Creating My Odyssey

Quirky artist / writer / explorer / wild west, steampunk & ghost nut /renaissance soul / mental health & lifestyle blogger

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: GOSH, PEEPS...!Just come back from a week's crui...

Creating My Odyssey: GOSH, PEEPS...!

Just come back from a week's crui...
: GOSH, PEEPS...! Just come back from a week's cruise on our narrow boat in Warwickshire with our eleven-year-old twin granddaughters. G...

Just come back from a week's cruise on our narrow boat in Warwickshire with our eleven-year-old twin granddaughters. Good in many respects, but the girls are growing up and not as keen as they used to be when younger. They preferred our beach week in Aberdovey, Wales, which was delightful. 
An Evening on the Canal

    Really will have to up my data quotas on my phone while on the boat, cuz I find it very limiting while cruising and being away from my beloved WiFi *sniff*! (I love my blog life!). 

    Talking of which - I've just acquired a new phone cuz my old one died. A gorgeous mint green Android. Husband calls my phones 'does stuff' cuz they do and that's what I said when I first acquired my old one. 

    Anyway - back to now. Life is a bit bonkers. I'm endeavouring (hadeha!) to organise my files etcetera on tablet and new phone. 🤣 I'm slowly going through the chapters of my novel Alias Jeannie Delaney and Husband is critiquing them. Brilliantly, I have to say.
We're do-it-yourselfing as well. Working our way through the utility room. Gosh, it's beginning to look good, even now. Thirty years of neglect and we're DIY-ing and painting walls and de-cobwebbing and hoovering and I'm actually rather enjoying it.  

     And we're exercising. We're both fit-ish but want to be fitt-er. So we're walking, briskly, a lot. To coffee and cake shops. Seriously we're doing well, and I'm not putting on weight except when on holiday and I guzzle those double raspberry Magnums. Just a couple of pounds (weight) worth. 

     We're planning trips: Scarborough - my mum was a wren there, during the war. I always wanted to see the hotel where the wrens were housed and had their photograph taken. Tenerife in November. Looe in Cornwall for Christmas. Madeira in January. Venice in May? Switzerland? All possibilities. 

     Oh, and I met my lovely sculpture tutor friend for coffee and discussed visiting a local sculpture park, and hopefully make plans for an art exhibition next year. And discussed Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire which she recently visited. William Fox Talbot invented photography there and I want to return because I love the history of photography and I visited back in 1984 while on a three year illustration course.

William Fox Talbot image 1844

     Life's tough but someone's got to do it. 😃

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: WRITING THAT DAMN NOVELAlthough I'm largely reco...


Although I'm largely reco...
: WRITING THAT DAMN NOVEL Although I'm largely recovered from depression, I still get the glooms, and they're usually centred on one...

Although I'm largely recovered from depression, I still get the glooms, and they're usually centred on one thing, and one thing alone: Writing my humungous novel. The desperate need to ‘get it out there’.

     Alias Jeannie Delaney is the life story of a devastating cowgirl who's the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. It was in my head throughout young parenthood and depression. My protagonist’s name was there almost from the start as was much of the detail. The story grew, and of course I was embarrassed by the subject matter.

     Part of my depression centred upon my deep interest in the west and my fascination in the roles of the women who thrived in the more traditionally ‘male’ roles. I wanted to demonstrate to society at large that this certainly did happen and, as a result, I felt very strongly the need to get my story out.

     I started it all those years ago when my daughter was born, although the germ of an idea had dawned and developed before that. Husband had said: ‘You need to write that novel.’.

     So I did. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

     I used to say I had over one hundred chapters, but no -  some of my chapters are sometimes only a quarter of a page long, so we think it may be half that. If we keep working on those chapters - at least one a day, perhaps - slowly but surely we are getting there!

     I am concerned about the parts that seem, to me, very schoolgirl amateurish in the telling, because I didn't know how to tell it and I'm still not sure how to do that. A bank robbery for example, and then, later in the story, describing my protagonist Jeannie's life of robbery, and giving it credibility. And how to put across her role as mayor. I'm not in the least bit politically minded so am really unsure what to do there. And there are fight scenes and how to choreograph those...

     Oh, woe is me...!

     Whenever I see a film or listen to music that resonates, I think about my story, grab my laptop and return to my editing. When I look at books in the library or on Amazon, I think: ‘You can do this. You can definitely do this.’

