Book Review: Pilu of the Woods – Mai K. Nguyen

Willow loves the woods near her house. They’re calm and quiet, so different from her own turbulent emotions, which she keeps locked away. When her emotions get the better of her one day, she decides to run away into the woods.

There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home—which turns out to be the magnolia grove Willow’s mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, and the two quickly become friends.

This is one of the sweetest and most beautiful graphic novels I have ever read. Initially drawn to the art this gave so much more, including lyrical prose. Ultimately this is a story of family, friendship and dealing with grief. While Willow and Pilu come from different worlds, they are such a sweet pair and I can’t say no to a doggie sidekick!

The art style itself is unique and while it will appeal to a younger reader as a woman in her mid-twenties I was enchanted by the illustration. Additionally, the use of colour to show the woods felt real to me. I read this at a point where I needed something to fall into and escape – something I was easily able to do.

I will warn you going in that you might get a little emotional reading. I wanted to reach in and give Willow the biggest hug. The way that Nguyen has shown emotion and the complicated feelings that are being experienced from the perspective of a child is nothing short of incredible.

It’s no surprise that I gave this 5 stars. This really touched my heart, it’s not a complicated story, however, it can speak volumes. I really hope that there is a follow-up because I can see the relationship and story really growing and evolving. This is a wonderful book, I can’t stress enough how much I adore it.

A huge thank you to Netgalley, the author and publisher for giving me a chance to read this in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Being Truthful On Galentines Day

Hello lovely lot!

I know this post is going out a little later than normal but I’ve been wracking my brains about what to post this week. A little bit of bloggers block has hit pretty hard!

You may or may not know that today is known as Galentines Day, February 13th is dedicated to our female friendships and celebrating them. I have some wonderful women in my life that I absolutely adore. Some of them I’ve known for years, others a few months. I realise as I get older that you don’t always need years to get to know a person, sometimes it feels instantaneous.

While I scrolled through my feeds today I felt a pang of sadness. I saw the #girlsquads, the pictures of groups of girls who went out together every weekend and seemed to spend every moment together, many of them since their school days.

Here’s the thing, I’ve struggled with friendships growing up. There has been around 2 times in my life I’ve had a group of girlfriends who were all close with each other. Once at school and once at university, neither worked out. Nowadays my closest girlfriends all get along and will come out for my birthday/ event but we’re not a big collective group.

I was born in 1994, which means I’m a Spice Girls kid. I grew up idolising these 5 women who were the best of friends. There were times when I’d watch the other groups of girls at school and desperately want to be a part of it a big group. That was the way it should be right?

In the books I read, the films I watched girls were groups. Groups who could talk about anything and do anything together. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t totally alone, I had close girlfriends but felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t part of something bigger. A squad, a team, whatever you want to do it.

As I got older and the Spice Girls were no more, I still had this longing. Years later, I tried to morph myself into someone I wasn’t to fit into a ‘squad’. I made some mistakes then I wish I hadn’t, including pushing other people I was close to away to feel included.

I tried to be what I thought I should. This could be my moment, right? But I still felt like I was trying too hard, at least deeps down. Now those relationships are gone.

This is a rambling post, I’m well aware but I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t need a squad. That I could have these wonderful friendships individually with women and it didn’t matter if we had a WhatsApp group or if I’d known them in my emo phase.

These girls, each of them unique and completely different are my friends and I love and cherish them.

What are your experiences? I’d love to know below.

The Friendship Evolution

The Friendship Evolution

Ah, friendship, something important and lovely but not many people talk about how friendships need to change and evolve to survive. I’ve had quite a few friendships that have broken down for various reasons, we’ve grown apart, grown up or found out we’re just not compatible. So I wanted to write about some of my friendships and how they’ve evolved in certain situations.

 

Me and Joe London MAy 2018

After Graduating

I don’t quite know how I would have gotten through uni without my friend Joe. We’ve been best friends for years now and we went from seeing each other multiple times a week to graduating and being lucky to see each other once a month. It’s tough because there are times when I just want to hang out but one of us has to get a train and we have to organise it and, don’t tell him, but I miss him like hell.  Our friendship had to evolve and we have to communicate, which luckily for us isn’t a problem but we’ve needed to be more organised.

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Friendship Additions

When Abbie and I became friends a few years ago we were happy just the two of us, and then two became three and it only got better! So, it went like this. I have been friends with a guy called Ben since I was 17, Ben meets Abbie and they get together and we become friends. Still with me? Ok. Sarah, is Ben’s cousin who met Abbie at a family gathering. Now we are all close friends. So Abbie and I had to make room to become a three and it did take adjusting, not worrying if one talked to the other more etc. I for one am just happy we now have Sarah in our lives, she’s amazing and fits with both of us so well.

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Babies

I’ve known my friend Lucy since I was eleven years old. I was the kid with a school fleece on the first day (I still blame the terrible woman in the school shop, they clearly hadn’t sold one in years and smelt my weakness), she had a mass of frizzy hair that earned her the nickname, Frizz. Now we’re very similar, which meant we fought a lot, teenage hormones will do that. We drifted apart a little as we got older and didn’t become best friends until we were seventeen, after the birth of her daughter.

Luce will be the first to tell you that being a Mum of two at twenty-three wasn’t the plan she had at eleven, but you only have to watch her to know she’s damn good at it. So Lexi came and we were a pair of seventeen-year-olds, still trying to work ourselves out but now with a tiny person who I loved so, so much. We had fights still, we were still stubborn but was always came back because there was a little person. Then, while I was on a bus a few years later at university I got a text: ‘ I needed to tell you something’, I joked back ‘you’re not pregnant are you?’ and then a picture came back of two blue lines. That’s how I found out about Ollie.

Our friendship isn’t what we thought it would be at twenty-three, because neither of us saw this coming but we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We are different people but love each other so much and don’t pretend we know exactly what the other is going through but we’re always there for each other.

 

How have your friendships evolved over the years? Let me know in the comments below!

10 Ways to Support Someone with a Mental Illness

MHAW18: 10 Ways to Support Someone with a Mental Illness

When a loved one is struggling with a mental illness it can be hard to know what to do and how to help. For me, when I’m on a low I don’t even know what I want sometimes! There are some things, however, that you can do to help. I wanted to share them with you.

Listen

Sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen. They don’t need actions or solutions just someone to listen to how they feel and why they might be feeling it. It’s really that simple. Having someone listen to you can make such a change to a person’s day.

Don’t assume you know or understand 

Mental illness may have a set of symptoms but it is a truly personal experience. From experience, someone else thinking they know what you’re going through and trying to guess, rather than listen, is frustrating. It is so, so important to see this as a personal struggle not just a set of symptoms. Depression isn’t just sadness, Anxiety isn’t feeling nervous these are real issues.

Support them with small steps

Sometimes something that might seem small can be a big deal. In my worst times, I struggled to leave the house to go to the shop down the road. I physically couldn’t leave and when I did I had anxiety attacks. So my amazing boyfriend helped with the smaller steps. First, take a shower, then put on some clothes, then put on my shoes etc. It was long and frustrating but we did it and later that afternoon popped to the shop. I do the same thing with close friends with things such as blood tests. Small steps matter!

Let them know you’re there without forcing them to open up 

People will open up when they’re ready. Trying to force it from them will probably have the opposite effect. Just letting someone know that if they want to talk or hang out, you’re there is a big help.

Don’t try to ‘fix’ them 

Don’t listen to Coldplay, people with a mental illness aren’t broken and recovery has to be something the person wants for themselves.

Treat them as the person you know they are 

The person you know is in there, they might just be hiding. You can still make jokes, ask them to go places. They could say no 99 times but that 100th time they might feel well enough to go. It let’s them know that you still love and care for them.

Ask what they need 

It could be someone to just sit with in the quiet, someone to eat with or just being that voice at the end of the phone. Asking them what they actually need rather than guessing makes things a lot easier in the long run.

Swot Up! 

There’s so much information out there to help you understand what your loved one is going through. Read personal accounts, watch documentaries, listen to music. You might not be living it but you can try to understand as much as possible.

Be there 

It really is as simple as that. Just being there for someone.

Be a champion 

Mental illness is something that we need to talk about and even if you’ve never lived it you can be a champion and continue the conversation.

 

What would you add? Let me know in the comments below!

Mental Health Awareness Week -Sunday Seven: How YOU can help support someone with a mental illness

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Here’s my final Mental Health Awareness Week post, enjoy!

Be there 

The most important part of my support system was knowing that people were there for me. It didn’t matter if I spoke to them or not, knowing I could pick up the phone and just have someone be there meant the world.

Ask what would help them 

A lot of people say to me that they don’t know how to help someone who has a mental illness. The easiest way to help someone it ask them what they need, sometimes they might just need someone around or a quiet evening to the cinema or something. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Understand that sometimes people just need to be alone 

On the other hand, sometimes a part of the illness means that you just want to be alone. When I was really struggling I locked myself away from friends because I didn’t want them to see me and I just felt exhausted all the times. It isn’t you, it’s just a part of the illness.

Stand up against stigma

Hear someone making a ‘crazy’ joke? See a stereotype of someone with a mental health condition? Or how about the costumes of a ‘mental patient’ that pop up at halloween? Standing up against these portrayals is one way to help.  Also being an ally to those with a mental health condition by supporting rights and in the media is a way to help.

Don’t treat them differently

There’s nothing worse than being treated differently once you tell people you have an illness. We’re still the same people we were before we told you, you don’t need to tiptoe around us or change our relationship because of it.

Keeping inviting them to things! 

This is my pet hate, even if I’ve been on a low or I’ve not accepted the invite before, you never know when will be the day I feel well enough to say yes! There are tough days, but that’s not every day, this kind of goes with the above.

Remember that no matter what, they’re still them inside. 

Don’t forget that, if nothing else.

Image from Pinterest.

