Anxiety

Health Anxiety - What it's like to live with

Health Anxiety

Health Anxiety – it’s something I mentioned in my last post and boy is it making life almost impossible to live right now. It’s just relentless. And the worst thing? When you’re this anxious for this long, you start getting even more physical symptoms. And what does my brain do with those? Decides I must be ill, poisoned, or dying of something. I literally have no idea what symptoms I’m experiencing are even real now and which ones are either being created by my psyche, my stress response (those ones are real) and which I’m just imagining due to being so sensitive to every single movement, noise or feeling in my body. I can’t even express how all-consuming this is. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced and it’s terrifying.

Every single sensation is now worrying me, am I hungry or is it a stomach tumour? Is my appetite lower than usual? Does that mean I’ve got cancer or is it just that I’m so stressed my appetite has been suppressed? Why can’t I go to the toilet? Am I under-nourished? Sick? Or has my digestion shut down because of my stress response. My heart rate seems a bit high even though I’ve taken my beta-blockers, maybe they’re not working anymore, maybe something else is wrong. Have I eaten the wrong stuff? Is sugar causing it? When did I last eat sugar? It can’t be sugar, I’ve not had any today, maybe it’s adrenaline as I’ve not actually eaten anything yet. My downstairs bits feel funny. I don’t remember that happening before. I don’t remember being able to feel there before. Maybe it’s just a random twinge. Why am I getting repeating random twinges there? Maybe it’s cancer? Would I even know? What if it is? How will I get treatment? I’ve still not had my smear test that was due two years ago because I can’t face going to the doctors, my anxiety just won’t let me. I know I need to go, I know that finding there are changes is so much better than leaving it and them possibly developing into cancer and yet the thought of even trying to make the appointment makes me feel physically sick and my stomach ties itself in knots. I just can’t do it at the moment. I get a pain in my mouth and I’m convinced it must be an abscess, a rotten tooth or that I’ll need a filling. I religiously brush my teeth and realise I’m probably brushing them too hard and causing the pain because I’m so worried about needing dental work. My ears feel weird or I get a slight pain and I’m sure I must be getting an ear infection again. I sneeze or have a slight sore throat and I’m instantly sure I’m getting a cold or flu and that I’ll get really ill with it. Any sort of pain or weird sensation is instantly focussed on, fixated upon and blown out of all proportion. No matter how logical I try to be, no matter how many statistics I bombard myself with to try and make myself see sense, it just doesn’t work. Even when the sensations or symptoms go away, my brain just fixates on the next one. It’s so consuming that I can’t do many activities now because I just can’t focus on them, I’m too busy being convinced that I’m going to get really ill or die. I’m not even scared of dying, if I drop dead tomorrow, I’m kind of ok with that, but I’m absolutely scared senseless of suffering. I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a lot of health problems for the latter two thirds of my life, none of them have been serious or life-threatening, but all have involved a lot of aches and pains and never feeling “well”. These conditions have also meant that when I get regular viruses or infections I’m hit much harder by them and get more severely ill and suffer for longer than regular people do. For some reason, I’ve managed to develop a huge fear of suffering that has been increasing for years and made me very frightened to be around other people who are ill firstly because I hate seeing suffering and secondly because of the risk of being infected by them. The only type of illness and suffering I don’t have an issue being around is mental illness which is why I managed to work successfully in mental health and in a hospital no less.

Back to now though. This health anxiety is just crippling. I can’t face going to the doctors to have any of my fears allayed and I often wonder if that would even help because I swear that at the first sign of a new symptom I’d be back at square one again. I’m also so scared that they’d find something that I then have no idea how to cope with treatment for, it hardly even seems worth getting investigated if I then can’t get treated for whatever hideous thing it might be. And I realise just how unlikely it is that there’s anything wrong with me, but still, the worries are constantly there. Today I found out that the most common cancer in women under the age of 33 is cervical. Oh joy! I also know from research that almost all of the female cancers, at least those affecting the lower half of the body, have very few noticeable symptoms and that those I may experience are remarkably similar to IBS symptoms which I also suffer badly from, especially when my anxiety is this bad. I can’t tell you how useful that is when trying to talk yourself down from being convinced you’ve got every disease under the sun. I’m sure that half of the symptoms I’m now experiencing are because I’m focusing so much on my body that I’m getting phantom symptoms from sending too much of my attention to those areas. It’s just doing me in. I’m sick of feeling so on edge, sick of feeling so out of control, sick of feeling like I’m going mad and sick of being convinced that I’m going to die some horrible, slow, painful death. I just want my brain to calm down, chill out and focus on something a bit less morbid than my own death or illness.

