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Posts Tagged ‘understanding’

I have decided it’s time to stick to what I said ages ago and write about what’s close to my heart. Today it’s depression.

I am one of the lucky few who has suffered depression and recovered. This doesn’t happen to many people. Mine was brought about by a very traumatic time in my life. I was never bad enough to be suicidal but I was surely depressed. The doctor put me on medication and the world was great again.

Then one day I thought to myself ‘do I really want to be on medication for the rest of my life?’ The resounding NO that came to me was my answer. So I did the one thing a person on medication should never do without the doctors permission. I took myself off the meds.

Usually when you’re on prescribed medication you have to wean yourself off them with the aide of a doctor. Thankfully doing it the wrong way didn’t cost me but it could have. So a word of warning, always consult your doctor before doing this!

So despite recovering from depression, I still have bouts of it but I’ve learnt how to deal with it and not let it take over my life. Some days are harder than others but I try to persevere. Sadly, this is not possible for a lot of people. Sometimes depression becomes such a part of you, you lose the strength to fight. And I really do feel that if I had a different personality, I’d be one of those people. Thankfully I am an easy-going person and have a pretty high tolerance to grief and trauma. I think that trauma I went through that first gave me depression strengthened me.

Anyway, I’m not here to brag. I’m not here to say that all depressed people should ‘get over it’. I’m here to say I understand.

It’s not just because of having been through it before either. In fact, it’s because I know a lot of people who have depression. My mother, my father, my sister, my two aunties, friends, many people I work with. I’m around it all the time and having suffered, I understand more than someone who hasn’t.

When you’re depressed everything is too hard. Being happy is hard, instead all you can do is cry. Doing things you used to enjoy is practically impossible. Being social and going out with friends becomes a chore because you just want to lock yourself away and never show yourself again. And the sad thing is, people without depression do not understand these feelings. They think you’re being antisocial. They think you’re weak for crying too much. But do not let them get you down. If you’re ever able to get the confidence talk to them, tell them how you feel. Help them understand and see that the way you’re feeling is not voluntary. You have no control over it.

When my mother was first diagnosed, I was still in high school. In year 11 I saw her change. She was angry, she cried a lot, she yelled and screamed at me for things she had no need to be angry about. I was 17 for goodness’ sake, I had no idea what was going on. All I wanted was my mother back. She wasn’t the person I remember. We argued, my goodness how we argued. Screaming matches even, which was not like us.

Most people know what it’s like when you’re in your final years of high school. You’re under so much pressure, you’re buried under mounds of homework and you often stay up until 2am or 3am just to get it done. Add to that a mother who was in and out of hospital and had become a totally different person and let’s just say my grades suffered. I was fortunate to graduate and I only did by the skin of my teeth. I occasionally find myself wishing I could go back and do my final year but at 33, I don’t feel it’s necessary now.

Anyway, it was during year 12 (I was 18 then) when we found out Mum and clinical depression. Me and my Dad were running the house because Mum wasn’t fit to do so. She went into hospital so many times and was even on suicide watch a few times. Dad and I didn’t understand depression, we kept thinking she’d snap out of it and I’m ashamed to say there were times we told her to. Little did we know it wasn’t that easy.

I will never forget the day Mum was so suicidal I had to take her to hospital. That same day I watched as the nurses took her into the emergency area and I barely recognised my mother. She was a changed person. Then I looked through the window (I wasn’t allowed in) and saw Mum scratching her hand over and over again until it bled. She kept doing it over and over and over. I had to turn away. I couldn’t watch. I was so scared and it was then I knew I had to know more about depression. I had to help her somehow.

When I graduated from school I started researching it then a couple of years later is when I was diagnosed with it. It was only then I truly understood, even if it was to a lesser extent.

Even now, Mum hasn’t recovered but she’s more like the Mum I know than the one I didn’t. She has her days but she’s a lot better and doesn’t even have suicidal tendencies anymore. Of course it’s with the help of medication but at least she’s doing better. It took her many, many years to get this point but she’s there and we’re all just hoping she stays there. But for those that understand depression, you would know that’s not always possible.

Depression…it is debilitating without being noticeable on the outside. People think you’re a perfectly normal person but they have no idea what you’re suffering inside. They have no idea how difficult some days are. Even getting out of bed is a chore. People who haven’t suffered do not have a clue and I wish everyone would take the time out to understand it.

