World of Flowers: A Colouring Book & Floral Adventure (UK Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers is the 7th book brought to us by colouring queen, Johanna Basford. She very kindly sent me the most wonderful box of goodies including the UK and US edition of World of Flowers so that I could review and compare the two, you can see my unboxing video and flip-through of the US edition here. This review is of the UK edition. You can find the US edition review here. I have compared the two in detail both via video and in a written post including photos, there are a lot of differences, most of which don’t affect enjoyment of the book but a few of which do including the cover/dust jacket, paper, image size, and whether they match your previous editions so do check out that post so that you purchase the right edition for you. The UK edition publishes on the 25th of October.

World of Flowers is a paperback, square book (25cm x 25cm) which is exactly the same size as the UK editions of Johanna’s previous square titles, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas. It has a black spine with white text, the same as the UK editions of previous titles and it looks beautiful with the other books on the shelf (see photo below). The UK edition has a removable dust jacket which has rose-gold foiling accents on the front, really adding to the luxurious feel of this book. The jacket is made of thick paper which you can colour and the inside of it is covered with a beautiful array of flowers and plants which has a waxy finish and can be coloured but only with certain mediums because most pens and pencils are repelled by the shine (alcohol markers are best for this and don’t bleed). Previous dust jackets have been a little loose but this one fits perfectly and looks really smart. It’s an off-white colour but much closer to white than cream, it’s the same colour as the Magical Jungle UK cover. Under the dust jacket, the book is paperback with pale pink card covers which have an inky black flower design on the outside and inside covers that can also be found inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound which makes it very durable and easier to open out flat so you can reach the majority of the gutter and colour it. The paper is the same as that used in UK editions of Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, this paper was found through a global hunt and it’s beautiful, it is not the same paper as used in the US editions of these books which was created specifically for Johanna’s books and named after her. The paper is a very pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils; pencils are a dream to blend and shade with and pens go on really smoothly, they don’t bleed through unless you use alcohol markers and water-based pens only shadow if you colour too much in one spot, as always, do check all of your mediums on the colour palette test page to check how they behave.

Upon opening the book, you find the beautiful title page and then a “This book belongs to …” page where you can add your name, there is then an introduction and colouring tips from Johanna and then 80 pages of beautiful flower illustrations. There is no treasure hunt in this book and so there is also no key of images at the back either. The images are printed double-sided with no border, normally this would mean a little of each image was lost into it but Johanna has taken on board the concerns of us colourists and has deliberately left the spine as clear as possible in the vast majority of the images so this frustration is mostly gone! The book contains 80 pages of stunning images, the same number as in Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle, fewer than Johanna’s first two books (96 Secret Garden, 84 Enchanted Forest) but I have to say, I didn’t notice this at all until I looked at the specs on Amazon. This book is every flower-lover’s dream. If you don’t like flowers or aren’t that keen on them or leaves then this book is absolutely not for you because it really does what the title suggests and is jam-packed with large blooms, tiny blossoms, seedlings, potted plants, cut flowers, perfumeries, ponds, gardens, potting sheds, and visitors to flowers including bees, butterflies, beetles, snails and more. The designs range from patterns and mandalas to circular and wreath designs, ribbons and banners to single and double-page scenes, centred images with large open backgrounds and pages crammed with content where you couldn’t squeeze any more on if you tried. There isn’t a story feel to this book, it doesn’t create such a vivid sense of place like so many of Johanna’s previous books have done but it does very much take you to a garden and so although it doesn’t feel to me like a journey, it is much like visiting a garden, it’s filled with variety and will look truly incredible filled with colour. The detail and intricacy that we’re so familiar with is well and truly back. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of detail in Magical Jungle and a few of the images in Ivy and so I’m really glad to see it back because that’s what I’ve always loved so much about Johanna’s work. At the very end of the book is a double-sided fold-out poster with two different floral garden scenes to colour. This can be detached from the book as it is perforated but it seems quite well attached and therefore won’t accidentally fall out from the book as long as you’re careful with it. A number of the images in the book have large blank spaces where you can add your own inky leaves and creatures or just leave them blank if drawing isn’t your forte and unlike in Secret Garden there are no written hints so you’re free to create whatever your imagination can conjure up. If you need inspiration then head online to google, pinterest and Facebook colouring groups where there will be finished pages cropping up daily from people worldwide who are venturing into this garden of delights.

In terms of mental health, this book is brilliant because of its content and how beautifully the images are drawn. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is very thin so you will need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book. The images are drawn with a range of intricacy and detail levels but mostly this remains high so again, you need good vision and dexterity. The nature of the imagery in this book is superb for calming you down and helping you to zone out. I find nature scenes the best thing for calming down my anxious racing mind and this book really does that. It’s great for keeping you occupied and distracted and because of the variety of image styles, it means that there is something for every concentration level as well as good and bad days of symptoms. There are ribbon images which could take you just a couple of hours to colour, centralised single images which will take a few hours, all the way up to jam-packed double-page spreads depicting perfumeries and potting shed shelves which will take days or even weeks depending on what mediums and techniques you use to colour them.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. A few comments I’ve seen online have criticised this book for being samey and unoriginal but I can’t agree. I’ve gone back through Secret Garden and although World of Flowers does remind me of it, the imagery really isn’t similar other than being drawn by the same person. Johanna has really developed her style since the first book, all of the spaces and designs are colourable for the majority of us whereas the intricacy level in Secret Garden is exceptionally high for most images and therefore quite a challenge to colour. There are many more types of designs in this new title and therefore much more variety even though the theme is more limited than any previous book has been. This book is certainly geared up for those who love colouring flowers and leaves and if that isn’t your thing then it absolutely isn’t for you but for those of us who do, it’s just perfect and stunningly beautiful!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available below. Do bear in mind that there are some significant publishing differences between this and the US edition and therefore you may want to read or view my comparison post/video before ordering if you haven’t already.
Amazon UK – World of Flowers
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/World-Flowers-Johanna-Basford/9780753553183

The image below was coloured with Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils.

Video Review

Video Flick Through

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World of Flowers: A Coloring Book & Floral Adventure (US Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers is the 7th book brought to us by colouring queen, Johanna Basford. She very kindly sent me the most wonderful box of goodies including the UK and US edition of World of Flowers so that I could review and compare the two, you can see my unboxing video and flip-through of the US edition here. This review is of the US edition. You can find the UK edition review here. I have compared the two in detail both via video and in a written post including photos, there are a lot of differences, most of which don’t affect enjoyment of the book but a few of which do including the cover/dust jacket, paper, image size, and whether they match your previous editions so do check out that post so that you purchase the right edition for you. The US edition publishes on the 23rd of October.

World of Flowers is a paperback, square book (25.5cm x 25.5cm) which is exactly the same size as the US editions of Johanna’s previous square titles, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas. It has a white spine with black text, the same as the US editions of previous titles and it looks beautiful with the other books on the shelf (see photo below). The US edition doesn’t have a removable dust jacket and instead has card covers with rose-gold foiling accents on the front, really adding to the luxurious feel of this book. The card covers open out to reveal French flaps with a fully colourable floral design spanning the interior, this card is matte and therefore colourable with almost any medium you choose. The spine is glue-bound which isn’t ideal as these aren’t overly durable and often cause the pages to fall out as the spine breaks quite easily; it takes a bit of work to get the spine to lie flat but you can reach the majority of the gutter and colour it. The paper is a pale ivory colour (it’s Johanna’s new signature paper), and is exactly the same as that found in the US edition of Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils; pencils are a dream to blend and shade with and pens go on really smoothly though they do spread sideways ever so slightly as the paper is a little absorbent so just mind that, they don’t bleed through unless you use alcohol markers and they only shadow if you colour too much in one spot. It is not the same paper as used in the UK editions of these books.

Upon opening the book, you find the beautiful title page and then a “This book belongs to …” page where you can add your name, there is then an introduction and colouring tips from Johanna and then 80 pages of beautiful flower illustrations. There is no treasure hunt in this book and so there is also no key of images at the back either. The images are printed double-sided with no border, normally this would mean a little of each image was lost into it but Johanna has taken on board the concerns of us colourists and has deliberately left the spine as clear as possible in the vast majority of the images so this frustration is mostly gone! The book contains 80 pages of stunning images, the same number as in Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle, fewer than Johanna’s first two books (96 Secret Garden, 84 Enchanted Forest) but I have to say, I didn’t notice this at all until I looked at the specs on Amazon. This book is every flower-lover’s dream. If you don’t like flowers or aren’t that keen on them or leaves then this book is absolutely not for you because it really does what the title suggests and is jam-packed with large blooms, tiny blossoms, seedlings, potted plants, cut flowers, perfumeries, ponds, gardens, potting sheds, and visitors to flowers including bees, butterflies, beetles, snails and more. The designs range from patterns and mandalas to circular and wreath designs, ribbons and banners to single and double-page scenes, centred images with large open backgrounds and pages crammed with content where you couldn’t squeeze any more on if you tried. There isn’t a story feel to this book, it doesn’t create such a vivid sense of place like so many of Johanna’s previous books have done but it does very much take you to a garden and so although it doesn’t feel to me like a journey, it is much like visiting a garden, it’s filled with variety and will look truly incredible filled with colour. The detail and intricacy that we’re so familiar with is well and truly back. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of detail in Magical Jungle and a few of the images in Ivy and so I’m really glad to see it back because that’s what I’ve always loved so much about Johanna’s work. At the very end of the book is a double-sided fold-out poster with two different floral garden scenes to colour. This can be detached from the book as it is perforated but it seems quite well attached and therefore won’t accidentally fall out from the book as long as you’re careful with it. A number of the images in the book have large blank spaces where you can add your own inky leaves and creatures or just leave them blank if drawing isn’t your forte and unlike in Secret Garden there are no written hints so you’re free to create whatever your imagination can conjure up. If you need inspiration then head online to google, pinterest and Facebook colouring groups where there will be finished pages cropping up daily from people worldwide who are venturing into this garden of delights.

In terms of mental health, this book is brilliant because of its content and how beautifully the images are drawn. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is very thin so you will need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book. The images are drawn with a range of intricacy and detail levels but mostly this remains high so again, you need good vision and dexterity. The nature of the imagery in this book is superb for calming you down and helping you to zone out. I find nature scenes the best thing for calming down my anxious racing mind and this book really does that. It’s great for keeping you occupied and distracted and because of the variety of image styles, it means that there is something for every concentration level as well as good and bad days of symptoms. There are ribbon images which could take you just a couple of hours to colour, centralised single images which will take a few hours, all the way up to jam-packed double-page spreads depicting perfumeries and potting shed shelves which will take days or even weeks depending on what mediums and techniques you use to colour them.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. A few comments I’ve seen online have criticised this book for being samey and unoriginal but I can’t agree. I’ve gone back through Secret Garden and although World of Flowers does remind me of it, the imagery really isn’t similar other than being drawn by the same person. Johanna has really developed her style since the first book, all of the spaces and designs are colourable for the majority of us whereas the intricacy level in Secret Garden is exceptionally high for most images and therefore quite a challenge to colour. There are many more types of designs in this new title and therefore much more variety even though the theme is more limited than any previous book has been. This book is certainly geared up for those who love colouring flowers and leaves and if that isn’t your thing then it absolutely isn’t for you but for those of us who do, it’s just perfect and stunningly beautiful!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available below. Do bear in mind that there are some significant publishing differences between this and the UK edition and therefore you may want to read or view my comparison post/video before ordering if you haven’t already.
Amazon UK – World of Flowers
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/World-of-Flowers/9780143133827/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review

Unboxing and Flip Through

Sprookjesbos - written review, video review, and photos of the Dutch edition of Croatian book, Vilin San by Tomislav Tomic

Sprookjesbos (Dutch Edition of Vilin San) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Sprookjesbos is published and very kindly sent to me to review by BBNC Uitgevers. Sprookjesbos is the Dutch edition of the Croatian book, Vilin San, a comparison post and video of the two can be found here. It is the second book by Tomislav Tomic, illustrator of Zemlja Snova. The title translates to Fairytale Forest. This book sadly only has half the number of images although they are equally, if not even more beautiful than Zemlja Snova. The book itself is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers, the cover shows a partially coloured image from inside the book and the inside covers are plain white. The spine is glue and string-bound and seems quite sturdy and durable and with a bit of work it’ll open up pretty flat, especially over time. The book has 68 pages (37 pages of images). The paper is cream, thick and lightly textured, it’s the same paper as this publisher always uses, it’s great for pencils though it can be a bit tricky with oil-based pencils like Faber-Castell Polychromos and Holbeins but Prismacolor Premiers work brilliantly. Water-based pens don’t shadow or bleed though do test in an inconspicuous area because we all colour differently and you don’t want to ruin a picture if there’s one on the reverse. The majority of the pages in this edition are printed single-sided; the double-page spreads are kept that way and therefore 12 of the pages (6 pairs) are printed double-sided but the rest are all printed single-sided meaning that you can use heavier mediums without worrying about bleed through, just pop a protective sheet behind your work to prevent any damage to the proceeding pages. Vilin San had a loose fold-out poster included but sadly, Sprookjesbos doesn’t include the poster or the imagery from it and so you’re only able to get that by purchasing Vilin San. The images themselves are very similar to those found in Zemlja Snova/Dromenvanger so if you liked that book then you’ll love this one too, all of the artwork is original and new to this book (its identical to Vilin San) though it feels familiar because of the content being similar. The illustrations contain fairies, dragons, mushrooms, butterflies, gnomes, birds, sea creatures, mice, palaces and more. The pages are all drawn as scenes and range from underwater scenes to dragons flying, fairies sleeping to hedgehogs being led through a mushroom-lined path, palace scenescapes to fantastical flying birds and so much more. Tomislav has created the drawings very considerately by leaving borders around many and those spanning a double-page having little content near the spine making it much easier to fully colour the page without any frustration of trying to access imagery in the book gutter. The illustrations are all very ornate and really beautiful to look at, this illustrator’s work really is some of the best in the world! As with Vilin San, there are no issues with images being incorrectly paired up, one of the double-page spreads is placed in a different place in the book compared to Vilin San but this has absolutely no impact on the enjoyment of the book.

In terms of mental health, this book is great for those with a good attention span. If you get overwhelmed by busy or intricate images then this won’t be for you but if you love immersive imagery that truly transports you to another place then look no further, this book is absolutely perfect. It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined two of our favourite things into one incredible book! The smaller number of pages means that it’s less daunting for those wanting to complete a whole book. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin with some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels remain very high throughout so you will certainly need very good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book if you’re wanting to colour within each outlined section though it won’t need to be quite so good if you’re wanting to colour over some areas and leave the lines underneath as texture. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! The illustrations are absolutely packed with detail and things to look at and notice, despite having Zemlja Snova for almost two years now, I’m still noticing new things and spot things I’ve never seen before when looking at other people’s finished pages and I’m absolutely certain this will be the case with Sprookjesbos too. The imagery is honestly spectacular, there aren’t many books I’m blown away by now but this one really is incredible, each image is a work of art, there are no filler pages, no random half-finished art, each page has clearly been painstakingly created and each will take hours, if not days to complete. The pages in this book aren’t quick to finish but there are lots of natural stopping points within each image so that you still get a sense of accomplishment without managing to finish a page in one sitting and these all range in size from a tiny bird or gnome all the way up to a forest of trees or giant dragon so you can pick a project of the right size for each colouring session! I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s a shame that it’s half the number of pages and even more of a shame that the poster imagery isn’t included this time and that the price doesn’t reflect this and is the same as Dromenvanger but those criticisms aside, the book and the artwork itself is truly perfect and gorgeous in every way. Tomislav’s artwork is some of the best I’ve ever seen and I really hope he’ll continue to make many more books because no matter how many times I flip through the same pages, I’m still as drawn in and transported as I was the first time I saw each illustration and that’s a really impressive feat!

