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

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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

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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.

Photography for Agoraphobia: Photobook 1 – Video Post

I suffer from severe agoraphobia which has left me virtually housebound since March 2014, photography helps me to go out a bit more often, for longer, and keeps me calmer and here I show a flick through of the first of four photobooks that I’ve made of my best photos this year.

How to Talk to Someone Who’s Feeling Suicidal – Video Post

Knowing what to say to someone who’s feeling suicidal can be really difficult but saying something rather than nothing could be the difference between that person being able to seek help or remaining feeling alone and worthless. Here, I talk about what helps, what doesn’t, the difference you could make and the thoughts and feelings that go alongside feeling suicidal because of mental or physical illness.

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) by Emelie Lidehall Oberg, click through to read my review, see a flick through and photos

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) is illustrated by Emelie Lidehäll Öberg and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is only available in this format and is similar to the Swedish Artist’s Editions (Tavelboks), it measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are white with green imagery from inside the book. The book has a green tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through and mine didn’t even shadow when colouring the black sections of the image. The 20 illustrations are all posters, 19 contain text, 7 are written in Swedish, 12 are written in English, two of them include swearing (one English and one Swedish). The posters contain varying amounts of imagery and text with some just being beautifully drawn text and others just having a subtle message placed within a large colourable image. The phrases range from romantic to funny, exclamations to sayings, you can see them all in the images below. The illustrations also vary a lot from animals to flowers, objects to houses, scenes to collections and more, they are all drawn beautifully and are each packed with content so there’s loads to colour in each one. The posters would be ideal to remove and frame either for your own home or to give as gifts.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, I’m always a huge fan of books that offer a project that can be gifted or displayed because these are fantastic for showing us what we can achieve and for giving us a goal to work towards and afterwards, a reminder of what we can do. You could easily colour them to match the theme of a room or to stand out a look fabulous and I can’t wait to frame my finished page and brighten up my walls with it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little within each image with most being fairly intricate but having a few places with larger open spaces, therefore this book would be ideal for most levels of vision and fine motor control. The content is pretty uplifting and positive and sure to make you smile or laugh, even on your worst days and it looks even more fabulous once you’ve filled it with colour! The images are all a manageable size and will take varying amounts of time to colour depending on what mediums you use and how much blending and shading you want to do but none are overwhelming or likely to require weeks of dedication! Most of them consist of lots of component parts so you can colour them in sections if you wish, particularly useful if you’re having a bad day.

Overall, this is a fab book, it’s filled with beautiful artwork just begging to be coloured and displayed and it’s sure to perk up even the most symptom-filled days. The card is ideal for all mediums and the posters lend themselves to all types of colouring styles.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here: https://www.printworksmarket.com/p/shop/books/all-books/hem-ljuva-hem-20-posters-to-color-and-frame.html

I run a fan group for the artwork of Emelie, please do join us and share your work.

The image below was coloured with Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a black Sharpie.

Winterkleurkaarten by Julia Woning - Check out my review, photos and video flick through

WORLDWIDE GIVEAWAY and Review – Winterkleurkaarten: 20 Ansichtkaarten & Enveloppen (Winter Colour Cards: 20 Postcards and Envelopes) by Julia Woning

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Winterkleurkaarten: 20 Ansichtkaarten & Enveloppen (Winter Colour Cards: 20 Postcards and Envelopes) are published and very kindly sent to me to review by BBNC Utigevers. They have also very kindly provided me with an extra set which I’m currently running a Worldwide Giveaway for on my FB page until 23.59 GMT on the 29th of November, and you can also win a copy of the Tiffany Glass Coloring Book, to enter please click here. This set of cards is illustrated by Julia Woning, a talented Dutch illustrator who’s previously published a number of books in the Netherlands. These cards arrive in a red card box with an image adapted from one of the cards on the front, this box is a little bit flimsy but does prevent the cards from getting damaged or lost. The box contains 20 cards, these are not greetings cards, they are square postcards that are single-sided with a design illustrated on the front, and text at the top on the back saying Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Dutch, along with the copyright information at the bottom. The 20 plain white envelopes fit the cards perfectly and will be ideal for giving or sending the cards to others. The cards are made of bright white, lightly textured, medium thickness card, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens but will with alcohol markers so do be aware of this, pencils, especially oil-based ones or those with harder leads, are very difficult to colour with on this card and require a lot of patience as the lack of tooth makes it difficult to layer or blend, my Prismacolor Premiers worked pretty well but I really struggled with Holbeins which seemed to clump and not colour evenly. The images themselves are all drawn in Julia’s signature style which is often out of proportion with people having very large rounded bodies and very small faces with exaggerated features. The content is really varied but all is heavily winter and Christmas themed and include all sorts from snowflakes to Santa, robins to reindeer, candles to baubles, cocoa, to polar bears, stocking, angels and so much more, there is even a jumper-wearing elephant! Each picture is packed with imagery and many of them have spaces to write your own messages if you wish. Most of the cards contain scenes or snapshots of Christmas celebrations and each is different from the next from a woman drinking cocoa to Santa riding his sleigh, snowmen in a garden to a decorated Christmas tree and more. The cards are really beautiful and will be ideal for challenging yourself to try out new techniques including colouring skin, snow, shiny objects, glowing backgrounds and even glass. They’re all really beautiful and sure to spread some Christmas cheer whether you keep them yourself or gift them to others.

