Friday, 10 September 2021

HOW TO READ ABOUT SUICIDE & STILL BE SAFE | I’M WRITING A FICTION BOOK – COVER RELEASE INCLUDED!!! | WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY 2021

I’ve felt some pain,

I’ve seen some things,

But I’m here now

Good Old Days – Macklemore ft. Ke$ha

This year, having already written a blog post (which you can read here), specifically in preparation for the inevitable influx of content themed around suicide for World Suicide Prevention Day; I thought I probably wasn’t going to publish any other content… Then I found myself working on my next book – which is largely around the reality of suicide and realised that now might be the ‘right’ time to reveal some of the top-secret details(!) and talk about how you can cope with reading topics like this…

My very first book; When All Is Said & Typed (which you can buy here) it was definitely a case of purely copying and pasting all of my blog posts on I’m NOT Disordered from its beginning in 2013, to the date of publishing the book in 2019. It meant that when I began considering another book, I felt it could also be based around blogging for two reasons: Firstly, I had learnt so much about blogging and I’m NOT Disordered had come so far since that first book that I had a ton of new ideas, and secondly, I felt that this book would feel so much more different if it meant I was writing it from scratch. That yes, there were blog posts copied and pasted, but they were mostly to be used as examples of the content rather than being the sole content of the book.

Writing the majority of my second book; Everything Disordered (which you can buy here) from scratch meant that it took so much longer to put together than the first book, but this made publishing it and seeing the sales rise a bit more gratifying! I got more of a thrill when I talked about it and felt prouder when people asked me about it. It felt so much more genuine and that led me to feel more entitled to accept feedback – even if that meant listening to constructive criticism!

Having written a book largely from scratch, has given me so much more confidence in my writing and this has been a hugely contributing factor to the improvements in my belief in my capabilities to write an entire fiction book! Of course, I recognise there’ll still be a massive difference from being able to use already written blog posts to bulk out the content of the book, but I love to confront new challenges – I think that ultimately, doing so, will build your strength and resilience.

I first started writing fiction when I was a lot younger and my love for a series of books all about the adventures of a Shetland pony (Sheltie) inspired me to focus my content on talking animals!

Another contributing factor to this theme was that my childhood was pretty perfect. I mean, the abuse didn’t start until I was fifteen and it caught me so much by surprise because until then, I hadn’t known there to be ‘bad’ people in the world. I hadn’t read about or seen interviews on TV with people who had experienced these things, and so my naivety left me in utter shock that was so powerful it seemed to put a pause on my life. As though all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t fight back, and I couldn’t scream for help. I was stunned and for six months, my life entirely revolved around the abuse. Every minute was spent wondering when it was going to happen again – even the minutes whilst it was happening! And it meant that for a while, I couldn’t write any more because I was so utterly terrified that I would write about what was happening to me; and for so many reasons, I couldn’t tell anyone about it. 

Going through that, and then my mental health deteriorating to the point of suicide attempts and a two-and-a-half-year long admission to a psychiatric hospital, meant that all those innocent stories of horses suddenly seemed to mean nothing at all. They weren’t even a tiny part of my life anymore – you wouldn’t know those days had even happened because now all of these very overwhelming, scary, and upsetting things were happening to me. And they were so much more real and so much more important. So, thinking about it, it seems almost inevitable and unsurprising that when I finally continued my writing, it turned to centring around mental health and my experiences related to that topic.

So, considering all my experiences with mental health and suicide attempts, maybe – for some people – it also seemed inevitable that I would eventually write an entire fiction book based on it. It wasn’t inevitable to me though! I thought that writing an entire blog for over eight years would be a good enough outlet to talk about my experiences. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realised it would actually be refreshing to write about this topic in a more distanced, and less personal way by creating characters and inventing plots and developing chapters… Just the thought of it felt kind of enjoyable – and I know that might sound bad because I’m still writing about suicide, but the thought that it wouldn’t be me in those situations felt relieving.

Of course, there is some element of ‘me’ in the book because I recognise that if it weren’t for my experiences, I probably wouldn’t have the inspiration and ability to write this type of content. There were so many occasions in therapy sessions with various Psychologists where they would recommend, I consider what I would say to my abuser if I were given the chance to speak to him. A few even suggested writing a letter even though it would obviously never be sent… Initially, I hated this idea because it sort of felt like teasing my brain – saying ‘what would you say? Oh wait! You can’t say it!’ But, over time, I learnt the meaning behind this therapeutic exercise – it wasn’t about playing tricks, it was about finding some sort of closure.

