New Beginnings

Happy 1st May / Beltane Blessings!

beltanealtar2017

I thought I’d better brush aside some of the tumbleweed blowing through this place, after only posting once in the entire month of April.  In my defence I’ve been very busy, but I look set to get even busier in the coming weeks so I thought I’d better at least say hello and give a brief update for anyone who’s interested, before disappearing again for a few weeks!

This time last year I was on the verge of some big changes, and had some major decisions to make, so on the 30th April, aka Beltane, I lit some candles, got myself a cold beer and sat cross legged on my bed and dug deep to figure out what it was I wanted and needed to do in the coming months.  Looking back now, I can see how important those decisions were, and appreciate how brutally honest I was with myself that evening.

So again last night I did the same thing, (except, switch beer for wine, and add some dubious-smelling incense into the mix), and this morning I’m feeling good about the challenges that lie ahead.

This summer I’ll be starting a new job (probably within the next couple of weeks), starting therapy (this Wednesday) and starting a brand-new writing project  The job is back at my old hospital, although in a very different role, the therapy is high-intensity CBT, and the writing project is a young-adult fairytale with a twist.  All of which I’m pretty excited about (well, I don’t know that I’d say ‘excited’ for the therapy actually, but…’positive’, maybe?!)

Between those three things I’m not sure how I’m going to have time for much else to be honest, but I will try to share as much as I can about my experiences, in case it helps anyone else.

I’m still posting my YA contemporary over on Wattpad, and I have a loyal fan base of about ten readers (most of whom are friends/family) who are consistently reading every chapter update and telling me they’re enjoying it, which I think is all most of us really want when we share our work, so I’m calling it a success so far.  I’ve also been pushing myself outside my comfort zone in other ways, like entering writing contests, submitting short stories for anthologies, and taking up burlesque dancing!

My CIDP continues to be well-managed and I’m hoping to reduce my dose of immunoglobulins over the summer months, and my PCOS is also behaving, so for once I don’t feel like I’m using up half my energy in a battle of wills with my own body.

Generally, aside from crippling anxiety, (which the therapy will hopefully help with), and a distinct lack of money (which the job should surely help with), life is good.  (Although obviously I hate typing that for fear of jinxing myself in some way, damn anxiety.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Déjà Vu

That’s the title of the story I’ll be releasing on Wattpad, starting this Friday (24th February)!

I promised last night that I would a. actually follow through and DO THIS and b. tell you, my tiny but loyal readership, a little more about the story itself in case any of you want to read it.  So, here I am.

Déjà Vu is a young adult contemporary novel, set entirely in North Wales, and dealing with- well, basically a lot of the stuff I dealt with as a teen, so- friendship, identity, trying to overcome past trauma, underage drinking, crushes, self-harm and a generous helping of snark.

It is not, however, in any way shape or form autobiographical.  Yes there are little snippets of my experiences parcelled up in my characters, but no more so than in any other character/story I’ve written.  I think all writers put something of themselves in what they write, like little two dimensional horcruxes, but that doesn’t mean that any of the main characters are actually me.  Likewise, although setting the story where my boyfriend grew up, and enlisting the help of our family (thanks guys) to translate some of the Welsh for me- it isn’t in any way based on him or his experiences either.  It’s fiction.  Just to be super clear about that:  I made it up.

It currently stands at 76k words, across 46 (quite short) chapters, although I can’t swear I won’t start tweaking and editing along the way- so the exact figures may vary.  I’m planning to upload new chapters every Monday and Friday.

 

Here is the cover:

dejavucover

(Ta daaaaaa!)

And here is the blurb:

“Ryan Lovell detests the sleepy Welsh village he has lived in his whole life- along with most of the people in it, and in some cases the feeling is mutual. All he wants is to get out the place, but to do that he needs a university place- and to get that he needs a-levels, and money. Neither of which is easy to come by when you have an alcoholic Dad, and are living in the shadow of your own reputation.

Ryan’s best friend Hester is living in foster care and battling her own demons, and his only other friend Dewi has grown distant since they left school. When a new family moves into the village, Ryan gets both a way to make money- in the form of a part-time job as their gardener, and a distraction from his worries- in the form of the new girl Pippa, who joins him and Hester at the local college. For once, Ryan thinks things may finally be looking up- but when he starts blacking out and waking with no memory of what’s happened, he realises that his university plans- and hope of a relationship with Pippa, may be sliding out of his reach.”