In terms of mental health, these cards offer a great, manageable project, they’re small enough not to be overwhelming, but large enough that they’re not coloured in seconds and you can take your time colouring each section without needing days to do so. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels do vary across and within each card but mainly remain low to moderate so anyone with moderate vision or fine motor control will be able to enjoy these cards. You won’t need especially good concentration levels and will be able to colour these cards on good and bad days which is great! Colouring cards are a great project because not only do you get to enjoy colouring them, you can then send them to others and share the joy or even send them uncoloured to a friend who might need a little push to start colouring, they’re great for spreading some happiness and colouring love! The shape of them would make them ideal to frame if you wish, they could be a lovely added extra to your Christmas decorations or a really personal touch for your loved ones. They’re also the perfect project to start trying out some new colouring techniques without having to worry about ruining a whole page and you can use any medium you fancy because they’re single-sided.

Overall, I would highly recommend these colouring cards, they’re beautifully drawn and really varied in content and they’re a lot of fun to colour, you can try out new techniques or just enjoy getting in the festive spirit. These will appeal to colourist’s of all ages and be sure to get you feeling Christmassy!

If you’d like to purchase a set, they’re currently unavailable on the usual sites though they are listed there so do sign up for email alerts and they’ll tell you when they have them in stock, hopefully it’ll be soon!
Amazon UK – Winterkleurkaarten: 20 Ansichtkaarten & Enveloppen
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Winterkleurkaarten-Julia-Woning/9789045321851/?a_aid=colouringitmom
BBNC (Publisher site with very reasonable International Shipping) – http://www.bbnc.nl/kleurboeken/julia-woning-winterkleurkaarten

I’m currently running a Worldwide Giveaway for a set of these cards on my FB page until 23.59 GMT on the 29th of November, and you can also win a copy of the Tiffany Glass Coloring Book, to enter please click here.

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

The Tiffany Glass Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Tiffany Glass Coloring Book is published by Rizzoli and illustrated and very kindly sent to me to review by Jessica Palmer. Jessica has also sent me a second copy in order to run a giveaway, this is currently running on my FB page and you can win a copy of this book and a set of 20 Winterkleurkaarten by Julia Woning; you have until midnight on the 29th of November 2017 to enter here. This book is a new format, design and style from what we’ve come to know for Jessica’s art in the Tangle book series but it is no less beautiful, it’s just different. The book itself is 23.1 x 25.4cm, paperback with flexible card covers and a partially coloured black and white design from inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and can be a little tricky to get completely flat but with perseverance this will become easier. The pages are a mixture of single-sided (25 images) and double-sided printing (42 images) and it seems quite random as to where these are placed, the images are also a mixture of single (63) and double-page spreads (4 comprising of 2 spreads) and many have black backgrounds (23 ish). The paper is bright white, lightly texture and medium thickness, it worked well with my Derwent Inktense Pencils and didn’t overly warp when activated with water and this didn’t shadow or bleed. Water-based pens don’t seem to bleed or shadow and pencils work well for blending and layering, alcohol markers can be used on the single-sided images as long as you place a protective sheet behind to catch any bleed-through. The images themselves are all inspired by Tiffany lamps and therefore have a real stained glass feel as they’re designed to have light displayed through them to show each section, therefore the images are mostly quite heavily lined with lots of sections making up each design. Each of the designs contains at least one dragonfly for you to find, sometimes these are the centre of the image and other times they’re hidden, they give a really cohesive feel to the book because even though each page is filled with different content, it’s still tied together with the Tiffany lamp and dragonfly theme. The designs vary a lot in size and content and Jessica explains in the introduction that she has deliberately created illustrations with much simpler designs for children or beginners and all different levels in between up to very complex detailed designs. There is a really good mixture of designs and pretty much all of them are heavily nature-inspired, just like the real Tiffany lamps. The images don’t contain actual lamps with fixtures and stands, they’re all designs inspired by lamps and therefore the artwork has been altered and adapted to fit a flat page rather than all of them being circular or curved which is nice.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely, the natural images are great for calming you down and helping you zone out. The different levels of difficulty are ideal for those of us with fluctuating conditions because you can do simpler images on your worse days and more complex images on your better days when you can focus. The line thickness varies throughout and ranges from spindly thin to thick and mostly stays around the thin range. The intricacy and detail levels also vary hugely from large open spaces to much smaller, finer details and again, it remains mostly around the quite detailed level and therefore you’ll need fairly good vision and fine motor control to enjoy the majority of the images. The printing is ideal for those who like to use wet media or mixed media as you can colour the double-sided pages with pencil or carefully with water-based pens and the single-sided pages with watercolours, alcohol markers and paints if you wish. You can really challenge yourself to work on making the images look like sections of lamps with light shining through them if you wish or you can just colour them as normal colouring images, either option will look equally beautiful. The single-sided images could even be carefully removed from the book once coloured and framed or gifted if you wanted.

