Anxiety

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

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.

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.