YOU GOT THIS – Bryony Gordon

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE: Young Adult, Teen, Non-Fiction

I wanted to be a unicorn. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be an astronaut.

But the thing I really wanted to be more than anything else, was a little less like me.

It was only recently that I realised not wanting to be me was at the heart of every dumb decision I ever made. And so now I am writing this book containing all the life lessons I wish someone had taught me.

A book for the teenage girl in me. And for every teenage girl out there. Because the most powerful thing you can be when you grow up is yourself.

Frank and fearless, You Got This openly explores topics like self-respect, body image, masturbation and mental health, making it the perfect companion for young women.

I’ve been keen to read a book by Bryony Gordon since I heard about how she tackles the stigma around mental health and OCD in a fresh way, and as someone who struggles with both of these it’s definitely something that interests me. However, I also feel like a teenager in my head and find grown up books difficult so I’ve not picked up her bestseller Mad Girl (crazy I know).

Then along comes You Got This. Aimed at teens and covering all the difficulties of growing up, which, let’s face it, even us “grown ups” haven’t mastered yet! The comment from Fearne Cotton on the back about this being “A book that every teenage girl needs to read…and every grown woman will wish she had read.” could not be more true. I could seriously have done with this book in my teen years to explain everything that was happening and how you don’t have to have everything mapped out and that it’s okay to just be you.

The main message that I took away from You Got This was exactly that; I have got this! Yes, things don’t always go according to plan and mental health conditions have made things pretty rocky but, ultimately, I’m doing a blimming good job of being myself and that’s the most important thing to be.


Thank you to Team BKMRK for sending me a copy of this book as part of a Twitter competition!
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NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD – Claire Hennessy

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RELEASED: 14/07/2016
PUBLISHER: Hot Key
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary

What happens when you give in to the voices in your head? Annabel is dead. And she’s not happy about it. Despite having strived to be ‘lighter than air’ back when she was alive, the consequences of that yearning haven’t quite sunk in yet. Julia Jacobs is fat. Which Annabel immediately notices when she’s assigned as Julia’s ghostly helper (don’t even think about calling her a guardian angel). And as her helper, Julia’s problem seems pretty obvious to Annabel. Fat = problem = unhappy. Sorted. The only trouble is that whatever is causing Julia to overeat is hidden deep within her. Annabel will have to get to know Julia to uncover this secret and ‘fix’ her. Annabel can become the voice of reason, Julia’s source of strength. Except. . . all this time spent in someone’s head has got Annabel thinking. Not just about food, but about her family too. And that maybe happiness can mean more than eradicating all the flesh from your bones.

I’ll be honest, I did not finish this book. In fact, I only made it a few chapters in. However, I feel as though I can review this book because I didn’t DNF it because I wasn’t in the mood for a contemporary or a book about eating disorders. Quite the opposite! I really fancied reading this book and wanted to give it a go. It tied in perfectly with Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 being on the theme of body image and so I honestly wanted to connect to this book and, for want of a better word, enjoy it.

Nothing Tastes As Good should come with MASSIVE trigger warnings; I don’t even have an eating disorder (I’ve had a lot of issues with food and body image, but never to the extent that many people suffer) and I found it so uncomfortable and triggering to read. I get that eating disorders take over your life and distort your perception of yourself and others, but to have to read a book where the narration is like that little voice that’s in your head telling you you’re not good enough is not a book that I want to read, and it’s not one that I can recommend at all.

In the wrong hands, this book has the potential to be dangerous.

I’ve read triggering books for all kinds of mental illnesses before or situations that I personally find triggering, and I’m not one to shy away from hard-hitting books, but this book takes it a step too far and, from what I read, it makes the reader not feel good enough. It’s very rare that I don’t give a book a good shot, but for the protection of my own mental health I had to put this one down.

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – What I’ve Learnt From CBT

Hello and welcome to my final thoughts for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Sorry I forgot to post yesterday, but it’s given me a bit of extra time to think about what I’d like to talk about today.

So, as you may or may not know, I’ve had a few rounds of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) now. Initially I was undergoing treatment for OCD a few years ago, and at the time I didn’t think it was helpful. Looking back, it was! A lot of my behaviours have slowly changed over the years since then and my OCD is now under very good control. I also had high intensity CBT last year into this year for anxiety and depression. It’s very weird how therapy works; in the moment it doesn’t seem as though it’s doing a lot. I’d go along every week, tick numbers on a sheet and talk about my feelings and what I’d like to achieve in the next week whilst learning different techniques to help with this. Some were far from useful – I don’t like mindfulness and find that my brain is always far too busy to effectively get it! For pretty much all the mindfulness exercises I didn’t take a lot away. However, there are some things that were very useful, and it’s these that I’d like to talk about a little bit more today!

