They say I’m doing well…
So, what does this mean to me…?
I could relay you a million stories, about people I’ve known or met in passing. I have one of those minds; I remember lots of little details people tell me and they always come in useful when I’m writing. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I could tell you someone else’s story, but how about telling you mine?
I’ve never been ill (touch wood). I did however come close to serious injury in a car crash once but walked away fine. I have never suffered a mental health issue myself. But behind some smiles, there are those of us who have watched others suffer and when you don’t have a mental health issue yourself, it is really hard to understand what someone else is going through when you can’t see into their head. The mind is not an exact science.
From my point of view, a lot of people assume Sarah Michelle Lynch is together and has it sorted. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. A part of me will admit that I’ve shirked away from trying to understand the problems people around me have been going through. I’ve shied away from trying to get them to talk about their issues, but maybe that’s just because I cannot empathise entirely. For so many years, I was occupied by an overwhelming sense of ambition to be the beacon my family needed me to be. It’s the curse of your twenties to try to be all things to all people. At the end of the day, I’m just me, and I am happy to have come to that acceptance.
I often write stories about struggle, about deceit, about lies and secrecy, but my life is pretty normal and boring really. In the past few years, since I started writing actually, I’ve learned to be very grateful for having a positive attitude. Give me a pen and a pad of paper and I am happy. I can write anywhere. My Happy is portable. A chocolate bar and a cup of tea too wouldn’t go amiss. That ability of mine to just be happy is something I never saw any value in – until I realised a lot of people find it difficult to even get out of bed some days.
Whether you have a mental health issue or not, we’re all just people, striving for the same things. Love and understanding. Life is hard, nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Journeys of self-discovery can be debilitating for a time, in fact, but I firmly believe knowledge and awareness can empower and help people to rebuild and renew.
I always tell myself it is important to remember what I’ve overcome to bring me to the point where I’m at now. This point. At this moment in time. I put myself through university when I could have easily given up and got a manager’s job at the place I worked part-time during that period. There were times when I wanted to quit, to give up, but I didn’t. I wasn’t the only one – loads of my friends were putting themselves through university too. We did it and came out stronger for it.
I was the first person in my family to go to university. Let me put that into perspective for you. My maternal grandfather was illiterate. My mum got her GCSE in English in her thirties! (mega proud of her by the way!) My parents are both from broken homes. My mum, fostered when she was four, lost two elder brothers, before she was put with a family that didn’t really want her and my auntie. My dad grew up in poverty, suffering like you would never imagine he had. My grandmother was a manic depressive and back in those days, it wasn’t dealt with like it would be today. My grandfather turned a blind eye; he was a womaniser who abandoned my dad and his brother to the mindset of a seriously ill woman who rarely washed, rarely fed her kids, rarely tried to instil in them any sense of decency. I’m the eldest of four kids myself. School friends used to meet my dad and think we were posh. He’s an intelligent man, but he has never been posh. Not many know the full story. Not many people know how my parents struggled to bring us all up, without grandparents to help out. They struggled. I know, because I remember. I was there. I know about the mindset of poverty and how difficult it has been for my dad, especially, to let go of.
Academia is a different world to the one I was born into. Yet in a lot of ways, it saved me. Getting my degree was the biggest achievement I made, up until that point anyway. Nobody on God’s Earth can take it away from me.
After university I did what I always said I was going to do and I worked in journalism for seven years. I learned more in this job than I had learnt in my life before that. My degree gave me a foundation, as did the various part-time jobs I’d done along the way, but I didn’t learn anything until I worked in journalism, which opened my eyes to the human race in all its varying degrees.
I worked with many talented people that might never fulfil their promise because of how truly scary it is to put yourself out there with a piece of work that means more than a pay check. Stories of unlikely heroes and heroines fascinate me because you don’t know if a future star might be sitting next to you in the next office cubicle. We all have the potential for greatness, there’s often just a lot of luck involved and knowing the right people.
I went back to journalism after maternity leave and found five or six people doing my old job. Eventually leaving that job was the best thing I ever did.
I wrote my first novel when I was just twenty-eight. The adrenalin of completing that was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Like a lot of other self-published authors, I found friends and family responded to my new pursuit in various ways. Real friends celebrate you, while others fall by the wayside as you pursue your dream.
I’ve known for quite some time that I was born to write, and the notion grows stronger all the time with every word I put down, with every other author I work with thanking me for helping them.
I’ve always known my destiny is words and it’s something you can put alongside my name.
But even with all my confidence and vigour for this writing lark, I still have days where words don’t flow, where I doubt myself. But it’s okay, and I take the rough with the smooth. My ambition has lessened as my love for the art has grown.
