March Editorial: Let It Rain
Trish Wylie returns to update us on her writing progress and the tests she has faced along the way, some of which have brought her into art imitates life territory.
It's okay to not feel okay.
Most of us are probably familiar with that saying by now. But how many of us believe it? If we're not feeling okay, it must mean something is wrong. If something is wrong, we automatically feel the need to fix it. And that can be a whole different ball game.
I started this year with clear goals in mind, a plan in place and renewed faith in my abilities thanks to the power of positive thinking. I'd worked damn hard to get to that point and it had been a long and rocky road. But I felt ready. Believed the worst was behind me.
That, my friends, is called lulling yourself into a false sense of security.
The year started pretty well. I was getting words down and sticking to a routine that still involved regular exercise and down time to protect my mental health. My day job was busy but I'd learned to compartmentalize and focus on the task in front of me rather than worrying about what comes next or the million other things I needed to do.
Then I took on the Aspiring Authors #WeekendWords challenge and led the #WordSprint sessions on a Saturday and Sunday, which helped (and is still helping) me to get a solid 5,000 words added to my WIP every week. Things were looking up. I was in control. I felt good.
Unfortunately, as is often the way when the pendulum of life swings, ups are frequently followed by downs. But this time, when something I didn't see coming happened, I didn't just crash, I cracked. Doing the simplest of things became impossible. I couldn't receive or send a message without crying. I couldn't talk to anyone on the phone without crying. I couldn't read or watch a movie or go for a walk without crying. Everything I thought I'd dealt with and put behind me, resurfaced, and depression had its longed for foothold again. The thought of going back to the dark pit I'd been in before terrified me. I knew I couldn't do it again. And with that truth came a bigger one: I'd gone as far as I could alone.
As someone who has never been good at either asking for or accepting help, this was HUGE. Desperate times. I was at breaking point. And after one counselling session, I had to accept the harsh fact that for most of my life I've been burying my feelings. But there was only so much burying I could do before it got to the point where there wasn't any room left to bury anything more. That's why the figurative dam had burst, leaving me in floods of tears.
There was an irony to that, I decided. After all, I've spent almost twenty years delving into the feelings of fictional characters, trying to understand why they do the things they do and guiding them through the process of dealing with their emotional conflict so they can find their version of happily ever after. But doing things for other people, even fictional ones, has always been my thing. Doing things for me, is still fairly new ground. So, I guess it shouldn't have been a big surprise to discover I'm not as far along in my own journey as I thought I was at the start of this year.
But, as we all know, every good story has a revelation or two along the way...
For example: One of the things that stuck in my mind after my first ever counselling session was when the counselor asked me, why now? What was it about this particular time in my life that made me reach out for help when I never had before? It was an excellent question. One I immediately answered with what seemed obvious to me at the time. Something had happened to trigger all the repressed feelings I thought I had dealt with. A specific event that was easily identified. I rationalized that my usual response to the events which deeply effected me and the people I care about most, was to keep moving, keep busy and help those people where I could, while blocking out how I felt. But this time I couldn't do that. Other people had taken on the rally-round-to-help role. It meant there was nowhere for me to run to or hide. There was nothing to block out how I felt. And it hurt. It was pain piled on top of decades of pain. I was convinced I couldn't deal with it this time. I wasn't functioning. And that was devastating. Particularly when I'd convinced myself I was doing so much better.
But the counselor offered a different perspective. He suggested maybe it was just the right time. That maybe I hadn't been ready to work through it all before and this was a turning point for me. He viewed my emotional collapse as something positive, which needed to happen, so that I could heal and move forward.
It was a complete revelation to me. But it shouldn't have been. Because isn't that the exact same process we put every fictional character through to get them to happily ever after?
Parallels between fictional characters and the writers who create them have been talked about often and at length by many authors. Heck, I'm one of them! But like so many things in life, until you experience it first hand and make the connection on a personal level, it doesn't quite sink in. I've always known that every writer, regardless of genre, tells a story which examines the human condition in one way or another. Readers connect with the stories for that reason. It unites us, because we are all on a journey and write our own story every single day of our lives. So, we get it. The struggle makes sense because we've all struggled at some point. Hence why we cheer the characters on and will them towards that happily ever after. Because if they can do it, there's hope we can prevail, too.
So, why do view the journey of fictional characters as heroic but don't think of ourselves in the same way when we overcome the obstacles that get in our way?
It took the dam I'd been pushing all my pain behind to burst before I asked myself that question. Seeing a counselor was a big step for me. Admitting I am publicly is a big step, too. Probably even bigger than the one I took when I decided to talk about my battle with depression. But I still believe that talking about this stuff and letting others know they are not alone is the right thing to do. It is okay to not feel okay. You just can't allow yourself to keep feeling that way without trying to do something about it.
Having reached that conclusion, as hard as I know it will be to work my way through a lifetime of buried pain and regardless of the numerous tears I will add to the deluge of tears I have already shed, I'm gonna go right ahead and let it rain. Because, as the saying goes...
Without rain there would be no rainbows.
Have you ever read or written a story which reflected lessons you learned in your own life? Tell us in the comments or join the discussion on our Social Media using #LetItRain