Day-to-Day Life With Anxiety

Today I thought I’d give you some specific insight into what it’s like to live with severe anxiety. I often talk in sweeping statements and generalisations and I think people don’t realise what the nitty-gritty, day-to-day life is like because it’s not always rolling from one panic attack to another, it’s much more subtle, specific and random than that. I’m currently going through yet another very bad period of anxiety. I’m never really sure when I’m not going through one of these and the only way of describing the last 6.5 years is bad and worse. I don’t often notice the times when it’s bad until it gets worse and then I can recognise that what preceded was indeed “just” bad but it’s not better and worse. Like pain if you’re still feeling it will always hurt, it’s more and less, but not better. So I’m anxious and more anxious through periods of weeks and months.

As I said, currently I’m going through a particularly anxious period but it doesn’t necessarily look like you’d expect. It does include the typical worrying for hours on end about everything my brain can possibly imagine. It also includes having panic attacks about justifiable things, as well as not. But the things that you’re probably not aware of are what I want to talk about here.

  • It’s being tired all the time but so wired and highly strung that you can’t sleep.
  • It’s being exhausted and unable to keep your eyes open during the day and then your mind racing at 100mph at night and almost being too frightened to go to bed because it’s so severe.
  • It’s feeling sick and a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach but with no reason or cause.
  • It’s your brain constantly scanning for whatever the threat is and then it picking something at random and fixating on that until it scans again and finds something new.
  • It’s not being able to remember things or take in new information.
  • It’s reading the same paragraph over and over again and knowing you’ve read those words and willing yourself to concentrate and take it in this time and still having no idea what it says.
  • It’s feeling full of completely useless energy and almost buzzing but your brain feeling like a frantic fly that just constantly throws itself at a pane of glass despite being next to an open window.
  • It’s forgetting your medication, day after day, and never managing to put two and two together and realise that you’ve forgotten it and that’s why you’re feeling extra wired and your heart is beating out of your chest.
  •  It’s being hungry and having so many choices for what to eat but spending hours not deciding because none of those things make sense in your head anymore.
  • It’s not being able to multi-task and having to mute the TV or turn it off because it’s too distracting while you’re reading a text or realising that you’ve missed 10 minutes of your programme because you’ve gone temporarily deaf whilst scrolling through Facebook.
  • It’s having so many hobbies or projects that you could continue or start and not being able to pick one.
  • It’s watching stuff you don’t even like on TV rather than stuff you’d love on catch-up or DVD because you can’t commit or decide on those and spending hours watching mind-numbing stuff just because it’s on.
  • It’s aimlessly walking from room to room in the hopes that inspiration will strike and it never doing so.
  • It’s looking out the window and watching the world go by, everyone having a purpose and you just wasting day upon day like this.
  • It’s flicking through recipe books desperately wanting to make something knowing full-well you can’t decide and aren’t capable of making anything much more complicated than toast.
  • It’s having responsibilities or ambitions and watching them fade away.
  • It’s having dreams and goals and watching them fade too.
  • It’s going without meals or eating snacks instead because you just can’t decide what to make and you can’t work out how to do it anymore.
  • It’s wishing that you could have certain meals and knowing that you can’t because there’s no one there to make it for you and you’re not able to do it yourself.
  • It’s losing even the most basic routines that you’ve built up and forgetting to make enough drinks over the day.
  • It’s running out of crockery because you didn’t time the washing-up well enough.
  • It’s remembering and forgetting multiple times a day to do the same chore or send that email or message and realising at 11pm that yet again you’ve not done it.
  • It’s writing lists of tasks to do in your diary each week and writing over 50% of that list again the following week and the week after because you’ve still not done the tasks.
  • It’s forgetting to look at the lists and feeling like screaming because this is so basic and you still can’t do it.
  • It’s checking and re-checking things because you can’t remember the answer and you stop trusting yourself.
  • It’s your tinnitus ramping up to deafening volumes.
  • It’s hearing your neighbours going about their daily lives through the walls and floors and feeling so alone and lonely.
  • It’s wondering how you ever functioned normally and how you ever got a degree when you can’t make a roast dinner or read a book anymore.
  • It’s not being able to write a shopping list.
  • It’s feeling sick at the thought of a timetable because you know that’ll just increase your feelings of failure when you inevitably don’t stick to it.
  • It’s wanting to scream and shout and cry and just sitting in numbness.
  • It’s wishing that you’d die and then instantly panicking and taking it back because you feel selfish and unworthy and you don’t want to cause others pain but wishing that this pain that you’re living with would end.
  • It’s wondering about suicide and realising that you don’t actually want to die you just don’t want to have to live like this anymore and you can’t see a way through or a way out.
  • It’s wondering how you can possibly make someone understand what this is like and then worrying that you will because you know how much it’ll scare them.
  • It’s being paralysed by fear.
  • It’s being mentally stopped from even starting anything because you’re so worried about failing even though you know that not even attempting things is a type of failing.
  • It’s wondering if this is it and if it’ll ever get better.
  • It’s wondering what you did to deserve this.
  • It’s wearing the same outfit days in a row because you don’t know how to choose a new one. It’s not being able to make decisions of any kind.
  • It’s not being able to concentrate.
  • It’s scrolling through Instagram and seeing so many craft projects that you’d love to try and never even trying to start one.
  • It’s being unable to work and having no responsibilities and still feeling like you have no time to do anything and never really ever getting anything done.
  • It’s wishing you could be someone else.
  • It’s feeling guilty all the time.
  • It’s feeling insignificant and over-noticeable all at once.
  • It’s feeling like a burden and wishing you could disappear.
  • It’s being desperate to make a difference, to help people and knowing that even with your limitations you could do it and never quite working out how or where to start.
  • It’s promising yourself over and over again that you’ll change and do things differently and it never happening.

So there you have it, a snapshot into the day-to-day difficulties of life with an anxiety disorder. That list is why it’s so difficult to explain succinctly what it’s like to live with. I don’t have particularly specific sources of anxiety, there are groups of situations I experience huge anxiety about including anything social and anywhere that I could get trapped but those are so huge, wide-ranging and general that it’s hard to give an accurate or detailed picture of what life each day is like and why I’m so unable to do things like sort out my own meals on a regular basis or fill my day productively, the list above hopefully gives more insight into why those things and so much more are so difficult.

Why it’s Not OK Not to be OK – World Mental Health Day 2020

It’s World Mental Health Day and again, I’m not sure what to say or where to start. Often I let it pass without words because nothing I can think of to say feels like enough to warrant even starting. But I don’t want to be silent on a topic that’s so important to me, on a day when the world talks loudly and tells us what we all should and shouldn’t be doing regarding mental health and mental illness.

The problem is that most people like me who are mentally ill and who’ve been trying to fight stigma for more years than we care to remember are tired. Really tired. We’re tired of the narrative surrounding this day and mental illness generally. We’re constantly told to be kind and it’s ok not to be ok but quite honestly, the latter makes me want to vomit. Because honestly? It’s not ok not to be ok. I deserve more than that. I get that the phrase is saying that we shouldn’t feel ashamed, we shouldn’t be stigmatised, we should feel like it’s alright to talk about our bad days but despite the progress that’s been made, there is still such a long way to go. And quite frankly, I don’t want it to just be accepted that I don’t feel ok. I want people to be angry that I’m left to feel this way, to suffer, often needlessly. I want people to fight for funding, for treatment, for services to be opened and started up rather than defunded and closed. I want people to be outraged that our waiting lists for help are months, if not years long. If that was any other patients there’d be protests or riots, if it was others being told to just wait on the medication or therapy that would keep them alive, people would be up in arms but because mental illness is still stigmatised and dismissed, it’s viewed as lesser, less important, less life-threatening, less dangerous and far more self-inflicted and able to be controlled by the sufferer than physical conditions. It’s not until people spend extended periods of time with someone who’s very unwell and able to articulate their experience that people start to understand what it’s actually like and what we actually go through.

World Mental Health Day just seems to have turned into companies, governments and people in society loudly shouting that people like me should talk, we should reach out, we should get help and in some ways that’s true but if you actually look at the reality of those suggestions, you’ll realise why we’re so tired and feel so helpless. We can’t get help when we ask for it. We’re turned away because we’re not ill enough or too ill, because we have complex diagnoses or damaging symptoms that services aren’t equipped to deal with. So few people can meet those super specific criteria and more and more of us are falling through the cracks. I’m currently on a waiting list that could take 2 years to reach the top of just to get assessed for a diagnosis that is unlikely to get me any treatment. I’ve agreed to be assessed because it’s literally the only thing I’m now being offered and it could help explain why previous treatment options have worked so poorly for me. But then what? I’ve not really been told what will happen if I get diagnosed, or if it’s discovered I don’t have this condition. What’s very likely to happen in the meantime is that the Adult Mental Health Team will discharge me because they’re not “treating” me currently and they can’t offer anything else that’s suitable for me. I’m much too ill to engage in any of the “treatments” they offer and so I’m likely to get discharged. In what universe is that acceptable? In what other branch of medicine would someone so commonly and easily be deemed too ill to be treated and discharged to deal with it alone, with no support and not even someone to talk to about it?

We have come a long way, even just in my lifetime and in so many ways that’s fantastic but when I look at the issues we still face, the stigma we still encounter and the appalling lack of access to suitable treatment and support, it’s clear that we have far further to go than the government and wider society would like you to believe. There are so many “inspirational” stories, posts and quotes going around, as there are every year but they simplify the mental illness experience to a ridiculous degree. I’m a walking contradiction and I reckon most people with mental illnesses are. I’m incapable but I’m also capable, I need help but I’m independent, I can’t look after myself but I can look after others, I’m incredibly anxious but I’m a brilliant problem-solver, there are so many things that I can’t do but there are so many things that I can and I don’t need to be written off just because I’m ill. I do, however, need help and treatment and “talking about it” isn’t going to cut it, I need actual support and therapy but these aren’t being offered. I’ve seen lots of posts today about these issues from mentally ill people so I definitely think the message is getting out but I’ve also seen so many posts suggesting that we just need to reach out and talk to someone and actually, when you’re very ill, that’s nigh on impossible to do, especially when professional help isn’t available. Rather than the onus being on us, if you’re able to then please check in with anyone you’re worried about, anyone you know is ill or struggling or who you’ve not heard from in a while because they might not feel able or even worthy enough to reach out and you’ll never know the good you could be doing by reaching in. Being mentally ill is a very lonely experience and it can become all the more isolating by people who don’t understand the suffering telling us to “just” reach out, talk about it or seek help when those things are often impossible to do. Be our ally, be our friend and help fight our corner because without funding and an increase in services we’re heading for a pandemic of mental illness and you could be one of the ones realising that not being ok is far from ok.

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black line-drawn flower, leaf and butterfly design on the front and back with it printed in reverse, white on black, on the inside covers, the front cover has gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable pale blue card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance.

This planner runs for 12 months, from 28th of December 2020 to the 2nd of January 2022. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2021 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s eight books, images from all eight (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, World of Flowers, and How to Draw Inky Wonderlands) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2022 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2020 dates and a full page of 2022 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

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

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead for the whole year. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2021, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. There is no skull for Halloween this year. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Coloring Planner

Video Flick-Through and Review

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s drawings and this time, rather than being from one book, they’re from every title she’s produced so far. This calendar doesn’t include any new images. There is one illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2020. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size.

The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens and watercolours but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners (in previous calendars) and no bleed-through or shadowing with Derwent Inktense pencils activated with water. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the books so this is a great purchase for those of you who find Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils in a previous edition. The butterfly image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Fibre-tip pens which didn’t bleed or shadow. The real-time colour along video can be found linked below.

The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages) or, use a Christmas tree hanger or unbent paperclip. The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title. My only issue with the whole calendar is the foiling from the front cover, it’s embossed which therefore leaves debossed sections on the first image (the one I coloured) which is printed on the inside cover above the 4-month 2019 overview, it’s fine to colour if you use wet media like pens or Derwent Inktense activated with water or other watercolour media but if you use regular pencils then you’re likely to struggle because the colour doesn’t apply evenly over these sections and looks like you’ve coloured over something, a similar effect to when you do brass or bark rubbing so just be mindful of this when colouring the first image.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. World of Flowers returned to Johanna’s usual high levels of intricacy and so the slightly larger size printing is a huge bonus to give you a little extra wiggle-room and ability to add blending and shading. There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there is some leeway when colouring.

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here: Amazon UK – Inky Wonderlands 2021 Coloring Wall Calendar

Full video flick-through and review

Real-Time Colour Along

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Stabilo Fibre-Tips Pens.

Update – September 2020

It’s been an absolute age since I last wrote a proper update. As time passes, I feel like I have less and less to say and yet, so often, I’m desperate to write, to say something, to try to make a difference but I remain silent. I can’t even tell you how many half-written blog posts I’ve started and abandoned. They’re all saved, they all start off with promise, with a point or a purpose and before I know it my confidence dies again and the words dry up and I post nothing. It means that every time I do attempt to post I feel the need to explain, justify, and apologise because I never intended to be so sporadic about posting. I planned to show up regularly, for this to be my space that I’d carved out to inform, educate and share my experiences with the world. But somehow I always talk myself out of it.

