Grief Sponge

Depression crept up on me slowly. Incrementally. So gradual that I didn’t notice as the colour slowly faded out of my world.

It started with tummy aches that would begin halfway through 10 and 14 hour shifts. Bending over to pick up bags and treat patients caused discomfort and the cause was elusive. They were fairly mild at first but over the course of 6 months they got so bad that I’d end up driving home from work with my belt and pants undone.

At the same time as this was happening I started to get sick. Every bug that went around had me feeling lethargic, coughing and sneezing for weeks. My previously robust immune system was failing. Multiple trips to my GP provided no answers with serial blood tests revealing that I was perfectly healthy.

I would lie in bed on my days off and try and coax myself to get up and do something, but all the sparks were gone from the world. I let my veggie garden succumb to the ceaseless spread of weeds. Shriveled chillies and capsicums rotting on the ground amongst unruly and now inedible baby spinach and coriander, a constant reminder of my neglect.

I no longer had enough energy to leave the house or entertain guests in the few hours between shifts and sleep. For five days in a row I would cook-eat-clean up, cook-eat-clean up, breakfasts, lunches and dinners alone. Getting my washing done is an accomplishment and a necessity. Its completion becomes the main focus of my days off.

Prior to this I would have been the kind of person described as ‘bubbly’, ‘confident’ or ‘outgoing’. I was always doing something, always full of energy and giving my all to whatever challenge was in front of me.

When I finally broke it was like a dam wall burst. I had been collecting tiny pieces of grief, loneliness and pain from each of my patients over the course of two and a half years and it all poured out of me in a torrent of tears and hopelessness.

The most prominent feeling was an overwhelming sense of failure. When you are a paramedic you are told over and over again that ‘it takes a special person to do what you do’. What happens when you can’t do it any more?

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A Creative Enema

An excellent combination of events has led to this week being probably my most productive blogging and writing week yet.

Firstly I was fortunate in that this weekend I was able to attend Catherine Deveny’s “Gunnas Writing Masterclass” that is designed to give participants the ‘creative enema’ they need to kick start their writing. Whether it be poems, novels, fiction, non-fiction, blogs, a youtube series or song writing, this masterclass certainly achieves it’s intentions. Not just for beginners, this course would suit you if you are a professional as well. It is not about how to write, or even what to write. Instead it provides a huge, and only somewhat metaphorical kick up the ass to get you headed in the direction you want to be going.

As Catherine explains, writers, whether famous or not, are all plagued by the same three things.

1) Procrastination

2) Thinking that our work isn’t any good

and

3) Worrying about what other people think.

Catherine tackles all of these in between coffee, delicious food and a considerable amount of delightful profanity. I walked out of the stylish La Luna Bistro in Carlton filled with energy, cake and enthusiasm to get started. I think I have been long plagued with Imposter Syndrome, however by the time I arrived home after the class I slowly started to realise that people like me can write books. One of the pieces of advice that eased my mind most was that you don’t have to be anything in particular to be a great author or write a book. You don’t have to have read thousands of books, you don’t have to have been winning writing competitions since you were ten and you don’t have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of famous writers throughout history.

This bulletproof feeling has been very nicely timed to coincide with the #YourTurnChallenge, run by Winnie Kao and Seth Godin. Challengers have to ‘ship’ every day for seven days, specifically a blog post. You submit them to the challenge tumblr account and the idea is that you get started, get out of your comfort zone and that the community supports each other to stick to the challenge. For more details click the YourTurnChallenge hash tag above.

I am going to post my writing here as well. Hope to see you getting involved.