My Therapy

“I don’t feel like writing so I’m writing.”

That’s how I began this post. I wrote this one line.

The thing is, writing is more than just my hobby, and it’s more than a future career. To me writing is my therapy. I use writing to make sense of my own feelings and get my own head straight. Almost all writing I do is intended to be read by someone, regardless of whether it actually is, and that leaves me thinking about what message I want my writing to have.

The reason I started this post was because I was feeling down. This happens to me once every other month or so; I start questioning the point of it all, I start doubting my ability to achieve anything, and I start wallowing. The thing is, it’s so easy to foster negativity. By it’s very nature, negativity encourages us to do nothing about it as it encourages us to do nothing at all. That leads me to not wanting to get up in the morning, not wanting to go to work, not wanting to take photos and, most of all, not wanting to write. It often takes me days of being in this state, days of simply ‘existing‘ but not living. So, I forced myself to write.

When I write, it’s my therapy, and when I write my spirit lifts. As I wrote that very first line of this post I instantly felt lighter, then as I wrote more I started realising that many of my thoughts and fears, many of the things promoting this negativity within me, were down to simple reasons. Things like not sleeping properly, things like not feeling confident about the future, things like not feeling grateful or proud for the things I have. The more I wrote, the more I realised I could fight this negativity; by quantifying my demons in words I was able to combat them in my mindset.

Then I deleted my post. I deleted all those negative things. That post wasn’t fit for my audience, it didn’t carry the message I want a post to carry. It was me whinging that life wasn’t quite going my way, but in reality the main issue was myself. Instead, I’ve turned that post around into this, one about fighting that negativity. This is what the Clouds stands for; it’s here to promote positivity and inspire imagination. I wanted to tell you that even when you’re having a bad day, or a bad week, or even a bad year… You can often combat it by doing something you love, even if sometimes you have to force yourself to do it in the first place.

Of course, there are times when the bad simply outweighs the good, medical conditions or family tragedy are not simply combated with the pursuit of a hobby, interest or love. My point though is to not underestimate their ability to help, they may at least take the edge away, and through art and creation we may learn to understand ourselves.

Do you have those periods of time where you just want to give up? What keeps you going? What is your own personal therapy? Let me know in the comments below!

The Message of Chester Bennington

Today we mourn an artist who gave everything they had to their music. Who fought an admirable battle, and left in their wake a message about love, passion, and mental health.

By now, even people who had no connection to Linkin Park have seen the headlines; Chester Bennington took his own life after a long battle with depression. I hardly had any words. Two weeks ago, to the day, to the time that the headline flashed up on our screens, Kirsty and I had been watching Linkin Park perform live. We were reliving our youth, bathing in the nostalgia of a band that defined our teenage years. Around us, I was taken aback by the sheer range of age groups; the late 20 somethings, early 30 somethings like Kirsty and I, the older crowd, carefree and rocking out, and even a ton of younger faces, from single digits up to early teens. Up until that point I hadn’t really known their music was still touching the youth of today, but I was glad for it. To me, they were a band like a time capsule, they represented a period of my life, a big period of my life, and I have a lot of memories set to their music. It was good to see they were connecting with others too.

When the news struck, my Facebook descended in disbelief. I saw heartfelt posts from friends, I saw people shaken by a celebrity death that had never been shaken before, I saw people who had just felt a connection severed. One of my old university friends shared her artwork, images painted and drawn of Chester, and a motivational post about how Linkin Park had inspired her to pursue creative dreams. I saw many more friends sharing how Linkin Park had got them through trying teenage times. Even Kirsty, who isn’t one to post wordy status’, moved me with her words about this now-lost smile and the impact its owner had had on her life.

When you and your mom wait all day to see your favorite band, and you know it was totally worth it.

A post shared by LINKIN PARK (@linkinpark) on

So what about me? Well, I wanted to share this Instagram post of Chester performing, and I wanted to talk a little bit about mental health. This small snippet, to me, is bittersweet. Here is a man performing, putting his life, heart, and soul into his songs. He is surrounded by adoring fans, people who are touched by his message, people who actively love him and his music. In this captured moment he literally couldn’t have any more love. His message is reaching people, his passion is moving people, his art is helping people. As a writer/photographer, I’d strive for nothing more than that kind of reaction; to do that much good with the little time we have here. Yet, even with that much love it’s clear Chester felt alone, or unworthy, or any other negative and irrational emotion that depression can conjure. This video shows a man suffering from loneliness within a crowd; someone feeling unworthy despite the love of his fans. He is struggling despite his own message to the crowds, perhaps wishing he could hear his own advice.

