Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#282 Robin Black: Growing Up Unhappy and Becoming Happier in a Way that Makes Unhappy People Feel Like They Can Become Happier Too

Robin Black was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. Her parents were legal scholars and she grew up in a great big house that was not a bit fancy. The house had lots of illness around it, which made growing up pretty odd. When Robin was 10, her grandmother who was a paraplegic from spinal tumors moved in with the family. Also, her father’s difficult moods dominated the household and his lack of balance kept everybody off-balance. Robin had ADD (still does) and other learning issues, which made her feel like a failure growing up. She was always the kid with unfinished homework and she missed lots of school because of illnesses, which had their basis in her fear of going to school. When Robin was 16, she asked her parents if she could go into therapy and that probably saved her life. She’s thankful for that instinct to get help when life felt so overwhelming. Robin’s memories of childhood are largely unhappy ones, but she always liked reading and writing, and she loved theater. She was in every school play and some community theater too. Playing a character was a great way to not deal with her own stuff. Robin studied voice too and can sing just about every song written between the two world wars. If she wasn’t going to be an actress, she was going to be a nightclub singer. But she didn’t pursue either, in part, because she was afraid of how sophisticated the other theater kids seemed when she got to college. That paralyzed her and she took German instead, which made no sense at all. During college, Robin took time off to return home and be her grandmother’s caregiver. After college, she became severely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave her house without having crippling anxiety attacks. During this time, Robin also had two difficult pregnancy losses, one late along, and those were shattering experiences. Robin met her wonderful husband Richard at a Public Service Fair when she was in law school, which she was doing so she could support herself and her kids. She was 30ish, had ended her first marriage, and was a mother of two children. Richard has been a full-fledged parent to her two older kids and to the daughter they have together. She’s amazed by how much he can give to other people. Around 40, Robin decided agoraphobia wouldn’t get in her way anymore. It took years of intensely difficult work, but she beat the disease. Most of the decisions Robin made the first 40 years of her life were motivated by fear. Robin’s kids are now 23, 19, 15 (girl, boy, girl) each amazing and amazingly kind. Her daughters are gamer girls and her son is a singer, which makes her super happy. Her youngest has significant learning disabilities and works so hard for things that come easily to most. The learning disabilities concern language processing, so Robin and her daughter are always trying to find the right words, though for very different reasons. Along with her family, Robin also loves her dog Watson, who is so loving back. It's important to have a relationship that doesn't involve words. For now, Robin wants to keep writing, to age well, and have friends who think she’s kind and funny, which she does. She wants to write a book about growing up unhappy and becoming happier that makes unhappy people feel like they can become happier. She also wants to sing more, but not in some corny, metaphorical way. She actually wants to sing more.
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Bridget Holding Writes Your Life Story: #239 Julie Spiller

Julie was born in September 1981 in Paignton, Devon. Coming after an older brother, she completed the traditional 2.4 children family. She had a hip disorder and spent quite a lot of time in hospital as a young child. She felt like the ‘black sheep’ growing up. She was too independent, had too much of her own voice. She went to school and didn’t play enough. She was too busy working hard and took life too seriously. She thinks she still does. She wishes she’d loosened up. This is something she still has to remind herself to do. In 1998, she left school and entered a Karate competition. She got beaten up, but her confidence got a huge boost. However, it caused concussional brain trauma, which has caused her to suffer vertigo ever since. Every few months she gets the dizziness; it’s like travel sickness. She was prone to anxiety attacks even before that; they’ve got a lot worse since. She had a period of agoraphobia when she couldn’t leave the house for months. These days she accepts her condition. It allows her to be at home and write. At eighteen, Julie met the boyfriend she was with for five years. He cheated on her for two of those. He bought them the same presents, exactly, and his parents knew about them both. She still can’t believe it. It was a steep learning curve. Then she met her husband. She’d known him for a few years before they got together. Opposites attract. He was a hippy, wanting to lose control. She needed to be in control. They got married on a freezing day in March 2006. He was seventeen years older than her. But that wasn’t the problem. Cannabis was the problem. He was in a different world a lot of the time. Then she noticed on the phone bill that he’d been in touch with an ex-girlfriend—a lot. They co-habited for a while, as neither of them wanted to let go of the house they loved. In the end, she kicked him out. At that time, a thirteen-year-old friend, Kimberley, who had possibly been abused by her father, came to stay with her and didn’t leave. Julie became a foster parent. They moved into a new house together. They needed each other. Julie had nothing, not even a sofa. She home-schooled Kim, because she was having problems with school. She had no time for herself. It was very intense. On the second day in the new house, her next door neighbour, Will, came round with his daughter Jessica and a cup of sugar. She told him she wasn’t interested, but he eventually won her round with good old-fashioned romance. They got together in October 2008. That December Kimberley moved out. In May this year, Julie had a miscarriage, but now she’s pregnant again, and getting married in June. She’s proud that she’s warrior-ed her way through many hard times. She’s come out the other side and now she’s back on track.

[See Part I of Bridget Holding's essay on the therapeutic benefits of writing your life story. This is part 1 of an article, of what will be a series on ‘The Psychology of Writing.’ Please contact Bridget Holding if you are interested in knowing more (bridgetholding [at] madasafish [dot] com).]
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