The Recovery Writer

Championing Diversity Empowering Recovery And Inspiring change

Early Questions In A Freelance Writing Career

writers life

I have no idea what I’m doing. I mean I know what I’m doing, but I don’t know if I am doing it right.

I am enjoying writing, I’m enjoying the daily habit and developing my style and technique. It’s been a wonderful confirmation to have my first essay published. It was a welcome bonus to have valuable input from the editor, Lilly, at Narratively; I learned a lot in that process for which I am grateful. I’ve even had another editor message me to ask me to pitch to them, which gave me a lovely warm fuzzy feeling of confirmation too. I’m still waiting to hear back from that one.

As excited as I feel, there is a lot of fear too. What if I can’t make this freelance career work? Am I doing things right? Am I missing something? What do I do from here?

What about my topics, how does one discover one’s niche? Is a niche necessary?  I have a broad first-hand experience knowledge base which I want to write about, gender, sexuality, mental health, addiction. Do I narrow it down to simplify it? Or do I find a label as a ‘cover all?’

If I had to narrow my writing down to one label, it would be ‘recovery and change,’ which is why I chose ‘The Recovery Writer’ as a name for this blog. The theme of recovery and change is at the heart of all my writing, no matter what the topic.

What about the style of writing. Do I now stick with writing personal essays as this has been a success? Do I continue sending out short stories, or give up on that as I’ve had no success? Do I try my hand at articles? Should I be looking into copywriting? Ghostwriting?

Is my name correct?  I’m ‘The Recovery Writer’ here, and I’m ‘finntheinfinncible’ on YouTube. I’ve tried to put ‘Finlay Games‘ on everything, as an overarching signpost, because one day my book will be published (yes Universe) and so it seems logical to have my actual name across everything, But then does it make all my sharing feel disjointed? Should I have kept everything under my established name as ‘Finntheinfinncible?’

I guess these a standard questions for anyone setting out. Yes, I have researched, but really, I am none the wiser. Every time I research, I learn something new. Then the possibilities, way to write, who to write for, how to write, get bigger and bigger, and I end up with even more questions.

Oh my goodness my head is spinning.

I’m waiting to become officially self-employed. As part of my back to work plan, I am transitioning from sickness benefits, hopefully onto the New Enterprise Allowance. This will (fingers crossed) be happening in the next couple of months. In the meantime, while asking myself all these questions, I’m working my way through my business plan (I’ve got a fair few new grey hairs from doing so). I have a set of brand spanking new business cards, I’m promoting myself, tweaking my social media sites, learning about SEO. I’m working my little finger pads off, but I still have no idea if I’m doing all the right things.

Please tell me that every new freelance writer feels this way!

 

 

Self-Evaluation – Day 134 of #365daysofselfcare

self care header

Self-care is being able to recognize when something no longer serves you well

 

I am behind and entirely out of touch with writing my self-care blog posts. When I started writing them, it was both to help me breathe new life into my daily self-care routine and to help me to develop a daily writing habit. However, they have now become a little counterproductive.

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I’m writing so much now, sending out articles and pitches to publishers. My busier life means I keep getting behind with writing these blogs and I find trying to catch up is just stressing me out. Hardly the ideal self-care!

It is so important to remember to regularly evaluate the things we do, to assess if what we are doing serves us well, or if we need to change something. Making myself write these every day, spending time creating a quote, producing an image, and then writing a post, is in itself no longer serving me and is taking me away from my original intent.

I am therefore going to revert to how I originally started these posts, as a simple check in on Twitter to share what my self-care was each day. Daily check-in is just what I need, a reminder to take time for myself each day, and the accountability to stick to it.

Additionally, because self-care is something I am passionate about, and something I believe has to be at the foundation of everything we do, I still intend to write regularly on this. Therefore, I won’t stop blogging on this subject but instead move from writing daily, to writing weekly. I think this will serve me much better, in having a chance to reflect and report on my self-care each week.

I feel this is something I need at the moment as so much is changing for me in such a short space of time. Lots of constant evaluation is necessary. Its ok to change the way we do things. When we do self-care correctly, we develop a greater insight into ourselves. We more easily recognize what we need, and we gain self-honesty and acceptance about letting go of things that no longer serve us well.

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Preventing Suicide within the LGBTQ+ Community

World suicide prevention day - preventing suicide in the LGBT community

I am unfortunately no stranger to suicide. I have a history of mental health problems, and I have made many attempts on my life. I am also both transgender and gay, which puts me in one of the highest at-risk communities for mental health issues and suicide. This means that over my lifetime, I have lost many friends to suicide and seen countless more attempt it.

Learning self-help strategies, such as asking for help, is vital in combatting suicidal thoughts.

