Jo - artist/writer/wild west & ghost nut/renaissance soul/mental health & lifestyle blogger

Thursday, 25 April 2019

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : A PERSONAL MANTRA!

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : A PERSONAL MANTRA!: 'Adulting' should only be done when it's absolutely necessary. Otherwise a childlike approach throughout life should be man...

A PERSONAL MANTRA!



'Adulting' should only be done when it's absolutely necessary. Otherwise a childlike approach throughout life should be mandatory.
Those of a more serious disposition, those who are not naturally inclined in the 'Hey - let's climb that tree/balance on that parapet/dress up in silly clothes/play in the mud.' disposition, who invariably utter: 'Someone's got to keep things together.' might bear in mind that the world is not going to fall apart the moment they break out of straight-faced mode and be silly for five minutes. Then again, being silly might not be their 'thing', in which case they must smile indulgently and bear with those of us for who it is, please.

Husband and I live by that mantra and always have done, even when I was depressed, and quite probably saved some part of my delicate sanity in those days. It is absolutely the truest of truths that humour, the sillier the better, is a vital factor in helping contribute towards the easing up of the downs - at least the milder form. Adulting is vital in bringing up the kids and preventing them from being run over by a charging rhinoceros in the high street, and dealing with the rather tedious matters of life such as finance, otherwise leave serious adult-ing for those and those moments alone.

Our potty, daft son, who rides a Harley motobike and plays thrash metal, lives with us and together, the three of us make a potty, daft threesome. Two silly boys and an equally silly mother/wife. I shall be rather sad when son leaves home.

The Goons





The Navy Lark


I was always potty and daft and was brought up in a rather potty, daft household. So, despite all that my family - parents and siblings - might have done to contribute towards my depression, I am very grateful to them for their somewhat ribald, irreverent humour. For Sunday dinners we got tiddly on mother's apple wine (1976 was a particularly good year), and became hysterically giggly over the British radio programmes The Goons and The Navy Lark, because they were hysterical at the time (if that's your thing!), and Dad's nose would grow purple with booze. Yes - I'm immensely grateful to the family's sense of humour. 

When it comes to just being plain playful, you only have to watch a kid at work on his/her 'thing' to see what one means. They have yet to be adulted sensessly. Kids know how to have fun. Watch them digging watery holes on beaches, or building a fort with sheets and chairs, or making silly faces in the mirror (good for the facial muscles, that one). This last we do fairly regularly in this household (God forbid anyone should be looking through our windows at that moment, nosy parkers...).
Last but not least...
There's a big difference between being childish and childlike and a lot of people get confused between the two. 'Childlike' is playful and fun. 'Childish' is behaving like a spoilt kid, and not very pleasant. Let's not get the two confused! 
And next time an overly serious person says to you: 'How old are you?' when you're having a cut grass chucking war with your offspring after a summer's lawn mowing session (son ran out of primary school at the end of day all those years ago and received a faceful of cut grass slung by Yours Truly), just blow a raspberry and chuck grass at serious person. On second thoughts, perhaps not, I don't want you to get into trouble because of me - 'She told me to do it!'  




THEY'RE ALL STARING AT ME, MUM!


Heard any good jokes lately?! 😊


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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : INCREDIBLE HEALING JOURNALS - MY GUEST POST

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : INCREDIBLE HEALING JOURNALS - MY GUEST POST: I had this post published on the Incredible Healing Journals.com blog last December, and seem to have forgotten to post it here. So here it...

INCREDIBLE HEALING JOURNALS - MY GUEST POST

I had this post published on the Incredible Healing Journals.com blog last December, and seem to have forgotten to post it here. So here it is. (My apologies, it's a bit long!)


Recovering from Depression and Anxiety 
by Author Jo Clutton

By L | Dec 20, 2018 | Anxiety, Depression, Find A Story 




After 30 years of depression and anxiety, Jo Clutton was able to make a full recovery. Here is her story:




FIVE YEARS LATER…

It’s taken that long to get where I am today.
“I’d always been moody, sensitive and creative. Over-sensitive, my family – parents and two older brothers – said. They’d tease me and I’d be accused of ‘over-reacting’. Double whammy.