Overall, this is a lovely book, it’s not as niche as you might expect and the illustrations are all drawn in Jessica’s beautiful signature style and will look incredible once splashed with colour, whatever medium you fancy using!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Tiffany Glass Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Tiffany-Glass-Coloring-Book/9780847860708/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Jessica has also sent me a second copy in order to run a giveaway, this is currently running on my FB page and you can win a copy of this book and a set of 20 Winterkleurkaarten by Julia Woning; you have until midnight on the 29th of November 2017 to enter here.

The image below was coloured with Derwent Inktense Pencils and activated with water.

Colorist's Special Effects - Click through to see photos and read my written review.

Colorist’s Special Effects: Colour Interior Version – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Colorist’s Special Effects is illustrated, self-published and very kindly sent to me to review by Helen Elliston. This book is A4, paperback and is available in a greyscale or colour interior version (the greyscale version is cheaper and they both say on the front and on the online listings which they are, I’d personally recommend the colour version, I can’t imagine trying to follow the instructions without the colours there to see). The spine is glue-bound and seems pretty durable so far, the tutorials are printed double-sided and some of the practice sheets are printed single-sided but none of the content spans the spine so none of it is lost into it and all parts are accessible, it’s a little tricky to get the book to lie flat but this will ease up over time. The book is self-published through Createspace and therefore has standard medium/thin paper which is white and lightly textured, it’s not perfect for pencils or pens but it works fine and bearing in mind this is a techniques book, used to practice, it doesn’t need to be perfect to gain all of the knowledge you need to make your colouring pages really improve. The book begins with a contents page listing all of the techniques that you’ll learn within the book, they’re split into chapters of similar techniques so that you can work on a specific type of colouring at once if you wish. These chapters are Hair, Lips and Skin; Nature; 3D shapes and Objects; Gems; and Backgrounds. Within each of these chapters are a long list of specific techniques that can be used alone or in conjunction with each other, these include brown hair, metals, water droplets, faceted gems, woodgrain, pearls, fish scales, sunglasses, bubbles, 3D fabric and lots, lots more. The tutorials themselves are very clearly laid out with numbered diagrams all pictured in colour, each shows a coloured picture of the step you’re completing alongside short written instructions detailing what colour and where you’re using it. There is an absolute wealth of information in the book and Helen covers everything from simple techniques like a shiny fish all the way up to realistic eyes, hair and skin tones and everything in between. There are lots and lots of chances to practice and many of the practice pages are printed single-sided so that you can use any mediums you wish, there are multiple opportunities to attempt each technique so you don’t need to worry if you don’t perfect it first time. At the back of the book are a colour wheel that you can fill in yourself, lots of colour charts, first double-sided for use with pencils and then single-sided for use with wet media that might bleed through, these are all in four different shapes each with plenty of space to write down the colour/colours and brand that you’ve used for easy identification later. There is also a page of 12 signature cards, each with an image (2 of each design) that you can use a technique from the book on that can then be cut out and placed on pages instead of a watermark when photographing and sharing your work. There really is so much content that I can’t possibly talk about all of it here, every time I look through the book I find techniques that I’ve somehow not noticed before, there are loads of different skills to learn from colouring objects to scenes to backgrounds, you can use a huge variety of media and this book is probably the best techniques guide on the market because of the sheer breadth of coverage, it’s honestly astounding!

In terms of mental health, this book is hugely useful and very exciting but can be quite overwhelming and challenging too, this is in no way Helen’s fault and it isn’t a criticism of this specific book, it’s more something that I’ve really noticed for myself when using techniques books, it can be really tough to get started, to follow and to have the confidence to give it a go or apply to other things and this is very much the fault of our conditions and symptoms rather than the books themselves. All of this being said, Helen has made the instructions and diagrams as clear as possible, it can be quite overwhelming when first looking at the page but if you can focus just on the first instruction and slowly move your way through them then before you know it, you’ve coloured a whole object and it looks amazing! The techniques are mostly laid out in one of two ways, either, each colour is shown separately in each diagram and described in the instructions so that you know what order to place the layers, or each diagram is cumulative with colour showing each new layer on top of the previous ones, I personally prefer the first type as it’s much clearer and easier to focus on for anxious, over-stimulated eyes, others may well prefer the second type because it’s clearer what the whole thing should look like throughout each stage because the images mimic what you’re actually doing rather than just the one layer each step is focusing on. It was a clever move on Helen’s part to use both types of diagram and these are all created in paint to clearly show the layers and differences between colours with a colour photograph of Helen’s finished piece in pen or pencil at the end so that you know exactly what you’re working towards. The line thickness on the practice drawings is pretty consistent throughout and remains thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary depending on what you’re learning to colour, almost none of it is particularly intricate or detailed because the techniques are very much about learning to blend, layer and build colour and 3D shape which usually requires a fair bit of space to work within so this book is definitely suitable for those with normal levels of vision and fine motor control.

