Wellbeing & Mental Health Matters: write it out

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In our spot on the site where we chat about wellbeing and mental health, a few ideas for dealing with not easy things happening in life.

Hello, and welcome to Wednesday, our spot to have a chat and talk about the worries of the world: our back lane and behind our front doors. This week we’re having a think about how we can let out some of the stuff that bubbles under the surface, but that we feel we can’t say out loud.

This has been a complicated year. It’s been about coping, adapting, dealing with stuff. There’s a sense that as everyone is in this together as a species that there is no room to complain. Suck it up, move on, grin and bear it.

And no one wants to be the doomsayer in the room. On Zoom. Or the social media account. So we do the cheery thing. We grin, we smile, we try to remember how to formulate small talk.

We compartmentalise what’s going on under the surface. Sometimes the stress burns through our skin. It’s on the tip of your tongue. It plays on constant rotation in your head. Word merry-go-round.

‘We don’t want to be any worry’, said Brad to Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He was trying to escape from alien pleasure dome central at the time, but Frank’s response plays well here – ‘Well you got caught with a flat, how about that. Well babies, don’t you panic. By the light of the night, it’ll all seem alright…

I don’t have a satanic mechanic on hand to fix your flat mood. But I do have a simple suggestion. Write it out. If those gremlins are squirming under your skin, grab a pen, a tablet, a quill and a pot of ink – whatever stops those brain fingers from scratching and put them to good use.

Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:

  • The blank document – create a Word document, any name you like (Hades, Primal Scream, WTAF etc). Set a password. Then when you need a metaphorical howl into the void, type it out. Fill the page with feelings. You never need to look at it or read it again. But you might feel a whole lot better afterwards. Can also be done with a pen and a notebook. Just don’t fill your quill with blood.
  • The Letter – there are people to whom we would like to say stuff. Sometimes it’s a Dear John goodbye. Sometimes it’s a reckoning on how they’ve made you feel in life. And sometimes it’s the words you wished you’d said to someone who is no longer here. The principle is the same as the blank document. If done on paper you can burn it afterwards, if the feeling takes you. Just be wary of actually sending it. I don’t want houses burning down, either physically or metaphorically.
  • Bullet Journaling – I use this to clear my head space. If you Google the phrase, you’ll get page after page of beautiful notebooks, with mandalas (huh?), pretty borders and artistic doodling. And that’s great if you want to stretch your artistic abilities further. Mine? Mine uses a double page spread a week, with one page a bullet list of to do points, and on the facing page my actions, feelings and thoughts noted during the week. At the back are records of phone conversations that I might need to refer back to. And the odd drawing of a vampire bunny.
  • Diary – I was a teenage girl. I had a diary. Blogging came along and made it easy to keep up the habit. It’s a great way to find your writing voice and learn the basics of editing and formatting. Just don’t go Harold Lauder on us.
  • A wordless social media account – once upon a time I was stressed at work and going through a grievance procedure. I lost my voice, both vocally and the one that types words. I switched to images instead. Found a picture a day that articulated what was under my skin. I did this for three or so months, while the grievance ran its course. Once the process was over and I was exonerated, I simply stopped posting. It had done its job, and I deleted it a year or so afterwards. I used Blogger at the time, but you could try this with for free with WordPress, Instagram or Pinterest, or doodle in a notebook.
  • Writing for Wellbeing – if you’re not sure where to start, or want a more focused approach at letting words out, you could try Writing for Wellbeing. They have an interesting blog here, and offer prompts and support on Twitter and Facebook as well. I’ve given you these as an example, but it maybe that there is something similar local to you.
  • The starter course for fiction – not keen on writing the personal stuff? Maybe channel it into fiction. There are a multitude of writing resources out there to be found, but a good place to start is the Open University’s free Start Writing Fiction course.
  • Memoir – my own personal fallback at the moment. You may have noticed I am a nostalgia hound. I’m also approaching a significant birthday, and have decided to combine the two in a small, year-long project looking back at my life through photos, objects and random memories. It kicks off properly on 2nd April, and I’ve called it my Picture Past Project. Details here if you’d like to join me. Again, there are no boundaries as to how you work with your own memoir. It can be physical notebook form, blog form, pictures, poems, art work. Anything that works for you.

You don’t always need to speak out loud to have a voice. You can let your thoughts fly free in so many ways. The wonderful thing about writing it all out is that it’s yours. No-one ever needs to see what you do. Just you. Which is liberating.

I hope there’s something for you in all of this. Take care, and thanks so much for reading.

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