Mother was the dominant daughter of the organiser of the first London Olympics after the war. Dad was a shy, loveable police officer.

Although he and I were similar in character, he was benignly negligent of me. Despite this, I loved my parents dearly. We became good friends and enjoyed our conversations. But my family didn’t understood my moods. None of them suffered mentally (although my paternal granny had), and my parents were products of the wartime ‘get on with it’ generation.

I could be bitter about the lost years, and sometimes, when in a rotten mood (they do happen!) I have a good moan about that. But mostly I’m determined to make the most of what I can now do, unhampered by depression and anxiety. I’m sixty-five and aspiring to be a role model for my age group. I’m fiercely anti-ageist. So many people in their seventies merge into the background in grey, brown and stone-coloured clothes and lead rather bland lives. Whatever happened?!

I was a stranger to my two older brothers. We had nothing in common beyond our parentage. They barely spoke to me. The older, posher, one joined the navy when I was young so I didn’t know him ’till later in life. My other brother played darts and guzzled beer. He’d grunt at me. In family photos of us taken by mother, he’s posing to please her. I’m laughing and looking at him, being friendly. He’s looking sulkily at the ground or at the camera. In later years the sulk vanished but he’s still not looking at me. Possibly grinning at the camera.

Mother’s naggings and barbed comments punctuated my life:
‘Stand up straight.’
‘What do you want to do that for?’
‘You’re not a career girl.’
‘You should have thought about that before…’.
‘The doctor must be fed up with seeing you.’
‘I never took your jobs seriously.’

Controlling. Although she couldn’t control me, because, like her, I’m very strong minded.
Life wasn’t bad, and I’m grateful that I’ve inherited my family’s irreverent, sometimes ribald humour, and I was proud of my parents active and variety of interests. But as the years progressed, matters grew difficult for me.

One sister-in-law aimed her sarcasm regularly at me. I stood up for myself, and negativities in general, but was told by the parents not to ‘let it get to me’. So it was my fault! I couldn’t win. I grew up with an inferiority complex, was told by dad that I opened my mouth too much, I wasn’t diplomatic… The other, snobbish sister-in-law, excluded Husband and I from an invitation to my niece’s wedding. We weren’t good enough. 

I had acquired an eclectic variety of interests – my renaissance soul habit – and a desire to live a life less ordinary. Marrying my soulmate Husband was the best thing I ever did, but I was jealous of him and his closeness with his siblings, and his brain the-size-of-a-small-planet. A friend of my family told me: ‘You should be honoured that he’s marrying you.’

My moods yo-yo’d. I’d be tearful. But we’ve been married since 1980 and he’s my best friend. School boy humour governs our relationship! He’s kind, understanding. As many interests as me. Wanting travel and some adventure. He’s creative and so hugely supportive over my wild west hobby that he created an alias for himself as a quack doctor at living history camps.



Then we had the kids – a girl and a boy. I suffered mild depression during both pregnancies, and because daughter lay back-to-back in my womb, her delivery was agonizing and lengthy. Husband still bears the fingernail marks on his hand.

After my daughter was born I felt horrible. The culture shock bashed me in the face. Again Mother and dad didn’t understand. She said: ‘You have a lovely home and husband, and a lovely baby. You should be happy…’

Parenthood had featured in my life plans. In many ways I’m like my mother – practical, not given to airy-fairy, loved her own kids and not keen on other peoples’ babies, preferred mixed company. I’d assumed that I’d be okay and would just ‘get on with it’ as she had. Perhaps manage some freelance artwork and writing (I had articles published and sold art). I had expected to be the same as mother, but hadn’t expected depression. I was not business minded, never marketed myself and missed countless creative opportunities. There were too many other things I wanted to do to concentrate on just one or two things.

I struggled through that first year, but, between ensuring that the kids remained alive and checking the fridge for fungi once a week, I managed a writing course, started writing my epic western novel – feeding my daughter one-handed while typing with the other – and held an art exhibition. I visited toddler groups and started voluntary work. I hated being at home during the day.

