I’ve thought long and hard about the contents and the title for this post, and there’s only one woman who I want immoraltalised on this site at the very beginning of this rambling moment…
So, in her honour (as a nod of thanks for the many tears the album ‘30’ has encouraged since it’s release), I’ve used the same naming protocol as her albums. It’s befitting for the contents.
Somewhere in the mess of the last couple of weeks my 40 became 41. That’s right, I’ve had a birthday.
And when I started this journey I was staring down the barrel of my 5th decade. Now I’m thoroughly engrossed in it, and although it’s not always been a good one, my meander through the last 18 months has been nothing short of unbelievable.
What a fucking year it’s been. Ups and downs, but I’m learning that’s to be expected in this game.
I’ve met some of my darkest inner-critics, looking deep inside myself to see if there’s a way to keep going without the endless movie reel of grey that’s attached to me.
But I’ve also bounced back on some occasions and in return I received the shiniest memories that will be burned on the inside of my retinas until long after I’ve left this mortal coil.
The only pattern to the last year is that I didn’t expect or plan any of it. The good, the bad and the painfully ugly events were pfffft, nothing, air, never seen, thought or discussed just 12 months ago. Everything from writing to illustrating, cover art to journal posts, getting accepted to the MH media charter and finally being declared one of the top 25 Mental Health websites in the U.K. by Feedspot, was never considered way back in my (late) 30s.
It’s been a wonderful but random trip.
I realise it must be hard to believe me, but I struggle to compute where this crusade / idea / website / dream has taken me. And whether it was a good moment or a bad one, I’m glad it happened.
If ANY moment had been missed, I wouldn’t be sat here now. 😰
However, health wise it’s not been the best year, framed mainly by my increasing levels of agoraphobia and the difficulty of living in such an isolated landscape. But I’ve learned a lot, discovering how hard it is to understand my way of life, how strange my existence is, and how odd some people think I am.
Although it’s hard to say / write those things, the journey of self-discovery through the eyes of others has helped me work through my challenges…sometimes.
I’d hoped to learn more about ‘Steph’, find effective ways of managing my mental wellbeing, distract myself from pain and hopefully help other people in the process. So far I’ve barely achieved any of this. It’s only after a few messages of thanks from some of you lovely readers that I feel I can scratch a fraction of this itch.
So thank you to those that got in touch. It made me feel like something here is worthwhile, and also raised multiple smiles on difficult days.
I’d hoped more than anything that being sociable online and having this outlet would gift me some friends, even if they were virtual. Thankfully that’s partly panned out, although I think my expectations may have been skewed. Hoping that strangers might keep in touch online with someone they don’t know IRL is probably a tall order. There are a few people I’ve met who are in my real life now, and I’m 100% grateful to have them. All are people who understand part or all of this headspace I’m in, and that makes them people with whom I share some understanding, which is valuable. Friendships take time as you build trust, understanding, and respect, so I guess I need to keep plugging away and continue searching for more little gems to appear.
Finally my physical health has taken a real hit after I had a fall in the shower a couple of weeks ago. My second fall under the rose this year, and this one was heavier and harder to recover from. I haven’t been steady in there for some time, so I try to avoid it. But stupid Steph got cocky and closed her eyes to massage her scalp. Wobble, smack, shout, slip about, cry, hurt…..for a while. Lick wounds, repeat, lick wounds, repeat. Get asked lots of questions about more mobility aids for the house…
I know I’ve just turned 41, but this stuff really makes me feel old and past my prime, which I detest.
It’s left me with increasing pain and reduced my mobility dramatically. My morphine has therefore been increased back up to max and physiotherapists visit regularly to help with rehab. I’m getting better, but I’ve had to slow my creativity down to recover and give the bruise on my ego an opportunity to fuck off.
Mentally I’m still struggling, but it’s well documented. When something new happpens or a change occurs from the status quo, I will keep you guys in the loop.
The only ‘new’ development is my memory loss, something that’s being monitored closely with a specialist. Of course, they’d like a scan of my tired mind, but my situation won’t allow that. For now, while it’s liveable, I’m just putting up with it and completing regular memory questionnaires to monitor changes or deterioration.
It’s most frustrating because it seems to effect my writing most of all. I can sit at my lappy with a word that I’m CERTAIN exists, but I can’t sift it out of my head. It happens throughout the day, and on the occasions when I’m writing in volume I can spend periods of 10 or 15 minutes frantically searching the dust bunnies in my mind for that elusive single word. I rarely find it, and Google has to help, which feels like cheating. It’s a frustrating development that’s probably caused by my long term medication 💊 . I’ve been swallowing nine different meds, 24-30 tablets a day (depending on pain) for over 8 years. I should have known it was going to have an effect at some point..
Starting year 2 of this crusade with health that’s WORSE than when I started was definitely NOT the plan. If I’m honest, it pisses me off. But not everything is terrible.
I’d like to place more focus on the positive stuff and where I hope this is all heading. Much of this info has been under my pink sequin baseball cap for some time, but a celebration of the last 12 months is a good opportunity to lessen the burden of secrets and reveal some private stuff (not kinky, sorry 😉).
Directing my creativity and this website towards mental well-being and good mental health has always been the driving force behind my efforts. Having taken some time away to think about the future I’ve chosen to slow down some projects, enabling me to focus more on others. This means my personal creative writing for competitions is going to reduce, and in turn my writing for mental health journals and websites can increase. I have people asking for my input, with opportunities waiting, so it feels like this is a better direction to point my attention.
I continue to provide volunteer help to Cruse (U.K.) as their Creative Volunteer and Mental Health Advocate, writing a MH column and illustrating an accompanying drawing for their monthly newsletter.
In line with this website, I’ve built a sister site that will go live soon. It’s a site for kids and their parents, encouraging their mental well-being through creativity – something I feel incredibly passionate about.
The kids website has other projects attached to it that have to remain a secret for now. It’s not because I’m being coy…I’m just not allowed to talk…yet. But they are very exciting, very hard work and very life-changing (for me at least). More will come soon, that’s a promise.
Some of my digital illustrations have now been used as cover art for magazines, the most recent is the latest edition of Asylum Magazine, a journal about mental illness. I can’t think of a magazine more appropriate for my illustrations, but I’m still shocked they asked me to do it.
I’m also providing original pieces to the mental well-being site Mental Inkness, another fun project I’m happy to dip into. It’s run by a British woman also juggling complex mental illness and trying to be a positive part of the MH narrative change. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
On top of all this it’s no secret that the Self Calm Podcast is on the way (delayed because of my stupid accident, apologies for this), and Crap Poems, Haiku Hope and Weird Words seem to have created a little buzz too. I’m looking forward to seeing whether they successfully help someone else find their own creative passion, however silly it may seem.
That’s an achievement I’d be very happy with.
This is a busy period, making it the worst possible time to put my health on a back seat. But the fact is, I have to keep going now because momentum is everything out here on your own. So don’t be surprised if I moan about pain and tears, because both are going to be abundant. I will try to keep the moaning in check though. Pinky promise.
It’s only right that I end this post by thanking the most important person on this crusade with me. YOU.
Every person who visits, reads, looks, subscribes, says hi, laughs at my idiocy, moans about my drawing and understands (or wants to know more about) what living with mental illness is like, has been part of a change in my life, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
Moving the focus to helping people is largely because of the input I’ve had from followers. You’ve all helped me see what’s really important and what I’m truly passionate about.
I’m incredibly happy to see every single one of you visiting and engaging in any way.
So thank you.
I thought about this for a while too, and the best way to show the journey is the show the frigging journey.
The picture above was the first attempt at a Kawaii collage that I could find on my iPad. The cover of this post is my updated version of the same idea, with a little nod to my ageing self and the colours used on this website.
I love that my style is starting to appear and my ability as a sketcher is getting better. It excites me a teeny bit to dream about where i’ll be as an illustrator this time next year, and how I’ll draw ‘42’ in an updated way.
For fucks sake – I’m 42 next year. 😤