YOUR MIND IS LIKE THE SKY – Bronwen Ballard, Laura Carlin

img_43174.5/5

RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Picture Book, Mental Health

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds? This beautiful picture book, written by child psychologist Bronwen Ballard and illustrated by award-winning artist Laura Carlin, shows children that worries and negative thoughts are normal and helps them develop healthy thinking habits. Tips on mindfulness and extra resources for parents are included at the back of the book.

As someone who struggles with controlling my thoughts, I was very intrigued when I heard about this book. Mindfulness is something that I haven’t found useful in the past, much as I’d love it to be! So, I was really hoping that a picture book aimed at children may help me a little bit more…

Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Your Mind Is Like The Sky is a beautiful book with a powerful message; whilst you can’t control your thoughts, you can accept them and learn to deal with the different types. I love how thoughts are personified into clouds; this makes them seem less scary, and shows that, despite how dark they can be sometimes, they are only thoughts and they will pass. Unlike many books that focus on mindfulness, there isn’t too much text which made this book stand out even more. It reads just like a normal story and is just the right length to make it useful but not overwhelming.

At the back, something that’ll make this book more useful for parents and teachers is the breakdown of how mindfulness works and what you can do to help children. That said, I think that this book is useful for people of all ages who struggle with raincloud thoughts making this an essential addition to your collection of books about mental health.


Thank you to Ellen at Quarto for sending me a copy of this book.
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THE TRUTH PIXIE – Matt Haig

the truth pixie

5/5

RELEASED: 18/10/2018
PUBLISHER: Canongate
GENRE: Young Reader, Mental Health

From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould.

Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

I’ve wanted to write this review ever since I read The Truth Pixie, but I just haven’t quite known where to start!

The Truth Pixie is such a magical little book that I strongly believe everyone should read (I’ve bought eight copies as gifts this Christmas!) and it’s one that can be enjoyed again and again.

To begin with, it’s not a daunting read at all. It’s tiny. But, for such a small book, it carries so many important messages and provides so much comfort for people going through all sorts of difficulties from anxiety to grief. The description of it being “Reasons To Stay Alive for seven year olds” is not wrong! Then you have the fact that it’s beautifully illustrated by Chris Mould. Whilst his illustrations are not my usual type that I would go for, they fit the story and book perfectly.

I can’t recommend The Truth Pixie enough; whether it’s for yourself or as a gift, it’s the perfect little book to have.

kayleigh

 

 

GIRL IN PIECES – Kathleen Glasgow

girl in pieces5/5

SundayYA today has involved a lot of recommendations, both books that are out already and books that are most anticipated for next year. One author that came to mind immediately for both of these topics was Kathleen Glasgow; I adored Girl in Pieces and am incredibly excited for How To Make Friends With The Dark! As I’m making my way through all my old reviews on retail sites and transferring them on to here, I figured that today is the perfect day to finally upload my review of Girl in Pieces from when I first read it way back in 2016 as a longlist reader for a children’s book award. I went on to nominate it for the shortlist, insist on copies being stocked in the bookshops where I worked, and sell sell sell!

img_3485I could not shut up about this book since I started and finished reading it; it’s an absolutely incredible debut! It’s filled with such raw emotion, but not to the extent that it is an uncomfortable or triggering read, and, although this is an extreme case of depression/self-harm, it’s one that sheds a very realistic light on the issue. For people who have experienced this, the book is inspiring and easy to relate to, but equally it’s enlightening for people who do not know much about the mentality behind self harm and suicide. One of my personal highlights is the BEAUTIFUL author’s note at the back. READ IT!

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My heavily tabbed copy!

It’s surprisingly easy to read and get totally lost in because of the way it’s written. The book is separated into parts and the chapters are all of varying length, which added to the overall feel of the book as I felt that the “chapter” lengths sort of represented the state of mind of Charlie at various stages of her mental health. It’s also brilliant how Kathleen has touched upon the problem of young adult homelessness, and how often the reasons behind it aren’t the fault of the young people themselves but more a result of their situation at home.

