Writing to Live

By on March 16, 2015
writing to live

By Lorraine Pestell–

At some point in our busy lives, I expect we’ve all asked ourselves the question, “Do I Live to Work, or Work to Live?” This expression is designed to get us thinking about balance in our lives. I am a great believer in the “hare to tortoise theory”, as my books’ protagonist explains to his friends at his 44th birthday dinner. For the first half of our lives, we tend to rush around, trying to cram in as many different activities as possible; some we love, some we grow to loathe.

Then, most commonly referred to as the “mid-life crisis”, we suddenly hit a wall that stops us in our tracks. Why on Earth, now that we’re beyond the halfway point of our likely life-expectancy, are we spending so much time on things we don’t enjoy? This epiphany usually results in us becoming much choosier about dividing our days between work, family, volunteering, pets, hobbies and all the various pastimes available in this constantly-developing age. Having reset our expectations, we “tortoises” can then take our time in nurturing our souls and wallowing in sustained happiness.

Yet what if you’re one of the estimated 50% of the population for whom life itself is a chore and who struggle to kick-start every day. I am among this number, having developed clinical depression in my mid-teens and thereby becoming vulnerable to a long line of smooth-talkers with evil intent, whether in relationships or in the workplace.

By the time I finished university in 1984, I was already experiencing daily thoughts of suicide, and therefore set about educating myself about my own condition in an effort to equip myself for a life I had no interest in. I have now been in the workforce, predominately in Information Technology, for thirty years, during which time I have become an advocate for mental wellbeing as part of leadership programs. I also mentor high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are already headed for a lifetime of mental health disabilities.

While preparing to write this article, I was pleased to read another LB50 feature by Deborah H. Bateman, “Depression Should be Taken Seriously”. In this insightful and informative article, Deborah also describes her ongoing battle with challenging situations. Like me, she does not find medication helpful and has decided to put her faith in God that somehow everything will work out.

Try as I might, I hold no such religious beliefs upon which to rely. Despite increasing awareness in the media and among certain pockets of the community, the mentally-ill still experience regular alienation, discrimination and abandonment, all of which only serves to accelerate the vicious spiral of depression.

I have always written to combat my darkness of heart. Compulsively, one might say! As an introverted, disillusioned teenager, I would spend hours inventing backstories for features I saw on the television news or current affairs programmes. I developed a fascination for why people behave the way they do, knowing full well that my own life was plastered with a shiny veneer of smiles, humour and positive statements. If only we could see behind the eyes of these wayward celebrities or misguided criminals? Surely there’s a good explanation?

Many friends and associates have urged me to write an autobiography or self-help book, since I’ve been knocked down so many times and have managed to pick myself up and carry on. So far, anyway… I’ve endured the violent marriage, several bullying bosses, other bizarre relationships, and was even stupid enough to be conned out of a large sum of money. What I will say in my favour is that I’ve never made the same mistake twice!

Not for one moment thinking readers would be interested in my invisible life, I decided instead to turn my creative endeavours to better use. Along with a series of gorgeous, rescued canine friends, all of whom have psychological disorders too, I had long been using writing as therapy, pouring my experiences into endless streams of consciousness, as a catharsis which helped me make sense of my lot.

I attempted suicide in 2003, unfortunately being discovered by a friend and resuscitated by ambulance staff. Can you imagine how furious and despondent I was to have failed at this too? In what most people see as a selfish act, I understandably devastated my parents even though we live at opposite ends of the world, so I promised not to make another attempt until they had both passed away. I had a pretty good idea how hard it was going to be to honour this promise, and was not wrong!

Therefore I was left to pick up more tiny, jagged pieces and stick myself back together again. I followed all the sage advice from psychiatrists and counsellors, but nothing worked except having a dog on whom to focus my attention, and writing. Writing, writing, writing!

Intending to write a single novel, I massaged a missive which started out as an innocent teenaged romance between a pop star and a rock guitarist into six serialised books designed with two specific messages in mind: first, to inspire fellow sufferers to rise above their symptoms and make a success of their lives; and second, to encourage non-sufferers to tolerate, support and even love us in our quest to live “normally”.

“A Life Singular” tells the story of a phenomenally successful celebrity writing his autobiography after his soul-mate is fatally wounded by a rogue gunman. Living out their grief in the glare of the public eye, he and his children set about documenting their spectacular life in homage to someone very special.

By backtracking through their early careers and in telling how his dream girl helped to heal the scars from his own troubled childhood, the young widower goes beyond events on public record to create a hopeful handbook for life. We relive how the established stars and parents’ understanding of the human condition led them to speak out on behalf of the “have nots” from among the superior, satisfied world of the “haves”.

The serial deals with topical social issues, such as the widening gap between rich and poor, the debate on rational suicide and simply embracing difference in our diverse societies. “We are all in a minority of one.” I hope through my books, while giving myself a focus to tide me over my remaining years, that readers will enjoy immersing themselves in a complex love story and learn a little more about humanity in its various forms.

Covering a timespan of fifty years in total, the books take us all over the world in the company of the rich and famous, while also giving insight into the frailty that exists in all of us. And I promise several surprises in “A Life Singular – Part Six”, which is planned for release at the end of 2017, ending in contemporary times.

Lorraine Pestell was born in London and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of a six-part contemporary fiction novel serial entitled “A Life Singular”. You can find out more at http://www.ALifeSingular.net or her blog at: http://ALifeSingular.com or via Twitter @LorrainePestell.

Parts One, Two and Three are currently available from my website or via normal channels, with Part Four due in March 2015. Sales proceeds go to two Australian charities which support disadvantaged children with their education: The Smith Family and the School Volunteer Program.  

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3 Comments

  1. Lorraine Pestell

    March 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Lb50!
    Many thanks for featuring me and my work on in your magazine. I welcome comments and look forward to hearing from readers.
    Best regards from autumn in Melbourne!
    Lorraine Pestell

  2. lb50

    March 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    You’re welcome Lorraine. It is a compelling story and one that many people need to hear – I lost in sister in 2007 who suffered from depression most of her life. It was very hard to see her struggle for so many years. bless you.

  3. Dr. DIana Raab

    August 7, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Lorraine ~

    Wonderful article and wonderful story. As a writer and psychologist who teaches writing for healing and transformation, it’s always delightful hearing that writing has changed a life.

    My dissertation interview famous authors who wrote memoirs and it was clear that they were transformed from the experiences. Another illumination was that they thought they were writing for one reason, but by the time they finished their book, they were in fact, writing for another reason!

    Keep up the great work!
    Dr. Diana Raab

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Writing to Live