Developing Sophie Lives

Although I started to write Sophie Lives for a peice of coursework from Foundations in Creative writing with the Open College of the Arts, I am going to make the use of social isolation to continue with writing this novel. I’m not concerned about making rapid progress, just little steps. There’s no need to rush.

It’s not easy to develop the initial idea, but I have added more to the first chapter, which begins with the link to Sophie Lives above. However, saying it’s not easy doesn’t mean to say that I havent been able to continue writing, because I have, and further possible developments have come into my mind. Although I am currently adding to the day that Sophie comes round from her overdose, her sister has come into the frame, although we haven’t met her as yet. This has opened the pathway towards Sophie getting to A and E, and then how she ends up in a psychiatric hospital.  I have already written a very small part of that scene, which can then  move me into the second chapter.

I’m pretty sure that I am not following the best plan for writing a novel.  I have previously read that people develop a plan for the novel before they begin to write; ideas for structure and how the  book progresses. All I know is that I am going to write of Sophie’s journey through her pain and into recovery, intersperced with flash backs from the abuse that she suffered at Mar’s hands.

It’s quite intense to write about at the moment to be honest, and I am writing this reflective commentary for my diary, which allows my thoughts to crystalise. It also means that I can have a break form the mental and emotional intensity.

Sophie Lives – Exercise 1.13

Here are two sentences taken randomly from The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (2013, p97) :

“In life there are milestones. Events that mark out certain days as being special from the other days.” 

Write these at the top of the page then fill the rest of the page with your own writing. Use Filer’s words to kick start the process of writing about your own milestones. 

In life there are milestones. Events that mark out certain days as being special from the other days.

It was August or September 2018. I woke up dizzy and found myself struggling to move. Visiting London was a positive experience in many ways, and I was due to change my Airbnb accommodation. I headed to King’s Cross with both of my back packs to catch the train towards where I would be staying for the next few days. As I got off the tube I felt sick, light headed and light heades. Taking my back packs off I leaned against the wall, almost in tears I felt hopeless. My thoughts were flickering between going home or staying on my holiday.

As I looked up I could see a young woman, who I presumed was homeless, going up to passers by and asking for money. As she approached me I figured that she was going to ask me for money. She looked at me in a kindly way and said “you look ill, is there something wrong? can I help you?”

This act of concern and kindness was just what I needed on that particular day. A thought crystallised in my mind “If this young woman who is so vulnerable and in desperate need herself, who didn’t ask me for money and wants to help me, then I need to accept that I’m ill, my Anorexia has me beat.” With that thought I decided that I would go home and accept treatment for my anorexia. That women’s generosity was my turning point and helped me to move into recovery from my eating disorder. It’s been a long journey and my life has changed in many ways. I still struggle with my eating disorder, and it has morphed into compulsive over-eating, but my eating disorder has improved and so has the quality of my life. Whoever you were I thank you and wish you the kindest of blessings which the universe can bestow.

Now try this with a book of your choice. Open it at a random page and read the first sentence that catches your eye. Once again, write it down at the top of the page and fill the rest of the page with your own writing. Make the page your own, although it doesn’t matter whether you write with that authors style, or in a style of your own.

Make notes in your writing diary about how well this went. Did you find the first part of the exercise easier because you hadn’t read the book?

There are two levels of social welfare protection – trusteeship and guardianship.” (Larsson; 2008; p209)

Sophie was horrified with the reality that she was in A and E and having to wait for a psychiatric assessment, she felt ashamed of herself and guilty for wasting so much of the doctors and nurses time. She had thoughts that other people were seriously ill and that they needed the medical attention that she had taken away from them. Waiting for the psychiatrist was daunting, seconds seemed to drag by. All she could do was think. She had never tried to end her life before, despite thoughts of this being a constant companion for many years. How could she explain what she had done, or the harm that she had suffered at the hands of Mark. Initially she hadn’t considered it to be domestic abuse, like thousands of other women she had always believed Mark’s words about how useless and pathetic she was, and how he had to put up with her failings. Deep in her core she knew he was right, and these beliefs were so intense tonight. Only a failure of a human being would try to end their own life. She knew the psychiatrist would judge her and believe it was all her fault. 

Make notes in your writing diary about how well this went. Did you find the first part of the exercise easier because you hadn’t read the book?

You can repeat this exercise countless times, using all your favourite books.