Linking into the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week which is Body Image, my therapist and I found that low self esteem was a big trigger which would then become a bit of a circle as I’d then feel worse. Over the years with various counsellors we’ve got to the bottom of a lot of why I feel so negatively about myself, but that’s half of the solution. I still needed to learn how to deal with those negative thoughts. One of my pieces of homework was to write down all my positive qualities and what other people saw that was good in me. It’s a pretty challenging task, thinking positively about yourself, and it seemed quite big headed at times saying “I’m good at my job!” or “my boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful!” because I really don’t see it that way! But, as I was told, in the future if I’m feeling low about myself, I can go back to that and see that okay, maybe I’m not so bad! 

Another piece of homework was to take time for me. I didn’t realise quite how important this is, and it doesn’t have to be anything big. I was down about the fact that I didn’t seem to enjoy anything I used to and just couldn’t get motivated. We decided that my weekly task from then on would be to make time for myself, even if it was only ten minutes, and combining two of the things that I used to love was a good way to start. My homework was bliss; it was to have a bath and do some reading to relax and make sure that I take that little bit of time for me! I found this to be achievable and it really helped with getting me back into reading.

The final thing that I took away was monitoring my moods. I found it so useful throughout my course to see how my moods were fluctuating through the depression and anxiety scale that’s used (for anyone who’s never filled one out before, you’re given about 7-8 statements and have to circle how often it’s affected you in the past week and it ranges from very mild symptoms such as lack of motivation to the most severe). Because I found that so useful, we decided that I would try to keep a mood diary and we tried out a few different ones. I found the smiley face system to be the easiest – it took just a few seconds out of my day where I would draw a smiley face to show my mood! If I wanted to I could write a little bit about why and it was interesting at the next appointment to see how something that had made me really upset in the week was actually forgotten within days and wasn’t actually a big deal!

I know that CBT isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that’s struggling with mental health I would highly recommend trying it if it’s something that’s offered to you. I was signed up when I was at a low point, but my appointment took a few months. By then I was feeling a lot better but on the encouragement of my doctor I still went; sometimes it’s easier to learn the techniques when you’re not necessarily suffering too much. Time will tell whether the skills I learnt will work if I dip majorly again, but I’m hopeful that I’m a lot stronger and have a good knowledge about my moods to be able to handle them a little bit better!

kayleigh

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Reducing My Meds

After over six years of being on anti-depressants, this year I decided that I was stable enough to attempt to reduce them with the aim of coming off them entirely, and a lovely triggering newspaper article about side effects set off my anxiety and pushed me to come off them. This time last year, I was on 200mg of Sertraline and 5mg of Aripiprazole (an antipsychotic) but as I write this I am now on 150mg and 2.5mg respectively. I thought that for today’s post I’d just share a little bit about how I’ve found reducing medication that I’ve become so dependent on.

I reduced Aripiprazole last year; it was making me so sleepy which wasn’t helping me! It was suggested by my pharmacist that I try halving my tablets so as to reduce it (luckily I was on a low dose anyway!) and I’ve found that that made such a difference. It’s helped enough to keep my moods in check a bit more, but I’m not as sleepy as I was.

Sertraline I only started reducing a month or so ago. Because I’m on such a high dose, I’ve been reducing it by 25mg at a time. I initially wanted to reduce my dose every two weeks, but I really started feeling withdrawal effects after that time so we decided to continue to make it a month. The first effects that I, and everyone around me, noticed were that I was very agitated and angry, which is so unlike me! I then crashed and went all emotional. It was a bit of a rollercoaster two weeks. However, after the first couple of weeks it all settled down a bit and I was able to continue with reducing. I’m now on my second month and taking 150mg daily. I thought it was all going plain sailing until this week; I’ve been feeling very light-headed and dizzy and getting headaches, which is unusual. That said, I have noticed these side effects in the past if I’ve ever missed more than one dose, so unfortunately I think I’m just going to have to ride it out.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking medication. In fact, I fully support it. But I also recognise that it’s not always the only solution and I don’t have to be on them for life; I can come off them and be okay! This is just my experience so far of reducing my medication, and it’s a process that I’ll be going through (if all goes to plan) until about September. Whilst I’m not particularly enjoying the side effects, I’m relieved that I’ve not struggled that much with my mental health, and it’s been more physical symptoms. It makes a change to feel like I’m in a bubble because I’m light-headed, and not because I’m on the verge of a meltdown!