Kind of strangely, when I imagined a situation where I would see my abuser again, it mostly centred around the circumstances this book focuses on… Now, I’ve thought a lot about how much detail on the plot of the book that I should give because it’s fairly easy to explain… and my worry would be that I did too thorough a job of explaining and it left people thinking ‘why would I read the book now I know what happens?!’ So, the fact that the book centres around suicide – and once you know the title, you’ll have a fair idea of the method that will be discussed – and that abuse comes up in it, is pretty much all I’m going to give you in terms of the plot! But you’ll obviously find out more nearer the release date: September 10th 2022.

My decision to focus on those two subjects (abuse and suicide) wasn’t just about feeling capable of talking about them because of my own experiences. I also want to use the book to raise awareness of the reality of those topics. For a while now – since mental health, suicide, and abuse have become less taboo – those subjects have often become glamourized on social media. A lot of ‘celebrities’ have begun speaking out about their own struggles and before you know it, these things have their own little hashtag and are ‘trending’ on Twitter etc! And this is why World Suicide Prevention Day and other mental health related awareness days, are becoming less popular for those who have lived through these things, because for them – and me! – these issues aren’t a one-day-per-year kind of thing! They’re 24/7 and there’s no escape.

Personally, whilst I agree that there needs to be more talk about this fact, I’m just so grateful that these things even have just one awareness day! Since the most difficult moments of my life revolved around topics which weren’t being discussed and I experienced the impact that a lack of publicity had on my coping through those things, I’ve become so much more appreciative when there’s even just one chat about these things! I mean, when the abuse first started in 2006, the lack of stories in the media of accounts of others being abused meant that I felt like the only person in the world who was going through it. This meant that I blamed myself to such an extent that I turned to self-harm as both a release and a punishment. Then, when my mental health first started to deteriorate and I began experiencing auditory hallucinations in 2009, I thought I was going ‘crazy.’ I’d heard horror stories about our local psychiatric hospital and so I was terrified to tell anyone what was happening because I was sure that I’d end up being dragged off for electro-shock therapy or that they’d give me a ton of medication and I’d never be me again!

Aside from hoping that my book will raise awareness of abuse and suicide, I’m also remaining aware of ensuring that whilst the book is largely about upsetting and difficult instances, it is still helpful for readers. The thought of all the time and effort that writing this book requires is so much easier and more worthwhile if I can keep in mind that it’s going to benefit someone other than me. I mean, in writing this book I’m going to feel a huge sense of closure in finally having the ability to really offload a lot of unsaid things, and to be able to do that in such a creative way has definitely contributed to the entire process being safe and productive rather than triggering and distressing. Whilst it’s important I do benefit from this book, at the same time, I hope that readers will draw some positives from it too… I hope that it might inspire them to consider writing or talking about things they wish they could say, and in doing that, I hope those instances result in the reader feeling more courageous, brave, validated and content in feeling a sense of relief that all those words are no longer just muddled up and crashing around inside their head, fighting to be heard.

Equal to ensuring readers benefit in some way, I can’t ignore the fact that the book could also cause upset and distress because of the topics featured in it. So, having written a blog post a few days ago on how to write about suicide (you can read it here), I thought it might be important that I use this post to include a few bits of advice on reading about suicide…

1.       Creating a reading schedule is not always productive – if you don’t maintain it, you may end up feeling like a failure and it can amount to undue pressure

2.       Be in a safe space physically – somewhere comfortable and where you feel stable in knowing that if you lose reality, you won’t be reluctant to find it again

3.       Do your reading at a time when appropriate support who may be needed are more readily available e.g., office hours etc.

4.       Have something to look forward to when you finish reading – decide that you’ll have some chocolate or that you’ll meet a friend when you’ve read

5.       Ensure you’re as safe as possible emotionally – no matter how positive your mood, you may feel some natural upset in reading this topic, so it’s better done when you aren’t already struggling

Finally, the cover!

I chose the background image because I had wanted some sort of image that represented falling – obviously because of the nature of the title and content – so I looked at various photos of people standing on cliffs and tall buildings… They all felt sort of too close to reality. It was difficult because on the one hand, that’s exactly what I want for my book – to illustrate the reality of suicide; but I also didn’t want the cover to be so morbidly accurate! And so, I found the image with the feather and hoped that it gives a more ‘lighter’ insight into the topics of the book. I also liked that the hand there to catch the feather sort of symbolizes the element of having a 'safety net' and support available where someone is feeling suicidal. 

I really hope you like the cover and that I’ve instilled some excitement at the prospect of this book!