Anyone who thinks anxiety is a walk in the park clearly hasn’t visited this particular park which is currently frequented by wolves, big cats, and a whole heap of horrid diseases trying to kill me off at every turn. I have such a strong urge to give up, to stop even trying and to just give in. I don’t even know why I feel like that, I know it wouldn’t help. But I’m so tired. So tired of the thoughts, the constant stream of worries and then symptoms and the desire to research it but knowing that’ll almost certainly make me feel worse. I’m tired of fighting, of dreaming about it, of never being free. I’m tired of all of it. It’s been almost 4 years of fighting with my own head, fighting against each and every new worry that comes up, trying to adapt to every change, to every loss. Having health anxiety and worrying that I might lose even more functioning on top of all of that is nigh on impossible to cope with and means that I spend a lot of each day on the verge of crying because I feel like I’m falling apart. Part of me knows that this will probably pass, or at least ease off, just like a lot of the worries I’ve had throughout this period of illness. But I also know that the anxiety is becoming more and more ingrained and it feels like it’s taking a bigger hold with each passing month. It scares me so much. I don’t want this to become who I am. I have always been determined to be separate from my illnesses, to have them but not to be them. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to say that of the anxiety. It feels so intrinsically linked to who I am now. Most of the time I can differentiate between thoughts from the condition and thoughts of my own but when the thoughts from my condition are so overwhelmingly frequent, so loud and so awful, it’s hard to know where my own thoughts begin because there seem to be so few of them now, there simply isn’t room for anything much other than health anxiety and the occasional worry about going outside.

After my last post I’d hoped to be back to reviewing quite soon. I hoped that expressing how I’d been feeling would help it lessen and in some ways it has, I definitely feel less alone but sadly my health anxiety has just ramped up and up, day after day. My mum came to visit for the weekend and we had a lovely time and I managed to go out with her on two days and take lots of photographs and do lots of walking outside seeing loads of nature and very few people (my idea of perfect!). But still, even while I was out, I was getting twinges, random stabbing pains, wondering if I’d need mum to take me to the hospital. I’m at the point where I’m so frightened that I’m asking people random, really personal questions to find out if what I’m experiencing is normal or likely to be the cause of my premature death. I hate what this is turning me into. My social phobia is ramping up because I know I’m becoming obsessive about this and I’m terrified I’ll bore people or alienate myself from the few people remaining in my life. But I know that I can’t keep this inside as it feels like it’s eating me alive.

I’m not really sure where this post has gone or where it’s ended up. As usual, it feels like a rambling mess and I’m hoping I’ve pulled it miraculously out of the bag and written something at least partially coherent. I’m guessing it’s a heap of negativity and for that I’m sorry but I also can’t even begin to sugarcoat this and I always promised I would never do that, that I’d tell my story, tell the story of so many of us with mental illness, warts and all, with all the worst bits left in. So if this has left you feeling bleak or despondent then I guess that gives you a snapshot into what it’s like to be inside my head, to live a few minutes in my life and I can assure you that it’s infinitely worse when there’s no cause, no end in sight and no tab to close. I hope that sooner than I think, I’ll be feeling a bit brighter, a bit more hopeful and a little less plagued and that I’ll be back with some more positive posts that at least end on a lighter note. I’ll try to edit my photos from the weekend down enough that I won’t bore you all to tears with shot after shot of the same deer or ducks, that’s about the only task I’m managing to do whilst this poorly and I’m still sticking to my showering every day routine. Everything else is pretty much out of reach but I’ll try to get back on with my small tasks project and see if I can achieve a little more than showering and deleting photos. Writing this has been a bit helpful and some of the physical symptoms have eased off a bit which will hopefully sink in to my anxious brain as proof that they’re stress-induced. Huge hugs to all of you who are feeling this way or even just a little bit this way, you’re all warriors to fight this fight every day and I hope it gets easier for us all soon, we damn well deserve it!

