Book Review: The Year I Didn’t Eat – Samuel Pollen

14-year-old Max has a fight on his hands. Living with Anorexia is tough enough without having to be at school and trying to keep it secret from your closest friends. As Max writes to ‘Ana’ and tries to navigate his illness he has to deal with the new girl at school who won’t stop staring, family drama and seeing his therapist. Can he beat this?

I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of this novel and I was immediately intrigued. There are very few stories of teenage boys going through an eating disorder, so of course, I wanted to read, I’m incredibly glad I did.

Starting and ending on Christmas day, the novel chronicles a year in Max’s life, alongside writing a diary to his disorder – aptly named Ana. This was a particular highlight for me, the writing was emotional but not sad – I actually laughed a fair bit reading this. Pollen isn’t trying to make Max a sympathy figure. The combination of the diary entries and showing some of the obsessive thoughts was incredibly well done –  I could see similarities between Max’s and my own thoughts from our respective mental illnesses.

It is mentioned a few times within the novel the disconnect that Max feels from what is stereotypically viewed as what a with Anorexia looks like – a teenage girl. By confronting this head-on, Pollen shows insight into something incredibly important – anyone can get a mental illness. The fact that Max is a teenage boy, known for being quite geeky with a loving family and great friends and still has these problems reinforces that.

This shows a new level of representation that is rarely seen, in fact, I don’t believe I have ever read a novel featuring a guy with an eating disorder – which is absurd! I’m hopeful that this will start more conversations. The fact that Pollen has drawn on his own experiences makes this even more realistic.

The novel shows not only the impact that eating disorders have on the person with the illness but also the pressure it can put on families. We meet Max’s family and often feel for them as much as him. That said, despite the hardships faced, Max’s relationship with his older brother Robin was probably my favourite part. They truly seem to care for each other and Robin’s encouragement of Geocaching really seems to be a turning point.

Of course, this is a tough read and it does give descriptions of disordered eating and calories – if these are tough for you to read it might be worth picking this up at a later point.

Is it any surprise that I gave this 5 stars?  This is a novel that needed to be written. Showing that eating disorders can affect anyone and that, by talking about it, we have more of a chance of helping those going through it. I absolutely adored this novel – it will truly make its mark. I truly feel that this will make people feel less alone.

Thank you to the author, publisher and Conker communications for the chance to read this in exchange for an open and honest review.

Taking Medication Doesn't Make You Less Creative

Taking Medication Doesn’t Make You Less Creative

This is a lot of debate around medication for Mental Health. I’m a proud taker of Citalopram, it’s something that keeps me healthy and that’s that. There’s an idea that having a mental illness makes you more creative – I’m not sure that is exactly true. But why is this coming up? 

Recently, Kanye West went on a Tweeting spree, within his many, many he states  ‘You don’t make runaway on medication’ and he was ‘six months off medication’. I was pretty worried after reading this. 

While medication is 100% someone’s choice, the idea that you can’t be creative and well frustrates me. For many people, medication saves lives every single day- just like insulin does for a diabetic. The idea that your creativity, your creative worth is tied to you being mentally ill is sad. 

Everyone deserves to feel well and the problem when you are mentally ill it can make you feel that either you are not worthy of feeling better or that you are not ill – you are fantastic, you have every single idea and why would you want to slow down…before you crash.

It is true that beautiful things can come out of these times we’ve seen Art and Music and ideas born from mania but it’s not sustainable. Living in that way is not sustainable and more than anything it worries me that people will think it is, especially those in mania. 

Taking medication doesn’t make you less creative. There are medications that don’t work and can make you feel worse BUT there are a lot you can try while you find one that works for you and makes you feel like yourself. 

I hope that Kanye can get the help that he needs. Mental illness is hard to deal with and I cannot imagine what it is like in the spotlight. Do I agree with the things he does and says all of the time? No, but he’s human and I do have compassion for others. 

It goes without saying that I’m not a medical professional – if you want to change/come off your medication please, please talk to a doctor before doing so. It can be incredibly dangerous to go cold turkey on these meds. 

Take care of yourself and those around you. 

 

Why I get so excited about Christmas

Why I Get So Excited About Christmas

I LOVE Christmas, love, love, love. Recently I have been met with more than a few people who don’t get why I get so excited for the season. Why I can’t stop listening to my Christmas playlist and why on earth I started my shopping in September. 

Now, aside from the fact that deep down I have an inner basic who needs to come out every now and again, there’s a much better reason as for why I love this holiday so much. I love it because I can. I can feel the excitement and love when previously I haven’t been able to. 

In the deepest parts of my depression, I couldn’t find joy in anything. These were times when I was very ill. One Christmas in my teens I just felt empty. I cried for no reason. The darkness swallowed me whole. In short, it was the worst. 

Because I have known that feeling I am so grateful to feel excited and happy. I am grateful that I have my health under control enough, that my medication works and I can feel happy rather than empty. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a miracle. I am not ‘cured’ from my mental illness. I still have to work on myself every day and it’s something I live with. BUT, for me, each Christmas shows me moving forward from that one year when I couldn’t summon any joy. 

This year, my focus well and truly is just to try and enjoy myself as much as possible. See my friends and family, while also making time for myself (which is super important over Christmas). As well as trying not to put huge amounts of pressure on myself for January, although that’s a whole other post all together! 

If you’re reading this and right now your mental health isn’t great, give yourself a break. No one chooses to live with the monsters in their head and, unfortunately they don’t seem to take time off for Christmas. Be kind to yourself and take it one step at a time, you’ve got this. 

