Does creativity mostly stem from darkness?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I’m NOT writing anymore, and wondering why this is the case. When I first started this blog in January, I was writing around 3 – 4 blog posts a week. I simply couldn’t stop. I had so much bottled up inside of me that was flowing out – emotions, rage, guilt, regret, sadness. It was like someone had finally turned the tap on inside of me, and years of built up sewerage was spilling out so I channeled it the best way I knew how – through words. Everyone has their own way of expressing their inner thoughts. Some resort to alcohol, drugs and violence, while some turn to creative pursuits – art, dance, music, photography and writing to name a few. I’ve been wondering though, as I’ve noticed a significant decrease in my once torturous feelings of anxiety, why I don’t feel like writing as much anymore, and if anyone else can relate?

When you think about some of the famous artists and creatives of our time, there is usually a back story of hidden pain and secrets as well. Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent van Gogh, Charles Dickens and many others have been documented to have experienced mental health struggles. I can’t help but wonder if in a lot of cases, our most creative works come from a place of sadness and helplessness within? Many of the greatest musicians and song writers have referenced their ‘best sellers’ as having been recorded in some of their darkest times. There seems to be a pretty significant connection between common struggles (depression, anxiety, mood swings, relationship break downs, deaths and so on), where the person works through their feelings via creative expression.

I know for certain that when I’m feeling ‘normal’ – which in my case I would equate with getting through the day with a fairly consistent mood, and not being plagued by frequent periods of anxiety or nervousness, that I don’t particularly feel like writing. In fact I usually have to be experiencing a pretty ‘down’ day to sit down and let the words come pouring out, which is a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand I’m over the moon that my darkness seems to be lifting, but on the other hand I’m sad because I get a lot of enjoyment from writing. What am I meant to write about if I’m feeling normal, or even (dare I say it), happy? That seems like such a silly thing to worry about, I know. I think it’s stemmed from my unhealthy relationship with ‘morbid’ news stories in the media, where for some unknown reason I am drawn to read horrifying stories of murder, kidnapping and tragedies on a regular basis. Of course this is not an uncommon fascination – it has been well documented that as a society these days we are hungry for such stories, and that they both terrify and intrigue us.

I’ll wrap my musings up today with a quote from Jack Beal;

Keep painting your demons. 

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Photo credits – ourcolourdays & ourmoodydays

Trying to understand people is impossible.

 

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If you, like me, have wasted countless hours of your life trying to understand why someone has acted in the way that they have, then you aren’t alone. I’ve spent days analysing situations, messages, emails, behaviours – you name it. Simply trying to understand why someone has said this or done that, drives me absolutely insane. It’s something that I’ve really struggled with my whole life, just trying to connect all the dots and make sense of peoples decisions. The truth is though – nobody can ever really understand how people think, or someone’s entire life of experiences that add up to them choosing to act one way instead of another.

There are hundreds of variables influencing people at every moment of the day, each of them firing away at rapid speed without us even being aware. From little decisions like choosing what to have for lunch, to big decisions like applying for jobs and moving house, we all come to our conclusions after a series of elements like past experiences, friends and families opinions, media influences, emotions and a million other things come into play. How could we ever possibly aim to understand people if this is the case? We can’t, and that’s something I need to accept before I waste any more time trying.

One of my big ones was people who are always late. ALWAYS late. WHYYYY ? I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just plan their day around the time they KNEW they had to be somewhere, to ensure they had enough time to get there etc etc. Didn’t they feel guilty for making other people wait? I know I feel absolutely panicked and sick when I (rarely) keep someone waiting, and apologise profusely for doing so. But nope, some people just breeze on in at any time they like without seeming to care. I still don’t understand it, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I have a little more life experience to appreciate that everyone is different, and that I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of their day. They’ll get there when they get there, and I can be a little more forgiving (as long as it’s not something super important like a wedding – though this one remains to be seen).

