The Writer in Me
A post on how I lost a passion through poor mental health and rediscovered it twenty-five years later.
A long time ago I used to write, like I mean really write. I would write for hours, from expressing my thoughts to creatively writing articles, stories and poems. I loved writing; for me it was an escape, a fantasy world that I loved entering into and one that I could spend hours on end in.
I obviously loved English and I loved literature. We were brought up in the countryside so there weren't any kids to play with so I became a book worm at a very early age. So, I read and read, and then when I was old enough, I read and wrote.
Throughout school and my late teenage years my developing literacy skills were rewarded. I was regularly top of the class in English and I also won several school English recognition awards. I could feel my love for writing growing and, dare I say, a talent beginning to blossom. I went on to win a couple of external awards and prizes of recognition from national organisations and teen magazines. I even won a couple of creative writing competitions. I dreamt about becoming a writer of some description someday, among other dreams I should add!
Then it stopped. I can remember as clear as day when it stopped. I had recently transferred schools from a high school to a grammar school to complete my 'A' Levels. I was studying English Literature, French and Religious Studies, and I freely admit, I hated it. The change in environment was too much. I was a strong-willed and very independent seventeen-year-old who went from a 'rough' secondary school into a rule driven strict grammar education establishment and try as I might to fit in, I felt as if I didn't. Everybody already had their groups of established friends, I felt like an outsider and I ended up a bit of a loner. What I didn't realise at the time was that in addition to the usual raging teenage hormones and woes I was also trying to deal with internal demons that were beginning to fight their way to the surface.
During this time my grades were doing OK, well in fact. Yet, one assignment destroyed my writing dream and to this day I still regret it. I had submitted what I thought was a very good analytical and critical review of a section in a book we were studying in English Literature. I looked forward to the teacher reading it, to a good mark and possibly some constructive criticism (she was a very tough teacher and was never happy with work submitted!). Well, she slammed it, tore it apart in fact. If I remember correctly, I got a C+ or something to that effect. A disaster for me. The assignment came back with red circles, scribbling and marks all over it. I was gutted and I was upset for weeks about it.
My usual tactic would normally be to take it on the chin, learn from it and try again. Yet, this time I couldn't, and I didn't. To put some context to this part of my story, the negative thinking and downward spiral to my first depression crash had probably already started shortly before this happened. I just didn’t know it then. This incident was probably just the tipping point. Nonetheless, it happened.
After that, I quickly fell out of love with writing. I felt that I wasn't good enough to 'make it' and what on earth had I been thinking that I was good enough in the first place? Those initial thoughts of success had led me to catastrophic disappointment and feeling like a failure after one teacher’s comments. Shortly after this happened, I spiralled and fell into my first major episode of depression. A lot of life events had happened up to that point and the years that followed were no different!
I then became a person who writes, not a writer. I call it functional writing. I no longer creatively wrote or had the inclination to. I simply wrote to get by. I wrote my assignments, I wrote my dissertation, I got by. When the world of work commenced, I wrote to get by. I wrote my reports, I wrote my strategic plans and my operational plans. I wrote a plethora of policies and procedures, I wrote to get by. With just writing 'to get by' I inevitably lost a lot of my writing skills, even my grammar started to suffer, and this has continued as the years have gone by.
When I look back at this time in my life objectively that literary defining moment is a great example of somebody's mental health starting to deteriorate. I can see it now. While the assignment may not have been as good as I had hoped it should not have spiralled me the way it did.
I have avoided writing again for so long, yet, as you will see, boy I enjoy writing page after page! Some people can talk the leg off a stool as they say, well I can write until the cows come home. I sometimes struggle to reign in my writing, to be more concise. Yet, my inner voice screams "Why should I?". The English language is beautiful, why shouldn't I be able to express myself through its words? I lose myself in writing. I feel alive when I write, when I attempt to play with composition, words and meanings. Granted my current writing is not of acclaim, and I have an awful lot of work to do to get to any credible standard, but you know what? I'm doing it!
I'm writing again! I'm writing again to hopefully fall back in love with a once besotted passion. I am writing again as I feel alive when my fingers are clapping away at the keyboard. I am writing again as for me it is a release, a way of shedding my inner thoughts (good and bad) and putting them into perspective. I am writing again as I know I can help people through my blog and my articles. I am writing again as I know it is a wonderful form of therapy in my own recovery. I am writing again so I can share my story, which will hopefully encourage, support and inspire others on their journeys too.
I am looking forward to unleashing my inner literary goddess over the coming months and years. I may never be a Booker Prize winner but I really don't care. What I do care about is reigniting and following an old passion of mine, and hopefully helping others along the way.
A lot of advice out there in relation to finding yourself suggests that you remember and connect to what made you happy as a child. If you have never thought about this give it a go. I did, this is how I rediscovered my love of writing, this method worked for me! Take five minutes now to think about what you used to love doing as a child growing up. What made you happy? What made your heart soar? Write it down, go back to it and explore it if your heart calls you to it.
I'd love to hear about what your childhood passions were? Do you still participate in them? Would you like to? What did you dream about becoming as a child? Did you fulfil those dreams or did they come crashing down in a similar way to mine?
Are you currently craving something but do not know yet what it is? Do you hanker over old hobbies or interests but it stops there, with the longing but never the doing? Here is your next challenge, what is stopping you? I mean really stopping you? A new interest or hobby may be just the avenue you need if you are currently unwell, it’s such a wonderful healthy distraction. Don’t think about the usual excuses of time and money, we didn’t have any money as children so that shouldn’t stop you now.
I really hope this post does not come across as self-indulgent. I do find writing a form of therapy but I am sharing this little part of my life to show how mental health issues can creep up on you without you even knowing it. It is also to encourage you that everybody has ‘their thing’. I lost mine but I have recently found it again. If you haven’t found your passion yet get out there, get on the internet and search for ideas, remember your childhood passions, try out things, just find it if you can. It can and will help your mental health.