However, today I’m here and hoping it’ll be different and that this won’t be left unfinished and saved and never seeing the light of day again. There are so many things going on in my life that it’s hard to even know where to start but the thing that made me open the document and start typing was that I’m getting worse again. I’m sure it won’t last like this, it happens regularly, almost always when there’s way too much difficult stuff going on in my personal life for me to handle, but it never feels temporary at the time. It’s always a shock when I get worse because my daily life is challenging at best and I live with some level of symptoms every day. But when I deteriorate everything is ramped up. Today for example, I’ve had 3 panic attacks and cried twice. Today’s not a special or challenging day, nothing was planned, nothing happened, but I’ve spent the whole day just feeling completely unable to cope. For weeks now I’ve felt like I’m drowning. Most of my waking moments I feel like I can’t get enough air and my sleep is worse again. I feel stressed and on edge the whole time and I’m so irritable and at times I’m becoming aggressive because I’ve just had enough of everything.

One of the biggest contributors to this deterioration is that I finally applied for disability benefits. I’ve put it off for 6 years because I’m so aware of how awful the process is but I was finally persuaded into applying in February. It’s been a long and arduous process. A 40-page form to fill out where I had to detail all the things I can’t do, the things I need help with and the ways in which I fail to function. 4 months later I had an assessment on the phone which was terrifying but I thought it had gone well. 2 weeks after that I got my decision letter through saying not only was I not entitled to anything but a whole load of lies, assumptions and errors which just felt like a personal attack. While I know the system isn’t personal, having it implied that you’re making up the severity of your condition when you’ve been disbelieved about your suffering for two thirds of your life is immensely damaging. It absolutely floored me and sent me into a tailspin. I’ll be completely honest, it made me seriously consider suicide. Thankfully I was able to talk myself round and my determination to fight has returned and so I’m going to do my damndest to get what I know I’m entitled to but my god has it made me ill just trying to keep my head above water. On top of multiple other horrible circumstances I’m living through right now, this was the last thing we needed.

As ever, it just feels like it’s one thing after another. It’s relentless. The anxiety is so ramped up that I’m regularly having panic attacks because of ridiculous things making me jump. Examples just in the last fortnight have included Joe getting too close to me, a seed blowing across the floor, Joe’s shadow, my own hair, the window cleaner, a fly, Joe speaking unexpectedly, and the remote control getting knocked. I spend most of the time, nearly every day at the moment feeling like I can’t cope and wishing I could just sleep. I’m so exhausted and utterly burnt out but I’m lucky if I get 7 hours of broken sleep a night at the moment. My concentration is absolutely shot and I can focus on almost nothing. It’s got so bad that I tune out during conversations or TV programmes that I’m watching because I just forget to listen. My attention span is a few minutes at best so I can do almost nothing. I’ve not done any colouring for weeks. I’ve had embroidery threads out for a project for 2 weeks and I still haven’t even cut the fabric or transferred the design. My brain feels like it’s running at a hundred miles an hour, constantly seeking out new sources of anxiety and fear but never able to settle into anything useful. I long to do one of my hobbies, to be able to do something other than mindlessly scrolling through social media, taking nothing in and just intensifying my loneliness. For weeks I’ve thought multiple times every day about taking diazepam to take the edge off and try to get through a little better because this is just unbearable. It gets so bad that it feels like it’s killing me from the inside out. I know this must sound dramatic but honestly, this doesn’t even capture the true severity of how intolerable and unending this feels. I guess it’s little wonder that in the midst of all of this, receiving an assessment saying that I’m basically fine was the final straw to me being able to fight this latest relapse.

I’ve not really worked out what point I’m trying to make in this post. I always try to have a purpose for them, a specific thing to say or message to impart but right now, I can’t think of one and I’m not sure I started with one in the first place. I guess I just wanted to share what this is like, to explain that 6 years on, it’s often still like the first time, that I still go through periods of my panic attacks ramping up to multiple times a day with no specific triggers or reasons and the little functioning I’ve built up gets torn down again. I always try to give a full and honest picture here of what it’s like to live with these conditions and this is part of that. I can’t go into detail about most of the reasons why things are so hard right now, perhaps I’ll be able to in the future but we’re in for a very rough ride and I’m already really wishing I could get off. I’m sick to death of the existential dread that seems to just shroud me at the moment. I want to breathe normally and freely again and not keep feeling like my heart is about to stop or the oxygen is running out. I know I’ll get through this, I always do but I wish the process got easier and quicker.

Written on August the 27th.

Let Down in Lockdown

Yesterday I got an unexpected phonecall. It was a private number. That always fills me with dread. What I really wasn’t expecting was that during a global pandemic, while my country is on lockdown, my mental health service would phone to discharge me. A lot of what ensued is a blur. I was on my back foot from the start and was just completely stunned that a stranger was calling me and trying to discharge me back to my GP. I’ve not been checked up on during this crisis so when this woman introduced herself and where she was calling from, I was immediately really pleased and impressed that they were phoning to see how I was. They weren’t. In fact, I don’t think I got asked any questions about how I am, how or if I’m coping or if I’m getting enough support. She went straight in for the kill and said they were planning on discharging me. I then spent nearly 20 minutes trying to find out why, what that would mean, how I can stay on their books, what criteria I have to meet, all the while trying not to burst into tears and have a panic attack.

More and more unexpected information came out during this phonecall including the fact that my psychiatrist retired in September or October which I’d not been told. I apparently should have been written to by him but even she couldn’t find a record of that letter on their system. He had, seemingly wrongly, promised to keep me on their books until I was well enough to attend treatment in the future. He’d apparently promised this to a lot of patients, all of whom I’m assuming are getting the same out-of-the-blue phonecall passing them back to their GP with no warning or support. It means that I’ll no longer be allowed to have visits from my support worker, the only professional involved directly in my care who actually sees me and knows what I’m going through and how damned hard I’ve worked despite the lack of visible progress or improvement and who continues to support and boost my confidence and self-esteem and treat me like a valuable human being. She has to work under a clinical lead and I’m not allowed one of those because I don’t fit the criteria and so she won’t be allowed to work with me either.

I know that mental health teams are increasingly underfunded. Before all of this, I worked in one. I know all too painfully the limitations of the services, the understaffing and the squeezing from all angles. I’ve tried to make myself as little of a burden as possible on the NHS and specifically on my local mental health team. I’ve not agreed to appointments unless I really believed I’d be well enough to attend. I stopped booking them when it was making me worse and I was becoming unreliable at attending because I didn’t want to waste appointments that could be given to other people. I didn’t agree to have therapy that I’ve previously had that I knew wouldn’t help me and that again, I wasn’t well enough to attend. All I asked was to see my support worker for an hour every couple of months and to be kept on their books, under a named psychiatrist, so that I didn’t have to wait weeks to be re-referred in the future by a GP surgery where I’ve met none of the doctors and the last doctor I was under kept me on a medication that my psychiatrist described as basically poisoning me with horrendous side effects.

Oddly, this phonecall came the day after I had a completely unexpected letter from the same team telling me that an appointment had been booked for me to have a telephone consultation with a new psychiatrist. I have no idea who booked this or why and the lady on the phone yesterday wasn’t aware until I highlighted it and she checked my records and even she didn’t actually know why it had been booked. I was already stressed and anxious because of this random appointment but it also really upset me and made me pretty angry because I begged to have telephone appointments 5 years ago so that I could still engage with support but not make myself really ill trying to go to appointments. I was always flat-out refused this and told that it was completely impossible. I know that we’re living through “unprecedented times” right now and that people are having to change and adapt their work in order to maintain services during this pandemic but I cannot for the life of me work out how it’s possible, doable, and acceptable to have telephone appointments with a psychiatrist now, when a few years ago it was completely impossible even though that meant that I had to stop having any support from a trained professional because I was too ill to do it in the way that they offered.

All I kept being told yesterday was that their service only offers time-limited, goal-specific help, none of which I’ve ever been well to engage with because the offerings are so limited and are all aimed at people who are much less ill than I am. All I’ve ever been offered (apart from medication which we’ve all agreed I can’t and shouldn’t take again) is 6 sessions of CBT and group art therapy run by a support worker, the same job role I had when I was working. Yesterday, I asked what people like me are meant to do, those of us who are too ill to engage with what they offer and she said there were community treatments, all of which she acknowledged required you to be well enough to physically attend. I’m severely agoraphobic. I can’t go out. So the upshot seemed to be that there’s nothing for me, no service, no treatment, no one to keep an eye on me or make sure I’m not spiralling. No one unrelated to me who I can talk to about how this is actually all making me feel or what it’s like to live like this which actually leaves me with no one to talk to about that because I just can’t bear putting that on people around me. My social network has reduced and reduced over the years of my illness and each time I’m struggling, there are fewer people to talk to and I feel further and further away from them and from normality. I’m good at getting through the day-to-day stuff, I’m great at ignoring my limitations and working within them to the point where I sometimes forget that I’m ill and often forget what I’m not capable of until I’m rudely reminded by circumstance and it all comes flooding back. I don’t have people to talk to about how frightened I am, about how much my belief and hope are fading as each month passes. It’s not because I don’t have people close to me, it’s because I can see how painful it is for them when I talk about these things and I know that what often keeps them going is my grit and determination and continuing belief that I’ll get better. I don’t have the heart to tell them that I don’t know if I believe that anymore and that although I mostly do think that I’ll be better, albeit not cured, one day, that image is increasingly vague and I’ve got no idea of how to get from here to there, what to do to make it happen or when it may occur. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be 6 months from turning 30 and still severely agoraphobic and unemployed. I know I achieve a lot and this isn’t meant to be a pity-party but it’s very hard to keep yourself going, day after day, year after year, when you have to fight for even the basics of medical support and then have that randomly threatened with being removed.

The only reason I’m not now discharged is because of this mysterious appointment that’s been arranged for me. She eventually agreed that I could speak to the new psychiatrist and see what he says and that we’d “discuss it”. So now, I get to spend the next month, waiting and trying to work out how or even if I should try and persuade them to keep me on their books. Because even if I manage to stay this time, how long will it last? It will always be hanging over me. They offer me next to no support and no treatment anyway so in many ways I won’t be any worse off without them. But it feels like I’ll be even more alone, even more adrift and cut off from reality, normality, and help. It makes me sad and angry that people like me are just abandoned. That we’re so ill we can’t function and are essentially punished for that by having accessible treatment denied. So many people have the opposite problem of needing help but not being so ill that it’s deemed necessary and having to wait until they deteriorate before anyone will treat them. Increasingly it seems that there’s a right way of being mentally ill and more and more of us are failing to do it that way and then get denied treatment. I can’t make my illness fit in with the criteria they set, I can’t get myself well enough to attend the treatment that they say will get me better and so rather than bring any of it to me or even keep it paused until a miracle happens and I can get myself there, they decide that I look bad on their books and need to go. I wonder how many people out there exist as I do? I don’t think we’re even counted. They know how many people have a diagnosis, how many people went through therapy, how many people had a psychiatrist. But once I’m discharged, I won’t exist anywhere as a statistic. I won’t be counted as one of the people they failed, I won’t be listed somewhere as one of the people who was so severely ill that they couldn’t be treated. I’ll just disappear. Even statistics for houseboundness don’t seem to exist. I’ve looked and looked over the years and never found anything that even attempts to give numbers to how many people are physically or mentally ill enough that they’re confined to the house. I know there are many of us. The sheer number of people who, well-before lockdown or Coronavirus, were arriving at my blog because they wanted advice or help to cope with being housebound, is huge and I’m just one blogger with a small following and a pretty small reach. There must be thousands of us. But we’re all hidden away and mostly we’re forgotten about and just left. Lockdown has shown just how hard living your life indoors is to the masses. People are going stir crazy. They can’t work out how to entertain themselves, how to stop eating every 30 minutes, how to work, how to get medical help. This has been my life for 6 years and I’ll tell you for nothing, there’s never been a better time to be housebound because of the sheer number of free resources that have been released. So many things have adapted and been made accessible so that life can continue despite us all being indoors and still it’s unbearable for many people. Spare a thought for those of us for whom this is our life permanently, who don’t get to do PE with Joe or have church services via Zoom or watch Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in our lounge the rest of the time. The majority of the time, these things are completely inaccessible to people like me and now even mental health treatment, in the midst of a pandemic, is being withdrawn because I don’t fit into the box neatly enough. As yet, I’m undecided about what to ask for in this appointment and whether I’ll put the energy into trying to fight or just give in this time because as seasoned readers of my blog will know, absolutely every step of the way, I’ve had to fight to get any treatment or support and I’m so unbelievably tired of doing that and being let down. I always thought that I’d get through this on my own, in my own time and I have no idea if that’s true but it looks like that’s the only option I’m left with and I’ll just have to hope that one day, the solution will reveal itself and I’ll somehow get from here to “better”.