Although I am now in recovery, I do still at times get dark thoughts. I have learned from experience, that it does pass and that there are places to find help and support in the meantime while I wait for it to do so. Developing a support network is vital, whether that’s a close friend, a teacher, a doctor, or using an online support group or a mental health telephone helpline.

Providing more mental health services and promoting media campaigns also help. However, we also need to look at the underlying cause of this high incidence of suicide attempts.

People do not die from suicide. They die from despair, caused by being faced continuously with stigma, discrimination, harassment, abuse, and intolerance

A post-mortem investigation of a  close friend, who took his own life in Feb 2017, concluded he had “died by suicide” However, this is not accurate, he, in fact, died from unbearable sadness and at the time could think of no other way to make that sadness stop.

I received a heartbreaking message just last week that a young trans lad, worn down by incessant bullying in school, threw himself off a building. He thankfully survived but is still seriously ill and cannot feel anything below his knees. When speaking of him, people will say “he attempted suicide.” However, he didn’t jump from a building because he wanted to die. He jumped off a building because he wanted peace. He felt this was the only way to escape the daily bullying.

Incidences of suicide attempts are shockingly high in the transgender community at 41%, and people conclude that transgender people must be attempting suicide because they are transgender. In fact, the reason for the high attempt is due to a lack of acceptance and lack of timely access to support and treatment.

Addressing these issues will go a long way in preventing people reaching the point where they feel their only option to end their pain is to take their own life.

If we are to address the rising numbers of suicide, not only do we need more help and support for those in crises, but we also need to address these underlying issues. This means :

A zero tolerance approach to bullying, in social spaces and online

  • This not only protects vulnerable people but also sends a message that LGBTQ people are worthwhile and deserving of fair treatment and respect.

A clampdown on negative media regarding transgender people

  • Negative messages and misinformation in the media and constant ‘debates’ about the validity of an individuals gender are demoralizing and dehumanizing. Accurate representation in the media and positive stories help to foster acceptance and understanding of gender difference.

Improved rights for LGBTQ people to tackle discrimination

  • Equal rights and protections sends a clear message that LGBTQ folk are as valued in society as everyone else

Enhanced mental health /recovery/support services for LGBTQ people that address our specific needs

  • Having a service that understands the particular needs of our LGBTQ community helps to foster a sense of belonging and a feeling that we are heard and understood

Quicker and more easily accessible gender services for transgender people

  • Waiting over a year for a first appointment at a Gender Identity Clinic is unacceptable. We need an overhaul of services so that instead of just six available clinics, we have easy access to local services who can provide support, access to cross-sex hormones and surgery, in a responsible but timely manner.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness

Addressing these issues will go a long way in preventing people reaching the point where they feel their only option to end their pain is to take their own life.

In the meantime, if you are struggling, please reach out for help, you do not need to go through this alone. Reaching out is a strength, not a weakness. It can be so easy, in dark times, to feel things have always been awful and will never get better. They will get better, but sometimes we need people to remind us of this and be with us until they do.

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The Benefits of Doing Things That Scare You

How to overcome anxiety

“Do one thing every day that scares you”

This is a line from ‘Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)’ a spoken word song by Baz Luhrmann, originally written as an essay by Mary Schmich. This piece is full of wisdom and inspiration, but it is that particular line which has stuck with me and has become somewhat of a mantra.

This is surprising really as it runs contrary to my old mantra of ‘Drink one bottle of wine a day and hide from your fears.’ I lie. It was never only one bottle.

Over my eight years in recovery so far, I have gradually pushed myself further and further outside my comfort zone, doing more and more thing which, quite frankly, terrify me.  Now, I often end up so far outside of my comfort zone that I need the help of google maps to find my way back.

This is no easy task when you have Anxiety Disorder.

If you have Anxiety Disorder, why are you doing things that scare you?

The reason it is so important to do things that scare you is because it is the only way to overcome the limitations that anxiety puts on your life. I used to think that the best way to cope with my intense fear, was to not push myself. I was not too fond of the awful way anxiety made me feel so avoiding scary things seemed to be the logical solution.

However, this approach did not result in any improvement and in fact it made things worse. The more I let anxiety stop me from doing things, the more stuck I became. On top of that, I accumulated a sense of disappointment in my self, which in turn caused low self-esteem and shame.

Does doing scary things help you to overcome Anxiety Disorder?

I think rather than focusing on overcoming anxiety concerning the big picture, it is more helpful to instead concentrate on overcoming small individual hurdles.

I spent many years waiting for my anxiety disappear, but it never has. I began to realize that I was wasting my energy in trying to find a way to permanently cure myself of it. I now instead concentrate my efforts on finding ways to manage it and get on with my life regardless of it.

Overcoming means different things for different people. For me, overcoming means that although I still have anxiety, I have overcome its hold over me.