Assuming that people will want to do certain activities with you, or that they are free at the same times as you is also a big mood-killer. SO many times in my life I’ve planned things in my head with certain people, to be left disappointed and lonely when they’ve low and behold got other plans or simply don’t feel like doing the same thing as me. This one is something I still struggle with, and it’s completely self-induced. Nobody is a mind reader – the other person in my planned scenario will usually have no idea that I’ve connected A, B and C to mean that because I’m free on Sunday morning then we can both go out for breakfast followed by a morning stroll. Assuming things about people or how events will unfold is the worst thing you can do, because it is always a recipe for disaster – or at the very least leaves you feeling like a sad control freak.

So take a step back, and check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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Photo credits – depthobsessed & maxfromtax.

Why forcing yourself to converse is so important…

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I’ll just come right out and say it; my natural instinct is to run and hide, turn completely inwards and build things up in my mind. I’m not a natural conversationalist by any means, in fact a comfortable silence with loved ones is something I really enjoy. If someone invites me to a social gathering, I usually worry about the fact I’ll have to engage in small chat with strangers, something I assume poking needles in your eyes would feel like. I’m expected to be courteous, charming and interested while pushing down the screaming introvert within, and sometimes it’s just easier to decline. But at what cost to my growth and development as a human?

I have a girlfriend who calls me nearly every day for a chat, and every single time the phone rings my gut instinct is to not pick it up. Why? What the hell is wrong with me? Even though 9 times out of 10 I’ll feel better after chatting to her, bouncing ideas around and venting about life, I just can’t seem to learn. It’s incredibly frustrating and something I’m acknowledging right here and now that I’m committing to working on. I don’t expect to become a public speaker or the next biggest socialite, but I do hope to stop associating conversations with an ingrained flight response.

I assume this preference of mine was developed over the years from being an only child until I was 10, and from living mostly with my grandparents who aren’t big talkers either. Dinner was usually a silent affair over the 6pm news so my Pop could hear the stories of the day, and discussing your issues in any great depth was something not really done. If anything scandalous happened within the family it was conveyed in hushed whispers, so I suppose I’ve developed an intuitive response to internalise my feelings, or turn to diary (and blog) writing. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this, however if I should start a family of my own one day I’ll certainly be more conscious of these behaviours and encourage open discussion.

Would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions on how I can improve this tendency of mine… And hoping you have a great week 🙂

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Photo credits – rsa_mextures & yuugi83

Only you can fix your broken window.

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I’ve come to realise in the last few years that most people in life are far too busy worrying about their own problems, to try in any tangible way to help ‘fix’ yours. Yes we all offer words of support, throwing out lines of advice here and there, but in reality we are all too consumed with our own shit to spare any energy in helping others. The fire to change something in your life has got to come from within, otherwise you’ll never get there. Unless you are severely impaired by some form of mental or health related illness, you’ve just got to help yourself. People will be there to give you a kick up the ass and try to motivate you, but ultimately it comes down to lighting your own fire – and that usually takes a trip to rock bottom first.

We’ve all been in a situation where we feel helpless, alone, down and unmotivated. It might be after a break up, or looking for a new job, or home. It might be after a death or traumatic incident, or something little like a fight with a friend. Sometimes in life, you just feel glum – shit happens, and you can’t be bothered getting off the couch. Your family and friends will try and lift your spirits, suggesting outings and exercise. The endorphins will make you feel wonderful! Going outside is the last thing you feel like doing… until, one day, something inside you changes. Nobody is pestering you to cheer up, or asking you out for coffee, and suddenly you think – maybe I can do this. And that’s all it takes – that little spark of confidence, that little burst of positive thinking.