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Confidence Crisis

Lovely readers, I’m so sorry for the radio silence this year, it’s certainly not been intentional and I’m working hard to try and get myself back in a position where I can be blogging and reviewing again because I miss it and I miss you guys! I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life and change never does me much good, especially when multiple things are having to be dealt with at once. It’s also a really rough time of year for me, I’m never well at this time of year so it’s unsurprising that I’m so badly affected currently. I thought it was going to last just a couple of weeks and I did manage to write and share a review in early January but since then my confidence has completely deserted me, my words have disappeared and my motivation has been non-existent. None of that is conducive to blogging. I did manage to record and share a couple of videos which can be found here, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve not even been doing anything that’s not blogging. I’ve just been spectacularly unproductive. In some ways, I wish I’d realised how long this would last and just written off blogging for the last 6 weeks and got on with something fun or at least distracting. Instead, I’ve spent the whole time spending way too much time asleep and in bed, scrolling through Facebook aimlessly and watching crappy television for more hours than I care to remember or admit! My flat is dirty and untidy, I’m not showering often enough, I keep missing meals and the thoughts going through my head are much darker than usual and very much swirling around the I can’t be bothered and what’s the point sort of level. My focus is completely gone, my memory is dire and I just don’t know where the last 6 weeks have gone, I can count on one hand the number of meaningful or useful activities I’ve done in that time, even when I really start lowering my standards of what classes as productive, I’ve done next to nothing for weeks!

Throughout this time, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of covering up how much I was struggling. It turns out, I’m not half the actress I think I am. Though the flipside of that is that it’s quite comforting to realise that even when you don’t tell your boyfriend of 6 years that you’re feeling crappy, he can work it out from your subtle behaviour changes (including less nagging about cleaning and tidying). I always put off telling people that I’m worse or struggling more as I’ve previously documented on this blog. I hate admitting it to myself, let alone anyone else and it doesn’t properly sink in with me until other people around me know about it and then it’s a real wake up call. I tend to wait weeks, partially to be sure, and also because I spend that time in denial, before telling anyone but telling them usually leads to at least getting a bit more help to drag myself out of the pit I’ve inadvertently ended up in. I never learn though and always leave it ages before telling anyone or properly asking for help. Normally, my depression is pretty under control, it still sneaks in whenever it can, I still get horrible dark thoughts creeping in regularly but I’m able to dismiss them and get on with being productive and busy and that generally drowns it out. Recently though, that’s not the case, the depression has really ramped up in intensity and it’s crushed my confidence, my motivation and drive and has also made me unbelievably tired and pessimistic, which isn’t like me. On top of this, my anxiety is just on fire! For a while I’ve been noticing that as soon as one worry lessens, it gets replaced by another. This isn’t something I’m consciously doing and it’s currently something I have absolutely no control over but as soon as one thing becomes easier, less worrying, or goes away, another worry comes straight on in behind it and replaces its space. All of the things I was told by my psychiatrist, by therapists and that I learnt in my psychology degree, aren’t working. I was always a huge proponent of the idea of systematic desensitisation, the idea that the more you do a specific thing, the less it will make you anxious and the more used to it you’ll get. The theory is all completely sound, the research backs it up, but my experience is absolutely not showing it to work. No matter how many times I visit my family or don’t get food poisoning or don’t get an IBS attack when I’m out, I never consistently feel better about being in those situations again. I go through phases of things being a bit easier and then much harder but these seem to come and go like the weather with no rhyme or reason and no logic or pattern that I can decipher at all. No matter how much CBT I try to use I just don’t calm down or get over the thoughts. I’m a very logical person, I know the likelihood of my worries coming true (at least the ones I’m aware of rather than the residual feeling of fear for no reason that I so often experience now) but knowing these things won’t happen doesn’t stop me feeling intense anxiety each and every time I have to do something that my brain has decided is anxiety-provoking. I make no medical sense and no one around me, me included, has any idea why I’m like this or what to do to make it better. I was told a few years ago by my psychiatrist that I needed to stay outside for at least 6 hours for my anxiety to calm down and that then being outside would get easier. I’ve done this a number of times since then, in various places and with varying levels of success and yet I’m still severely agoraphobic, unable to even take my bins outside most days and suffering IBS attacks and extreme anxiety about going to places locally that I’ve known my whole life. It’s just doing my head in.

