I’ve been telling myself for a while now that I should update my blog. I’ve never been a consistent blogger. Over the years I’ve had a couple. Back in the early days I had a Geocities page where I shared my Photoshop style digital artwork. That was during my undergraduate years as a contemporary arts student, a time where digital camera’s were expensive and took 3 & 1/2 inch floppy disks and an ability to use Photoshop was unique and impressive. Many years later I had a Blogger page where I posted my poetry. That blog was successful in reuniting me with a long lost friend which was nice. Before switching to WordPress I was using Tumblr for my Belinda Writes blog. I still love Tumblr but more so for personal purposes and not as a go-to homepage. WordPress is at times frustrating to use but ultimately reliable.
As is mentioned in numerous locations on this blog, I am a PhD candidate (student, to put it less formally). I’m two and a half years into my higher research degree, which means next year at some point in time I will be submitting my thesis (novel and exegesis in my case) and will eventually be able to insist on being called doctor (and I will insist). This week I completed my mid-candidature milestone, meaning I’ve passed all the formal requirements, leaving only submission remaining. I’m on the home stretch… and it’s terrifying!
In my mind, starting tomorrow, I have to strap myself to my desk and write. No more talking about writing the thesis, its time to actually do it. I’ve set the goal of having a completed draft of the thesis (all 100,000 words of it) by the end of October. That equates to a weekly writing goal of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 words. It’s very do-able. Goals are wonderful things, and words count goals are noble in intention… but often that’s all they are, nice ideas that we never really follow through with.
Drawing from the study skills seminars I attended in my teenage years, goals are more achievable when written down. Done! I’ve included this word count goal in an official report and I’m posting it now. Yep, I’ve done both of those things before, without grand success. Oh well, it’s worth another shot. I mentioned before my inconsistency in blogging and my limited success achieving word count goals, this is true, however I do write regularly. For the past five years I’ve kept a journal. This journal stretches over several notebooks and I still have some ripped out pages from journals I had prior to this set. They’re all stored in a plastic crate and I today I unpacked that crate, put them in order and read assorted paragraphs. I keep the crate on a high shelf and noticed the weight of this box as I pulled it down, it was quite heavy. I weighted the crate… 6 kgs. Considering the ups and downs recorded in the pages of these notebooks it’s interesting to think of the weight of those emotions, and to put a number on it!
These journals may prove useful to me over the next eight months as I work on my novel. The novel I’m writing is not a memoir but will draw on some of my experiences, including the ones documented in the aforementioned volumes. So while I don’t blog regularly there are recordings of my life, thoughts and feelings in existence. The beauty in these journals is that they have not be written with an audience in mind. Any writing may find and audience, and in keeping a journal I’m always aware that someone may read it, with or without my permission. In reading the small selections that I did today I saw vast changes in the tone and composition of the writing. Some books are written in neat, small print, others are scrawled and messy, the ink colours change and some entries are more hopeful than others. Interestingly the loose pages, torn from an older journal are perhaps the darkest in nature. Reading these was oddly reassuring. I’d questioned my memory of this time and wondered if I’d created a narrative that was more dramatic than the experience had been. It was clearly documented in these excerpts that I was not falsifying my feelings. I also found a letter in the crate. It was a letter that I had written to myself, clearly during a moment of happiness. While the letter was slightly corny, it also highlighted, as many of my entries did, an optimism and perseverance that, at times, I am able to draw upon.
With this optimism and willingness to persevere in mind I’ll wrap up this post with the intention to return here shortly, with an update on my writing progress.
Until then, be kind to yourself.
Originally published 28th July 2012 on http://belindawrites.tumblr.com/
Republished here with minor corrections and a brief update.
It has been ten days since I last wrote in my diary. Yes, I’m a thirty year old woman with a diary. No, it doesn’t have a lock. Technically I have ten diaries and counting. For the last two and a half years I’ve been journalling regularly. Usually I write daily but as I mentioned before I haven’t been making a lot of entries lately. This is an interesting observation as I’ve had plenty to write about.
REASONS THIS IS INTERESTING:
WRITING IS THINKING – WRITING HELPS GIVE YOUR THOUGHTS CLARITY.
Life has been rather pleasant lately and this leads me to ask – do I need my diary more when my mind is hazy? A recent academic workshop raised the point that writing is thinking but not just thinking but thinking clearly. This is a key point I’m hoping to make in my PhD thesis, that writing is therapeutic and helps us make sense of and organize our thoughts. The point can then be raised – do I need to be troubled to write?
I personally have often reflected on my own experiences with depression and creativity. Stephan Fry has done a great documentary piece on this however I can’t tell you the name of the work, Google it and get back to me (if I don’t bother myself…. note, I did see Stephan Fry: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive). Many writers or creative types often ask themselves this question – do I need to be fucked up to maintain my artistic output?
