Category Archives: enjoy life

Characters have lives of their own

Hi

Today is 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was released…happy anniversary to JK Rowling and Harry.

My writing brain stays on almost constantly and can set me challenges I may want to  ignore at 5am!!

I have been known to come up with a plot twist whilst cleaning my teeth or in dreams and basics for articles for my clients can pop in to my head at the weirdest times. This is no 9-5 job! But that’s what I love about writing. Anytime, anywhere unexpected guests and developments arrive.

With fiction you aren’t so much in control of the work as the characters…I’m the ringmaster-lion tamer so the characters don’t run away with themselves but sometimes they write themselves slightly differently from the “plan.”

I may have spent time outlining the plot etc. and they go and rewrite it organically as if my imagination wasn’t the creator of both!!! Sam in Heads or Tails/Love Will Find a Way was originally intended to be sarcastic-cheeky but he wrote himself as a devious immoral b*****d. This made him stronger. A former neighbour proved to be the unconscious inspiration for the main character’s mother. This made her a lot more ridiculous and everyone knows someone like her.

The plot twist subsequently re-twisted. I liked that. An outline is good as a springboard but few of my fiction books have stuck to my plan…the characters got together and mutinied!

Some writers cry when they kill off their characters, they can say through them what they’d never dare say in real life, work through issues, and they can celebrate with their characters when they achieve their victories, large and small. This doesn’t mean we’re insane…we’re invested!

(The book I wrote when I was suffering from serious depression will never see the light of day…it’s pretty bleak.)

For me, after these good, bad and background characters form the centre of the world through the writing-editing and on to publishing, I let them go…toddling off in to the world to make their way to the readers imagination…and every reader will perceive them slightly differently thanks to their attitudes, perspectives and history. These guys are chameleons.

Hopefully, luckily, happily, a whole new set of characters, a plot and a new butterfly storm of ideas will happen in the most inconvenient but perfect ways…Writing is hard work but fabulous!

Love Will Find A Way: Scandal And Historical Romance by [Hayle, Joanne] 

Heads or Tails is the paperback version of the e-book Love Will Find a Way. Both available from Amazon. 

 

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Mental health: Take time for YOU.

Hi

Spending time to make your brain feel more positive, rested and peaceful is not selfish, it’s wise. You need it.

If you live with mental illness, know this: You may not believe it but you’re a wonderful person and you are doing great. Each day you are getting from dawn to dusk and that takes energy and courage. (I know, I’ve been there.)

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Every day with mental health issues may feel like a year but it’s best to take one day at a time and try to enjoy the moment you’re in. Think of a hamster on a wheel, that’s your anxiety running at full speed. You’ll fall to the floor exhausted but you’ll have travelled nowhere.

This is difficult and there are no easy fixes or shortcuts – but if you can be strict with overactive overthinking brain and not permit yourself to play “what if? ” or think about anything except what you are doing then this significantly reduces anxiety and gives you fuller enjoyment. For example, engage in a film and invest 100% (or as as much as you can) to it. That leaves less room for the chatterbox in your head.

Listen to a piece of music and feel it, shut out the persistent “you should be doing this or that instead.” Why should you? Is it written in stone that you can’t take time for yourself? That you must work like a drudge, worry yourself in to a coma and feel bad for helping yourself feel better?

Sadly, this is tricky because so much of our lives is ruled by routine, work hours, deadlines and the amount of things we commit to from a sense of obligation, being seen to do the right thing and fitting in.

No is a tiny word but saying it (difficult again) can make a huge difference to how many demands are placed on your shoulders and how frazzled you are.

You have the right to be in charge of your day. If too much of it isn’t yours is there a way to find time for healing your mind, shutting off from stress and being you, in the moment?

Even two minutes spent visualising a tranquil scene has soothing effects…can you find two minutes a few times a day?  I really hope so, it helped and helps me SO MUCH to get through days when depression/anxiety tries to regain power.

 

Have the best day possible.X

 

 

Don’t listen to the liar!

Hi,

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It’s really tough to remember that depression is a liar. Not a fibber, but a whopping great big, no holds barred, stinky phantom of lies. (And yes, its pants are on fire.)

