How Silence Makes Me Feel (And Other Digressions)

This is a response to one of the questions in a book titled ‘Writing Prompts for the Creative Scribe’. 

How does silence make you feel? When you’re alone? When you’re with other people?

Silence makes me feel unsettled. When I’m alone, I often retreat to my old ways of negative thinking and I start having bad thoughts about my life, unless I have a distraction. A dog, a song, an activity, a creative idea. Sometimes that still isn’t enough and after a little while I begin to wonder why I still exist. What are my reasons for living? Even when I list what and who I have in my life, it still sometimes doesn’t feel real. Like I’ve been living a lie for the past 24 years.

Silence when I’m with others is a lot more bearable. It’s difficult to allow those negative thoughts to overcome me in someone’s presence, especially if that person means a lot to me. In other’s company, I can reflect on my surroundings a lot more. I can occupy myself with what they look like, what they’re doing, what they might be thinking. This unfortunately means I am also riddled with anxiety if I don’t know my company-keepers entirely well. I judge others without meaning to. I really wish I wasn’t the sort of person that judges, but I am. I also assume that strangers do the same for me, when they’re most likely not judging at all. I should stop assuming, but it feels so natural to me.

I need to realise that I’m never truly encapsulated by silence. There’s always something to focus on – a small detail of sound, an essence of noise, a droplet of unprovoked nature in the air.  I try to describe what I hear to attempt to rid the negative thoughts in my head. But how long can I distract myself for?

 

My Letter To Depression

Depression,

Why do you mask the amazing parts of my life and drive me to sit behind black cloud with no vision of getting past it? Why are you constantly there, cramping my style, and the only way I can find to fight against you is to speak out about it? But then, why is your sidekick Stigma always nearby to kick me in the face every time I feel like I’m getting somewhere? Please tell me, is this fair?

Why do you not let me enjoy things anymore, like band rehearsal? Why do you insist that the music is way too loud, when it is just as loud as it is every week? Why do you force me to sit in the corner, with pins and needles worming their way down my limbs, withdrawn from my bandmates for 2 complete hours? Please tell me, is this fair?

How do you propel me so deep into your despair that no amount of embraces from my partner can relieve my sobbing? Why do you refuse to give in, compelling me to push away my loved ones under constraint? How can you manipulate my brain enough so I ignore messages from people I care about, until they don’t care anymore? Where do I stand? Or do you just completely control me? Please tell me, is this fair?

And by the way, your friend Anxiety…Why do they make me feel nervous when there’s nothing to be nervous about? I’m sitting at home, quite comfy and content, but then my stomach churns and I feel impending doom all of a sudden. I feel like I’m in trouble and my life is over. Please tell me, is this fair?

No, you’re not killing me. But you are extracting the soul out of me. You’re ripping me apart and stripping my quality of life. Please tell me, is this fair? Because I really don’t think I deserve this.

From Sarah, the one who will continue to fight until the end.

7 Tips For When You Feel Completely Lost

I sometimes get periods of time where I’m not particularly suffering anxiety or depression, but where I’m stuck in a rut somewhere in the middle, re-evaluating my life and unsure of why. I can never think logically about what to do – I can’t cling on to any sense of identity or concentrate on anything to take my mind off of it.

It is such a specific numbing feeling, and at the same time very blurred, making it completely overwhelming.

It’s a topic I haven’t yet found to be addressed from a mental health perspective, and I know various others who experience the same feeling. None of us have read an article about it before, and it’s time we did. To tackle this, I thought I’d really put my mind to the test and try to give some good ol’ agony aunt advice. Here’s some tips on what do when you’re feeling like a loose end that never ties up.

1. Talk to someone – whether its over the phone, through a message or in person, sharing your thought-load with someone will take the pressure off you. I normally find that once I admit to feeling down or lost, I start opening up about it and there is a feeling of acceptance in the air. Leading me nicely onto tip numero deux…

2. Acceptance is one of the hardest things, but being aware that you are feeling a certain way can be quite comforting sometimes. I find that when I realise how I’m feeling and say it out loud, it motivates me enough to find a new spark of identity, or at least create some movement amongst my thoughts to think clearly. I believe that acceptance of a situation is halfway to recovery.

3. Change of scenery – moving somewhere new can do the world of good. If I’m in a cold room with no sunlight, I will tend to move to a warmer room with the sun shining in, and where I can cuddle my dog! I find that it allows me to be a little more comfortable, and I can then put more of my energy into thinking clearer and realising I’m not a lost soul.

4. Listening to music really can change my mood quite dramatically. If I want to feel more thoughtful, I will listen to calming music with honest lyrics (which also makes me want to write too!), and particularly if I’m feeling a little lost I will try to put on music that will either distract me or give me knowledge that I’m not lost and alone. A band that currently motivate me are The Lone Bellow – their music is a mix of upbeat feel-good tunes and story-telling ballads with a folk/country flair. Be sure to have a listen.

5. Make sure you have a network of people around you. Knowing you have friends and family supporting you will give you comfort if you ever feel on your own. They can distract you from your mind’s situation for a little while, or just cushion the blow when times are rough. And I know, times can be so frickin’ rough. You must also remember that pretty much anyone who is human will have a time when they feel lost or don’t quite know which direction to take. We lead vastly unique lives, however most of us will share the same feelings and similar situations. Stick together.

6. Schedule something in your calendar – don’t completely fill it as it will be harder to achieve. Just 1 or 2 things that will give you direction. The other day I went to the library by myself (a massive achievement for the anxious side of me!) and I really enjoyed scanning the array of books on every shelf. I borrowed a couple of books about writing, and also found myself drawn towards the photography section – a hobby I haven’t really touched for a good few years. This one hour of my day gave me heaps of inspiration, aspiration and direction.

7. Be mindful – go for a walk, exercise, meditate or be creative in some way. Painting is one of my favourite things to do as it feels incredibly therapeutic, and I end up focusing more on what my paintbrush is doing than what my head is doing! Yoga is also a love of mine – it gets the oxygen flowing, gives me space in my head, and tricks me into doing exercise!

Many of us will have ‘off’ days where we feel a little lost, but then some will go through long phases of ruminating these thoughts and feelings. Be it one day, a week, or several months that you feel this way, I hope you utilise these tips and get back to being the amazing, unique person you still are. 🙂

Sarah x

My Experience With Suicidal Thoughts

*WARNING: Includes themes of suicide and negative thoughts.*

To me, the thought of no longer experiencing mental pain is in some ways quite pleasurable. I guess this is what people feel to some extent when they want to end their life. 

Some days I feel like I don’t want to die, but I also don’t want to live.

Well, most of the time I’m not really living, I’m just existing. Existing in a world of wrongs and rights, but where the wrongs are so overpowering that nothing seems worth it. I’m blanketed in that black fog once again, and no matter how bright my fog lights are, I just can’t seem to see clearly, let alone find the right path for my journey.

A few months back on an ordinary Thursday morning, I was sat in my car, too terrified to move in case I even thought about hurting myself. I sobbed and sobbed endlessly on my steering wheel, just wanting to be out of this situation, out of this mindset. Painfully wanting to be under my duvet at home, where everything seemed rosy. I’d have done so much to extract myself from that state, that place, that circumstance.

Looking back at it now, I kick myself for how silly it was to think like that, but I also feel guilty and ashamed.

Recently, however, I’ve seen these thoughts from a different side. Last month, I lost a friend to suicide. A kind, generous, warm-hearted person who loved fishing and carpentry and seemed to be full of life. I know deep down that he was in a lot of pain, but we helped each other through. The last time I saw him was the night before he died. Surrounded by people and music and cherished loved ones, we hardly spoke, but I felt a sense of acknowledgement in the air between us, like we understood how the other was feeling with words unspoken. I’m using all my conceivable energy right now to try to avoid writing “I just wish” or “what if”, but at the end of the day I am a human being after all, tapping keys on a computer with a hugely complicated brain and normally very negative ways of thinking inside my head. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t realise he was feeling that low. I didn’t realise, no-one realised, and that’s the problem. 

A few days after he passed, me and my partner got a tattoo of the hand stamp which was the door entry for the gig that last night we saw him. It’s a tiny anchor on our wrists that remind us to keep in contact with those who are struggling, ask them how they are, and take care of them if we can. I feel like I’ve never known anything so important in my life than this piece of information, hence why I got it permanently drawn on my body. A small, constant reminder to just be there. I’ll never know what or who it might help in the future, but just the fact that it might help is enough.

The funeral was the day I finally realised how many people loved and cared for him. The decision to take his life has left a family without a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a nephew, a fiancé. As heartbreaking as this situation is right now, I really believe it will make me a much stronger, good-willed, clearer-thinking individual, and I am determined to let his spirit live out through everything I do.

Sarah x

tattoo-edited

How My Rescue Dog Has Rescued Me.

I persuaded my boyfriend to get a dog. He wasn’t so sure at first, but he didn’t realise that it would soon be the best thing we ever could have done. We visited the Dog’s Trust in Basildon shortly after my birthday in March this year, and it was there that we found Murph – a bundle of energy that jumped up at us to say hello as soon as she saw us. She was a clumsy-footed, strong-willed, lump of fur that pulled me for a walk on the lead, and she was a lot bigger than the ‘small-to-medium’ sized dog that we were originally looking for. Nevertheless, we knew we couldn’t leave without her. Murph, or Murphy as we renamed her, finally came to her forever home with her forever parents a few days later. And little did we know that we’d adopted the soppiest of pups!

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My reasoning for getting a dog was to help me feel happier, less lonely, and to assist me with the separation anxiety that I constantly felt for my boyfriend Tom. Having a companion that I felt a connection with meant that someone or something would finally understand me without even having to speak.

Murphy, our 2-year-old German Shepherd crossbreed who we believe was once a stray in Ireland, seems to have a sixth sense and knows how I’m feeling sometimes before I even recognise it myself. I still find it incredible how this intelligent creature can detect when I feel sad or down, and will come for a cuddle and a ‘kiss’ (lots of face licks!) to make me feel better in these times of need.

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Having a dog comes with heaps of responsibility too – lots of money for food and toys, vets bills, daily walks, picking up poop, and finding the time to train them and give them the attention they so desperately require – especially when you are majorly in a rush to leave the house and they roll over for a belly rub and give you the ‘puppy eyes’! Murphy has given me the motivation to get up out of bed on a lot of occasions (which is a real achievement for me!) and has gifted me with the drive to start my day. She has also gifted me with a lot of chewed up possessions! However I am currently in France for a week without Murphy, and this has made me realise what she brings to my life. When she jumps on the bed to wake me up in the morning. When she goes crazy after I jingle her lead ready for a walk. When I watch her playing with other dogs at the park, like I’m watching my own child play and socialise with other children. When she’s still learning how to coordinate and jumps sideways trying to catch a ball. When she sits and watches TV with me. When she keeps me company if I’m feeling alone.

Without a doubt, she has completely enhanced my quality of life.

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Going out and about is personally very difficult – there’s the depression and lack of motivation that causes a struggle for me to get out of bed. Then there’s the anxiety that kicks in before I get out the door and holds me back when I do finally step outside. Having Murphy has created a reason to go out every day, and since having her I’ve made a conscious effort to walk her. A few months back, my challenge was to walk her on my own, up the road to the park, round the park, and back home. It seemed like it would take years to complete my challenge, as at first I would only walk her if I was with someone else – normally Tom or my mum. I gradually built up the confidence to walk her round the block on my own, and then round the block twice on my own. A few weeks passed and I was able to walk her to the local park and back, but not yet round the park without my anxiety taking over and making me pretty much run back home to safety. Cut a long story short, I completed my challenge. It took about a month, but I did it. The problem, now, is that I’ve got to a point again where I very rarely take her for a walk on my own. I didn’t keep it up, and now I’m back to square one. However, it still does me the world of good being able to get out and about, even if Tom has to persuade me and my overpowering anxiety. It opens up my eyes and the fresh air cleans my lenses – I begin to see the beauty of the world. Well, as much beauty as the backstreets of Southend can possibly provide. =D

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I knew that I’d give a dog a second chance in life by rescuing it, but I didn’t realise that the dog would give me a new lease of life in return.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, please #adoptdontshop.

http://www.dogstrust.org.uk