I have been battling over what to write about, since so much has happened in the last several months and so much processing needs to be done. I currently have four drafts, each being picked away at when I have been ready to talk about the details within. I have noticed, however, that each time I write, at some point I reach a sign that reads, ‘Too hard to process any more – go back.’
I could be easily very frustrated about this, and I have been. “Why can’t I write anymore? Why am I so horrible with words?” I asked myself, unhelpfully. “I am stuck!” I yelled in my mind, thinking that not only can I not type up a finished piece of writing, but also it felt like I am stuck with where I am in my life. More than a month ago I spent nearly seven weeks in a psych ward and as of now, I do not have enough distance from the event to be able to look at it with some kind of “golden nugget of wisdom.” I have had a continuous fallout while I grieved my mental health, once again, and now I do not know what to do. What do you do when you feel like you are stuck?
After some thought, my answer to that was to focus on the passions and things in my life that bring me comfort and joy – something that brings me forward. For me, that is art. Art is so important to me, and it allows distraction and also the facing of my deepest thoughts, insecurities and worries. It has saved my life on many occasions and I am so grateful to it. Art is an odd thing to write about, since it is such a huge concept that is so ineffable. It can be found in all spaces and emptiness within life, death and any in between. It can be primal, accidental and completely raw, or methodical, elaborate and refined, as well as both or neither and on any part of the spectrum.
Art is magic. An accidental blob of paint may be repeated in the fashion of being accidentally on purpose. A planned line that goes crooked may be worked in the process of the painting itself; celebrated for its wildness and as a wondrous secret for the artist. I doubt you could find too many artists where the vision and the result is exactly identical to each and every detail, because with any medium, beautiful surprises may pop up. The thing about this and why I need the wonderful thing called art to go forward is that it does not matter about the outcome, other than the hopeful wish that it becomes aesthetically near to your idea. For me, I need art because it is therapy to me. With each stroke of wet paint, I am processing, thinking and visually depicting my thoughts about my past, present and future, as well as insecurities, the leeches that tell awful stories in my mind and my emotions. It allows me to do all of that when I paint and after a session, I often feel reenergised and hopeful. Because art is my love, when I take part in it I often feel like I am going forwards, towards my future.
However, not all the time, especially when I feel stuck, am I able to paint, draw or do some kind of art. Sometimes depression and anxiety is so painful that I cannot get out of bed. When there is nothing you can do, but be, it is important to be self-compassionate, despite all the leeches, or what I call windmills, that say that you are worthless, a waste of space or someone who is not doing what she has to do. And truly, those stories or windmills are never helpful in getting you to do what apparently “needs” to be done. People look down on being self-compassionate or gentle in times of pain, grief or feeling stuck, because they see it as some kind of laziness. But there is so much good that can come out of being self-compassionate for a while, weeks, a day or even just a moment. Which leads me to what Cassandra, my girlfriend, answered when I asked her the question, “What do you do when you feel like you are stuck?” I tried my best to write down her beautifully spoken answer.
Her answer focused on how she descends into her ‘rabbit hole’, so that she can work out what is making her feel stuck without too much pressure or pain. Her rabbit hole is her safe place, and it is an imaginary house where there is nothing harmful. It is hers and hers alone, and it is designed to be comforting and reassuring. Usually before going in the rabbit hole, she puts pressure on and she gets angry at herself, which doesn’t make her do the something she is putting pressure on to do. She realises an alternative approach is to be gentle. Imagine someone else who is stuck and whether you would talk to them in the way you talk to yourself. Look at yourself as if you are your own friend. Always, in enough time, gentleness results in being unstuck.
She also talked about how when she feels emotionally stuck, it feels as though she cannot write or draw and the more she insists on doing art, the more she doesn’t want to. The instinct is to do some kind of writing or drawing, because that is her calling and what she is good at, however, when she puts pressure on, the result and process won’t be as good. She shared with me a saying she wrote, which is, ‘The doing only has worth when the being doing the doing has worth.’ Just being is enough. We are raised to believe that our worth is bound up in our actions and that our worth is our merit. But it isn’t. Whenever you are stuck, you more or less need to take in, rather than to output.
I thought this was excellent, because not enough people realise that going to this ‘rabbit hole,’ or safe place is not being weak, but rather strong and emotionally intelligent. It allows processing to be done – which is another thing that is so important but undervalued – in a way that’s gentle and self-compassionate, which is a way that you can go forward. Yes, you can push yourself, force yourself to do things that are “good” for you, but in the long run, it can cause you to crash or fall apart. We are all human and we need to allow our own limits. It does not make you weak or inadequate. You are good enough, more than good enough, when you are just being. And when you just be and fully accept you just being, that’s when you are able to do the things that are good for you. That’s when you become unstuck and that’s when you can move forward.
Over this month, I have realised that I have needed to be gentle with myself, because I am still healing from my past. It is okay to be self-compassionate, and it’s hard to say, but I am an example of that. It was so hard to get out of the house or get out of bed for the first couple of weeks after getting out of the psych ward, but since I allowed myself some love and understanding, I have achieved a lot. I have painted almost every day for the last several weeks and two days ago, I traveled to Melbourne with my art lover, Cassandra. Being surrounded by art was the greatest medicine, but I need to realise that being there and getting there was the hugest feat for someone who has such high anxiety when it comes to going outside and being around people. It’s hard to say and I am writing this with tears in my eyes, but I am proud of myself. I have been self-compassionate in a time I felt stuck and because of that, I can move forward in my own way. I really do hope the same happens for you.