To put it simply, no or maybe, I hope not. The documentary I mentioned did also examine the notion of medication and mental illness and whether treating the symptoms also takes away the creativity that comes in troubled times. I will talk more about medication and mental illness later after I move on slightly from this topic.
I may not be writing in my diary but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing, or that I have nothing to write about. For example I’m musing here. There has been plenty of great stuff for me to write about. I have a lot of great people in my life at present and have been having a lot of laughs and good times. This may answer why I’m not journalling I have a world outside my head to find clarity in. There are friends and people close to me and I’m communicating and sharing my thoughts more openly within these circles. Because my thinking is clearer I’m more willing to go public with it bypassing the private setting of my personal diary. There are individuals I can trust to discuss my thoughts with and my thinking feels less dangerous and therefore I’m willing to allow others to handle it with care. There is more to be said on dangerous thinking later.
Another point to be made on this which can also help with the GUILT of not writing – experiences must be had, felt and low and behold EXPERIENCED first. While I haven’t been journalling daily that doesn’t mean I won’t, it may mean that I write differently. Rather than writing entries that are anticipating or fretting my entries have become reflective and take more of a summary form. As opposed to writing daily I’m writing longer entries at greater intervals. The primary audience for my diary is of course I and the purpose may not be to revisit and re-read but to respond, reflect and reproduce thought.
Another interesting point on this topic is the majority of my journalling for the last two and a half years has been in relation to certain experiences and people who were in my life during that time. I am at a stage when those individuals are no longer part of my world. I have found that each individual notebook seams to run out of pages at pivotal moments – there has been interesting cliff-hangers or moments of brief resolution as I finish a notebook and move to the next. I skipped a few pages before starting the entries for July in my current notebook as I felt like my life and the nature of the entries had a new focus. Perhaps this is another reason for why I have been engaging in the practice differently – this is a new chapter? I have a slight desire to abandon this notepad and start fresh as I feel like I am in a fresh start point in my life at the moment. Of course life does not come in clear cut chapters (as much was sometimes we’d like the distance of a page between moments) but our statements on our life can. This then raises the thought of is this the appeal of the ever scrolling narrative of social media life stories? However this might be inaccurate as there are starts and stops and the desire to organize this information and to manage it somehow. Once again then since my life is relatively good at the moment my desire for crisp chapters and management is lower than at other times and I am living more in flux.
BLURS AND IN FLUX
Please proceed with the caution that I am not a medical professional, expert or in any way qualified to talk with any authority except my personal experience on these next topics.
Continuing on from my previous written post on depression/mental illness:
I am on anti-depressant medication. This time around (I have been on meds two previous times) I am taking Lexapro. The GP that prescribed it to me mentioned that 1) it’s a newer drug 2) excellent in his opinion and 3) I should take it for life and never ever go off meds. The initial adjustment to meds this time was rough! Was this the side effects of the drug or just that I was not at all well at the time of starting them (hence why I was prescribed the medication in the first place)?
I’ve now been taking Lexapro for three months and have begun thinking – should I stop? NO, NO, NO! I’ve made this mistake before. After feeling so low, depressed and shitty when you reach a point of feeling good you think “I feel fucking ace, I’m all better, I don’t need this any-more!” DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!!
As I mentioned in my last post depression is not something I will be cured of. I need to constantly manage and maintain my mental health. What’s that, not experiencing any symptoms lately? YOU’RE ALL BETTER – NOT! The first time I was on anti-depressants (Lovan I think) I did exactly this, felt better, stopped the meds without medical advice, didn’t wean off them, just cold turkey (therapy was also stopped – tsk, tsk, bad idea). I’m fairly certain I was self medicating at that stage with booze and weed (hey kids – I don’t care what you think, weed is not rad, weed is not consequence free and although glamorized it can fuck up your head, lungs, finances and life just fine so don’t go there, and if you are damn well stop it’s just as dangerous as other drugs – end rant) not to mention I was letting others think for me and not those qualified (like my doctors/psychiatrist) to do so. In retrospect, bad idea! I’d love to say lessons learnt but like many people I am of the variety of having to repeat mistakes several times before I really begin to see the light.
Second experience with going off meds (Luvox I think) – this time around I weaned off under the instruction and guidance of my then psychiatrist. Thank goodness I did because it was not pleasant and I did notice the withdrawal. It was not a bad decision and there is a strange sense of achievement when you go off meds. This is where we need to change the way we think about depression/mental health (once again remembering I have not real authority to take on this subject except from my own personal experiences). Think of depression less as a cold and more as a condition. YOU NEED TO STAY ON TOP OF THIS!!! Are you Asthmatic? Don’t take your preventer, no puffer – NOT GOOD! Are you Diabetic? Don’t take your insulin, aren’t regulating your blood sugar – NOT GOOD! Depression cannot be cured by bed-rest and herbal tea (although healthy sleep and relaxation is important there is more to be done). STOP ON TOP OF IT!
