by Janet Pullin
According to the charity Mind, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem at some point of their lives, and yet there is still an element of taboo about the subject or admitting that you are the 1 in 4.
I had my fair share of ups and downs like everyone else, but my world, and the world of my family, fell apart the day we were told of the accidental death of our eldest son. I knew from that day on we would all experience anxiety in some form or another. I also knew that choices would have to be made, finding ways to cope, to help deal with the torrent of grief and emotions.
I believe that grief and anxiety are as individual as a finger print, I can understand someone else’s anxiety, empathise with it but I cannot know exactly how someone else feels and nor can they know exactly what goes on in my head, that does not mean we cannot help each other, or find our own individual way of helping ourselves.
In the early days of my loss I felt like I would drown in my own grief. I had to remind myself to breath, to eat, to move. As extreme grief subsided long lasting ‘ordinary’ grief and anxiety crept in to take its place. I had to find a way to own it before it owned me.
I am no artist, I wonder at those who can paint, sculpt, create something beautiful from a raw material, but what I can do is write.
From a few days after my son died I began to blog. Grief had robbed me of my voice but it did not take the words that had to be said, I blogged everyday, what I was thinking, feeling, experiencing. I wrote it down to help me, to give the emotions an outlet and to my surprise people read it.
When someone asks “how are you doing?”it is sometimes difficult to know how to reply. Does the enquirer really want to hear a truth, are you prepared to speak the truth? To speak it can make it feel more real, to acknowledge that things may not be ‘fine’.
When you have lost a child the question of “how are you?” is a truly ridiculous one, but when I look at a blank page or an empty screen and it asks me how I am, I know I can tell it how I am feeling without filter or fear and without receiving a formulaic response. Truth, raw emotion and undeniable pain can pour from me and I give it to the page and it receives it unquestioningly.
So why be creative? When you do something creative it is time you have set aside for you, time to release your thoughts and ideas, your feelings and anxieties. It doesn’t matter what form your creativity takes, for me it is writing, for others it could be painting, singing, dancing, learning a new skill. The word creative comes from the Latin ‘creare’, meaning to create or make. Anxiety and grief can take so much from you, but being creative means that you can make something that is of you, about you, for you.
Since then, over 2 years on, I still write, it has become a vital part of my coping, of my therapy, a way to express my anxieties, interests and the things we are trying to do to rebuild our lives again. My son was an amazing writer, he continues to inspire me, to push me forward with my own writing.
I am in no doubt that anxiety and grief will be ever present in my life but I know that when the world over takes me I can write about it, express it.
Being creative has had a calming influence in my life, all creativity soothes your souls can only be beneficial when dealing with anxiety. This has been one of many things that has helped, along with seeing a counsellor regularly and being blessed with understanding friends who are always prepared to listen.
I can not imagine life now without expressing myself through the written word, without giving my anxiety voice. So pick up a pen or paintbrush and express what is in your heart, and always remember that 1 in 4 is a big percentage of the population so you are definitely not alone. Let’s share our stories, open up to others and find acceptance within ourselves with the understanding that anxiety is what we have, not who we are.
Janet Pullin is from London, England and has developed a love for creative writing, veganism and yoga. She enjoys poetry as a form of self-expression.
Janet has come to writing, veganism and yoga later in life and wants to encourage others that it is never too late to try new things. She believes that writing can help combat the strain of difficult emotions and that all forms of creativity are good for the mind and soul.
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