After a year of feeling low but gradually growing accustomed to motherhood, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and prescribed an antidepressant. That helped enormously. I began to feel much better. I’ve hypothesized since my daughter’s birth was so agonising that I suffered from post traumatic stress disorder on top of clinical post natal depression. Add to that my family’s complete lack of emotional understanding and my upbringing and we have a right old psychological conundrum.

Two years later, we had our son. We had always wanted another child, despite everything. We like family, are both the youngest of three. I became depressed during early pregnancy, but this birth was easier and I didn’t succumb to depression immediately. I was able to enjoy him briefly. But, shortly after our return home, depression swamped me. This depression was worse. I managed with antidepressants, and over the following years depression came and went. Medications were changed, I had talking therapies and I was admitted to hospital briefly. 

‘You don’t need therapy.’ Mother said.
‘You take motherhood too seriously.’ Older brother said. 

The following years consisted of coping with children, one of whom had dyslexia. I hated it all sometimes. There were good times, but I need reminding. Still no under-standing from my family. I told mother I’d been to see the doctor about my depression. She responded:
‘The doctor must be fed up with seeing you!’
I don’t remember my response. 

Years of this attitude from family contributed heavily towards my depression. I defended them to Husband. They were my family, after all.




Five years ago I had my medication crisis… 

Anxiety had added to the mix, and various medications tried. My first medication, Prothiaden, had helped me for twenty years. The next one, Venlafaxine, also for anxiety, lasted seven years. That wore off. Just before Christmas five years ago we saw my psychiatrist, who prescribed Prozac, then buzzed off on holiday. 

On Christmas day I became suicidal. Husband’s (understanding) family came to help. My own family were unaware of any of this. Elder brother was caring for our ninety-two year old dad. Mother was in a home with Dementia. Other brother lived in Wales – he and I never touched base. 

Husband’s family left. I grew worse. Our neighbours came into my bedroom where I lay writhing and swearing. A sweet neighbour said to her mum, who was with us: ‘Mum- didn’t you used to work for the mental health team?’

Those words began my journey towards what is now my absolute, complete recovery.
The mental health team took me off Prozac and prescribed a medication combination of Mirtazipine and increased dosage of Venlafixine (known as California Rocket Fuel – love it. I said to my mental health nurse practitioner: ‘Gimme! I want!’ and finally a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The medication lifted me up, up, and up. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I reached a certain point of wellness I hadn’t felt in years. The therapy worked, which I’d avoided because I’d always stated that my illness was clinical, not psychological. When you’ve suffered from years of depression, your thoughts become distorted and need straightening out. Husband was seriously brilliant at helping me through it. 

We’ve since learned, through the mental health charity Mind, that years of psychological mistreatment can cause chemical imbalance in the brain, causing depression, not the other way round. Well, blow me down!. 

A year later, dad died in hospital on Christmas day – Husband and I were with him. I’ll always be grateful for that. Mother, spookily, died a few days later. 

All familial obligations vanished. I felt freer than I’d ever felt and I didn’t feel guilty. 

After another year I said: ‘I feel better than I’ve ever felt – ever. I’m not letting anyone spoil my new found happiness!’ Which meant ‘divorcing’ my toxic family. It had taken years for Husband to convince me that my family were the chief contributors towards my depression.

Today, we have become relaxed to the point of horizontal, and Husband’s started singing around the house! The real me has finally emerged. I was ‘expelled’ from the writing group I’d been a member of for over ten years, for being ‘too’ outspoken, saying the ‘f’ word – the only time I’d uttered it in ten years! – and critiquing others’ work (politely!). I’d outgrown the group anyway. I’m confident, my quirkiness is quirky, and I’ve started wearing my stetson complete with feathers regularly.
It’s been five years since the crisis. 

I theorise that my new medication gave my serotonin – the brain’s feel good chemical – a good kick up the rear. My new level of wellness proves that depression is treatable, the most treatable of mental health issues. It’s finding the right treatment that’s so hard. 

Two years ago I started my blog, Creating My Odyssey. I needed to share my miraculous journey to complete wellness, and my journey towards rebuilding a life I’d never had. To showcase my creativity, the travels I could do now, the interests I want to develop. My less than ordinary renaissance soul life.

