Mental Health Awareness Week- My Experience With Anxiety

This week it is mental health awareness week. A subject very close to my heart. I thought I’d step outside my comfort zone and talk about my battle with mental illness.

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I have suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I think I had a less severe form of it as a young child. It’s certainly something that has been with me for as long as I can remember. It got to the point several years ago, where I would rarely leave the house because I was worried something bad would happen.

I’ve only been teaching for 4 years because my anxiety held me back. Don’t get me wrong, I still have massive anxiety issues when it comes to my teaching. I doubt myself constantly and I can be physically sick when under huge pressure (parents evening is a massive trigger for me!) I decided that my anxiety wouldn’t win. Teaching was a dream for me and I think I’m born to teach. It’s a job that has to be loved. I truly believe it’s my purpose.

So how did I tackle my anxiety? I finally realised I couldn’t deal with it myself. I’ve become more open to talking about it to my family, friends and colleagues. I started medication to help me deal with it. It doesn’t always work, but it takes the edge off and I’ve only had 2 major panic attacks since teaching (and that’s huge for me!) I’m trying to deal with my negative thoughts about my capabilities as a teacher and to be honest, my personal post documenting my week as a teacher (Sunday post) is a fabulous outlet for me. I find it incredibly therapeutic. The support I’ve had from others on this post blows my mind.

I also love reaching into mental health representation in books whenever I can. I keep a log of my favourites, easily accessible on my blog for recommendations for others. Representation and discussion is key in my eyes.

I won’t let anxiety win. There’s no shame in having a mental illness. There’s no shame in taking medication to help you.  It needs to be spoken about so people know they’re not alone. People with anxiety can achieve their dreams. You need to find that inner strength.

Thank you for reading!

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By Your Side

By Your Side

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Thoughts:

Kasie West is one of those authors I go to, when I know I want to read something that’ll leave me happy and it won’t be too taxing to read. I hope that doesn’t sound like an insult, as it’s not intended that way! Kasie West’s books are just easy to devour and I have always enjoyed them. By Your Side wasn’t my favourite Kasie West book, but it was still a decent contemporary read.

By Your Side centres around Autumn. One day, Autumn finds herself trapped inside a library for a long weekend. Autumn isn’t alone. She’s trapped with Dax. Autumn doesn’t know a lot about Dax, but she’s heard rumours that he’s trouble. Autumn has no way of getting out, her bag is in the car with her friend, Dax’s phone is dead… so they just have to stay in the library and live off vending-machine food. Dax doesn’t want anything to do with her, but after a while they begin to warm to one another. After Autumn finds out information about her friend, she experiences a panic attack. Dax manages to get her help. The story follows Autumn after she gets out of the library. Will her connection with Dax last?

I have mixed feelings about anxiety in this book. First of all, I must say I love it when a character with anxiety is represented. I suffer from anxiety myself and appreciate its representation, especially in YA. I loved how supportive Autumn’s family were of her anxiety. I loved that her mum encouraged her to take mental health days and was constantly checking on Autumn’s feelings and emotions. Yes for supportive parents in YA!

On a more negative note, I felt like Autumn’s anxiety wasn’t portrayed in the best way that it could be. I totally understand that anxiety can take many shapes and forms, but I didn’t buy into Autumn’s anxiety. I also couldn’t believe that Autumn’s friends wouldn’t notice she had anxiety? Sure, she was medicated, but in my experience, even with medication it’s still there…just a dialled down version. My friends can still tell that I’m anxious in situations.

Another reason why I didn’t rate this any higher was because not all of the characters felt real enough to me. I felt like I didn’t know nearly enough about Dax to invest in their relationship.

I think this is a book where you have to suspend your disbelief (who gets locked in a library without phones in there…?) and just enjoy for what it is! A cute romance that doesn’t take long to read.

Would I recommend it?
Yes!

Whilst this isn’t my favourite Kasie West book, it doesn’t take long to read, just suspend your disbelief! 

Girl Online

Girl Online

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

I had no idea GirlOnline would take off the way it has – I can’t believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much! – and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes…

Penny has a secret.

Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family – and the panic attacks she’s suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog.

But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever.

Thoughts:

My review of this book is going to be hard to write because I feel like I have a lot to say about the ‘drama’ surrounding it. I have to say, I do watch Zoe’s videos on YouTube, but my main reason for picking up this book was because I heard it dealt with anxiety, which I also am unfortunate enough to suffer from. I’m always intrigued by books that deal with it, if it’s non fiction or a character that deals with anxiety. Then the sh*t storm happened. It came out that Zoe had a ghost writer in the form of the wonderful Siobhan Curham (I’ve reviewed Dear Dylan and Shipwrecked out of her work). I have to say, I’m not surprised that Zoe had a ghost writer. I never expected her to produce a book so quickly and I don’t think it matters that she had help to write it. Ghost writing is much more common that many might think! I think what has ‘bothered’ so many people is the fact that it seems Zoe said she had written this book independently.

I wasn’t sure whether to review this book or not because I know people have made up their own mind about whether it’s a good or bad book without reading it. I don’t think Siobhan or Zoe deserved the abuse they’ve received over this book, which is encouraging young people to pick up a book. How can that be a bad thing?

Girl Online would suit the younger range of young adult and teenagers as well. The writing style comes across as very young, but I understand that I’m not the target age for this book. It follows a pretty basic storyline. Our awkward, clumsy protagonist meets the ‘hot boy’, the girl’s best friend becomes jealous, the ‘hot’ boy inspires the girl to believe in herself. The boy and girl are then separated because of distance. They find things out about one another. They begin to doubt their relationship… It’s all been done before and you can predict what’s going to happen.

An issue I have with this book is how some of the plot seemed to be thrown together with not much depth. I know it’s hard to write a book in such depth that I was expecting in the time frame that this book was written in, so I can’t be too critical.

However, there are good points about this book. One of which is that it deals with anxiety and panic attacks alongside dealing with online hate and homophobia. I think it’s so important for it to be recognised in literature. It’s also a light enough read to get through quickly. I can imagine that it is encouraging so many young people to read and that is NEVER a bad thing in my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Please check out Siobhan’s blog for her take on Girl Online. She makes some incredibly important points.

Girl Online is a fun, if predictable read. I think many of Zoe’s fans will lap it up! I think this book would be a good starting point for more reluctant readers.