My first published short story was The Greatest of These, written in 2010 for a course I was studying at the Open University. It’s about a mother, her daughter, her soon-to-be-born grandchild and the sacrifices we make in the name of love. Not long before I started the course, I’d been wrestling with all sorts of conflicting feelings about doing what was best for my family and doing what was best for me, and along with my feelings, my experiences with depression and anxiety grappled their way out of my head and onto the page. I remember that writing it felt cathartic. It’s not completely autobiographical though; it’s heavily fictionalised, but now that another four years have passed, I can read the story and see exactly how far I’ve come.
I started writing fiction on doctor’s orders. She said I needed to give my brain something other than my anxieties to focus on. That was in 2006, and I’ve been writing stories (and doing writing courses) on and off ever since. One of my insomnia-tackling tricks is to mentally walk down my story corridor, opening doors and peeking in on the characters and worlds I’ve stowed behind each one. Usually, within a couple of minutes of poking around, I’m fast asleep. Sometimes it doesn’t work, though, so on those nights, I have to apply logic and remind myself that even if I don’t sleep, I’ll survive, and if it carries on, I can always take 10mg of amitriptyline a night for a couple of weeks to get me back on track. Thankfully, I rarely have to resort to that these days.
I don’t just love to write fiction, I love to read it too. My teenage years were spent riding dragons on Pern and administering Voigt-Kampff tests after World War Terminus. Before that, I drugged pheasants with Danny the Champion of the World and climbed Faraway Trees with Moonface and Mr Watzisname. I’ve solved crimes, captured serial killers, swashbuckled with pirates and been swept off my feet by Messrs Rochester and Darcy.
Fiction allows me to examine, but it also allows me to escape. Fiction helps.
- Time to Change
- Mind, the Mental Health Charity
- Stress, Anxiety and Depression, NHS Choices
- YoungMinds, Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing
- The Greatest of These at Etherbooks
An explanation of my AtoZChallenge theme can be found at Me and My Mental Health – It’s Time to Talk.
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