I know first hand what it’s like to go through this. I had loved ones telling me for months to quit my stressful job, and move away from a city I’d grown to despise. It honestly went in one ear and out the other, because I was SCARED. I felt completely trapped, stuck in a dark existence where every day depleted me of energy just trying to make it through. I was filled with ‘what if’ scenarios, bogged down by too many options and not enough courage, but ultimately just scared… 6 months later I look back to that period and wonder how I let it get so bad. Life is far too short to waste trapped in a mediocre job, missing your family and pretending to be okay. All it took was a firm decision, a step of courage and a moment of honesty. I-CANT-DO-THIS-ANYMORE. Let the chips fall where they may, but I was out of there – and haven’t looked back. Finally, I had done SOMETHING for myself. Something, anything was better than NOTHING.

And so I felt like a complete idiot this week when chatting to one of my close friends about how down he has been feeling. Here I was, offering out advice and suggesting things that had helped me – when I should have just listened. Nobody wants to hear what they should be doing – they’re not stupid. They know fully well what they should be doing to get out of their rut, but it takes time to come to that moment of clarity of your own free will – and that’s what makes all the difference 🙂

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Photo credits – aureta & thebest_windowsdoors

Why I changed my opinion on taking your own life.

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I grew up for years with the personal opinion that the act of suicide was the most selfish thing you could do. I used to think everything from ‘How could you do that to your family?’, ‘How could you leave your body in that state for someone else to find?’, and ‘How could you leave your loved ones with the burden of guilt, regret and never knowing why?’. These are just some of the things I wished I could ask people who were successful with their suicide attempts. Not necessarily why did they do it, but more a case of how could they? I simply couldn’t understand how someone could be in that dire of a state, and in that much darkness, that they could legitimately not see a way out.

Having never been personally affected by a loved one taking their own life, and having never felt suicidal myself, I feel somewhat inadequate to even write about this – but mental health is something I do feel incredibly passionate about. I recently watched an eye-opening documentary on ABC titled ‘You Can’t Ask That’, where a range of suicide survivors were interviewed on all the questions people secretly want to ask. For example – how did you do it, did you feel guilty, who saved you… etc etc. For me the question of guilt was something I was extremely interested in, but in fact none of the people interviewed said they felt any guilt at all. They were in such a cloud of despair, that they honestly thought removing themselves from life was going to make their loved ones happier, and obviously rid themselves of their own pain.

Hearing survivors talk about their experience first hand was something that made me do a complete 180 on my opinion. Admittedly, I was on the path to changing how I felt about it from my own experiences with anxiety – whilst I’ve never even been close to having suicidal thoughts, I’ve had some really bad days with overwhelming anxiety where I’ve desperately wanted those feelings to stop. So I can now see how someone could fall deeper and deeper into that well of hopelessness, and can’t see a way out. Yes – everyone always says the help is there… they just had to ask. But hindsight is a bitch isn’t it?

I’ve also been reading a lot about postpartum depression, and have tonight just watched a documentary on it titled ‘When the Bough Breaks‘ – a really raw, honest view on something that affects a lot of women. I guess I have been interested in this condition as part of recovering from my issues with anxiety, and as a woman I have a natural fear that this is perhaps something I will go through should I have a child one day. The hormonal and emotional experience of childbirth coupled with sleep deprivation, existing mental health issues and lack of support are all red flags for postpartum depression, and I think the mothers who have spoken up to discuss their journeys are incredibly brave.

Hoping this post hasn’t offended anyone, I am merely discussing my own thoughts and feelings – feel free to comment 🙂

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Photo credits – dullbluelight & maxfromtax

2am thoughts should never be disregarded… 

I’ve been thinking lately about those poignant thoughts you have in the dead of night – the ones that not only wake you up, but also make you want to take immediate action. You’re laying there in a shroud of darkness with all your neurons firing, worried that if you drift back to sleep you’ll lose these seemingly life changing thoughts, but at the same time just enjoying this moment of clarity. 