If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can order it from the publisher’s site here or from any of the other Dutch sites below, not all of them ship everywhere so you might have to do a bit research. The easiest way to access these sites if you don’t read Dutch is to access them though Google Chrome and then hit the translate button on each page, it makes it really quick and easy to understand. It’s not currently available to purchase on Amazon UK but the listing can be found here and you can sign up for email alerts to be the first to know if it becomes available – Sprookjesbos
https://www.bbnc.nl/sprookjesbos?search=sprookjesbos
https://www.bol.com/nl/p/sprookjesbos/9200000095550239/?suggestionType=browse&bltgh=imC0m1ReS55T4YWuif5OWg.1.2.ProductTitle
https://www.bookspot.nl/boeken/sprookjesbos-tomislav-tomic-9789045323527
https://www.boekhandelsmit.nl/9789045323527/tomic-tomislav/sprookjesbos/
https://www.libris.nl/boek/?authortitle=tomislav-tomic/sprookjesbos–9789045323527/
http://www.dinternet.nl/Boek/Tomislav–Tomic/Sprookjesbos/9789045323527.html

Video Review and Flip Through

Insomnia and Mental Illness: Its Impact and Effects – Video Post

My latest video about insomnia and its effects on mental health. Going through a severe phase of it for about 2 months is now leading to personality changes and an inability to tolerate much and this video goes into detail about the impact this has on my life and my health.

Considering Self Harm? Here's What You Need To Know First

Considering Self-Harm? Here’s What You Need to Know First.

This post may be a little triggering for those who self-harm, however, I have tried to write it sensitively and most certainly haven’t glorified it or written about it in a positive light, nor have I vilified or criticised it. Please take care if you choose to read it and seek support if necessary.

I’m guessing that the readers of this post will mostly fit into one of two categories, either you’re considering self-harm, or you’re wanting to know why someone would consider self-harm. Hopefully I can help both groups. Self-harm is the act of harming oneself, in any of a multitude of ways, which causes pain and either temporary or permanent injury. I’m not going to list all the ways in which this is done and I’d seriously advise against looking a list up too because it just tempts those of us considering it to think of ever more inventive ways of harming and researching this topic can make you more likely to think about self-harm and ultimately do it. If you’re seriously considering self-harm then please read the whole of this post before acting on your thoughts because this is what I, and others I know, wish I had known before I hurt myself for the first time.

It’s Addictive
The first thing you need to know which I wish I’d known before starting is that it’s addictive. Yes, you read that right, hurting yourself becomes addictive and while most of us start doing it in order to exert some control and express pain, it quickly becomes addictive and out of control and rapidly becomes part of the problem which doubles the number of issues you’re dealing with. It’s addictive because it releases adrenaline and along with adrenaline you can get a release of endorphins, just like when you do intense exercise or overcome a fearful situation, you get a high afterwards because of the hormones coursing through your system. The problem is, that these highs get shorter and shorter and you therefore have to harm yourself more often or more severely in order to get the same effect. I have a long history of cutting myself, never severely enough to need stitches or any sort of medical treatment but I went from doing it once a fortnight to 4 times a day and running out of “safe” spaces to cut myself quicker than I was getting relief from it. It rapidly stopped helping me and became a problem of its own and a huge part of this was because I became addicted to it and when I was actively harming myself I would obsessively think over how, where and when I next could. It was a really dark few years of my life and not something I wish to repeat.

People finding out
Once you start, you’re pretty much starting a timer until someone around you finds out. This is never easy. It never gets easier. I still remember so many of the incidents of people around me finding out I was cutting myself at 16 and 11 years on I try very hard to not remember them because it still causes me pain to relive those moments. Seeing the pain and hurt on other people’s faces is really tough, feeling guilt, fear, feeling like you’ve let them down is really hard and I can guarantee that you will feel that way. When you’re young it’s very difficult to cover up any injuries and people aren’t half as stupid as you might think, the excuses of a cat scratching you or falling into something will only work once or twice, they won’t work multiple times a week and people react very badly when they find out that you’ve lied to them. Many take it very personally and blame themselves. In many ways, people finding out is the best solution because then you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own anymore but this assumes that whoever finds out is understanding and sympathetic, that may well not be the case because most of the time they’ll find out by accident, when you’re caught off guard and the situation will shock you both and neither of you is likely to react well under those circumstances.

Education and Work Problems
Self-harm isn’t accepted in education or workplace settings. If you are found out to self-harm at school, college, uni or work then you could be asked to leave. You will have to disclose your history of self-harm on occupational health forms which then leads to a fun chat with someone from occupational health at each company you work for having to explain to you that it’s unacceptable to self-harm at work or school and that any injuries must be sufficiently covered up not to arouse suspicion and that if you’re found to be self-harming within the institution that your contract or course will be terminated. This isn’t fun for anybody involved, it’s not the end of the world but it’s another thing that I wasn’t aware of until after I’d started and it was too late. I’ve never self-harmed anywhere other than my own home and was rarely tempted to do so either but if your main coping strategy is self-harming and something triggers you while you’re at work or school then you’re going to need to have a very good plan in place for how you’re going to cope with that without breaking those rules and jeopardising your future.

Scars
Scars don’t fade half as much as you think. I convinced myself that the scars would go really quickly each time and that I wouldn’t be left with any permanent reminders. This isn’t the case. Some do fade really quickly and keeping your injuries clean, allowing them to heal as quickly as possible and moisturising your skin certainly helps but most scars don’t disappear quickly at all. I had chickenpox scars as a child, all of which have gone, I don’t have a mark on me from the various times I must have scraped my knees or ended up with accidental injuries that every child accrues. But self-harm does cause scars and you need to be aware that while you might be fine with that now when you’re feeling desperate and looking for anything that might offer temporary relief, you may well not be fine with it later. Personally, I’ve made peace with my scars, I know that those actions kept me alive and if they don’t fade any more than they have then I’m ok with that but some of them I do wish weren’t there. I’ve got scars on my right leg that are very obviously from self-harm and that can make me quite self-conscious in any sort of swimsuit. I also have them on my left forearm and these are faded but noticeable and people, especially inquisitive children, do sometimes ask and it’s a bit tricky to think up excuses on the spot or decide whether you’re going to tell the truth. Scars are a very permanent reminder of how bad you felt, sometimes they can help remind you of what you’ve overcome and in that way they can almost be positive, but they’re also a constant reminder of how bad things got and a reminder of that coping strategy having been an option even years after you’ve managed to stop. People aren’t always very understanding about self-injury scars and can be pretty judgemental and you need to also be aware that if you have them in very prominent places that are tricky to cover up, these may possibly cause you problems with employment and possibly other opportunities.

Excuses and lying
Unfortunately, self-harm turns the most truthful of us into liars. I’ve always prided myself on telling the truth and always being honest but I absolutely wasn’t when I was self-harming. I couldn’t be. It’s not nice having to keep secrets from people or outright lie to them and then come up with excuses for why you’re wearing long sleeves in summer or flinching when someone hugs you too tight. When you’re suffering from mental illness you can feel really lonely and isolated, self-harm just makes this worse, you feel detached from people, you don’t want them getting too close to you physically or mentally and the lying drives a wedge in ever further. When it eventually comes out that you’ve been lying it can take ages to rebuild trust because most of the people around you won’t understand that you were only lying to cover up the self-harm, they’ll think that you can’t be trusted about anything and that’s beyond infuriating and upsetting. You’ll spend countless hours trying to think up excuses, work out outfits that won’t arouse suspicion and engineer situations so that you don’t have to change clothes in front of people or stick to a uniform code. It’s endless and it just exacerbates the stress and underlying conditions that you were originally trying to cope with.

It’s often mistaken for a suicide attempt
This is a difficult section to write because there are kind of two distinct types of self-harm, there is the type that is used for relief, to express pain and to help cope and then there is the more suicidal type which is either a suicide attempt or a very serious cry for help which requires immediate intervention. Many people think that all self-harm is a cry for help and this isn’t true but equally it should never be dismissed or viewed as attention seeking. Some people do harm themselves and then get deliberately “caught” because they don’t know how else to express the pain they’re experiencing. This isn’t done for dramatic effect, it’s done as a last-ditch attempt to get help and to have their feelings noticed, validated, and hopefully treated! Be warned that if you do decide to self-harm it’s a slippery slope and it’s often mis-interpreted by those around you who don’t understand the thought processes behind it. To someone who’s never self-harmed or even considered it, this world is very alien and it’s something they’ll never fully understand, they simply can’t, but once they know you’ve been covering it up, lying and making excuses and that in their mind you “can’t be trusted” they’ll make all sorts of assumptions and jump to all sorts of conclusions and this can mean that the situation gets escalated way beyond your control, really quickly. It’s really scary suddenly being unable to control what’s happening to you and you may get forced to go to the doctors or hospital and if you’re deemed enough of a risk to yourself you may be asked to go into hospital either as a voluntary/informal patient or under Section if you refuse and your risk is deemed high. While this is often necessary, it’s not nice to be on the receiving end of. I’ve worked with countless numbers of patients who this has happened to and it’s really hard for them to come to terms with and can cause a temporary deterioration because they feel so let down or betrayed or misunderstood. Learning more positive coping strategies rather than resorting to self-harm is the absolute best option and while it may not be such a “quick fix”, it will be infinitely more useful in the long run.

So, what can you do instead? There are heaps of things you can do that might help and different things work for different people so just because one thing doesn’t help doesn’t mean that the rest won’t. Some people need to feel pain and so pinching themselves or snapping a rubber band on their wrist can help. Others need the adrenaline and therefore doing high intensity exercise is a great, healthy alternative, especially high impact activities like running or boxing where you’re physically exerting energy, stress, and any bad feelings you’re currently experiencing. Often, self-harm is used as a way to express pain that you don’t know how else to express, learning to talk about these feelings or write them down or draw them can be really beneficial. Distraction is also a great tool and especially activities that use your hands so that you’re not tempted to start hurting yourself, things like adult colouring, knitting, crochet, sewing, baking, anything that uses your hands in a repetitive way is a great thing to keep you distracted and keep your hands busy and safe. Steer clear of activities that involve using risky objects for you, the less temptation you have around you, the better. Don’t make implements easy to get hold of, if you use something specific to hurt yourself then make it inaccessible, don’t get rid of it unless you want to because sometimes just knowing you could hurt yourself is enough to make you delay doing it or even not do it at all so removing all implements is not necessarily the best option but make it difficult to access them so that you can’t do it without thinking. Wrap them up, put them in a box, put them at the back of your wardrobe or under your bed with stuff dumped on top so that you have to go to some effort to reach it and in the process be thinking about whether you actually want to do it at all. If you’re going to hurt yourself, do it safely, make sure what you’re using is clean and that you keep any injuries clean too and if you think you’ve gone too far then please seek medical help. We’ve all heard horror stories of people seeking medical help and being treated very badly but times are changing and most medical staff are better trained now to deal with self-injury and help rather than judge. Please seek help if you need it. Some of the best ways of coping are simply to try to delay hurting yourself. Saying you’re never doing it again is really difficult and most of us who’ve managed to stop haven’t actually made that choice. While I’ve not harmed myself in at least 3 years, I haven’t written off the possibility of doing so again in the future and actually, by knowing it’s an option, it makes it much less likely that I’ll actually act on it. In many ways it’s like dieting, if I told you that you could never eat a cake again then all you’d think about or crave is cake, whereas if I told you that you could have cake whenever you liked and there was always a cupcake waiting in your freezer to be defrosted then you might find it much easier to have it in an hour, or three, or tomorrow, or next week, knowing it’s an option makes it much easier for most people to not have to act on it right away.

Finally, if you want to talk about how you’re feeling but don’t feel able to do this with anyone you know then please do contact a helpline or charity, there are heaps of them out there and they deal with issues like this all day, every day and have lots of training to be able to listen and help. It’s amazing the difference that can be made just by knowing that a stranger has volunteered to spend their time talking to people like you in the hopes that it might brighten your day just a little, it’s at least worth giving a try. This doesn’t just have to be done by phone, many charities now offer a huge range of talking services including face-to-face talking, phonecalls, texting, email, live online chat and more. If none of this has manged to put you off self-harming then fair enough, it wasn’t specifically aimed at doing that, I just wanted to write the post that I wish I’d have been able to read before starting, I’m not sure that knowing all of this would have stopped me but I’m sure I’d have started later and I’d have been better prepared and less scared about what came next so I hope that this has helped in that way.

If you know someone who you suspect or know is self-harming then try not to panic and please talk to them. Find out their motivations and find out how serious they are, accidents can happen when self-harming and those in deep despair don’t always make the greatest choices about hurting themselves in safer ways, try to find out the extent of the problem and advise them if you can. If you’re worried then seek professional help but try to be as honest as possible with the person because going behind their back will only cause more problems. The absolute best thing you can do is talk about it so that the person is no longer struggling alone. Show them you care and don’t berate or criticise their self-harm; they’re not doing it to you, they’re not ‘acting up’ and they’re very unlikely to be doing it for attention. Self-harm is almost always an expression of feelings that are overwhelming, unbearable, and intense and we need help to discover healthy and safe ways of expressing and dealing with this pain, not judgement for the way we’re currently handling it which is the only way we know how. You can make such a difference just by talking, listening, and showing that you care.

Millie Marotta’s Wildlife Wonders – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Millie Marotta’s Wildlife Wonders is published by Batsford Books who very kindly sent me a review copy. This is the sixth book in Millie’s animal-centred adult colouring book series and this time it contains no new images and instead it’s a compilation of Millie and the colouring community’s favourite images from her first five books. It’s the same size and shape (25cm square) as her previous books, paperback, with flexible card covers with black and white line drawings that hint at some of the wonderful creatures within the pages and a few of the illustrations are coloured with gold foiling scattered across the cover and the title. The spine is a lilac colour which compliments the other spine colours really well and they look gorgeous on the shelf together (see photo below). The covers don’t have French flaps this time but the inside covers are a lovely teal colour with white line drawings of animals all over them (this isn’t colourable and is printed on quite glossy card). The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s very durable but it does mean that a little of some of the images is lost into it until it eases up with a bit of use. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, none of them are mirror images this time. The paper is bright white and lightly textured, it’s the same paper as the previous titles and doesn’t bleed but does shadow a little with water-based pens; pencils work beautifully and blend and shade really well.

