The Write Stuff

It was never a plan. I never meant to stay away so long. There was never a point where I sat down and decided “I won’t write anything more”. It just happened.

It happened because the act of writing became too hard. Remembering to breathe had become rather difficult and those moments in between taking breaths had also become something I needed to think about, to concentrate on, in order to make it from one breath to another, from one moment to the next. Just existing took all my energy.

Then there was the sorrow. Some days it washed over me and rolled over me like surf, sucking me under until I couldn’t see daylight. Some days it felt more difficult to just breathe than to just lie down in the surf and let it wash over me.

I didn’t even want to write. I had nothing to say. I felt that I had nothing to say that anyone would want to read and I didn’t want to risk anyone knowing what I was thinking. It was safer to keep all my thoughts and feelings inside where no-one could see them or hear them.

I thought a lot, on an awful lot of days, about what it would be like if all the pain and doubt and sorrow stopped. If I could turn it all off like a tap and just sit in the corner, hugging my knees to my chest and listening to the silence. No-one would come to see me; they’d be no questions I had to answer and no-one would expect anything of me. In fact I could stay there forever, rocking in the corner of a silent room hugging my knees to my chest. That felt like a nice option. Not death. Just aloneness and quiet.

A few weeks into my writing silence I was a little bit curious to see if anyone would miss me. All those people I’d been talking to on social media, would they notice I had gone? Would they notice why? Would they care?

Some noticed but the people I had made contact with were all people who were busy battling with their own struggles. Some of them were standing at the edge of the ocean, praying that the surf wouldn’t wash them under, but struggling to stand upright as yet another wave washed over them.

Perhaps they didn’t notice I had gone. If they did notice many of them understood anyway so did not pursue me. I have no doubt that they often feel like letting go of the outstretched hands that reached towards them in the ether of social media. But for many of them the clamour of noises, urgent voices and shouting filled up their world and the tiny, far-off little sound of my increasing absence, like the sound of dust settling on the shelf, was something they were not able to absorb or do anything about.

Last year I started to feel I had got to a different place, mental and emotionally. I decided to start writing again, but this time placing the emphasis more on how my words might be able to help people in a similar position, rather than just focussing on my own grief and my own struggles. So far so good. I even wrote the first introductory blog.

Neil, who had set up the Making Families Count website helped me to set up my new blog pro-bono and with infinite kindness and compassion. I was ready to go. All good.

Except it wasn’t. I still sat in front of the computer and had nothing to say. All the demons were still there, telling me that no-one wanted or needed to hear from me and that there were important matters out there that “real people” were dealing with. So I filled up my time with other things, taking on as many projects as I could and never saying no to any invitation which would fill my time. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. I had to keep as busy as possible and thankfully my work with Making Families Count enabled me to do this.

Then in March my work slowed down, at best I can say, drastically. Every single project which was on the go disappeared almost overnight. All NHS training was cancelled, our national conference was cancelled and every conference we were presenting at was cancelled. It was decided that, in order for Making Families Count to survive, we needed to pull back and go into a type of “snooze” mode, just ticking over until we were able to step back into a full working role.

With little to do and way too much alone time on my hands this seemed like the perfect time to start writing again. But the weeks went by and I couldn’t even start. I’ve filled my days with batch cooking and freezing. Art (and no I can’t draw, but I like playing with crayons). Reading on-line newspapers for hours. Re-watching TV favourites. Hiding from the inside of my head.

Without any meaningful role I found all the old demons returned. That wasn’t good. Some of them were scary. The nightmares I had, often about Nico, made me fearful to sleep and I found myself staying up later and later and then waking, groggily, later and later. I was struggling to deal with life in general and my mental state in particular.

Today I have had a shower and I have sat down to write. I’m going to finish this piece, post it before I can change my mind and then I’m going to start another. I’m going to write my way out of this black hole. There’s a really good chance my words may resonate with you. If they do, know this – you may feel alone, but you are not. All over the world are people feeling just like you do now. Don’t give up even when you want to. Trick the demons. Make a cake. Draw a picture. Go for a walk. Dance round the kitchen to your favourite dance track. Write a blog…….

Make today a better day. Then do the same thing tomorrow. Then congratulate yourself because you are a superstar. You have done something amazing and I am proud of you.

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