When we saw Linkin Park those two weeks ago, we had no idea it was to be their last gig. When we saw them, Chester campaigned for love. He told us to join hands, to share a moment with our neighbour, to love each other in the face of the terror and hate being shown the world today. Again, this memory and this message is now bittersweet.

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I’m writing this post, not to cash-in on a celebrity death, but to make a special mention of Mental Health Awareness. From the outside, Chester had it all. He had fame, he had money, he had his gorgeous children, and he had adoring fans. The image above, the looks in his fans eyes, would be enough for me to say, with no other evidence, that he had a good life. That’s not how he felt, and this isn’t a true reflection of his suffering. If anything, it serves as testament that we can seemingly have everything in the world, from the most material of possessions, to the most love anyone can be given, yet depression is a nasty affliction that can take an immense and immeasurable toll. We never know what someone else is going through, which is all the more reason to show each other kindness, patience, and most of all love. The phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” couldn’t be truer and more poignant in this moment.

Anyone that has suffered with depression, long term or short term, will know what it can do to your mind. Will know the thoughts it can tangle you in, how trapping it can be and the options it may make you consider. Many people fight against depression and mental health of everyday of their lives. Many people do so without recognition, without witness. We never know exactly what others are thinking and feeling, and we never know when a day might be someones last. Lets take Chester’s message, proclaimed loudly at his last gig, and show each other love. Lets mourn, but lets learn. Life is far, far too short to not be kind to those we meet, to hold grudges and anger, to not offer a helping hand to those we see struggling. Lets be better, more approachable people, so we can fully tear down this stigma surrounding mental health, so we might save someone going through a hard battle.

This is the part where normally I ask for a comment, a like or a share. However, instead I want to encourage you to spend the time talking to someone, sharing your love with them, or even just letting people know you’re there. I will always be here for people who want to talk, friends, family, or anyone at all. Let’s be better, for the sake of each other.

Unexpected Appreciation

Don’t you just love it when someone appreciates something you do? When it wasn’t your intention but receive it anyway?

At the weekend I had some downtime, I had no plans for an afternoon besides the usual household chores and tidying. So, I got to editing some photos. It’s been awhile since I’ve edited anything without it having a work related purpose. When you’re sat on around 600 photos for a client, I can’t bring myself to take some time out editing personal photos, it just feels like time wasted. Now, with the little lull of freedom I have between gigs, I took to editing some photos of my friends Dog, Odin. You can see the finished results here: Level Up Photography: Wordless Wednesday #17

I had the photos for awhile now, many of them from over a year ago back when he was a puppy, and some more recently of him at a friends BBQ. I always thought it would be nice for my friends to have the photos, but I can’t bare to let anything go uneditted so they’ve sat on my computer gathering virtual dust. With my free time, however, I suddenly felt inspired to edit them up, and I can’t describe how glad I am I did.

After sending the photos I expected a “Thank you”, I expected the “These are great” lip service a couple of friends will give you. I received so much more though. They both sent me messages saying how much they loved the photos, they want to get them printed onto a canvas to put up in their home, and they said it made them miss their dog (as they were currently on their way back from a holiday). My one friend messaged me to say I should do professional pet photography… These were the kinds of comments I just wasn’t expected, I wasn’t braced for. Their gratitude was heartwarming. Their gratitude was inspirational.

I love photography. I love all aspects of it, from taking a more thought-provoking artistic piece, to capturing a memory on film. Hearing their comments about my work made me swell with confidence that this is what I want to do with my life. Not just photography-wise, but with my writing and with all my pursuits. I want to make people smile, I want to connect with people. I don’t necessarily want to impress people, though that would certainly be nice, but I would like to bring out a positive reaction from them, I’d like to do something that has an impact, albeit a small and fleeting one.

I’m lucky enough to have received these messages on the same week my last client text me to say how happy they were with their wedding photos. A text message which, when I read to my Mom, made her cry. Those prideful tears, which I’ve felt myself this week, are further assurance that I am going in the right direction.

This week I’m feeling confident in my work. This week I’m feeling assured of my goals.

How has your week been? Let me know in the comments below!

Big Up Your Blog!

