Alex Schelleman currently works as a radiographer at a major trauma hospital and has a reputation throughout the department for being heard before she is seen. After a 7-year hiatus, Alex began writing again at the start of 2021 and loves to find the humour in even the most challenging life experiences.
Alex is the winner of the 2021 mindshare Unpublished Emerging Writers with ‘the day I was prescribed antidepressants’.
What does this win for your writing mean to you?
I wish I could adequately describe the little warm, honey-coloured feeling that this win gave me. My personal goal was simply to finish a piece that was good enough to enter, and I was proud of myself for getting that far! The event that I wrote about was deeply emotional, and I didn’t realise how much I needed to articulate those feelings until I opened a blank document on my computer and the words came spilling out. To have such a vulnerable piece of work be rewarded is very cathartic.
What inspired your winning work?
My work was inspired by my own journey through depression. I’ve struggled with a variety of mental health conditions, but seeking out medication for my depression was one of the hardest and most rewarding actions I have taken. When I reflect on when I felt my ‘lowest’, that whole weekend bleeds in to one big dark blob, and I felt an urge to unpack the events leading up to my being prescribed antidepressants.
What drives you to write?
In all honesty, my psychologist really encouraged me to write more. I used to write frequently in my early 20s, but I got out of the habit while I was studying radiography. I’ve worked in public health for seven years, and I’ve collected plenty of weird and wild stories along the way. I expressed to my psychologist that I had a desire to write again and she was incredibly encouraging.
How do you incorporate writing into the rest of your life?
Most of my writing is quite scientific and work-related, but I am trying to take more time to write outside of work. My research partner once kindly told me that my writing was very descriptive, but not necessarily the right tone for a journal article! I do education work with students and other health professionals, so a lot of my writing is taking complex concepts and distilling them down to be more palatable.
Which other writers have inspired or influenced your work?
There are so many writers who have inspired me to write. As a medical professional, all of Adam Kay’s books speak deeply to my sleep deprived, cynical soul. I’m endlessly in awe of Annabel Crabb’s ability to craft beautiful, poignant writing on so many subjects. I have also been obsessed with Aubrey Gordon’s work on fatness and fat activism, and she is such a talented writer and orator.
Have you faced any barriers establishing yourself as a writer, and if yes, how have you overcome them?
I am definitely in the very early stages of establishing myself as a writer! At the moment, my biggest struggle is internal. I don’t believe I am good enough, and then I do not write. When I have these thoughts, I simply set an alarm for 30 minutes and write anything. Usually, once I begin, all of those internal voices quickly become quiet and I begin to love writing again. I also find being a shift worker very challenging, because I spend much of my ‘spare’ time exhausted. Sometimes I just have to give myself grace and realise that I don’t have to write today, I can write tomorrow or on the weekend.
What are you hoping to achieve with your writing?
I am not sure yet, I am definitely still finding my voice and my rhythm and my passions and my tender spots. I would love to do more freelance work around body image and mental health. I also would love to write a TV show based on my work at a public hospital, I have stories that you couldn’t make up if you tried!
What advice would you give other writers who are just starting out?
Set a timer, and set a goal. It could be 5 minutes, every second day or it could be an hour once a week. And just write anything at all, because anything you create is good and worthy and valid.