It’s OK not to be OK

Hello there friends.

How are we all today? I mean, really, how are you today? 

I’ll be honest… I’m OK, but there’s a little bit of struggle about me at the minute. Nothing too bad, just a niggle here and there. Just a worry that won’t go away. A thought that sometimes spirals and then won’t go away. A clump of thoughts about all kinds of things about like that sometimes just get me a little bit down. You might know the thing: there’s a worry and it just grows because you don’t know how to talk about it… nor is it so big that you feel the NEED to talk about it.

Most of the time I can make myself be fine, I can distract my brain enough until it’s not feeling meh anymore. I can read, go for a little walk, go into town, text my friends. Sometimes however, the spiral into a bit of a rut works much faster, or draws itself out in much longer of a rut that it’s harder to shift.

It’s hard to pretend to be OK when in reality you’re not. It’s hard to be a cheery, happy person, when you just don’t feel like that. As I write this, I’m not 100%. I’m alrite, but I’m not chipper to be honest. I’m not normally one to talk about things like this on my blog – I’m much more likely to post a blog review and ignore the reality of whatever is going on in my life. But I want to be transparent with you all (whoever it is that’s reading this, if anyone is in fact reading this) and talk about NOT being OK.

I don’t know the ins and outs of where it all stems from, but I can tell you that, as a teacher, 6 weeks off is a long time. I miss the routine. I miss having set things to do. I do really well in term time. I know what’s going to happen (not day to day because hell that’s a thing that always changes!) and what to expect. In the holidays, I don’t have that. I’m single. I don’t have kids. So those two big “distractions” (I can’t think of a better word for this right now), I don’t have (we’ll not talk about them being one of my other worries at the minute… that’s a bit real). A lot of my friends are still at work during the holidays. My teacher friends all either have their own families, or live really far away.

I know people will say, “You shouldn’t complain about having so much time off”. I’m not complaining about the time off… trust me. We need it by the time it comes round to July. Teachers need to recharge. I love the summer holidays, BUT I’m a lover of routine and that goes out of the window during the holidays. My eating pattern goes out of the window. My sleeping pattern changes. Sleep is one of those things that can massively impact some people’s moods and I’m one of those people: if I’m not sleeping well, I’m more likely to get into one of those negative thought ruts that I then have to pull myself out of.

I don’t think I’m the only person in the whole world who gets like this. I think there’s properly a good handful of teachers who are in the same boat as me. I don’t want to speak for other people. I can only speak for myself and how I feel. I like to be busy. I love my job an awful lot. I’m quite easily one of those people who could be married to my job. I just struggle with 6 weeks off. I get to week 4 and I’m like, “Yeah, OK, I’m rested now, I can go back to work”. This is always an interesting thing to say to people… one that gets pretty much the same reply every time.

I’ve been lucky these holidays in that I’ve been in to school quite a lot doing a lot of moving of books and creating a library, so getting to the end of week 5 (as I write this) and only now getting restless and bored is really good for me. My mam is ALWAYS saying, “She gets cabin fever after week 2” and it’s true.

I’ve not written this as a, “Oh man, everyone give me sympathy” kind of post. I’ve written it because it’s who I am and how I’m feeling right now in this moment. It’s what I’m going through right now and there might be other people who are also feeling this. It’s nice to not feel lonely in your feelings. I’ve also written it because I want to let myself be ok with the fact that sometimes we have to NOT be OK. We’re all allowed to not be OK. Not being OK means we will be OK again.

The past few days, I’ve been a bit sad (not tragically, but just meh). I’ve been listless (I don’t even know if this is a word, but it keeps being a word I want to say). I’ve felt a bit lost. Maybe a bit lonely. I’ve been restless.

So I’m here saying if you are someone out there who like me struggles a bit, I’m always around to talk to. If you’re someone who needs someone to talk to at any point, I’m around. My twitter inbox is open, my emails are always open: I’m happy to talk. Even if you don’t want to talk about the thing that’s making you not OK.

