“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #26 – Sarah Michelle Lynch

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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

author bio

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.

DONATE BUTTON

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

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“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #8 – Carrie Elks

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Stress strɛs/ – a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

Stress can be the most destructive of forces. Metal buckles beneath it. Walls, crack, houses crumble, people disintegrate. When it hits you, it’s almost impossible to evade, and I’ve found that it always seems to come at the moment you’re least ready for it.

In my day job I see the effects of stress on a weekly basis. I’ve watched it turn distinguished, strong men into frightened children, and experienced the way it can spin peoples’ world on an axis. In its most iniquitous form it can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a dreadful affliction where people can be triggered back to that moment of fear, experiencing it over and over again.

Though I’ve seen it first hand, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I felt the full-blown effects of stress. That’s when I began to suffer from anxiety attacks, sleeplessness and severe reactions to triggers. Combined with depression, stress can cause you to stop functioning, and that’s exactly what happened to me. My entire life went into fight or flight mode.

The simplest things could cause my heart palpitations and breathlessness; images on television, a certain song, or even sleep. So I began to avoid sleeping, laying in bed frightened to let my eyes closed, because I knew I’d wake up to a speeding heart and a lump in my throat that made it impossible to take in air. But it was a self-defeating gesture, because my lack of sleep only served to heighten the tension, making me even less able to fight off the anxiety attacks, and ensuring that I was regularly caught in a negative thought cycle, where I came to believe that my depression and anxiety were my fault.

Somehow, I managed to get some help. I found an amazing counselor who worked with me on two levels. Firstly to deal with the effects of the anxiety, and secondly to deal with the underlying causes. She introduced me to Mindfulness – a useful tool to help you deal with negative thoughts and being hung up on the past. Mindfulness, according to the dictionary, is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Through this I discovered there are a large number of Mindfulness Podcasts out there—many available for free—and I listen to these and use the techniques on a daily basis.

I am one of the lucky ones. In the UK, counseling is hard to come by on the NHS, and private sessions can run upwards from £40 per hour. Stress and Depression are hugely destructive to individuals and families, but unless you have available cash, it’s hard to find a way to get the therapy needed to deal with them. As I discovered, by their nature, mental illnesses are difficult to deal with on your own. Having a trained person to lead you through the path of healing is necessary, and unfortunately so many people don’t have access to this kind of help.

Considering stress is now the number one reason for long-term absence from work, it’s hard to believe why treatments are so under-funded. The sad fact is, that unless you are either rich, have a wonderfully tenacious GP or have a job where you get benefits such as medical care, you’ll think you have to deal with stress and depression on your own.

Except you’re not alone. Once I was on the road to recovery I discovered an amazing plethora of help online. From support boards, to blogs to practitioners willing to offer pro-bono advice, I discovered that help is only a Google search away. By being honest about my issues, and seeking out those who are going through something similar, I’ve found healing. I’ve also found friendship and encouragement.

One of the most important things to understand if you’re going through something similar is that you don’t have to do this on your own. Even if you haven’t yet suffered from depression or anxiety yourself, reach out to those who have. A kind word, a smile, or the results of a Google search could go a long way to making the world a better place.

They say I’m doing well. I’m now in recovery (I don’t think anybody is truly cured). But I’m more aware of myself and my triggers than ever, and if I feel myself getting low, I’m sure to let my husband or my family know. I still practice Mindfulness—it’s something I think I’ll always do—and I’m very grateful to be alive and well in this beautiful world. But I’m also aware that so many more people than ever are out there suffering, and if that’s you, I promise, you aren’t alone.

Carrie Elks © 2016

author bio

Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. At the age of twenty-one she left college with a political science degree, a healthy overdraft and a soon-to-be husband. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two. http://www.carrieelks.com

related links

A Lecture on Mindfulness by Prof Mark Williams – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAy_3Ssyqqg

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

DONATE BUTTON

 

Thank you so much for taking part Carrie!

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]

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51sbG+uw6nLCarrie is giving away an ecopy of her book Coming Down. To be in with a chance of winning, visit Carrie’s FB Page and post on her wall “Sarah sent me!”

Good luck everyone and thanks for reading!