Do you want to be part of a community that helps each other to learn, grow, share, and inspire? I know full well I do, it’s a big reason why I got set up here on the Clouds, but it’s also why I joined Big Up Your Blog!

When my post went out about “1 Year On the Clouds!” I never really did my one year on here justice. It was always a post I had left in the WordPress scheduling that I always meant to come back to closer to the time, but due to my unforeseen absence the last month I never did. It seems a bit late to write it now, but I can certainly tell you something else about my 1 year here.

When I first started up blogging I did so without truly knowing anyone else on here. I had one friend that was also blogging, and I had recently met Shelley at a Creative Writing course in little old Solihull… That was it. Blogging is a wonderful community though, and if you’re lucky enough and take part in enough things, you soon discover the other amazing blogs and accounts that are out here in the Blogosphere.

One such site I found was of local Brummie Suzie. Shortly after I came upon Suzie’s blog, she started a Facebook group. Now, I’ve been wary of Facebook groups for blogging, I don’t ever really share my own blog to Facebook (I’m not ashamed of it, it’s out there and it’s public, I just don’t push it onto my friends), and I’m also well aware that these groups tend to just be “I’ve written this“, “Share my post“, with no genuine heart behind the messages. That’s not what I’m about. It’s my personal goal on here to inspire and be inspired, I’m about positivity, I’m about love, and I’m about sharing when it’s caring. Big Up Your Blog! is a blogging group that actually does all that too.

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Together, Suzzane “Suzie Speaks” Elliot and Em Inkles have managed to create a blogging community that is as familiar as it is welcoming. They’ve fostered a group of people who share these values; help, support, inspiration, love, care, and perhaps most importantly, pride. They’ve created a forum where you can ask a dumb question, and be assured you receive an intelligent response. They’ve established a platform where you can get follows and likes, but for the right reasons, where people understand we’re trying to promote ourselves, but are not afraid to promote each other. This is exactly what the Clouds strives for, and it’s present in every fibre of Big Up Your Blog! too.

Everything about the group is in the aid of fostering love and sharing care. It’s about appreciating each others work, more than just giving out the occasional blind retweet. It’s about being proud of what you write, and of encouraging that pride in others. Honestly, I have the group to thank for so much of where my blog is now. If you share the same values as we do here on the Clouds, I definitely recommend giving them a look. The group isn’t always open, it closes its doors to help its community interact without getting drowned out. Right now though, their doors are (somewhat) open and they’re looking for new bloggers with an interest in helping each other.

What do you think? Are you a part of any blogging communities? Does Big Up Your Blog! appeal to you? Let me know in the comments below! Or, better yet, join the community whilst it’s doors are currently open!

Humanity’s True Strength

May 22nd saw some horrific attacks against Manchester. Men, women, and children were injured, killed, and left terrified by these attacks. People lost their children, their siblings, their families and I really don’t have any words that can ease that pain. I can only say that my thoughts are with them.

What I want to talk about though… is the response. For as many posts I saw across my social networks with upset and fear, I saw posts of genuine altruism, of true human empathy. I saw Muslim men offering free taxis, I saw Jewish Rabbis bringing drinks to officers, I saw white women taking in and looking after children; I saw people helping people. Regardless of race, of nationality, of sex, of orientation, I saw a larger community coming together; I saw people helping people. When the attacks occurred we responded with compassion and aid, we came together regardless of arbitrary cultural boundaries and we helped each other. This is testament to our collective human spirit and it is the exact answer we need in the times of crisis. It’s the answer we need at all times, really, and whilst it’s upsetting it often takes these tragedies to elect this response from us, it’s still fantastic that it’s there and being shown.

There is often far too much focus on the ‘Terror’ caused by ‘Terrorism’, but I’m a firm believer that this only propagates more terror. When we respond with fear, or anger, or negativity in general, we are showing that these attacks are working. When we respond with love and care, when we help our fellow human regardless of our differences, we show that we can’t be broken and that their attacks ultimately serve no point. When we respond with chants of “close the borders”, or we respond by attacking people for being different, we only fall into an awful, vicious cycle that will do humanity more harm than good. We play into the hands of the aggressor and lose any power we have for ourselves. What we need in these times, and at all times, is to truly focus on the good that humanity can do, the love that we can show each other. When we respond by coming together that is true strength.

I got Nominated for the Hidden Gem award!