It tells you that there is no hope, no point to anything, that you’re a waste of space, that you are a blight on other peoples lives…it wants you to believe that every single tomorrow that you have left in your life will be as miserable and energy sapping as today. Depression’s nasty little chemicals want to swamp you.

I’ve been there and I believed the lies for a long time. Too long.

Good news!!!! Today is better, brighter and more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. 

There was light at the end of the tunnel.

The hope was waiting for me to claim and embrace it.

Today, I know me better than I knew me before, what I need and want and feel.

Gone is the drained perennial people pleaser. Here to stay is the new me, the one that deserves to be happy and respected. Sure, it took counselling and a lot of introspection but the liar didn’t win the game. Truth did.

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If you’re depressed please try to find the truth, not the lies that the illness wants you to think are the truth.

You are special.

You have unique qualities.

You have hope for tomorrow.

You are not alone.

You are not weak, pathetic or lacking…you’re suffering from an illness.

 

Jo X

 

 

 

Happiness hacks

Hi

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Being happy with depression/anxiety/PTSD/OCD takes practice and effort. Even when the worst is over you know the dark cloud might pop back so it’s best to ward off negativity with proactive “make yourself happy and appreciate things” tricks.

Making a list of things to be grateful about may not seem appropriate when you feel like the world is your enemy and that life is less than glorious but actually, being disciplined and making that list can work, although it doesn’t take the chemical imbalance – the illness’ cause away. It can add positives to the apparent sea of negatives though.

Safe.

Have a home.

Loved by family.

Friends and support.

Employed or seeking employment.

Interested in something.

Invested in a hobby.

Not destitute.

Know where to get help.

 

I don’t know whether it’s the same for you but I love effect that the sun has on productivity. Birds singing, bees buzzing, cool drink, laptop and a full on day of writing or reading/research…love it! Summer says “bring it on!”

Obviously being out in the sun (safely) means seratonin production, the happy chemical in your brain, and if you have depression/anxiety you know that all the help you can get is welcome so set to work and seratonin to the max.

Cosy in the winter is good too and working from home I get to wear my smug face as people battle the weather conditions, you know, sat in front of the fire with a hot chocolate, sorry;-)

This took me time to be able to even consider!! Be nice to yourself. Your inner voice can be cruel. That mean voice isn’t the truth, it’s stuck on repeat.

So, you made a mistake at work, pranged your car or forgot to send an e-mail to Aunty Flo…that isn’t the end of the world. You may feel like it is, but the globe will keep on turning and you won’t make it as headline news so please go easy on yourself. You’re human.

Lastly, how often do you congratulate yourself or give yourself a reward?

As part of my CBT therapy about 4 years ago,  my homework for weeks was to enjoy myself ON PURPOSE and until it became a habit. I still do it now, whether it’s a new top, a cream cake, an Animaniacs/Garfield cartoon or an early finish, I treat myself regularly. Why? It feels good.

We often forget ourselves and our contributions as we rush about. Stop, take a moment and say “Good work.” It’s not being boastful or decadent, it’s being nice to your brain, self esteem, confidence and about diminishing stress. Humans are powerful machines, we need to refuel sometimes.

One treat a day can keep negativity at bay.

Happy Wednesday:-) Thanks for reading this.

 

 

 

 

Update: historynomystery blog – I killed it!

Hi,

…Or rather, I’m now turning the fledgling blog in to a book – because I can and it’ll be fun to collate all the days in one volume.  So, I’m going to be a busy bee for the foreseeable with freelancing and working on two books simultaneously…lovely!!!

As my brain is not so troubled by the past and I am seeing a bright and breezy today with sunshine and smiles in the future, I am positively getting on with life and that is phenomenal when you consider that depression told me a few years ago that life was pretty much “game over.”

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Fingers crossed, toes crossed and eyes crossed that Prince Harry talking about mental health will help to diminish the stigma. I know that I am so much more than my thoughts and anxiety AND also far more than some people (no longer in my life) would ever have given me credit for.

They wouldn’t like me now…Me, myself and I answer back!! Nicely, of course.

Remember, nothing lasts forever and sometimes the calm after chaos can be a revelation.

Happy rest of the day!

Review reviews

Hiya

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I hope that everyone had a great summer/winter depending on where you are in the world. If your brain is misbehaving I sympathise and just keep going even when you really don’t want to/see the point. Keep walking towards sunrise. It’s beautiful when you reach it, promise.