Since I’ve joined the book community and spoken to people like me, I’ve realised how words have the power to do good. I’ve adapted my writing style a lot over the years after realising I actually have a power at my fingertips to do good and it’s why I keep writing. Why I decided to do an event like this.
At the same time, I realise how the world demands, how it requires and takes and manipulates the truth of an artist’s soul for its own ends. Which is why I asked all the authors taking part to write something with regards to, “They Say I’m Doing Well,” because people’s definition of that varies. Ask yourself about doing well… Does doing well mean earning big bucks, having all the letters after your name, or does doing well translate to literally everything? Health, wealth, prospects? What?
I feel that this world can be harsh and cruel because we forget that we’re all human – most of us – and to err is to be human. There’s no formula; no recipe for success, or personal happiness.
They say I’m doing well but some days, I wake up and don’t like what I see in the mirror. Some days I don’t want to write because it all feels like sludge between my fingers. I question myself all the time: do I speak to my friends enough? Is Andy okay? Is Serena doing well at school? Am I doing enough? All these things are normal, but if they become consuming, that’s when you know you have to take a step back and retrace. Ask yourself, is there really a reason for me to worry? Focus on a good thing, a place you can take your mind to, and reorganise everything back to that safe place. I never knew these were invaluable tools I’d had in use for so many years until I watched someone close to me crumble. And it changed me, too. It made me realise that what you give, you get back tenfold, and when you walk the path together it’s so much more interesting than going it alone.
None of us are perfect. None of us. Some of us might be doing “well”, whatever your definition of well is, but then again, we’re all human and all have our crosses to bear – I try to remember that everyday. I see people who appear confident but a tiny fracture in their defences allows me to see that they’re not at all fixed or whole. They’re broken, but in time and with the right love and support, they’ll heal. It’s funny how we judge people on first impressions but how, when we really get to know them, we begin to associate colours and patterns with them instead of faces. We no longer see the outside, but the inside. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone though, they sometimes go right on to surprise the hell out of you.
The one thing I will pass on to my daughter is this… never give up on learning. Never. I didn’t. I will not, either. Education… it’s the basis of our civilisation, of making this world better… and doing it all in the name of people that didn’t have the same choices we have.
To round off my contribution to the blog tour, I have written you a poem. Poetry is a medium I don’t get on with sometimes. For me, it bites at me, eats me away. I find it harder to write poetry than novels. A poem sometimes stews in my recesses for weeks before I just write it. I will write it flat out, and that will be it. A poem’s a bunch of feelings condensed, with the potential for so many different interpretations. Poetry, for me, is real. Poetry protects. Poetry reveals our innards and I know why a lot of people struggling with their mindset write poetry, to get it out there… to expel, in order to digest.
So, here we go…
They Say I’m Doing Well
Caress my hair around my ears
I lay my head awhile on your lap
Silence pervades the air and still
We tell each other more than
Words could ever tell
Soothe my aches with your hands
Take my soul in your arms
And keep me safe there
I won’t tell if you don’t
Secrets we keep behind our eyes
In front of the telly we stare
But we’re together, so it’s okay
Flimflam words don’t matter
Because it’s just time together
And time’s all that matters
You’re the strength beyond
My fingertips, the one always there
You silence my worries, hear my cries
You cradle my neuroses and nurture them
Loving all of me as you do
He is wise and kind and soulful
He carries me on his back
He has peccadilloes of his own
Which I love in return
And together we reign supreme
You struggled, you overcame
You’ve known pain and anguish
Disappointment and deceit
And came out the other side
Much stronger than people realise
They say I’m doing well
But it’s the strength you give to me
I couldn’t do all this without the struggle,
And without the journey…
We wouldn’t have the dream
Sarah Michelle Lynch © 2016
Sarah Michelle Lynch wakes up in the morning and the first thing on her mind is words and the possibility of reading and writing more and more words. She is a little bit obsessed.
A career in journalism preceded Sarah’s writing career as an Independent author and despite an offer to get published, Sarah found it very difficult to let go of the freedom, variety and creativity self-publishing allows her.
When Sarah’s not reading words, she’s editing them, and when she’s not editing she’s writing. These days, to earn her right to write, she freelances as an editor.
To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]
To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]
Please press the donate button if you were inspired by my words. Here’s what your donations could achieve:
£8.70 gives a lifeline to someone in desperate need of support by letting the Mind Infoline team take their call
£30 could help Mind work with the Government to promote mental health needs and improve services for years to come
£150 could fund a local support group and let people living with mental health problems get back their confidence and self-esteem
£250 could fund equipment for an art therapy group, so that people can express their feelings through art and start the healing process