Rather than write my reflections in my writing diary I am going to add them here.

Two prompts, two pieces of writing and both of them felt easy. The prompt from Filer took me straight back to that fateful day in London during which I knew that my anorexia had taken over my life and left me unable to function. I’ve written a lot about my eating disorder over the past two years. I find it relatively straight forward to be authentic about this illness. I haven’t read The Shock of the Fall so I had no idea of Filers writing style, this gave me the freedom to write in my own authentic way. Auto-biography is most certainly therapeutic for me and has helped me to develop an online community, and readers who connect with and value what I have to say.

I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo previously, and was a book that I felt gripped by and the people and action was intense and believable.

There is less narration and more first person portrayal in Larsson’s writing style than there is in the buds of my potential novel Sophie Lives. I’m finding that I’m writing snippets of a book; ideas that can be built upon at a later date. Writing a novel is something completely new for me, and it’s hard to write more than little excerpts at the moment, but I’m sure that in time I will be able to take this further. I find the little passages are free-flowing and they come to me relatively easily, and I guess that’s because Sophie and I have had similar experiences; Sophie as an adult and me as a child. I’m really enjoying the process. What will help is for me to conduct research and read about domestic abuse and recovering from it; survivor stories. Although I’ve experienced many psychiatric assessments I don’t know how to describe these for the novel, nor how to write them in ‘first person’ speech rather than narration. I found the exercise to be quite enjoyable though.

References

Filer, N; 2013; The Shock of the fall; New York; Harper Collins Publishers; p97)

Larsson, S; 2008; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; london; MacLehose Press; p209

 

Winter Is A Bastard – Exercise 1.6

Spring is most definitely in the air despite the periods of relentless rain. Crocus and daffodils are pushing their necks out of the ground, and they are adding glorious pockets of colour to my days. Such joy. My mood is improving slowly but surely, I’m isolating less, and I’m having more clarity of thought. Gratitude is what I’m feeling as I write this short piece of freewriting (I adore freewriting, it’s shown me that I do have lots to write).

But winter is a bastard, an effing c of a nightmare that I often struggle to get through!

This year my mood dropped at the end of December, and my thoughts darkened. I began to obsess about suicide, and I researched methods on the Internet, and purchased some pills which I believed would end my life.

Motivation and pleasure from activities deserted me and I felt hopeless. Situations which involved close contact with others was a struggle and I avoided people. Ultimately I was overwhelmed and tried yet again to take my life. Disappointed that I didn’t succeed, but the disappointment that I tried to end my life pushed me into accepting help. I’m now attending a therapeutic day unit. It’s a short term program for a few weeks, enough to get me through until I am able to keep myself occupied and productive.

My energy always improves in the spring. If only I could hold back the self destruction long enough to get me through to the lighter, brighter and warmer days.

My thoughts are much clearer now, and I am enjoying my studies. I had my coursework for over a month before I could even open the folder. Eventually I realised I had to just begin the first exercise, I couldn’t wait until my motivation returned, I had to simply take action without expectation. I’m so grateful that I did because I find it has brought joy and satisfaction into my daily life.

I’m looking out for signs of spring now. I’m not waiting for motivation I’m acting as if I’m motivated, and I’m finding signs of spring right now. Recovery is action. Hope is important but I can’t hope my way into feeling better, I have to put the effort into hunting for joy and gratitude.

Trafalgar Square – Exercise 1.6

Now try this using a topic of your own choosing (e.g. childhood, ambition, favourite places).

I wrote the following by hand and am now typing it up.

 

Trafalgar Square means so much to me, especially after last summer. I had a relapse with my eating disorder and my mental health in general. I became paranoid and suicidal, and I believed that all of my neighbours were plotting to kill me. I was terrified of being in my home, and whenever I was I would wear ear plugs so that I couldn’t hear their muffled voices. I had to get out as soon as I could in the mornings, and not come back until the evening. I visited many places, a wildlife park near to Canada Water, Woodbery Wetland, a Wetlands near Tottenham Hale, Alexander Palace and many other places beside. However, my favourite place was Trafalgar Square. I would take a book and buy some carbonated fruit water from the tesco metro nearby. Some of the time I would sit and sunbathe while watching people, other times I would sit and read. Trafalgar Square was my refuge. I look forward to the return of the warmth so I can si there again.