Where I’m At – World Mental Health Day 2018

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Today is World Mental Health Day. I thought about what I wanted to do for a while and then it hit me. Why not give you guys an update on how I’ve been doing recently? I’m hoping that by talking about my own life and feelings it opens the conversation and takes away that damn stigma that’s still hanging around!

So, how am I doing right now?

Things are very different this year to any other. I took a big step going freelance and the change in job has had a big impact on my mental health. I was really struggling for the past year with that I wanted to do with my life and my career. I wasn’t happy but I thought that was just life, you went to a 9-5, you had a commute you hated.

Until I didn’t. Freelancing has many challenges and its own stresses – it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s another blog post. BUT, the stress of two 45 minute commutes? Gone. The stress of not having control over certain aspects of my career? Gone. If I need to take a break for my health, I can do that. In that regard, I’m doing much better and my self-confidence is growing.

I’m still working on myself – this is an ongoing health condition. Some days I feel great and can do everything. Other days I struggle to even get out of bed, to see the point in what I’m doing and think I’m terrible at everything. It’s taking it day by day.  So, I’m a lot better than I was a year ago, but it’s a constant effort.

How’s the self-care going?

Ummmmm, well….. Ok I’ll be honest with you, I’ve kinda been slacking. There’s a lot of excuses I could give about the fact I haven’t been looking after myself a much as I should.

More time for me, more baths, more early nights – I will try!

What I wish I knew a year ago

You don’t need to please everyone, things will work out no matter what.

 

You Matter.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s something that I talk about on this blog every year because it is so important. Depression can happen to any one of us and suicidal feelings can be a part of that. I know for a fact that it can feel like you don’t matter, to anyone at all. Your brain lies to you because of an illness you can’t help. I’m here to remind you that you matter.

I’m not going to try and tell you everything is magical and everyone in the world is lovely. People can absolutely suck. When you’re already feeling down other people’s opinions can weigh so heavily on everything you feel. But you know what? While some people can make you feel like absolute shit – there are people in life who you matter to.

There are friends or family members, work colleagues or perhaps even teachers who care and would be upset if you weren’t here. That would feel your absence like a hole in the heart. You’re important to someone – even if you feel like they would be better off without you.

Living with depression is hard. Sometimes, even the smallest of things can feel like a mountain. There are either too many feelings, each and everyone one bubbling to the surface, or none at all and it’s hard to know which one is worse. I’ve lived through both and when I was younger, of course, there were times when I wished it would all just end. Just for everything to stop. BUT I’m glad now that it didn’t.

Slowly, bit by bit you can get better and the road to recovery is different for everyone. For me – talking to someone was key but so was being creative. I wrote a lot of poetry, I wrote songs, I wrote anything I could. For me, I needed to get those feelings out. I took medication, got some 1-1 counselling and eventually those feelings calmed down.

Your feelings and emotions are valid. Your worries, anxieties and pain are valid. But the world is better with you in it! I can’t tell you what to do – I can’t reach through this screen and give you a hug, believe me, I want to. There are people you can talk to when you’re low if there isn’t anyone close to you that you can talk to.

You matter, I promise.

 

If you’re feeling suicidal please talk to someone, book an appointment with your doctor, talk to a friend or family member. In the UK you can call these numbers:

 

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page

 

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

 

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill

 

The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90

Book Review: Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig

In a world where we have constant access to social media, instant news and 24-hour access, the world can feel a little too fast. Now, I love social media, it’s one of my passions but even I need to step away sometimes. Matt Haig captures that in this book, that we as humans need to have that distance. We need to go on walks, to have someone step in sometimes and go hey, this is the real world. Well, I know I do!

I absolutely adored Matt’s previous book on mental health Reasons To Stay Alive. It talks about his own experiences of depression, as he stood at the age of 24 at the edge of a cliff, contemplating killing himself. But, how does someone get from that point? With great difficulty, but Matt has a beautiful way of writing about it. So, of course, I pre-ordered this the second I found out about it.

While I was reading this I was struggling with panic attacks, things weren’t going as planned, I’d lost my job and this is the book I needed. When I told people this book changed my life I meant it. This is broken down into short chapters, with lists, ideas and this format makes it so readable. I wasn’t sure at first but when the whole books is about breaking things down, slowing down and taking your time, it makes perfect sense.

The best thing is that Notes on a Nervous Planet doesn’t tell you to just stop using technology, sit in a field and meditate. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to do that an avoiding the world around us isn’t possible, nor is it healthy. I was refreshing to read because it made me realise I wasn’t alone in feeling anxious about the speed of the world around us.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re struggling, if you’ve wondered if you’re alone in this then you need to read this book. Even if you haven’t I recommend reading this for a beautiful look at the world around us. This is an inspiring, thought-provoking and beautiful read.

I need your help!

My lovely followers, I need your help! I’m up for an award for my blog in the work that I do to keep the conversation moving in regards to mental health! These awards work by endorsements and that’s where you come in if you love what I’m doing here, have felt helped by my blog or just want to be nice, I’d love for you to endorse me. It’s really simple, click here, click endorse and you’re done!

Not sure if you want to endorse me? Here are some of my posts talking about mental health!

Managing Mental Health Struggles 

10 Ways to Support Someone With a Mental Illness 

Dealing with Anxiety Attacks 

Thank you so much to everyone who reads, supports and comments on these blogs, particularly those on mental health! I will let you know how I get on! While it would be lovely to win I don’t expect it in the slightest. I just want to get people talking and stamp out stigma!