The book starts with a two-page introduction from Millie herself where she explains her illustration choices. Following this are a whopping 120 pages of the best illustrations from each of her 5 previous titles. This book really does contain absolutely everything from the common to the most exotic, animals you’ll easily recognise and those you’ll never have seen before, there is a mixture of all sorts! Everything is included from pheasants to an octopus, snakes to butterflies, chameleons to bats, jellyfish to parrots, elephants to mushrooms, seahorses to peacocks, crabs, bees, frogs, moths, snails, owls, and even an axolotl. This time there are no plain images; in the previous books there were a few pairs of images where there would be a detailed version and a simpler one that you could add your own details to if you wish, some of the detailed versions are included but no simpler ones this time. There also isn’t a list at the back of the book detailing the creatures of each page so you will have to guess a bit I’m afraid. Some people have criticised Millie’s previous books as being bird-heavy, this book really doesn’t feel that way with 40 of the images depicting birds and the other two thirds showing all manner of other creatures. The images are really varied but definitely feel more heavily detailed than some of her earlier books and with fewer scenery pages. As always, I’ve gone a bit extreme with this review and spent hours trawling through this book and all of the others to discover how many pages from each book are included and the totals are as follows: Animal Kingdom – 24; Tropical Wonderland/World – 27; Wild Savannah – 21; Curious Creatures – 24; Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures – 24.

In terms of mental health, yet again, this book is fantastic. There is so much to look at, so much to discover, that it’s incredibly distracting and really focuses your mind on the illustrations themselves rather than any difficult thoughts or feelings you may be having. The image content is totally absorbing and nature-based images are the best for relieving symptoms of mental illness. This book is very intricate, but don’t let that scare you, you can use pencils, fine-nibbed felt tips, fineliners and gel pens, all with great effects and most of the images aren’t so detailed that you’re put off or overwhelmed. Many of the patterns drawn onto the animals can be coloured over in blocks as well making them less intricate and giving your colouring texture and pattern rather than outlined spaces to colour, so the possibilities are endless. If you have vision problems or issues with fine motor control then you may struggle with this book but for any of the rest of you I’d suggest giving this book a go and persevering into a more intricate world. The natural scenes definitely create a sense of calm and this will be one of my go-to books when I really need to focus on something and be distracted. It’s detailed enough that you have to focus and concentrate and this lends itself wonderfully to drowning out any anxious or disturbing thoughts you may want to shift. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is very thin so I’d advise colouring during the day or near a very good desk lamp. The images are wonderful, as always and it’s great to have a second opportunity to colour your favourites in a different colour scheme

I can’t praise this book highly enough, I love Millie’s work and this book is a stunning compilation of the best images from her previous books. The illustrations lend themselves to whatever colour scheme you fancy whether that be realistic, rainbow, monochrome, black and white, mixed media, or anything else you can dream up, it really is beautiful and it would make a perfect first book if you can’t or don’t want to pick a themed one.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Wildlife Wonders
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marottas-Wildlife-Wonders-Millie-Marotta/9781849945134/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review and Full Flip Through

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Pencils. A video tutorial for colouring the grasshopper can be found here.

Coping with Unexpected Things – What Happens When You’re Mentally Ill? – Video Post

This video was recorded on the 28th of August 2018. Coping with unexpected things can be a real challenge but when you’re mentally ill it really throws you off course. Something as small as a leak can ruin your day and even dealing with how to fix those things is harder when you’re coping with mental illness symptoms on top of trying to be rational and solve problems. This video explains what it’s like when these things happen and shows the effects it has on me, even hours after the event.

Update – Insomnia, Trichotillomania, IBS and Anxiety (27.08.18) – Video Post

This video was recorded a couple of days ago and gives an update on where I’m at now, both the good bits and the bad bits. Living with mental illness is very much like riding a rollercoaster, constantly up and down and always changing unexpectedly. As always, it’s a very honest account of how I’m doing and what’s going on for me, it’s not sugar-coated. And if you don’t get as far as the end then my plea there is for people to make suggestions for future video ideas so that I’m creating content that you actually want to watch so please do let me know in the comments or privately via the Contact Me tab what you’d like me to be talking about. Thank you.

Johanna Basford Page A Day 2019 Coloring Calendar Written Review, Photos, Video Review and Flip Through

Johanna Basford 2019 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2019 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This page-a-day calendar arrives in shrink-wrapped plastic which keeps the keepsake box clean and free from damage. The keepsake box is made of thick ivory card which is covered all over (including the bottom) with a black-heavy flower and leaf design that almost looks like it is drawn in white rather than black. The pattern is most similar to designs from Enchanted Forest and the top and all four sides of the box have gold foiling accents. The box opens with a hinge-style (the lid remains attached at the top) with two pieces of black ribbon holding it open at a >90degree angle; the inside of the lid and the box are lined with black paper with white flower and foliage designs drawn in Johanna’s signature style; the box is fully colourable if you wish. A black ribbon allows easy access to lift out all of the loose calendar pages which aren’t bound in any way so it’s easy to pick out which ones to colour, move them around, leave them out to dry if using wet media and so on. The pages are the same size and format as any other page-a-day calendar, the illustration is on the left and takes up two thirds of the page and on the right at the top is a leafy-lettered title of the month and at the bottom is the date and day, above this in small text are written the important festivals and celebrations and the country they’re celebrated in; as with all others, Saturday and Sunday share a page so there are approximately 313 pages of colouring for you to complete over the year. The pages are pale cream (just like the 2018 edition) rather than bright white (they are less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Magical Jungle and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly; see photo below of the different paper colours), thin (slightly thicker than copier paper), and lightly textured, pencils don’t build up many layers on this paper but I’m sure those of you who are more talented than me will have more luck with this and create wonderful masterpieces; water-based pens do heavily shadow and may bleed through if you’re particularly heavy-handed but the images are printed single-sided so really you can use whatever mediums you like, these pages would be ideal for testing out new mediums or trialling colour schemes.

The illustrations themselves are all taken from Johanna Basford’s six currently published colouring books, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, I have carefully looked through all of the images and there are no new images, all are directly from the original books. Some of them are the whole page scaled down, others are sections of the page printed at the original size, others are zoomed in sections which are printed larger than the original so there is a really good mix of detailed sections, larger spaced illustrations to practice blending and shading on, and whole pages which you’ll need your finest of fineliners and sharpest of pencils to colour accurately. The lid is designed to display the current day’s page in but it will hold plenty more pages than this so you could easily place a month’s worth in there before having to move them under the proceeding days’ pages.

In terms of mental health, this page-a-day calendar is fantastic because it provides you with a manageable size of project to attempt each day, you could colour the page in a few minutes or really take your time to try out new techniques and spend much longer, it’s entirely up to you. You could colour the day’s page ahead of time or on the day itself, you could even spend the next few months colouring the whole thing ready to look at your beautiful work throughout the coming year, or even to gift to someone else (what a labour of love that would be and it would make an incredible present if you could bear to part with your work, perhaps you could start if off for them to finish?). The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copies of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The loose pages make it easy to access the page you need without having to move the whole block around all the time and it means you don’t have to worry at all about bleed through. At the end of the year you could even cut out all of the images and create collages, small framed pictures or gifts or even add them to cards or craft projects so this is a really versatile product that goes way beyond just being a calendar! There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this calendar and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This page-a-day calendar is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful new way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are often much higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this calendar if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order and there are no duplicates, a number of the calendar pages show parts of the same original image but these are all of different aspects of it, with varying size or depicting different areas (see images below) and this is by no means the majority of the pages, most are of entirely separate illustrations or aspects within them, they also don’t appear to duplicate the images used in the 2017 or 2018 edition of this calendar so those of you who already have that won’t be disappointed by duplicates. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are much quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration, they’re also fantastic for trying out new things without worrying about ruining a whole page in your books.

I would highly recommend this page-a-day calendar to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great size and format, ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s also great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them or even use them in craft projects and the box will make a wonderful keepsake.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this page-a-day colouring calendar, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2019 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2019-Coloring-Day-Day-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449492434/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s images? Below are my reviews of her new colouring planner and wall calendar so you can be fully organised and colour to your heart’s content for the coming year!
Ivy and the Inky Butterfly 2019 Colouring Wall Calendar
Johanna Basford 2018-2019 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner

Video Review and Flip Through

The page below was coloured using Faber Castell Pitt Pens.

Johanna Basford 16 Month Weekly Colouring Planner 2018-19 Written Review, Photos, Video Review and Flip Through

Johanna Basford 2018-19 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2018-19 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black-heavy floral and foliage design on the front and back with a white floral design drawn on black on the insides of the covers, the front cover has gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable brown card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance. The planner runs for 16 months and starts from the 27th of August 2018 all the way to the 5th of January 2019. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2019 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s six colouring books, images from all six (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2020 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2018 dates and a full page of 2020 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

The paper this time is pale cream rather than bright white (it is the same paper as last time and it’s less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Ivy and the Inky Butterfly; see photo below of the different paper colours), lightly textured and medium thickness, sadly it does shadow a fair bit with water-based pens but it doesn’t bleed through; I’d strongly advise writing in pencil throughout or you’ll ruin the image on the reverse either with shadowing or indentation from ballpoint pens. Pencils work well on this paper so I’d suggest mostly colouring with pencils and using water-based pens if you don’t mind the shadowing showing through on the planner pages. A great selection of images from Johanna’s books are included with some being sections of original images at the original size and others being the whole page shrunk down to fit on the planner page so some of the illustrations are quite tricky to colour neatly but almost none look impossible as long as you use a good set of fineliners or sharp pencils. Because this is the third planner and the publisher has tried not to duplicate images it means that a number of my favourite images from her first few colouring books haven’t been included as they were in the first two planners, however, we’ve got new images from those as well as from the newest book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, and there are some lovely inclusions so there’s no disappointment to be had with this planner and it really is a great mix between organisation and colouring (two of my favourite things)!

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead if you’re quick but you’ll need to get a wriggle on! The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2019, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

I would highly recommend this colouring planner to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great combination of planner and colouring pages and the size and format is ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the 16 months it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2018-19 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2018-2019-16-Month-Coloring-Weekly-Planner-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449492441/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s illustrations and the ability to organise your life? Then check out the following reviews for the Ivy and the Inky Butterfly 2019 Wall Calendar and the 2019 Page-a-Day Calendar.

Video Review and Flip Through

The image below was coloured using Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils and a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly Coloring Wall Calendar 2019 Review, Photos and Video Flip Through

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly 2019 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Ivy and the Inky Butterfly 2019 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s signature and most well-known designs from her sixth colouring book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly (this calendar doesn’t include any new images), an illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2018. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size. The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Ivy and the Inky Butterfly; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. The dragon image below was coloured with Derwent Inktense pencils, activated with water and I experienced no bleed-through and only minimal buckling when I used a bit too much water. The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages). The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The much larger image size means it’s far more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. The book of Ivy and the Inky Butterfly is very significantly smaller than the calendar so the images have been increased a lot in size so the intricacy and detail levels are very much reduced. This is a bit of a shame for people who love Johanna’s work for its detail, but for those who prefer larger images and space to really go to town with blending and shading, it’s absolutely perfect and I think it’s my favourite calendar of Johanna’s to date! There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there some leeway when colouring.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly 2019 Colouring Wall Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ivy-Inky-Butterfly-2019-Coloring-Wall-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449492458/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Flip Through and Review

The magpie image below was coloured with Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils (my video tutorial showing how to ‘cheat’ at blending that I used throughout the image can be found here) and the dragon image was coloured with Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter Brush Pens – A Review and Video Tutorial

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter Brush Pens are created and kindly sent to me to review by Spectrum Noir. These pens are exactly what they state, brush pens containing coloured glitter pigments that can be used for colouring, crafting and anything in need of a bit of extra sparkle. The pens are available in 34 colours including a clear glitter one and can be purchased in a number of different themed and sized sets. The set I’m reviewing is one of the 12 pen sets in a carry case and mine is called Vintage Hues, there are three further themed 12 pen sets called Special Holiday Set Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer and the pens can also be purchased in grouped sets of 6 and 3 making it easier and more economical to replace used up pens when you need to though they’re sadly not available open stock currently. The pens have a completely black barrel and lid and arrive with a plastic yellow ring around the centre which has to be removed in order to activate the pens, this is a bit of a tricky process as seen in my video below but as you work through the pens it does get easier. The end of the lid and centre of each pen is coloured indicating the colour of the ink and states the colour name on one side and Spectrum Noir Sparkle on the other, these colours are fairly accurate at showing the ink colour but do test them on scrap paper or create a colour chart before diving into colouring with them. The ink flow takes a while to settle down and you do need to regularly give them a gentle shake to ensure that the ink is mixing with the glitter or you can end up with some sparkle-free areas. To begin with, the ink comes out quite quickly and is very wet and easy to saturate your colouring page so it’s best to start working on pages with thicker paper first. The pens need to be opened carefully, the lids are well-fitting and close firmly but this also means that the lids can be a little stiff occasionally, you need to ease them off rather than yanking them as this can cause ink spillage. The brush tips are made of nylon fibres and are a good shape and seem hard-wearing, sadly one of mine arrived damaged (see photo below) and a word of warning, if the brush tip becomes damaged it will cause huge leakage problems rendering the pen difficult or even impossible to use as the ink leaks when the lid is closed and gets all over where your hand holds the pen and stains your skin for a while so do be really careful not to damage the brush tips.

The ink is water-based with lots of slivery glitter inside, it’s translucent and can therefore be used over colouring pages with the lines showing through your colouring. I don’t have the clear glitter pen but have researched it and it can be used to colour over almost any medium adding sparkle to any colour you fancy, I hope to get my hands on one soon because it seems like a great idea and by far the most versatile of the pens in this range. The pens themselves are a similar design to water brushes with a nice chunky barrel that is comfy to use for extended periods of time. The end of the barrel is squared but the holding part is round so there are no corners to dig in or dent your hand or fingers so they’re very comfy to use and the brush tip is strong and flexible and allows you to vary your brush stroke thickness from very thin to thicker with different amounts of pressure applied. The ink is more like using paint than a traditional water-based felt-tip or marker pen, it’s very wet so you will need to use it sparingly, especially on thin paper and work quite quickly to spread the colour where you want it so it doesn’t pool in one area. When flowing correctly, the pens rarely bleed or shadow through normal to thicker paper but do test in an inconspicuous area so that you don’t ruin an image.

From what I’ve seen on the Spectrum Noir website, the colour range is pretty good and covers a wide range of bright, dark, pastel and metallic colours however, they’re often grouped in sets quite oddly making it a bit tricky to get hold of the most useful colours without needing to buy a large number of sets. I would recommend checking out all of the different purchasing options so that you can get the colours you want without having to purchase too many colours that you’re not so keen on or less likely to use. The colours in the set I was sent are lovely but they’re mostly very dark, there is no orange, bright green or pink but two very similar purples and two very similar mustardy yellows so I do feel the colour selection across the sets could be a little better thought out. Having said that, these pens are great for accents and special features in a colouring page and because of the price, it’s unlikely that you’d want to colour whole pages with them so you’d probably only want to use a couple of colours per page which then makes them more useful as you can tailor your colour schemes to fit the colour of sparkle pens that you have access to. One thing to note is that the glitter isn’t permanent and so you’ll need to be careful when colouring to make sure your hand won’t keep going over it and rubbing it off. The glitter is quite shiny, certainly not the sparkliest I’ve seen, that award has to go to the Sakura Gelly Roll Stardust Glitter Gel Pen, but this glitter is nicely shiny and very pretty, especially in the light.