Remember: it’s OK not to be OK. 

S x

 

Start each day with a grateful heart

Colour coordinating my timetable. Rainbows. The sunshine. Raining so heavily that there is nothing to do but stay in and read. Getting things ready for my classroom. Cutting and laminating. Sorting and getting rid of things that are not necessary. Getting loads of books ready for September. HAVING A SCHOOL LIBRARY IN A ROOM. Clearing out my inbox. Working really bloody hard on something. Talking to favourite authors. Waterstones. My Book Bitchez. Thinking about the future. Looking forward to starting a new school year. Laughing with my mam. My brother looking out for me even though he’s hundreds of miles away. Being surrounded by people who are wonderful. Listening to music while I work. Reading books that I never thought I would. Finally reading that book a friend has been telling me to read for ages and LOVING it. Seeing another friend adoring Mel books. Taking a minute to breathe and be thankful for everything. Book post. Talking to friends with ease. Seeing friends I’ve not seen for years. Having a lie in. Getting up early(ish) and being productive. Choosing how to look after myself best. Looking after myself. Quilliams dates. Having time to just mooch about in the shops. Knowing I’m going away next weekend. Reading sprints with my witches. My twiglets. Baby Joey. The ordinary things in life. Routine. Terrel videos. The pleasure of cutting out. Wandering around Ikea. Taking a day to myself after a few busy days. Having honest conversations about the future. Being driven. Hearing lovely things about me from people I love the most in the world. Having dreams. Chasing your dreams. Knowing that I’ve worked hard and that it’s going to matter. Reading books like it’s going out of fashion. Reading. Always. 

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…

*clap clap*

Todrick Hall songs. Talking about old TV shows. Spending the day on the beach with my kids. The sunshine. Old photographs. Cringing at some memories. Starbucks Sundays. Making plans with friends. Making plans with myself. Being ok by myself. Texting new people. Texting old faves. Witchy Trio laughs. Being so proud of friends. Knowing I have the most considerate best friends in the world. The excitement about having a new member of the family soon. Half term. Taking time to look after myself. Reading books. Buying new books. Drag Race. Miss Vanjie. Tidying. Finally finding something in the supermarket I’ve been looking for for weeks. Twitter teacher friends. Time. Space. Exciting plans. Going to London to celebrate excellent books. Knowing there’s only 6 weeks of being an NQT life. The things that are coming in the future. Being slightly terrified, but knowing it’s all good. My goddaughters. Having a cry. The seaside. Supportive friends. Picking up whatever books I want and reading them. My kids EMBRACING our ‘Mystery book’. My kids loving books in all of their guises. Excitement for YALC. Basically, all of the bookish things. Always books. 

 

Be kind to yourself: you’re doing a great job

Hi there friends!

I’m not really sure where this post will end up going, so please bear with me. May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth and I think it’s important to put the spotlight on MH. It’s not a taboo subject. It’s not something that should be silenced. It’s something that should be talked about. We all endure and cope differently and each and every experience is valid. The more we talk about this, the better it will be for everyone.

Every week this month I’m going to post another little mental health type post. You don’t have to read it if that’s not your thing, but if it is I’d love to know your thoughts on whatever it is I’ve posted about. The posts each week may be what I do when I’m feeling like I’m spiralling, some books I might recommend or anything. I’d love your suggestions on what you’d like to see me talk about. 

One of the posts will be centred around body positivity – why it’s important, what it means to me, how we can be more body positive etc. This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will take place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019 and the theme for 2019 is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Today I’m going to just spend a few words talking about perception. How we perceive others and how that can in fact be SO INCREDIBLY different to how we perceive ourselves.

Something I do is asking people to describe me, keeping their positive words (in my phone, my bujo, my brain) for when I don’t have any for myself. Now some people may think ‘well that’s awfully self-centred of you’, but sometimes you need someone else’s words of positivity when you have none yourself.