To top all of that off, my brain has decided to become hugely worried about germs and food poisoning. My mind is honestly a living hell right now. My brain is almost constantly fixated on worrying about getting ill with a virus or getting food poisoning. I’ve even considered going vegetarian (not an option long-term as my diet is very limited already due to dislike of a lot of foods and many vegetables being IBS trigger foods) so that I don’t have to keep worrying about meat being off. My partner is an ex-chef, we both know a lot about food storage, prep and just doing a good old sniff test, and yet my brain just can’t switch off these worries and once it’s decided that something is a “risk”, it just obsesses and even causes me physical symptoms because I spend so many hours worrying. Sometimes I just can’t eat the food because I’m so worried about it making me ill even though I logically know it’s absolutely fine. I’m pretty sure that part of the reason I’m so scared of getting ill is because I’m worried about getting so ill that I’ll need medical treatment and that invariably involves leaving the house. I’m increasingly worried about getting a serious health problem that I currently can’t imagine being able to receive treatment for because going out is so difficult for me. No doctor will just drug me up to the eyeballs on Diazepam for the foreseeable future while I get whatever fictitious disease my brain conjures up treated or cured. I hope that if I ever did get a serious illness the fear of it being left untreated would take over the fear of going out and getting treatment and that I’d be able to go and deal with it but part of me thinks that’s just wishful thinking and isn’t exactly likely. I hope I’ll never have to find out but I spend a huge amount of my time at the moment worrying about getting all sorts of conditions and diseases and trying to work out how I’d deal with it without just imploding.

So that’s where I’ve been at since December. I’ve realised that doing nothing and sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t working or helping at all; not that it’s really been a choice but still, it’s not helpful. So I’m trying my best to do little tasks that are productive and make me feel better in the hopes that they might spur me on to do bigger and better things and if not, well at least the small tasks I’ve done are done. I started earlier in the week by turning my mattress because for the last few weeks I’ve been getting backache and my tummy has felt twisted when lying on my side in bed, turning the mattress has really helped. I also changed my bedding at the same time. It took me an hour to do all of this and I had to change the duvet cover the following night because I was exhausted but I now have clean sheets and a comfy bed again and this also meant I had to clear up the things that were being dumped on my bed and also that I’ve made myself shower every day so I’m not getting my sheets dirty quicker than necessary. Some days these showers have been 2 hours before I go to bed but still, I have at least showered every day for 4, possibly 5 days, I forget when I started this. I’ve also done 3 lots of laundry, one each night when Joe’s gone off to work his night shifts and put those up and taken the previous day’s load down so it can be replaced with wet stuff. Yesterday I was feeling really low and rubbish and completely unmotivated but my head was just buzzing from too much screentime and I felt like I was going mad, eventually I got so fed up that I went and did some washing up and then hoovered most of the flat while Joe cooked dinner. There are still thick layers of dust on any above-floor surfaces and I’m sure there are other grim discoveries to make that I’m currently just trying to ignore but my floors are mostly clean, my bed is welcoming, my laundry is done and I’ve been clean for a few days in a row. Given how dreadful and unproductive I’ve been feeling, that’s pretty huge progress really and more in 4 days than I’ve managed in over 6 weeks! I’m really trying to make this stick and hope that even though my mental state is completely crap currently, at least my surroundings won’t be so bad and won’t be making me worse anymore. I’m hoping that I might even be able to slowly work through some reviews and finally start getting back on track with that because I’m dreadfully behind and don’t want to just give up like this.

