Pointless wars creating unprecedented amounts of refugees, whilst fat cats get richer. Homelessness. Food Poverty. Period Poverty. Brexit. Trump. If I allow my mind to spiral, the injustices of the world make me seethe. I went through a stage of ranting at pretty much everyone I knew. My favourite line was: “if you’re not angry, you’re not awake!” Usually said after a few drinks. Much more vehemently after too many drinks.
My anger was making my mental health suffer. I felt helpless and useless and pointless. Then one day, I woke up and realised my anger had put me on a fast track route to nowhereville. Instead of yelling at people, trying to recruit them to become as angry as I was, I took a different stance. Before I launch into that…
A little bit about me
Mental health has been a big part of my life forever. My step-father was bi-polar as well as an alcoholic, and I grew up living with the fallout of his highs and lows. I don’t know if she was ever officially diagnosed, but I’d hazard a guess and say that my mother was depressed for most of my upbringing. It was too easy for me to slip into the “it’s all in my genes/environment I grew up in…” rhetoric. Which I did for many years.
After I left home (at 15), it took a full decade of hardcore partying, self-destructive behaviour, depression and two mental breakdowns before hitting rock bottom. This is when I made vital changes to the way I was living my life, in order to turn it around for the long term. My self-help book Become the Best You was written for others facing similar battles. Life can be hard. Really hard. Especially when we have the all-consuming responsibility of raising children to contend with. Which is why being angry at the world simply adds no value to anything.
What I do when I don’t feel okay
It should go without saying that our kids absolutely have to come first. Because if life inside our own four walls is failing everyone miserably, it really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the wider world. We become totally unable to help anyone. Including ourselves.
As tough as it can be to carve out ‘me time’ in the midst of tending to the needs of the family, recharging our tired batteries is vital if we are to cope with every day life. As a mum, certainly in my house anyway, the things I want to do are at the very bottom of a long to-do list. It took me six and a half years of parenting before I took 24 hours off for good behaviour. That was almost three years ago, and since then I have not felt guilty – in the slightest – for the odd long lunch or weekend away with friends. A little bit of separation from our darlings does everyone the world of good. Even if it feels counter intuitive.
Self-care goes way deeper than painting my nails or taking a bubble bath. My mental health gets replenished by feeling proud of my achievements, and helping others. Time spent working on my blog or books provides a fantastic boost. In the great words of Carrie Fisher, I’ve been turning my broken heart into art.
Three projects keeping me sane
I’m working with the very talented Maddy Bennett, to turn a blog post about my daughter’s autism into a kids picture book. The book is aimed to help siblings understand their autistic sister, and we’ve had brilliant feedback on it so far.
I took on my first piece of campaign management work for a company who make beautiful personalised books. The bloggers who were involved loved Librio as much as I do, and the CEO was super happy with our efforts. Rather than being only about their bottom line, this gorgeous company have good ethics by the bucketload. They’re building a brand to be truly aspired to, and it was a privilege working with them.
My novel When the Stars Weep – which is about motherhood, mental health, love and loss – is being submitted to would-be agents and publishers. Everyone who reads this book relates in some way, and enjoys it. I keep telling myself that JK Rowling got rejected around thirty times before finding an agent who believed in Harry Potter. It will happen, I just have to have faith.
By channelling my anger into my projects, I feel like I’m being useful again. Stories have the power to bring so much comfort to others, and ultimately that’s all us writers want to do.
Other ways to be not quite so angry anymore
Back to the wider world. Homelessness and poverty are very real issues for too many (approx four million working families here in the UK are affected). Where does being angry with our shambolic government – who lets face it, don’t give a flying fuck, otherwise it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place! – get us? Back to nowhereville.
Although I hate the fact that food banks and hygiene banks have to exist, at least I can afford to donate to them. Yes I’d much rather see them close down because they weren’t needed any more, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
In a society that’s becoming more polarised by the day, the very least we can do is recognise our privilege. I appreciate that many of us are operating at almost full capacity, and it can feel like there’s no space left for anything but our daily grind. However, I don’t think it’s healthy to seek out kindling to fuel our anger. Surely, it’s better instead to find worthy causes to get behind? I’ve created an A-Z of UK grass roots charities if you’re in need of inspiration.
I’ve watched anger get the better of good people, and slay them
It’s scary and sad how quickly people spiral. How fast it happens to me if I let it. In the three days I’ve been writing this blog I’ve had a complete crisis of confidence, and deleted all the social media apps from my phone. They’re the first thing to go when the chips are down, and I find a one week break is a great way of pressing the reset button. I learnt long ago that too much Face-agram is not good for my exhausted soul.
In order to keep my own head above water I have promised myself a few things. Instead of falling down rabbit holes writing blogs comparing #45 with Pol Pot (still in draft, probably won’t see the light of day). Or being furious about the lack of school funding for SEND kids in my area (just not worth my anger). Or trying to figure out how anyone could possibly think Brexit would be good for the economy (can. not. go. there). Or a myriad other things that boil my blood, I’m going to breathe deeply.
And remind myself again and again that anger gets us nowhere, so I can try to help in any constructive way I can.