 

So, if you like a bit of angst in your literature, enjoy un-pronounceable place names, and are down for strong romantic subplots, then Déjà Vu may be just your thing.  Or alternatively, if you’d just like to offer some support/critique my debut then that’s all good too 😉

This is my profile on Wattpad, where the story will be appearing, so…maybe see some of you over there?  And of course I’ll try to update here too, to let you all know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B. (And I’ll be putting this disclaimer on Wattpad too).  This story does contain reference to (but not descriptions of) self-harm, previous SA, and suicide.  As a survivor of all three, I would hate for anyone to be triggered by that.  I like to think I’ve dealt with the issues sensitively and not used them for shock value- but really, who am I to say what might be triggering to anyone else? So if you think this might apply to you, then it might be best not to read Déjà Vu. I’ll be putting helpline links in the relevant chapters in case anyone is affected.)

“a bag of nerves”

I guess that’s essentially what we all are, but I feel like it sums me up quite nicely, as it manages to encapsulate both my damaged nervous system and my propensity for anxiety.

My anxiety, and in fact my mental health in general, is not something I’ve ever blogged, or really spoken about before to be honest, and I can’t say as I feel a great yearning to suddenly change that now, but as those of you who know me “IRL” will be aware- I have started making a nod to it on Facebook now that I’m actually at a stage of acknowledging it and seeking help.

I think it’s really telling that I have written at length about my experience of being diagnosed with and living with CIDP and had a lot of (mainly positive) feedback around that, and yet still not felt willing or able to share my similar experiences of suffering from startlingly common mental health problems.

As it’s 2017 (although you’d be forgiven for some days wondering if we’ve slipped back in time to the 1930’s) I think we all like to think that we’re pretty open-minded, and terms like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ have lost some of the negative connotations or power that they once held, and in a way that’s probably true. After all, this morning I admitted to no less than four separate people in the playground that yes, I did have a good time on Friday night thank you, but I then had a panic attack in the early hours of Saturday morning that kind of took the shine off.  Being able to share that information with people and not think they’re going to start slowly backing away and turning down my childrens’ party invites, means that yes- we’ve definitely moved on from the notion that suffering from mental illness makes you inferior, or to be avoided.  But on the other hand, here I am still feeling incredibly hesitant about hitting ‘publish’ on this post, because the truth is- there is still that suggestion- whether internal or external, that your mind is something you can FULLY CONTROL.  So if it’s not working quite right- it’s within your power to fix it, and your fault if you then can’t.

I’ve been experiencing anxiety attacks for well over a decade and am only just now holding my hands up and saying, “so this is a thing I need some help with.”  I live with a mental health professional who has been (supportively) encouraging me to get help for the majority of that time.  So if it’s hard for *me*, then how much harder must it be for other people who don’t have someone holding their hand (either literally or metaphorically), rubbing their back and reassuring them that no, they’re not actually going fucking insane, or you know- if they are- then it’ll be alright and no one will hold it against them.

Until recently, my mental health mirrored my circumstances quite accurately, so when things were not going well, my mental health wasn’t great either (makes sense really), and so I told myself that it didn’t really matter how shitty I felt because sooner or later, things would calm down and I’d calm down too.  And that kind of philosophy worked ok for a while.  But for the last couple of years it hasn’t worked out that way- the sea can be flat, crystal blue without so much as a ripple on the surface and I’m still there in my boat yelling “WE’RE GOING TO DROWN!!!!!!”.  This juxtaposition has finally prompted me to actually admit that this is something I can’t just keep ‘riding out until it settles’ and that I need help.

Three little words with so much power.  How terrifying that is to type, let alone say.  But it’s true- I do need help.  I can’t keep waking up feeling like my heart is about to explode out of my chest, struggling for breath and wondering why the hell my body and mind are conspiring to kill me off while I sleep.  I can’t keep squashing down all the inconvenient, messy and downright traumatic bullshit that I’ve put off dealing with.  I need some help, and although that help might not take the cure of a magic wand wafting all this ridiculousness away, I hope at least it will mean I can steer my ship safely, regardless of the tide or the weather conditions, without constantly feeling like I’m about to be nommed-to-death by sharks.

I’ve also decided to be as transparent as I can be about all of this.  Because frankly, if I can blog about my feelings on fostering or that time I collapsed on a bathroom floor, or about pregnancy loss, or my Dad’s death etc etc then I should be able to be open about this kind of thing too.

So…my name is Rebecca and I have anxiety.  The level of anxiety that means that the woman who did my assessment a week ago called me up today to tell me I’m not suitable for low-intensity CBT and she’s referring me for high-intensity instead.  The level of anxiety that means answering phone calls is terrifying, the level of anxiety that wakes me in the dead of night to go check that my children are breathing, the level of anxiety that means I am constantly expecting SOMETHING TERRIBLE TO HAPPEN without knowing specifically what that might entail, so just worrying about every possibility- as a precaution.  The level of anxiety that means my panic attacks have gone from an occasional annoyance to a regular feature that if I wasn’t hyperventilating and crying at the time, I’d probably roll my eyes at.

So- that’s a thing and I’m getting help for it, and because there might be someone out there who is remarkably similar to me at any other point in the last decade, going “oh that’s familiar, but the idea of asking for help is scary”, I’m going to try to keep you all updated on just how scary (or not), this whole ‘getting help’ thing is.

In the meantime- have some helpful links:

https://www.selfhelpservices.org.uk/

(support, services and signposting- this is the link a friend sent me, that finally prompted to action, and I’m now on a waiting list, so if you’re thinking about taking that step, do check it out)

https://mind.org.uk

(Mind are a well known mental health charity and there’s loads of useful info on their site)

http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx

(nhs choices website, you can type literally any condition in and get some reliable information on, and usually some information and advice about getting help too)

https://anxietyuk.org.uk

(a user led organisation)

 

 

 

Letter to my 16 year old self

It’s Theme Thursday! And this week Jenn has gone all out and conjured a time-machine so we can all send letters to our sixteen year old selves.  Cool, right?!
I left home the month before my 16th birthday and life was kind of crazy and hard, really really hard actually.  So there’s a lot I could have written in this letter…but…I’m kind of of the opinion that everything happens for a reason…
(Screenshot from BTVS, courtesy of 20th century fox and the amazingness that is Joss Whedon’s brain)
Ok, good point Buffy. I actually don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I believe that shit happens, and a lot of the time you can’t control it but you can try to control how you react to it and I also believe that my life, right now, is pretty damn awesome, so even though I had to go through some stuff to get here, I’d do it all again just exactly the same if it guaranteed me the same outcome.
With that in mind, I present to you- my letter:
Dear (16 year old) Rebecca
 
It’s your sweet 16!
 
I know there really isn’t anything sweet about it, apart from maybe the nauseatingly sweet smell of horse manure that is your life right now, and I know that when your friend Jenny’s Mum brings your cake out with everyone singing “Happy Birthday!” you’ll be bawling too much to even blow out the candles BUT I’m your 28 year old self so trust me when I say that everything is going to be fine.
 
Repeat after me: everything is going to be fine.  Things will work themselves out, and one day in the not-so-distant-future all this will someday seem like a bizarre film that you watched about someone else’s utterly fucked up life.
 
You just need to keep on doing what you’re doing and everything will kind of fall into place. Oh except, the self-harming, I know you’re angry right now- at the world and everyone in it, including yourself, but honestly you need to cut that shit out and find a healthier coping mechanism, talk to people, get some help, here might be a good place to start.
 
It won’t be easy but you’re worth it (According to L’oreal anyway, but I don’t think that commercial is out yet so I’ve probably just confused the hell out of you).
 
Other than that, you’re doing good kiddo so just keep swimming…oh sorry, that film isn’t out yet either, but it’s a Disney movie- you’ll like it!
 
Life is good, not so much right now I know, but it will be- just you wait 🙂
 
Love from (28 year old) Rebecca
xxx
For more letters click the Theme Thursday button above- quick!- before they’re transported back in time! 😉