Haven for the Head-Wrecked

Life can be a battle
Life can be a battle

I’ve become particularly aware in the last while that many of the people I am in contact with in my everyday life both physically or virtually (through twitter or email) are struggling in some way and putting a brave face on it. They are feeling confused, vulnerable, lonely, disheartened, unsure or scared and they are mad and fed up at themselves for feeling like this, for not being able to just get on with things and ‘be normal’. They can sense a stronger, more able person on the inside, a person who can ‘do so much more than this’, a Yes person who wants to embrace every opportunity instead of feeling overwhelmed and losing impetus. I understand these feelings, because I’ve been there at various times in my life, where stresses sent me spiralling, grief left me paralysed and self-doubt knocked me into a deep hole where I all I wanted was someone to throw me some kind of rope I could hold onto. At this time of the year I worry that the long dark nights and short grey days will take hold of me and drag me into a perpetual lethargy that will only lift in Spring.

People have real problems, difficulties at work, at home, with their children, finding balance in their lives. There are real tragedies, losses and readjustments. There are some days that are just plain bad. In these circumstances sometimes all we can do is wait for the passing of time, perhaps just a moment where we take a deep breath, half an hour where we do the things we burn to do always, a day, a week, a month, a year to move away from the pain that holds us by the lungs and squeezes.

There are some things that help:

  • Breaking our negative thought patterns:newmoodtherapy

We reinforce many of the negative feelings we have about ourselves and our circumstances through our negative thinking patterns. Pychological studies have shown that depression can be alieviated hugely by using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy either alone or in conjunction with medication. Thinking habits build up over a lifetime but we can work on them and practice substituting more realistic, helpful and positive thoughts. We can use techniques to control our anger and stop procrastination.

Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns is a wonderful book with excellent exercises for breaking mood cycles and destructive types of thinking.

  • Head space
    Create head space by doing what you love
    Create head space by doing what you love

Doing something we love or indulging in our happinesses. On her website Winslow Eliot gathers examples of these ‘daily happinesses’ and on her site Barbara Scully helps us find serenity. It is often difficult to see where we can find time to recuperate, dream, kick back or create but very small changes can make huge differences. I found this recently when I decided to get up at 6 each morning to do some writing, despite having four kids and an almost 2 yr old who wakes in the night. I found that I actually gained energy from the satisfaction of having done something I loved.

  • Connecting

My involvement in the parent-to-parent support group Cuidiu since my first child (now almost nine) was born got me through the hair-raising and hair pulling out first years of the culture shock of children. Similarly my writing connections through twitter and writing courses have shown me that my writing struggles are shared with many others.

  • Keeping going, however slowly, you are doing well

A step is a step is a step, it’s still progression, and even if you step back, you still learned something from going forward to begin with. Congratulate yourself for your effort.

  • Let it out, communicate and express yourself
    Let others know how you feel
    Let others know how you feel

Tell someone, or talk to others with similar difficulties. You will be surprised at how others feel just the same. Many of the struggles a writer deals with on a personal level may find expression through stories or in journals. In what I called the Book of Joy,  I worked through a troubling period in my life, coming to the realisation that life is two sides of a sphere, dark and light.  We can  see joy more clearly  in relation to loss or grief. This is the theme of my poem ‘If we thought that love was gone.’

j0385413Who cares? Plenty.

I write my stories because I want to touch people, to connect with them, to make something resonate within them, to give them words for the feelings they experience throughout their lives. I want to establish a well of common humanity which we can all share, so that we can understand what makes us similar, what can give us empathy for each other. Through my relationships with people in daily and virtual life, at the school gate, in Cuidiu, with relative strangers on Twitter, long standing but unseen friends over email and phone I know that I’m not the only mixed up crazy kid on the block. And I want you to be sure that there are a whole lot of lovely people out there, who not only care and feel, but care and feel for You. I’m one of them and there are plenty more. Here is where it begins and ends, I’m throwing a rope  into the universe to you all, hoping you will catch it and hold on.