This week I had one of those moments. I woke up to a message from a friend overseas, asking if I was enjoying being home. I read the message and put the phone back down, willing myself to get back to sleep – but I simply couldn’t. I was frustrated at the simplicity of the question – was I enjoying myself? I’ve been home for nearly 6 months now on what I’ve decided is my ‘gap year’, recovering from extreme anxiety and stress brought on from work, and it’s been H.A.R.D. Harder than anything I’ve ever gone through. To reduce the last 6 months to something simple as the word ‘enjoyment’ would be a complete joke, when I’ve worked very hard to overcome personal challenges and come out smiling. Yes, I might post pictures on social media of pretty things, adventures, time at the beach and snuggles with my animals – but social media isn’t reality. It’s how we like to frame ourselves to the world and often ourselves, and certainly doesn’t tell the story of all the difficult times between those happy memories.

Since moving home I’ve had messages from numerous friends saying how jealous they are of all my pictures, and how happy I look. And while I can’t disagree with them – I’m a THOUSAND times happier than I was a year ago, I’ve still got a while to go. I suppose it’s my fault as well, for perhaps not divulging all my deepest darkest fears and worries to certain friends – sometimes we just want to keep a small portion of ourselves private. I’m so grateful for growing up as a teenager without the influences of social media, where reality is staged and happiness only looks attainable to the rich and famous. Our social media accounts are not our lives – they are a colourful way to document things and express ourselves, but they definitely only represent a small part of the whole. 

I’m sure that most of you will agree with me that we should all strive to live in the present a little more, and worry a little less about what we see online. Ask your friends how they are – don’t make an assumption based on their Instagram or Facebook account, because more often than not they’re craving that human connection. And while you’re at it, grab a journal for those 2am thoughts – you never know what might need jotting down in the dead of night 🙂 

Photo credits – jetmour & moodyports

When you stop running, doors start opening.

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I’m writing this post tonight as I reflect on the people I’ve met recently through work, who’ve opened up to me rather quickly about their own personal battles. I don’t know if it’s because A) They feel like they can trust me or B) They just want someone to talk to. It’s probably a mixture of both, and don’t get me wrong – I’m more than happy to listen and engage in deep conversation early on into meeting people. None of this small chat about the weather! Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. But I can’t help but feel a little guilty for initially trying to appear as someone I’m not. You see after the awful year I had in 2016, I wanted this job to be a fresh start where I could leave all my past behind. I wanted to be cool, calm and collected. I wanted to leave my personal life at home and be the ultimate professional on the job. But after my recent conversations with these colleagues, I’ve realised how much humans crave that connection – and how important it really is.

I spent all my energy last year trying to cover up the fact that I simply was not okay. I wasn’t okay going into those meetings, or making those cold calls. I wasn’t okay with that workload, or with that pressure, and I most certainly wasn’t okay with pretending I cared about such meaningless tasks. So this year I told myself that I would focus on me, and what I really wanted. I would take a less stressful job where I didn’t know anyone, and they wouldn’t know how close I’d come to rock bottom. I didn’t have to disclose the battles I’d come through, and I intended on staying that way. I’d come from a workplace culture of keeping your mouth shut and carrying on – you were a cog in the wheel and every cog was replaceable. So I tried, for as long as I could to keep my cool – but as many of you will know that became impossible.

Since meeting the staff in my new job and having them open up to me about their own battles (be it sexual identity issues, domestic violence or mental health problems), I’ve realised that it’s OKAY to be honest with people straight up. We don’t have to wear this mask we create for ourselves, and we don’t have to be ashamed of whatever we’ve gone through. We should feel empowered to be transparent, be trusting, and lean on each other. After all we are in this job together, and how can we really perform to the best of our abilities if we don’t know each others triggers and weak spots?

From now on I intend to be completely honest with my colleagues, both current and future. I’m done with pretending to be someone I’m not, and you can either take it or leave it. We’re all unique individuals with our own stories of perseverance, and we should lift each other up – not bring each other down.

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Photo credits – maison.chloeyeur & hautepunchmag