     But such is the life of a writer. Blood, sweat, and most definitely in my case – tears. But I am, most definitely, getting there.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: A BIG MENTAL HICCUPThey do happen, little or lar...

Creating My Odyssey: A BIG MENTAL HICCUP

They do happen, little or lar...
: A BIG MENTAL HICCUP They do happen, little or large. Mental hiccups. Just had one for a number of reasons.        We're on our narro...

They do happen, little or large. Mental hiccups. Just had one for a number of reasons. 

     We're on our narrow boat in Warwickshire. Plan being to take our twin granddaughters for a short trip for a few days. 

     The twins are eleven years old now, and very definitely their own people. Psychologically my stupid brain has started  worrying that they prefer Husband for various reasons (he is chief planner and organiser and one twin tends to follow him and I get jealous although Husband assures me that she just follows whoever's in front!). So my stupid brain manages to override rationality. Pain. 

     But the twins are delightful. One, slightly tomboyish, is tiny and wears her heart on her sleeve. The other, more robust, has a wicked laugh and holds emotions in check. She's the one who laughs most at Husband. The other often gives me a cuddle. But when brain is stupid I'm stupid.

      We've been really busy with DIY (getting the house fixed up after years of neglect due to my depression) and going away over the summer and having writing group meetings (great fun, love ‘em!). And we'd just returned from a week's holiday in Wales with the girls and we're off again with them. But because of how I feel when the girls are with us (past experience) I felt slightly apprehensive. Also, I'd had barely enough for lunch. Coffee and cake. That was all. That doesn't help anybody. 

     So, having settled the girls on board, Husband and I were taking trolley loads of stuff back to the car when I announced that I was shattered and didn't want to cruise. I felt overloaded with activities. Husband recognised the signs. Was concerned I was falling down mentally. Fact was I hadn't eaten enough at lunch, and my brain was overreacting again. I returned to boat, had more lunch, then, feeling better, announced that I was going to do a bit of boat de-rusting. Very therapeutic, I'll have you know. And the girls did a bit of blackberry picking. 

    I felt so much better afterwards. It just goes to show, though. If you've had depression , it will always be there, albeit kept under control with medication or therapy. And remember, eat sensibly, for goodness sake! There's invariably a fear that you'll go down again, but not necessarily so. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) yourself and eat well. My hiccup came and departed as quickly as that. 

     In fact, just to end on a high, we've been on the roof of the boat, blowing bubbles and taking photos. Can't complain about that! 

Saturday, 19 August 2017


Creating My Odyssey: A GOOD KICK UP MY SEROTONIN LEVEL: I've learnt, over time, what may have happened to the old brainbox.       First up, my medication combination. It's known in the tr...

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS - 'HowPTSD Cured my A...

Creating My Odyssey:

'HowPTSD Cured my A...
: GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS - 'How PTSD Cured my Anxiety' I've had the pleasure of being contacted by Anna with h...


'How PTSD Cured my Anxiety'

I've had the pleasure of being contacted by Anna with her

story. Here she recounts her mental health struggles and how

she dealt with them and won.

The churning, out-of-control thoughts and sick feeling under the diaphragm. The intense urge to curl up in a ball under a heavy blanket and never come out. The physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. In Western society, we call these thoughts and feelings symptoms of anxiety. If these symptoms fit you, even in part, you don't need me to tell you that coping with anxiety is not for the faint of heart!

     As a teenager, then young adult, I was certainly well-acquainted with generalized anxiety. After developing and then recovering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, I discovered one day that my general anxiety was gone! I was so pleasantly surprised by this unexpected path of healing that I wrote a dark-humored, satirical piece about PTSD curing anxiety.

     Just to be clear, I wouldn't wish PTSD on my worst enemy -- truly! For those who've dealt with this beast of mental illnesses, you know it's a hellish experience. So how could PTSD have brought about my healing from anxiety? How could anything good come from remembering and facing your worst memories of the worst moments of your life?

     That's what I want to understand.

     Being humble isn't my strong suit, so I have lots of opinions about why this happened. And I have a few take-aways for you, whether or not you'll ever experience my strange kind of anxiety cure.

