‘I’ve got nothing.’ That’s what I thought when I started writing this post. I wondered if I should write about negativity and positivity. The image of half-filled – or emptied – glasses swirled around in front of my eyes. Nope. I’ll write about mental illness, I thought, or Mr Kitty. Maybe I can do one about my parents and how lovely and quirky they are? What about work? I always have something to say on employment. I think…
I codlin’t decide on any of these things. Apparently this is a common issue for writers, not knowing where to start. The blank canvas is too white, the decisions too hard to make. It’s not really problem I have had much. An article is a half hour’s work with maybe an additional five or ten minuets of editing. I am decisive and clear-headed and know just precisely what I want, always. Lately this has not been the case.
I have been struggling with health issues for a while and one way it manifests is in my clarity and vision. I turned up two hours late for an appointment the other day. I had put the wrong time in my phone and not checked the reminder message from the doctor’s clinic. This is probably something others do from time to time but not me. This has never happened in my life. It shocks me. It’s like I am changing. I am left with uncertainty about my writing and speaking in the future. What happens if I forget to go to a talk in another state? Or even in Canberra for that matter. How long will this last? Do I have a health condition which can be effectively treated or will this be my lot, this fog of forgetfulness and indecision?
I have been taking quite heavy-duty medication for my mental health issues since 1995. I hadn’t really thought about it much before but now I’m wondering if maybe my future will involve me living less years than my past? How long do I have on this planet? Will I achieve everything I want and need to do? The medications have long term side effects – I only just found this out from my new doctor who has what sometimes seems an unusual interest among his peers – that of wanting treatment for mental illness to be sustainable over time and not to prescribe medications that cause permanent and disabling side effects.
Yes, I have discovered doubt about my capability and my very existence. I think about death a lot, wondering how long I have. I allow my imagination to take me into the abyss and draw a picture of what lies beyond the veil – heaven, hell, somewhere with lots of cats and sparkly things. Who knows this stuff?
I have tried to make some strategies for addressing these things for myself. I shall share my initial thoughts with you. (One time I told my mum about my latest epiphany and she said ‘and I know you will share i with others. You’re good like that.’ – love my mum so much). Anyway, strategies….
- We do not know the future. This is a good thing mostly but for anxious folks like me it can generate a need to fill that blank canvas of one’s story into the future with content. Often the content we fill it with is catastrophising and negativity. I try to constantly remind myself that I don’t know what come next and I should experience it when it happens ad go on from there.
- There is no point regretting the past and what we did or didn’t do. All anyone has is what they have now, in this moment, and into the future. If we didn’t get a university degree or have a child, or save enough money to buy a house in the past, it isn;t really something we can go back in time and do. We go from now onwards. That is all anyone has.
- Physical and mental health are in a constant state of flux. This is true for almost everyone, even people who see themselves as ‘healthy.’ You can get in a car accident going to work, you can contract an illness or injury. None of us know. All we can do is be prepared for the unexpected and approach any mental or physical health issues with that good old skill of acceptance. That is, to accept that the current sate of your health is how it is and then move on from there. I remember when I was in my twenties I made a very poor choice and spent months agonising over it. Filled with remorse I wished and prayed that it had never happened. When I accepted that what I had done had already happened and tried to move on from there and make more healthy choices then something shifted and I could start to heal.
- This is important: You do not need to go through your life’s journey addressing all your problems and challenges yourself. Hopefully we will all have allies along our life journey. People who are positive enablers and who support and empower us to be well and do well. Often this will not be the same person or people. Try to be open to these people – or pets – in your life and be grateful for their presence.
- All we can hope to do with our lives is to leave the world a little bit better after we leave it than it was when we came into it. That is all. Nobody – even the most famous person – will have an immortal memory. Just imagine how many individuals you can think of who were alive 1000 years ago. (for literary folks amongst the readers, I’m thinking of Percy Shelley;s poem ‘Ozymandias’). If you aim for that, it is a distraction from the far more important act of helping others in the here and now – it could be your friends, your partner, your kids, your cat or dog (or spider for that matter!), colleagues at work or your grandma. It is as simple as that.
There. I wrote something. Time for a cuddle with the most important being in my life at the moment – that little black kitty who knows me as his human.
Dogs can be important allies too