6 Years’ Agoraphobic – Coping with Social Distancing, Self-Isolation and being Housebound: Advice for COVID-19, Anxiety and Beyond

For 6 years, I’ve been virtually housebound suffering from severe Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety. It means I’m in a fairly unique and experienced position to advise about the dos and don’ts of being indoors for a prolonged period of time. Below is a long list of suggestions that have helped me and that I hope will help you to cope and keep occupied.

Do remember that this will have an end point. Much as it’s not clear when that end point will be, there will indeed be one and it’s important to focus on that and not get too bogged down or pessimistic. For those who don’t know me, I’ll point out here that I’m not an optimist, nor am I a fan of most self-help stuff because I find it patronising and overly simplistic. I’m not involving myself in the medical side of things because there are plenty of articles already available on this and I’m not a medical expert, but I am an expert in how not to go stir-crazy when cooped up indoors for an indefinite period of time, for reasons beyond your control.

1. Create and Keep a Routine – Getting up and having a routine are absolutely key to keeping focused, motivated and having any sense of what time of day it is. You’d be amazed how quickly those things fade if you don’t stick to at least a few basic plans each day. The absolute musts are getting up, going to bed and eating at set times as those all help to regulate your body clock. Getting dressed and having activities planned for the day are also great for helping you be ready to tackle things and motivate you to get stuff done rather than lounging in front of the TV all day. Writing out a timetable can be really helpful, as well as a list of suggestions for activities and tasks to do if you get bored or can’t think of something to do at a specific time.

2. Limit Accessing of News Updates – It can be really tempting in times of crisis and uncertainty to want to be as informed as humanly possible, all the time. Stop. It’s SO bad for your mental health, won’t lead to you being more informed and is likely to just make you panic and feel sick. Choose your news sources wisely! Don’t take notice of the umpteen viral social media posts written by so-called experts that are constantly contradicting each other and spreading misinformation and worry. Pick one or even a few specific times a day where you will check on these reliable sources and then avoid the rest of the time. If you find this too much, then keep reducing down until you reach a happy medium of informed and calm-ish. If it’s all too much and you want to hunker down, then feel free to avoid all news and stay in your happy place. Do whatever it takes to stay sane and coping!

3. Be Prepared but Don’t Panic Buy! – We’re all well aware of how ludicrous the situation is in the shops right now (at least in the UK) and it’s important to be prepared and to have in the things you need for if lock-down happens or you have to self-isolate. Having enough food and supplies in is really useful but please, please don’t panic buy because it’s stopping everyone from being able to be prepared and causing widespread anxiety. If you’re able to get food in, then a great idea is to batch cook some meals to freeze so that if you become sick, you can eat nutritious food, won’t need to go shopping for a while and can just defrost and reheat instead of cooking when you really won’t feel like it. You do not need 1500 toilet rolls, they don’t taste nice or help your lungs! Make sure you eat healthily and regularly and stock up on some treats too – try to avoid eating all of them on the first day of quarantine!

4. Finances – Money is becoming a huge worry for many. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand and work out exactly where your family stand and look into what help is available to you. Making a spreadsheet of current expenditure and income can help you identify areas to cut back on, as well as showing you your budget. This puts you in the best position to act quickly and pre-emptively if things are going to worsen for you and could help you avert a crisis. The finance situation is different for everyone and changing daily so keep researching and applying for all of the support available to you and remember that even small changes can build up to make a big difference.

5. Social Contact – While we’re all having to avoid physical contact with people outside our household (and inside for those self-isolating), we don’t have to be isolated from all contact. Phone calls, emails, video calls and group chats are just some of the ways in which we can continue to socialise. Talk to people about how you and they are feeling, give each other tips of how to pass the time and talk about anything other than the virus when you can! Check in with others who you think might be struggling and rekindle friendships that fizzled out due to lack of time – there’s an abundance of that right now. Setting up cyber groups is another way of doing joint activities whilst being socially distant, things like film nights, book groups, cocktail evenings, lunch dates, debates and more can all be done via video chats or cyber groups to keep you involved and connected with each other, sharing activities and combatting boredom.

6. Plan for the Future – During scary times, it can feel all-consuming and never-ending but this will pass and there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In order to keep focused on that and to keep you getting through all of the difficulties and things you currently can’t do, rather than focusing on what you’re missing, put all of those things and the things you’re looking forward to doing once this is all over, into a list. Keep adding to it each time you think of something new and it’ll give you all sorts of ideas for how to fill your time once this period of isolation and restriction comes to an end. It’s highly likely to increase your enjoyment and gratitude for the ability to do those things once you’re finally able to again. I never get over the novelty of feeling the wind on my face having spent the majority of the last 6 years indoors.

7. Use this as an Opportunity – You’re likely to suddenly have a lot of time on your hands and while that might seem like a dream come true, the novelty quickly wears off. Rather than letting the boredom set in, use this as an opportunity to get tasks done that you’ve been putting off, to learn new things, to start something that you’ve always wanted to and even to re-evaluate your priorities and make changes to your life. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of life and forget that we can change things we don’t like and put more time into the things we do and now is a perfect opportunity to start making that happen.

8. Look After your Mental Health – This is crucial! A lot of us who have mental illnesses, have strategies and coping mechanisms to keep our symptoms at bay and enforced time at home may be restricting your ability to do some of those things. Even those who don’t have mental illness may well have things they do that keep them calm, focused and able to cope well with daily life and being indoors for prolonged periods of time is likely to have quite a profound effect on your mental wellbeing. My key suggestions would be to talk to others and tell them how you’re feeling, share tips on coping and activities to pass the time and set goals together that you can help each other achieve. Being at home can be extremely lonely and isolating but you don’t have to be mentally alone, there are a lot of us out there all in this together so head to your contact list or social media to find others to connect with and you’ll realise you’re not alone in finding this hard and that might just make it a bit easier. If things get really bad then reach out for professional help, it’s still accessible especially over the phone and online, so don’t suffer in silence!

9. Help Others – If you’re feeling bored or have any skills, services or supplies that you could share with others in order to help them then do it! Helping others is a great pastime as well as building community spirit and connectedness. In times like these, even small gestures can make such a huge difference and they help us see the wider picture of us all being in this together. Obviously, maintain social distancing whilst doing this.

10. Be Creative – As you’re likely to soon find out, there truly are only so many hours of daytime TV and trips to the kitchen to check the fridge for snacks, that one can take before wanting to climb the walls. Therefore, creating, rather than consuming, is a great way of getting out of that cycle and making your day better. It doesn’t have to be drawing or painting, it can be literally anything from writing a poem to building a shed, taking photographs to making up a dance. Anything that involves you making something or changing it and using your hands and your brain to produce something, will do just fine and it’s great for giving you a sense of achievement too because you can see the result of your efforts at the end.

11. Keep Fit – You might have to get a bit inventive here and try not to annoy your neighbours (especially those of us in flats/apartments) but getting your heart rate up and your blood pumping is a sure-fire way to help clear your head and get rid of excess energy and anxiety. If you have home exercise equipment then use that, if you’ve got a garden then get out there and run, play with a ball or even skip. For those of us who only have indoor space we’re a little more limited but thanks to the wonders of the internet you can find free workouts, yoga and Pilates tutorials, dance classes and more. You could do strength training if you’ve got weights and if not, get out some of those stock-piled tins of beans and use them instead. If motivation is tricky, then get your friends involved and hold each other to account or even video chat whilst you all do the same workout and cheer each other on!

12. Avoid Substances and Bad Habits – It’s a really tough time for everyone and it can be all too tempting to look for ways of escaping difficult feelings but leaning on substances or bad habits will only harm you more in the long-run. Try to avoid alcohol, comfort eating and any other self-destructive behaviours and talk to others if you’re struggling to manage. Keeping busy is the key to getting through as unscathed as possible.

13. Free Activities and Resources – Companies and individuals are offering free services, resources and activities, with new ones popping up daily for kids and adults worldwide. There’s everything from fitness routines to tours of zoos and museums, education and language-learning resources for all ages and abilities, colouring pages, recipes, courses and qualifications and so much more. Now is the time to start looking into all of the things you always wanted to do and never quite made the time for, be it learning sign-language, pasta-making, or crochet, there are guides to almost everything, if you look.

14. Change your Environment – If your country allows and you feel it’s safe to do so, then go outside to an open area, staying 2 metres apart. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a balcony then use that regularly. If, like me, you don’t have outdoor space then you have to be more creative. Watching nature programmes and documentaries is a great way of seeing outdoors without actually being out there and opening windows as often as possible to get fresh air in is really beneficial. Even just changing rooms or sitting down the other end of the sofa is better than staying in the same spot for days on end. You could redecorate or rearrange some of your living space to freshen it up and make it feel different and new. Keeping your curtains and blinds open and making sure you get enough daylight will help your mood, sense of time and your sleep pattern and although you may not notice the benefits, you’ll certainly notice the deterioration in all of those things if you keep the light out. Another great way of getting the outdoors indoors is to grow something. It’s very therapeutic to have a plant to look after, it’s good for air quality, and it can even be useful if you grow something edible – my personal favourite is chilli plants which grow pretty quickly and easily and can then be added to my cooking or saved up and made into chilli jam.

15. Working From Home – For those of you who are unexpectedly working from home, try to keep a distance between work and home. If possible, keep your work to one area of your home, keep it to specific times and outside of those don’t be tempted to check emails or do extra unless you absolutely have to. Psychologically, it can be hard to keep a mental distance when there’s little to no physical distance but our brains are really good at picking up on cues so setting routines and times that are similar to your regular work schedule and even changing clothes, eyewear or hairstyle so that you have ‘work’ and ‘home’ versions could make the difference between feeling like your work is never finished and being able to fully enjoy your free time. It requires discipline and it’s not easy but having separation really helps you to focus on the task at hand and then let it go when the time for that is over.

16. Tune Out – Although most of the things I’ve suggested involve ‘doing’ stuff to keep your mind and body occupied, you sometimes need to just ‘be’ and that’s just as important. Write a list of things that help you relax, calm down, and zone out, and plan those in so that you’re not exhausted from too much ‘doing’. Anxiety, stress and worry are exhausting, trust me, I live this every day and it’s really tiring and you’re likely to get a lot less done than you’re planning or hoping. Try to be ok with that. Plan in regular time to just ‘be’ and you might find that the rest of your time is more productive because of the breaks you’ve taken. Similarly, if you’re religious, spiritual, or have regular practices like mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation, then ensure that you’re still building that into your life, even if it means using alternative methods to access it. You’ll need periods of escapism too and reading, audiobooks, gaming and passive TV can all provide this and give your brain a much-needed break.

These are frightening and uncertain times but hopefully by following some of my suggestions, you’ll keep as calm, occupied and content as possible, until freedom is restored.

For specific, anxiety-related tips on how to cope with being housebound, you can find my post written 14 months in here.

Worlds Within Worlds – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Worlds Within Worlds is illustrated by Kerby Rosanes and published and kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara. This book is the seventh title by Kerby and is not part of the Morphia series albeit it’s drawn in a very similar style but without the signature alien creatures and swirls of the earliest Morphia titles.

The book is 25cm square, the same size as Kerby’s previous titles and most other bestsellers. It’s paperback with black covers and white lettering. The images on the front and back covers are partially coloured and are both contained within the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and quite tight on arrival, it takes a bit of work to get it lying flat however you shouldn’t need to crack the spine to colour the entirety of each image. The majority of images don’t enter the gutter so it’s not a big issue and it will ease up with use. The paper is bright white and medium thickness, it has a light tooth and allows for blending and shading. I used Prismacolor Premier Pencils which blended very well. When using heavy pressure, some of the image on the reverse page did transfer to the opposite page so you may want to put a sheet of scrap paper under your work in order to prevent this, however it’s easily erased if it does happen. The book begins with a name plate spread and information about the new search and find element of the book, a key hidden on a tiny image of a main feature of the proceeding image hidden within each colouring design. The book then contains 83 pages of illustrations printed double-sided which are a mixture of single pages, paired designs and double-page spreads. The image content is extremely wide ranging and because there is no specific theme, it really does contain a bit of everything including themes that he’s previously drawn in his earlier titles. None of the images are repeats, a few of them are just the same subject, drawn differently including fish, nautilus, dragon, bees, skull, and stags. The vast majority of the images are of completely different subjects and all of them are drawn in a very different way from previously. The premise of the book is exactly as the title suggests of worlds within worlds including cities within Russian dolls, rabbit warrens in rabbits, terrariums containing fields and windmills, underwater asteroids and so much more. The imagery is so inventive and as with all of Kerby’s work, it constantly surprises you and each time you look at it you notice something new that you hadn’t spotted before. Kerby’s artwork is full of the weird and wonderful and although it can often be very tricky to know where to start, no matter what colour palette you choose, you’re sure to create a masterpiece, it’s almost impossible not to with line drawings like this!