If you ask people to describe me in a word, you will more than likely get the following words:

  • funny
  • loud
  • bubbly
  • confident
  • friendly
  • affectionate

And I think those are words that I would use to describe me from time to time. There’s also a whole chunk of words, which aren’t as positive, that I would use to describe myself. I am, at times, my VERY OWN WORST CRITIC.

It’s SO EASY to fall into a hole of “you’ve not done this, you’ve not done that, that could have been better, you’re not this, you’re not that, that person is doing this and you’re not”. It’s so easy. It’s so easy to listen to the negative things that people have said about you, rather than the equal amount of positive things. It’s so easy to only think negative things about yourself, rather than tell yourself positive things.

I’m particularly bad at being kind to myself some times. And some times I need reminders that I am enough. I am kind. I am friendly. I am funny. I am good at my job. These reminders need to come from me. It’s lovely when other people tell me them, but it doesn’t make as big a difference until I start to believe them.

I’m a BIG LOVER of quotes (and mood boards as readers of this blog will attest to), so I’ve put together a moodboard of quotes that have hit a chord with me as I’ve been scrolling recently. We all deal with our mental health struggles in different ways, and each and every voice is valid – for me, these help to show me that I’m not alone. They help me to see that OTHER people have felt the way I feel. 

MH month

Thanks for stopping by today. If you ever need to talk, or just want a hug (virtual, or real), my inbox/twitter is always open.

Love, Steph xx

BOOK BLOG: Anna Williamson

How Not To Lose It: a brilliant book to use when talking MH with kids

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“The go-to mental health guide for kids!
Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It’s not just your body that should be fit and healthy – your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being. With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.”

As a teacher, it’s so important that I have resources available to me for talking to kids about their mental health. We are seeing more and more that MH is something that is talked about in schools – and rightly so. There are more and more books becoming available to help kids learn about and talk about their MH and How Not To Lose It is a brilliant example of a book that’s going to do that! Aimed at 9-14 year olds, this book covers a wide variety of topics and is filled with empowering advice, delivered in a honest and chatty tone. 

How Not To Lose It covers such a wide variety of topics that you can find advice based on almost anything. The contents page kicks off in the way the book continues – friendly, colourful and it doesn’t feel like your typical “self help” book. There’s a handy index in the back too – always useful when you just want ONE specific thing. The topics covered in the book are:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • friendship
  • bullying
  • relationships and sex
  • family life and bereavement
  • phobias
  • peer pressure
  • self-harm
  • self-esteem and confidence.

I love that this book is approachable. If a kid (this book is aimed at 9-14 year olds) picked it up, it’s appealing to them and it’s not just pages and pages of words. There’s agony aunt letters aplenty and there’s these brilliant “myth busting” boxes throughout. The illustrations are perfect for the age range that it’s aimed at and I read through as an adult and I learned things! The language used is chatty and honest, which makes it brilliantly readable for kids without sounding patronising.

This book is BRILLIANT. Properly brilliant. I love the variety of topics that it covers. These ‘To sum it all up…’ pages are my favourite pages throughout – there’s some proper sound advice on them. (This one about friendship is one of my favourites!) 

Anything that empowers our kids and helps them deal with anything they’re going through is a proper winner in my books and this one is brilliant! 

What are your favourite resources to use in the classroom about mental health?
Would you find this resource useful in the classroom?

A massive thank you to the publishers, Scholastic, for sending me a copy. I am going to have this at hand in my classroom. This book is out now and I would recommend UKS2/KS3 teachers to check it out!

S x

See the good in the world…

A while back I posted my first post about things I’m thankful for/things that make me happy (check it out here: Happy things…) inspired by my gorgeous friend Grace. Today we have post 2 of things that make me happy… it’s important to remember good things! I beat myself up often so having posts like this are brilliant for me.

