Anxiety

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.

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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 in Magical Jungle and Ivy and the Inky Butterfly; see photo below of the different paper colours), thin (slightly thicker than copier paper), and lightly textured, pencils don’t build up many layers on this paper but I’m sure those of you who are more talented than me will have more luck with this and create wonderful masterpieces; water-based pens do heavily shadow and may bleed through if you’re particularly heavy-handed but the images are printed single-sided so really you can use whatever mediums you like, these pages would be ideal for testing out new mediums or trialling colour schemes.

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Flip Through

The page below was coloured using Faber Castell Pitt Pens.