There are two main reasons the thought of stopping meds has crossed my mind this week. Firstly, wine. I like wine, I like wine a lot. I’m not a big drinker and I don’t have an addictive personality (well not that I’m aware of or not to the extent of it being a factor in my mental health story). Wine is yummy though and I would love to have a lovely red with dinner or while reading etc (so many good times to enjoy a nice glass of wine). However one of the big BOLD points made on the information provided with my packets of Lexapro pills is – LEXAPRO AND ALCOHOL ARE A DANGEROUS MIX, AND CAUSE SOME SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS TO OCCUR.
Clearly if you’re being treated for depression or are prone to depression or mental health issues than alcohol is not going to be a good friend for you to have, more of a frienemy, you may have fun together sometimes but mostly you get each other offside.
There is a lovely list of potential side effects but basically alcohol and Lexapro will bring out the worst in each other. That may mean that say I decide to have that glass of red at dinner it may be like I’ve had two and considering my limit on a good day with all the right factors including not being on meds would be maybe three, four glasses tops I don’t fancy the idea of double for nothing. So yeah, might get drunk quicker, sounds good to some but I’m not a fan of being drunk, and generally I’m not a happy drunk so it’s a state of being I tend to avoid anyway. Most likely I’d feel very sick, yep, that doesn’t appeal, let’s not do that.
The real worry is that if I decide to risk it and drink on meds things could go very fucking bad. I don’t enjoy being depressed, I don’t enjoy the moments of desire to destroy myself and I don’t enjoy the times when ending it all seems like the only idea. Hence why alcohol and meds is like a reverse scratchy, that glass of wine may only be seven dollar and it might seem like a small price to pay but there is a lot to lose if everything lines up just right.
Hence I must not drink and if I decide to test the waters I need to do so very cautiously and under the right circumstances but there is not guaranteed result, results may vary, not just person to person but time to time – depression is living in flux.
HANDY DANDY DICTIONARY PHONE APP MOMENT
In Flux: in constant change; ever-changing
Additional point – hey drunk guy at uni-bar debating me and questioning why I’m not drinking, just accept the fact that I’m not and don’t give me shit or try to convince me that because you have anxiety and are drinking that I should drink to aid in relieving your anxiety or that alcohol will make everything better. Are you going to talk me down off the ledge if shit hits the fan? Probably not cause you’ll be bloody drunk and not much help and hence I’m sorry if I appear prickly to you, you don’t know me and I don’t have to explain myself to you over a fucking liquid!
Also, I’d much rather not drink and be open about the fact that I have depression and that’s the reason than drink to be social and end up making a fool of myself by acting like the middle age married woman who where being very depressingly overtly gross in their horniness last night at the pub I was at last night or by worse than embarrassing myself hurting myself or someone else (glassing, one punch can kill – bad times). I’m more than happy to play the ham while sober and be able to enjoy the laughs and smiles on my friend’s faces.
THE OTHER REASON I’VE THOUGHT ABOUT GOING OFF MEDS…
I’m not the best driver. I’d like to think I’m a cautious driver, I don’t intentionally set out to break road rules and I don’t have the need for speed. I am not always the most focused driver and unfortunately meds don’t help. In my time of driving I have had a few accidents, never injured myself or others but have scratched, smashed, scraped and written off my vehicles and worse, others.
If I recall correctly I have been on antidepressant medication each time I’ve had an accident where I was somewhat at fault. This may be a cop-out excuse but I think it’s more an observation and it is noted in the information of possible side effects with many anti-depressants that they can impair your ability to drive and operated heavy machinery. LAME. This week my car managed to “kiss” the pole next to my car space twice. DEVASTATED! I’ve been parking next to this damn pole for almost a year with no problems but low and behold on meds I manage to hit it twice in a week. SHAKES FIST AT POLE!
OK, my this has been a long post and no, I’m not going to edit it any more than spell check although I urged a class to carefully proof read and edit what they put on-line this week because errors make you look unprofessional. Please take my blog posts are personal expressions and no reflection of my employers or academic prowess. Consider my blog the cheeseburger to my academic steak. I will now seek to tie these three topics together.
Thinking clearly is the theme here. Writing can be used therapeutically and like managing your depression this means a multitude of techniques and approaches. Of course thinking clearly and focus in one area can distract from clarity in others and then you end of scratching your car and entering dangerous territory of temptation. We are in flux and need to be aware of our fluidity. Go with the flow but remember to keep your head above water.
If in doubt drink tea and listen to Ice T – church!
I have now been off medication for just over a month and am very pleased with the decision. I weaned off the medication under professional guidance and continue to attend regular counselling session