A girl I work with, she told me the other day that her brother tried to suicide. He cut into his thigh, down the major artery. He was found nearly an hour later, nearly dead. Surprisingly he survived but apparently when he woke, his first words were ‘I don’t want to be here’. When I heard this, my heart broke. What this man must be suffering! I don’t know him, I don’t know his past but to try and do that, something must be terribly wrong.

Then this girl said to me ‘I just don’t get it, he’s so selfish’. And you know what? She told him to stop being selfish. I was appalled. She is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t understand. Why doesn’t she ask him what he’s feeling? Why doesn’t she just talk to him and let him open up when he’s ready. Don’t tell him he’s being selfish. He doesn’t need to hear that. Be there for him, support him, help him recover, try and understand.

So, what am I trying to say here? I know I’ve babbled on a lot but as I said this topic is close to my heart. What I’m trying to say is: depression is a silent illness, don’t judge people. Yes, sadly there are people who pretend to have depression to get attention and sympathy but still, don’t judge until you know the facts because there are many people who are genuinely suffering. If you don’t understand depression, take the time out to understand it.

If you haven’t suffered it, you may not ever truly understand it but at least you’ll know the debilitating effects it can have on people.

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“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This quote has always irked me. People send it around saying ‘OMG it’s so sweet’ but I don’t see it that way. I see it as saying he wants to die before you (whoever ‘you’ ends up being) so he doesn’t have to live without ‘you’.

Well, to me that’s a little selfish. What about the other person? They have to live without him, even if it is for a day. Where’s the fairness in that?

Am I reading too much into it? I’m renowned for doing that. 🙂 but I’m curious, what do other people think? Enlighten me in the comments below! 😀

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write what you know

I hope you’re up for a bit of reading as this blog will be a long one. Today I’m writing about me and the lessons I’ve learned while establishing myself as a writer. I’m hoping that the mistakes I made will help other people to become a good writer.

There is a lot to writing but one important thing to remember when you write is to write what you know.

That’s an expression I live by. As a writer you will always have to do some research because we don’t know everything. However, our own experience will often contribute to how well we write. For example, when we write about pain it’s usually because we’ve experienced it ourselves.

This is where my own experience will come in. You see, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. At five years of age I would write the cliché princess is locked in a tower, prince charming saves her, they fall in love, they marry and live happily ever after. Embarrassing I know but I was five, what do you expect?

This went on for a good few years, I was obsessed with princesses. Then as I got older, I stopped writing for a while and just read. I read so many books and when I started writing again, I had ideas but they were ideas from other books I’d read. I struggled to write something new and unique. I believe now that because I was so young, lack of experience contributed to that.

When I was a teenager, primarily between the ages of 13 and 17, I really got into writing teenage romance. Unfortunately, I had the same problem as when I was five. I was obsessed with happily ever afters’ so all I wrote about was meeting Mr Right, falling in love and everything was perfect. It didn’t help that I read a lot of teen romances so the ideas I had were very similar to what I had read.

At the time I thought my writing was good. I got my friends and family to read it and they agreed. It really made me happy knowing they thought I had potential as a writer so I kept on at it. They were the same stories just with different character names and different events. But it was the same romance story, the same happy ending, the same perfect relationships. To me though, I thought it was great! I thought any publisher would snap up my work and call me the next prodigy.

Oh how wrong I was.

When I was about 18 or 19 I stopped writing because something was niggling at the back of my mind, something that told me my writing really wasn’t that good. I also got fed up with writing the same thing over and over again and I had no new ideas. Around the same time I found out that the compliments I got from friends and family were lies. They said my writing was good because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. What they didn’t realise was that lying to me hurt my feelings more than if they had been honest from the beginning.

The upside though is that I learnt a big lesson from it. The most important lesson I learnt is that you can’t always trust your friends and family to give you honest feedback on your work. I learnt when you write you have to have an imagination, you have to have life experience, you have to have a love for writing.

The thing is though, I had imagination, I had a bit more life experience and I love, love, love writing. However, at that time I didn’t know how to apply those to writing. So yes, I took a long, well earned break. In the back of my mind I always had a desire to write but I had no motivation to do so.

Then when I was 23 I moved out of home for the first time. A friend and I moved in together. For six months we lived together and had a great time. Then a few months later I got a new job, moved away from my family, into my own place and my friend got married. It was when I moved away that I started getting ideas for writing again.

The break I had did wonders. I had new ideas and I started to understand what writing was all about. Of course I wasn’t a pro, I’m still not a pro, but I was better than I once was. I had a lot more life experience behind me and I learnt how to use it appropriately to make my stories good and believable.