14 thoughts on “Haven for the Head-Wrecked

  1. How beautifully observed and written. You are SO right, on so many fronts. I whole-heartedly applaud your decision to get up early to write and am planning to follow your example and do the same. Sometimes it feels as though my whole day is spent waiting for ‘now’ so I can run up the stairs and get writing – and all that goes with it. Thank you for a very inspiring post – see you for the 6am stint tomorrow! 🙂

  2. Dear Alison, This brought tears to my eyes – your courage, the beauty of the words, and your strong, compassionate offer of friendship. Yes, finding rhythms can be most helpful. Your six a.m. writing time, for example. My happinesses: which are a constant, daily reminder to myself that happiness, like love, is not a feeling, it’s a decision. So glad I’ve made a friend, Winslow

  3. Beautiful honesty, paired with real help for so many of us who have experienced the same on one level or another.

    Not everyone has a voice that resonnates like your writing does, so that in and of itself is a tremendous gift.

  4. alisonwells

    Thanks Hazel, Winslow, Niamh and Kristi for your beautiful comments which again go to prove that there are some wonderful people out there (you) that understand these feelings and have that very human empathy for their fellow strugglers.

    What I and I think Winslow is saying too is that in the midst of these struggles you need to orient yourself to the happinesses that counterpoint your current difficulties (e.g the snuggle-closeness of small children against the physical and mental duress or the satisfaction of a completed story against the hard toil producing it). You also need to be open to the small, sometimes unregarded or unutilized happinesses, you need to recognise them. You also need to recognise the strength within yourself and applaud it.

    All this is easy to say, reality always has challenges. Today my daughter was 5, a fabulous milestone a happy event. After school we went to the beach to pass the time while the eldest was at soccer. It was a beautiful day, baby was fascinated by the sea. But,to cut a long story short, the two middle children ran too far ahead of me and the baby and went to climb some rocks. It took a little while for me to retrieve the buggy and run down the promenade to near where they were climbing. They ignored my calls to come back and I left the baby in buggy beside a railing and climbed over to get closer. By the time I got them to follow me I had been berated by a woman for letting them climb and when I turned back to the buggy there were two woman police there who gave me a lecture about child kidnapping. My lovely walk on the beach…turned to mother guilt. So now, I must read my own post and take my own advice!

    Thanks again for your wonderful comments and the complimentary ones which give me a great boost.

  5. One of my favorite children’s books is by Barbara Willard: The Battle of Wednesday Week. “One step forward, two steps back,” the children in this challenging situation tell themselves. Your today’s unpleasant experience (exhausting, infuriating, discouraging…eergh!) is just a step back in your determination not to get swept away in what could otherwise be really depressing: hopelessness. That ‘nothing ever goes right.’ Mothering is the most noble, and the most underrated, profession in the world. We’re not given armies, wealth, ships, lavish offices, secretaries, nothing but our passion and commonsense… and yet we’re raising an entire generation! (My last child just left home for college; I look back at the past 18 years with many difficult emotions; strongest right now, reading your post, is relief.)Big,big,BIG hug to you.

  6. Niamh Bohane

    Oh no. Poor poor you. I feel all the pain, guilt, humiliation, anger, frustration. You know in your logical brain that you are a great mother and you were doing the best you could for them in a difficult situation. And there is the upside that at least those people cared enough to interfere, even though I’m sure you didn’t feel so, erm, charitable towards them at the time! I hope you got home and hugged your kids really tightly and told yourself that they’re very lucky to have you, as you are them. Loads of hugs flying virtually your way. And be nice to yourself tonight-glass of wine, hot chocolate, cosy blanket, nice music-whatever works for you. Be nice to yourself the way you’d be nice to someone else. Hope you sleep ok. And wish I was as eloquent as all the great writers here!

    1. alisonwells

      Thanks Niamh,
      All you said is perfectly true. ‘Be nice to yourself, the way you’d be nice to someone else.’ Sometimes this, it seems strange to say, can be one of the hardest things to do or at least remember to do.