Things that have made me happy recently:

YALC announcements. Sunny days. Coffee. Spending time with friends. Road trips. Kids lit. YA books. Rainbow bookshelves. Trips to Waterstones. Brilliant lessons. Unexpected great lessons. University results. Texts from friends. Tweets from friends. Looking forward to the future. Working hard and seeing the results. Listening to the rain. Texts from my brother. Ed Sheeran tickets. Ed Sheeran lyrics. Buying books as presents. Ariana Grande songs. Friends buying me amazing books. Countdown to summer. Trampolining. Sebastian Roche. Despacito. 

What about you?
What’s made you smile recently? 
What would make your happy list?

Let me know in the comments, or share a link to your own post! I would love to see more happy positivity going round. 

S x

Happy things…

So a few days ago my gorgeous friend Grace posted a brilliant blog post about things that made her happy, and spurred everyone to do the same… so here we go.

Things that made me happy in the past week. 

Getting so into a book that you lose track of time. Sunshine and shade. Sitting, drinking iced coffee with a book. Smiles from strangers. Meeting incredible authors. Intellectual conversations with friends. Stupid conversations with friends. Calling Twitter friends “friends”. Reading with kids. Reading to kids. Going to work, knowing its what I want to do forever. Kindness. Emails about books. Pictures of the twiglets with stupid Snapchat filters. Good morning texts. 

There are so many other things which make me happy. I quite often get bogged down by the things that make me sad. I’m very in my own head at times. I might make this a semi-regular thing, to remind myself of the positive things in life. 

If you want to read Grace’s post: click, click, click.

I’d love to see other people joining in this! It’s such a lovely idea. 

What makes you happy?
What things do you do to put a smile back on your face?

Let me know in the comments, or on twitter! Share the happy joy! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Matt Haig

Reasons To Stay Alive: honest, important, emotive.

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“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

‘I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.'”

Reasons to Stay Alive has been sat on my TBR shelf for a while. I’m not a massive reader of NF but there were lots of people talking about this book a while back, so I bought it but it just stayed on my shelf. Until just recently. I needed something a little bit different. I needed something that would hopefully inspire something in me. 

I loved Matt’s sheer frank honesty. There’s no skirting over issues. There’s frank honesty. There’s stories and anecdotes from his toughest times. There’s uplifting stories. There’s conversations he has with himself. There’s flashbacks to his darkest times. There’s the story of the start of it all. Throughout all of it, there’s honesty.

Mental health is something that is becoming more talked about but still not talked about ENOUGH. This book was brave and brilliant. Written in such a way that I devoured it in less than a day. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. I cried. I was angry. Frustrated. Sad. Jubilant. I felt everything. 

There are so many important quotes in this book that I feel I could spend a blog post quoting but I’ll choose a few:

“Hang on in if you can. Life is always worth it”
““Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”
“Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen in Frozen.”

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I implore everyone to read this. Even if you don’t suffer from any MH troubles, it’ll open your eyes to those who do. You will know someone who is suffering, possibly in silence. 

My goodreads review simply said:
“It’s important that people talk about mental health and it’s important for people to know that not everyone suffers the same way. I loved this book. I cried a lot.”

Have you read this?
Do you have other NF recommendations like this?

Let me know on twitter (@eenalol) or in the comments, I need more NF in my life!

S x

Mental Health in YA

Hello Wednesday folks! Sorry this is late, I have had a mega stressful week, however you are in for a treat with this guest blog this week. My gorgeous friend Rachel, over-lady of #SundayYA, #SundayYAthon and 100-or-less has popped along to talk about YA books which discuss one of the most important things to a person – their mental health. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week next week so it was only natural that this fit in perfectly here!!