All in all, I can’t praise this book highly enough, nor can I fully describe it without possibly writing dissertation length post about it, there is just so much content and it really is like an encyclopaedia of colouring techniques from small objects, people, and animals, all the way up to metal, and backgrounds. No matter what level of colourist you are, you’re sure to find something useful and inspirational to improve your colouring.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Colorist’s Special Effects
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Colorist-s-Special-Effects—Color-Interior/9781546646594/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Helen has also just released a second book, Colorist’s Special Effects 2, I have just received a copy and will be reviewing it soon, suffice to say, it’s incredible and an absolute must-have so if you’d like to order a copy, you can purchase it here.
Amazon UK – Colorist’s Special Effects 2 

The images below were coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Unsolicited Advice – Video Post

Unsolicited Advice is something many of us with mental illness and long-term physical illness experience and at best it’s an irritant, at worst, it can be damaging and harmful. As a sufferer of Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia and Agoraphobia, amongst other conditions, I receive a lot of “advice” that’s not asked for, nor wanted, and some of this has been possibly dangerous if I didn’t have the knowledge that I do.

Color Workshop by Rachel Reinert - Click through to see photos and read my written review of this fab tutorial book!

Color Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Artistic Effects – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Color Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Artistic Effects is illustrated and written by Rachel Reinert and published and very kindly sent to me to review by Get Creative 6. This book is A4, paperback, with flexible card covers. The spine is glue and string-bound and very durable. The content is printed double-sided throughout. The paper consists of two different types, the tutorial section is printed on glossy white paper and the colouring practice pages are printed on bright white, matt paper that is medium thickness and lightly textured. The book is split into two sections, tutorials for the first two thirds of the book and illustrations to practice your colouring techniques on for the last third. The information and tutorials are very comprehensive and cover a wide range of topics from colour theory and detailed descriptions of different colouring mediums to basic colouring techniques, ways to choose colours and use mediums in new and different ways, and then moves onto how to create artistic effects like blending, highlights, adding backgrounds, water droplets, auras/glows, a basic tutorial for colouring skin and hair (better ones can be found but this is a good start), crystals and lots more. Rachel uses different mediums for each technique so you’re sure to find one that you already own the tools to create and she names each colour she uses so you can match it either identically or by finding close matches within the mediums you already have. You can learn to use a huge number of mediums from coloured pencils to watercolour pencils and paints, alcohol markers, gel pens, pastels and mixed media. The colouring pages exactly match each technique so you can directly copy the instructions without having to first work out how to apply them to a different image. The colouring pages are perforated and can therefore be removed before colouring so that you’re not constantly having to flick to the tutorial and then to the page to colour, it also means you can copy them (for personal use) to print onto the paper of your choice so you can practice multiple times to really perfect each technique or to try out different mediums. The images are all very natural and mostly include plants and flowers. The techniques are all written in clear, plain language with any specialised terms explained so that anyone of any level will understand them. They are all illustrated with full colour photographs and laid out neatly and numbered so they’re very easy to follow. There are helpful tips written in coloured circles throughout the book so they’re easy to find and the contents page clearly lists all of the techniques and page numbers.

In terms of mental health, this book is great but you will need to be aware of a few things. The premise is ideal for perfectionists, you can learn all sorts of techniques that you’ve wondered about for ages and practice them in a dedicated space and build up your confidence before being let loose on your actual colouring pages, following written instructions means that you don’t have to keep pausing or rewinding a video if it’s going too fast for you and you can read all of the instructions before starting if you’re worried about making mistakes or if you don’t quite understand a section. Each technique is broken down into small sections with each focusing on one or two colours so they’re manageable to work on over time if you don’t want to complete a whole technique all at once. All of these are great positives and particularly good for those of us who like things to be perfect, realistic, and who struggle to follow videos. However, you will need good concentration, I don’t know about you but now that I’m ill I really struggle to read and concentrate for any length of time and therefore following instructions is extremely difficult for me. I often get easily overwhelmed by the sight of lists of things to do and find it very challenging to follow them. However, I have found that if you can possibly not skip ahead and just focus on each instruction one by one then it’s much more manageable and able to be followed because you’re just using one colour in one or two places at once before then moving onto the next. I have also found it helpful to read the whole technique a few times and study the accompanying pictures before starting to follow it. Many of the techniques can be mixed and matched and also swapped across mediums too so they’re far more versatile than you might first assume. The illustrations used to practice on are varying sizes with some pages containing a few smaller drawings and others containing one centralised image. None are huge and none are tiny, they’re all quite a middling size and very manageable to colour in one sitting if you wish and can concentrate on the techniques and instructions for long enough. The line thickness is pretty consistent and remains thin with some medium thickness sections or outlines. The intricacy and detail levels vary and range from quite detailed to much less so, none of the images are hugely intricate because you have to be able to apply the techniques to each one and there’s not a lot you can do with very intricate images so these illustrations will suit most levels of vision and fine motor control apart from those who have particularly poor levels of either.

