Tuesday, 1 July 2014

All About ME!

I am trying my best not to be completely self-obsessed at the moment - which is obviously why I have titled this post 'All about me'.  Hmm.  Let me explain.

My mind is skittering about all over the place at the moment - my book really is selling amazingly well.  Yesterday I sold seventy books in the UK - SEVENTY PEOPLE paid money to read my writing.  In one day!  There have been days when the book has only sold one or two copies over the last year or so, and even on those days I often marvel that real, solid people out there in the world want to buy my work.

So I am in danger of becoming carried away with myself at the moment.  I have been checking the Amazon rankings obsessively and this morning was delighted to discover that I was at #673 overall for Kindle books.  Which has since risen to #563 and then dropped a little to #590. I told you I was checking obsessively.  I have also been doing my sums, extrapolating from these figures, wondering out loud how high the book will climb, how many copies it will sell over the course of the week's promotional period on Amazon and so on, until finally, late last night Paul had to tell me quite firmly to stop counting my chickens before they hatched.  Which was fair comment.

Anyway, I just checked these blog stats and quite a few people have looked at this blog already today, which again is unusual.  And considering that I have not written on here a great deal recently and when I have it has mostly been all about myself and what I am or am not currently writing or idly thinking about for no particular reason, I thought perhaps I should up my game.

Or if not up my game (because my mind is skittering about from the excitement of the success of my book's new cover and it would be hard in those circumstances to write anything very riveting) at least I should say hello to any new blog readers out there.  Hello.

And then I thought I should perhaps tell them (you?) a little about me.  Hence the blog post title.  All about me.  Because I am trying not to let it be all about me.  And really I know that it isn't.  Other writers sell books.  Other people get readers on their blogs.  And a lot of people do those things much better than me, and in much higher numbers.  So really, I am getting over myself already.  See?

I was thinking last night about the blog post I wrote on here yesterday.  At the end there were some ramblings about how my self-esteem is linked to the success or otherwise of my book (only I didn't say self-esteem, I called it my mental well-being or something).  Well, as Paul also pointed out last night, it's perfectly normal for a writer to be excited when they start seeing their book sell in increased numbers.  He's also excited, on my behalf.  I do have to keep reminding myself sometimes that I am actually normal, and stop seeing things in terms of being mentally healthy or not.  Luckily I have Paul, who always tells me that I am normal.  I love that man.

Having said that (established my normality) I am now going to reveal that I booked an appointment with a therapist yesterday.  I found this lady online; she is a local practitioner, highly qualified, with a specialisation in verbal communication.  It also said on the website that she runs groups, which I thought would be ideal for me, because my main issue is still social anxiety.  It has been at the root of all my problems and turns out to be perhaps my only real issue now.  It may sound innocuous, but it isn't.  I worry myself sick sometimes with thoughts of what others might or might not think of me and I am at my worst in social group situations.

For example, I went out with a group of Mums for a meal the other week and hardly slept for literally days afterwards because I was so convinced I had made an idiot of myself.  My latest strategy is to be honest about my shortcomings - which translated on this particular occasion to telling everyone that I was wearing glasses because I am worried that I stare at people and so if I had my glasses on I could take them off and then I wouldn't have to worry about staring because I couldn't see anybody anyway. 

I can't remember if I dropped this bombshell while I was wearing my glasses or not. 

It all seems quite funny now (although I am still embarrassed about it).  A few days ago I confided in a friend about how I was feeling and she said she hadn't thought anything of it at all, except maybe that it was funny (in an amusing way). 

But I don't want to be the sort of person who is always confiding in friends about their ridiculous fears and worries, hoping on some unconscious level to be reassured and boosted up by their response.  I want to be strong and - well, normal.  Which I am, except in social situations.  No, I really am normal.  What I want is to be relaxed.  And confident.  All the time.  If that's not asking too much.

Anyway, I am sure the therapist can help.  Or if not, then somehow I will resolve the problem anyhow eventually.  It's not a major issue really.  I am already so much more capable than I used to be in so many ways.  I couldn't even talk to people once - any people.  I was so painfully shy.  And now in the last couple of years I have spoken at mental health conferences, lectured to University students... all that sort of stuff.  I know I can do things that I would once never have dreamed possible.  So I know I will be able to do even more in the future. 

Oh yes, sorry. New readers of this blog.  If you are still here, that is.  About me.  Well, I am normal (we have established that.  Or haven't we?!) but I was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young person and that still affects my perception of myself.  I feel quite strongly that this label is wrong - not for me in particular, but for everyone who is afflicted with it.  Because anyone can suffer emotional distress for a variety of reasons (there always are reasons) and anyone can break down - and anyone can also recover.  But the label of schizophrenia doesn't allow for recovery - even if, like me, you haven't had to take medication for twelve years and you have no symptoms of mental ill-health (social anxiety is not schizophrenia).

Which means that those people who do recover - which is more than you would think - stay very quiet about the fact that they were ever diagnosed.  Which gives the others with the same label - and people are still being given this label today - very little hope for their own futures. 

People keep quiet about the label for a very good reason.  I don't blame them at all.  I did it myself for many years.  Because once people hear that word - schizophrenia - they look at you in a different light.  They can't help it.  Surprisingly, even medically qualified people do this, because they think you must have done something to deserve a diagnosis like that - it wouldn't be applied casually.  They see you as an unknown quantity, a risk of some kind to yourself or others, perhaps now or perhaps at some unspecified time in the future. 

And the sad thing is that you can't help wondering whether, at some level, they may be right.  Even though actually, the sensible, practical, normal part of you knows that there is no scientific test for schizophrenia, no proof at all of its existence or otherwise.  And, further than that, you have learned the hard way that the whole concept of psychiatry is based on lies and assumptions and just plain old-fashioned guesswork.  Even though you know that you know yourself, and you know you are okay, and a good wife and a good mother of four amazing children and happy and useful and capable and not at all mad, some little germ of uncertainty exists in the back of your mind which makes you fear that the mental health professionals might turn out to have had a point after all and did actually possess a crystal ball that could see into your future, and therefore that maybe, actually, even after all this time it may transpire that you are in fact that walking time bomb, a 'Schizophrenic'. 

Well, that's probably enough for now.  I am, as you might be able to tell, angry - no, annoyed - no, disappointed at the shortcomings of the psychiatric system in this country.  And after writing that little rant I just realised why the Royal College of Psychiatrists turned down my application to be a member of their service user forum earlier this year. 

Even though I didn't put any of that stuff on the application form. 

After all, I'm not mad.   


  1. Love your musings. May I repost on my blog with a link back to yours? I think it would be helpful for other parents to read your reassuring point of view.