Have you ever said to yourself “I wish I could just cut off my head, lose my ever thinking brain, and then I would be peaceful”
“Why don’t you just live with yourself” yelled my youngest son at his sibling, years ago. He was trying to describe to his brother who was annoying him, how frustrating he was being.
Living with ourselves can be a difficult thing to do. We have to live with our past, our mistakes and our shortcomings. We have to live within our idiosyncratic behaviours. Our anxieties, our fears, our lacks and our failures. We have to live with things we don’t even know about, our unconscious propensities and hidden drivers. Our learned behaviours. Our fragile egos and our inherited genes. Our beliefs, wrongly or rightly follow us around making decisions for us. In short, we must live within the confines of what we know and who we have become until we know better, then, as Maya Angelou says “we can do better.
Dr Claire Weekes understood this all too well. Dr Weekes was a highly accomplished Australian doctor, scientist and specialist but in her youth after a bout of serious illness that saw her lose a great deal of weight, she began to suffer from crippling anxiety attacks due to a racing heart. Believing that she was mortally sick and that her heart condition would kill her, Weekes saw a doctor. The doctor, who could not find anything wrong with her, decided she had the dreaded tuberculosis. Confined to a sanatorium for six months and with nothing to do but fret about her approaching death, Weekes mental and physical state declined even further.
Eventually the misdiagnosis was discovered, Weekes was released from the sanatorium and went on to live an extraordinary life. Her story in overcoming her anxiety together with the impact that her subsequent bestselling books and treatments have had on other sufferers of these sorts of illnesses is inspiring and interesting reading. I have added the newspaper article where I found her story here.
Dr Weekes pioneered the method of “Face, Accept, Float, Let Time Pass” to deal with her own (and subsequent patients) panic attacks. Where to put the things in our heads? Well, things don’t just stay in our heads. Reactions to fearful thoughts and anxiety travel throughout the body wreaking havoc on the nervous system. My method to face and accept things, has always been to use a journal. There is something about the pen, the paper and the process of writing that clarifies and calms.
If I wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, I go into my office and turn on the lamp. Sitting down I begin to question myself as to what is wrong and then to explore the problem. Sometimes the subconscious just needs to be heard, sometimes it needs to explain something to me or bring my attention to an idea that it cannot squeeze into my already packed consciousness throughout the day. Even the most paralysing fear can be relieved if it is heard. Particularly in a calm, non judgemental environment. I don’t think we humans listen to ourselves enough and this is a large part of the low level anxiety that plays out in the background of many lives.
Another great place to put the things which you don’t want in your head, is beneath your feet. I walk for miles most mornings. I don’t listen to podcasts or music, I mostly listen to myself. I work things out in my head. I think of books that I’ve read, plan my day and usually have plenty of little epiphanies and insights along the way. I watch the sun come up, immersed in nature and it unwinds all the tight, hard places in my mind.
Accept, not just the way things are, but who you are, and how you are made. I look at my husband googling his shares or reading sometimes and think “he looks so peaceful, I wish I didn’t think so much” but this is the way I am made, and as Paddy so long ago demanded of his brother, I have learned to live with myself.
You don’t have to be a writer to use a journal. And don’t worry that a journal should be a wonderful work of art. It’s just a place to put the things you don’t need rattling around in your head, and to explore your own thoughts, allow them to be heard.
I don’t think writers are always “Writers” per se, we are first and foremost thinkers. Once you see how thinking is released by writing and the conclusions and insights you are able to have via writing, then you’re hooked. Or that is how it happened for me. If you keep a journal handy, then it is a wonderful sounding board throughout the day or during stressful situations. Pouring emotions onto the page means that we are not pouring them onto other people or keeping them bottled up.
On a different note and this will only make sense if you read my post The Language of Wild Things Magpie chick has been sent back to its parents who gratefully accepted her into their care. She still has a sore wing but the sun is out, the wind has dropped and they know how to look after her better than me. She has recovered a lot of strength, enough to bite the hell out of me all the way to the base of her home tree. “Stay wild little one, stay wild indeed; it will keep you safer than becoming weak and dependent on others.”
Header photo courtesy of Kate Williams Unsplash