Overall, this is a great book that’s ideal for any level of colourist to learn something new from, the practice sheets are perforated which is ideal so you can see the instructions at the same time as colouring and also for making personal copies and the techniques are explained in clear, simple language with lots of colour photographs which add clarity. I’d highly recommend this book, it’s written in an interesting and accessible way and broken up into concise sections that are easy to navigate and roughly run in order of difficulty.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Color Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Artistic Effects
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Color-Workshop-Rachel-Reinert/9781942021575/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The images below were coloured with: Poppy – Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils; Leaf – Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and blended with Zest-It and a Blending Stump.

A Day with Depression – Video Post

Living with mental illness brings many different types of days, today my depression has really taken over and rather than cover it up and film on a different day, I thought I’d show you, warts and all, what it’s like to live with and how it affects me and so many others.

From Holland with Love - Click through to read my review, see photos of inside and watch a video flick through

From Holland With Love – A Review

From Holland With Love is illustrated and kindly sent to me to review by Masja van den Berg and is published by Pepper Books. This book is the sixth book published by Masja and her five previous titles were all variations of paisley-filled designs under the title of Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld (My Wondrous World). This sixth book is a little different and is more like a love letter, or love drawing if you will, from Masja to and about Holland. The book itself is 25.5cm square, it’s hardback this time with a beautiful glowing orange cover and a compilation image of various illustrations contained within the book in blue and white. The spine is glue and string bound and relatively difficult to get it to lie flat due to it being hardback. The pages are printed single-sided and are perforated meaning you don’t have to contend with the page gutter and try to colour into it and that you can remove the pages before or after colouring in order to frame or gift them. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, pencils blend and layer beautifully and water-based pens shadow but don’t bleed through, alcohol markers will bleed through so do put a protective sheet behind your work to protect the next page. The illustrations contain lots of typically Dutch objects and scenery from clogs to windmills, tulips to traditional dress and a bicycle amongst other beautiful floral patterns, drawings of women and some lovely birds. The imagery is really varied and far less paisley-filled than the previous titles but don’t despair if you love those, they don’t feel like they’re missing from this work and the illustrations are really lovely and very pretty. At the back of the book are three pages of images that can be cut out for projects, a page of card toppers, a page of social media tags where you can add your name instead of having to watermark your photos and a page including 2 small postcard style designs all of which are illustrated and colourable.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s not overwhelming to colour and has enough detail to be interesting and absorbing, without being overly complex or over-stimulating. The content is familiar, fun and cute and much of it could be coloured in any palette you choose and look equally fabulous. The line thickness is mostly consistent and remains thin with a few images drawn in a spindly thin line. The intricacy and detail levels vary and range from very intricate on some of the postcard size images and social media tags to larger, more open spaces in some of the colouring pages and everything in between, you’ll need moderately good vision and fine motor control for the majority of the images and better levels for a few of the most intricate pages. A few of the pages will require a high level of concentration but many won’t need you to be at your best and require less focus so this is a good book for those of you with varying concentration levels. The pages also consist of varying amounts of content which means they take differing lengths of time to complete and there are natural stopping points if you just want to colour one section. These images would look really beautiful framed and this book would be an ideal gift for those who live in Holland, are from there, or who just love all things Dutch, it’s so representative and beautiful, I’m sure it would be a very well-received gift!

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, it’s beautiful for those who love all things Dutch and those just wanting to colour more of Masja’s gorgeous illustrations. The production quality is very high and the images are really lovely to colour.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available to buy here:
Amazon UK – From Holland with Love
Masja’s Website – https://www.masjaswebshop.nl/

The image below was coloured with a single Prismacolor Premier Pencil and a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld Part 5 - Click through to read my review, watch my flick through and see internal photos

Worldwide Giveaway and Review – Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld (My Wondrous World) Part 5

Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld Part 5 was illustrated and kindly sent to me to review by Masja van den Berg. Masja has very kindly sent me an extra copy of this title and part 4 and I’m currently running a Worldwide giveaway for them both over on my FB page, click here to enter by midnight GMT on the 11th of November. This book is the fifth in her series of books and my reviews of her other titles can be found HERE and she’s already created 2 more books with different titles since these. Part 5 ventures further afield than the first three books and takes us on an exotic journey through the Orient with Chinese and Japanese art and animals featured. The book itself is paperback, nearly 24.5cm square, with a gorgeous turquoise cover with beautiful gold foiled accents on a Chinese dragon image found inside the book. The spine of the book is glue-bound and therefore a little tricky to get it to lie flat unless you break the spine which could eventually lead to pages loosening, however the pages this time are perforated which is ideal if you want to remove them for colouring or framing. The images are printed single-sided this time and all of the images are therefore single page designs. The paper is white, thick (thicker than all of her previous books) and lightly textured, it provides a good surface for blending and shading pencils, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens and alcohol markers will be fine to use as long as you pop some protective sheets behind your work. The content is all drawn in Masja’s signature paisley style so while the images are Oriental themed, they’re very similar to the previous books and existing fans of her work won’t be disappointed. The images contain all manner of things from Chinese dragons, koi carp, ornaments, mandalas, patterns, cranes, cherry blossom, ponds, and more. The illustrations are very floral and delicate and contain a mixture of scenes and patterns, full page designs and centralised images.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely, it’s very calming and absorbing without requiring too much concentration so it’s a great book for good and bad days. There’s a real variety in the amount of content on each page so you can easily choose a smaller, simpler design to focus on when you’re having a bad day, or a much more complex spread when you’re feeling well, none of the images are overwhelming as they’re all contained to one side so the book feels very accessible. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so you’ll need fairly good vision and fine motor control but certainly not perfect. The intricacy and detail level varies a lot from larger open spaces to much smaller spaces where Masja has filled the creatures and designs with patterns though of course you can always colour over these small sections rather than within each one if you prefer to colour larger areas. There are plenty of spaces where you can create your own backgrounds or add your own imagery if you wish but this is by no means a requirement and the pages will look lovely regardless. Masja’s work is very soft and flowing, there aren’t any straight lines and this really helps to create a natural, calming world that you can escape into whilst colouring. The images have a great mixture of realism and imagination added to them so they look equally good coloured realistically or outlandishly and you could even mix the two throughout the book.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s already a fan of the series, and those who are intrigued and new to it, the images are lovely, very cohesive, and really natural and calming and they look beautiful once splashed with realistic or imaginative colour schemes.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here: https://www.masjaswebshop.nl/

I’m also currently running a giveaway for a UK resident to win a copy of this, and book 5 in the series. The competition runs until midnight GMT on the 11th of November and can be entered here.

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips.

Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld Part 4 - Click through to read my review, see photos and watch my video flick through

Worldwide Giveaway and Review – Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld (My Wondrous World) Part 4

Mijn Wonderlijke Wereld Part 4 was illustrated and kindly sent to me to review by Masja van den Berg. Masja has very kindly sent me an extra copy of this title and part 5 and I’m currently running a Worldwide giveaway for them both over on my FB page, click here to enter by midnight GMT on the 11th of November. This book is the fourth in her series of books and my reviews of her other titles can be found HERE as well as my review of Part 5 HERE and she’s already created 2 more books with different titles since these. Part 4 ventures further afield than the first three books and takes us on an exotic journey through India and its animals. The book itself is paperback, nearly 24.5cm square, with a bright yellow cover with beautiful blue foiled accents on a peacock image found inside the book. The spine of the book is glue-bound and therefore a little tricky to get it to lie flat unless you break the spine which could eventually lead to pages loosening. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is white, thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed and only very minimally shadows with the darkest water-based pens and provides a good surface for blending and shading with pencils; alcohol markers should be avoided as they’ll ruin the reverse image and bleed through. The content is all drawn in Masja’s signature paisley style so while the images are Indian themed, they’re very similar to the previous books and existing fans of her work won’t be disappointed. The images contain all manner of things from giraffes and peacocks, to scarabs and elephants, scorpions and florals to parakeets and ponds. The illustrations are very floral and delicate and contain a mixture of scenes and patterns, full page designs and centralised images.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely, it’s very calming and absorbing without requiring too much concentration so it’s a great book for good and bad days. There’s a real variety in the amount of content on each page so you can easily choose a smaller, simpler design to focus on when you’re having a bad day, or a much more complex double-page spread when you’re feeling well. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so you’ll need fairly good vision and fine motor control but certainly not perfect. The intricacy and detail level varies a lot from larger open spaces to much smaller spaces where Masja has filled the creatures and designs with patterns though of course you can always colour over these small sections rather than within each one if you prefer to colour larger areas. There are plenty of spaces where you can create your own backgrounds or add your own imagery if you wish but this is by no means a requirement and the pages will look lovely regardless. Masja’s work is very soft and flowing, there aren’t any straight lines and this really helps to create a natural, calming world that you can escape into whilst colouring. The images have a great mixture of realism and imagination added to them so they look equally good coloured realistically or outlandishly and you could even mix the two throughout the book.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s already a fan of the series, and those who are intrigued and new to it, the images are lovely, very cohesive, and really natural and calming and they look beautiful once splashed with realistic or imaginative colour schemes.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here: https://www.masjaswebshop.nl/

I’m also currently running a giveaway for a UK resident to win a copy of this, and book 5 in the series. The competition runs until midnight GMT on the 11th of November and can be entered here.