So yes, that’s where I’m at. Not a good place to be at all and I’ve got no idea when the anxiety might start shifting or the depression easing off a bit but I’m hoping that my goal of doing a small task or two a day is at least achievable (possibly with help and encouragement from Joe) and will start making me see the difference I can make to my surroundings and stop me feeling quite so useless and unmotivated. I’m hoping the confidence might journey back to me after that!

P.S Apologies if none of this made sense, seemed to change writing style throughout (it was written in a few goes rather than all at once like I usually write) or doesn’t sound like me normally. I don’t write well when I’m this ill and I’m too distracted to be able to properly edit or read through it to check it makes sense so this is raw and as it came to me. Future posts are unlikely to be like this so please don’t desert the blog just based on this post, I felt I needed to get all of this out and explain to you all what’s been happening for me but it’s far from the standard I would normally hope to produce, I hope you understand.

Time to Talk Day 2018 – Video Post

Time to Talk Day 2018 – Today is the day to get the conversation started about mental illness in the hopes that we can keep talking about it all year. Too much stigma, embarrassment and shame still surround mental illness and this needs to change. Talking about it isn’t difficult and here I suggest tips of things to remember and how to get the conversation started. You never know the difference it might make, the impact it could have and the change you could be making to someone’s life.

#timetotalk #timetochange #mentalillness #mentalhealth

Confidence and Capability – Video Post

Not feeling confident has a huge impact on every aspect of your life and in this video I discuss how difficult it is to do most things when you don’t feel confident or capable and worry about everything too much – this is why I’ve only managed to do one video and review in the last 6 weeks which I hope will change soon!

Vilin San (Fairy’s Dream) – A Review and WORLDWIDE GIVEAWAY

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Vilin San is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Fokus, they have also sent me a second copy to give away and you can enter my Worldwide Giveaway until 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January by clicking this link and following the instructions. Vilin San is a Croatian book and the title translates to Fairy’s Dream, it’s illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, the illustrator of hugely popular Zemlja Snova (Dreamland) and the Dutch edition, Dromenvanger. This book sadly only has half the number of pages but it does come with an exciting added extra and is equally if not even more beautiful than Zemlja Snova. It arrives wrapped in plastic to keep it protected from damage and to keep all parts together (more on this later). The book itself is 25cm square, paperback with flexible card covers, (these are a little thinner and much bendier than Zemlja Snova’s covers) and two-third French flaps which open out to reveal a white line drawing on a blue/purple background, the cover shows a partially coloured image from inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and seems quite sturdy and durable and with a bit of work it’ll open up pretty flat, especially over time. The book only has 40 pages, Zemlja Snova had 84, oddly, it’s less than half the thickness, the publishers have said that the paper is identical in both books however it does seem a little whiter, especially than my original edition of Zemlja Snova (the one with the pages out of order) but paper stocks do visually differ sometimes and it does feel and behave the same way so I’m fairly confident in saying the paper is identical. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, water-based pens shadow heavily and may even bleed through so I’d steer clear of these and stick to watercolours with very sparing amounts of water and mostly pastels and pencils which work really well on this paper. The pages are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single (23) and double-page spreads (7 = 14 pages) and also contained is a loose 4 page fold-out poster which is the same size as 2 double-page spreads joined together end to end (see photo below). The images themselves are very similar to those found in Zemlja Snova so if you liked that book then you’ll love this one too, all of the artwork is original and new to this book though it feels familiar because of the content being similar. The illustrations contain fairies, dragons, mushrooms, butterflies, gnomes, birds, sea creatures, mice, palaces and more. The pages are all drawn as scenes and range from underwater scenes to dragons flying, fairies sleeping to hedgehogs being led through a mushroom-lined path, palace scenescapes to fantastical flying birds and so much more. Tomislav has created the drawings very considerately by leaving borders around many and those spanning a double-page having little content near the spine making it much easier to fully colour the page without any frustration of trying to access imagery in the book gutter. The illustrations are all very ornate and really beautiful to look at, this illustrator’s work really is some of the best in the world! For those who are wondering about the image order, there was an issue with 3 double-page spreads being split up in the first edition of Zemlja Snova, this has since been corrected in subsequent editions and I’m pleased to confirm that there are no issues with image order in Vilin San, all of the double-page spreads are matched up as they should be so there’s no need to worry.