All of the above is not going to be the same for everyone, and it’s also okay if you’re not ready to come off your medication. It’s taken me a long time to decide and it’s not a decision that you should feel under any pressure to make!

kayleigh

 

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Body Image and Books

I didn’t realise that the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Body Image, and this is such a good theme to get everyone thinking and talking about! Personally, I’ve really struggled with body image for well over 15 years, and it’s led to disordered eating and depression on many occasions, and I’ve also seen the destruction it can cause to people’s lives first hand. Most people will at some point not feel good enough, or feel insecure about their body, and I think that raising awareness of how it is normal to feel these things but how to cope with those feelings in a safe way is really important.

One way that awareness can be raised is, of course, through books. Young Adult fiction in particular is fantastic for showing struggles with body image at a time when our bodies are changing and many issues arise. I’m going to share below some of the titles that have really helped me to understand that I’m not alone in feeling so insecure over the years. I will say, however, that if you’re triggered by anything to do with eating disorders then please do use your judgement on whether reading these books is right for you. Also, there is definitely a lack of books about male body image out there! All of the books I’ve read have been about girls and that’s not to say that boys don’t have difficulties too, because they do. If anyone has suggestions of ones that I’ve not come across, please do mention them in the comments!

Wintergirls (Paperback)Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

A beautifully written and riveting look at anorexia from acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson. Cassie and Lia are best friends, and united in their quest to be thin. But when Cassie is found dead in a motel room, Lia must question whether she continues to lose weight, or choose life instead.

Mates, Dates and Chocolate Cheats – Cathy Hopkins

When Izzie returns from the school trip to Italy, she tries to put on her jeans, but they won’t do up! It looks as though she has put on eight pounds since Christmas and all her clothes have become very tight. Izzie then goes into the horrible spiral of becoming obsessive about her weight.

Girls Under Pressure - Girls (Paperback)Girls Under Pressure – Jacqueline Wilson

Magda is tall and glamorous, Nadine is willowy and ‘gothic’. And Ellie . . . well, Ellie is just plain normal. The three girls have been best friends forever, but now Ellie is convinced she’s fat, Nadine wants to be a model, and Magda worries that her appearance is giving guys the wrong idea. The pressure is on for them to change the way they look – but can they learn to love themselves, just the way they are? 

Second Star to the Right – Deborah Hautzig

This is an honest and moving account of a girl in the grip of anorexia nervosa. On the face of it, Leslie is a normal, healthy, well-adjusted fourteen-year-old girl. She goes to a good school, has a great friend in Cavett, and a mother who loves her to the moon and back. She should be happy, yet she’s not. She would be, she thinks, if only she were thinner. But ‘thinking thin’ becomes a dangerous obsession and Leslie’s weight drops to five stone, threatening to destroy her and the whole fabric of her family life. Only by realizing that this condition is an illness – and one that has its roots in a deep problem – can Leslie hope to survive.

Holding Up the Universe (Paperback)Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours. 
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are – and seeing them right back. 

Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

I’m Annabel. I’m the girl who has it all. Model looks, confidence. A great social life. I’m one of the lucky ones. Aren’t I?
My ‘best friend’ is spreading rumours about me. My family is slowly falling apart. It’s turning into a long, lonely summer, full of secrets and silence.
But I’ve met this guy who won’t let me hide away. He’s one of those intense types, obsessed with music. He’s determined to make me listen. And he’s determined to make me smile. But can he help me forget what happened the night everything changed?

Eleanor & Park (Paperback)Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

kayleigh

 

 

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Where Am I Now?

A year goes so quickly! It seems like no time at all since last May, and Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.

As you may or may not know, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I like to share a few of my thoughts over the week about various topics to do with mental health. Today I thought I’d just give a bit of an update on how I’m doing with my mental health. If you’ve followed my blog or Twitter for a while, you’ll have read about or seen how my moods and conditions fluctuate. However, I’ve actually been fairly stable for about six months now! So much so that I completed my course of CBT and am currently in the process of reducing my Sertraline tablets (admittedly that’s been spurred on by anxiety, thank you Daily Mail!) and my melt downs are much less frequent!

The one thing I will say is that it’s not all been plain sailing. I still have down days, and I still struggle with anxiety fairly often. But I know better how to manage it and how to recognise the signs. I also have a really good support network at work and at home which really does make a difference; my boyfriend especially knows all the signs that I’m dipping and is there waiting with a big hug!