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic. It offers so much choice in image theme and the content can’t help but inspire you! I often feel very overwhelmed when looking at Kerby’s work and trying to choose an image to colour because they’re quite an undertaking because of the amount of stuff crammed into each drawing but I didn’t feel that way about this book and the page I coloured was the page I chose as my favourite on my first flick-through of the book which is pretty much unheard of for me! The images contain a wide range of intricacy and detail levels and although none could ever be described as simple, there is a good variety ranging from pages absolutely packed with content and hundreds of individual component parts all overlapping each other which can be quite difficult to visually distinguish, to much larger, less complicated images where a centralised object takes centre-stage and there are a few internal or surrounding details. On flicking through the book, these differences are apparent and it means that you can use this book during lots of different symptom levels and pick simpler images to colour on days where your concentration isn’t up to scratch and attack a much more complicated design on days where you’re really able to focus and not inadvertently identify things as background that shouldn’t be. This book is hugely distracting, even just to look through and it’s certainly helped me over the last week when I’ve struggled to focus on much at all and really needed a distraction, colouring my page took far longer than I expected but I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s certainly kept me busy and kept my mind occupied which I’ve been very grateful for. It’s a great book to get you out of your comfort zone because nothing is as it seems and you absolutely don’t need to stick to conventional or realistic colour schemes if you don’t want to.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s a great title to begin with to delve into the world of Kerby’s artwork and for those of us who’ve been fans for years, it’s a wonderful new title and theme to add to his previous works. The images are just incredible and feel very exciting and fresh, you’d never guess this was the 6th book of new images, it feels like a show-stopping debut! I can’t recommend it highly enough and although I often find that new books are my favourite of an illustrator’s, this isn’t just my favourite Kerby book because it’s new, it’s by far my favourite imagery of his and an absolute must-have for followers and fans of his work!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Worlds Within Worlds
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Worlds-Within-Worlds-Kerby-Rosanes/9781912785124/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Pencils.

My video review and flick through can be found here.

New Year Update – January 2020

So, it’s 2020, my brain still can’t get used to that but hopefully it’ll catch on soon. Happy New Year! It’s been an absolute age since I blogged or vlogged. I had intended to update you all shortly after I moved but that was all just crazy and now here we are, nearly 3 months on. I’m never sure why I make these plans and goals because I know when I make them that I’ll never manage to stick to them and lo and behold, I haven’t! As ever, there ends up being so much to tell you all and so much happening that I often get overwhelmed or put off by the sheer amount of stuff to try and get out and so I put it off. But I’m finally here writing and hopefully making sense.

The biggest change and update is that Joe and I bought a flat and have moved. We bought at the end of October, I spent the whole of that week frantically decorating so that it was ready for us to move into and 8 days after buying, we moved in with help from family and friends. Unfortunately, we moved during a storm with 60mph winds and sideways rain so we did have a few casualties in our possessions but mostly it went fine, especially under the circumstances! It’s been quite a whirlwind since then. We’ve had various issues with the previous owner that have really taken the shine and excitement out of moving. We’re hoping that most of those major issues are now dealt with and we’re finally starting to calm down and enjoy the place but even on completion day we had some horrid news that we had to pay an extra £5200 that we were unaware of ahead of time thanks to various misunderstandings so we didn’t have a typical completion day at all and we spent a lot of that day in shock. It meant that we didn’t take any photos of us, no champagne to toast such a monumental day. I’m really sad that it all transpired the way it did because we’ll never get that back. It was completely understandable given that so much bad stuff was going on but it’s such a shame that we’ll never have those experiences at our first home again. We didn’t do it when we moved in together 6 years ago because we moved into the property on different days and this time it was because of shock. We completely overlooked our 8-year Anniversary the week after we moved in too because we were just so swamped with tasks to do in between Joe starting a new job and trying to navigate our way around the insane number of boxes that were piled up to head height in every room.

Since then, we’ve settled a lot more and although we’re not completely sorted out, we’re mostly unpacked and hopefully by next week things should be much more under control after a furniture delivery at the end of this week. We’ve had various issues to contend with including problems with windows that we weren’t aware of, various bodged jobs that we’ve discovered and bailiffs turning up at our door on my birthday, the week before Christmas, seeking out the previous owner. It’s not been the best and it’s meant that I’ve not really talked to most people about our move or shared anything on social media because most people are so excited and full of positivity in this situation and that’s not been the case for us. I’ve found it quite isolating to be honest because I had struggled so much in the lead up to the move after it was dragged out for an additional 2 months beyond what we were expecting. I was thinking I’d be sighing with relief as soon as my solicitor phoned and I could collect the keys and that was exactly what happened until 4 hours later when we found out about the huge fee we had to pay the following month. I was all ready to give the flat back and unpack our stuff at home and just live out our days there. Ultimately, it’s all worked out. At least I think it has, I say that quite tentatively currently because it’s not been that long and with the amount of random, unexpected curve balls that have been thrown our way recently, I’m not holding my breath that we’re beyond all of that yet. But hopefully we are and if so, then it was worth it and it’s worked out. Though it has put us off moving for a lot of years and it has made us less trustful of other people thanks to how much our seller has messed us about.

The positive things of living here are that the flat is larger so there is more space for our stuff and I feel much less claustrophobic and trapped. The space also means there’s more room for me to sort through my possessions and hopefully clear out some of those at a later point. I was able to decorate with the colours that we’d chosen ourselves and those have worked out really nicely and I’m really proud of the job I did and how homely and “us” it feels. It’s also so quiet here. I really struggle with noise sensitivity and we had pretty noisy neighbours at our last flat and it’s so much quieter here. There’s a real sense of community here too, our neighbour opposite is an absolute sweetie and really looks out for us – we were out for the day on my birthday and he heard the postman knocking and getting no answer at ours so he went out and requested the postman leave our parcels with him to save us a trip to collect them from the post office (he didn’t know it was my birthday and we have no arrangement with him for this, he just did it off his own back). We got 3 Christmas cards through our door from other flats having only lived here for 7 weeks; the same number we received in the 6 years we lived at our last flat. People say hello and talk to each other, it’s tidy and clean in the communal areas, almost everyone had a wreath on their door at Christmas. It’s just lovely! We have really nice views over a local park and we’re not properly overlooked in any of our rooms. We’ve got huge windows that let in lots of light, despite no longer being south facing and we have gas central heating, instead of night storage heaters and that’s just such a luxury! It’s hard to explain and probably doesn’t make much sense but despite my anxiety being worse at the moment, I feel calmer here. I don’t feel as stressed or unsettled in myself and I feel more able to keep on top of cleaning and tidying and managing the flat than I did before.

That being said, my anxiety is worse and in particular my agoraphobia. I don’t have any specific plans or reasons to go out and so often, I just don’t. I didn’t go out this year until the 12th and that was only because I realised I’d not been out yet and forced myself to go with Joe to collect my mum and her partner from the airport. I’m trying to psych myself up to go out more often but even when I think about that I can feel my brain pulling away and coming up with reasons not to. I’ve also hit my yearly period of questioning my life, my purpose and what on earth I’m going to do with myself and my time. As ever, I feel completely lost and useless as well as bored and I’m spending an inordinate amount of time trying to work out what direction I want to go in and if there’s any way at all of earning money and not feeling so rubbish about myself! I have various plans that I’m really hoping I might actually get on with this year and I’m desperately hoping that some of those might bring in some money. It’s hard not to blame yourself or lower your self-esteem when you see other people succeeding in so many ways and doing all of the things you want to be able to do and realising you’re nowhere near being able to do any of that. I spent time last week researching how to train in various types of therapy and realised that the chance of that happening without a lottery win is minute. It’s SO expensive and time consuming to train and my brain so often feels like complete mush that I have no idea how I’d ever go back to formal education despite absolutely loving learning. I’ve already mostly ruled out my dream career of becoming a Clinical Psychologist because it’s so competitive, high stress and difficult to get into but I had really hoped that I’d be able to become a therapist and now even that is looking further and further away. I’m a very goal-orientated person and find that life makes far more sense when I know what I’m working towards and how I intend to get there. I’m also very career-orientated, especially as I don’t plan to have children and so most of my goals are focused on work and how I’m going to spend my time and so when I have huge wobbles or my plans fall through or change drastically, I really struggle to make sense of that or catch up. It makes me feel really lost and very panicked because I don’t cope well with the unknown and I’m very aware that I’m turning 30 at the end of this year and my life is absolutely not how I’d hoped or planned and I seem to be drifting further and further from what I wanted. It doesn’t feel like my life is changing direction, it doesn’t feel like I’m now travelling on a different path towards a different goal. It just feels like I’m lost and drifting aimlessly but further away from all of the things I’d dreamed of. I keep hoping that my purpose will reveal itself, that I’ll stumble upon a career that’s meant for me, that doesn’t require thousands of pounds of investment or unbearable pressure and demands on my already frazzled mind. I’m not sure that I believe it’ll happen but I can’t keep torturing myself by researching things at the moment, only to find out just how unattainable my chosen options are so I’m trying to just focus on the present and do the best I can with that.

Another thing I’ve noticed recently is that my ability to start things is hugely diminished. “Well” me would be shocked at how much “ill” me changes and how differently my brain works. I’ve always been someone who thought it was better to start, and to try, than to not give it a go for fear of failing or not finishing. At the moment, I struggle to start most things because I’m so worried about failing or making a mess of them. A lot of this is down to lack of confidence which is an ever-present problem for me. I question myself about everything and it’s what’s stopped me from blogging or vlogging and what’s stopped me from reviewing, doing any of my hobbies or beginning anything new because I talk myself out of it all before I’ve even started. I’m never sure how to get beyond this. I try to just ignore it and start anyway but I end up freaking out and not doing it because there are so many ways in which I could mess up or regret starting. It’s infuriating but very real at the moment. I’m trying very hard to push past it and do the things that I can do in the hopes that I’ll work up to the scarier things at a later point. It’s still early days since we moved and I know I’ve had to deal with a huge amount of changes over the last few months. It always takes me a long time to process and catch up but it does feel very unfair to be plagued by so much self-doubt and lack of ability to ‘do’ things because it means I don’t have much distraction or much to show myself about my abilities or uses. Hopefully I’ll find a use and purpose for myself again soon.

All sorts of other stuff has been going on since I last posted an update but this is already massive and before I lose confidence and chicken out from posting this I’m going to take a deep breath, press upload, and send it out into the ether. I’m working on psyching myself up to post more often both about mental health and about colouring and I’m hoping to one day be brave enough to do a video tour of our new flat. I have no idea when any of that will happen; it always takes way longer than I plan or hope for but know that I’m working on it and I hope to be back soon!

* The photo was taken during the first week of owning our flat during a quick lunch break whilst decorating my bedroom

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (US Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
How to Draw Inky Wonderlands is by Johanna Basford who very kindly sent me a UK and US edition to review. This review is of the US edition, (my UK review can be found here) which is published by Penguin. I have also written a comparison post which can be found here, or the video comparison post can be found here.

This book is completely different from anything previously produced by Johanna and in fact, anything else I’ve seen on the market. Rather than being a colouring book, Johanna has welcomed us into her world to teach us her secrets in order to allow us all to be more creative and draw our own colouring pages and additions. As soon as I heard about the premise of the book I was very excited but also really nervous; I’ve always wanted to learn to draw but struggle to be patient or practice enough to actually improve. However, if anyone can teach me to draw, it’s colouring book queen, Johanna Basford, and spoiler alert, it’s actually working! Loads of people state that they can’t draw and are lying through their teeth, they normally mean that they can’t create a hyper-realistic portrait of someone that looks identical to a photograph. I, however, am serious about my lack of talent for drawing, I genuinely struggle to draw straight lines, circles or evenly-spaced stars and my sheep, age 28, are still drawn as clouds with stick legs and smiley faces. They’re adorable but no one believes anyone over the age of 8 drew them.

The book itself is paperback and unlike the majority of Johanna’s colouring books, it’s rectangular, not square and measures 21.5 by 25.5cm, making it the same size as Ivy and the Inky Butterfly and the same height as all of the US editions of Johanna’s colouring books. There is no removable dust cover this time, instead having flexible card covers with ½ French flaps which open out front and back to reveal a beautiful flower, leaf and butterfly design that is fully colourable, it isn’t waxy and is very smooth meaning most mediums will be suitable for colouring it, just be careful with alcohol markers in case they bleed through to the external covers. The spine and covers are white with black text, the cover has gold foiling accents and the title is backed with a beautiful duck egg blue background. The spine is glue-bound which you’ll need to be careful with, a number of people have reported previous titles published in the US falling apart so you will need to be gentle with this edition when trying to open it flat for drawing in. The paper is the same as that used in previous US editions of Johanna’s titles from Magical Jungle onwards, this paper was created and named after Johanna it’s beautiful, it’s not the same paper as used in the UK editions. The paper is a pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils. It has a good level of tooth so it can cope with pencil lines being drawn and erased and the Staedtler Pigment Liners that Johanna uses herself and recommends drawing with work beautifully on the paper. The only issue I had was that my 0.2 nib pen slightly feathered and spread on the page, however, none of my other pens really did this so it may just be a dodgy pen but just bear it in mind and do check out the photos below to see what I mean. Using the Staedtler Pigment Liners means that your drawings will match Johanna’s and blend in really well with the printed artwork so your drawings won’t stand out as “different” from the content that’s already on the page. The paper is ideal for pencils and water-based pens and you only need to avoid alcohol makers or particularly wet media. As ever, there’s a test page at the back of the book where you can check out how each of your tools and mediums behaves.

