Journal for a healthy mind

Writing was something I did late at night in high school, sometimes all night, until my parents had me medicated and I lost those creative thoughts in the fog.

I remember my high school made us keep journals from the first week until we graduated, and I was disappointed they’d discontinued this practice by the time my daughter hit high school.

Sometimes, especially in the first year, it was hard to think of things to write about, but as time went on I found those journals to be very beneficial.

Once I was at university I read ‘Freedom Writers’ and saw the movie by the same name, and it brought back memories of high school journals.

I’ve heard about schools introducing meditation to help calm students, make them more focused etc. I also see a lot of parents are unhappy as they feel it has a religious aspect to it. This has not been my experience with meditation but what if students were to have some time at the beginning of the day to journal, dump the chatter running riot in the background of their minds, before the school work begins?

I’m middle aged and I still need to do a ‘brain dump’ of all the useless stuff bogging my thoughts down on an almost daily basis.

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Finding Meaning in Experiences

Earlier this week I read about a study that showed people who wrote about traumatic or intensely positive experiences were able to find meaning in those experiences easier than those in the control group who didn’t write. For me, as someone with anxiety and panic disorder, I believe this to be true, and I’ll tell you why.

Several years ago I wrote a creative thesis and I chose an event in my life that I thought was significant due to its traumatic aspects, but the more I wrote about it the more my supervisor told me to look for the meaning behind the events I was putting on the page. It turned out that when I got right into it I was able to find a source of phobias and anxiety stemming from an incident when I was three. Not bad considering no therapist has ever made that happen!

And now here I am writing about coming-of-age, and finally I’m able to see meaning in experiences that continue to impact me to this day. It’s quite an educational and emotional experience.

As a side note, I strongly recommend reading Vivian Gornick’s ‘The Situation and the Story’ as it explains the difference between writing pure reportage scenes and finding the story in great detail.

Once you can put down enough of these kinds of experiences the writing becomes much like a quilt with patches that form a pattern and ultimately tell a much larger story, which hopefully deep dives the meaning of each experience to find the big one, the arc of a memoir for example.

Shame & Mental Illness

The police officer told me mental health no longer held a stigma as it once did.

I told him he was mistaken.

Challenged I told him that where they were taking the man in question, to the local ER, they would encounter someone who had no tolerance for mental health cases.

He cut me off.

But I knew the person quite well and sure enough the man was medicated after being told, if he just took the pills then he could go home.

It’s not right, but what patient under the Mental Health Act is in a position to argue when they have two paramedics and two armed officers standing over them and called into their GP check up by their inexperienced GP? There are too many horror stories in the news to take a chance and speak up.

I think that is partially why I didn’t let on after I had my only child a couple of decades ago that I suspected postnatal depression. I had a history of anxiety/panic disorder and major depression. Admitting to it made me fear that with my history I could end up losing my child.

It’s very liberating to be able to write about it in memoir form now that she’s an adult and we can even talk about times when things weren’t so great.

Writing can help in the processing of old wounds but it can also shine a light on some that have been hiding for year, perhaps even decades. I’ve found a couple of those. In a cathartic way I will work through the old and new, the seen and hidden, and at the end there will be a manuscript, albeit a tear stained one.

Pet Sitting

I’m stuck in a lounge chair trying not to move. My leg hurts but there’s a very large dog in the next room and she’s on fourteen days rest. She disagrees.

My daughter has her spayed last Thursday and since the anaesthetic wore off she’s been wanting to bounce about like Tigger!

Today my daughter is at work and I’m responsible for one recovering dog, one healthy dog outside and one indoor cat that scares dogs for fun. She’s such a tiny thing.

I’d like to write but the turning of pages is picked up by her ears way down in her cone-of-shame. She hears everything. I’ve never been so grateful for the silent function on my phone.

I’ve scrolled social media. Googled everything I could possibly need to know (doesn’t involve sound).

I could be taking pictures of my outfit of the day but I chose practical and I haven’t wrangles day two of a wet set into shape nor have I put on any makeup! I did cleanse, tone and moisturise though. It’s the smallest things that keep us feeling alive.

Time for a changing of the guard soon. Perhaps I’ll be able to concentrate on some writing back in my own home with my own pets.

Just Me Here

Sometimes I get writing and don’t realise I’m home alone, that everyone else has places to be and jobs to go to but me. When I do work these days, it’s from home. And I write so that too is from home.

But even agoraphobics crave community. Perhaps I’ll find it through the life of Miss Mona, although she only exists online and to my family, close family. Although my daughter calls it a mid-life crisis I don’t think she understands how close I was to death and now I want to live every moment after three years of hell.

Do what makes you happy, not what others are happy to see you doing.

The Mona Mask

Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with Marilyn Monroe and everything classed as old Hollywood. I love the movies, the look, the storylines, the songs and the dancing.

And so it came to pass that I started wearing make up in primary school, and adding ‘doe’ eyes, as my mother called them.

As the years progressed I found the cover of a ‘look’ that wasn’t the frumpy stay-at-home me allowed me to venture out more often. I even did some acting in a local group and in the local eisteddfod.

One day, I don’t know when, I stopped doing my hair in the usual pompadour and stopped wearing eyeliner and bright lips. The colour in life kind of faded a bit too.

Now here I am, wearing red lipstick at home, doing a pompadour if there’s not been enough time for a wet set and dressing vintage once more. I must say it looks a lot different on my middle aged face than it did as a teenager.

This time I’ve given this alter ego a name, Miss Mona Maree. Maree is actually on my birth certificate and I use that to remind me that part of me is in this alter ego. Mona is a name Marilyn Monroe was said to sign when she was trying to be anonymous, and I’m trying to be a little bit anonymous in my playing with this character. It’s also a hat tip to Marilyn as she was the one that drew me into the 1950s, into old Hollywood and into what was my teenage look.

As of today Miss Mona Maree, (like how her initials are mmm?) is out of the closet and heading down the street to grocery shop in red lippy, bright red hair in a pompadour and wearing a half vintage ensemble.

 

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