ambitions, mental health

An Autumn Self-Audit

Concrete Road Between Trees by Craig Adderley


It’s crunchy season!

I love the crackle of leaves underfoot, don’t you? Crunch crunch crunch. It’s such a satisfying sound, the crisp crinkling of dead leaves being pulverised to smithereens like city blocks under Godzilla’s heel. Very empowering. Next time you go to the park, I thoroughly recommend stomping around on them and going ‘RARGH’. It can be very cathartic.

Once again, it’s time to take stock and do a bit of introspection. The nights are drawing in and the days are ever cloudier, so fire up your SAD lamps and make sure you get plenty of vitamin D. I know that won’t cure my depression, but it can’t hurt. Unless I stub my toe on the SAD lamp, that is. It’s pretty hefty.

So where am I, right now? In my life, my career, my everything? Well, in terms of career and material considerations, I’m not much farther than I was last time I had a look at myself, though I’ve definitely been busy.  Remember I submitted The Bride Wore Blood to the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship, the Finish Line Competition and the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition? No? I don’t blame you, it was ages ago, but scroll down and you’ll see that I did mention it. Anyway, I reached the Quarter Finals in the first two and didn’t place at all in the latter, nor in a couple of other competitions and opportunities, including the BBC Writers Room. It’s been a bit of a blow, to be honest, though I know it’s all part of the process. Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s just one of the steps you carry out in the process of succeeding. Do you like that? I made it up just now, didn’t get it out of a fortune cookie or anything.

Quarterfinalisting is pretty good, though, and I did manage to get a free read of ‘Bride’ from The Literary Consultancy, which was a big opportunity. The notes were great – and even better, I recently got notes from a great fellow writer (hullo Lucy Linger!) and her notes were in line with TLC’s. Thanks to that, I know exactly where to start on the next iteration of this script, starting with a change I’ve been thinking of for a while – from now on, The Bride Wore Blood will be titled Hen Party Massacre! I think it gets the gist across quite nicely. I also have a hook for the pitch: “It’s Bridesmaids meets Friday the 13th!” – succinct and fits the tone well, I reckon.

I’ve started a new podcast (don’t ask what happened to the old one for now) which I’m really quite excited about – a friend and I will each choose a film, we’ll watch them both and then talk about the differences and similarities and things we found interesting about them. My tastes are more mainstream and esoteric horror/scifi while hers are more classic an arthouse, so we’re finding common ground in this Mixed bag of Pictures; or we’re Mixing our Pictures; I dunno, tag lines are hard, it’s called Mixed Pictures, ok? Watch out for it early next year, I hope, as by then we’ll have recorded enough episodes to have a nice buffer for when we start.

I also had a huge breakthrough in that I’ve worked with a friend of mine to write her film school graduation short! This will be my first proper credit (though as it’s a film school one and it’s unpaid then I don’t think it counts as a Professional credit?) so I’m quite nervous about how it turns out. It’s called Nancy, and it’s about a young girl who may or may not be haunted by the spirit of her mother. I did 10 drafts, and then another writer was brought in for an 11th draft to change a few things for logistical reasons, but that’s how it goes! Filming has just wrapped this week and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final film and eventually sharing it with you all.

Also, I went to the ScreenSkills Open Doors event in Leicester recently and met some very nice and very talented fellow creatives who I was only mildly jealous of. It did drive home my biggest weakness right now: confidence and speech. I tried to pitch to someone there and flubbed it twice thanks to my shy nature and pressured speech. I hate the way I pause and stumble over words as my mouth tries to catch up with my brain, and I hate what years and years of low self-esteem and lack of support for my mental health have done to my confidence. If I’m going to make it in this business, I need to address that and fast. I also need to defeat my phone anxiety. And maybe defeat my nervousness about driving.

Essentially, as ever, the biggest thing that’s holding me back is myself. I always have to try harder because of the limitations of my brain/psyche/mind/abusive subconscious, and the things that come more easily to others always seem just out of reach for me. Once worked up, it can take me hours just to write a 300 word paragraph about myself. Just trying harder isn’t going to get me there, though. I need to do Actual Work on Myself. I need to Introspect. I need to Do a Self-Scrutiny.

I’m happy to say I can at least report positive progress on that front. Earlier this year, tired of suicidal ideation (no that is a word, Chrome dictionary, look it up) and deep depressive spirals, I finally self-referred to Trent PTS for talking therapy. This is a Big Deal for me, as asking for help doesn’t come easily; not because of bullshit toxic I-am-a-man-and-men-don’t-ask-for-help reasons, but for I-should-be-able-to-just-carry-on-and-I’m-not-worth-anyone’s-time-anyway reasons. But I did it, and I had 8 sessions with a lovely counsellor who listened and said ‘gosh’ a lot. And she validated me. She told me I’d been through a lot, and am going through a lot, and she acknowledged how hard it is. And to hear that from a stranger, a professional, someone with no emotional investment in me? It was like a soothing balm. It let me realise that yes, I have been through a lot. I moan about it, yes, but I always downplay it and insist to myself that I’ve got it easy and should just get on with things. I’ve internalised this idea that I’m lazy, and will moan about how lazy I am as I run around trying to get three things done at once. Stopping for a break isn’t allowed, because treading water is the same as drowning and standing still is a waste of time.

The counsellor helped me think of myself in terms of the person who’s driven by an impulse to push himself and punish himself if he doesn’t hit perfection. I talked about my past, beyond the traumatic incident towards the potential roots of my depression and my anxiety. It was a safe space to air grievances and express emotions I’ve been repressing for too long. Ultimately, it was an extremely helpful 8 sessions of deep thinking and prodding at my psyche.

Add to this the fact that when my wife was diagnosed with adult ADHD, I sat in on the assessment sessions and went ‘Oh. Oh dear.’ at about 90% of her answers – they match up suspiciously with my own experiences. So much so that I’ve decided to to seek assessment myself, just in case; it would certainly explain my craving for constant stimuli and my struggle to remain focused on any single task. No idea if anything will come of it, but we’ll see.

If you’ve read this far, thank you, you’re a trouper and I salute you. Let’s go for a drink sometime.

So that’s how I am. It always feels like one step forward and two steps back, but I know that that’s not the case at all. Even not placing in competitions is an achievement, merely because it means I still have the confidence to put myself out there. Garfunkel and Oates put it better than I could. I’m still here, I’m struggling but I’m stronger.

And no matter how long it takes, I will succeed.

1 thought on “An Autumn Self-Audit”

  1. Oh Sam Sam Sam, brave Sam eyeballing Mount Doom. There’s a lot in here – high-fives for opening up and writing your truth like this, ’cause that takes a lot – but I’d just like to say two things. (For brevity, and because bitesize-chunkification of information is preferrable for easily-overwhelmed anxious folk.)

    1. I personally believe that talking therapy is hugely beneficial to most people. To have a mostly-objective outsider acknowledge your reality and backstory and validate you is potentially huge. (It has been for me.) More high-fives for reaching out and I wish you all the best in progressing from here equipped with the awareness, motivation, reassurance and self-esteem salve (and all the rest) that it generated.

    2. You’re not alone. Go easy on yourself and, yeah, I’d be down for a cup of tea (metaphorical, even better tangible and thus drinkable) any time.


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