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Mental Health in YA: Some recommendations

For those of you that don’t know, next week (8th to 14th May) is the Mental Health Awareness Week. Over at #SundayYA I will be hosting a chat on mental health YA with some lovely guest authors, but today I want to share with you some of my favourite YA that talk about and raise awareness of mental health issues.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia follows the story of Alex, a girl diagnosed with schizophrenia, as she tries to figure out the world with her Magic 8-Ball and her trusty camera. She thinks she has it all sorted out but then she meets Miles, and Alex begins to question her reality. As the title suggests, the story is told from first person so it’s pretty hard to tell what is real and what is due to Alex schizophrenia, but all this makes Made You Up a wonderful insight into what it is like to live with psychosis, and how those with a diagnosis can learn to live with it.

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An older YA that deals with mental health, and one that often gets overlooked, is My Heart And Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Aysel wants to commit suicide and, in her search for a Suicide Partner, meets Roman. They plot their death together but, in doing so, Aysel realises she has a lot more reasons to live. I thought this would be a very difficult read and at times I was ready to give up on it, but it turned out to be a beautifully hopeful story of rediscovery that I fell in love with.

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A book I have recently read that talking about mental health is Countless by Karen Gregory. Hedda has anorexia (which she refers to throughout her story as a person called Nia), but when she discovers she is pregnant she calls a truce with her eating disorder. As she goes through the pregnancy she learns that some choices are harder than others, and not everything in life can be counted. Countless is a particularly harrowing read, but one that I couldn’t put down. What struck me about this book was that, despite dealing with eating disorders, not once is a number mentioned. I found this to be rather important, as it demonstrates that it is possible to tell a story about mental health that can be realistic without being potentially triggering.

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I couldn’t talk about mental health in YA without mentioning Under Rose-Tainted Skies, an Own Voices novel by Louise Gornall. Norah has agoraphobia and OCD and has accepted that the four walls of her house will be where she spends her life. That is, until Luke turns up on her door and changes everything. He’s patient and understanding, and sees Norah for who she really is. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a truly wonderful read, and one that shows that sometimes, it’s okay to take risks.

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On the topic of OCD, another YA I have loved, and the only one so far I have re-read, is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. Evie has OCD and believes she is coping with it, but as she starts college and makes new friends she soon begins to spiral out of control. Although Am I Normal Yet? deals with some pretty tough themes, it manages to be light hearted and funny throughout, which made this story really stand out to me and will see me go back to it many times in the future.

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There are a lot of YA books about anxiety, but recently I really enjoyed reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. Steffi is a selective mute and struggles to communicate to people outside of her immediate family. Her headteacher introduces her to Rhys, who is deaf, and with her limited understanding of British Sign Language she builds a friendship she can truly be a part of. A Quiet Kind of Thunder really captures what it is to have anxiety, and is written in such a way that, by the time I read the last page, I felt like I was parting ways with a friend.

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Mental health comes in many forms, and a YA read that particularly stands out when I think of neurodiversity is The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas. The State of Grace follows Grace, a narrator with Asperger’s, as she comes to term with a lot of changes in her life whilst trying to fit in with her friends. I found the State of Grace to be not just enjoyable but fascinating to read and, as someone who works with students on the ASD spectrum, a real insight into what it is like to be on the spectrum. I learnt a lot from reading it, and will carry this story with me for a long time to come.

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Of course, there are a lot of amazing YA books out there that talk about mental health, but these are the ones that have particularly stood out for me. Happy reading!

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Thank you so much to Rachel for writing this incredible insightful blog all about different YA books which deal with mental health, in all its variations. 

Rachel’s links (you should follow her, she’s incredible!)

Remember to join in #SundayYA chats on Sundays between 6 and 7 pm!

I have read and reviewed some of these books and the ones which I have not I will be buying AS SOON AS my May book ban is over (you can read all about that here: You MAY not buy any books)

Reviews:

Review of Countless to come, I just recently finished it and my word. I loved every second of it. It absolutely killed me. 

Have you read any of these books?
Which other YA books would you recommend for Mental Health Awareness Week?

S x