All in all though, this book shows how you can hit rock bottom but it IS possible to carry on and survive despite all the stuff that life can throw at you.

 

SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS – Jack Cheng

5/5

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.

But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.


see you in the cosmosThis book was completely out of this world; the voice of Alex was so innocent and entertaining and made it such a compelling read. This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think. See You In The Cosmos is such an important read for many reasons, many of which become apparent as you make your way through the book and towards the end. As an adult reading it, it was so endearing to see the world through a child’s eyes and some of the things he was questioning were brilliant and so many things made me laugh out loud!

Alex is 11 years old (13 in responsibility years) and we are reading the transcripts of his recordings on his Golden iPod that this space-mad youngster is planning to launch into space so Aliens can learn about Earth. We join Alex on his adventure across the country, and ultimately his adventure to discover who he is.

See You In The Cosmos is hands down one of the best and most original 9-12 books released in recent years, and I can not recommend it highly enough for youngsters and grown ups!


Thank you very much to Penguin for sending me a proof copy of this book!

WORRIES GO AWAY – Kes Gray, Lee Wildish

5/5

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best picture book for children (and grown ups!) that deals with worries and anxiety.

Worries Go Away is a beautifully illustrated story that’s accessible with rhymes and imagery (in typical Kes Gray style, it’s fun to read!), that shows the progression of worrying from that little nagging thought at the back of your mind to the full blown worry and feeling of being unable to escape those thoughts, but then how just by sharing your worries or feelings with others you can deal with those worries. The story is simple enough that for younger children it helps them to open up about things that are worrying them, but it’s also so good and meaningful that older children and adults who suffer from worries or anxiety can relate to the little girl and the feelings she’s experiencing and learn how to cope from this book too.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and have read my copy so many times! It’s a very special book to me; often I feel like I am the little girl and so having Kes Gray sign it with a beautiful message for me really means so much!

Unfortunately, not enough people have heard of this book, and as a bookseller I would throw it into so many people’s hands. Now, as a blogger, I want to figuratively do that so more people go out there and pick it up!

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Stress

So, we come to my final post of the week for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, and I thought it’s probably about time that I do a bit about the actual theme for this week, which this year is STRESS.

Everyone experiences stress in their life to some degree, but it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference. For some people, they thrive off stress and it doesn’t bring them down; it brings out the best in them. For others, especially those with mental health conditions, stress can be incredibly debilitating.

Stress is a valid condition, and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, however, it’s very often trivialised because it’s so common and a lot of people don’t understand it when it’s at its worst. It’s all too easy to ignore what is often a cry for help when someone says “I’m stressed,” because so many people will use it to slack or even get signed off. Often those who are suffering the most are the ones who you’ll see flipping out easily or getting over emotional, but they continue to stay in the situation – more stress can be caused by doing otherwise! It’s a vicious cycle sometimes.

Stress can be especially bad when it involves someone with preexisting mental health conditions. One of my previous managers, besides being a vindictive person, had no concept of the stress that her actions would put upon me and my colleagues. It often would act as the trigger for a depressive episode or increased anxiety, which was counter productive anyway! I just can’t get my head around people who actively seek to stress out others.

So, what can we do?

Awareness is such an important factor; the conversations we have about mental health are helping to educate people about mental health and the importance of understanding it, and, whilst we still have a long way to go, people are becoming more open about their mental health. Also, such a simple one, BE KIND! You never know how your actions will affect someone else, so if you can avoid being that negative or malicious person that causes undue stress to someone else, do!

 

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Mental Health and the Workplace

The issue of mental health and the workplace is one of the main areas with a stigma attached; it’s at work that people are often afraid to come out with their struggles and feel comfortable enough to be honest.

My first long-term job was at Boots where I worked during some of the hardest periods for my mental health and I can honestly say that they were fantastic. I had no choice but to be open about what I was going through and I found that they were so supportive. So I never really understood the whole thing about the “stigma”. But then I got my, what I thought was, dream job at Waterstones. From my past  experience at Boots with being open, I expected the same from my new job! How wrong I was. I finally understood why people are afraid  honest about their mental health.
This. Is. Wrong.