The pens can be used alone to add sparkly coloured accents to pages or you can spice things up and use some slightly more advanced techniques which I’ve shown in the second video below. They can be blended together to create gradients or could be blended on a paint palette or other shiny surface (a tile or something plastic) to create a new shade which you could then paint onto your work with a paintbrush. You can also make the colours lighter by adding water to your work and washing out the pigment a bit. As far as I can tell, anything you could do with normal water-based markers or watercolour paints/pencils, you can do with these so the sky is the limit!

Overall, these are beautiful pens in a wide range of colours and they do add a lovely shimmer to your pages and are ideal for glittery accents. They are a considered purchase for most due to their price point and therefore I’d suggest getting a small set in colours that you’re most likely to use or possibly the 3-pen clear glitter set so that you can make any colouring glittery and get used to how the pens work before splurging on a larger set.

If you’d like to purchase a small or larger set, they’re available here:
Amazon UK – Spectrum Noir Sparkle Gitter Brush Pens
Crafter’s Companion – Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter Brush Pens

First Impressions and How to Activate the Pens on First Use

Techniques and Tips Tutorial

The images below were coloured using Spectrum Noir Sparkle Glitter Brush Pens and some were blended or faded with water.

Amazon UK Prime Day 2018 Colouring Deals

All of the links below are Affiliate Links which means I’ll earn a small commission if you buy through them which is at no extra cost to you but helps me to run my sites. You can read my Disclosure about this HERE. Happy Colouring!

It’s Prime Day again and for 36 hours Amazon are bringing us heaps and heaps of deals and that can mean only one thing, cheap colouring supplies! You will need to have an Amazon Prime subscription, or sign up for a 30 day free trial, in order to access the deals and this post will be updated regularly throughout the period so that all of the colouring deals are in one place. If you’ve been emailed this post then please do click through to my site to see the updated list as I’ll be adding and removing items all day today and tomorrow so you don’t miss out!

Faber-Castell 120 Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils in Wooden Case

Shuttle Art 120 Unique Colour Gel Pens

Up to 30% off Faber Castell products including a fabulous price on the full set of 120 Polychromos pencils.

Faber Castell 60 Pitt Pastel Pencils

Dear Psychiatrist – July 2018

Earlier this year, I was sent a letter by my psychiatrist stating that it had been 2 years since our last contact and asking me to update him about how I’m doing and whether they can provide any help. I struggled with this. 2 years is a long time, especially when you hadn’t realised it had been that long and trying to put down in words how I’m doing, how I’ve changed in 24 months, has been really difficult and something that actually made me quite anxious. This might surprise many of you because I blog and vlog about it (albeit not very regularly) but those are done on my terms, they’re about topics that are important to me, at a time that suits me, when it feels right. And often, I take months or even years to hone posts and finally share them with the world. I had originally planned to write the letter the same week I had received his but somehow weeks went by and after writing two thirds of it I just drew a blank. Much as I’m always open and honest, I don’t think on a day-to-day basis about how I am. It’s a running joke with my Nana and close friends that I really have to think properly when they ask me how I am because I’m so used to either saying I’m fine or people not even asking. Seeing how I am in black and white, in polarised terms about improvement and deterioration isn’t easy and having to face the fact that I expected to be back at work and well by now, or at least well on my way there, has been really hard. I had no intention of showing this letter to anyone other than my psychiatrist, and Joe, who I got to proof read it and check it was accurate. It was Joe who suggested I should share it here. I’ve been quite reluctant and despite getting him to take it in to my psychiatrist a few days ago, I’ve just had the Word document sat open on my laptop, not quite ready to post and not quite ready to close it and file it away. It’s nearly 1am and for whatever reason, I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet, to listen and trust in Joe’s wisdom and share this here now. In some ways I think it makes me sound worse than I am but Joe thinks the opposite, that depending on what people focus on in my words, it may well give a less accurate picture and sound like I’m better than I am so hopefully you’ll read it just as it is, the good and the bad, without giving one more weight than the other. I often think that I’m so used to this now, so used to being ill, that I can no longer give an accurate picture, no longer compare to “normal”, or life before these conditions because the memory of that is so faded and distant. Hopefully it’ll give you a bit of a picture of how I am now though and another snapshot into my life.

 

Dear Psychiatrist,

Thank you for your recent letter. Sadly, there isn’t a lot to report in terms of progress or improvement. When I wrote to you 2 years ago, I fully expected to be well on my way to recovery by now but that hasn’t been the case. Having now been ill with these conditions for over 4 years, I’m starting to notice patterns of improvement and deterioration though I seem to have little to no control over these. Certain times of year are worse for me due to increased external demands and I struggle greatly when under pressure or when demands are placed on me. Having said that, I’m doing well at maintaining a mostly positive mood and keeping my depression at bay. I do my best to keep busy and keep my mind occupied with productive tasks so I get a sense of achievement and satisfaction. I do a lot of creative activities including baking, crochet and adult colouring. I am also doing what I can to help others suffering from mental illness and run two blogs and more recently a YouTube channel where I am constantly pushing my boundaries in order to create content to raise awareness, increase understanding and decrease stigma. I remain motivated and hopeful of recovery.

I am also a carer for my Grandad who has Alzheimer’s and go as regularly as I can to my grandparents’ house nearby to look after him. Despite them living in their house for my whole life and me visiting on a weekly basis, my anxiety about doing this has not lessened. For periods it seems to ease up and then comes back with a vengeance and I can identify no reasons for either the positive or negative changes. Currently, I’m feeling more capable and confident whilst at their house and am worrying for less time beforehand and it’s not as severe which is a welcome improvement. I don’t know why this has changed and sadly in the past this has always been temporary but I’m enjoying it while it lasts and trying to maintain and improve my abilities as much as possible whilst not getting my hopes up too high that this will last this time. My IBS has been exacerbated by the anxiety and fairly regularly leaves me unable to leave the flat even when I feel mentally capable of doing so. Last January, I bought a new camera and took up photography. This has been a great tool for helping me stay outside and remaining calm for longer because it provides a great focus and distraction and also requires concentration to get good shots. There are times when I can go out for hours taking photographs with Joe or my mum but it doesn’t get easier and has no consistency; almost every time feels like the first time when I’m trying to get out of my front door. I know the research says that practice makes perfect, that systematic desensitisation will work but that really isn’t my experience though I do still persevere and fight as hard as I can to do as much as possible as often as I can.

The focus of my anxiety seems to periodically shift with one aspect easing up while another gets worse so as soon as I seem to learn a strategy to reduce one lot of anxieties, another lot pops up. For the last year, I have struggled less with being outside in people-free areas thanks to doing photography but I’ve become increasingly anxious about health, getting ill and getting food poisoning. My eating habits have changed, I’m much more cautious about what I eat and have a huge fear of being around anyone exhibiting any symptoms of illness, even a cold. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the constant changes and having to explain these to others while not even understanding them myself.

In terms of help, if there’s anything I can be offered either in my home or remotely then I’d really like to know. I stopped the therapy I was having via Skype over 18 months ago as it really wasn’t helping and I was making no progress so I’m now dealing with this pretty much alone apart from the support from a dwindling number of relatives and friends. I’m doing a very good job of getting through each day, albeit with a huge amount of difficulty and discomfort but I’m not improving, just changing and trying to adapt to each change. My Support Worker still visits occasionally and I really appreciate those visits and very much look forward to them, I really hope they can continue. Although I’m not improving, having a professional to talk to and check in with and also have a link back into psychiatric services when I’m well enough again to attend appointments is really important to me. If you have any suggestions of things I could be doing to help myself improve then I would appreciate them, I am nowhere near well enough to attend group therapy or any kind of appointments, as I mentioned before, I still struggle every time to visit my grandparents at set times and any kind of deadline or time pressure causes me overwhelming anxiety and increased IBS symptoms and attacks, but if there are any self-help tips or resources I should be made aware of then I would really like to know.

Just to make you aware, my GP has now left my surgery and I don’t know who I’m under the care of now, I’ve not met any of the doctors currently practising there. I do not want to be discharged back to their care and wish to remain under yours so that I don’t have to go through the lengthy waiting list process again when I’m eventually well enough to attend appointments and engage with services. I know you’ve not suggested discharging me, I just wanted to make it very clear that my wishes are to remain within your services.

Kind regards,

Lucy

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit by Hanna Karlzon and The Folklore Company - Click through to read the review and see photos

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit – A Review

This kit was created and very kindly sent to me to review by The Folklore Company, who create fabulous embroidery and cross stitch kits. I’ve loved cross stitch since I was a child but haven’t done any in nearly 10 years but when I found out that The Folklore Company had teamed up with one of my favourite colouring book artists, Hanna Karlzon, I just knew I’d have to start up again! This design is available in two formats, the normal cross stitch format which is what I’m reviewing here or a tote bag with a special dissolvable plastic that allows you to sew on it as if it were aida fabric and then dissolve the plastic in water afterwards just leaving the stitches in place on the bag. I wish I’d asked to review that kit now because this design is beautiful and would look stunning on a bag!

The kit arrives well packed in a clear plastic packet and contains everything you need to get started apart from a small pair of scissors and an embroidery hoop, I’d personally recommend one that’s around 26cm in diameter, mine is this size and I haven’t had to move it once as the design fits within this space preventing lots of creasing and possible damage to stitching by having to move the hoop around whilst working. The kit contains Aida fabric, more than large enough to fit the design on and with plenty of space to fit whatever size hoop you have to hand, a needle (in a small plastic packet), 3 sheets of paper including the pattern and instructions, printed in colour and double-sided, and 10 different colour embroidery flosses. The instructions give clear guidelines for newbies as well as seasoned stitchers about where to begin, how to sew without using knots and handy tips about not getting show-through from dark threads and trailing colours when needed. The pattern is clear and printed just about large enough for those with most levels of visual acuity. I don’t know what everyone else’s technique whilst cross-stitching is but I always like to colour over the pattern when stitching to be sure that I know what I have and haven’t sewn which helps me avoid mistakes. I didn’t want to do this on the pattern itself so I photocopied it and have scribbled my way through that instead. The pattern is divided into 4 quarters each printed on a single piece of A4 though these are printed double-sided so unless you photocopy it, you can’t lay out the whole pattern at once and match it up. The pattern also doesn’t reach the edges of the paper which can make lining things up a little tricky, you certainly won’t want to swap quarters whilst tired or you’re likely to make mistakes. Each thread is allocated a symbol in the key and these are then shown on the pattern, all of these are well chosen and differ strongly from each other so you won’t get confused or accidentally misread the symbols and start sewing in the wrong colour. My only niggle with the symbols is the black square used for the dark grey thread as this is very difficult to colour over/around to indicate that I’ve sewn those areas and I do keep having to really study the pattern to check exactly what I have and haven’t done rather than being able to check with a glance like I’m able to with all of the other symbols and thread colours. This is a very minor criticism and will likely only affect people who cross-stitch in the same way as me. The only other difficulty is that the crossover sections on each page of the pattern aren’t totally clear, the lines for the edge of the diagram cross halfway through the symbols and these can be a little challenging to see and decipher but again, this is a minor issue and only affects the central crossing vertical and horizontal line so it is pretty minor in the grand scheme of the diagram and pattern.

All of the stitches in this pattern are full crosses, there are no quarter, half, or three-quarter cross stiches and no running/back stitch outlines either so the whole design is neatly made from full crosses which I personally prefer as I can never neatly sew partial cross stitches. The instructions suggest that you start in the very centre which is the middle of the bird and this is indeed where I started. It then suggests that you work through each quarter but I don’t work so well like that so I did the majority of the bird, then the outline of the top of the frame, then the bottom, then filled those in and then did the flowers outlining them first and then filling them in and finally finished off with the flower centres. There’s no right or wrong way of sewing, just make sure that you’ve centred the design correctly and that you double check your counting if you do separate sections to ensure that they will join up in the right places later. Having now finished the whole piece, I have a lot of thread left over so you’re given plenty of each one and don’t need to worry about running out. The darkest two colours were used by far the most and I don’t have a huge amount left but as long as you’re not very wasteful with them or trailing them across the design a lot, you definitely won’t run low on them and the others I’ve got loads left of.

In terms of mental health, cross stich generally is really good because you have to focus fully on the pattern to ensure you sew it correctly and the motion of sewing is very calming and therapeutic. This pattern is great for mental health because it’s a really good level of difficulty, it’s not so small that you can complete it in a day or two but it’s also not so big that you’ll get bored or feel like you’re not making progress. There are quite a lot of colour changes and not so many large blocks of the same colour but while this means you have to swap threads a fair bit, it also means that it keeps you interested and there isn’t lots of repetition. The colour choices are lovely and quite muted but not dull, they’re a great choice for aiding calm feelings and they’ll go nicely with lots of different décor if you want to frame and display it after you’ve finished. The design does require a pretty good level of concentration, especially the frame sections so you will need to sew on good days and those where your functioning is high. Alternatively, you could just sew for short periods of time to avoid making mistakes but still get your stitching fix. My anxiety disorders mean that I often struggle to concentrate for long periods of time and my vision is often affected which makes reading and following cross stitch patterns a real challenge, to combat this I tried to make sure not to sew when I was tired and to always sew in good light, either daylight or with a bright light near me and I double-checked all counting and regularly checked that what I’d sewn was correct with the pattern, as well as colouring over the pattern in pencil for every few stitches I’d done. This meant that I only made one mistake in the whole thing and that was just one stitch that no one would ever notice so I’m really pleased, this is the first time I’ve ever managed to do a whole project and not make a noticeable mistake!

If you photocopy the pattern before scribbling all over it like I did then it would be possible to reuse it in future and you could even change the colour scheme to create personalised projects that would match your own décor or favourite colours. Each colour only needs one skein of thread so it would be very easy to reuse the pattern and make heaps of beautiful birds if you wished. For those of you who are from the colouring community, you might be interested to know that this design isn’t an exact replica of one of Hanna’s drawings but rather a combination of two, both from a double-page spread in Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn), her third colouring book and a photo of these can be found below. Before you ask, yes, I did spend ages trawling through all of her books to find it because I was almost certain I’d seen the image before!

Overall, I would highly recommend this cross stitch kit, it’s a beautiful design, lovely colours, and a great level of difficulty that’s not too simple or too challenging. I like it so much that I’m hoping to recreate it in future with a totally different colour scheme but for now, I’m hoping to frame this one and have it in pride of place in my flat, it’s a great reminder of what you can accomplish, even whilst very poorly. This kit would suit seasoned stitchers, as well as complete beginners who are up for a challenge!

If you’d like to purchase a kit, they’re available here: Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit

Letter to Myself 10 Years Ago – Age 27 and a Half

Today I was reminded about a post suggestion I followed a couple of years ago to write 50 words to yourself 10 years ago. 50 words is nothing like enough now but I wondered how different that might look, 2 years on. I realised that 10 years ago I was in the midst of severe depression and very very ill so here’s my letter to Lucy of 10 years ago.