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips.

Hello! My First Video in Front of the Camera!

Hello lovelies, friends and family have been suggesting to me for the last 3.5 years to do Vlogs and I’ve never felt confident enough or had any particular desire to do it so I’ve always stuck to just blogging. However, I’m getting a bit bored currently and really want to branch out and get my voice heard just that little bit more and video posts seemed like the best way of doing this and after a fabulous pep talk on the phone with a Uni friend today, I decided to bite the bullet and record something. It was meant to be 2 minutes of me just saying Hi, but it turned into something a lot longer and a bit more informative. Please do give it a watch and let me know what you think of it. I’m hoping to use these videos to expand more on my blog posts, to reach a wider audience and to help you see the face behind mental illness and invisible conditions.  The link to the post about Trichotillomania that I mention in the video can be found here.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) What it's like to live with. Click through to read more!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – What it’s like to live with

I originally wrote this post in October last year (2016) and never got round to posting it, therefore all of the dates and amounts of time are wrong by a year. I haven’t yet written a review of the lightbox that I mention in it but briefly, it definitely helps me, it’s not a cure but it’s significantly better than not using one and it definitely helps with my daytime sleepiness and feeling low and unmotivated, it’s still really tough going but it really takes the edge off and makes things easier.

As winter approaches, a large number of people around the world start to get a sense of dread. The nights start drawing in, it gets colder, darker, cloudier and rainier, and your mood starts to lower. For most people this time of year isn’t a problem, many are looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannukah or Christmas, the changing colours of the leaves, Bonfire Night etc. I look forward to the festivals I celebrate amongst those but mostly, I feel dread and this year it’s been particularly early and particularly pronounced. Most people have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), most of us have heard of someone we know having it and most of us aren’t exactly sympathetic about it. I’ll freely admit that as a long-term (10 years and counting) sufferer of depression, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for people who only felt low for 3 months of the year when I got a jolly helping of it all year round. It sounded a bit like an excuse from people who didn’t like getting out of bed on a cold morning and didn’t fancy venturing out during the darker days. Oh how wrong I was! Despite having depression for a decade, I’ve never been particularly affected by the weather. I was always worse at Christmas but I’m as sure as I can be that this was due to family pressure, coursework deadlines and exam dates looming rather than anything to do with the light levels or temperature outside. I know this because come the middle to end of January, my depression would ease up just a little and I’d be back to muddling along as best as I possibly could. I also remember often being worse during any school/college holidays because I had to spend more time with my family and had less distraction and structure so weather and light levels really didn’t seem to be playing a part.

I happily went about thinking that SAD was a bit of a wishy-washy diagnosis for people who were a bit more sleepy in winter until I got ill and became housebound with my anxiety disorders 2.5 years ago. I’m now approaching my 3rd Winter of being predominantly indoors and I can safely say I’m dreading it. While I’m not diagnosed with SAD, it’s obvious to me and anyone around me that I have it now. This year it’s started kicking in earlier than ever, I’m normally safe until early to mid October but I’m already over 3 weeks in to feeling sleepy, drained and generally crap and this is unlikely to let up until February or even March. For those in any doubt, and for my cocky, accidentally judgemental younger self, SAD is not just feeling a bit sleepy. For me, it involves being barely able to wake up in the morning, even with my usual alarm, and usual amount of sleep, it’s being so painfully tired that I literally can’t face getting up and have to go back to sleep for a bit. It’s being cold. All the time. It’s also being awake for under 3 hours and then being so tired that I’m unable to stay awake and ending up falling asleep sat up and no amount of food, drink, or needing to go to the toilet will stave it off for long. It’s also like someone comes along and stuffs a huge bag of cotton wool inside my head that doesn’t shift for at least 3 months. Everything takes longer. It’s harder to think, harder to concentrate, harder to motivate myself to do, well anything! I also crave certain foods which I never crave the rest of the year, I just want to stuff my face with carbs, sugar, and high fat food, probably in the hopes of hibernating or giving myself energy to actually feel properly awake for once. My body just stops producing heat so that it doesn’t matter how many layers I wear or just how close to looking like the Michelin man I get, I’m producing no heat so the layers just keep in the cold. My feet go blue, as do my hands, my joints seize up and I ache. I find sitting up a struggle because I’m so tired but sleeping doesn’t help, I never feel any better so I just lose hours of my day to napping and get nothing done because I feel so groggy. Then the depression kicks you hard. Everything is so much harder and you start wondering what the point of doing any of it is. I know that I’ll be lucky if I get through half of the short list of tasks I’ve set myself each day which means each day I fail. Each day my to-do list gets longer because I’m so unproductive. Nothing helps, not eating, not sleeping, not drinking, not forcing myself to get things done. It’s relentless!

