Monday, 15 September 2014

It's ALL about Self-Esteem

Bear with me - as the title suggests, the point of this post is to emphasise the importance of good self-esteem.  But first I am going to tell you about a little family break we just took to Legoland. 

Now, I probably should not be posting about this, because above all else I am a responsible parent and I never do anything to give the opposite impression. Ever since my eldest was taken from me as a baby, the last time I was sectioned (and the last time I ever will be!) I have been slightly paranoid about anyone ever accusing me of being a bad parent and removing my kids.  It's not going to happen - the girls are at secondary school now, model students and brilliant all-round people.  The boys are strong, healthy and happy.  Everyone can see I am a good Mummy (and Paul is a brilliant Daddy of course).  No-one is going to take our children away!

Anyhow, for many years, we have taken the children out of school for occasional, short, term-time holidays.  We always asked for permission, and it was always given.  Head teachers had discretion to grant families up to two weeks holiday in school time.  Our kids had good attendance records, always caught up with the work they missed, and if we hadn't taken holidays in term time we would not have been able to afford them at all.  (Although we never put the cost as a factor when asking the schools for holidays, it has always been understood that for most families this is the overriding issue).

Our fortunes have improved a little in recent years (partly due to my writing, I am proud to say) and also since the girls have been at secondary school they have not wanted to miss school, so we have not taken term-time holidays in the last couple of years.  And now the law has changed, and we have been told that head teachers can no longer give permission for term time holidays.

Anyway, a long time ago Paul and I promised the boys a trip to Legoland and a night at the Legoland hotel.  When I checked the prices I baulked - but the little one kept reminding me of my promise. he may be only six, but he's not silly.  So eventually I took the plunge and booked it for Thursday and Friday of last week, although the cost was prohibitive - several hundred pounds for one night in the hotel and two days in the park.  I booked a term time break, because otherwise the cost would have literally doubled, which would have put the excursion completely out of our reach.

We didn't take the girls.  They don't like to miss school, as I said, and they are a bit old for Legoland anyhow.  They didn't mind not coming along - it was their idea.  We took them to school on Thursday morning, and arranged for them to stay with friends that evening and go to school with them the next day.  On Friday evening they had dinner with friends and went to choir practice - we picked them up from there. 

At first I thought I would fib to the schools and say the boys were poorly for a couple of days.  I knew I would not get permission to take them out of school, so what was the point of asking, I reasoned?  But then I thought again - I don't want to set a bad example to the children (to teach them to lie).  And I didn't want them to have to worry about letting something slip to their friends.  So I did ask the schools for permission - and they said no, as expected, even though I said it was an educational excursion (which it was in a way, the younger one is currently studying Lego as a topic at his Infant School!)

It was a great trip, although I was worried about the girls, who both managed to develop colds in the day before we left.  They were fine though, of course; we were in constant contact by phone and text and they had a nice time with their friends. 

The point that I am trying to make here is that self-esteem is so important in this life.  How we think of ourselves is central to how we feel about life - and to how other people feel about us.  The concept of  a strong 'sense of self' might seem airy-fairy and something to be scoffed at by those who have never had mental health problems - but those who have suffered in this way will understand exactly how important it is.  In those who have had serious mental breakdowns, especially those who have ended up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, re-building a sense of self (or perhaps even building one from scratch) is crucial to achieving a full recovery.

The reason I have told the Legoland story here is that it illustrates the need I so often feel to justify myself and my actions.  Paul doesn't worry about this sort of thing like I do.  He makes a decision and sticks to it according to what he feels is right, and he doesn't think about anyone else's actions or reactions when he is making that decision.  I, on the other hand, waste a good deal of time and effort in worrying about what other people think of me. 

I know am a good parent - so why do I always feel the need to prove it?  I know it's because of how I grew up, because I had so little support or security.  I am still looking for love and approval from the people around me.  But that's ridiculous.  All that was wrong in my life is history - it is donkey's years ago now.  I am forty-five years old!  It is time I held my head up high, stopped worrying about what people think of me, and just got on with my life. 

So that's the plan. 

Oh, and by the way - my ebook is on sale at the moment through Amazon UK, for just 99p.  You can click on the link at the top of this page to buy a copy - pass the word on to anyone you think might be interested.   I can only do a promotion like this once every few months - I will do one in the USA soon too, probably next week. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Work and Play - keeping a balance

Does anyone ever get the balance right in life, I wonder?  Human beings need to work, in my opinion, because otherwise our lives would have little shape and we wouldn't appreciate the times we get to play so much.  The wok, of course, doesn't have to be paid.  I was perfectly happy for many years bringing up the children and looking after our home, which took a good deal of effort but was very worthwhile and made me feel fulfilled although it didn't result in a wage. 

Now, however, I am working in the hope that I will achieve a decent income, and that is where things have started to get a little askew.  Leaving aside the fact that writing is an art and should be done for the love of it alone - which may be true, but is not practical - payment for an activity is a way of recognising its worth.

But, if you are self-employed, the pressure is on - to work as hard as possible, to achieve as much as possible, in the shortest space of time possible.  Unless, of course, you are one of those very well-balanced people - like my husband - who refuse to be rushed. 

Yesterday, I went for a walk with friends.  One of them is about to start her second year at University, and knows she will have little time to socialise once the new term begins.  The other is someone I see most days, but rarely find the time to chat to properly, since I have started writing every day.  So I knew I should spend time with them - and I enjoyed it - but throughout the morning I kept harking back to the writing I 'should' be doing at home.  Feeling guilty.

By the time I did get home, I was not really in the mood for writing, probably because I had spent the morning winding myself up about not doing it.  I did manage a couple of thousand words eventually though, and I have knuckled down to it properly this morning, so I have probably caught up on the time I missed yesterday. 

What this episode brought home to me, though, is that we have to enjoy life.  Life is a treat, friends are a boon. And every minute that passes, won't happen again.  We need to make the most of it all.

Balance is an essential part of good mental health - I'm sure of it. Although maybe I'm just trying to justify the fact that I'm about to take some time off for a walk, on this lovely sunny afternoon.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Back to Work!

The kids have all returned to school this week - one on Monday (poor boy) the other three on Wednesday.  So I have been able to get on with my writing, and so far it is going well.  My recovery book is nearing completion - although reading back on this blog I see that I have been claiming that for ages, most recently in June when my word count was up at 40,000 and I was steaming ahead.  I honestly thought then the book would be finished by the end of the summer term.  Now I am at about 55k words, and aiming for World Mental Health Day, which is on the 10th October.  That may turn out to be a bit optimistic, but has certainly put the wind into my sails, or the fire under my backside, or (insert clich√© of choice).

World Mental Health Day this year is themed around the subject 'Living with Schizophrenia' so I thought that might help garner some publicity.  (It's awkward sometimes, the business of selling books.  Being commercial about it seems a bit crass, but it is the only way I can afford to carry out writing, and writing is my raison d'etre - without it I would be lost). 

I want my new book to be clear about the fact that recovery is possible and real.  I am writing it as a memoir again - pure narrative - but with an additional text book-ish section at the end that lays out what I think are the various factors that aid recovery and how people can work towards their own wellness. 

So, all I have to do now is sit down every day and concentrate.  The worst bit is just before I get started in the morning.  Not always, but sometimes, I begin to doubt that there is any need in the world for a book like this, that it's utter rubbish and so on.  But I find that once I get started writing the negativity disappears, the words begin to flow and I start to enjoy myself - and enjoying myself is the real motivation for writing. 

After about an hour I find that the ideas start to come faster than I can get them on the screen and then I just write in note form, to get them down.  Then I'll take a break and go back to it, working more slowly and carefully, until I get tired or over-stimulated and start to speed up again.  The next day I go back, checking the narrative and re-writing it, and padding out any notes again.  There's a lot of work to do here - a good part of the book is still in note form.

The trouble with the book at the moment is that the temptation is usually to tell the story rather than show it - but I want this book to be readable, as the last one was.  It may lack the drama of the last book but that does not mean it has to be uninteresting.  So I am trying to string it out, to tell it in an engaging way.  It would be a lot more interesting, I think, if I allowed myself to write about my children.  They are such fun, so engaging; their characters are so mesmerising and their achievements so impressive.  They are also so funny at times... 

But despite the fact that family life is the reason for a lot of my current happiness, I know that it's not the answer for everyone.  And there is always the danger that pages of ravings about my wonderful children would not be that fascinating to a reader who has no connection to them.  Also, of course, my children would be mortified if I wrote about them.  So I'm writing about the dogs instead.  Yes, really.  And of course, about all the mental health stuff I have been doing over the last few years - and various events in my own life.  My personal journey.  I hope it doesn't sound too boring.  It's honestly not.  

At least, I hope not.  I hope some of you reading this will buy the book and decide for yourselves whether it is interesting or useful in any way.  I'm really excited that the day of publication is drawing near!