Dear Lucy,

You’re 17 and a half. For some reason the halves and quarters have always mattered to you. In fact, you recently described yourself as 27 and a half so it’s not something you’ll grow out of. You’re currently in hospital. You asked to go. You didn’t feel able to keep yourself safe anymore. You’re not sure at the moment if it was the right thing for you to do but I can tell you from the future that it’s one of the best decisions you ever made. You’ll meet some of the best, kindest, most normal people there. You’re still friends with some of them now. You’ll decide on a new career direction while you’re there, you’ll have a poignant conversation with some other patients and realise that your passion lies in helping people and the fire will be ignited in you that, 10 years on, is burning stronger and brighter than ever to make a difference to the lives of people with mental illness. I probably should have started this with a spoiler alert, I guess I’m wrecking all of the surprises. Sorry!

You’re struggling so much right now. You’re in so much pain. It does get better, I promise. But I know that right now it just feels like the worst thing ever and you’re wishing with everything in you that it would all just go away. You feel so alone, so misunderstood, so attacked and hurt by people around you. Some of that gets easier. You’re not alone in the future and you aren’t alone now. Let people in. Try to spend less time worrying about what other people think, I know it matters so much to you but it’s eating you up inside. Later this month you’ll be asked to create a “positive box” by the hospital, you’ll think it’s silly and you’ll only be able to write two positive things about yourself when you start but just watch what happens next, watch all of the patients and staff around you take time to write you messages, make you things, draw you pictures and give you gifts to put in your box so that it’s so full it almost won’t close. It’ll bring you so much comfort over the coming decade and it’s still kept safe now and is a treasured possession.

Listen to the staff. They care about you, even though you sometimes don’t realise it. They’re trying to help you. Eat the food. You’ve had an eating disorder for too long. You’re restricting yourself so much as punishment because you feel you don’t deserve nice things. It’s not true, you do! You’re so kind and caring, you put everyone else first, always, please stop punishing yourself with restricting food and self-harming. Spoiler alert again, this will get better, I can’t say if it’s permanent or not but right now, you’re a healthy weight, you no longer have a distorted body image and you haven’t self-harmed in years. The scars you’re so ashamed of currently are no longer something you feel embarrassed about or have to cover up. You’re happy to wear t-shirts and short-sleeved stuff and despite the scars on your leg that you’ll create when you’re 22, you still wear a bikini and finally realise how fabulous you look in it!

In 6 months you’ll start embarking on romantic relationships. It’s safe to say that these are not successful and some are still a source of embarrassment and shame. I won’t tell you what to do or not do, you wouldn’t listen. You need to go through all of that to realise what you want in life, to realise how you shouldn’t be treated and to eventually realise what you’re worth. Try to make sensible choices and stay true to yourself. Try not to regret anything. Take it from me, your “accidental anal” story will become legendary and the chlamydia test debacle will put more than a few of your friends at ease that their experience can’t possibly be more embarrassing than your own. All of these things make you an even better friend and when you get to my age I think you’ll be really proud of the friend you’ve been and still are.

I know you’re really struggling to stay alive right now. Even 10 years on I can still feel that ache in your chest, that desperation to find any small reason to stay alive, to not spend all of your time planning a way out that won’t involve causing yourself pain or hurt those around you. I know you think you want to die right now but years later you’ll realise that’s not true. You don’t want to die. You want to stop hurting. I don’t know how it happens, I can’t even pinpoint when, but gradually that pain does lessen. Gradually, you stop wishing for death. Get through each moment, each day, I promise you it will get better and you’ll never believe how good it is to not feel that weight on you all day every day.

You’re currently being told by a lot of people that you’re selfish. Deep down you know that’s not true but it’ll take a long while for that to sink in. Tell yourself every day that you’re not. It might just save you some heartache and might keep you more confident. You will realise eventually that you’re not selfish and you’re not self-absorbed either. The people telling you that are angry and they don’t understand your illnesses and so they’re lashing out in the hope that they can snap you out of it. You know it won’t work, eventually they realise that too, but right now it’s going to hurt like hell and you’ll spend way too many hours crying til you can’t see anymore and wishing even harder to disappear from the world. You won’t always feel that way and even though life at 27 and a half is a challenge that I wouldn’t even consider telling you about now, you’ll be helping people, you’ll be making a difference and no one will have called you selfish for a really long time.

You’re hearing voices and that’s ok. It’s terrifying and it’s something that you tell almost no one about because you’re convinced that you’re schizophrenic and you’ll get sectioned but it will be ok. You won’t get sectioned. You don’t have schizophrenia. And although you do get some worried reactions from people, no one leaves you because of it. You’re going to start hallucinating soon. You may have already started. It makes you feel like you’re going mad, like your mind is out to get you. It gets easier. You get used to it and it does stop, at least for the most part. Again, I don’t know when the voices stop, not for a while now but eventually they will and they certainly quieten and lessen over time. You’ll learn to over-power them, to drown them out or tell them they’re wrong. You’ll stop seeing hideous versions of your own suicide. The only hallucinations you’re left with in a decade are of bugs and those are only occasional and when you’re particularly tired. Quick tip – when that happens, go to bed, it’s a sign you’ve been up for way too long! You won’t be scared of it anymore and it isn’t anything sinister no matter how much it feels like it must be right now. You won’t believe this but it’ll actually help you with your future work, all of these experiences will help you be an awesome nursing assistant and they’ll help you to relate to patients and be understanding and empathetic. When you’re working in the future you’ll actually consider being grateful for these experiences because by then you’ll have learnt so much from them. I know that sounds crazy right now but trust me, you’ll get here.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now. I wish I could make it better, take the pain away, give you the map of how to navigate your way through it. The truth is that I have no idea how we get from you to me. If I could do anything to make this easier, I would. You’re feeling so alone, so hurt and so suicidal right now and you’re going through one of the toughest periods of life that we ever do but you will get through it, you’ll make amazing friends, you’ll choose a fascinating, worthwhile career path, you’ll do a degree that will make you meet even more fantastic friends and even the man you hope to marry one day. There will be some dreadful periods, times when you can’t see the light, when you won’t even want to try and look for it. But you’ll keep fighting, you’ll keep driving yourself forwards because that’s what you’re doing right now and by 10 years later you’ve got even better at picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and striving forwards to get what you want.

Take care of yourself, be proud of yourself and try not to fear the future, it’s terrifying, even worse than you’re imagining, but it’s amazing too and you’ll get here.

Love you,

Lucy (age 27 and a half) xxx

Radio Interview about Anxiety with BBC Radio 5 Live

Today I was woken up by a phonecall that I very nearly didn’t answer because I assumed it was a spam call. Luckily, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up and was asked if I’d like to interviewed as part of a discussion about anxiety on BBC Radio 5 Live. I always jump at the chance to talk about mental health and raise awareness of these conditions so I agreed and you can hear my interview below. It’s available for 29 days.

Skip to 07.33 for the start of the discussion and 15.01 for my part.

Do let me know what you think!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b48l2m

Important – Please Read – GDPR Privacy Policy Info

Dear Readers,

Apologies for me sending this a second time, it wasn’t showing up correctly the first time.

You are receiving this post via email because you have signed up to follow my blog at some point. In accordance with the new GDPR laws affecting the data regulation of EU members’ I have done a number of things which are listed below. As far as I’m aware, I’m not legally allowed to email you all directly because that’s not what you signed up for, you signed up to be automatically sent my new blog posts by WordPress each time I upload one. Therefore, I’m doing my very best to comply with the new GDPR laws whilst not being able to actually get your active consent to keeping your email address. Please read the whole of this post.

  1. I have written a privacy policy which can be found HERE which clearly states what data of yours I have access to and how and where it’s stored as well as what I do with it. This policy also lists what third parties I use on my blog who may also have access to this data and suggests that you seek out their privacy policies too so that you’re aware of what data they’re collecting and storing.
  2. I have written this post which will be automatically emailed to all of my blog followers to inform you about these changes and what I’m doing to try to comply with the new law.
  3. By law I have to offer to remove your data if you wish and I would also like to remind you that if at any point you wish to stop following my blog you can do this by clicking the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email you receive from my blog which will remove you from the mailing list for all of my upcoming posts.
  4. I want to reassure you that although all of these emails you’ll be receiving sound really scary as they’re talking about “data”, this can be anything as simple as your name or email address and isn’t always “sensitive data”. I’ve been unable to find a definition of sensitive data but as far as I’m aware, I don’t hold any for any of my blog followers. I want to reassure you that your data is held securely and only used for the purposes of being able to automatically send you an email each time I post a new blog, as well as recording basic statistics of locations of blog readers and what posts have been read and how many times, this data isn’t identifiable by me and isn’t attributed to single readers, I just get numbers and graphs of it all collated.
  5. Giveaway winners can be assured that as soon as their prize arrives with them and I’ve had this confirmed, all emails containing their postal address are deleted and that is the only place those details are kept so I keep that data for as short a time as possible. I checked my email account this week for any emails that had escaped my attention and all those containing winners’ addresses are permanently deleted. This policy will continue for any future giveaways.

Finally, a quick thank you to all of you who’ve followed my blog and who read my posts, it’s great to have you here and there will be more exciting posts to read in the near future!

 

Treasured Alps, Threatened Alps - Click through to read my review, see photos and watch my video flick through

Treasured Alps, Threatened Alps: Colour, Explore, Protect – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Treasured Alps, Threatened Alps is illustrated by Claire Scully of The Menagerie series, written by Jacopo Pasotti and published by Bergli Books, it is from my personal collection. This book has been created to highlight the plight of a number of endangered species of animals, plants and landmarks in the alps and a portion of the purchase price is donated to the World Wildlife Fund though sadly it doesn’t state how much from each book is donated. The book is expensive compared to most and therefore a considered purchase but I can honestly tell you that it’s worth the price. I’ve been umming and ahhing over purchasing it since it was published in November and I finally bit the bullet a few weeks ago and I truly love it. It’s absolutely huge at nearly 30cm square and it’s really thick due to the paper used. The book is paperback with flexible card covers with a beautiful wolf image on the front that is indicative of the content but not actually included inside the book. The spine is glue and string bound and very sturdy and durable, it’s a little tricky to get the book to lie flat due to it’s thickness but some careful pressure will help this. The 50 images of plants, animals and landscapes are all printed single-sided with information about each one on the opposite page written in English, German, French, and Italian. Each is numbered and named with a brief description of them, their habitat and the reason they’re endangered so you get to learn about each one as you colour it. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, it’s really nice to colour on with pencils, water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow and I’ve even used watercolour paints with a sparing amount of water with great success as you can see in the photos below so you can use any medium you fancy, even alcohol markers if you put protective sheets behind your work and don’t mind bleed-through onto the proceeding page’s information. The image content is mostly animals but also contains 9 images of plants and 4 images of landscapes. These illustrations range from insects including various beetles and butterflies to small mammals and birds including the dormouse and kingfisher all the way up to much larger mammals including wolves and bears. There are recognisable animals that you’ll already know about as well as much less known animals, beautiful images of plants showing them like wildlife guides do or in situ as well as a few landscape images of specific areas that are under threat. None of the images in this book are duplicated in any others, although a few of the animals have been previously illustrated in other books (e.g. bear, wolf, owl), all of this artwork is original so even if you have all of Claire’s books like I do, you won’t be getting repeats!

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s really absorbing and all of the images are nature-based which is inherently very calming. All of the illustrations are drawn in Claire’s beautiful signature style, this is very detailed and intricate but don’t be put off, you can always colour over the sections rather than within each one separately and this makes the images much easier to colour. The animals images are by far the most detailed, but the plant images are a fair bit less intricate with far fewer details so there is some range in these levels for your good and bad days. The line thickness is thin throughout, just like always with her art so you will need pretty good vision and fine motor control but not perfect if you’re happy to colour over sections. The artwork is all very natural and really beautiful to look at, even uncoloured it’s just stunning and I’ve spent more time than I care to admit just poring over the pages. The pictures are huge and can take ages to colour if you wish so you can really take your time over them; many have natural stopping points for those with concentration issues who like to finish sections but on the whole these images do require a fair bit of concentration and focus. They look equally amazing coloured in realistic or outlandish colour schemes so you don’t need to feel restricted just because they’re drawn quite realistically. Because the images are printed single-sided, you can really branch out with using mediums you might otherwise struggle to use in books, the paper is really good quality and can take a lot more than most and you can easily use mixed media too with some really great effects and to top it all off, you could carefully remove your finished pages and frame them to gift or display if you wish. The images are beautiful and they really do transport you to the alps, you can practically feel the chill in the air and hear the ringing of cow bells and if you want to fully immerse yourself and gorge on Swiss chocolate whilst colouring then I’d highly recommend that too, it’s all part of the experience!

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, the artwork is beautiful, the cause is really important and best of all the production quality of the book is really high so although it’s expensive, you’re still getting a lot of book for your money and not once have I regretted the cost. If you like Claire’s work then this book is an absolute must-have!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Treasured Alps, Threatened Alps
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Treasured-Alps–Threatened-Alps/9783038690276/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Flick-Through

The image below was coloured with Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils, Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, and the metallic areas were coloured with Kuretake Gansai Tambi “Starry Colors” metallic watercolour paints using very fine brushes for the honeycomb.

Four Years On, Four Years of Frustration

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Today marks four years of being signed off sick with an anxiety disorder. Each time this date comes around it feels like déjà vu. Every year I hope that it’ll be the last time I’m talking about being ill, the last time I’m commenting on the previous year in terms of struggles and symptoms and that I’ll finally be able to talk about these disorders in the past tense rather than the present. Each year, it comes around again and I feel more despondent, more panicked about my future. Every year I debate with myself internally about whether I want to write a post, whether I want to acknowledge the date, the time, the feelings that surround this. I started writing anniversary posts for my reviewing but I gave up after the first one and will soon hit my third year of reviewing and I’m not sure I’ll mark it in any way. I often feel like my words are drying up. I’m never quite sure what to say anymore, the confidence I had before has deserted me and my world seems to have shrunk ever smaller. I don’t like writing very much anymore, not because I don’t enjoy it but because I feel that I’ve become very negative and pessimistic and I don’t reckon most of you want to read that stuff, I certainly don’t like thinking it, feeling it or expressing it. I know it’s not healthy to keep it all inside which is why I sometimes do express this stuff on my blog but the frequency of my posts is much less now. I think about blogging most days but the ideas and words just don’t come. There are so many things I want to talk about, to raise awareness of, to explain, and yet most of the time I don’t even open up my laptop or pick a topic before my inner critic decides there’s no point and I give up before I’ve even started.