  7. Ailson, I am raging that I am only NOW finding time to read your blog post. It is just wonderful and does all the things you want to achieve in your writing. Giving voice and expression to feelings we all have and connecting us and making us feel we are not alone. I so often feel like the dunce in the class when I feel that everyone is achieving eloquent and deeply moving writing! Thank you for your honesty and so mentioning my blog on your wonderful post!! You made this girl very happy! Thank U xxx

    1. alisonwells

      Like many others, I’m good at the touchy feely stuff on paper but the real world can sometimes challenge my intentions. This is why blogs like yours are so worthwhile because they immediately put us in a reflective mode which we can then, as much as possible carry forward into our material life. There are many modes to the way we operate, reflection, intention, action/inaction. You might say that intention is not worthwhile without action but if we intend to do something and congratulate ourselves on our intention, we break free of the guilt of inaction. This in turn makes it easier to move forward to action. With writing, or whatever we aim to do, the intention can give us the final impetutus to make a change and find ourselves actually DOING something.

  8. brigid

    Hi Alison,
    What lovely words beautifully said and withl real power.
    It was my 7 year olds birthday today too, and the nicest thing said to me was by a friend, who said my mum arranged a glorious sunny day for us all to enjoy from wherever she may be,
    We all are using our words to find a way through whatever situations we are in,
    I feel within my personal situation I have been given a chance to do the one thing I always wanted to do that is to write, so sometimes the imperfect leads to the perfect.
    I use my witty blog to cast out my demons and find it works for me to cast some light in my life,

    Also worth noting,that today is the anniversary of Mandelas release from prison, so maybe we all just need to hang in there and remember sometimes things just work out,

    Have a fantastic weekend, and do not have one second of guilt,
    Seizethe day,

    1. alisonwells

      Hi Brigid,

      Yes, your blogs are terrific and I absolutely understand how you cast out your demons in your ‘witty’ blog. A wry look at the world doesn’t take from the challenges but makes us feel stronger and more energetic in facing them. The comic fantasy I am writing was quite cathartic and had a more serious meaning alongside. Thanks for your great comments and sharing your friends wisdom.

  9. Hi Alison,

    Isn’t it strange that those who come across as most life-affirming, most positive towards others are the ones that struggle with these feelings. I feel for you.

    I made the decision this year that I didn’t need to be ‘fixed’, to be made to be ‘normal’ (whatever that is!) but instead to just let myself be. To be a bit eccentric, over the top full of life if that’s how I felt, or sometimes to be quiet, reflective, on my own if that is what I needed. It isn’t easy, I still feel guilty that my being just ‘me’ does have an impact on others.

    I also took the decision this year to ‘really’ write and take the risk that people might hate it. But I made the choice to write for me, as that is what feels ‘right’ for me. I think you have to be selfish at times in order to be happier, you have to find that time so that you can operate for others the rest of the time!

    Funnily enough I had dinner with one of the few friends I feel ‘gets’ me last night. I was telling her that I was trying to allow myself to just be without constantly evaluating myself/feeling guilty/feeling not good enough. She (someone just very content and measured by nature) said she was glad there were people like me (like us) in the world because where would the passion come from, where would the art come from and the striving to achieve something truly great. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all got fixed!

    I obviously don’t know you personally but really respect the honesty you put into your posts and your writing. You are also obviously very talented. I think Brigid sums it up perfectly with ‘sometimes the imperfect leads to the perfect’.

    Keep the great blog posts and writing coming and take all of your own advice above, it’s good stuff.

    1. alisonwells

      Thanks so much Kelly. What you say is really great. You remind me of Anne Lamott’s Book Bird by Bird. She talks about so many of the frailities and insecurities of us writing types. In reading her I felt I was part of a wacky but fabulous bunch of people. Hearing your comments reinforces the feeling of solidarity and connection with others like yourself who feel the same.

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