     PTSD forces you to face your worst fears and most terrifying anxieties. You have to re-live, not just remember, past trauma. Not just once, though! That would be much too easy. No, PTSD forces your body and brain to re-experience your personal nightmare over and over and over again.

     The horror comes at you when you wake up, when you take a shower, when you get dressed, when you drive, when you're in therapy, when you try to work, when you eat, even in your sleep.

     But it's exactly this flood of horror that eventually healed my anxiety. Why?

     Think for a moment of what causes your worst anxiety. Here's my list, in the glory days of my generalized anxiety:

1. I feared God. I feared going to hell.

2. I feared making ANY (supposed) moral mistake.

3. I feared making a bad grade on a test or college paper, thereby becoming an absolute failure.

4. I feared my own unwanted and often quite disturbing thoughts. I feared exposure of these thoughts, or worse, acting on them.

5. I feared ending up in a psychiatric ward.

6. I feared men. Especially men who were intimidating, in an authority role, inappropriately flirty and suggestive, or middle-

7. I feared not being perfect.

8. I feared getting seriously hurt or killed.

9. I feared not getting everything correct and right in my beliefs,
values, and behavior.

10. Underneath it all? I feared losing control of myself, my life, my well-being, my self-respect.

     And what did PTSD do to these fears? PTSD combed through these fears, picked out the juiciest, then smashed them in my face. We are talking wedding-cake-in-the-face smashing. Picture an unruly (and perhaps intoxicated) groom, who not only smashes the cake in his brides mouth, but also up her nose, down her neck, and into her eyes and perfectly made-up hair.

     This is what happened to me. Only there were no divorce papers to sign and no way to stop the ongoing assault.

      What exactly happened? See number 10 on my top-anxieties list. I lost control of my life.

     Suddenly, I couldn't so much as hold down a coffee house job, much less my post-graduate school position as a family therapist. I couldn't plan a meal or grocery shop. I cried or sat in stunned silence in church. When I tried to hang out with a friend, I couldn't think or talk about anything except my early childhood abuse.

     So there I was. My treatment went from individual therapy to partial hospitalization to finally taking medication.

     Then my perpetrator read my letter of confrontation. His damaging response, and its ripple effects on my support system, snipped the last thread holding my life together.

     I went in-patient.

     In a psych ward.

     We all know that this is officially the end of life, right? My career would be ruined. And who would want to hire, date, or trust someone who had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons?

     A month later, I emerged. My life continued.

     Now I am happily employed, doing work I love. Heck, I'm even good at what I do! My supervisor actually trusts me enough to let me drive around my neighborhood, visiting dying people and their families. (I'm a hospice social worker, LCSW.)

     Now I'm happily dating a pretty legit guy. As in, we've been dating over a year. I love him.

     Every Friday, two parents in their right minds pay me to nanny their most precious gifts: two toddler boys.

     People are interested in listening to what I have to say on my blog about trauma recovery and spirituality,

     After I was thrown head first into the deep end of the pool, my generalized anxieties no longer held power over me. What if I'm not perfect or make big mistakes or my loved ones judge me or someone hurts or abuses me? Been there, survived that. And I trust I'm capable of surviving it again if needed!

     As it turns out, we humans can survive a lot of pain and suffering. Not alone, mind you! And sometimes, not without going through the deep, deep valley. There are no short cuts that last. My valley involved being locked up in a psych ward for a month. Your deep valley might include something just as terrifying for you.

     But you know what? Life really does go on. Our life circumstances don't dictate our ability to live well. Not nearly to the extent we assume, at least.

     So, here are three take-aways:

1. Facing your worst fears may break their power over you. Anticipatory anxiety -- the infamous "what if's" -- may actually be more paralyzing than the moment of truth itself, when you hear the words, You're fired!" Or those long minutes in an ambulance, headed for the hospital. Or [insert your worst fear here].

2. Getting at the root cause of your generalized anxiety or depression may set you free! My personal journey started with a present-oriented, problem-solving, cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Although this was an important starting point, the pain hiding below my symptoms wouldn't let me go until Id faced it head-on.

3. Do not go at healing alone! Trust me. Many people, both professional and non-professional, as well as formal and informal resources, have been invaluable to my progress. So look for the help you need until you find it! It will be worth it. It will be essential, even.

     And with that, take courage, friends! I'm with you in this thing called surviving life. May we live this life well!