The next step towards my complete recovery was bringing my epic novel, a major cause of much of my depression, to light. That epic western kept me going through young parenthood and depression. It’s given me a ton of angst, adding to my mental troubles. Alias Jeannie Delaney is the life story of a devastating cowgirl who’s the fastest gun in the west and bisexual. The seed of this idea began way back after seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969 and various television westerns. My fascination for the wild west had grown and I had imagined a woman in the role of western hero.

The idea was so exciting that it grew until I had a plot in my head, and detail developed over the years. I couldn’t tell anyone my idea because I was embarrassed over the subject matter. Then Husband came along. I had to tell him, otherwise my brain would burst. I confided in him.
‘She’s sexy! Write that story!’ He proclaimed.

I started writing in sincerity after daughter was born and I kept the story mostly under wraps. My family knew I was writing a novel, but they wouldn’t appreciate it. They didn’t pursue it. I just kept writing. Many times I’ve typed ‘The End’! despite the muddle in the middle.

Then I was cured and knew I’d have to bite the bullet (!) and ‘get it out there’. I posted to Facebook writing groups and received excellent feedback. Husband has begun editing with me. I yo-yo’d over my novel but I think my subconscious is finally accepting that it is indeed a worthy plot.
I’m feeling pretty damn good most of the time now,

The mind has a mind of its own. The subconscious doesn’t believe certain things. I’d convinced myself that my novel was ‘wrong, ‘bad’, reinforced by what I was convinced was my family’s non-interest. It’s possible that I was so convinced that they wouldn’t approve I didn’t enlarge to them. My subconscious may finally be accepting that my novel is good because I’m finding I’m angsting less over it.

And now…

I’ve been waking up feeling good. When that first happened I was delighted! Such novelty. Wonderful. I was never a morning person, so that feeling was amazing, and hasn’t stopped.

Since my recovery, aside from foreign travel and starting a sculpture class which I love (my tutor is now my lovely friend), among other things, we’ve set out on a major redecoration of the house. Thirty years of neglect has left it in a sorry state. We’ve refitted and redecorated the utility room and downstairs loo. We’ve got a fabulous new bathroom! Best room in the house. We demolished the old conservatory and built a new white framed, spacious one. Glorious. I’ve also painted everything that doesn’t move gloss white. My home is becoming nicer.

I didn’t like being at home for extended lengths of time, and I’d become depressed, even recently. Well, my home, in its pleasant seventies housing estate on the fringes of a historic market town an hour from UK’s south coast and an hour from London, is gradually becoming nicer. Somewhere for us to be between adventures. Our somewhat eccentric garden houses my western cabin, four ponds, wild patches and Husband’s soon to-be-railway. I speculate that my subconscious is finally accepting that my home is turning into a nice pad to be in.

After my recovery, I lost comfort-eating over a year of rowing machine and pretty stringent diet. I’m still reasonably sensible diet-wise, but nowhere near as good as I was. I enjoy yoga – always been flexible – we walk miles occasionally. We take our Canadian canoe out during warm weather, and we intend to go cycling again. Not to forget my gardening. 

I could be bitter about the lost years, and sometimes, when in a rotten mood (they do happen!) I have a good moan about that. But mostly I’m determined to make the most of what I can now do, unhampered by depression and anxiety. I’m sixty-five and aspiring to be a role model for my age group. I’m fiercely anti-ageist. So many people in their seventies merge into the background in grey, brown and stone-coloured clothes and lead rather bland lives. Whatever happened?!

I’m going the other way, inspired by my fashionable daughter, and I love it!

And why do older women seem ashamed of their age?! Be grateful you got this far, missus!
I mentioned that Husband has begun whistling and practicing singing his latest songs as he wanders around the house. He never used to do that. That says something, doesn’t it?

Now, excuse me while I go and spray my hair pink…”






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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : I'M AN ARCHER - BUTT...

CREATING MY ODYSSEY - : I'M AN ARCHER - BUTT...: I'm an archer. I'm pleased to be able to say that because I know I'm pretty good at it, but... My arrows are pearly pink. ...

I'M AN ARCHER - BUTT...

I'm an archer. I'm pleased to be able to say that because I know I'm pretty good at it, but...

My arrows are pearly pink. Love 'em!


Thoughts of archery started way back while I was at secondary school. My uncle was a member of the Walton-on-Thames (Surrey) Archery Club - which no longer seems to exist - and one Sunday I  watched him shoot. I remember nothing about it, beyond the fact that I became, many years later when my kids were young, intrigued at the idea of pursuing the hobby. 

The other matter that spurred this on was the fact that I attended our sports centre once a week before the kids were old enough for school. 'Housewives Choice' (Terrible name. This became 'Sporting Choice' after that - much better!) had the added bonus of a children's creche. Customers were offered the choice of swimming, aerobics (tick), use of the gym (tick), tennis, and, at one point, archery (tick) - any or all for one price. I decided to do archery (I met one of my best friends there - she's now living all the way up north - *sulk* - but we're still in touch). 

I thoroughly enjoyed it, until Health and Safety banned indoors archery, so this activity was removed from the choices. I was very miffed. I investigated other ways of doing archery and joined Alton & Four Marks Archers. I went through the brief training session and paid to turn up one evening a week (when the field was available) and shoot. I made some friends and became rather good at it. Archery seemed a good thing to do because it allied with my wild west hobby (not forgetting my traditional Canadian canoe), and it meant that I could do a sport. I'd never been sporty. I was hopeless at games and detested it at school, always came last in races, and always chosen last for teams. In short, I don't like sport! 


Seems a little ironic, considering that my maternal grandfather, E.J.'Billy' Holt (the linked item mentioning him is further into this article) was head of organisation for the post war 1948 austerity Summer Olympics in London, then technical adviser for England at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics. (He was the first man who's lap I'd sit on (aged two) without making a fuss. I apologised to my dear Dad umpteen years later!). 

But, back to archery...

I managed a few years with the archery club, but then I became lazy and depressed, I suppose, because shooting only happened on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings. I did shoot in an open competition, and a photograph of a group of archers lined up ready to shoot, including me in striped trousers, was taken for the local papers. But laziness and depression put paid to my regular archery attendance because I hated going out in the evenings and began to dislike going to archery sessions. 

So my archery kit sat in our hall, gathering dust and making me feel constant guilt. 

Then, five years ago, I had my medication crisis followed by my miraculous mental health cure and the rebuild of my life. This included my strong desire to return to archery, despite the fact that anxiety was playing merry hell with my brain. Eventually, our neighbour told us about Farnham Archers. Farnham, Surrey, is down the road from us, and the club field is permanently available to members. Eventually, last autumn, I arranged to meet the club secretary with a view to joining. I bought a new string for my bow, a new arrow holder (quiver), and a stand for my bow between shootings. I was ready to go! 

Husband came with me, and a newly retired friend of ours also joined us with the intention of also shooting. I did some shooting with a club coach, who told me that I hadn't lost my touch and that I had a very good stance. I looked over at Husband and friend, who were having a cup of tea with the secretary, and couldn't resist doing a fist pump!

Moving on... A few weeks ago I turned up at the field one afternoon to shoot. There were several men, mostly retirees, so I was a tad apprehensive. I made ready to shoot - when - disaster! My bow sight swivelled down. Two screws were missing. With a bit of fiddling and offers of help from the sympathetic guys with me, I managed a bit of shooting, but I was rubbish. I gave up and came home.

Since then, with my bow sight fixed, I've made efforts to try and return to the field. Without success. Anxiety has delivered its blow. Yesterday I had planned to go today, but the very thought of it had me in tears. Oka-a-ay... What's going on in this head of mine? Bloody nuisance. I've researched sports psychology and social anxiety. Truth is, when you turn up at a field to shoot, often you have to share a target (butt) with other shooters. You're putting yourself out there, and it can be scary. And last time I had a disaster, dahling, and that's engrained in my head. So my animalistic subconscious is saying: 'You'll be rubbish. Go home now.' 
So frustrating! I've got to work on this... 😞

Does anyone have any experiences like this?





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