In terms of mental health, this book is great for those with a good attention span. If you get overwhelmed by busy or intricate images then this won’t be for you but if you love immersive imagery that truly transports you to another place then look no further, this book is absolutely perfect. It offers so much to look at that it’s the perfect distraction for even the most persistent symptoms and it just draws you in to a magical fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, princes and princesses, castles, fairies and more. This book will be ideal for those of you who love fantasy colouring and also nature because so much of it is animal and scene-based so it’s combined 2 of our favourite things into one incredible book! The smaller number of pages means that it’s less daunting for those wanting to complete a whole book and the poster is great for those who like to work on a much larger project and display it afterwards as it would look fabulous framed once finished and it easily folds away to be tucked into the back of the book away from any damage which is really handy whilst you’re working on it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin with some spindly thin details. The intricacy and detail levels remain very high throughout so you will certainly need very good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book if you’re wanting to colour within each outlined section though it won’t need to be quite so good if you’re wanting to colour over some areas and leave the lines underneath as texture. I would highly recommend investing in a T’Gaal sharpener so that you can keep your pencils as sharp as possible! The illustrations are absolutely packed with detail and things to look at and notice, despite having Zemlja Snova for over a year now, I’m still noticing new things and spot things I’ve never seen before when looking at other people’s finished pages and I’m absolutely certain this will be the case with Vilin San too. The imagery is honestly spectacular, there aren’t many books I’m blown away by now but this one really is incredible, each image is a work of art, there are no filler pages, no random half-finished art, each page has clearly been painstakingly created and each will take hours if not days to complete. The pages in this book aren’t quick to finish but there are lots of natural stopping points within each image so that you still get a sense of accomplishment without managing to finish a page in one sitting and these all range in size from a tiny bird or gnome all the way up to a forest of trees or giant dragon so you can pick a project of the right size for each colouring session! I adore this book, even just flicking through the pages gets me out of my head and calms my anxiety down and colouring it is just so much fun because you can use any colours you fancy from more natural colours to fantastical colours like blue for tree trunks and oranges or purples for leaves, in a fantasy world the only limit is your imagination and these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

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

If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can order it from the publisher’s site here. I would strongly advise against ordering from Etsy or third-party Amazon sellers because the prices there seem to be extortionate. The easiest and cheapest way of getting hold of a copy is to join a group order as this reduces the cost of shipping per book to a more reasonable level. I run a FB fan group for Tomislav’s work and there we also organise a lot of group orders to various countries worldwide including the UK, many other European countries, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, please do join the group if you’d like to sign up to one of these orders or just to share your coloured pages or look for inspiration, we’d love to have you!

Don’t forget, I’m currently running a Worldwide Giveaway for a copy of this book, to enter click here and follow the instructions before it closes at 23.59 GMT on the 31st of January.

Photos of the book can be found directly below the videos.

Unboxing, Flip Through and Review

Silent Flip Through

Mysterious Planets - Click through to see photos, video and read my written review.

Mysterious Planets Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mysterious Planets Coloring Book is illustrated by Ai Kohno and published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Press. This book is paperback with flexible card covers and a glossy paper dustjacket which can be removed to prevent damage or scuffing and reveals black line drawings of the planets from inside the book on the brown card covers. The book measures 25cm square and the images are printed double-sided. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable and strong. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads so some do enter the spine but the majority of the image can be reached once the spine has eased up a little. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed but does shadow a little with water-based pens though this is very minimal but do be careful; pencils work well on the paper and layer and blend well. The illustrations are separated into chapters which are each dedicated to a type of planet, there are 7 chapters in total, 6 different planets (Forests, Sea, Snow, Flowers, Sweets, and Magic) and the final chapter is back in the little girl’s bedroom. At the back of the book are 7 pages of illustrated letters printed with a pale peach background, all of which are fully colourable. The images contain all manner of things from forest scenes, animals, buildings, ocean scenes, realistic imagery, outlandish scenes, fish and sea creatures, a Christmas sleigh, snowflakes, vases of flowers, cupcakes, gingerbread houses, slices of pie, portraits, a dinner party, and one page is printed on vellum-style paper which is translucent and has a jewelled frame and crown printed on it that when laid on either side perfectly frames the left and right image of a goose and a girl which is very clever and extremely unique, I’ve never seen anything like this in a colouring book before.

