How to start to establish a community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire whilst managing the demands of being a new parent and maintaining an income?
Well I’ve been meaning to write this for almost a month, after meeting Mike on the 15th May – the Wednesday of Mental Health Week. Deliberately chosen as I wanted to touch on my challenges with mental health, honouring my soul’s calling to be open about such things. I recently came across this quote again (I love quotes you may start noticing!): ‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Hmm. The advice out there can be confusing can’t it. I am regularly needing to go within to find my way, and ask for divine help with releasing that which is not truly mine.
I have A LOT on at the moment so actually prioritising this has been tough. Organising my family’s washing for the millionth time today, I said to myself there is more to me than washing. And I’ve left it, and the other ‘to do’s’ that are crying out to me. Order in my son’s sandals, reply to emails, apply to that job. I’ve put 44 mins on the timer and I’m writing.
So I have just had a horrid winter where behind the scenes I fell into a cycle of anxiety and insomnia which led to burn out by the end of March – triggered by financial uncertainty bringing up ancient wounds of questioning why am I different? Leading into dark feelings around myself and voices of judgement. When you are afraid over one fundamental thing it clouds the rest of your life. I get Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs more now. For me, going under £500 in my bank account and not knowing where the next bit of money was to come in from triggered my inner child feeling petrified in a way that meant I woke up at night – frequently. It lasted from January until April. On Monday 1st April, my son burnt his arm on a cup of camomile tea I had, owing to mind fog caused by the ongoing depletion on my general health, accidentally left on the sofa rather than the side table. I had already been to see the doctor the week before but this signified the climax of my hell, and also the start of the end. From May, I have a temporary loan of £500 a month from my father which has helped me regain my balance and strength so I can get out and find long-term solutions to this jigsaw puzzle.
There are multiple layers to my journey – probably too complex to go into, and I’m still very much learning. All I can say is it takes huge guts to fully step into your soul’s purpose and look to break free of limiting conditioning I have subconsciously absorbed – conditioning that surrounds money and being a woman and an artist. When I spoke to Mike about mental health and artists, he says it is a common challenge. On the baseline trying to fit into the world and finding it difficult has an effect on your mental health, as you just feel like an outsider. He told me about the artist Bobby Baker who has had bouts in and out of care, who was driven around London shouting to passers by from the back of a van “Pull yourselves together”. Also about Ashokkumar Mistry writing ‘If you don’t belong anywhere you belong everywhere’ on his experiences of not fitting into society’s ‘boxes’ which resonated with me as I am similar.
I’ve also put this off as it’s hard to find the words, to know quite what to say, and share a part of you that you feel ashamed of. But then I met a mother last Saturday who shared that her daughter, just graduated with a dance degree, was feeling suicidal this winter, owing to similar challenges to my own, and, by sharing my pain, I feel I can help her and hopefully others. I had a rough twenties too trying to figure it out. I’m nearly 39 – and this recent bout of mental illness has residues of my struggles in my twenties. I feel for artists, and any who are ‘different’. I am feeling good now, but aware I need to take action to stabilize and prepare for next winter. I am having a smoothie of celery, ginger, apple and banana in the morn, doing stretches more (strengthening my core), attending yoga weekly (don’t give up your weekly yoga practise just when you need it the most!), using the IAPT Silver Cloud online wellbeing platform (you can self-refer as long as you registered with a GP). I’ll also start taking Vitamin D (25mg) from November. I’m keeping up my floradix twice daily (my blood tests did show I had low iron and vitamin D in March). Just sharing in case the practical information helps you.
But really I’m generally fine in Spring, Summer and Autumn. It’s in Winter that the ‘wrong mind’ can take over. I love the Buddhist parable of the cold birds, basically the message is to do the work in the day while the sun is shining so you aren’t freezing cold at night when it comes around again. The birds in the parable don’t take action and remain stuck in their cyclical suffering. That’s why I’m writing this blog. So I don’t brush this recent bout of mental instability under the carpet and instead, face it, thinking proactively how to address it, and encourage others who are challenged like me to do the same. To set up their ‘nest’ in time for next winter. I’ve set up a compulsory cuddle with my husband every day! One time he said to me “Hannah there is nothing to forgive as you are ill.” I’d said sorry many times for asking to go rest yet again and him to look after our son. The feelings of guilt are horrid when you are struggling with mental health. That was a moment when I knew I had been seen truthfully. Unfortunately, within my mind I judge harshly – it can become vicious, modelling the lack of understanding or empathy I have experienced in the outside world. Anyone who knows me I hope sees that I am a fundamentally good person, and I am walking this path out of love.
The timer’s just gone.
I’d like to end on two points: if you are afraid, don’t push it away. Feel the fear. Honour the fear. I am now quicker to just stop and accept I am afraid and send love to the petrified inner child / ego – I’ve started to imagine really giving her attention, she often shuns me, but if I steadily give her attention she’ll let me in and just hold her in my imagination, giving her the unconditional love and acceptance she desperately craves just as she is, in that moment, in all her complexity. All of us need our own love. Resist the judgments we feel others place on us; they are often mirrors of our own inner critic hidden in our subconscious. The truth is you have always been doing your best and always deserve love and acceptance and, actually, your own praise and admiration through thick and thin.
My last point is another quote, this time from Dr. Dain Heer: ‘What if your difference is your gift to the world?’ He said it in a you tube clip I watched last January. It encourages me to keep going in accepting and fully being ALL of me out there in the world. Find the space to ask yourself the same question. It feels good to strive to answer that question. It feels freeing.