What is the point of doing things that scare you if it doesn’t cure Anxiety?

The point is to overcome anxiety in a way that works for you. For some people, the act of challenging it does eventually give them an anxiety free life. While I do have less fear than I once did, it largely remains for me.

However, learning to live with anxiety and do things regardless of it, makes me feel differently about it. I’ve overcome its hold over me and that, for me is the most important thing.

Can you live a happy successful life, even with Anxiety?

Yes, you absolutely can. Perseverance and courage do pay off!

My eight years in recovery so far, have been baby steps which have led me to the point I am at now.  Through experimentation, learning how to manage my anxiety and how best to live alongside it has led me to finally find a way I can be the happy, successful person I wanted and knew I could be.

I am soon to become self-employed, turning my hobby of writing and making videos, into a paying career. This is, without doubt, the biggest and more terrifying move I have made but I know it is right for me.  I love sharing my story and inspiring people, it makes me feel alive and makes my mental health issues feel like a gift rather than a curse. I have just had my first personal essay published in Narratively magazine about my recovery from alcoholism.

I have also been working with the open university as a student ambassador as part of their media campaign. I have been filmed and interviewed for both online and television adverts, the thought of which was nerve-racking, but I actually really enjoyed it! The crew from The Outfit were terrific to work with, and the finished video is outstanding.

I also had the pleasure of meeting and being interviewed by Anna Richardson who is also a passionate mental health advocate, and it was wonderful to chat with her and share stories. More than anything, it was such an honor and a privilege to take part and to have the chance to share my story in a huge way and hopefully inspire other people to make a change.

It all feels so overwhelming, how do I begin?

You begin at the beginning, mindfully but with intent and purpose. I didn’t just go from being stuck indoors to setting myself enormous scary challenges.

You start with the small stuff,  and as you gradually conquer these things you build up a bank of evidence of being able to do them, regardless of anxiety. This then begins to build a sense of pride and purpose, which soon become more significant than the anxiety itself.

You build this up, one day at a time. Then, suddenly, you find yourself looking back in awe at how far you’ve come, how much you have achieved, and how much more you are capable of.

Do one thing, every day, consistently that scares you, and I promise, your life will change in ways you never dreamed were possible.

It’s the old adage, if you want new and exciting opportunities in your life, you have to do new and exciting things. Even if those things scare the pants off you.

 

 

Getting Creative – Day 119 of #365daysofselfcare

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is spending time with your creative self

PicsArt_08-29-04.59.00.jpgCreativity allows us to express hidden parts of ourselves and connect with our inner self.  Most importantly, creativity reminds us how fabulous we human beings are, that we can create such amazing things from inside ourselves, and that life is full of fascinating creations.

I am a very creative person, I always have been, but for a long time, I forgot this. During my recovery,  no longer having my inner world dulled by the haze of drugs and alcohol, I have discovered this side of myself again.

My love of creativity is why it makes so much sense for me to move forward and turn my hobby of writing and making videos into a freelance writing career. For me, even on a severe mental health day, most of the time I can still write. That is because for me,  creativity is not work, its a self-care for my soul.

Creativity does not have to be perfect, the best part of creativity is that it is best when not perfect. It is at its finest when you just let go and let whats inside come out in whichever creative outlet you choose.

Buy some play-doh, doodle on a blank page, start a journal, or invest in an adult coloring book and make it a mission to spend time with yourself, letting your fascinating soul run free.

 

The Freedom And Happiness Of A Sober Life

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2. We Are Going To Know a New Freedom and a New Happiness

Today, I celebrate eight years sober and clean. It still amazes me that it has been that long. I remember, in my first few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, feeling a rising panic at the thought of a day without alcohol, never mind eight years. I also remember being scared of what my life would become, thinking that a life without alcohol would be dull.

This memory makes me smile now, for two reasons. The first reason is that my life back then was already dull. I was a physical and mental wreck, spending my days smoking weed, knocking back lager, and obsessing about running short of either of the two. Hardly a fulfilling life but rather a painful and depressing one. The second is because my life in sobriety is anything but dull. In these last eight years, I have explored and experienced more of myself and my life than I had in the 37 years previous.

Alcoholism is a cunning jailer; it convinced me that life outside its walls would be a life not worth living. It was not until I began to escape its clutches that I realized how captive I had been. The freedom I feel, in every aspect of my life, is the cornerstone of my happiness.

I am at such an exciting place in my life right now. Lots of things are coming to fruition all at once. I am at the end of the medical part of my gender transition. I have made sense of my sexuality and am in a committed relationship with a gorgeous man. I am at the start of launching a freelance writing career, and I have just had my first piece published. I have recently enrolled in my final module with the Open University, and this time next year I will be the proud owner of a degree. I have also been doing some media work with the Open University, as a student ambassador.