In terms of mental health, this book is pretty good, it’s not realistic or based on reality and so it offers a good level of escapism and is ideal for those who feel required to colour realistically because you can really go to town with your colours and use whatever scheme you fancy. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin, it’s not quite black and is more of a dark grey though it’s still very visible but contrasts a bit less than normal colouring books do. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little but mostly remain at a moderate level, none of the images are hugely intricate but they’re not full of large open spaces either, it’s a very good intermediate sort of level and therefore the book would suit those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. The content is lovely and very whimsical, older children would surely like it and it’s quite child-friendly but not childish. It would be a great book for those with a good imagination who like to have prompts for escapism, you can easily imagine yourself travelling to each of these planets and lands and this is sure to help you forget about your symptoms and feel just a little bit happier and calmer for a while. Books like this are great for reminding us of carefree days as children, it certainly reminded me of many happy times reading the Enid Blyton Faraway Tree stories and my particular favourite land there, The Land of Take What You Want and I would always imagine sweets and chocolates and all of my favourite things. There is space where you can add your own backgrounds and imagery if you wish but this is by no means compulsory and the images will certainly look finished without any additions besides colour.

Overall, this is a lovely book, the content is wide-ranging and interesting and ideal for both children and adult colourists. You can really go to town with outlandish colour schemes and let your imagination run wild.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mysterious Planets Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mysterious-Planets-Ai-Kohno/9781250117274/?a_aid=colouringitmom

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

Gift Boxes A Year of Celebrations Click through to see photos, video and read my written review

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow Publishing. This book is unlike any other because it’s not a normal colouring book, each page is a gift box which can be removed and folded into a box to gift to friends and family, this is the third in the series with a Christmas-themed one available HERE and a Birds and Blossoms one HERE. The book itself is paperback with flexible card covers, it’s just under 30cm square and has a pale blue cover with splashes of pinks and dark blue, and gold foil accents. On the inside cover are diagrams and written instructions about how to remove and fold the boxes and on the back inside cover are three recipes so you can create edible treats to go in your boxes – Peppermint Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Men, and Coconut Macaroons. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable but it’s also quite easy to press flat so that you can colour the whole box, or remove it via the perforations before colouring if you find that easier. Each of the 24 pages contains one double-sided box with different matching designs for each of the sides and the inside base and then a small repeating pattern on all of the other edges, there’s heaps to colour in on each one! The card is medium thickness, bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for pencils and water-based pens which didn’t bleed and only slightly shadowed with the darkest colours; alcohol markers will bleed so I’d avoid using these. The perforations are well-made and the parts do mostly come out easily, I would advise caution as a very small section of my actual box started splitting so you may prefer to use the perforations as a guide for scissors or just work slowly, a few of the parts have quite large perforations which do leave large bumps rather than smooth edges on the box but again, these could be tidied up with scissors if you wish. The boxes are individually designed and contain themed illustrations to celebrate various celebrations as well as some more generic designs that could be used for any sort of gift, the themes include – Valentine’s Day/Anniversary, Easter, male and female themed cards, birthday, and Christmas. The content is very wide ranging from cars to swans, snowmen to deer, balloons to cakes, kites to flowers, Christmas trees to shells, stars to boats and so much more, this is by far the widest ranging content of any of the three gift box books now published. The images are very cute and have a naïve quality to them which makes them look really charming and they’ll look lovely coloured by adults or children and gifted to others. At the back of the book is a page of gold foiled stickers each with lines on where you can write names to and from, and each with a small celebration-themed motif. The set is really well-made and thought out, this book is produced by the same publishing company who created the Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes so you can be assured it’s good quality though the illustrations are created by a different artist (Eilidh Muldoon) from those (Rebecca Jones) and the other colouring gift box books (Sarah Walsh and Felicity French).