This is very much a drawing book, it’s not a colouring book with a few drawing tips included. Upon opening the book, you find a beautiful title page, name page and introduction including tips and a materials list. The book is then split into 3 themed sections: Garden, Ocean, and Forest. There are no page numbers in the book and no contents page. The book is printed double-sided with each double page depicting at least one drawing technique, often many more. The drawings are all split up into really clear sections most of which are visually displayed in steps along with accompanying written instructions. There is a real range of different size projects included from small and simple requiring just a few very easy steps, to much more time-consuming and complicated and requiring more focus and ability to replicate well.

For the vast majority of the tutorials, each step is numbered and the step you’re currently drawing is printed in black, with the previously drawn sections in paler grey so that you can easily identify what elements you’re adding each time. Once you’ve drawn the whole image you then go over it all with pen and once dry, erase the pencil lines and voila, you’ve got your own illustration which is highly likely to surprise you, mine certainly did! There is a huge range of content for the tutorials including loads of different types of flowers and leaves, fish and other sea creatures including crabs and lobsters, ships, objects, borders, and different types of motifs including crests, symmetrical, repeating and circular. The possibilities are endless once you’ve learnt the basics and Johanna has a real knack for making it all seem very simple and easy rather than difficult and daunting so before you know it, you’re drawing things you never expected to be able to. It can be really anxiety-inducing starting something new, especially when it’s something you’ve struggled with before and find frustrating but this book is so different from any others I’ve seen and doesn’t make things just sound simpler, it actually breaks each drawing down into simpler steps so that you’re drawing very basic shapes and creating amazing things with them. There is real talent in being able to teach a skill in that way and make it so inclusive and accessible.

The tutorials are ideal for starting to learn to draw but they’re also fantastic to help you continue because once you’ve started you’ll start noticing how other images are created and what shapes they’re made up of. I often find inspiration very lacking when I try to draw and if you’re like me then I highly recommend going through Johanna’s colouring books and you’ll be absolutely inundated with ideas to the point where the only difficulty you’ll have will be choosing what to draw first! Learning to draw is apparently like exercising, it won’t come naturally or easily at first and it’ll often feel like it’s not worth it but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become and eventually you’ll be creating your own things rather than copying the original tutorials.

In terms of mental health, I’ll be completely honest and say that before receiving the book, I was dreading writing this section because I thought I was going to have to say it was bad because I’ve always found drawing stressful. However, I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case and actually, I think this book is great for mental health as long as you have a little patience because it makes it surprisingly simple and learning to draw the few things I have with this book has been by far the least frustrating drawing experience I’ve ever had! I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge fan of Johanna, I honestly was so nervous about reviewing this book because I didn’t want to have to write a negative review or say that although it was lovely, I was still unteachable. How wrong I was! Just as Johanna has been telling us, anyone can learn to draw. I’m certainly not an artist, I’m not ever going to get paid for anything my pen puts on paper (apart from my signature on a job contract) but I can safely say that with practice, my drawings will no longer look like a child’s and people won’t laugh when I tell them I drew it rather than a small kid. For me, that’s more progress than I ever thought I’d make and it’s a huge confidence boost too. That’s one reason why this book is ideal for those of us with mental health problems because it gives you the tools you need to actually succeed at learning a new skill and that’s sure to improve your self-esteem and confidence.

I would highly recommend the Johanna Basford journals for practising your drawing in, it’s what I’m currently using and I’ve had no issues at all with it so far. The features I’m particularly liking about using them are the ribbon bookmark which I can use to mark my place, the paper which is lovely and thick and a great surface to draw on and takes erasing well, and the motifs already printed on each double-page spread which offer great inspiration and make the whole process much less daunting, at least for me, because I’m not starting on a completely blank page, each one has already been started for me! I intend to work through in order, dating my drawings as I go so that I can hopefully see my progress over time.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, even to those of you who absolutely cannot draw because Johanna really will teach you! I already miss getting my yearly fix of colouring pages from her but the fact that she’s teaching us how to draw our own comes a very close second for me and seeing everyone’s versions cropping up online is definitely spurring me on to practice and learn and be more creative. This book is spreading joy, even more so than Johanna’s colouring books do, and it’s boosting confidence and self-esteem all over the world. If you weren’t sure about getting a copy then I really would suggest getting one and seeing what you think and if you need further persuading then have a go at following Johanna’s video tutorials on her Facebook page and see what you can create!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780143133940/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (UK Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
How to Draw Inky Wonderlands is by Johanna Basford who very kindly sent me a UK and US edition to review. This review is of the UK edition, (my US review can be found here) which is published by Virgin Books. I have also written a comparison post which can be found here, or the video comparison post can be found here.

This book is completely different from anything previously produced by Johanna and in fact, anything else I’ve seen on the market. Rather than being a colouring book, Johanna has welcomed us into her world to teach us her secrets in order to allow us all to be more creative and draw our own colouring pages and additions. As soon as I heard about the premise of the book I was very excited but also really nervous; I’ve always wanted to learn to draw but struggle to be patient or practice enough to actually improve. However, if anyone can teach me to draw, it’s colouring book queen, Johanna Basford, and spoiler alert, it’s actually working! Loads of people state that they can’t draw and are lying through their teeth, they normally mean that they can’t create a hyper-realistic portrait of someone that looks identical to a photograph. I, however, am serious about my lack of talent for drawing, I genuinely struggle to draw straight lines, circles or evenly-spaced stars and my sheep, age 28, are still drawn as clouds with stick legs and smiley faces. They’re adorable but no one believes anyone over the age of 8 drew them.

The book itself is paperback and unlike the majority of Johanna’s colouring books, it’s rectangular, not square and measures 21 by 25cm, making it the same size as Ivy and the Inky Butterfly and the same height as all of the UK editions of Johanna’s colouring books. There is no removable dust cover this time, instead having flexible card covers with ½ French flaps which open out front and back to reveal a beautiful flower, leaf and butterfly design that is fully colourable, it isn’t waxy and is very smooth meaning most mediums will be suitable for colouring it, just be careful with alcohol markers in case they bleed through to the external covers. The spine and covers are white with black text, the cover has gold foiling accents and the title is backed with a beautiful pink background. The spine is glue and string-bound which makes it very durable but a little tricky to get it to lie flat for drawing in however little to none of the content enters the spine and therefore you don’t lose much in the gutter. The paper is the same as that used in previous UK editions of Johanna’s titles from Magical Jungle onwards, this paper was found through a global hunt and it’s beautiful, it’s not the same paper as used in the US editions. The paper is a very pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils. It has a good level of tooth so it can cope with pencil lines being drawn and erased and the Staedtler Pigment Liners that Johanna uses herself and recommends drawing with work beautifully and seamlessly on the paper with no feathering, spreading, shadowing or bleeding and they blend in beautifully with the printed artwork so your drawings won’t stand out as “different” from the content that’s already on the page. The paper is ideal for pencils and water-based pens and you only need to avoid alcohol makers or particularly wet media. As ever, there’s a test page at the back of the book where you can check out how each of your tools and mediums behaves.

This is very much a drawing book, it’s not a colouring book with a few drawing tips included. Upon opening the book, you find a beautiful title page, name page and introduction including tips and a materials list. The book is then split into 3 themed sections: Garden, Ocean, and Forest. There are no page numbers in the book and no contents page. The book is printed double-sided with each double page depicting at least one drawing technique, often many more. The drawings are all split up into really clear sections most of which are visually displayed in steps along with accompanying written instructions. There is a real range of different size projects included from small and simple requiring just a few very easy steps, to much more time-consuming and complicated and requiring more focus and ability to replicate well.

For the vast majority of the tutorials, each step is numbered and the step you’re currently drawing is printed in black, with the previously drawn sections in paler grey so that you can easily identify what elements you’re adding each time. Once you’ve drawn the whole image you then go over it all with pen and once dry, erase the pencil lines and voila, you’ve got your own illustration which is highly likely to surprise you, mine certainly did! There is a huge range of content for the tutorials including loads of different types of flowers and leaves, fish and other sea creatures including crabs and lobsters, ships, objects, borders, and different types of motifs including crests, symmetrical, repeating and circular. The possibilities are endless once you’ve learnt the basics and Johanna has a real knack for making it all seem very simple and easy rather than difficult and daunting so before you know it, you’re drawing things you never expected to be able to. It can be really anxiety-inducing starting something new, especially when it’s something you’ve struggled with before and find frustrating but this book is so different from any others I’ve seen and doesn’t make things just sound simpler, it actually breaks each drawing down into simpler steps so that you’re drawing very basic shapes and creating amazing things with them. There is real talent in being able to teach a skill in that way and make it so inclusive and accessible.

The tutorials are ideal for starting to learn to draw but they’re also fantastic to help you continue because once you’ve started you’ll start noticing how other images are created and what shapes they’re made up of. I often find inspiration very lacking when I try to draw and if you’re like me then I highly recommend going through Johanna’s colouring books and you’ll be absolutely inundated with ideas to the point where the only difficulty you’ll have will be choosing what to draw first! Learning to draw is apparently like exercising, it won’t come naturally or easily at first and it may feel like it’s not worth it but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become and eventually you’ll be creating your own things rather than copying the original tutorials.

In terms of mental health, I’ll be completely honest and say that before receiving the book, I was dreading writing this section because I thought I was going to have to say it was bad because I’ve always found drawing stressful. However, I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case and actually, I think this book is great for mental health as long as you have a little patience because it makes it surprisingly simple and learning to draw the few things I have with this book has been by far the least frustrating drawing experience I’ve ever had! I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge fan of Johanna, I honestly was so nervous about reviewing this book because I didn’t want to have to write a negative review or say that although it was lovely, I was still unteachable. How wrong I was! Just as Johanna has been telling us, anyone can learn to draw. I’m certainly not an artist, I’m not ever going to get paid for anything my pen puts on paper (apart from my signature on a job contract) but I can safely say that with practice, my drawings will no longer look like a child’s and people won’t laugh when I tell them I drew it rather than a small kid. For me, that’s more progress than I ever thought I’d make and it’s a huge confidence boost too. That’s one reason why this book is ideal for those of us with mental health problems because it gives you the tools you need to actually succeed at learning a new skill and that’s sure to improve your self-esteem and confidence.

I would highly recommend the Johanna Basford journals for practising your drawing in, it’s what I’m currently using and I’ve had no issues at all so far. The features I’m particularly liking about using them are the ribbon bookmark which I can use to mark my place, the paper which is lovely and thick and a great surface to draw on and takes erasing well, and the motifs already printed on each double-page spread which offer great inspiration and make the whole process much less daunting, at least for me, because I’m not starting on a completely blank page, each one has already been started for me! I intend to work through in order, dating my drawings as I go so that I can hopefully see my progress over time.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, even to those of you who absolutely cannot draw because Johanna really will teach you! I already miss getting my yearly fix of colouring pages from her but the fact that she’s teaching us how to draw our own comes a very close second for me and seeing everyone’s versions cropping up online is definitely spurring me on to practice and learn and be more creative. This book is spreading joy, even more so than Johanna’s colouring books do, and it’s boosting confidence and self-esteem all over the world. If you weren’t sure about getting a copy then I really would suggest getting one and seeing what you think and if you need further persuading then have a go at following Johanna’s video tutorials on her Facebook page and see what you can create!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – How to Draw Inky Wonderlands
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780753553190/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review

Video Post – Unboxing How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (UK and US Editions) by Johanna Basford

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Today I received the most exciting parcel of goodies from Johanna Basford. Check out my video to see what was inside, see the UK and US edition of her new book, How to Draw Inky Wonderlands, due out in October, and to hear me get so excited that I stop being able to make sense. Reviews, flip throughs and comparison videos and written posts will be coming soon!

If you’d like to pre-order a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – How to Draw Inky Wonderlands
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780753553190/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Confidence

This is a word that comes up on my blog time and time again and in fact in conversation with me too. I seem to somehow come across as this confident, extroverted person who means business and even in the throes of an anxiety disorder I exude this to others. I have literally no idea how. You see, deep down, in fact not that deep, you barely even need to scratch the surface most days, I’m a bundle of nerves, worries and self-doubt. I have absolutely no idea how I manage to cover this up and yet time and time again I’m described as confident despite feeling anything but. I don’t overly mind this but I do sometimes worry, especially when I’m doing videos, that people think that I’m somehow different from them because although I’m ill, I’m still confident, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although I’m good at talking and am known for my inability to shut up, ever, I spend a lot of time worrying about it, analysing what I’ve said afterwards and time just rolling my eyes at myself and wishing I’d said something different or just stopped talking altogether. I annoy myself often and yet somehow I can’t stop and carry on talking rubbish. Just because I talk a lot and am viewed as loud doesn’t mean that I have any self-assurance about the value of what I’m saying or my authority to say it.