While my sisters and I had a fun childhood together, we weren’t as close as some siblings are. Why? Because of the age gap. My oldest sister was born in 1972, my second oldest sister was born in 1978 and I was born in 1982. We got frustrated with each other because we were all the wrong age to do things together. How is this relevant to my writing? I’ve experienced sibling rivalry, especially when there is a large gap in age. This can be very useful if I’m writing about family and siblings, I understand the rivalry.

My Nana died when I was 13 and this devastated me and my family. She was an amazing woman and life just isn’t the same without her. I’ve lost a lot of other friends and family in death too. As heartbreaking as it is, it made me a stronger person. And I can now write about death and I understand the pain, the sorrow, the emptiness. Once again, to write it well you have to experience it.

A few years after my Nana’s death, my mum was diagnosed with depression. I was 17 at the time and many times she tried to kill herself. Thankfully she didn’t succeed. How is this relevant to my writing? After she was diagnosed, I had to grow up quickly because suddenly, with my Dad working full time, I had to run the house while still going to school full time. I researched depression and gained a lot of information on what it is, what causes it and how to help someone with it. This can be very useful if you’re writing about someone with depression. You have to understand it to be able to write it. There is a lot of misconceptions about depression so you really, really, REALLY have to know what you’re talking about.

And one more. I’ve had two jobs where I was subject to bullying and harassment, making my life miserable. It made me learn to stand up for myself and not take crap from anyone. How is this relevant to writing? I’ve experienced a lot of nasty people and this helps me create the villains I need in my novels. On the other hand, if you’re writing about someone going to work and what they experience during the day, it’s easier to write it if you’ve experienced it. It’s not as simple as going to work, type a few words and come home again. A lot happens at work that changes you. Oh and it can make a pretty amusing story too!

These experiences are just skimming the surface, I’ve had many other experiences but I’m just trying to make my point clear. When you write, you write what you know. If you’re writing a scene about heartbreak, usually you’ve experienced it yourself. You write the feelings you once felt and you add some oomph to them to make them relevant to the character.

On wattpad, I have a novel called In Love With Mr Wilson. It’s a teen romance about falling in love but being unable to do anything about it. There’s humour, there’s sadness, there’s angst. Every emotion written in there is written because I’ve experienced that particular emotion somehow. I’ve added a touch to it to make it real to the character and to the reader. The thing is though, if I hadn’t experienced those feelings, I wouldn’t be able to write about them.

And before you ask, yes I remember what I wrote about teen romances above! 🙂 The thing is, I’ve learnt a lot from my teen years and this is not even remotely like what I used to write about. Without sounding arrogant or self-assured, this is one of my best pieces. It’s not going to be published, this is just something I want people to read for free. However, for me it was a breakthrough, proof that I have improved from many years ago. Finally I have written a teen novel that is not the typical ‘they meet, fall in love and live happily ever after’. Yes it has a happy ending and yes two people are in love, but it’s real. Real things happen, people get hurt, they act irrationally, all the things we humans do. Not have a bust up and two seconds later they’re back together again.

Just on a different note for a moment, can I just say how important it is to write and not sound like you? It’s so easy to write the narration and sound as though you’re the one talking. You are the one writing the novel but you’re not the one actually talking. It’s the character that’s talking. Make the character sound like them, not you. This is especially relevant in dialogue. The way you speak will shine through in the dialogue so be mindful of that. I’ve read a lot of stories by amateur writers and this is where most of them fall short. It’s not an easy task but it is possible with a lot of practice.

Here’s a hint for you: go somewhere where there are people talking and just listen. Listen to the way they talk, what they say, how they say it. You will learn a lot!

You want your novel to be alive, you want the characters to be real and have their own personality. Unless you’re writing an autobiography, or you’re specifically giving your character your personality, don’t make them sound like you. As I said, there is still a lot more to writing and you will always have to do research as you can’t write a novel based purely on your own experiences. However, your own experiences will help along the way.

I still view myself as an amateur writer and I always will until I’m published and selling books. One day I will be published, whether a publisher snatches me up or I go down the self publishing route, I guess only time will tell. But one day you will see my book out there to buy. Then and only then will I stop calling myself an amateur.

So in conclusion, write what you know but at the same time make your characters real! Your own experiences will make your novel perfect.

If you wish to read some of my writings, and see for yourself how I write now, please visit wattpad.com. You will find me under my username LisaStanbridge.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear how you’ve established yourselves as writers and what experiences you’ve had.

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