 

WOW! I honestly didn’t expect this at all. I’ve been following the Bloggers Bash (who hasn’t?), but I never thought I’d be nominated into one of the Award Categories! Someone out there actually thinks Clockwork Clouds is a Gem! Wow.

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If you can’t tell I’m absolutely buzzing about this news. So buzzing, in fact, I want to post this blog right now… but I’m saving it for Tomorrow. A: So it can be a Friday Feeling and B: Because I have to be in work at the stupid time of 2:30am and this will be a serious reminder that life is good when I’m beginning to flag!

Just like yesterday’s post, but a slightly less serious, please go to the Voting Page and place a vote! Also like yesterday’s post, I’d advise you to check out all the candidates first and vote for the most deserving in all the categories. If you want to vote for me, I won’t stop you at all, but I would rather you did it because you agreed with it rather than just by my own influence.

Honestly, what amazing news! This has made my whole week, perhaps my whole blogging year! Thanks to anyone who nominated me, and thanks in advance to anyone who votes!

(Did I link to the voting page enough?)

Breaking the Cycle

Due to the success of the post I wrote for Monday – When Problems are their own Solutions. – I’m writing again for Today!

The thing is, the more I write the better I feel, the better I feel the more productive I feel, and the more productive I feel the better I feel… It goes on and on like that. I thought I’d utilise a Friday Feeling to get it all out in the open.

Mondays post mentions I wasn’t feeling great, that I wasn’t writing much, and I wasn’t feeling in a ‘good place’ productively. Thing is, I don’t often realise these things are amiss until they’ve already become a problem, and at that point I can reflect back and think: Fuck.

As I wrote before in 3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!, we need to not just treat the smoke, but understand where the fire came from and how we put it out; we need to realise what is causing our feelings and how we can stop it before it even begins. My feelings of stress recently? My feelings of anxiety? They’re caused by having so much to do, and from having done nothing of it. If you’re interested, then please read on!

Last Saturday, Kirsty and I had a lovely day appreciating the sun. We had a brunch out at the Deco Lounge in Shirley, and we went to visit my parents. There, we started talking about all the things we needed to do to the house. We moved in last year, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me, but due to a lack of activity on our part its now also a cause of stress. As we started to list all the things we needed to do, I started to panic. There’s not a room in our house that doesn’t need something doing; it’s a major source of anxiety for me. I wanted to end the conversation there and then, avoid it, not talk about it, and let it slide for a few months. Would this help? It might cure my immediate upset, but it doesn’t treat the cause of the problems. Instead, that night Kirsty and I made a list of the things we needed to do.

Yes, the solution was we made an actual list, on actual paper; not just talking and letting imagination get carried away. It felt so much better to have it written down; where we knew what needed doing. From there we made plans to treat the areas we can do first, we set a date to go to B&Q, which we’ve followed through on, and we set a date to get the garden sorted. It felt more productive and it lightened my stress. There’s still a lot to do, but we’ve taken a small step forward, we’ve engaged in productivity and it’s made things more manageable.

So, the house was causing me stress. I’ve talked before how it should be a Sanctuary in Seeking Sanctuary: A Monday Blog, but this was the opposite. It became a topic I avoided talking about, which in turn made it harder to talk about when it came up. Not to mention it made Kirsty feel I was disinterested, when it’s not the case at all! The thing is, it wasn’t just the house getting to me, the rest stemmed from somewhere else.

The rest of my stress stemmed from, as it often does, the chasing of my goals. It stemmed from my writing and my photography, or lack there-of.  The thing is, the past few weeks I’ve been feeling rubbish with toothache and dental surgery, and it’s hampered my productivity no end. Before that I was working a lot, working thirteen days straight with some twelve hour shifts thrown in. Since, I’ve been trying to relax and enjoy doing nothing, which normally would be a welcome break, but when you add it all together it’s just a month of zero productivity when I actually have so much I want/need to do.

As I’ve learnt from the house, the more I do nothing the harder doing something becomes; it’s that inertia. The more I do nothing, the more stressful something becomes for me, and the more stressful it is the more likely I am to put it off; a vicious cycle that continues like a malevolent ouroboros. How do I go about solving this? By breaking the cycle. When I was writing a post in time for Monday, it occurred to me that simply by writing I was feeling better, simply by being ever so slightly productive I was feeling less stressed about my productivity as a whole. The more I write, and as I write now for Todays post, the better I feel. Breaking the cycle is liberating.

How are you feeling this Friday? Let me know in the comments below!