You probably wouldn’t believe the amount of time that I spend comparing myself to others and wishing I was different. If I spent half of that amount of time actually doing something productive or changing myself in a specific way then chances are I’d be more like the people I so admire. But I’m never sure in what way to even change, what bits to add, what bits to take away, and so I just continue to compare and wish I was more like them. It probably sounds ridiculous and I always feel that way when I talk to people about it in my real life but I don’t even feel like I’m ill in the right way. There seem to be acceptable ways of being ill and unacceptable ways and I’m pretty sure that I’m mostly in the latter camp. I’m not half as productive or effective as the majority of people I know who are mentally ill and in terms of social media advocation, I’m really low down. I don’t have the energy, capacity or will power to stick to a posting schedule and I have literally no idea how other bloggers and mental health advocates manage to create the sheer volume of content that they do. I often look at the list of posts that I’ve published for ideas and come to a halt because I just don’t know what to write about anymore, I’ve done the big and obvious things like describing what it’s like to live with depression and anxiety, what my appointments with my psychiatrist have been like and sharing updates when I’ve had big positive or negative changes in my health but apart from that my ideas seem to have run out. For someone who absolutely always has something to say, I seem to have a lot less to write than I’d like to admit.

I often wonder why this is and I think it’s because of the topic of this exact post – confidence. So often, I’ll talk myself out of even starting a post because I question it or decide that no one will care or I won’t do the topic justice. I spend a colossal amount of time now wondering who the hell I think I am and why anyone would care what I have to say when I’m one tiny voice in a sea of much more competent bloggers. They are able to function, even to make a career out of this, to get paid for their publishing, create regular content to an actual schedule and even go viral! I know it’s silly to be competitive about blogging but I tend to wonder what I’m doing wrong and what I could change in order to reach more people or make more of an impact. I’m not interested in fame or getting rich from this but I’m desperate to make a bigger and more meaningful difference than I currently am and I can never work out an effective way of doing so. We all go through blips of low confidence and second-guess ourselves but I seem to be the complete opposite and have blips of belief in myself followed by weeks and months of not even wanting to try because I just know that I’m not capable and feel like I’ve got nothing valuable to say. Lack of confidence regularly goes hand in hand with setting the bar increasingly high and so now I feel extreme pressure to post something really valuable and worthwhile because it’s been such a long time between each post and so I really need to share something worthy of people bothering to read it. The more I think like that, the harder it is to conjure up an idea that could possibly match those criteria and hence I go for months at a time of posting nothing because nothing ever makes the cut. I even start posts and they just get lost in a drafts folder, often never to be seen again. I wish I wasn’t such a perfectionist and would just share more frequently in the hopes that doing so would help me get beyond this. I try to talk myself into sharing some of the posts that I don’t think are up to scratch or finishing off some of the half-written drafts that I’ve lost count of the number of. I get to the point of thinking that any video, no matter how random or disjointed would be better than sharing absolutely nothing but then I get whatever the YouTube equivalent of stage fright is and just can’t be coherent. It’s a real nightmare! I’m lonely, I’m isolated and I know I’m one of what must be thousands of people in the world who feel the same way. I want to be able to voice our experience, to shine a light on what it’s like and to get some of the thoughts that spend hours swirling round and round in my head, out and into the world in the hopes that it might quieten my mind just a little and have at least one of you reading or watching saying “hey, that happens to me too, I’m not alone”. But the lack of confidence renders me mute. You’re probably sat reading this half shouting at the screen that it clearly doesn’t and this must be a lie because there you are reading a post that I’ve written but this was actually written ages ago and it’s taken until now to muster up the courage to post it. This lack of confidence isn’t an act and it’s something that try as I might, I’ve not won the battle with for over a year and I see no end to that arriving anytime soon. I question myself constantly, I try to talk myself into posting something, anything, and yet the vast majority of the time I don’t even get as far as starting before I’ve talked myself out of it and decided it’s pointless and no one would be interested anyway. Once I finally have written something I usually feel that it’s not coherent, is far too negative or just sounds whiny and after getting a particularly hurtful comment from someone I know after sharing one of my last blog posts, my confidence is even lower and I second-guess myself even more.

My hope in posting this post, albeit quite late, is that it might spur me on with continuing rather than starting again. I continually try to not leave huge breaks between posts and then time just passes by and my anxiety about needing to post something spectacular increases to an unbearable point. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve opened this document and wanted to just post it on my blog and then chickened out. Normally when this happens I’ll get a friend or family member to read it and check it’s ok and get them to make suggestions for edits but I don’t even have the confidence to do that. I finally asked my partner earlier in the week to read this but he forgot and I’ve not been brave enough to ask him since. He never judges me and always tries to boost my confidence but I’m so worried this is bad or whiny that I can’t face getting someone to check. By the time this is posted I’ll have almost certainly had to psych myself up, hold my breath and mentally scream at myself to just hit the damn ‘publish’ button and I’ll probably feel sick for ages afterwards waiting to see what reaction it gets and whether I’m going to be criticised again. I think I’ll always be amazed when people describe me as confident when a constant stream of all of this is permanently running through my mind.

I normally try to end posts on a poignant note but I’m all out of those. I’ll try to be back soon with more posts and videos. If you have any suggestions or requests then do let me know in the comments or via the contact me tab where you can contact me privately. I don’t have any ideas for future posts at the moment so any ideas are gratefully received.

World of Flowers Postcards (Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers Postcards (Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten) is published by MVGVerlag and is from my personal collection. This book of postcards is published in German and appears to be the only edition of postcard images from World of Flowers; it contains 24 postcard images from the original book. Each postcard is printed single-sided and the back of each is printed with the same very faint grey floral design from the book with a dotted outline for a stamp containing a dragonfly image and 4 dotted address lines so that you can send them to friends, family and loved ones. The postcards are not perforated but are easily removable, almost too easily as the binding is very fragile so the book may well not stay together long-term but this does mean that you’ll be able to easily detach the postcards with no damage. The postcards are made of medium-thick, bright white card, they’re a little smaller than the Magical Jungle and Lost Ocean postcards but are produced to a much higher standard and there are no issues at all with these. The card doesn’t bleed or shadow at all with water-based pens and has a lovely tooth for pencils so you can really layer and blend and shade with ease. Alcohol markers are highly likely to bleed-through so pop a protective sheet behind your work to avoid any accidents. The postcards are a mixture of landscape (18) and portrait (6) orientated images. The vast majority of the postcards are zoomed in sections of the images rather than scaled down versions of the whole page which is a huge improvement on the previous titles’ postcards and makes for a really enjoyable colouring experience. A great selection of images has been chosen and although they’re obviously all flower-themed they’re surprisingly different and varied and don’t feel at all samey. There’s everything from centralised images to wallpaper spreads, scenes of jars and bottles to potted succulents, vases of flowers to floral patterns and even a beautiful bumblebee.

In terms of mental health, these postcards are great! As many of you know, my absolute favourite thing to colour is postcards because they’re a manageable size and give you much quicker results than regular colouring book pages. They’re also single-sided meaning that you can use almost any medium you like and they’re easily removable so that you can share your coloured images with others as gifts or to display or use for your own projects to brighten up a room or anywhere else you put them! The line thickness is thin and occasionally spindly thin throughout, you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control but it doesn’t need to be perfect for the majority of these images. You can block-colour the sections if you wish or spend time blending and shading or even colouring over some of the internal lines as texture so there are lots of options for different skill levels and different physical abilities. Postcards are a great project for when your symptoms are problematic or your concentration is poor because they don’t take so long and give you a good sense of achievement. The postcards are absolutely beautiful and would look lovely as they are or with heaps of colour added, the choice is yours.

I would highly recommend these postcards, they’re beautiful, a great choice of images and they’re all colourable. The card is ideal for any medium and they’re produced to a really high standard! I can’t rave about them enough, I absolutely love them and they’re one of my very favourite colouring products!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten (World of Flowers Postcards)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ein-Paradies-voller-Blumen-Johanna-Basford/9783747400487/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Review and full flick through

The images below were coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils.

 

Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black line-drawn flower and leaf design from World of Flowers on the front and back with a white floral design drawn on black on the insides of the covers, the front cover has rose gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable pale pink card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance.

Unlike the previous editions of this planner, this one now only runs for 12 months, not 16 which I personally think is a very sensible change, it therefore runs from Monday the 30th of December 2019 to Sunday the 3rd of January 2021. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2020 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s seven colouring books, images from all seven (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, and World of Flowers) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2021 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2019 dates and a full page of 2021 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

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

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead for the whole year. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2020, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day, a skull for Halloween and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2020-Weekly-Colouring-Planner-Activity-Diary-Johanna-Basford/9781449497613/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Video Flick-Through and Review

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This page-a-day calendar arrives in shrink-wrapped plastic which keeps the keepsake box clean and free from damage. The keepsake box is made of thick ivory card which is covered all over (including the bottom) with a black line-drawn flower and leaf design from World of Flowers and the top and all four sides of the box have rose gold foiling accents. The box opens with a hinge-style (the lid remains attached at the top) with two pieces of black ribbon holding it open at a >90degree angle; the inside of the lid and the box are lined with black paper with white flower and foliage designs; the box is fully colourable if you wish. A black ribbon allows easy access to lift out all of the loose calendar pages which aren’t bound in any way so it’s easy to pick out which ones to colour, move them around, leave them out to dry if using wet media and so on.

The pages are the same size and format as any other page-a-day calendar, the illustration is on the left and takes up two thirds of the page and on the right at the top is a leafy-lettered title of the month and at the bottom is the date and day, above this in small text are written the important festivals and celebrations and the country they’re celebrated in; as with all others, Saturday and Sunday share a page so there are approximately 314 pages of colouring for you to complete over the year. The pages are pale cream (just like the 2019 edition) rather than bright white (they are less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the ivory paper in Magical Jungle and World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours), thin (slightly thicker than copier paper), and lightly textured, pencils don’t build up many layers on this paper but I’m sure those of you who are more talented than me will have more luck with this and create wonderful masterpieces; water-based pens do heavily shadow and may bleed through if you’re particularly heavy-handed but the images are printed single-sided so really you can use whatever mediums you like, these pages would be ideal for testing out new mediums or trialling colour schemes.

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

In terms of mental health, this page-a-day calendar is fantastic because it provides you with a manageable size of project to attempt each day, you could colour the page in a few minutes or really take your time to try out new techniques and spend much longer, it’s entirely up to you. You could colour the day’s page ahead of time or on the day itself, you could even spend the next few months colouring the whole thing ready to look at your beautiful work throughout the coming year, or even to gift to someone else (what a labour of love that would be and it would make an incredible present if you could bear to part with your work, perhaps you could start if off for them to finish?). The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copies of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The loose pages make it easy to access the page you need without having to move the whole block around all the time and it means you don’t have to worry at all about bleed through. At the end of the year you could even cut out all of the images and create collages, small framed pictures or gifts or even add them to cards or craft projects so this is a really versatile product that goes way beyond just being a calendar! There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this calendar and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This page-a-day calendar is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful new way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from medium to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are often much higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this calendar if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order and there are no duplicates, a number of the calendar pages show parts of the same original image but these are all of different aspects of it, with varying size or depicting different areas (see images below) and this is by no means the majority of the pages, most are of entirely separate illustrations or aspects within them, they also mostly don’t appear to duplicate the images used in the 2017, 2018, or 2019 editions of this calendar so those of you who already have those won’t be disappointed by lots of duplicates. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are much quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration, they’re also fantastic for trying out new things without worrying about ruining a whole page in your books.

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this page-a-day colouring calendar, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2020-Colouring-Day-Day-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449497590/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Full video flick-through and review

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

World of Flowers 2020 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers 2020 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s signature and most well-known designs from her seventh colouring book, World of Flowers (this calendar doesn’t include any new images), an illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2019. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size.

The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens and watercolours but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners (in last year’s calendar) and no bleed-through or shadowing with Derwent Inktense pencils activated with water. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils in a previous edition. The waterlily image below was coloured with Derwent Inktense pencils, activated with water and I experienced no bleed-through and only minimal buckling when I used a bit too much water. The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages). The cover has signature rose gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title. My only issue with the whole calendar is the foiling from the front cover, it’s embossed which therefore leaves debossed sections on the first image (the one I coloured) which is printed on the inside cover above the 4-month 2019 overview, it worked surprisingly well colouring with the Derwent Inktense pencils because once activated with water, I was able to smooth out the colour which I also think would be the case with paints or water-based pens, however, you’re likely to struggle with normal pencils because the colour doesn’t apply evenly over these sections (see before and after photos below) and looks like you’ve coloured over something, a similar effect to when you do brass or bark rubbing so just be mindful of this when colouring the first image.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. World of Flowers returned to Johanna’s usual high levels of intricacy and so the slightly larger size printing is a huge bonus to give you a little extra wiggle-room and ability to add blending and shading. There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there is some leeway when colouring.

