I’ve decided to return to blogging, focusing primarily on writing, reading, and mental health matters. I, for one, know the benefits of the first two when battling the latter. During some of the darkest periods of my life, often self-inflicted, I have found solace and sanctuary in the pages of a book. It was somewhere I could hide and reflect, before reluctantly closing the covers and facing the realities of life.
The likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King dragged me through some terrible times in my teenage years. The thicker the book the better, as I could secrete myself away in tales of fantasy and horror, safe from the real-life horrors that plagued me at the time and cast an unwelcome shadow that I still carry to this day. They created a shy, anxious young man who often resorted to alcohol to keep at bay the demons that threatened to overwhelm him.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that, the years when my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was at its worst, were the years I dropped reading as a hobby. I was building a career and family but, even then, what little spare cash I had at the end of the month, was usually spent in a pub or off-license, as opposed to a bookstore. When I finally decided to stop drinking, other ‘obsessions’ replaced them; namely running and religion.
Writing followed them and thankfully has stuck around in my head. Whereas reading allowed me to initially hide from my demons and, subsequently, learn more about them, writing has allowed me to go on the offensive and confront them. The main characters in my debut book battled with OCD, addiction, and bereavement. And that’s even before they went toe-to-toe with the Napoleonic ghost soldiers and winged demons threatening to destroy Belfast, Ireland, and the wider world.
Part of my struggle had been keeping my fears and worries bottled up inside. I dared not speak of them, for fear that people thought I was insane. Thanks to my wife, however, I received the correct diagnosis and treatment for my OCD. Talking and writing about it was akin to releasing a pressure valve in my brain. The relief was enormous and, despite the occasional blip in the road, I haven’t really looked back since.
The other benefit is that I can now, in my own little way, share my experiences and hope that they might help others going through what I experienced. Just knowing that they are not alone, and that there are others out there in the same boat, can be the difference between anguished isolation and hopeful connections and communal support. I’m hoping this blog can provide that support to others as I share my love of reading, writing, and whatever else crosses my mind on any given day.
Thank you for reading and feel free to drop your comments below.