Four years is a long time. Four years of being ill is even longer. I can hardly believe that I was 23 when these conditions took over my life. I find it even harder to believe that I’m now 27 and still ill with what I expected to last a couple of weeks, tops! I’m glad I didn’t know this was where I would end up, I’m glad I had hope throughout that it would be a short period of time, that the right treatment was around the corner, the next prescription, after the next diagnosis. Waiting for those things was extremely frustrating but it did at least give me something to help pass the time and to work towards and to hope for. I still stay hopeful now though it’s based on far more abstract ideas and has absolutely no concrete basis to it anymore. I do believe that I’ll get better one day but I have no idea how, when, or to what extent that might be. I no longer feel that I’ll ever be free of this, that I’ll ever be able to be carefree or brave. I’m sure I’ll always be described as over-cautious, careful and restricted. But I do believe that somehow, someday, I’ll be able to work again, to not feel scared every time I think about leaving the flat or making a phonecall. When you have no idea how to achieve that though it’s not exactly a very hopeful thing to have in your life, it doesn’t help keep you going or give you something to work towards because although I believe it will be true, I don’t have the first clue how to get there or the steps to take and so I feel very lost and confused and stuck. I’ve described this period before as feeling like my life is on pause and it really does. Everyone else’s lives seem to keep moving forwards, constantly changing. And yet mine mostly seems to stay still. The anxiety wavers, it changes from one trigger to another, it doesn’t settle, but my life, my achievements, my goals, none of them have changed, none of them have been improved upon. For someone who’s as goal-focused and driven as me, this is a real difficulty and something that often leads me to have feelings of failure. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve had to all but give up reviewing for the last 3 months because I have no confidence and no ability to focus or concentrate. This has been a huge loss because I miss doing it, I miss having a purpose and a community to be part of and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I’ve really distanced myself from that and no longer post or comment on anything. I hardly message anybody unless I need to because I just don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t have any news, I can’t answer normal questions with anything other than truthful but sadly negative answers and I don’t want to be that person so I very much keep myself to myself at the moment. I keep trying to get back into the reviewing and at various points I’ve managed to do a bit of colouring or sort out writing a review and yet still I can’t face publishing anything. I don’t even know what I’m scared of. I can’t imagine people’s expectations of me are particularly high anymore after such a long break. Readership of my blog has plummeted so it’s not like my posts would be read by huge numbers of people. I just seem to spend all my time thinking and feeling like I’m not good enough, like no matter what I do or try, it won’t be good enough and so I give up. This is extremely uncharacteristic of me. I’ve never been like this in my life and have always been extremely judgemental of those who were like it. To me, there was nothing worse than someone who didn’t try, failing was significantly more preferable to those who wouldn’t even try and yet here I am, not trying, giving up before I’ve even begun. Yet again I’ve become a hypocrite and an embodiment of all that I dislike most. How did that happen?!

I keep trying to work out a new project for myself, another goal to have, something to work towards that keeps me busy and hopefully allows me to help others even in just a small way. As usual, I’ve drawn a blank. Having little to no confidence it turns out really kills ideas and the ability to participate in things. Every time I have an idea my brain shoots it down and decides it’s ridiculous because I’ll fail or I’m not qualified or no one will be interested. Whenever interviewers used to ask me why I should be hired for the job I never used to know what to say because much as I’m a competitive and driven person, that’s never been at the expense of others and in my adult-life I’ve never had much self-confidence to be able to sell myself and would have to rely on my passion to shine through rather than being able to give specific reasons why they needed to hire me and not anyone else. Now I feel like that about doing anything. I hate “putting myself out there”, even on my own blog and social media channels, places where people have chosen to follow me because they crazily seem to want to know what I’ve got to say. I’m so worried about all of my followers changing their minds or thinking my new reviews are bad that I just can’t face posting stuff. I keep racking my brains trying to think up new things to do even just to try and get myself back in the swing of using social media again but I just can’t face it, everything seems so attention seeking and I can’t bear being focused on at the moment, I like just fading into the background and keeping my dark thoughts to myself. The only thing I’ve been able to focus on is my crochet and I’m being beyond unadventurous with that because I’m now working on the third blanket I’ve made using the same pattern which is super basic. I’m trying to be kind to myself and just be pleased that I’m doing something, that I’m being creative (ish) and actually making something that I can physically see and touch and eventually use. But it’s not working my brain at all and as someone with a very active brain I really need a different goal to focus on. I keep hoping that my desire to review and to colour will reappear, that I’ll suddenly feel motivated again and get working through the huge pile of stuff I’m meant to have reviewed months ago. It would be so nice to stop feeling so much guilt and such strong feelings of failure. I’ve never been someone to give up on anything so I really have no idea how to deal with this situation at all, it’s completely new to me.

I got my boyfriend to read this last night because my thought process had come to an abrupt end and I had no idea where to go with it or how to end the post. We both drew a bit of a blank but agreed that it shouldn’t end on such a depressing note. He doesn’t often read my blogs anymore, partly because he’s really busy with work and also because he finds it really hard to read how bad things are and see all of this in black and white. Much as I have been really poorly for the last few months and my capability has plummeted, talking to him about this post did remind me of my innate abilities to cope, to push through and to make the best of things in whatever way I can. I’m not an optimist, but I’m not a pessimist either, I try to be realistic about the challenges, the deteriorations and the difficulties but I also focus as hard as I can on the little things and those were what Joe suggested I focused on while I wrapped up this post. I find trying new things extremely challenging and get very worried about things not working out but despite this, in the past week we’ve made macarons and homemade pizza from scratch and while I struggled throughout both and nearly caused an accident because I was so jumpy, both were pretty successful and definitely things that we’ll try again. We’ve also got lots of cleaning done in the flat, something I’ve been putting off for ages and I can strongly recommend Harpic Power Plus for toilets and Cillit Bang Limescale and Grime as wonder products for getting things that were more dirty than I care to admit, cleaner than I thought was possible so that was a hugely successful and satisfying experience. I also managed to make a good impression on my boyfriend’s Grandad who is apparently notoriously hard to impress and that has just made my month as being liked and accepted by others, especially someone as important as my boyfriend’s Grandad, is hugely important to me. So, those are the things that I will try to focus on today. Anniversaries like this are always hard, especially when you have to acknowledge what you’ve lost and what you’ve missed out on and I’m looking forward to the day being over and behind me. In many ways, it’s just another day, no better or worse than any of the others but reflecting over the previous 4 years is painful and difficult and something that I usually try my hardest not to do. It’s why I normally try to stay so busy and why these past few months have been so hard now I’ve lost a lot of my ability to be and stay busy. As usual, I won’t be finishing with a hope for the year because I’ve learnt from experience that it serves no purpose and hurts if it’s not achieved. My only hope currently is that I’ll find more of a purpose for myself, more of a goal and a project to work on so that my mind can be busier and I can get back to helping people, I’m at my very best when I’m helping others.

 

***Finally, for those who were following the escapades of my cervix, I finally got my smear test results back and all is normal and fine and I don’t have to go for another test until 2021 when I shall be 30 and capable and properly adult (probably). It turns out that all of my symptoms miraculously stopped almost straight after having the test and that my body (and brain) are indeed extremely good at tricking me into thinking I’m dying of something awful when in fact there is LITERALLY NOTHING WRONG. I even had bleeding thrown in for good measure, just to make sure I truly freaked out. I’m slightly glad it all happened because it meant that I finally got my two year overdue smear test done and now know for sure that my ladybits are fine but good grief, if my brain were a person I’d have throttled it by now for being such a hypochondriac and making such an awful fuss over nothing. With a brain this powerful I could conquer the world if only I could calm it down long enough to get out my front door a bit more often! Anxious love to you all!***

Bravery, Pride and Cervical Smear Tests

Lovely readers, I’ll prewarn you now that this post will probably be full of all sorts of things where you think “too much information”, feel free to close and move on and wait for my next post which will probably be less “share-y”. You have been warned!

As many of you know, I’ve been really struggling this year with low confidence and very bad health anxiety that has been increasing week on week. Last week it got so bad and I was getting so many worrying symptoms that I finally looked into getting a smear test done at home as I’m 2 years overdue and have never had one before. A few people thought I’d definitely be able to have it done at home so I thought I’d find out and go from there. I sent Joe off to our doctor’s surgery because I was too scared to phone and ask and probably be told no. I had to wait until today to be contacted and as I expected, they don’t offer smear tests at home. At some point in the future I will write a post about all of the ways in which being housebound/agoraphobic has hindered me, from the mundane things like clothes shopping and getting haircuts to the serious stuff like not getting medical investigations or having dental appointments for 4 years, the list is long and probably surprising to those of you who’ve not experienced these conditions. I had luckily already prepared myself for being told today that I wouldn’t be allowed to have my test at home which would have been extremely difficult for me to cope with anyway but going to the doctors is significantly worse for me. My mum had very kindly offered to come over from the Isle of Wight, a 6 hour round trip, to go with me if I needed her to (I’m sure she must be very glad that I haven’t taken her up on this). I asked the receptionist what other options I had and if there were any quiet periods at the surgery as sitting in a waiting room full of sick people is extremely difficult for me (it’s actually my idea of hell but I didn’t want to sound dramatic on the phone). She wasn’t hugely helpful or understanding; this is probably the same receptionist who gave me completely incorrect information when I finally (after 10 months of psyching myself up) requested a telephone consultation to have my beta-blocker medication dose increased and refused to give me a telephone appointment, informing me those appointments don’t exist anymore. This caused me a huge amount of stress and panic and when I asked what a person with severe anxiety who’s virtually housebound is meant to do, she just reiterated the (incorrect) rules. I was lucky enough to speak to a different receptionist the next day who was absolutely lovely and so sympathetic and understanding and told me that I’d been told the wrong thing about the rules and had worried for 24 hours and barely slept or ate in that time for no reason and that telephone appointments do still exist and my medication increase had been approved. Anyway, the not so nice receptionist gave me a couple of different clinic options, all of which were getting further away from my flat (we don’t drive and my surgery is around the corner), I asked if there were any quiet periods at the surgery and she said no, it’s never quiet – this woman could really do with some teaching about sympathy and bending the truth a little rather than just scaring me silly when I’ve already said that I’m severely agoraphobic and socially anxious. She then mentioned that a cancellation had been made today with their senior nurse and I could be seen at 12.20 with enough time for the appointment to be over and done with before Joe had to go to work. I reluctantly agreed and decided that being anxious about it for the next 3.5 hours was preferable to booking on another day and worrying for significantly longer.

I took my beta-blockers to slow my heart rate down and took some diazepam, reserved for emergency needs like this (I’ve been given a very limited supply that is closely monitored by my doctors so that I don’t end up relying on it or addicted to it). I’m never sure how well the diazepam will work. I almost never take it and so I forget its effects and they seem to come and go in waves and it’s relatively easy for my brain to fight off the effects if I allow it so I do have to kind of give in and relinquish control to the drug and let it work; I did that today and thankfully it worked. On the walk to the doctors I could feel my brain wanting to be anxious, wondering why I was fine when I was in one of my most feared situations but the medication blanketed over that nicely and while I didn’t feel great, I kind of didn’t care about anything and didn’t feel worried. Joe had agreed to come in with me but luckily, while I was waiting I realised I didn’t really need him in there and I’d like to retain some mystery in our relationship for as long as possible that doesn’t involve watching nurses shining a torch on my lady bits, putting things up there and then taking samples out of it. I was seen late but I managed to go in on my own and the nurse was just lovely! She hadn’t been told anything about me which was a bit of a shock but she saw instantly how nervous I was and knew from my notes it was my first test and when I explained about the agoraphobia and why I was 2 years late for the test and about the medication she seemed genuinely impressed that I was even there and just got what a big deal it was for me. This is in stark contrast to much of my previous experience and treatment where I’m often dismissed, disbelieved and treated with aggression for “behaving like a child” and “making a fuss”. I ended up crying, I think with relief, and also because the meds make my brain loopy. She told me everything she’d be doing, explained what all of the different types of results and consequences could be and then chatted to me while I got my kit off and she got the test stuff ready. I really can’t praise her enough. I hate not knowing what’s going on and I’m terrified of pain and it didn’t hurt at all, it wasn’t comfortable but having people sticking things up your lady bits when you’re not in the throes of passion never is but the test itself I barely felt and whenever my breathing was getting fast she got me to slow down and before I knew it it was done! I thanked her multiple times and I hope she knew just how much her treatment of me helped because it honestly couldn’t have gone better, thank goodness for wonder drugs and wonder nurses! She also assured me that unless she wins the lottery, she won’t be leaving anytime soon and so she’ll be around to do my future tests and I’m allowed to request her so that was a huge help. I even got a sticker as I mentioned that that should be a thing given that having a smear test is way more impressive than cleaning your teeth. I think smear stickers should be a thing – “I only cried once on the nurse”, “I looked after my cervix today”, that kind of thing! Mine had a snowflake on which was apt given that it was lightly snowing here today!

So, now I have the two week wait until my results come through. I’m not feeling calm but I am at least calmer than I was. I’m very worried about what to do if the results come back as anything other than my cervix is beautiful and healthy but I’m trying to just deal with that when it comes. Today at least, I’m very focused on how brave I’ve been and how proud I am that I managed to face my fears of doctors, invasive tests, showing people my lady bits, and sitting in a waiting room with sick people. None of those fears will go away, as you know, that’s not how my condition works but at least I fought through them today to get a test done that I needed to have. The nurse even said that I should be really proud of myself and that I’d done brilliantly so that was really nice, I definitely earnt my sticker. For anyone worrying about having their smear test, please try not to, it doesn’t hurt and it’s not even that uncomfortable, at least it wasn’t for me. I have an extremely low pain threshold and often get criticised for fussing too much and making a big deal out of things when they’re painful for me rather than uncomfortable but this honestly wasn’t painful and the nurse was so understanding and going at lunchtime was great because there were hardly any people there in the waiting room. Oh, and diazepam! I wouldn’t have got past my front door without that today and my lovely boyfriend. Get it booked ladies, if I can do it then anyone without a severe anxiety disorder can. Yes, it’s scary but it’s important and you might even get a sticker if you mention it while you’re there!

Before I disappear, I just want to say a huge thanks to my best friend Katie, my superstar online friend Claire and my mum, without whom I’d not have been brave enough to go for this test today. Huge apologies to them too for way oversharing and probably boring them senseless with my ridiculous worries and fears and obsessive thoughts but thanks to all of you, and my lovely boyfriend Joe who went with me to the doctors today, I was able to get tested and hopefully I’m now one step closer to being told I’m fine and that my brain is a massive overthinking hypochondriacal mess (I hope their letters don’t comment on your brain state but you know!).

Health Anxiety - What it's like to live with

Health Anxiety

Health Anxiety – it’s something I mentioned in my last post and boy is it making life almost impossible to live right now. It’s just relentless. And the worst thing? When you’re this anxious for this long, you start getting even more physical symptoms. And what does my brain do with those? Decides I must be ill, poisoned, or dying of something. I literally have no idea what symptoms I’m experiencing are even real now and which ones are either being created by my psyche, my stress response (those ones are real) and which I’m just imagining due to being so sensitive to every single movement, noise or feeling in my body. I can’t even express how all-consuming this is. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced and it’s terrifying.