 

Thank Fuck It’s Nearly Spring

To be honest it’s been a hard winter. I lost all interest in the people and projects that matter to me, and getting through each day has been a chore. A pointless effort with no reward. I’ve been in a very dark place, I’m still there on many levels.

However, today I felt some spontaneous hope. As I left home to attend counselling I realised it was light. The bus journey was diverted, and I found myself feeling excited to be living in London.

The past week I haven’t felt anything positive, but I have been putting the effort into positive behaviour. I’ve undertaken some photography for a long term project, I’ve read through some of my course literature, and I’ve undertaken a little writing yesterday and today.

Spring is just around the corner, and I’ve been looking for signs of it:- the growth of my trees, lighter afternoons, crocus and daffodils emerging, trees budding, and winter flowering cherry.

One of the things that true for me is that I have wonderful friends, and I seek additional support for my mental health. But life has still been a struggle.

Spring is a time of greater joy, energy and enthusiasm for me. Come on spring, please hurry up.

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My Eating Disorder Recovery – Latest Update

My thinking around eating has been disturbed this week. I have experienced an intense desire to stop eating and to lose weight. Partly this has been triggered by a drop in my mood and energy, but my weight gain hasn’t helped either.

I’m on an anti-psychotic because I experience severe paranoia, and this medication affects my metabolism. Consequently I have put on an amount of weight that isn’t usual in anorexia recovery, and is affecting my self esteem. I don’t want to keep putting on weight, and I dare not come off of the medication. I took myself off of it over the summer and the paranoia, anxiety and suicidal ideation were unbearable. I can’t exercise because of my heart condition, and I must eat the quantities of food as agreed with my nutritionist so that I maintain good health. I feel a bit trapped to be honest.

My mood has also dropped, which I believe is common for many of us during the winter months. My thinking has been quite dark, with an increase in rumination and suicidal ideation. But I can cope with this as long as I stay meaningfully occupied. Although this hasn’t been easy to do over the past week, I have fumbled my way through.

Life is complicated. I have a few quite serious health conditions, which affect my physical and mental wellbeing. But hey, that’s life. Each of us on the planet has our own set of complications that we need to face on a daily basis, and we all have ups and downs with these.

What do I need to do in order to cope with mine? Firstly, the above attitude is the right one for me to adopt. My difficulties are no more or less unusual than anyone else’s. I can’t afford to think that I’m worse off than others as that kind of thinking is the start of a slippery slope that’s dangerous for my mental health. Secondly, I need to keep eating the same amount of food, and to see eating as being the same as taking medication for my mental health. Thirdly, I need to stay meaningfully occupied. Fourthly, I need to make sure I also have adequate rest. My heart condition is now causing fatigue and I’m needing to rest for longer periods during the day.

Life is a balancing act, but there are definitely things that I can do to stop myself from slipping off of the tightrope.

If you have an eating disorder – recovery is possible, speak to a family member, someone you trust, a doctor, or search google for an eating disorder service in your country.

United Kingdom

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

 

Watching Aircraft At Heathrow

I’m not comfortable with the fact that I love watching Aircraft as much as I do. The climate emergency is real, and its getting worse day on day, and aircraft are the third largest fossil fuel polluters worldwide. I’m very concerned about the environment, and I also enjoy watching aircraft.

I experienced intense paranoia and suicidal thoughts during the summer, and I was too scared to be at home during the day. It has eased off now, but during the summer I just had to get outside everyday. I went to Heathrow Airport on one of those summer days, and watched aircraft flying in and out of the airport. Here are a few photos from that day. You can click on the photo’s for a larger view if you wish.  Unfortunately, I do not know what types of aircraft the are, sorry.

 

 

 

The Listening Place

Face-to-face support for those who no longer feel life is worth living

The Listening Place is a London based charity who provide face to face support for those who feel life is no longer worth living. I do not believe that I would be alive if it hadn’t been for the support of The Listening Place.

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My initial contact was a self referral over the telephone, followed by a face to face assessment at Meade Mews. It felt more like an informal chat about my current difficulties.

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The next step was recieving a phone call to confirm that I was being offered support, and a date for the first session. Sessions are once a fortnight, same day, same time and with the same volunteer. After six sessions there is a review to see whether support is still required.

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It’s OK to arrive early and sit in the small but beautiful gardens, and I’ve needed time after a session to sit in the peace and collect my thoughts before getting on with the rest of the day.

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Thankyou to you all at The Listening Place.

The Listening Place 0203 906 7676

referrals@listeningplace.org.uk

listeningplace.org.uk

Coping With A Mental Health Crisis

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My mental health has taken a nose dive recently. I’m coming out of it now, but it’s been unbearable. If it wasn’t for the support of The Listening Place then I would have ended my life, I had plans to.

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This relapse has built up slowly over a few months, and it began with an increase in anxiety and paranoid thinking. Whenever I heard sounds or talking from nearby buildings I believed that the people in those homes were talking about me, and planning to kill me.

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It’s been so intense that I have been too afraid to stay in my home during the day, and I would go to bed and wake up full of anxiety. When I wasn’t experiencing paranoid thoughts I was thinking of how I could kill myself.

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I’ve been so exhausted by the anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, and this rose to a crescendo at the beggining of last week. I’m grateful that my friends, The Listening Place and the mental health crisis team have been there to support me.

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One of the most positive aspects is that I have been able to nurture myself. Not perhaps in the traditional sense, but it’s worked. I accepted that I could not stay in during the day, so I took myself out. I’ve been to so many places, Wood Green, Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Tottenham Hale, Walthamstow Wetlands, Stave Hill Eco Park, London Wetlands, Clapham, Hammersmith, Trafalgar Square. I also visited my cousin, and I’m going to stay with a friend shortly. My favourite trip was to Heathrow Airport. There’s an area of grassland near the south runway which is used by many to watch the aircraft come and go. I feel guilty for liking aircraft when I know how much damage they do to the environment, but I do like them, and the day relaxed me. I’ve also been meeting my daily calorific need and I’ve cut out caffeine.

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It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself, to be honest about how much I was struggling, and to seek support, but I’ve done it. I’ve also found that if I feel unsafe at home then I put wax earplugs in. They block the surrounding noise and that helps a lot. I’ve felt such an urgent need to leave home that I’ve barely done any washing, and no housework at all.

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But things are easing now. I’m still experiencing some paranoia, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but the intensity has lessened. Life has been so painful, but I’ve created peace and calmness by going out to these places. Photography has been my bearer of peace. Thank goddess that it provides me with such an escape. I’m feeling very grateful, and you know what – I’m proud of how much effort I have put in to survive.

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The Listening Place is a London based charity which provides face to face support for people who feel that life is no longer worth living.

Reflections Upon Improving Suicidal Ideation, Anorexia And Paranoia

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me, with intense paranoia, suicidality and relapse with my eating disorder. It’s been a very painful time to be honest, and I’ve needed to delve into the pain in order to survive.

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Diving into the pain means to stop resisting it, to lean into it and to allow it to be, just as it is. It’s had me curled up on my bed in tears and too scared to move, and it’s taken me into leaving my home upon awakening and returning in the evening because I’ve been to scared to be at home. Paranoia is a fucker, I hate it, it’s been overwhelming, but it’s eased somewhat.

The shift happened last Thursday when it hit me that despite feeling unsafe, I’ve actually been safe. I’ve used the rationalisation for a while, but it finally dropped into place.

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Going to Brighton last Sunday and Monday was a decision to go out because I wanted to, not because I felt that I had to. I have spent most of the last week out as well, as an act of protecting my mental health. There’s a workman decorating the communal space and having him around triggers my experience of paranoia, so I’ve been out every day, and I will be for the next week too. Sometimes it’s knowing which fight to battle and which to accept. The good news is that I’ve stayed at home this weekend. I’ve felt anxious, I’ve experienced paranoid thinking, but it’s been at a level that I can cope with.

The fear has reduced significantly, and I believe this has had a positive impact upon my eating disorder. I’ve increased my food intake to around 3/4 of my bodies daily requirement. My body is larger than I want it to be, heavier than what I feel comfortable with, but I’m eating more and I feel better for it.

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Life is still a challenge, I don’t find living easy, but this week has been more enjoyable. Getting out with my camera on my trip to Brighton was very enjoyable, and shooting whilst being down on my knees has been a learning experience and I’m going to post about that over the next couple of days.

A friend sent me a link to an artists call for submission for a health related exhibition. Submitting was such an invigorating thing to do. I felt alive with enthusiasm and passion. I haven’t had the motivation to continue with embroidering on photography as yet, but it will return. I’m sleeping for longer and up later in the day, my most creative time, but the motivation will return.

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