I haven’t spoken much at all about my mental health. Even those two words I find hard to type. When I mentioned it in my very first blog, it was only in passing. It now seems the right time to focus on that a bit more as all the fun of working with Jeff is all well and good but I feel I should never lose sight of the “why am I doing this?” question.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the agenda of Jeff, and whilst Jeff’s agenda is also my agenda, there is an extra part to my agenda that I purposefully keep off Jeff’s radar. When I do any of this, whether it be the writing, brainstorming or photographing, I am always doing it for four main reasons:
- To keep me grounded
- My passion and love for Jeff and where I think this could go
- The possibility of helping others
On top of my depression I suffer from something called Hyper-/Hypo-Arousal States. Not nearly as exciting…
(And anxiety hits. I started writing this quite easily, thinking that not many people will read it and those who do won’t know me. Then I remember that friends also see this (mainly because it goes on my Facebook), and I get all weird and worried about being so open. Not that any of them wouldn’t understand or be weird with me, it’s just that talking to friends about this makes it more real. Which is actually what I should be doing really as not speaking about it made it more serious – I was always too good at acting like I was OK when really, I was slowly breaking inside. I also realise that I’ve picked this topic for this week’s blog as my head isn’t in a place right now where it wants to write about the nicer posts I’ve had ideas for.)
…as it sounds, and is akin to Bi-Polar Disorder. The Hypo state is pretty much all the symptoms people generally associate with depression. The Hyper state is less frequent and somewhat worse. It is actually quite hard to put it into words, but it starts to feel like my brain is fizzing and overly sensitive within my skull. My hearing dulls. My focus diminishes. I lose all sight of reason and consequence. I am not really there. And all I want to do is make. It. Stop. I am irritable, I am angry, I am out of control to the point of being self-anarchistic. I am shaking but not moving. Yet for the most part, to look at me, you’d never know. All these feelings are happening within, and it takes all my control and effort not to unleash them. I do sometimes lose control and that’s when bad things are said and done.
Whenever this occurred before I knew, through therapy, what one earth was going on with my head, I had no idea what was happening, and therefore no idea of how to control it. Now it has a name, and I can (try) and control it better than I had before. The annoying thing is, there appears to be no catalyst and as it became worse, I noticed it could happen at anytime. The past 18 months have been quite a difficult time for various reasons, and it had definitely become worse and more frequent than before, but now I recognise it when it starts to happen and I can take steps to stop it or limit it. This can take various forms, eating nice food helps, as does going to the gym or watching a favourite film. Jeff also helps. Either getting a hug, talking to him, doing a bit of writing or sorting out a photo for Instagram. They all ground me and stop my brain going from simmer to full boil.
There are of course times when the state is in full motion. It is at these times I can’t talk to Jeff. He is kept separate from all of this seriousness and he’s only little so wouldn’t understand and I don’t want him to know I have a poorly head. He would only worry.
If we talk about a general cycle over the period of a week, I will have something along the lines of 2 ‘normal’ days, 4 ‘Hypo-/Depressed’ days and 1 ‘Hyper-‘ day. Yes I am on medication, but whilst the therapy gets to the root cause of all this, they only serve to help me keep my head above water and unfortunately I’m not that good a swimmer.
Part of the therapy as I mentioned in the first blog is the idea of self-soothing. Doing something positive in place of negative/destructive behaviours. Though it does take quite a bit of focus to do the writing, once I get in a rhythm, the outside world is shut out and I become completely lost in it for as long as I have something to write (I am also very lucky that my day job offers me the same benefit).
I’ve said multiple times that I believe I have something with Jeff and the stories that I am writing. So my main addition to the agenda of Jeff is that of helping others. It is not the case that you will turn a page and read some extended metaphor for dealing with mental illness. It is not my place as how this affects individuals is complex and different for each of us, as are the reasons behind it. Also, I am not experienced or qualified to do so. What I think I can do is take you to a place outside of whatever is making you feel anything less than happy with your day – whether it be a bad day at work to something more serious that you just really need a happy, uplifting distraction from the real world. I would also like to think (though can’t promise this as different things affect different people differently) that there shouldn’t be anything in these stories that might make things worse. I’ve always had to stay away from books or films that have elements in them that could negatively affect me, even if it is a small part of what the film is about. Take Disney/Pixar’s ‘Up’ for example. I love that film, I think it is one of their best. But if I went to it to bring me out of wherever my head was going, the first 10 minutes would reduce me to a mess, and make things worse not better.
I’ve always wondered why, in so many Children’s films, it seems like there ‘had’ to be a sad part. I still have to turn Mary Poppins off before the end even now. I could really do without it and I don’t see it being much good for children either either. As I near to completion of the 3rd story, I have wrote just a few lines where Jeff is hoping to see something that he may not get to see. It is just three lines, but as it punched me in both my heart and stomach to think of Jeff being sad or disappointed about something, I haven’t yet decided if it stays in or not.
So here is a start to a draft pitch; This is a
kid’s book meant for you or anyone. This is a kid’s book you’re allowed to read. This isn’t a kid’s book. This is a book for us not-so-grown-ups. This is a book you can pick up and put down when you want or need it. This is a book that you can turn to any page and you will hopefully find something to make you smile. This is a book to forget all that serious grown-up stuff that we have to deal with every day.
I think and feel I am moving this in the right direction with this, I’ve had a couple of pieces of feedback so far where this resonates with the people I am aiming at and the demographic trend of Instagram is where I hoped it would be. I’ve also been told that there is so much stress, anxiety and depression amongst teenagers in Schools nowadays, that although I harp on about it not being a kid’s book, it is as much for them suffering any amount of what I have, as it is for you or me or anyone else.
I suppose I should get on with some writing… If you have read this far, thank you, it really does mean a lot.