reading this who is struggling. (Thank you to Lauren for bringing it to my attention; and to my incredible and supportive Mum for leaving a copy on my pillow for me to discover.) This is, in fact, one of Matt’s ‘reasons to stay alive’, and it is a passage I have read a number of times and will return to forever more. So, thank you, Matt.
You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.
* I’m very much attracted to, and interested in, the concept of an e-book of Poems of Positivity, to be published in the new year. If this appeals to you, please get in touch; or, if you know someone else who it might appeal to, please put them in touch.
Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive (London & Edinburgh, 2016 ), p. 113.