As you can imagine, I’m very keen to discover anything that might help with alleviating any or all of the symptoms. Sadly, most of the treatments for SAD are the same as for depression and are therefore things that I’ve already tried and that either haven’t worked, or have made me significantly worse so it’s not looking overly hopeful for my feeling better any time soon. The NHS website recommends being outside as much as possible (not particularly possible for me), sitting near windows (I do this as much as possible), regular exercise (again, not especially easy for me) and trying to avoid stress (yeah right!). More medical treatments include medication which I react very badly to, therapy that I’ve previously had and that there are months long waiting lists for and light therapy which has mixed evidence regarding its effectiveness so there aren’t any ideal options!

I hope my description of how it affects me will help other disbelievers to realise how debilitating it can be and that it’s a condition that has a long list of symptoms that are really difficult to deal with, I’ve certainly had my eyes opened after suffering from it for the past 2 years and entering my third! Various members of my family now also suffer badly in the Winter and while none of us are diagnosed, again, it’s very clear that they have SAD too. My mum very kindly bought me a light box which is recommended for the treatment (not cure) of SAD and I’m now using it, as is my boyfriend, and two other family members have them too. I’m tentatively optimistic about it as it definitely seems to be helping me and I will write a full review in a few weeks’ time once we’ve all had a longer chance to use it and decide if it’s the light or external factors that may be helping us. All 4 of us have very different symptoms, diagnoses and lives, as well as being different ages and genders so we should be a pretty good cross-section of people to test it. I’ll report back soon. If anyone is interested in reading more or testing out a lightbox themselves then below is a link to the one we’re all trying out as it’s one that’s cheaper than most while still being approved as effective and having great reviews. I have no affiliation with the company and will be (as always) providing a full and totally honest review, the link below is an affiliate link which means that a small percentage of any sales made through it will be paid to me and help towards the running of my blog, I never promote items that I don’t believe in and would never give false hope to sufferers of what I know, from my own lived experience, to be hugely debilitating conditions. If you get one then please do let me know how you get on with it and whether it helps you!

Amazon UK – Lightbox 10,000 Lux

 

Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) is illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is in an artist’s edition format but this is the only format it’s available in, it’s not a full-size colouring book or postcard book. It is identical in format to the artist’s editions (tavelboks) of Hanna’s other books, Daydreams (Dagdrommar), Summer Nights (Sommarnatt) and Magical Dawn (Magisk Gryning) and therefore my review is mostly identical apart from the content section and the photos, skip to paragraph 2 for information about the content. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are a pale lemon colour with a black and white line drawing of one of the portraits (found inside) with gold foiling accents on the front and back. The book has a black tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The 20 illustrations are all portraits of women and 15 of these have been chosen from Hanna’s 4 previous colouring books and 5 have been newly created for this book specifically. The images Hanna has chosen are a really good cross-section and seem to be some of the favourites of the colouring community, none of the previously published images have been printed in artist’s edition format so while it’s not all new content, it is all newly published in the single-sided format printed on card. There are a range of different portraits from two women together to single women face on, some in side profile and others showing a whole person. Each image contains various different objects and accessories including gems, metal, jewellery, mushrooms, flowers, birds, shells, moths, crowns, and candles, there is a really good variety despite them all being portraits of women. Those images taken from previous colouring books are all printed the same size as the originals so if you’re able to colour those, you’ll also be able to colour these with no difficulty. The pictures would all look amazing framed for yourself or gifted to others and because the faces are mostly quite large they’re great to practice skin tone colouring on and really push yourself out of your comfort zone. All of the images are pictured below so you can check that you’re happy with the choices and see if your favourites are included.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s very absorbing and ideal for those who want to colour realistically and learn how to colour people. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary a little throughout from medium to high and this is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and objects makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty but unlike many of Hanna’s images that consist of lots of component parts, these are all portraits and scenes and therefore they don’t have such natural stopping points for those wanting to just colour in short bursts, you can still colour just one flower or just the eyes but it’s not so easy to come to an obvious point to stop, however, if you don’t mind stopping part-way through an image then this book would be ideal for using on good and bad days. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book to those of you who are already fans of Hanna’s work and have her previous books and really want to colour more people, while 75% of the artwork can be found in Hanna’s previous books, this gives you the opportunity to colour those pages again and use different colour schemes or wetter media without ruining a reverse image and you can also frame them for wonderful gifts or beautiful decoration for your own home. This book is ideal for those who use wet media and alcohol markers and the illustrations are a great cross-section of Hanna’s portraits.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available from Printworks. A Dutch edition will be published in March 2018 by BBNC Uitgevers and it will be called Karakter.

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a White Sakuara Gelly Roll Gel Pen. I used the skin tone tutorial from Colorist’s Special Effects by Helen Elliston.
Buy on Amazon UK – Colorist’s Special Effects
Buy on Book Depository – goo.gl/CrS7DU