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come; I genuinely can’t remember how it feels to feel so low like I did before. When I first started my CBT, I was answering a very high score for depression and feelings of wanting to harm myself, but by the time I’d been going to sessions for a few months, I noticed it gradually start to decrease and get to a very low score by the time I completed the course. Even now I still think my answers would be pretty low! I really hope I can continue this trend, but, even if I do dip, I know that I can pull myself back up.kayleigh

Check out my posts from last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week:

My Mental Health and Social Media
Book Recommendations
Meds…good or bad?
Mental Health and the Workplace
Stress

snailycanflyy Book Award 2018

Last year, I hosted my first snailycanflyy Book Award, where I narrowed down my top books of the year, and after a fab reading year the award is back for 2018! Last year saw some tough competition from some amazing books featuring amazing authors and illustrators with the overall winner being the very worthy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson which still stands out as one of the best books I’ve ever read!

The award is split into three categories – Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade and Best Young Adult, with a winner in each category and an overall winner. The criteria is simply that it has to be a five-star rated book published in 2018 and one that I want to talk about, one that has stuck with me since reading and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. So, without futher ado, here are the category nominees:

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BEST PICTURE BOOK:

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn – Lou Carter, Nikki Dyson
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the FiddleDavid Litchfield
Ruby’s Worry – Tom Percival
Space Tortoise – Ross Montgomery, David Litchfield
The Story Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty Jessica Courtney-Tickle

BEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK:

The Truth PixieMatt Haig
Death in the Spotlight – Robin Stevens
The Eye of the North – Sinead O’Hart
The Light Jar Lisa Thompson
The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart

BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK:

I Was Born For ThisAlice Oseman
To Kill a KingdomAlexandra Christo
LegendaryStephanie Garber
Sunflowers in FebruaryPhyllida Shrimpton
The Exact Opposite of OkayLaura Steven

AND THE WINNERS ARE…drumroll please!

oscar the hungry unicornBEST PICTURE BOOK
Oscar the Hungry Unicorn

death in the spotlightBEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK
Death in the Spotlight

to kill a kingdomBEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK
To Kill a Kingdom

OVERALL WINNER
The Truth Pixie

A massive congratulations and thank you to all of the authors who’s books made it to the shortlist! All of these books are so incredible and I’ve loved reading them in 2018!

kayleigh

 

FIERCE FRAGILE HEARTS – Sara Barnard

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So…as I write this review it’s 2018. I’ve already decided what one of the top books of 2019 is, and it’s this one – the sequel to the equally wonderful Beautiful Broken Things.

I was so desperate for a copy of this book, and I’m so glad that I was approved on NetGalley to read it early! The only reservation I had was that it was so long ago that I read Beautiful Broken Things that I thought I wouldn’t remember anything about it and would struggle to get into the new title, but how wrong I was! It’s a testament to how brilliant Sara’s writing and characterisation is that I was thrown straight back into the world with some of the most wonderful characters!

img_3606A key factor that makes Sara’s books so popular and loved is that her characters are real. They’re perfectly flawed, relatable and diverse. For example, as we’ve previously seen in her books, mental health is a key theme that she gets right – in Fierce Fragile Hearts, whether or not you have experience of anxiety, depression or bipolar, there’re parts of Suze (our main character) that are highly relatable to all readers on some level. However, the thing that I love is that those heavy topics that in so many books you have to put them down, such as abuse and mental health, don’t define the book and overshadow the story. I guess what I’m very badly trying to say is that a subject that could be incredibly triggering is presented in a way that doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the book.

I could witter on about how much I love this book for ages, and as the day has gone on the intensity of that feeling has grown, along with my feelings for Matt *swoon*. Yet again, a five-star read that I urge everyone to get their hands on!


Thank you to MyKindaBook via NetGalley for the eBook of this title!

GIRL IN PIECES – Kathleen Glasgow

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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.

 

Six for Sunday: 28th October 2018

Hello! Today’s topic has been a really interesting one; so many amazing books have come out in the past couple of years since I wasn’t a teenager anymore and I really wish that I’d had when I was younger. It’s also interesting to think about what you would’ve liked back then. Anyway, you can find the prompts for Six for Sunday here, and this week’s topic is:

Books you wish you’d had as a teen

the exact opposite of okay1. I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman

the truth pixie2. The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

the goldfish boy3. The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig

4. The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson

5. Worries Go Away – Kes Gray

6. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas

It was actually really hard to narrow down! Would you have liked any of these books when you were a teen?