In terms of mental health, I think this book of gift boxes is pretty great because it offers up a project with a very clear purpose and end point, ideal for those of us who struggle to get motivated or see the point in things sometimes. Sharing is always good fun and when colouring these boxes you know you’ll be sharing the love with someone you care about and that’s a great thing to be able to do! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high with lots of small sections so these boxes will only really be suited to those of you with good vision and fine motor control. The boxes take ages to colour so you’re certainly getting lots of colouring hours for your money, however, each box consists of lots of small colourable parts which is ideal for any level of concentration or amount of symptoms, you can colour for 20 seconds doing just one or two flowers, or hours and hours doing the whole internal repeating pattern or somewhere in between. The images on the boxes are sure to get you in the mood for any celebration. These boxes will be perfect for sharing treats with family and friends and they can be filled with small gifts or sweets or chocolates and they’ll be the perfect packaging for anything handmade, the possibilities are endless!

Overall, I would highly recommend these colourable gift boxes, there’s loads to colour on each one and they’re sure to be received well, they give a wonderful personal touch to whatever gifts you decide to put inside them.

If you’d like to purchase a set, the book is available here:
Amazon UK – Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Gift-Boxes-Colour-and-Make-Year-of-Celebrations-Eilidh-Muldoon/9781788000093/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find the other two gift box books here.

The box below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Christmas Tree Time Lapse 2017

Christmas Tree Decorating Time Lapse 2017 – Video Post

As some of you know, I’m well known for my obsession with Christmas and in particular, Christmas decorations, my partner and I decorated the tree together this year and recorded a time lapse video of the process. Please do check us out building and decorating it at 64x speed, Merry Christmas!

Die Welt Unter Der Lupe zu Lande click through to read my review, see a video flick through and photos of inside

Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande (The World Under the Magnifying Glass – Land) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande (The World Under the Magnifying Glass – Land) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is the sixth illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator, she previously brought us the hugely successful and utterly beautiful series of season colouring books, reviewed by me here, and the first in this new series, Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Wasser. I had high hopes for this new book after the previous one was so utterly beautiful and I didn’t think that one could be beaten but I think I’ve fallen in love with this one just a little more because the content is so wonderfully wide-ranging and just a little more free because of the topic being land rather than water, it’s just exquisite. As with all of her books, I was absolutely blown away by its beauty, I can’t enthuse enough about it, it’s beautiful! It is identical in format to her previous books and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than most at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover and a hole in the centre of the magnifying glass which gives a very clever 3D effect of looking at a bee printed on the inside of the full size French flaps. Both covers have fully illustrated French flaps with colour added to the external covers and the internal front flap but none add to the back one so it’s fully colourable with alcohol markers if you wish. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the previous titles. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each of Rita’s books but they’re beautifully tailored to the specific theme of the title, previously seasons or underwater and this time land, and it’s very clear from looking through each book what it’s dedicated to.

The drawings are incredible, as with all of Rita’s books, each time I look through the book I see new things that I didn’t notice before. The content this time is even more varied and ranges from double-page spreads of forest scenes and cities within birds’ wings, to branches of acorn houses and desert cactus landscapes. There are small centralised images of cornflowers and poppies, larger single-page images of beetles, flamingos, birds’ nests and mouse houses and a few pages showing a scene on one page and a corresponding pattern on the other. There are so many different things pictured including foxes, hedgehogs, bees, flowers, deer, snails, rabbits, birds, butterflies, insects, beehives, leaves, fruit, elephants, lizards, monkeys, parrots, and so much more. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, each of Rita’s books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish colour schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. There are also a number of pages that have large open spaces where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, this is by no means a necessity but the option is there if you want it. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and all of the other titles by Rita, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande
Amazon US – Die Welt unter der Lupe – Zu Lande
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Die-Welt-unter-der-Lupe—zu-Lande-Rita-Berman/9783404609482/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of Rita’s other books here.

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

Photography for Agoraphobia: Photobook 1 – Video Post

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