Every single sensation is now worrying me, am I hungry or is it a stomach tumour? Is my appetite lower than usual? Does that mean I’ve got cancer or is it just that I’m so stressed my appetite has been suppressed? Why can’t I go to the toilet? Am I under-nourished? Sick? Or has my digestion shut down because of my stress response. My heart rate seems a bit high even though I’ve taken my beta-blockers, maybe they’re not working anymore, maybe something else is wrong. Have I eaten the wrong stuff? Is sugar causing it? When did I last eat sugar? It can’t be sugar, I’ve not had any today, maybe it’s adrenaline as I’ve not actually eaten anything yet. My downstairs bits feel funny. I don’t remember that happening before. I don’t remember being able to feel there before. Maybe it’s just a random twinge. Why am I getting repeating random twinges there? Maybe it’s cancer? Would I even know? What if it is? How will I get treatment? I’ve still not had my smear test that was due two years ago because I can’t face going to the doctors, my anxiety just won’t let me. I know I need to go, I know that finding there are changes is so much better than leaving it and them possibly developing into cancer and yet the thought of even trying to make the appointment makes me feel physically sick and my stomach ties itself in knots. I just can’t do it at the moment. I get a pain in my mouth and I’m convinced it must be an abscess, a rotten tooth or that I’ll need a filling. I religiously brush my teeth and realise I’m probably brushing them too hard and causing the pain because I’m so worried about needing dental work. My ears feel weird or I get a slight pain and I’m sure I must be getting an ear infection again. I sneeze or have a slight sore throat and I’m instantly sure I’m getting a cold or flu and that I’ll get really ill with it. Any sort of pain or weird sensation is instantly focussed on, fixated upon and blown out of all proportion. No matter how logical I try to be, no matter how many statistics I bombard myself with to try and make myself see sense, it just doesn’t work. Even when the sensations or symptoms go away, my brain just fixates on the next one. It’s so consuming that I can’t do many activities now because I just can’t focus on them, I’m too busy being convinced that I’m going to get really ill or die. I’m not even scared of dying, if I drop dead tomorrow, I’m kind of ok with that, but I’m absolutely scared senseless of suffering. I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a lot of health problems for the latter two thirds of my life, none of them have been serious or life-threatening, but all have involved a lot of aches and pains and never feeling “well”. These conditions have also meant that when I get regular viruses or infections I’m hit much harder by them and get more severely ill and suffer for longer than regular people do. For some reason, I’ve managed to develop a huge fear of suffering that has been increasing for years and made me very frightened to be around other people who are ill firstly because I hate seeing suffering and secondly because of the risk of being infected by them. The only type of illness and suffering I don’t have an issue being around is mental illness which is why I managed to work successfully in mental health and in a hospital no less.

Back to now though. This health anxiety is just crippling. I can’t face going to the doctors to have any of my fears allayed and I often wonder if that would even help because I swear that at the first sign of a new symptom I’d be back at square one again. I’m also so scared that they’d find something that I then have no idea how to cope with treatment for, it hardly even seems worth getting investigated if I then can’t get treated for whatever hideous thing it might be. And I realise just how unlikely it is that there’s anything wrong with me, but still, the worries are constantly there. Today I found out that the most common cancer in women under the age of 33 is cervical. Oh joy! I also know from research that almost all of the female cancers, at least those affecting the lower half of the body, have very few noticeable symptoms and that those I may experience are remarkably similar to IBS symptoms which I also suffer badly from, especially when my anxiety is this bad. I can’t tell you how useful that is when trying to talk yourself down from being convinced you’ve got every disease under the sun. I’m sure that half of the symptoms I’m now experiencing are because I’m focusing so much on my body that I’m getting phantom symptoms from sending too much of my attention to those areas. It’s just doing me in. I’m sick of feeling so on edge, sick of feeling so out of control, sick of feeling like I’m going mad and sick of being convinced that I’m going to die some horrible, slow, painful death. I just want my brain to calm down, chill out and focus on something a bit less morbid than my own death or illness.

Anyone who thinks anxiety is a walk in the park clearly hasn’t visited this particular park which is currently frequented by wolves, big cats, and a whole heap of horrid diseases trying to kill me off at every turn. I have such a strong urge to give up, to stop even trying and to just give in. I don’t even know why I feel like that, I know it wouldn’t help. But I’m so tired. So tired of the thoughts, the constant stream of worries and then symptoms and the desire to research it but knowing that’ll almost certainly make me feel worse. I’m tired of fighting, of dreaming about it, of never being free. I’m tired of all of it. It’s been almost 4 years of fighting with my own head, fighting against each and every new worry that comes up, trying to adapt to every change, to every loss. Having health anxiety and worrying that I might lose even more functioning on top of all of that is nigh on impossible to cope with and means that I spend a lot of each day on the verge of crying because I feel like I’m falling apart. Part of me knows that this will probably pass, or at least ease off, just like a lot of the worries I’ve had throughout this period of illness. But I also know that the anxiety is becoming more and more ingrained and it feels like it’s taking a bigger hold with each passing month. It scares me so much. I don’t want this to become who I am. I have always been determined to be separate from my illnesses, to have them but not to be them. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to say that of the anxiety. It feels so intrinsically linked to who I am now. Most of the time I can differentiate between thoughts from the condition and thoughts of my own but when the thoughts from my condition are so overwhelmingly frequent, so loud and so awful, it’s hard to know where my own thoughts begin because there seem to be so few of them now, there simply isn’t room for anything much other than health anxiety and the occasional worry about going outside.

After my last post I’d hoped to be back to reviewing quite soon. I hoped that expressing how I’d been feeling would help it lessen and in some ways it has, I definitely feel less alone but sadly my health anxiety has just ramped up and up, day after day. My mum came to visit for the weekend and we had a lovely time and I managed to go out with her on two days and take lots of photographs and do lots of walking outside seeing loads of nature and very few people (my idea of perfect!). But still, even while I was out, I was getting twinges, random stabbing pains, wondering if I’d need mum to take me to the hospital. I’m at the point where I’m so frightened that I’m asking people random, really personal questions to find out if what I’m experiencing is normal or likely to be the cause of my premature death. I hate what this is turning me into. My social phobia is ramping up because I know I’m becoming obsessive about this and I’m terrified I’ll bore people or alienate myself from the few people remaining in my life. But I know that I can’t keep this inside as it feels like it’s eating me alive.

I’m not really sure where this post has gone or where it’s ended up. As usual, it feels like a rambling mess and I’m hoping I’ve pulled it miraculously out of the bag and written something at least partially coherent. I’m guessing it’s a heap of negativity and for that I’m sorry but I also can’t even begin to sugarcoat this and I always promised I would never do that, that I’d tell my story, tell the story of so many of us with mental illness, warts and all, with all the worst bits left in. So if this has left you feeling bleak or despondent then I guess that gives you a snapshot into what it’s like to be inside my head, to live a few minutes in my life and I can assure you that it’s infinitely worse when there’s no cause, no end in sight and no tab to close. I hope that sooner than I think, I’ll be feeling a bit brighter, a bit more hopeful and a little less plagued and that I’ll be back with some more positive posts that at least end on a lighter note. I’ll try to edit my photos from the weekend down enough that I won’t bore you all to tears with shot after shot of the same deer or ducks, that’s about the only task I’m managing to do whilst this poorly and I’m still sticking to my showering every day routine. Everything else is pretty much out of reach but I’ll try to get back on with my small tasks project and see if I can achieve a little more than showering and deleting photos. Writing this has been a bit helpful and some of the physical symptoms have eased off a bit which will hopefully sink in to my anxious brain as proof that they’re stress-induced. Huge hugs to all of you who are feeling this way or even just a little bit this way, you’re all warriors to fight this fight every day and I hope it gets easier for us all soon, we damn well deserve it!

Confidence Crisis

Lovely readers, I’m so sorry for the radio silence this year, it’s certainly not been intentional and I’m working hard to try and get myself back in a position where I can be blogging and reviewing again because I miss it and I miss you guys! I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life and change never does me much good, especially when multiple things are having to be dealt with at once. It’s also a really rough time of year for me, I’m never well at this time of year so it’s unsurprising that I’m so badly affected currently. I thought it was going to last just a couple of weeks and I did manage to write and share a review in early January but since then my confidence has completely deserted me, my words have disappeared and my motivation has been non-existent. None of that is conducive to blogging. I did manage to record and share a couple of videos which can be found here, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve not even been doing anything that’s not blogging. I’ve just been spectacularly unproductive. In some ways, I wish I’d realised how long this would last and just written off blogging for the last 6 weeks and got on with something fun or at least distracting. Instead, I’ve spent the whole time spending way too much time asleep and in bed, scrolling through Facebook aimlessly and watching crappy television for more hours than I care to remember or admit! My flat is dirty and untidy, I’m not showering often enough, I keep missing meals and the thoughts going through my head are much darker than usual and very much swirling around the I can’t be bothered and what’s the point sort of level. My focus is completely gone, my memory is dire and I just don’t know where the last 6 weeks have gone, I can count on one hand the number of meaningful or useful activities I’ve done in that time, even when I really start lowering my standards of what classes as productive, I’ve done next to nothing for weeks!

Throughout this time, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of covering up how much I was struggling. It turns out, I’m not half the actress I think I am. Though the flipside of that is that it’s quite comforting to realise that even when you don’t tell your boyfriend of 6 years that you’re feeling crappy, he can work it out from your subtle behaviour changes (including less nagging about cleaning and tidying). I always put off telling people that I’m worse or struggling more as I’ve previously documented on this blog. I hate admitting it to myself, let alone anyone else and it doesn’t properly sink in with me until other people around me know about it and then it’s a real wake up call. I tend to wait weeks, partially to be sure, and also because I spend that time in denial, before telling anyone but telling them usually leads to at least getting a bit more help to drag myself out of the pit I’ve inadvertently ended up in. I never learn though and always leave it ages before telling anyone or properly asking for help. Normally, my depression is pretty under control, it still sneaks in whenever it can, I still get horrible dark thoughts creeping in regularly but I’m able to dismiss them and get on with being productive and busy and that generally drowns it out. Recently though, that’s not the case, the depression has really ramped up in intensity and it’s crushed my confidence, my motivation and drive and has also made me unbelievably tired and pessimistic, which isn’t like me. On top of this, my anxiety is just on fire! For a while I’ve been noticing that as soon as one worry lessens, it gets replaced by another. This isn’t something I’m consciously doing and it’s currently something I have absolutely no control over but as soon as one thing becomes easier, less worrying, or goes away, another worry comes straight on in behind it and replaces its space. All of the things I was told by my psychiatrist, by therapists and that I learnt in my psychology degree, aren’t working. I was always a huge proponent of the idea of systematic desensitisation, the idea that the more you do a specific thing, the less it will make you anxious and the more used to it you’ll get. The theory is all completely sound, the research backs it up, but my experience is absolutely not showing it to work. No matter how many times I visit my family or don’t get food poisoning or don’t get an IBS attack when I’m out, I never consistently feel better about being in those situations again. I go through phases of things being a bit easier and then much harder but these seem to come and go like the weather with no rhyme or reason and no logic or pattern that I can decipher at all. No matter how much CBT I try to use I just don’t calm down or get over the thoughts. I’m a very logical person, I know the likelihood of my worries coming true (at least the ones I’m aware of rather than the residual feeling of fear for no reason that I so often experience now) but knowing these things won’t happen doesn’t stop me feeling intense anxiety each and every time I have to do something that my brain has decided is anxiety-provoking. I make no medical sense and no one around me, me included, has any idea why I’m like this or what to do to make it better. I was told a few years ago by my psychiatrist that I needed to stay outside for at least 6 hours for my anxiety to calm down and that then being outside would get easier. I’ve done this a number of times since then, in various places and with varying levels of success and yet I’m still severely agoraphobic, unable to even take my bins outside most days and suffering IBS attacks and extreme anxiety about going to places locally that I’ve known my whole life. It’s just doing my head in.

To top all of that off, my brain has decided to become hugely worried about germs and food poisoning. My mind is honestly a living hell right now. My brain is almost constantly fixated on worrying about getting ill with a virus or getting food poisoning. I’ve even considered going vegetarian (not an option long-term as my diet is very limited already due to dislike of a lot of foods and many vegetables being IBS trigger foods) so that I don’t have to keep worrying about meat being off. My partner is an ex-chef, we both know a lot about food storage, prep and just doing a good old sniff test, and yet my brain just can’t switch off these worries and once it’s decided that something is a “risk”, it just obsesses and even causes me physical symptoms because I spend so many hours worrying. Sometimes I just can’t eat the food because I’m so worried about it making me ill even though I logically know it’s absolutely fine. I’m pretty sure that part of the reason I’m so scared of getting ill is because I’m worried about getting so ill that I’ll need medical treatment and that invariably involves leaving the house. I’m increasingly worried about getting a serious health problem that I currently can’t imagine being able to receive treatment for because going out is so difficult for me. No doctor will just drug me up to the eyeballs on Diazepam for the foreseeable future while I get whatever fictitious disease my brain conjures up treated or cured. I hope that if I ever did get a serious illness the fear of it being left untreated would take over the fear of going out and getting treatment and that I’d be able to go and deal with it but part of me thinks that’s just wishful thinking and isn’t exactly likely. I hope I’ll never have to find out but I spend a huge amount of my time at the moment worrying about getting all sorts of conditions and diseases and trying to work out how I’d deal with it without just imploding.

So that’s where I’ve been at since December. I’ve realised that doing nothing and sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t working or helping at all; not that it’s really been a choice but still, it’s not helpful. So I’m trying my best to do little tasks that are productive and make me feel better in the hopes that they might spur me on to do bigger and better things and if not, well at least the small tasks I’ve done are done. I started earlier in the week by turning my mattress because for the last few weeks I’ve been getting backache and my tummy has felt twisted when lying on my side in bed, turning the mattress has really helped. I also changed my bedding at the same time. It took me an hour to do all of this and I had to change the duvet cover the following night because I was exhausted but I now have clean sheets and a comfy bed again and this also meant I had to clear up the things that were being dumped on my bed and also that I’ve made myself shower every day so I’m not getting my sheets dirty quicker than necessary. Some days these showers have been 2 hours before I go to bed but still, I have at least showered every day for 4, possibly 5 days, I forget when I started this. I’ve also done 3 lots of laundry, one each night when Joe’s gone off to work his night shifts and put those up and taken the previous day’s load down so it can be replaced with wet stuff. Yesterday I was feeling really low and rubbish and completely unmotivated but my head was just buzzing from too much screentime and I felt like I was going mad, eventually I got so fed up that I went and did some washing up and then hoovered most of the flat while Joe cooked dinner. There are still thick layers of dust on any above-floor surfaces and I’m sure there are other grim discoveries to make that I’m currently just trying to ignore but my floors are mostly clean, my bed is welcoming, my laundry is done and I’ve been clean for a few days in a row. Given how dreadful and unproductive I’ve been feeling, that’s pretty huge progress really and more in 4 days than I’ve managed in over 6 weeks! I’m really trying to make this stick and hope that even though my mental state is completely crap currently, at least my surroundings won’t be so bad and won’t be making me worse anymore. I’m hoping that I might even be able to slowly work through some reviews and finally start getting back on track with that because I’m dreadfully behind and don’t want to just give up like this.

So yes, that’s where I’m at. Not a good place to be at all and I’ve got no idea when the anxiety might start shifting or the depression easing off a bit but I’m hoping that my goal of doing a small task or two a day is at least achievable (possibly with help and encouragement from Joe) and will start making me see the difference I can make to my surroundings and stop me feeling quite so useless and unmotivated. I’m hoping the confidence might journey back to me after that!

