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Not everyone I know happens to know that I suffer from a mental illness, it is something I try to be open about but it is increasingly hard has mental health is not a concept a lot of people have good grasp on. As much as I would love to educate everyone on the consequences of being mentally ill, it is tiring and it is often not met with a lot of understanding.
The approach to mental health issues is often turning overbackward, because people can accept you being ill in any part of your body but not the one part that is the most important to you: your brain. My brain is sick, it is sick constantly and it will not ever return to normal. And my brain is not sick by a tumor or a blood cloth, it is sick by a disease that is invisible to everyone else, a disease that no one can see apart for when I’m at my worst. And even then all they can see is that I look very tired.
I like to see my illness as a battle between good and evil. My illness is not a choice, but how I decide to act on it is a choice, and often the evil wins because that is the easy choice and I’m not hero. Most of the time the people I know the best are the ones who have to suffer from my illness the most. This make me keep most people at an arm’s length, because I know most can’t hold on in the long run, because one day I will be at my worst again. Bipolar is not rocket science, rocket science has definitive answers bipolar doesn’t. I can check my emotional math over and over, but I will still have bad days.
When I have a bad day and I have used all my energy not showing it and I finally get home, my sister is the one I snap at for not closing the door in time for the cats not to slip outside. And the truth is, I am sorry every-time that happens and I regret it, but sometimes I cannot help it. I like to think I am better now too, maybe because I’m older, maybe I finally found the right medical combination, but I like to think I manage my illness better now than before.
The true heroes in my life are those who are there, time after time, accepting my irrational mood swings again and again. The people who understand that even though I am on medication I will have good and bad days. The heroes in my life are remarkably few, but I am thankful they are there and put up with me.
Because people in my life has been very fleeting in my life, I have always used books as a sort of escape from the prison I find my mind in. Whether it is reading or writing, it is something that helps me get through the darkest of places. In many ways books has become more like friends who are always there to welcome me back, mostly because they are inanimate objects that can not go anywhere.
One book series in particular that has helped me get through though times are the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. It is a book series I cherish, which is taken out in the darkest of times just to find my way back to a place that is magical. I own numerous copies these books in several editions; hardcover, softcover, pocket books, English edition, Norwegian edition.
Recently I have been through another cross-country move to Belfast, after my years in London and San Francisco it is good to settle down in a smaller town with a slower pace. In these times with a new move, a new job and few well-known faces, I once again is pulled to the magic of Harry Potter in the darkest deep of my depression hoping that once again it will lift my spirit.
Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”
– Albus Dumbledore
When you are a writer and you struggle with depression, writer’s block isn’t just writer’s block anymore. Writer’s block is something that can be easily swayed when you put your will to it; but when your writer’s block comes from depression it is significantly harder.
I have experienced this first hand. In the past I’ve had writer’s block, and I’ve dealt with it. The best way to battle a block is to just sit down and write. The last few years I have struggled with clinical depression, to a degree where I have been on medication. As I write, I do realize that this post should have been written in May, during mental health awareness month, but mental illness is here for all the other months too. For us all to help remove the stigma, we need to be talking about it, not only in May.
The problem with a Writer’s block when you are depressed, is that the will to something about it is far away. For me, writing has been a sort of therapy. My writing is where I write out my anger, my hatred. It is where I can be anything I am unable to be in my real life. Two years ago, I just stopped writing, and writing has been a constant struggle since, and my depression has turned worse. It is a downward spiral; I can’t write because I’m depressed, I’m depressed because I don’t write.
Because of my illness I was unable to finish my Creative Writing Degree, I had to defer my third year and will be doing it over this year. And I do claim to have all the answers to fix it (I’m still not writing the writing I need), because there is no magical cure and it might not get easier.
To battle the writer’s block, the first step is to realize what’s the problem. In my case depression is the reason or my writer’s block, and eventually the writer’s block became a contributing cause for my depression. It was already too late for me to turn things around when I realized this, a whole semester had passed and it was three months until my dissertation was due.
When you realize what the problem is, you can take steps to fix it. In the past my writing had always been linked to my reading. If I read a lot, I would write a lot. At my writing peak I wrote 5000 words a day and I read almost 100 books that year. It is my belief that all writers need to read. To quote one of my favorite Lannister: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”
I think what I am trying to say here is that it is important to see things in context. As writers we create context in all our little pieces of work, but while we are doing this we forget to take a look at our own, very real, life. So my advice would be: read wide, read often, and read to expand your mind. Also, remember it is no shame in putting down a book that just doesn’t rub your back.
Luna’s Red Hat takes up the important subject of suicide, a little discussed taboo topic in our society. Following a beautifully illustrated story of one day in Luna’s life, we get to know how she lost her mother just a year ago and we see a father who is struggling with helping Luna understand what happened as well as coming to terms with his loss.
Through the story Luna behaves realistically, though her thoughts might not be as genuine as her behavior. The loss and the lack of understanding of what happened, has made her frustrated and angry. Her father pulls er through and help her understand is small, clear words what happened to her mother as well as explaining that it was not Luna or any one else’s fault.
As well as containing the small story of Luna and her little family the book ends with an informative essay by Dr. Riet Fiddelaers Jaspers. The essay outlines how to tell a child about such a thing as suicide, and why it is important to actually let the child know what happened.
This book is designed to help children deal with loss and suicide, but I believe adults also could benefit from reading it.
A story about schizophrenia and other illnesses that can cause hallucinations Author: Alice Hoyle Jessica Kingsley Publishers Published: 21.02.2015 Amazon.co.uk || Waterstones.com
“Pretend Friends” paints a good picture of psychosis, what it is and how it works. It is written in simple words and uses “pretend friends” as a simile, which makes it easier for a child to relate to and understand the subject.
The story is short but it still gives a lot of information, both for the adult and the child. The child’s pretend friends and the “pretend friends” that portray adults are drawn differently as to better distinguish between the two (without making the latter one look scary).
Also the book features and introduction for adults as well as a F&Q at the end with questions that children might ask after reading the book. The F&Q is very informative as well as being formulated in a way that a child also can understand (with some help from an adult).
I did really enjoy this book and I would also like to see more of these kind of stories to explain other mental illnesses. As the lack of understanding of mental illnesses is evident in out society, I think we could hugely benefit from more books like this one.