It’s weird. I’m rarely at a loss for words and if anything, am known to be a bit of a blatherer when it comes to chatting, leaving comments and posting online. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to go back and revise a comment I’ve tried to leave on someone else’s blog, because I’ve surpassed the word limit – and I’m forever having to reword my tweets to fit the 140 character’s allowed on Twitter. But now that I find myself with this empty page laid out before me, with no limits to just how much I can ramble on about myself, I’m drawing a bit of a blank. (Cue shocked friends recoiling from the screen in disbelief, at the prospect of this garrulous gobshite ever having run out of things to say!)
Actually, to say I’ve drawn a blank, isn’t exactly true. (Cue aforementioned friends now breathing a huge sigh of relief!) It isn’t that I can’t think of anything to say; more that I can’t quite decide what I should include in this odd little self-indulgent rant. What does anyone really want to know about the author of a blog they’re reading? Do you care about my political leanings? My love for all things four-legged? Are you interested in knowing about which corner of the globe I’m currently clinging to? Or would you rather I just tried to explain to you why I decided to begin this blog in the first place?
Well, I think I sort of touched on the reasons for wanting to create this blog in my first post. The title of this blog, probably gives you a rough idea of the kind of person I am and the type of content you can expect; ‘Outspoken’ being an adjective that many of those who know me well, would use when asked to describe me. And it’s a word with many connotations, both positive and negtative. It suggests someone opinionated, passionate and unflinchingly direct; whilst also perhaps implying an air of mouthy, arrogant, self-aggrandising grandiloquence.
If I’m honest, all those terms could probably be used when trying to sum up my personality. Raised by two intelligent, educated, parents who encouraged me to read, write, think, speak and form opinions of my own from a young age, I was never destined to be a shrinking violet. I grew up in a household where heated debate and discussion was par for the course. Some families played tennis or crazy golf on weekends; my family liked to engage in animated, discursive arguments – and woe betide the fool who ever happened to get caught in the crossfire.
At the time I never really thought about the effect these discussions were having on me as a developing child/adolescent. But looking back, I can now see just how lucky I was to have been raised in an environment that encouraged debate, disagreement and the forming and voicing of one’s own opinions. No subject matter was ever off the table in our house and whilst I was never shot down in flames for voicing an opposing view, my parents never treated me with kid gloves or patronised me in any way either. If I was blatantly wrong, then they’d tell me about it; conversely, when I was making a good point, they would acknowledge it as such with equal enthusiasm.
As a result of this early introduction to the world of critical thinking, I soon learned to not only understand how and what I felt about the world around me, but to also realise the importance of being able to form my own opinions based on the evidence, logic and rationale presented. Questions were always encouraged and answers always welcomed. But it was the way in which my parents would regard me and my opinions, that truly helped shape me into the person I am today. At no point did they ever make me feel as though my opinions were any less important or valid, because of my tender age or limited life experience. Quite the opposite in fact.
Throughout my life I have been able to carry myself with an air of confidence, assertiveness and determination, that stems from the sense of self-belief, instilled in me by my parents. I used to do a lot of public speaking and drama, which came naturally to me after years of practice trying to take the floor in a discussion with two incredibly assertive, well spoken adults. I would perform well in interviews, find it easy to make new friends and could often be found in my element, when locking horns with someone, over a particularly meaty topic for debate!
The French word formidable (puissant, étonnant, considérable) and the English term formidable (redoubtable, terrible, alarming) could both have been used to describe me at one point or another in my life.
But then, one day, a year or two ago, after a period of incredible stress due to various crises in my personal life, that fierce and gregarious person I once was, suddenly started to come apart in a way no one could ever have anticipated. I’d always prided myself on my ability to remain level headed in a crisis, so to begin with I tackled every problem in my usual bullish, head-on fashion. But just as it felt like progress was being made with one issue, others would sprout up in its place. For a long time I kept on ploughing ahead, doing everything within my power to try and keep a grip on what was slowly becoming a never-ending nightmare. But with every new struggle, I could feel myself beginning to fray a little at the edges.
Sleeping less than a couple of hours every night, eating badly with an erratic frequency and depending heavily on caffeine to keep me going from morning until night, the inevitable finally happened and I found myself spiraling into a full-blown nervous breakdown.
Me: the strong, independent, smart, confident, kick-ass and capable, force to be reckoned with, completely lost the plot. If you’d told me 5 years ago that my mental health was going to take a nosedive in the not-too-distant future, I would have laughed at you. Me? Yeah right. I was the kind of person other people could depend on in a crisis. Not the type who you’d expect to suddenly require the help of other people, in getting out of a psychological big black hole. But that’s exactly what did happen. I don’t even remember the exact moment when things finally came to a head; only that I was escorted to the doctors by my boss after completely breaking down in the HR department, resulting in me being promptly sedated and signed off of work indefinitely.
I’ve been under the care of my incredibly patient and understanding GP ever since. He originally diagnosed a major depressive episode which had brought about severe social anxiety and agoraphobia. But after multiple consultations and myriad drug combinations, he is now looking at a diagnosis of latent bipolar disorder, brought on by severe stress and anxiety. The labels themselves don’t really matter at all to me. What’s important is that I’m receiving treatment to help get me back on track and that there is a light at the end of this incredibly bleak tunnel.
Since being diagnosed with mental health issues, I’ve been completely open about it all, to friends, family and those I meet/interact with online. There are still many taboos surrounding the spectrum of mental health disorders out there, which seem to make a lot of sufferers feel somehow ashamed of their illnesses. And that’s ridiculous. We’ve all heard the old adage about how if we had a broken leg, we wouldn’t feel embarrassed telling other people about it, so why should we feel any different when it’s our mental health that’s been compromised? But despite it being a well rehearsed, clever little sound-bite, the message still doesn’t seem to be filtering down through the general population, as effectively as one might expect.
I might be an agoraphobic, anxiety ridden, bipolar fruit-cake, but I’ll be damned if anyone is going to make ME feel shameful or embarrassed about it. I’m ill, that’s all. You might not be able to tell from the outside (not that anyone really gets to see me outside all that much, lol!) but somewhere in the complex machine that is the human body, part of the engine has become a little worn out and needs a bit of TLC in order to get back to it’s previously kick-ass condition. I won’t lie. I’m not ‘there’ yet; not by a long shot. But I’ve made huge strides in my progress towards coping with a cornucopia of medications, renegotiating my way through the challenges of every day life and learning to go easy on myself and stop expecting to bounce back from a breakdown, in record time.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this situation, has been my inability to read and retain information as well as I used to. For a bookworm whose biggest passions were reading and writing, suddenly finding myself unable to enjoy the things that I loved so much was frustrating, depressing and scary. Writing letters went from being a pleasure I would normally revel in, to becoming an agonising chore. Reading a page in a book became a futile exercise too, as I’d find myself getting to the end of a paragraph, with no recollection of what I’d just read. Every day I’d stare at the piles of books dotted around the apartment and feel myself wanting to cry as the slightly wonky towers of tomes appeared to glare at me knowingly; taunting me with their unwavering presence.
But I’m a stubborn, headstrong little madam when I want to be. I just couldn’t sit back and accept that the written word was now somehow off limits to me as I struggled to deal with both the effects of my mental health problems and the side effects of the medications I was taking. So I decided to try and throw myself back into the online world, using Twitter, forum boards and other social media as a kind of cathartic method of working through the swirling chaos going through my head. And it worked. Sitting down and reading a book was – and is – still pretty challenging. I’ve gotten a lot better with it, but it still tires me out if I try to do too much too soon; I get headaches and blurred vision if I push myself too far.
But the writing thing is a lot easier. Especially writing on a computer. Being able to touch-type is a huge bonus, because I really don’t even have to think all that much about what I’m doing; thankfully, all those hours spent learning to get up to 70wpm (although it’s a lot less now) means that my thoughts just seem to flow from my mind, out of my fingertips and onto the screen, without much effort. Naturally, most of what comes out is total garbage, but it feels good to have this method of communication available to me. Especially when I don’t get out and about to meet people in person very much at the moment.
Twitter was a great way to meet new, like-minded people and open up the lines of communication on a brief yet incredibly effective basis. I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful, intelligent, funny, informative, entertaining and supportive people there; it really has been a lifeline to me. But one thing I did notice about a lot of the people I started to follow, was that they also had blogs, vlogs and You Tube channels out there, where they properly expounded upon the issues that were really important to them. The majority of these were relating to atheism and anti-theism (although I also discovered a lot of stuff to do with fountain-pen/stationery reviews, childfree-by-choice spokespeople, literature & various other things I’m interested in). The great thing with those blog posts/vlogs is that they were usually just long enough to make the point in question, without overwhelming me too much with pages and pages of information that I’d probably struggle to digest.
Some people say that the mind is like a muscle and that you have to keep using it, pushing it, if you want it to be strong and healthy. If you don’t then like any other muscle, it will atrophy; withering away from inactivity. I regard my own mind as a part of me that has undergone a kind of trauma. That trauma has caused my mind to remain somewhat inactive on a conscious level, whilst a subconscious form of recovery was taking place deep inside. Now though, what it really needs, is for me to retrain it. Get it to refocus. Between reading the blog posts of others and getting involved with various debates and discussions on Twitter, I found myself wanting to have more of an outlet for my own opinions. I also needed a form of therapeutic output, where I could push myself a little and give myself small goals of writing and posting regularly, to force me to keep exercising the ‘muscle’ – so, here I am!
I’m not sure that I’ve really managed to tell you all that much about me, in this bumbling attempt at an introduction, but I don’t see the point in telling y’all, everything about me up front. Surely, that would sort of negate me having a blog in the first place? No? Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to hope that these meanderings haven’t bored you too much, or put you off wanting to come back and see what I’ve got to say for myself in future blog posts. I’m a pretty opinionated person. We all are really, if we’re honest; it’s just that some of us are less afraid to speak out about the things that anger us, please us or truly mean something to us, than others.
I might not be in a position to get out there and voice my opinions to others in person right now, but I can still type; and there are so many things going on in the world today that get me so worked up, I really feel as though I need a therapeutic outlet for all these thoughts swirling around inside my head. It’s good to get thoughts down on paper, or onto a screen and it’s good to be able to feel as though I still have a voice of sorts. Even if it is only a tiny little warble, tucked away quietly in my own murky, little corner of the web. But if you like a good rant or you enjoy hearing about/discussing contentious issues, why not stop by from time to time and see if there’s anything going on here that either makes you nod your head in agreement, or turn red with spitting, vitriolic rage.
I’ll be keeping the comments section moderated, so as not to allow the usual pathetic and predictable trolls from feeling as though they have free reign to publicly post whatever bullshit they like on here; but I really do welcome any and all genuine feedback from those of you who agree with me, disagree with me, want to recommend further reading to me, or just tell me how utterly amazing I am, because lets face it: crazy or not, I AM pretty fucking awesome! Anyways, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations on having an amazing attention span (It took me at least four visits to the computer to actually write this) and thank you for taking the time to get to know a little bit more about me. I hope to see you again around these parts in the near future and if you have a blog that you’d like me to check out likewise and perhaps add to my blogroll, please let me know and I’d be happy to return the favour.
But for now, I must go retreat back into my boudoir and surrender to the waves of sleep, slowing washing over me.
Much love folks