Anxiety

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millie Marotta’s Wildlife Wonders – A Review

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Full Flip Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Flip Through

The page below was coloured using Faber Castell Pitt Pens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Review and Flip Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Flip Through and Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions and How to Activate the Pens on First Use

Techniques and Tips Tutorial

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

Dear Psychiatrist – July 2018

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

 

Dear Psychiatrist,

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards,

Lucy