All of these things are anything but dull and only possible because I am sober. There is no way the drunk me could have had the enthusiasm or the ability to set up a small business, and  I would most certainly not have been asked to be an ambassador!

Recovery has given me the freedom to be me. It has given the freedom to pursue my dreams and the freedom to forgive myself and allow myself to love and be loved. The new happiness which comes from this freedom takes my breath away every single day. I am free now, one day at a time to live the exciting life that alcoholism hid from me for so many years.

Be Your Fabulous Self – Day 104-106 of #365daysofselfcare 

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is being true to who you are despite the judgments of others

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The most radical act of self-care is to give yourself permission to be yourself.

The last few days I’ve been reflecting on just how wonderfully free it feels to be me, even though a large part of society is not particularly happy with who l am.

It’s a strange paradox. Before l came out as trans, l couldn’t handle the judgments of others, l was an anxious people pleaser, and this was one of the hurdles to coming out. I was so scared of being rejected by everyone.

As I have progressed through my transition and become more comfortable in my skin, I have begun to care less and less about what other people think of me.

Surprisingly, this isn’t because my transition has made me blend more into society. It could have done, and I was most certainly expecting it to be one of the benefits. However, what has happened as I have become more comfortable, is that I have developed into a chap with a very flamboyant personality who enjoys wearing pink, wearing earrings, and generally being and doing many things that society says men shouldn’t be or do. I’ve also now come out as gay, which adds an extra layer of difference into the diversity sandwich.

This freedom to be me now permeates every aspect of my life, and it continues to be one of the most powerful daily self-care tools in my wellness toolkit.

Freelance Writing – My First Published Story

 

First published storyIts been a while since I updated about my professional writing progress and as you can see by the title of this blog post, I have some rather fantastic news to share!

Firstly, let’s start with a catch up of what has been happening since I made the brave move to declare myself to be a writer, and took the first steps into a freelance writing career a few months ago.

Inspired by Jeff Goins’, “You are a writer, so start acting like one,” I set myself two commitments as my starting point. The first was to write every single day, whether that was a few sentences or a few pages. The second was to ‘practice in public,’ which meant getting my writing out there, to be read by others.

I am pleased to say I have stuck to these two commitments. I began a daily self-care series which made me commit to writing at least a  few sentences each day for that purpose (OK so I admit I’ve missed a day posting here and there and had to merge a few days or play catch up!). I have also regularly been sending out short stories and articles for consideration and applying for blogging positions.

I have had rejection after rejection, which I of course expected and knew would be part of the process, but it still took a lot of deep breaths and positive self-talk to remind myself of that.  Then, suddenly, an email arrived with the words,  ” We would be delighted to publish your piece!”

I cannot tell you the rush of emotions I went through when I received this email. I am not at all embarrassed to say I cried with pride!

The piece is a memoir style personal essay about my recovery and gender transition, and the publisher is Narratively magazine. For the past month, the editor and I have been going back and forth cutting and changing things. In being my first time working with a publisher in this way, I cannot say if this is a regular occurrence, I expect it is. I found this to be such a valuable experience, I am incredibly grateful for her patience and guidance, and I have learned so much in this process.

Last week we finished the final edit, and I then received an email to notify me of the date of publication, which is today! I am over the moon to share my very first published piece with you all. This has happened a such a significant and special time for me, as I complete the medical part of my gender transition and move into a new and exciting phase of my life.

If you enjoy the piece, please do share it along!

http://narrative.ly/i-didnt-know-i-was-trans-until-i-got-sober/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Is Permenent- Day 99 of #365daysofselfcare 

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is remembering that no obstacle is permanent

PicsArt_08-06-09.01.30.pngThis week is a big one for me (no pun intended!) as I have a second attempt of my final stage of lower surgery.

The most significant act of self-care I can give myself right now is to forget everything that went wrong before and start with a new perspective.  Also,  that whatever happens, obstacles pass, things change, and all will be well eventually!

Love Is A Doing Word – Day 97 and 98 of #365daysofselfcare

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is choosing to give our hearts to people who show their love for us in action and not just in words.

IMG_20180805_131339_882.jpgLove is such a powerful emotion, it’s hard to stay mindful with such strong feelings but the stronger the emotion, the more aware you must be.
I have a history of poor relationship choices. I was in such a poor emotional and mental state that I  often left myself open to being hurt and mistreated. In recovery, I have learned to be more discerning about who I open my heart and give my love too.
Love can be such an easy word to say, but without action it is meaningless. As the saying goes, ‘Love is a doing word.’ In assessing my connections with people now, I listen less to what they say and focus more on what they do. It is in peoples actions that you find their true feelings and intentions.

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