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – World of Flowers 2020 Wall Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-World-Flowers-2020-Colouring-Square-Wall-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449497606/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Full video flick-through and review

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

Random Mood Drops

It doesn’t matter how many years go by of being mentally ill, there are some things that surprise me, no matter how many times they happen. One of those is the random drops in mood that occur for literally no reason. As I write this, I’m on the verge of tears and have that, oh so familiar, heavy, rock-like sensation dragging down in my chest as if my heart is made of stone. I can physically feel it. This has always been the most persistent and long-lasting symptom of my depression. Depression for me was never just sadness, or numbness, it was the weight in my chest that got heavier and lighter but that never went away. I’ve had it since I was 15, 12 and a half long years and there’s not been a day that I can remember when that weight in my chest has gone. My depression is now mild, it remains very stable and manageable thanks to a lot of work on my part to keep it at bay and not let it rise up or take hold of any more of my life than it already has its grip on. But every now and again, for no reason at all, the weight in my chest exponentially grows and it physically hurts. It makes me want to curl up into a ball, go to bed and sleep for days or burst into tears. I instantly want to self-harm again despite not having done so in years. It makes me feel sad and guilty and angry and overwhelmed about everything and nothing.

Despite dealing with this so many times and for such varying periods, it’s still a shock every time. I never get used to it. I still can’t ever find a reason why it happens. It just does. It just is. It takes my breath away with how fierce and strong it is. It’s like someone sitting on your chest, you can’t breathe, you can’t think or concentrate. Everything suddenly feels pointless and dark. Breaking out of this is hard, each and every time. There’s no reason so there’s no specific fix or problem to solve. It just is.

Today, I’ve had a good day. I spent time at my Nana’s helping her clear out her house and tidy up. We had a lovely time and some really nice conversation. I was tired when I got home and slept for a bit. I felt much brighter and perkier after that but quickly my mood just dropped. Nothing happened, nothing that I can identify caused it. My mood just dropped off a cliff and here I am, feeling sad, feeling weighed down and already struggling to remember feeling better or brighter even though I know I did just a few short hours ago.

Although it shocks me every time, I have at least learnt to stop being scared by it because I know the feeling will pass. I never quite know when or how and occasionally it lasts for a couple of days but usually sleep, distraction and care from my loved ones helps pull me back out of the pit and gets me back on the even keel that I’m used to. Hopefully the feeling will pass quickly this time and the mighty weight that’s currently in my chest will go back to being pebble-sized. I’m not sure if these random mood drops will ever stop, they seem to be very similar to the random attacks of anxiety about nothing that I also get. It’s so disconcerting not knowing why or how something has occurred or when it’ll go or when it’ll next come back. It’s horrible feeling so vulnerable and not having control. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Update – Caring for Relatives, Life Changes and More (1st May 2019) – Video Post

This video was recorded on the 1st of May, 2019. It provides an update on where I’ve been, how I’ve been and what I’ve been doing that’s kept me busy and away from recording or writing. I talk about being a carer for my Grandad and what life is like now I’m not one anymore and how lost I’m currently feeling.

Colourmorphia – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Colourmorphia is illustrated by Kerby Rosanes and published and kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara. This book is the sixth and final title in the Morphia series and this time it’s a compilation of all of the best pages from the previous five titles with no new artwork contained. The five titles that the images are from are Animorphia, Imagimorphia, Mythomorphia, Fantomorphia, and Geomorphia. I haven’t yet reviewed the last two titles but I have copies and will be reviewing them soon.

The book is 25cm square, the same size as Kerby’s previous titles and most other bestsellers. It’s paperback with white covers and white lettering with a blue background down the left side of the front cover. The images on the front and back covers are partially coloured and are both contained within the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and very tight on arrival, it takes a lot of work and manipulation to get it to start lying flat so you’re likely to need to crack the spine if you want to colour the entirety of each image however very few images enter the gutter so it’s not a huge issue and it will ease up with use. The paper is bright white and medium thickness, it has a light tooth and allows for blending and shading. I used Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils and a black Faber Castell Pitt Pen to colour my image and despite doing two layers of the pen for my background, I experienced absolutely no bleed-through or shadowing and almost no ink transfer even though I used heavy pressure when colouring some sections. The book begins with a 16-page introduction including coloured pages from some of the colouring community which provide great inspiration and Kerby has written a short commentary on each piece explaining how it was created and why he likes it and chose it for the book. Each of these coloured pages are contained as line drawings in the book so that you can use those as inspiration or interpret them in your own way. The book then contains 78 pages of illustrations printed double-sided which are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The image content is the most wide-ranging of all of Kerby’s titles because there is no theme and so it ranges from landscapes to mythical creatures, animals to buildings, objects to the surreal and everything in between. Many of the colouring community’s favourite images are included and so this is a great title to purchase to get a second chance to colour those special images that you’ve previously finished in the original books. Alternatively, if you didn’t like one or two of the themed books quite so much, this might have just the right amount of each theme to satisfy your tastes and as a starter book to Kerby’s work, it’s absolutely perfect! It’s also a brilliant way to round off the Morphia series as this book really feels like a celebration of his work.

The images themselves are so varied and include his doodles and cloudy swirls as well as all sorts of hidden objects though this time there is no search and find feature at the back of the book. Some of the vast quantity of things pictured include: gem beetles, an anchor, a kraken, a rhinoceros, stags, castles, multiple dragons, a crow, jellyfish, swans, a dinosaur skull, owls, and so much more. Best of all, at least in my opinion, although there are no new images, the back halves of the cover designs of Fantomorphia and Geomorphia are contained which is a lovely addition because those were sorely missed in the original titles as they were printed single-sided and as single-page designs with the back halves missing within the books, it’s lovely to be given the opportunity to colour those images in full, as they were originally drawn and designed by Kerby. There is a huge range of morphing sections within the book from Kerby’s signature doodles and swirls to steampunk influences, plant life, mechanical elements and bizarre collections of objects as well as scenes morphing from one thing into another as seen in the elephant page where his trunk and tusks morph into the trunk of a tree and the back half of a polar bear becomes an iceberg. Kerby’s artwork is full of the weird and wonderful and although it can often be very tricky to know where to start, no matter what colour palette you choose, you’re sure to create a masterpiece, it’s almost impossible not to with line drawings like this!

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic. Not only does it offer more choice in image theme than any of his other titles, it also offers colour inspiration at the front and a second-chance to colour images from the previous titles. The images contain a wide range of intricacy and detail levels and although none could ever be described as simple, there is a good variety ranging from pages absolutely packed with content and hundreds of individual component parts all morphing into each other which can be quite difficult to visually distinguish, to much larger, less complicated images where a centralised creature takes centre-stage and there are a few surrounding details. On flicking through the book, these differences are apparent and it means that you can use this book during lots of different symptom levels and pick simpler images to colour on days where your concentration isn’t up to scratch and attack a much more complicated design on days where you’re really able to focus and not inadvertently identify things as background that shouldn’t be (like I did on my skull page). This book is hugely distracting, even just to look through and it’s certainly helped me over the last week when I’ve struggled to focus on much at all and really needed a distraction, colouring my page took far longer than I expected but I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s certainly kept me busy and kept my mind occupied which I’ve been very grateful for. It’s a great book to get you out of your comfort zone because nothing is as it seems and you absolutely don’t need to stick to conventional or realistic colour schemes; the inspiration pages at the start prove that point brilliantly. I’ve never liked skulls and never wished to colour one at all but the coloured page at the beginning was so beautiful that I felt inspired to go against my norms and have a go at creating something similar and I’m so pleased that I did!

I would highly recommend this book. It’s a great title to begin with to delve into the world of Kerby’s artwork and for those of us who’ve been fans for years, it’s a wonderful celebration of all of his best work and a great opportunity to re-colour some previously finished illustrations. The content is wide-ranging and exciting and the paper is great to work on. It’s a really lovely book!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Colourmorphia
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Colourmorphia-Kerby-Rosanes/9781912785056/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils and the background was coloured with two layers of black Faber Castell Pitt Pen.

My video review and flick through can be found here.

Five Years On – Five Years Of…..

I never know where to even start these posts. You all know by now that I’m one for anniversaries but as more of them pass, I’m increasingly put off and seem to mentally avoid them. I haven’t even known what to title it because how on earth do you sum up five years of being ill? How do you title something detailing what it’s been like to be unwell for such a long period of time?

Whenever I write a blog post, I try to have a plan. I’m quite a spontaneous writer, I break all of the writing and blogging rules about having a word limit and a posting schedule. As you’ll have seen, I post as and when something comes to me and sometimes that’s multiple times a week and other times I go for months without having anything to share at all. But, I do usually have a reason to post and something specific I want to say and that’s why these anniversary posts are so difficult to write because usually the only reason to write them is the date and because I feel I ‘should’ have something to say rather than actually having anything to say.

For the most part, I try to ignore the time of year, ignore the dates and don’t let them mean anything. But five years feels like a hell of a milestone and feels like I really should be saying something even though I don’t actually know what that is. My life is currently in upheaval with a huge amount of change going on and even more on the way. My grandparents who are a huge part of my life and who I’ve spent increasing amounts of time with over the last few years are moving away, it’s not that far but for me it’s a world away. I’m currently at their house at least 4 days a week, for about 30 hours as I’m a carer for my Grandad and in the next few weeks they’ll be an hour’s drive away and I currently can’t get there. I may discuss all of that at a later point but those are the basics and it’s the reason why I’ve been so quiet on social media and my blogs and YouTube Channel because all of my mental capacity is taken up being there or processing everything that’s going on and changing. It’s a hell of a lot to take in.

In some ways, I’ve been really glad of the distraction because although I’ve noticed the date approaching of me being ill for five years, I’ve not really had a chance to focus on that or be sad or really feel anything about it. I’m quite grateful for that. Five years is such a long time, it’s over a sixth of my life and I still don’t know how or when I’ll get better. Being a carer and being needed has definitely helped me to push myself harder than I thought it possible to push and I’ve certainly been noticing the changes that that has caused in my confidence levels and belief in my ability. However, it’s a very specific set of circumstances that those changes have occurred within and I feel very worried and doubtful that I can translate those to any other situations. I’m not being negative, I’m going to do everything in my power to continue to go out and not go backwards when my grandparents move and I no longer ‘need’ to go out but even though I’m managing that, I still can’t just make myself go for a walk or set foot inside a shop. There is such a mental block in my brain and somehow ‘needing’ to do something overrides that a bit but as soon as the task is a choice, I can’t do it. Even artificially ‘needing’ to do something isn’t enough to make me go. There are so many things that I want to do but wanting it isn’t enough to get me out of my front door. The situation with being a carer for my Grandad seems to have special status in my brain and overrides all sorts of things that little else manages to do. Mostly I’m just grateful that it has, that I’ve been able to build up my confidence and start meeting new people (the other carers on the team) and for it not to be so obvious outwardly that I’m suffering so badly with anxiety.

I do worry a lot at the moment about how I’m going to cope once my grandparents leave though, everything in my own life has been on hold since before January because I just can’t concentrate on anything else and some time soon, they just won’t be here anymore and I’ll go from every waking hour, and many asleep hours too, spent thinking about them to this void where they’ll be gone and my brain will probably still be so full that I won’t be able to do anything to redirect or distract myself. I’m trying really hard to be kind to myself, to be forgiving and accepting and just let myself feel whatever comes up but oh my God, it’s exhausting! My emotions are all over the shop and I can’t keep up. I’ve always been quite emotionally stable, often not in a great way but still, I’ve always felt quite stable and so I never know what to do when these periods of turmoil come up and not only is everything in my life changing, I’m also all over the place with my feelings about it all too. I’m worried about the time immediately after they leave. I have so many things and activities and projects to work on but they all seem to require concentration and even the most basic levels of that are out of my reach at the moment. I keep wanting to record videos explaining what this is like to live through because I know I’m not alone in experiencing this but I never get as far as even setting up a tripod and always remember at ridiculous moments when it’s not appropriate to be filming. I also have no idea what would come out of my mouth which is the status quo for me but when my concentration is off, it’s even more of a surprise and I feel like a liability so I tend to just avoid all of that. At least when writing a blog, I can edit it and take chunks out if I really need to, though that is something I try to avoid as I don’t like filtering things.

As you can probably tell, my brain, my thoughts and feelings are all over the place and my life circumstances are too, there is so much change coming up and I don’t know what’s happening from day to day, let alone from month to month. I have a lot of hopes about things I want to do and things I hope to achieve and I’m hoping that maybe once I have more time to myself and once my brain has finally cleared a little that I might be able to concentrate and focus and achieve some of those things. I’m hoping I might also be able to make some more significant and sustained improvements that aren’t so situation-specific. That’s a lot of hoping right there but that’s something I’ve learnt throughout being ill, I can’t plan, I can’t expect or demand but I can hope and I put all of my energy into that and then trying to make those hopes come true without placing expectations or time limits on it. It means that I’m always working and travelling in the right direction and not failing just because I’ve not achieved something yet.