People should not feel ashamed about their mental health. We don’t feel ashamed about our physical health, so why should this be any different?! People can’t help it, so why should they be victimised for it?
What do you think? Has being honest about your mental health caused problems at work? 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Meds…good or bad?

So I got thinking earlier after @jenniely posted on Twitter about medication being used to treat mental health. This is something I discuss quite a lot, plus my job as a dispenser involves a lot of medication!

I take two different medications for my conditions that I discussed in a previous post for this week – one is an anti-anxiety/antidepressant and the other is technically an anti-psychotic which makes it sound worse than it is! Basically, the two together help to keep my moods on an even level; one brings me up and the other stops me from going high. I’ve been on various antidepressants for 5 and a half years, and I honestly don’t know how I’d cope without them, and anti-psychotics for a year. The two together, although they make me a bit drowsier sometimes, work really well!

So, as you can probably tell, I’m very much in favour of medication being used in mental health conditions. I don’t understand why there’s such a stigma; if you had a broken leg, no one would bat an eyelid at you wearing a cast, so why should antidepressants etc be any different?! In the interests of fairness though, I shall put across both the positives and the drawbacks.

Positive effects:

  • you don’t feel as depressed or anxious or high or out of control
  • they help to “normalise” your moods and get you back to feeling like yourself
  • they help you to go about your daily life without having some sort of breakdown every five minutes

Negative effects:

  • you can get stuck in a cycle of dependency
  • they can stop working so you end up upping the dose, meaning it’s harder to come off them
  • It can take a while to find the right medication, and some medications can make things worse

What do you think about the use of medication in treating mental health disorders? Have you got experience of them working or not working?

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Book Recommendations

So, this is after all a book blog and so I would like to spend some time recommending my favourite books that deal sensitively and effectively with mental health. If you want to almost guarantee that I pick up a book, just add that it’s got something about mental health – I’m sold! Here are some of my favourites:

The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson
OCD

You can’t really get away from how much I love this book if you follow me on social media! The Goldfish Boy is a middle grade mystery where the main character Matthew has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and it’s honestly the best portrayal of OCD that I’ve ever come across. Obviously OCD affects people differently, but for me this book was perfect as mine manifests in the same way as Matthew’s. What surprised me most is that it’s not an own-voices book; Lisa has done such an incredible job of writing about OCD.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard
Anxiety

For people with anxiety, this book is perfect to show you that you’re not alone; it’s an illness that can strike anyone, can be totally out of the blue, but it is something that you can survive and it’s okay to have bad days; “Little victories are everything.” There are wonderful people out there who will help you and support you.

Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow
Depression/Self Harm

Girl in Pieces is filled with such raw emotion, but not to the extent that it is an uncomfortable or triggering read, and, although this is an extreme case of depression/self-harm, it’s one that sheds a very realistic light on the issue. For people who have experienced this, the book is inspiring and easy to relate to, but equally it’s enlightening for people who do not know much about the mentality behind self harm and suicide.This book shows how you can hit rock bottom but it IS possible to carry on and survive despite all the stuff that life can throw at you.

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
Depression/Suicide

This book is controversial, but I’m firmly in the camp of people who LOVE it. Whilst I do appreciate the flaws that people mention, for me the book is more about how the things people say and do can impact so much on others rather than about the suicide and morals of the tapes. It’s about knowing how the little things we do can have a massive effect on other people; you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life.

See You In The Cosmos – Jack Cheng
Schizophrenia

The first book I’ve come across that deals with schizophrenia, this is one that’s completely unputdownable! Whilst the subject of mental health isn’t the main focus of the book, we see the effect that someone’s mental health can have on those around us.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
Bipolar

All I will say is have a box of tissues handy if you’re planning to read this one! One of my favourite ever books, All The Bright Places totally deserves all the hype surrounding it although it will break your heart. Whilst coming across as a book about suicide, it focuses on the effects of bipolar disorder.

I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman
Anxiety

This one subtly tackles the topic of anxiety and of how utterly terrifying a panic attack can be; whilst mental health isn’t at the forefront of the book, it’s definitely an underlying theme.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies – Louise Gornall
Anxiety

A beautiful own-voices novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies has such a fantastic representation of anxiety and agoraphobia. It shows just how debilitating living with anxiety can be and how it’s not simply a case of being a bit of a worrier.

Worries Go Away – Kes Gray
Anxiety

One of my absolute favourite picture books, the story is simple enough that for younger children it helps them to open up about things that are worrying them, but it’s also so good and meaningful that older children and adults who suffer from worries or anxiety can relate to the little girl and the feelings she’s experiencing and learn how to cope from this book too.

We Are Young – Cat Clarke
Depression/Suicide

We Are Young touches upon the devastating effects that depression and bipolar can have. Cat Clarke writes about mental health issues perfectly, and We Are Young is no exception.

The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

Depression

This stunning picture book is another of my favourites; I love the illustrations and it’s such a beautifully depicted story of depression which shows the ups and downs.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: My Mental Health and Social Media

So, it’s time for something a little bit different on here; it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This is something that’s very close to my heart as mental health has impacted my whole life, both from growing up with people who have mental health difficulties and from my own struggles. I have OCD, Depression, Anxiety, Cyclothymia (a type of Bipolar Disorder) and have had disordered eating for over 10 years. I’ve had a couple of mental breakdowns and have battled with self harm. My mental health has fluctuated so much over the years, particularly since I was 18 which is when I first got my diagnosis, initially for OCD. Over those years, I’ve seen so much change in social media and the way that we use it and it impacts upon our lives, and I’d definitely say that it’s impacted upon my mental health.

I really got thinking about this post thanks to Ashleigh on Twitter posting a call for bloggers to write a bit about how social media, such as Instagram, impacts upon mental health through promoting the idea of the “perfect” body or persona. It’s something that I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years that I’ve been active on social media, and increasingly so since I’ve become more aware of mental health problems.

Social media is amazing; it brings like-minded people together, adds a whole new dimension to your passions and hobbies, and can open up so many opportunities. It can also benefit people with mental health issues as they can find people with similar experiences and get a sense of belonging.

However, the opposite is also true.

Mental health can be significantly impacted upon by social media, and it’s not always good. Speaking as someone with a nice collection of mental health conditions, social media can heighten obsessions, the feeling of not being good enough, comparing yourself to others, questioning your own mental health…the list goes on. Sites such as Instagram show the things that people want you to see, a snapshot of their life, which so often has been carefully crafted to reflect what they want you to, as opposed to the reality. I am a member of the bookish community, and whilst most people are so supportive and lovely, you can still feel like an outsider all the time and think you don’t fit in, that you’re not as good as other bloggers or bookstagrammers, you don’t have friends within the community, that your interactions are all one way. As social media continues to grow and be an important part of our lives, these anxieties and feelings are only increasing as the online world merges with reality.

So, how has social media affected my conditions?

It’s had both a positive and negative impact. For example, when I was really struggling with dark thoughts, Tumblr and Twitter would be my outlets where I could just get those feelings out. I figured that if I’d put out there that I was suicidal, it was taking that thought away from me. One thing I established when having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was that I put too much importance on the power of thoughts, a common trait amongst people with OCD and anxiety disorders, so this ability to take those thoughts away but show that they’re there and they’re real as such was very useful. On the other hand, I feel like an outsider so often on social media, and like I don’t fit in. I’m sure lots of people feel this way, but when you have a mental health condition those feelings are amplified tenfold and can have such a detrimental effect on your happiness. Why didn’t that person follow me back when they’re clearly a small account? Why don’t I get invited to blogger meet ups? Why didn’t they reply? It all seems so petty and small, but the thoughts of not being good enough can really take over.

Do you agree about the impact social media can have on your mental health? How can we tackle this growing problem?