 

 

Goodbyes

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I’m writing this post with both a heavy heart and endless excitement. In the next two days two of my best friends will be getting on a plane and heading to New Zealand for a year of exciting adventures and studying! Eleanor and Maisha have bigger lady balls than I ever will and I am so proud of both of them for not only getting on to the programme in the first place but accepting. It seems to strange that come September it will only be me, Dani and Amy heading into our third and final year of our undergrad degree.

I wanted to write this small post just to say how bloody proud I am of them, how much I am going to miss them (words can’t even describe) and that I know for a fact both of them will have the time of their lives out there. I love both of you girls so, so much. Good Luck ❤

10 things I’ve learnt in the last month

Yesterday was 1 month since I fell off Rose, I couldn’t believe how quickly one month had gone. Although I still have a month until my next spine appointment, I will have hopefully made some more improvements. Where am I at the moment? I’m still taking very strong painkillers and have trouble getting up but I can walk that little bit further than before. I was quite poorly yesterday night (hence no blog) but I wanted to use today’s to think about some of the things I’ve learnt this month while I’ve been resting. Enjoy 🙂

1. Fear of falling is never a good thing

When I fell from Rose, I wasn’t scared. I knew that I had to just let go, it was only a fall. Ok, yes I ended up with much more than just an initial bruise BUT I want to get that feeling back. I want to get that feeling where I’m not scared of falling because I can’t just go around scared whenever I ride. I kind of want to apply it to other areas of my life too. I’m a total perfectionist, I’m absolutely terrified of failing, especially academically. So maybe I can relax a little? Just enough so I’m not a huge ball of stress all through third year.

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I will get back to being this fearless on a horse! 

2. How lucky I am

I am walking. I am not permanently in a wheelchair and I’m so grateful. The lack of finding the fractures meant I went back to my normal life, I could have very easily ended up paralysed. I’ve been cared for by the people who matter and I’m still getting there but it looks like I’m going to recover from this, for that I am so,so lucky.

3. I want to be financially secure so I can afford private healthcare once I’ve graduated

I don’t want the NHS to be privatised because for most of my life it’s been there and I’m glad we can rely on a National System. That said, I wasn’t treated well with this serious injury, I’ve had to wait and push and be in extreme pain for appointments and I still don’t have my back brace never mind that the fractures were missed. It’s one of my goals in life to have private healthcare because I know I will be treated with the best possible care, it’s sad but true.

4. I have lots of wonderful people around me 

My family is incredible and so are my friends. I’ve had this outpouring of love from all of my friends and family. Cards have been sent, I’ve been accompanied to hospital, Ali’d had to help me move, I’ve been pushed in my wheelchair and made to smile about it, comments,presents and messages. I feel so loved and appreciated everything so, so much.

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5. Sometimes it’s ok that things don’t go to plan 

As you all know I was meant to go to Prague with Eleanor and Dani this month. I’d been counting down for so long and I couldn’t go. I was devastated to say the least and I cried, a lot. The thing is although I didn’t get to go to Prague, I got invited to the Society Awards instead and saw my society win an award, as well as another one of my best friends win an award. Am I still sad that I missed out on time with El and Dani? Of course I am but at least I still got to smile with two of my other best friends.

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6. You can always embarrass yourself in front of your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together 

Ali and I have been together for seven years and yet I still find ways to embarrass myself. I’ve been taking showers as I can stand up in the warm water, it helps the pain. I decided my legs NEEDED shaving so I sat down in the bath…then realised I was stuck. Ali then had to come and lift me out of the bath, it was a beautiful moment. I was so embarrassed, love huh?

7. There are other ways to let out pain and frustration 

In the past when I was in the darkest parts of depression I didn’t know how to let my pain and frustration out in a positive way, now it’s a lot better. I write a lot or I draw sometimes. There are so many things that you can do to let it all out, I’ll be writing a post in the future about it.

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8. Friends are priceless

I couldn’t have kept my spirits up the way I have without my friends, they’ve been incredible. They’ve visited or messaged me and kept my spirits up with I’ve been very low and they haven’t gotten frustrated when it takes me so long to walk anywhere.Thank you to all of you, I love you so much.

9. A lot needs to be done for people who are permanently in wheelchairs 

I’ve gone out in my wheelchair twice and I’ve noticed this. While the majority of people have been nice and helpful I’ve been moaned at my people in cars for not being off the road the second the light turns green for them, I’ve been sighed at when someone needs to change their path because of my wheelchair and I’ve been walked in front of. This is where angry Chloe happens who doesn’t give a monkeys, I usually shout after them. It’s been so hard getting about in the wheelchair, to get up the pavement is a major issue, getting into shops, getting around in general! More needs to be done for people in wheelchairs to make their lives easier!

10. Pain doesn’t mean the end of happiness 

I’ve been pretty low through all this but I’ve still managed happiness. I can stil laugh with my friends and I’ve adapted things. I’m not saying I don’t get upset, frustrated and angry, but I can still achieve happiness even if it’s harder.

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Still smiling