First a brilliant quote I read from Joanne Harris, writer of Chocolat:

Depression is no more curable by saying it’s “all in the head” than cancer is by saying it’s “all in the cells.”

That lady talks sense…and writes great books!

I, unsurprisingly spent a lot of my time writing. I know, anyone would think I was a writer…oh yeah, I am! Lots of freelance work and regular work…happy, happy, on anti-depressants-happy! And grateful.

Also writing the next book:-)

Occasionally I look at reviews for my books on Amazon and Goodreads , not too often though because it can be a teeny weeny bit scary seeing what people think of your writing.

Guess what? There is no definitive rule about taste and reviews. For the same book I have had a 1* and 3* and a 5* so for any writers out there who get disheartened by reviews just remember that a review is someone’s opinion. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respected but you can agree to disagree with someone’s opinion.

It’s very easy to read a review of your book that showers with praise and very tempting to kick the furniture when you see a less friendly one. A 1 star makes you want to shout “I put blood, sweat and tears in to this and you gave it a 1????” A 5 star lets you puff out your chest proudly in the knowledge that “someone appreciates talent/dedication/late nights and rewrites.”

 

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My 5* counsellor led me to devise a system where when I read reviews, good, bad or indifferent, that I spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing the review. I assess whether there are useful points which would enhance the book or if I should agree to disagree. Then I move on. This means my emotional state doesn’t fluctuate with the reviews. I can be objective. Just think if mood was dependent on reviews, it’d be like being attached to an internal unpredictable bungee rope!

Happily, my brain is still healing and the progress is promising. I just have to remember not to make myself too busy, too under pressure and too focused on work. Relaxation and rest are important too! Who knew?

I have also enjoyed more reading time lately, currently reading Sabine Durrant’s new book Lie With Me and it’s very good so if you fancy a psychological thriller you shouldn’t be disappointed with this one.

Of course, being the history buff that I am I have been looking at a book by Anita Leslie on her great aunt Jennie Churchill, Winston’s mum.  Interesting, inside view of the family.

Happy rest of September and as the seasons change try to find the poetry in the moment.

Jo

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PS: If you’re giving a review please remember that there is normally a hard working person behind the book/piece so please be constructive, think helpful!

 

 

 

Reading and writing

Hi

I’ve been kept very busy recently with freelance work so thanks everyone, I think I’m becoming not quite expert in an expanding number of areas, but I love information and trivia so my brain is happy.

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Excellent news is that I’m still kicking OCD’s butt, THANK GOD! Had an appt. with my therapist last week for the first time in a while and (not to tempt fate) my brain is mending and it’s definitley more recovered than recovering.

Funny isn’t it, how when you’ve been ill for a long time that when you are reminded that you’re ill it is almost odd? As I’ve been focusing on other things the realisation that my brain is still a little bit poorly actually felt strange…I’m more normal these days and less beseiged by OCD rituals and safety behaviours!

Excellent book – and no, I don’t know him, owe him or get paid to say this! but Matt Haig’s book is brilliant. Titled, Reasons to Stay Alive, it is worth reading whether you’ve been through depression, are going through it or want to understand what someone goes through. It’s got a ton of celeb endorsements too if you like reading those!

My Mary Queen of Scots book is still a work in progress but it will be out before the next millenium, honest!

Have a fab week and please remember to be kind to yourself.

Joanne

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Celebrate!

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I was reminded this morning of how I used to be, people who know you “from before” a brain blip tend to send your mind right back, to “another” you.

I recalled how reluctant I was to say that I was ill, how I backpeddled from treatment, how I refused medication for my OCD/PTSD for around six months and how when it all looks gloomy the thought of defining the sadness with big medical terms is enough to depress you – when you’re already depressed!

Here’s a news flash for anyone who feels like this at the moment:

I only started to heal when I got treatment, accepted the diagnosis, cried my eyes out (I put them back in) and then took meds – only 60mg in my case – but my long suffering therapist thought she’d have trouble even getting me to take 5mg of anything!

Therapy does make you better, I know it’s a long road and sometimes it seems neverending, but enjoy the moments in which you claim YOU back and can review the past with a knowledgable smile and gratitude that thanks to experts and rebalancing a chemical imbalance your life is yours.

Sure, it will be different, you will be stronger – no one goes through a mental health crisis without learning who they truly are – but that, in its own way is empowering. Cool, huh?!

Don’t let the bad guys steal your life, get help and the future opens up like a rose bud.

If anyone is down today I recommend this: Thanks Jo:-)

 

 

So long stinking thinking!

Hi

Let’s talk brain trickery…it is so easy when you have mental illness (or in a rut) to get stuck with stinking thinking. Thank God I suffer from it less than I used to…helped by a brilliant counsellor and CBT but I still fall prey to the occasional (read daily) thought error.

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Like “I should have done this by now.”

“I’m taking too long loading the dishwasher, I have other stuff to do.”

“I must e-mail someone right now. They’ll be waiting.”

Really, the answer should be “why?” or “who said?” “what difference does it make?” “Is it a life of death importance?” BUT somehow the brain blip kicks in and two things happen in response to the stinking thinking:

You start to feel bad, like you’ve done something wrong and you tell yourself to do better, therefore demanding more of yourself which only adds pressure which exacerbates a stress related illness.

Anyone else seeing a vicious circle here?

Apparently it’s called the Demanding Thinking Error… It’s demanding and it’s a thought not a divine or true statement and it’s an error…so think of it as a number in place of a letter or a vegetable instead of a fruit. You don’t have to have it and use it just because it presents itself so if, like me, you have the demanding thinking error, don’t listen to that pesky inner voice, ignore it and remind yourself that life is to be enjoyed, it’s not a speed trial and you are a fabulous person doing just fine!

Happy rest of the day, smile, you’ve earned it. Have a slice of cream cake too, go on, you know you want to!

Joanne

Is the answer always out of reach?

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Hope everyone is looking forward to the weekend, it’s almost here!!

I found myself wondering about something earlier…

Bearing in mind my experiences (ongoing) with depression and anxiety I was told about a friend of a friend who is going through a tough time and I’m going to be honest while I was sympathetic I wasn’t ready to feel sorry for her 100% as I can with other sufferers.

In brief: She is a twenty something single parent (the dad has custody every other weekend) and she never seems to be able to make ends meet, she works part time in a supermarket but doesn’t feel love for the job. Her doctor told her about 4 months ago that she was depressed and prescribed some meds to help.

OK, so far, so good – this is the stuff of life, I believe it’s called situational depression and it must be horrible or it wouldn’t be called depression. However, sympathy from those around her has diminished over the months and I can see why even though I know that depression can rob you of the concept of possibility and opportunity…

She doesn’t like her job – as she likes to tell any and everyone BUT she arrives late regularly, tries to leave early and isn’t keen to work so she often has to be reprimanded by her boss. We all know that the job market isn’t great so jumpin in to another job might not be possible but she won’t try because the present boss does nothing more than reprimand her verbally – water off the proverbial duck’s back.

She also stopped taking the meds but took another two months off work without any pay which wasn’t a popular course of action.

She doesn’t have enough money – this is a problem shared the world over and I can understand that money goes out the door as fast as it comes in. Children can’t live on fresh air and they are constantly growing BUT as soon as she can get a babysitter or the father has custody of her child she turns in to a party animal, gets totally wasted and spends far too much money on “having fun.” Everyone needs fun but every week???

A solution like going out less and saving some money doesn’t seem to have any weight in her mind – she wants to go out, get drunk and be a twenty something like her friends.

The general opinion is that she’s got in to a rut in which she is “happy” to tell everyone how miserable life is and how much she has to put up with but at the same time any help, constructive advice or offers of treatment are being refused or ignored.

So what is she going to do?

Is the answer really out of reach for her?

Does she simply have to face the fact that she can’t live the life her friends have because she’s got responsibilites? 

Is it the depression or her nature that’s costing her the chance of taking control of her life? 

Would “tough love” (NOT STIGMATISING!) help where indulgence hasn’t? 

Is it time to employ the adage “God helps those who help themselves?” 

Questions, questions!!

Interesting, isn’t it? Everyone’s walk with mental health is different, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that you’ll be a sufferer and there’s a 3 in 4 chance that you’ll have to be around to support that person…however long it takes.

We can all learn from another person no matter how many answers we think we have.

Now, in case this is all too serious, here’s a funny picture. Thanks for reading!

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