P.S Apologies if none of this made sense, seemed to change writing style throughout (it was written in a few goes rather than all at once like I usually write) or doesn’t sound like me normally. I don’t write well when I’m this ill and I’m too distracted to be able to properly edit or read through it to check it makes sense so this is raw and as it came to me. Future posts are unlikely to be like this so please don’t desert the blog just based on this post, I felt I needed to get all of this out and explain to you all what’s been happening for me but it’s far from the standard I would normally hope to produce, I hope you understand.

Time to Talk Day 2018 – Video Post

Time to Talk Day 2018 – Today is the day to get the conversation started about mental illness in the hopes that we can keep talking about it all year. Too much stigma, embarrassment and shame still surround mental illness and this needs to change. Talking about it isn’t difficult and here I suggest tips of things to remember and how to get the conversation started. You never know the difference it might make, the impact it could have and the change you could be making to someone’s life.

#timetotalk #timetochange #mentalillness #mentalhealth

Confidence and Capability – Video Post

Not feeling confident has a huge impact on every aspect of your life and in this video I discuss how difficult it is to do most things when you don’t feel confident or capable and worry about everything too much – this is why I’ve only managed to do one video and review in the last 6 weeks which I hope will change soon!

Vilin San (Fairy’s Dream) – A Review and WORLDWIDE GIVEAWAY

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Vilin San is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Fokus, they have also sent me a second copy to give away and you can enter my Worldwide Giveaway until 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January by clicking this link and following the instructions. Vilin San is a Croatian book and the title translates to Fairy’s Dream, it’s illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, the illustrator of hugely popular Zemlja Snova (Dreamland) and the Dutch edition, Dromenvanger. This book sadly only has half the number of pages but it does come with an exciting added extra and is equally if not even more beautiful than Zemlja Snova. It arrives wrapped in plastic to keep it protected from damage and to keep all parts together (more on this later). The book itself is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers, (these are a little thinner and much bendier than Zemlja Snova’s covers) and two-third French flaps which open out to reveal a white line drawing on a blue/purple background, the cover shows a partially coloured image from inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and seems quite sturdy and durable and with a bit of work it’ll open up pretty flat, especially over time. The book only has 40 pages, Zemlja Snova had 84, oddly, it’s less than half the thickness, the publishers have said that the paper is identical in both books however it does seem a little whiter, especially than my original edition of Zemlja Snova (the one with the pages out of order) but paper stocks do visually differ sometimes and it does feel and behave the same way so I’m fairly confident in saying the paper is identical. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, water-based pens shadow heavily and may even bleed through so I’d steer clear of these and stick to watercolours with very sparing amounts of water and mostly pastels and pencils which work really well on this paper. The pages are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single (23) and double-page spreads (7 = 14 pages) and also contained is a loose 4 page fold-out poster which is the same size as 2 double-page spreads joined together end to end (see photo below). The images themselves are very similar to those found in Zemlja Snova so if you liked that book then you’ll love this one too, all of the artwork is original and new to this book though it feels familiar because of the content being similar. The illustrations contain fairies, dragons, mushrooms, butterflies, gnomes, birds, sea creatures, mice, palaces and more. The pages are all drawn as scenes and range from underwater scenes to dragons flying, fairies sleeping to hedgehogs being led through a mushroom-lined path, palace scenescapes to fantastical flying birds and so much more. Tomislav has created the drawings very considerately by leaving borders around many and those spanning a double-page having little content near the spine making it much easier to fully colour the page without any frustration of trying to access imagery in the book gutter. The illustrations are all very ornate and really beautiful to look at, this illustrator’s work really is some of the best in the world! For those who are wondering about the image order, there was an issue with 3 double-page spreads being split up in the first edition of Zemlja Snova, this has since been corrected in subsequent editions and I’m pleased to confirm that there are no issues with image order in Vilin San, all of the double-page spreads are matched up as they should be so there’s no need to worry.

In terms of mental health, this book is great for those with a good attention span. If you get overwhelmed by busy or intricate images then this won’t be for you but if you love immersive imagery that truly transports you to another place then look no further, this book is absolutely perfect. It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined 2 of our favourite things into one incredible book! The smaller number of pages means that it’s less daunting for those wanting to complete a whole book and the poster is great for those who like to work on a much larger project and display it afterwards as it would look fabulous framed once finished and it easily folds away to be tucked into the back of the book away from any damage which is really handy whilst you’re working on it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin with some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels remain very high throughout so you will certainly need very good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book if you’re wanting to colour within each outlined section though it won’t need to be quite so good if you’re wanting to colour over some areas and leave the lines underneath as texture. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! The illustrations are absolutely packed with detail and things to look at and notice, despite having Zemlja Snova for over a year now, I’m still noticing new things and spot things I’ve never seen before when looking at other people’s finished pages and I’m absolutely certain this will be the case with Vilin San too. The imagery is honestly spectacular, there aren’t many books I’m blown away by now but this one really is incredible, each image is a work of art, there are no filler pages, no random half-finished art, each page has clearly been painstakingly created and each will take hours if not days to complete. The pages in this book aren’t quick to finish but there are lots of natural stopping points within each image so that you still get a sense of accomplishment without managing to finish a page in one sitting and these all range in size from a tiny bird or gnome all the way up to a forest of trees or giant dragon so you can pick a project of the right size for each colouring session! I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s a shame that it’s half the number of pages and even more of a shame that the price doesn’t reflect this and is the same as Zemlja Snova but those criticisms aside, the book and the artwork itself is truly perfect and gorgeous in every way. Tomislav’s artwork is some of the best I’ve ever seen and I really hope he’ll continue to make many more books because no matter how many times I flip through the same pages, I’m still as drawn in and transported as I was the first time I saw each illustration and that’s a really impressive feat!

If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can order it from the publisher’s site here. I would strongly advise against ordering from Etsy or third-party Amazon sellers because the prices there seem to be extortionate. The easiest and cheapest way of getting hold of a copy is to join a group order as this reduces the cost of shipping per book to a more reasonable level. I run a FB fan group for Tomislav’s work and there we also organise a lot of group orders to various countries worldwide including the UK, many other European countries, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, please do join the group if you’d like to sign up to one of these orders or just to share your coloured pages or look for inspiration, we’d love to have you!

Don’t forget, I’m currently running a Worldwide Giveaway for a copy of this book, to enter click here and follow the instructions before it closes at 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January.

Photos of the book can be found directly below the videos.

Unboxing, Flip Through and Review

Silent Flip Through

Mysterious Planets - Click through to see photos, video and read my written review.

Mysterious Planets Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mysterious Planets Coloring Book is illustrated by Ai Kohno and published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Press. This book is paperback with flexible card covers and a glossy paper dustjacket which can be removed to prevent damage or scuffing and reveals black line drawings of the planets from inside the book on the brown card covers. The book measures 25cm square and the images are printed double-sided. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable and strong. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads so some do enter the spine but the majority of the image can be reached once the spine has eased up a little. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed but does shadow a little with water-based pens though this is very minimal but do be careful; pencils work well on the paper and layer and blend well. The illustrations are separated into chapters which are each dedicated to a type of planet, there are 7 chapters in total, 6 different planets (Forests, Sea, Snow, Flowers, Sweets, and Magic) and the final chapter is back in the little girl’s bedroom. At the back of the book are 7 pages of illustrated letters printed with a pale peach background, all of which are fully colourable. The images contain all manner of things from forest scenes, animals, buildings, ocean scenes, realistic imagery, outlandish scenes, fish and sea creatures, a Christmas sleigh, snowflakes, vases of flowers, cupcakes, gingerbread houses, slices of pie, portraits, a dinner party, and one page is printed on vellum-style paper which is translucent and has a jewelled frame and crown printed on it that when laid on either side perfectly frames the left and right image of a goose and a girl which is very clever and extremely unique, I’ve never seen anything like this in a colouring book before.

In terms of mental health, this book is pretty good, it’s not realistic or based on reality and so it offers a good level of escapism and is ideal for those who feel required to colour realistically because you can really go to town with your colours and use whatever scheme you fancy. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin, it’s not quite black and is more of a dark grey though it’s still very visible but contrasts a bit less than normal colouring books do. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little but mostly remain at a moderate level, none of the images are hugely intricate but they’re not full of large open spaces either, it’s a very good intermediate sort of level and therefore the book would suit those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. The content is lovely and very whimsical, older children would surely like it and it’s quite child-friendly but not childish. It would be a great book for those with a good imagination who like to have prompts for escapism, you can easily imagine yourself travelling to each of these planets and lands and this is sure to help you forget about your symptoms and feel just a little bit happier and calmer for a while. Books like this are great for reminding us of carefree days as children, it certainly reminded me of many happy times reading the Enid Blyton Faraway Tree stories and my particular favourite land there, The Land of Take What You Want and I would always imagine sweets and chocolates and all of my favourite things. There is space where you can add your own backgrounds and imagery if you wish but this is by no means compulsory and the images will certainly look finished without any additions besides colour.

Overall, this is a lovely book, the content is wide-ranging and interesting and ideal for both children and adult colourists. You can really go to town with outlandish colour schemes and let your imagination run wild.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mysterious Planets Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mysterious-Planets-Ai-Kohno/9781250117274/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured with Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Gift Boxes A Year of Celebrations Click through to see photos, video and read my written review

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow Publishing. This book is unlike any other because it’s not a normal colouring book, each page is a gift box which can be removed and folded into a box to gift to friends and family, this is the third in the series with a Christmas-themed one available HERE and a Birds and Blossoms one HERE. The book itself is paperback with flexible card covers, it’s just under 30cm square and has a pale blue cover with splashes of pinks and dark blue, and gold foil accents. On the inside cover are diagrams and written instructions about how to remove and fold the boxes and on the back inside cover are three recipes so you can create edible treats to go in your boxes – Peppermint Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Men, and Coconut Macaroons. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable but it’s also quite easy to press flat so that you can colour the whole box, or remove it via the perforations before colouring if you find that easier. Each of the 24 pages contains one double-sided box with different matching designs for each of the sides and the inside base and then a small repeating pattern on all of the other edges, there’s heaps to colour in on each one! The card is medium thickness, bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for pencils and water-based pens which didn’t bleed and only slightly shadowed with the darkest colours; alcohol markers will bleed so I’d avoid using these. The perforations are well-made and the parts do mostly come out easily, I would advise caution as a very small section of my actual box started splitting so you may prefer to use the perforations as a guide for scissors or just work slowly, a few of the parts have quite large perforations which do leave large bumps rather than smooth edges on the box but again, these could be tidied up with scissors if you wish. The boxes are individually designed and contain themed illustrations to celebrate various celebrations as well as some more generic designs that could be used for any sort of gift, the themes include – Valentine’s Day/Anniversary, Easter, male and female themed cards, birthday, and Christmas. The content is very wide ranging from cars to swans, snowmen to deer, balloons to cakes, kites to flowers, Christmas trees to shells, stars to boats and so much more, this is by far the widest ranging content of any of the three gift box books now published. The images are very cute and have a naïve quality to them which makes them look really charming and they’ll look lovely coloured by adults or children and gifted to others. At the back of the book is a page of gold foiled stickers each with lines on where you can write names to and from, and each with a small celebration-themed motif. The set is really well-made and thought out, this book is produced by the same publishing company who created the Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes so you can be assured it’s good quality though the illustrations are created by a different artist (Eilidh Muldoon) from those (Rebecca Jones) and the other colouring gift box books (Sarah Walsh and Felicity French).

In terms of mental health, I think this book of gift boxes is pretty great because it offers up a project with a very clear purpose and end point, ideal for those of us who struggle to get motivated or see the point in things sometimes. Sharing is always good fun and when colouring these boxes you know you’ll be sharing the love with someone you care about and that’s a great thing to be able to do! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high with lots of small sections so these boxes will only really be suited to those of you with good vision and fine motor control. The boxes take ages to colour so you’re certainly getting lots of colouring hours for your money, however, each box consists of lots of small colourable parts which is ideal for any level of concentration or amount of symptoms, you can colour for 20 seconds doing just one or two flowers, or hours and hours doing the whole internal repeating pattern or somewhere in between. The images on the boxes are sure to get you in the mood for any celebration. These boxes will be perfect for sharing treats with family and friends and they can be filled with small gifts or sweets or chocolates and they’ll be the perfect packaging for anything handmade, the possibilities are endless!

Overall, I would highly recommend these colourable gift boxes, there’s loads to colour on each one and they’re sure to be received well, they give a wonderful personal touch to whatever gifts you decide to put inside them.

If you’d like to purchase a set, the book is available here:
Amazon UK – Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Gift-Boxes-Colour-and-Make-Year-of-Celebrations-Eilidh-Muldoon/9781788000093/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find the other two gift box books here.

The box below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Christmas Tree Time Lapse 2017

Christmas Tree Decorating Time Lapse 2017 – Video Post

As some of you know, I’m well known for my obsession with Christmas and in particular, Christmas decorations, my partner and I decorated the tree together this year and recorded a time lapse video of the process. Please do check us out building and decorating it at 64x speed, Merry Christmas!

Die Welt Unter Der Lupe zu Lande click through to read my review, see a video flick through and photos of inside

Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande (The World Under the Magnifying Glass – Land) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande (The World Under the Magnifying Glass – Land) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is the sixth illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator, she previously brought us the hugely successful and utterly beautiful series of season colouring books, reviewed by me here, and the first in this new series, Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Wasser. I had high hopes for this new book after the previous one was so utterly beautiful and I didn’t think that one could be beaten but I think I’ve fallen in love with this one just a little more because the content is so wonderfully wide-ranging and just a little more free because of the topic being land rather than water, it’s just exquisite. As with all of her books, I was absolutely blown away by its beauty, I can’t enthuse enough about it, it’s beautiful! It is identical in format to her previous books and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than most at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover and a hole in the centre of the magnifying glass which gives a very clever 3D effect of looking at a bee printed on the inside of the full size French flaps. Both covers have fully illustrated French flaps with colour added to the external covers and the internal front flap but none add to the back one so it’s fully colourable with alcohol markers if you wish. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the previous titles. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each of Rita’s books but they’re beautifully tailored to the specific theme of the title, previously seasons or underwater and this time land, and it’s very clear from looking through each book what it’s dedicated to.

The drawings are incredible, as with all of Rita’s books, each time I look through the book I see new things that I didn’t notice before. The content this time is even more varied and ranges from double-page spreads of forest scenes and cities within birds’ wings, to branches of acorn houses and desert cactus landscapes. There are small centralised images of cornflowers and poppies, larger single-page images of beetles, flamingos, birds’ nests and mouse houses and a few pages showing a scene on one page and a corresponding pattern on the other. There are so many different things pictured including foxes, hedgehogs, bees, flowers, deer, snails, rabbits, birds, butterflies, insects, beehives, leaves, fruit, elephants, lizards, monkeys, parrots, and so much more. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, each of Rita’s books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish colour schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. There are also a number of pages that have large open spaces where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, this is by no means a necessity but the option is there if you want it. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and all of the other titles by Rita, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande
Amazon US – Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Die-Welt-unter-der-Lupe—zu-Lande-Rita-Berman/9783404609482/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of Rita’s other books here.

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils.