Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Get My Bibliotherapy Book on Kindle! Tolstoy Therapy: A Fiction Prescription

Tolstoy Therapy: A Fiction Prescription -
my ebook on bibliotherapy and the joy of
The project that I've been working on since the start of summer has finally come to a close: I've published my ebook! I could have spent another ten years editing it, I'm sure, but I decided to silence my perfectionism and simply get on with it.

I finally decided on the title "Tolstoy Therapy: A Fiction Prescription", although my boyfriend was certain that his suggestion of a subtitle ("Beautiful Books for Beating Beastly Bad Thoughts") would guarantee a bestseller. I've also decided to publish under my Mum's surname, as I'm still a little uncomfortable with employers, friends and family knowing about such personal issues. Some of you may not agree with this, but perhaps my decision will change with time. What do you think about having a pen name?

What's in my bibliotherapy book

There are ten chapters on specific issues, feelings and situations - for instance anxiety, making choices, and spending time alone - followed by a guide to how rereading, memorising poetry, and forming a reading habit can help you. There are also some lists in the appendix to help readers get closer to finding the perfect book for them.

My experience of using bibliotherapy for my PTSD and anxiety does provide a backbone to the book, but I wanted to largely focus on the reader and show how it is possible for anyone to find their perfect fiction prescription.

The book couldn't have been completed without the stories that so many of you have contributed, and for this I am so grateful. Thank you!

It would be great if you could give the book a read and let me know what you think. I'm planning to offer it as a free Kindle ebook this Friday, so remember to log in to Amazon then if you'd like a free copy! I'll also keep it at the lowest price I can for the first week or so.

I'd like to make sure that everyone who contributed gets a free copy - alongside all of you kind enough to comment on the blog regularly - so if you are one of these people and you won't be able to download it on Friday (or if you want it sooner!) get in touch.

It's been such a great experience writing this ebook, and it's really inspired me to think more about how I can spend my time writing in the future. November is coming up, but I'm not sure if starting NaNoWriMo will be a little too soon for me!

Here's the link to the book on Amazon UK
Here's the link to the book on Amazon US

Sunday, 20 October 2013

TED Talks on Mental Health: Depression, Bipolar & Schizophrenia

Many of you will know how much I love watching TED talks. While many are educational, there are just as many that are inspirational and motivating, and I've gained an incredible amount from the website.

I've listed before the best talks on low self-esteem, anxiety and PTSD, but here I'll outline three TED talks on mental health that I've enjoyed recently. The three I've chosen are on depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, although they all say something about mental health as a whole too.

On depression: Kevin Breel - Confessions of a depressed comic

Kevin Breen TED talk on depression
A TED talk on depression by Kevin Breel. Image from TED.

Kevin's story is very emotional, and it hits home hard for those of us who have experienced depression at any point in our lives. In other words, it resonates with all of us to some degree. This type of TED talk is exactly what society needs right now, as Kevin emphasises that collectively turning a blind eye to depression is precisely why depression is so difficult.

As Kevin puts so eloquently, "It's not the suffering inside of you, it's the stigma of others" that stops you from being healthy. Because we don't see it, we don't see the severity of it, and this needs to change.

Society's prescription for depression should be acceptance, or treating depression like any other broken bone or physical ailment. With acceptance of mental illness, social support and healing will follow.

"We are so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brain... and that's ignorance" 

Joshua Walters TED talk on bipolar
A TED talk on bipolar and being 'just manic enough' by Joshua Walters. Image from TED.

Probably one of the most eccentric speakers that I've ever seen on TED, Joshua Walters has been dealing with bipolar - and a consequent onslaught of medication - since his teenage years.

However, Joshua doesn't express outright negativity towards his mental illness. Rather, he thinks that progress in the business and creative spheres can come from being "just manic enough"; from using our "mental skilness". Not everyone will agree with Joshua's ideas, I'm sure, but it's refreshing to see a lively and charismatic approach to mental health.

"I could either deny my mental illness... or embrace my mental skilness" 

On schizophrenia: Eleanor Longden - The voices in my head

Eleanor Longden TED talk on schizophrenia
Eleanor Longden talks about "the voices in my head" during this TED talk on schizophrenia. Image from TED.

Eleanor Longden was just an ordinary student, attending lectures and enjoying the fun that came with university, when she started hearing voices. She confided in a friend about this, who persuaded her to talk to the university GP about it. During her appointment, the doctor doodled mindlessly as she related her feelings of low mood and anxiety to him. However, his ears pricked up when she mentioned the recent development. The voices.

Eleanor was drugged, sectioned and labelled schizophrenic, and a low-point followed for her that few of us could ever truly relate to.

However, Eleanor has now earned a BSc and an MSc in psychology, for which she received the highest classifications ever granted by the University of Leeds. Today she is studying for her PhD while lecturing and writing about recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis, dissociation and complex trauma.

Eleanor's story of recovery was exactly what I needed to hear about. In this talk she emphasises that society should ask, "What's happened to you?" rather than, "What's wrong with you?", and explains that this change would make our attitude towards mental health nourishing and supportive rather than oppressive and discriminative.

Eleanor has also given me the most useful advice I could possibly receive for my ongoing problems with OCD: to listen to my compulsions and realise that they reflect subconscious anxieties and insecurities from my past. When I feel that I need to do something in order to prevent my family being hurt, this reflects the fact that I care deeply for them. Thinking like this makes so much sense, but it's something that I never could have come up with on my own.

Voice hearing is a "survival strategy, a sane reaction to insane circumstances"

Could a TED talk a day keep the doctor away? If you've watched any of the talks I've mentioned in this post, let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any talks you think I should add to this list, I'd love to hear from you!

TED Talks for PTSD and Trauma

This post was previously integrated with my TED Talks for Social Anxiety & Shyness post, but I've decided to do some blog spring cleaning. On the original post Helen kindly thanked me for including her TED talk, which I'm very grateful for!

I watch a lot of TED talks, and the ones I've listed here are those that have helped me get to terms with my PTSD a little more. Even if you haven't experienced trauma, these talks may help you to work your way through any difficult aspects of your past.

More TED talks to come soon!

1. Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

Jane McGonigal TED talks for PTSD
Jane McGonigal on how video games (and particularly Superbetter) can help you through mental health problems. Image from TED.

While this TED talk doesn't mention PTSD, it mentions a tool that can help you deal with your PTSD or trauma symptoms and thought processes. After experiencing a very bad concussion, game designer Jane McGonigal founded Superbetter, an online multiplayer game that lets you set and work towards goals, build resilience, and help you get through transitions and challenges in life. I need to use it more often, but it's great for helping you battle both mental and physical challenges. 

“A traumatic event doesn't doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.”

2. Helen Abdali Soosan FaganDiagnosed with PTSD and MDD, and managing to get a Ph.D.

Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan TED talk for PTSD
Image from YouTube.

In this talk, Helen speaks about her experience of being diagnosed with PTSD after struggling with severely high blood pressure, confusion and bodily pain that was bad enough for her to be taken into hospital. After her diagnosis, Helen stated: "But I haven't been in a war?" The root cause of PTSD in Helen's case was her move from Iran to America as a child, and the family separation that followed.

With therapy, Helen was able to understand and accept her diagnosis and her past. She reflects, "I needed to be still long enough to let the difficulties go." Helen encourages PTSD sufferers to treat their diagnosis as if they would treat diabetes. It's not necessarily about overcoming the diagnosis, but managing it. Support groups are of utmost importance, as are managing time, stressors, and maintaining a deep connection with yourself and knowing who you are. Yet it's also important to realise that your struggles have helped form you and strengthen you. As Helen states,
My life has been a deeply painful journey. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Leslie Morgan Steiner TED talk on abuse
Image frrom YouTube.

A few years ago I was in an unhealthy relationship, and it destroyed the sparse self-esteem that I had at that time. This is why, like so many others, I was drawn to this talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner. This TED talk has probably been one of the most watched and engaged with talks on the website: that's a bit worrying, isn't it?

Yet it also suggests that victims of domestic abuse are gaining the strength to leave and understand why they haven't done so already. Leslie is also the author of Crazy Love, a book that tells her story of domestic abuse.

“The question, ‘Why does she stay?’ is code for some people for, ‘It's her fault for staying,’ as if [domestic violence] victims intentionally choose to fall in love with men intent upon destroying us.”

What do you think about these TED talks? Do you have any others you'd recommend I add to this post?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

8 Authors I Wish Would Write More

We all have a few writers who we simply wish would write more. You know, the authors that we keep tabs on for years on end, waiting for news that they've written another book. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they just keep us waiting. While there's not much that we as readers can do to speed up their writing, a little praise of their existing books (or book, singular) and a wish for more can't be a bad thing.

1. Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng is a novelist I first heard about after the Booker Prize shortlist for 2012 came out. I decided The Garden of Evening Mists sounded like a novel I'd really enjoy, and it was.

It took me a while to get round to reading Tan Twan Eng's earlier book, The Gift of Rain, but I probably enjoyed it even more.

I adore the simplicity, minimalism, and Buddhist undertones of the author's writing, and reading these books helped me to relax a bit more in my own life. There's something I really love about plots with secluded islands and characters that spend a lot of time meditating - perhaps it's a subtle clue about things that need changing in my own life?

Tan Twan Eng, winner of the Man Asian Prize 2012 and shortlisted for the Booker. Image from The Guardian.

2. Sarah Winman

When God Was a Rabbit must be one of my favourite debut novels. I found it so funny, uplifting and familiar to my own life and childhood, and I'd love it so much if Sarah Winman wrote another book. She's a really talented novelist, and I'm sure my boyfriend would agree: he laughed almost all the way through When God Was a Rabbit.

3. Jonas Jonasson

Even if you only skim through my posts here on the blog, you'll almost certainly know how much I loved The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. This is the book that my Dad kept complaining about because "he couldn't put the bloody thing down", and the novel that my boyfriend spoke about for weeks. During my time working in a book shop I found it to be the perfect book to recommend to all types of customers, and I never had any complaints.

Jonas Jonasson, author of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared. Image from The Telegraph.

4. Matthew Quick

The author of The Silver Linings Playbook, a successful novel-turned-film, is bound to create some more great plots, I think. His most famous novel was so easy to read and its characters so loveable, and I'm really excited to see if he'll write anything similar in the future. 

5. Kathryn Stockett

I think the same about Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help. The characters she created in this book were so vibrant and memorable, and it will be interesting to see if she'll write a novel that focuses on another polemical theme (as she did with slavery in The Help).

The film adaptation of The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. Image from colorlines.com.

6. J.K. Rowling

I know J.K. Rowling has written the entire Harry Potter series and two novels, but I'd really love more books like The Cuckoo's Calling. Rumour has it that Rowling is already working on the sequel, and I hope it branches out to a Cormoran Strike series. Three books would be the perfect amount, I think. 

7. Stephen Chbosky

It's amazing that Stephen Chbosky has only written The Perks of Being a Wallflower, particularly considering how successful it has become. Google suggests that Chbosky may be working on another novel, so hopefully more information will come out about this soon!

Charlie in the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Image from popbopshop.

8. Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a superb biography about an incredible woman who has affected us all in some way, and I'm so glad that Skloot was the one to write it. Could she write an equally wonderful biography about someone else? May she one day turn to fiction?

Are there any writers that you wish would write more? Have you heard anything that I haven't about the authors I've mentioned above? I look forward to hearing from you!