Five years on, I’m not where I hoped or expected to be, but I’m still here, I’m still fighting and that’s enough for me.

Finding the Words

Finding the Words

I don’t even remember the last time I wrote a blog post. I keep meaning to. I keep trying to think of things to say, important messages to impart. Something. Anything! And I never even get as far as opening a Word document. Nothing comes in to my head and my mind stays blank.

So what’s changed? Here I am writing and you’re there reading. Well, I decided to take a different route and think about why I had nothing to say. After all, it’s so unlike me to not have something to say and not be full of ideas, I’m usually exploding with multiple projects and picking one is what I find hard. The reason I’m struggling so much is because my brain capacity is taken up elsewhere and I’m pretty rubbish at multi-tasking. As many of you know, I’m a carer for my Grandad and have been for a number of years but the time I put into this has drastically increased since Christmas. When I began, it started at 2 or 3 hours a fortnight and over time it gradually increased to being there up to 2 days a week for a few hours each time. By Christmas, I was there about 4 days a week and by January I was there 5 days a week including all day on one weekend day. As of this month, I’m due there 28 hours a week. There are so many changes, so many things to think about and work through and take in. I’m coping surprisingly well, I’m actually really proud of how much I’m taking it in my stride but it’s definitely come at the cost of me focusing on anything else. I can’t concentrate at all. My brain just feels like mush. I spend hours every day just staring into space and thinking about all of the things that I could and should be doing and yet never quite getting as far as starting any of them. Most of the time I don’t even know where to begin. It’s making it really hard to get on with stuff, to do anything particularly normal or anything that involves any sort of brain power.

I keep trying to think of things to say, topics to write about and ways in which I can help others by writing. But I just draw a blank the entire time. In fact, my brain only seems to think vaguely clearly when I’m actually at my Grandparents’ house and doing my job there, the rest of the time it’s like it’s on standby or something. I’m hoping that just by writing something, that this might help jump start my mind into thinking about things to write and not finding the whole task so overwhelming. I miss having a voice, I miss speaking about these issues and talking to people who are like me, who understand what it is to go through these conditions and these experiences. But I guess my mind’s way of coping with the difficult things I’m dealing with in my personal life is to shut down from everything else and just focus on the one issue. Nothing else manages to creep in. I have a lot of free time outside the time that I spend with them and yet I still don’t manage to keep on top of emails, remember to message friends back or keep on top of the washing up. I feel like a failure, like a burden because despite the fact that I’m working fewer hours than my partner and that this is by far the most hours I’ve worked during the 5 years I’ve been ill for, I still suck at being a housewife, I still can’t do even basic tasks and he still has to help or do so many things that just shouldn’t be his responsibility. It’s really hard to know where the line is between what I should and shouldn’t be doing and I know I have to be really careful not to push myself too hard because despite not coming out the other side yet of the breakdown I essentially had 5 years ago, I know I could have another one now and possibly get even more ill than I was when this began. I can’t afford to do that. I couldn’t cope with that. So I’m trying really hard to be kind to myself to do what I can and accept what I can’t and to ask for help with the multitude of tasks that evade my abilities. It doesn’t come easily.

On top of all of this, my memory has got way worse. This is a particularly cruel blow and makes everything so much harder. I’ve always had a fantastic memory and I miss it so much whenever it drops and it’s the worst it’s been for months at the moment. I have to write everything down and then have to try and leave the writing in obvious places so I actually remember to read and work through the to-do list. Even basic stuff that would usually be so obvious to me just isn’t and doesn’t get done unless I’m reminded by a list. I think old age is kicking in at 28! I jest. I know that this is one of the brain’s protective mechanisms and that it’s also a sign that although my body feels ok, my anxiety levels aren’t increasing and I don’t feel physically sick the whole time, I’m only really holding on by my hands now. I’m definitely not at fingertips point, I’ve got a fairly good grip of things at the moment but it wouldn’t take a lot for me to become distracted and my grip to loosen and the whole situation to become WAY more precarious. It’s a weird place to be. I would have expected to be feeling horrendous. I’m under a lot of pressure, there’s a lot resting on me and my family are currently reliant on me being able to do the shifts I’ve signed up for because none of the other care team members can do those at the moment. Normally, pressure is my absolute nemesis. So I’ve certainly been wondering if I’m finally getting better. In some ways I think I might be. I’m certainly coping better with this whole situation than I was and finding it easier and more comfortable to travel to my grandparents’ and to be there. I’m sure a huge part of that is that I’m finally now desensitised to it and that after the umpteenth time of going, it’s got easier. It’s also partly because I’m needed. I take a lot of responsibility for things and if I’m given a task then I’m not one to drop that or not do it properly, I always do things to the best of my ability and won’t let people down unless I absolutely have to. I’m needed at the moment and I can’t let them down. But it’s also very apparent to me that I’m still very ill. Even though I go out 4 or 5 times a week to my grandparents’, I still can’t go into a shop. I still can’t just go for a walk randomly and I still can’t take my bins out. It’s ridiculous and makes absolutely no sense to me but that’s something I’ve certainly learnt about these conditions, they don’t conform to a set of rules and there’s no guessing what will or won’t change at any given time or for any given reason. I’m better at being able to go out to my grandparents’ house, to spend time there and remain calm, even when difficult circumstances arise there, but the rest of my life and capacity seems to be on hold and so all of my resources are being used up there leaving me with nothing left for things at home. This is alright for the short term and we’re trying to put things in place to allow this to not become a long-term thing.

I often wonder how I’ll be when the need for me comes to an end and I’m back to having unlimited free time and nothing specific to fill it with. I don’t cope very well without a project. I really hope that the words and ideas will have returned to me by then so I can take time to readjust and express what this has been like and process the difficult parts. I hope I can continue to be a voice for the mentally ill and for myself and that inspiration will strike soon. I really miss writing, I miss expressing myself and I miss making a difference and I hope that I’ll be back to writing and recording videos again soon. I hope I’ll be able to get back to colouring and writing reviews and being more productive but right now, my brain is mush and getting any words out at all is more than I’ve managed in months so this jumbled stream of consciousness will do for now.

If you’ve got any suggestions or requests for ideas of things to write or video about then do get in touch because I’m absolutely open to ideas and seeking inspiration from anywhere I can find it!

Would You Wish Away Your Illness?

Would You Wish Away Your Mental Illness?

Someone recently asked on Twitter, would you get rid of your mental illness if you could? You can read the original thread and the replies here.

Fairly obviously, my instant reaction and answer was yes and I’d question the motives of anyone who’d say otherwise. However, I started thinking on it a bit further and realised that the answer isn’t quite so simple. I don’t think I’d ever say no to getting rid of my mental illnesses but I’m not sure it’s a 100% yes, especially not if it meant that I’d never had them. While I would never sign up for being ill, would never wish it on anyone else and have spent countless hours, days and probably weeks of my life wishing it away, the experience of it has changed me and not all of those ways have been for the worst. I’ll point out here that I’m not grateful for these experiences, this isn’t some evangelical post where I change your point of view about suffering and “teach” you that really it’s an “opportunity for growth and learning”. It’s not. Suffering is exactly that, suffering. It involves being uncomfortable and worse and it’s sure as hell not something I want to have to continue to experience (albeit I don’t have a choice about that one), or something I’d sign up for again. However, without the experiences that I’ve had because of mental illness, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m a firm believer that we are a product of our experiences and so without them we wouldn’t be the same.

I would never have done a psychology degree without becoming mentally ill. Mental illness and the way the brain worked weren’t even on my radar until I developed depression right before my 16th birthday. I was going to pursue geology and hoped to work on oil rigs getting very rich whilst discovering oil around the world. If not that then I was going to become a scientist or teacher. I wasn’t going to work with sick people. Not ever!

If I hadn’t become mentally ill then I wouldn’t have been forced to take a gap year. I wouldn’t have gone to the same university. I wouldn’t have met the friends I did on my degree course. I wouldn’t have met my partner, Joe, the man I hope to spend the rest of my life with. I wouldn’t have saved lives at work.

Without becoming mentally ill, I wouldn’t now be a carer for my Grandad. I wouldn’t have the understanding I do about his condition (Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a rare form of Alzheimer’s) and I wouldn’t be able to support my Nana in her role as his primary carer. I wouldn’t be able to explain his behaviour to her or be as understanding and sympathetic to him when he tells me the same story or asks me the same question for the umpteenth time. (For the record, I don’t mean that one needs to be or have been mentally ill in order to do these things, simply that they wouldn’t have occurred for me had I not been). I would be working a normal job and have very little spare time to even visit them, let alone spend time in a caring role two or more days a week.

If not for mental illness, I wouldn’t have created my blog or my social media channels, I wouldn’t be helping others and I wouldn’t be as nice as I am. I was a very opinionated child who thought they knew it all and would have quite happily voiced my almost certainly stigmatised views about anyone else who was mentally ill. I would have thought they just needed to pull themselves together and snap out of it, to be stronger willed and to just get on with it and suck it up. I wouldn’t have been half as empathetic and sympathetic as I am now. I would have remained far more ignorant and arrogant. I also wouldn’t have learnt about others as much as I have because through being mentally ill I’ve learnt to ask questions, to not assume, and to find out directly from others about their experiences and motivations.

If not for mental illness, I don’t actually know who or where I’d be, I don’t know what I would have become or what I would be doing but I know it would be different and I know I wouldn’t be as caring. I’ve always tried to remain separate from my conditions, to have them but for them not to have me and more importantly, for them not to become me. But, when you’ve lived with something for such a long time, there’s no way that it won’t affect you. You can’t stop it from seeping in and from making changes. There are the obvious changes like the constant worry, the dark thoughts and the incessant need for control but you don’t notice the more subtle changes or the positive ones and you’re never quite sure whether they’d have happened regardless or are purely a result of the conditions. If not for mental illness, I wouldn’t have self-harm scars, I’d have eyebrows and eyelashes because I wouldn’t be incessantly pulling them out due to Trichotillomania, I wouldn’t have had an eating disorder. But I also wouldn’t have the friends that I met when I was an inpatient, I wouldn’t have got into most of the hobbies I have now including photography, colouring and crochet, and I wouldn’t have the problem-solving abilities that only someone who’s imagined every single possible and impossible scenario can develop.

There are many ways in which my life would be better if I weren’t and never had been mentally ill, I’d be in full-time work, I’d be well on my way to owning a property, I probably wouldn’t have completely written off the idea of having biological children and I’d be able to do anything and everything I wanted to without the restrictions of my conditions. But I don’t think I’d notice all of the little things I do, I don’t think I’d be as observant, as grateful, or as driven and determined as I am. There’s little else that will focus you quite as much as having to fight through adversity.

As I started off by saying, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody and I’d wish it away in a heartbeat but I’m not sure that I could wish away all of the ways in which it’s changed my life because without mental illness, I’m not sure I’d be the same person, I’m not sure I’d be who I am, and I’m not sure I’d even like who that was and so when answering whether I’d get rid of my mental illness if I could then the answer is yes…..but….. The things that I’ve gone through are in the past, even the things that happened yesterday or even a minute ago and so I’d allow those, I’d wish away the conditions right now but I’d want the changes that have occurred to stay. I couldn’t have studied a better degree, I couldn’t have met better friends, I couldn’t have wished for a better partner and I couldn’t have picked a better field to get a career within and without mental illness I’d have none of those. So I’m really ready to no longer be mentally ill, to have mental illness as part of my past rather than my present or future, but I wouldn’t change much at all about the past because if I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today and much as that includes being a huge heap of worry, anxiety, and nervous energy, I couldn’t be prouder of how kind and caring I am and the fact that I’m turning the negatives of my own conditions into positives to help others who are suffering too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review

Video Flick Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review

Unboxing and Flip Through

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

Sprookjesbos (Dutch Edition of Vilin San) – A Review

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Flip Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millie Marotta’s Wildlife Wonders – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Full Flip Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2019 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This page-a-day calendar arrives in shrink-wrapped plastic which keeps the keepsake box clean and free from damage. The keepsake box is made of thick ivory card which is covered all over (including the bottom) with a black-heavy flower and leaf design that almost looks like it is drawn in white rather than black. The pattern is most similar to designs from Enchanted Forest and the top and all four sides of the box have gold foiling accents. The box opens with a hinge-style (the lid remains attached at the top) with two pieces of black ribbon holding it open at a >90degree angle; the inside of the lid and the box are lined with black paper with white flower and foliage designs drawn in Johanna’s signature style; the box is fully colourable if you wish. A black ribbon allows easy access to lift out all of the loose calendar pages which aren’t bound in any way so it’s easy to pick out which ones to colour, move them around, leave them out to dry if using wet media and so on. The pages are the same size and format as any other page-a-day calendar, the illustration is on the left and takes up two thirds of the page and on the right at the top is a leafy-lettered title of the month and at the bottom is the date and day, above this in small text are written the important festivals and celebrations and the country they’re celebrated in; as with all others, Saturday and Sunday share a page so there are approximately 313 pages of colouring for you to complete over the year. The pages are pale cream (just like the 2018 edition) rather than bright white (they are less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper i