Stepping Back Out Into A Changed World

Image by qimono on Pixabay

Tomorrow school starts again for Term 3. 

Tonight, I am contemplating — somewhat anxiously — what tomorrow will bring. That’s fairly standard territory the night before returning to school for a new term, but right now it’s even more complicated than usual. 

Phrases like “back into routine” and “good to keep busy” have been bandied about altogether too casually by people who don’t understand how I feel. In one sense, things may seem as though they are “returning to normal”, but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, it feels very much like I’m stepping into the vast unknown. 

The world out there is anything but normal. 

The state in which I live ihas been cut off from the rest of the country by border restrictions because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne. We’ve all been quarantined to an extent, and Melbourne itself is locked down much tighter than we are out here in the western region of the state. 

The distance between us and Melbourne is no room for complacency, though. Just today we heard the news that Warrnambool,  the regional city in which I work, has reported its first active case in months. It’s sobering news, and terrible timing for the beginning of a new school term. Honestly, it just adds a greater sense of impending doom to the craziness that is going on out there. 

I’m keen to see my students, though. My hope is that they will take my mind off things through each school day and keep me motivated when I’m feeling low.

So, I’ve invested in masks and extra sanitiser. I even have sprays to disinfect any work the kids hand in. I will be even more conscientious and deliberate about social distancing, because I don’t trust other people to do the right things.  At least my natural cynicism about human nature is intac which, I suppose, is something. 

Life isn’t ‘normal’ on a personal level either. 

I miss Dad. 
I miss Helen. 
Enormously. 

I have lost two of the constant, consistent encouragers in my life. I keep thinking of things I want to tell them, and photos I want to show them, and I can’t. I want them to know about my new great-nephew. I want to tell them I love them. It’s really, really hard. 

I’m trying to work through my grief, but that isn’t going to happen according to any timetable.  That’s a process that will take as much time as it will take. 

The past three weeks have changed me, although I can’t define exactly how. 

I feel like I should be more resilient, or better at handling things, or at least better at faking an appearance of being able to manage, but I’m not. 

I feel like I should look different somehow, but I probably don’t. 

That is, of course, if you don’t look too closely at the dark circles under my eyes. 
Sleep has been evasive ever since Dad was admitted to hospital with coronary issues on June 16. During the week in which both he and Helen passed away, I barely slept at all.  Last night I managed seven hours, but it was in two instalments with an hour off at half time. It’s no wonder I feel like rubbish. 

My purpose in expressing my thoughts and feelings here is not to moan or whine. I know I am not the only person experiencing these things. I am not the only person experiencing grief, or lugging emotional baggage everywhere. 

I want others in similar situations to understand that there is nothing wrong with feeling the way they do. All of this is part of the grieving process, and it’s crucial to be kind and patient with ourselves while we sort our various burdens out. 

I want other people to understand that they can’t expect people who are grieving, or anxious, or caring any other kind of burden for that matter, to feel a certain way or simply “get over things” in any set period of time. 

Grief is not a tidy and well-organised domain. Everyone experiences it differently. It brings with it a whole variety of secondary emotions that are unpredictable at best.  Denying it, suppressing it, or trying to make our grief fit preconceived expectations are futile and unhealthy ways of dealing with it. 

That means each of us has to deal with it in our own time, and each of us can expect to be as messy as our grief.  Each of us will, at some point, have to step out into a world that has changed significantly and irreversibly.

Acceptance, kindness, patience and self-care will help to make that a healthier process for everyone. 

Stepping Back Into A Changed World
#grief #emotions #anxiety #personal #blogpost

Staying Informed Without Getting Overloaded

How can we keep things in perspective and maintain a positive balance during the corona virus pandemic?

During any crisis, be it war, fire, flood, famine or pestilence, it’s important to stay up to date with important information, but it’s also really easy to be overloaded by non-stop discussion and bombardment by both media and social channels. 

In recent weeks, it seems that every time one turns the radio on or watches anything on commercial television, the only thing anyone talks about is corona virus related. It’s relentless. Government officials, scientists, medical authorities, celebrities, talk shows, podcasts, and current affairs specials are all contributing to the conversations, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance. Every news bulletin tells us how many people have been diagnosed and how many have died. 

It would be quite possible to consume media about global developments, self isolation, quarantine, and empty supermarket shelves all day, every day— and there are probably people doing that. 

That’s not healthy. 

It very quickly becomes emotionally  and mentally  overwhelming , and can blow out into quite disproportionate fear and paranoia. 

We are all as susceptible to that as anyone else, so it is important to strike a balance between keeping abreast of what we need to know and limiting the amount of constant discussion about the virus that we allow into each day. 

My strategies and decisions for achieving this include: 

  • Being very selective about where I get my news and information. Each day, I inform myself via reputable and balanced news services. Then I turn my focus to other things. 
  • Choosing to deliberately reject “fear language” and negativity, because that doesn’t help anyone. 
  • Being discerning about the content of social media feeds, and how much time is spent reading them.
    Keep in mind that social media is very rarely one of those reputable and balanced news services. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.
    The “mute” functionality is very useful in those circumstances.
  • Adopting an “only positive” approach to sharing and promoting other people’s content. If it’s encouraging, entertaining and constructive, share away. Spread that stuff around like a five year old sprinkles glitter. 
  • Occupying our thoughts with productive and proactive things. Whether that is work, recreational, or creating positive content for our own social media depends on the needs and demands of each day.
  • Balancing the amount of screen time in each day with screen-free time. Especially in these times of social distancing, it’s vital to ensure that healthy habits are maintained. Go for a walk, enjoy some sunshine or look at the night sky, prepare and enjoy good food, talk with family and friends, dance to a favourite tune or two, read a book, play with the dog, clean out a cupboard or pull some weeds in the garden… the possibilities are myriad. 
  • Keeping things in perspective. Yes, there is a global health crisis making many people sick and curtailing personal and social freedoms. People are losing jobs and businesses as a result. The economy is wallowing. It is a very serious situation. 
    At the same time, most of us are simply being asked to stay home and find ways to entertain ourselves. It might be inconvenient, and we might have to abandon or change plans, but it is still a much better option than what some people are facing.
  • Supporting local community. When you do need to buy things, try to invest in local and small businesses so that they can survive the crisis, too. This can help you to develop a sense of connection and belonging that is as encouraging for you as it is for the folk you support. 
    An additional benefit is that many small businesses are currently offering contactless shopping and delivery options at no extra expense, and the quality of the goods and services they offer often far surpasses their bigger competitors.

We can’t control the virus, but we can control our own responses to the disruption and social climate it has created. By being proactive about keeping informed and staying positive, we can avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of discussion and the fear and negativity that can so easily take hold as a result. 

Staying informed without getting overwhelmed during the #Coronavirus #pandemic
#perspective #mentalwellbeing #blogpost

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

How To Not Make Someone Feel Worse Than They Already Do

Despite having worked hard, going more than one “extra mile” and achieving some good things, I have spent much of the past  few days feeling absolutely, irretrievably inferior. Totally sub-standard. An awful disappointment.

It’s not a new experience, by any stretch of the imagination. It happens far more often than most people will ever know or realise. Even so, it is never pleasant feeling as though most of the world thinks you’re rubbish. 

It’s not as though any of us is perfect. I certainly make no claim to be… which is a good thing because I am most definitely not.

And yet, when others discover a flaw or weakness, or find I have made a mistake, they very often speak or act as though they feel they have a right to be outraged and judge me for my imperfection. 

So here’s a news flash. 

I am not perfect. 
Neither are you. 
Everyone makes mistakes. 
Everyone misses a beat every now and then. 

But you know what is more hurtful than someone making a mistake? 
Treating them as though they are less than you. 

Because, you know, they’re not. 

If someone does something that bothers you, or offends you, and you feel the need to talk to them about it, for goodness’ sake, be kind. And if you can’t be kind, then wait until you can. 

And please, please, oh please, go to them and speak to them rather than anyone else. Going behind their back and kvetching about it is only ever going to cause more complications and trouble, so unless that is your actual intent, it is a response that should be avoided.

Similarly, there is nothing achieved by being judgemental. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive. 

Sure, they might comply with what you ask or insist of them. But they might do that if you simply asked them to do something to resolve the issue, too— especially if you ask nicely and say please.

The saying that “you get more out of people with honey than you do with a stick” became a proverb for a reason: it is generally true. It is certainly true of how I respond to people. 

If someone treats me with kindness, I will do everything in my power to not let them down. 
If they dump judgement on me, I am just going to keep on beating myself up over it, because if someone tells me I am not good enough, I will believe them. I will also probably never again fully believe that they have any respect for me at all. 

And if someone else, completely unknown to them and in different circumstances, tells me the same thing, I will believe both of them, twice as hard and twice as long. 

It’s not deliberate, and it doesn’t matter if that is not your intention: that’s how I am wired. 

The consequence is that it makes everything I need to do in a day more difficult. I doubt myself and second guess everything, even the things I know I am good at. 

To be honest, life is actually hard enough without that. It’s bad enough knowing that I made the mistake in the first place, or that someone resents me for not measuring up to their standards. Add chronic pain, anxiety and depression into the mix, and it very quickly becomes both exhausting and excruciating. 

It’s almost certain that that doesn’t just apply to me, either. Many people have internal battles or burdens of one kind or another that they keep hidden, but which add another level of complexity to whatever else they have to deal with in a day. 

So when someone screws up— and we should all understand that everyone will, from time to to time— be kind. Tell them gently, person to person, and let them fix it, or at least try to. 

Please. And thank you. 

RU OK? World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today is RU OK Day, also known as World Suicide Prevention day.

This is an awareness very close to my heart.
I’m not going to expand on why, because I want the focus of this post to be positive and encouraging.

The message is important not just for today because it’s a special awareness day. This message is permanently, crucially important.

We need to take care of each other. Each of us is uniquely placed to offer support and encouragement to the people we know – friends, families, colleagues, students, whoever we cross paths with in our lives. That doesn’t mean we have to be their only support, although sometimes we might be just that. 

If you think someone is down, if they look tired or unwell, or notice they’re not taking care of themselves as well as they usually do, ask them if they are okay.  Don’t just ask as a throwaway question. Be willing to have a quality conversation that includes questions like:

  • What’s going on?
  • What do you need?
  • How can I help?
  • Is there someone I can contact for you?

Taking the time to check in with someone deliberately and thoughtfully is a powerful communication of care and concern. 

It’s important  to realise that you or I might be the one positive thing that happens in someone’s day. We might be the only source of encouragement and light that they encounter. 

We also need to consider the power of our words. A curt dismissal or snide remark in response to a comment that might actually be a true confession of desperation, depression or anxiety can be incredibly destructive. We should never, ever be making a joke of that. Yes, sometimes it is attention-seeking or needless drama— but sometimes it’s not. 

A kind word or message of encouragement could be the difference between someone actually deciding that now is the time to end their life, or not. 

I know. It’s a huge responsibility. 

But imagine a world where each of us gives someone that kind of support, and someone else gives it to us when we need it. 

And if you’re thinking you’ll never need it, stop right now and be very, very thankful for the blessings in your life and the comfort of good, stable mental health. It’s not possible to emphasise enough just how lucky you are. 

If you’re one of those who is struggling, or feeling like you’re drowning, or tired of treading water… please, please, talk to someone. Seek help. Look for reasons —  any reason — to stay.  Please stay.

I wrote this poem after one of the darkest seasons of my life thus far. I hope that you will gain both perspective and insight from reading it. 

Before you read this poem, there is somethingI would likeyou to know.

This poem is absolutely, 100% true. It is personal, it is painfully honest, and it tells of my own experience, not anyone else’s. And you may find it quite confronting.

Despite its darkness, it is written to be positive, not negative.

It was not written to win sympathy or make anyone feel guilt: it was written so that people might understand what’s in my head, and what I’ve been feeling, and why I’ve made the choices I have.

To answer your concerns: I have chosen to stay here and to defy all impulses that tempt me otherwise. I don’t always feel okay, I’m not always okay, but I will be okay.

For anyone in a similar position: hold on. Stay here. You matter more than you know.

Promo X Still Here Plain.jpeg

STILL HERE.

For a moment-
One fleeting, isolated point in time-

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I Deal with Imposter Syndrome Daily and I Haven’t Quit Writing Yet

I can relate to this post on so many levels. As a writer. As a teacher. As a performer. As a director. Sometimes, even as a decent human being.

I may have proven myself time and time again, but it doesn’t stop that sensation that maybe I’m not any good, nor does it quell the fear that one day someone will expose me or my work as being rubbish.

Fear isn’t rational.
Anxiety doesn’t care about track records.
And Impostor Syndrome is relentless.

I don’t know why it happens, but I know it plagues creative people and sometimes renders them unable to keep going.

I haven’t given in to it yet. I don’t ever want to. But my goodness, trying to resist it is tiring.

A Writer's Path

by Meg Dowell

Writing is hard enough. Add imposter syndrome into the mix and it becomes the kind of challenge you have to remind yourself, quite often, is still worth pursuing.

View original post 818 more words

Published again!

So, after spending a November on the very attractive pages of Yours & Mine magazine, my work is now gracing the pages of The Australia Times Poetry Magazine!

So, after spending a November on the very attractive pages of Yours & Mine magazine, my work is now gracing the pages of The Australia Times Poetry Magazine!

The amazing editors there have given me a great bio and a three page spread for my poem, ‘The Sea’, enhanced by some lovely photography, on pages 22-25 of Issue 24.

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It’s always a thrill to find out someone likes something that I’ve written. That kind of connection is why writers write, and why artists paint, sculpt and create.
Can you imagine my excitement when I saw the beautiful treatment they’ve given my poem?

I hope you’ll take the time to click through and read my poem.

Of course, my poem isn’t really just about the sea. It uses the sea, and the shore, as an allegory for depression and anxiety. The poem itself is about living with and through that, and surviving.

TAT Poetry is a great magazine every month, and I am really honoured to be featured in it!

I’d also really appreciate it if you’d share it around on twitter, facebook, or your other preferred social media.