Tuesday 30 June 2015

I Was Here: Unmasking Depression with Anna

(Photo credit to www.instagram.com/thebutterflybrand)

About a month ago I had the honor of celebrating the long awaited book release of my dear friend Anna.

I met her several years ago at a mutual friend's 21st birthday and we'd kept in contact since via Facebook. She's one of the few people in my life that thinks along the same enlightened and philosophical wavelength that I do and is also a very gifted writer.

As she says in the first few pages of her book, she suffered with depression many years ago and she wrote every day until it had passed. Her debut book, Unmasking Depression, is a culmination of her writings as well as quotes that were meaningful to her personal journey and will hopefully trigger something with each reader.

I started reading her book a few days after I suddenly lost my mother to cancer. As anyone that's lost a loved one will know, you just want the million and one emotions to go away and some dwell on them which makes it worse, others throw themselves into whatever they can find in the hopes that their brain will do the processing while they switch focus for a bit.

I like the way the book is written. I don't think I've come across a book that resembles the same format that Anna's used which is a standout feature I'd say.

She has different sections in the book including Suffering, Pain, Intuition, Healing, Words, Truth, Darkness, Light, Enlightenment, Purpose, Resurrection, as well as a dedication at the front and an introduction which tells you a bit about her personal story and the reason the book exists in the first place. (Check out her the official instagram page to see what I mean. www.instagram.com/thebutterflybrand)

Between each section which is 2-3 pages long, she has a different quote which helps to break up the writing and give you an extra boost after each part.

The best way I feel I can describe it is like a written tea or coffee break. You take a big sip of each section, let the words sink into your subconscious, then swallow down in preparation for the next section. The quotes in between are like taking a bite on a complementing biscuit.

As I was reading through it, I was reminded of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist and some similarities in the writing. Although in The Alchemist (and possibly other books of Coelho's which I haven't read yet) there is primarily a story, fictional, and the underlying theme which readers usually take on board and which is most likely the reason for its rave reviews. You can also just read the book as a story and let your subconscious make what it will of the underlying lessons.

Unmasking Depression is similar in the way that it gives the reader something to think about, but it doesn't do so in the form of a fictional story, it removes all the layers and makes you feel like you're inside someone else's head and privy to their thought patterns (which is I think how Anna meant to write it). It's done in a gentle way as if the way friend who's looking out for you and giving you objective insights into your problems, they're not telling you what to do or trying to fix the problems for you, they're merely pointing out what they can see and what the options are, what you take from it is entirely your business.

Although the book is focused on the feminine, the lessons to be gleaned are relevant and appropriate to everyone, regardless of what gender you identify with the strongest.

As someone who has grown up with mental illness, a lot of the things that were talked about I felt a strong connection with. In fact I had to sharpen a pencil when I went to reread it because there's so much in it that's like a continuous 'Aha!' or 'Yes! This is so true!', that you just feel the need to make a note of it for future reference.

I mentioned to Anna the other night that because of the nature of her book and it's themes, it's the kind of book that people need to read when they're at a certain place in their lives where they're receptive to the ideas and it's ultimately exactly what they need to get them to wherever they need to go, or hopefully, the help that they need, to feel like someone understands them and there is a way out of the barrage of craziness happening inside their head, heart and soul.

Much like pretty much anything written by Paulo Coelho, you know this book is a keeper for generations to come.

I also really like that Anna does personalizations to show gratitude for not only purchasing her 'art work' but to make you feel like you now have a close connection with her. It makes the transaction that much better instead of just buying a book online and getting it in the mail. Each book comes with love, heartfelt gratitude, support and understanding as well as hope for the future or even that tomorrow will be better than today.

(Photo credit to www.instagram.com/thebutterflybrand)

If you'd like to purchase your own copy to see what I'm talking about, (you won't regret it!), get in quick as there's only a limit of 200 copies, of which I think about half have already gone. She also does pretty and poignant post cards (see the picture below).

Check out http://www.thebutterfly.com.au/products/unmasking-depression

Yes, the price includes shipping, I already checked. While you're there, I also recommend checking out Anna's blog. It's quite interesting and thoughtful, slight similar to this blog if I do say so myself.

If you'd like to keep up to date with Anna and her company, The Butterfly, you can do so by following them both on Instagram.


(Photo credit to www.instagram.com/thebutterflybrand)

Monday 15 June 2015

50 Shades of Eh...

(Ellie Goulding - Love Me Like You Do)

I was sitting at the hairdressers a few days ago and they had the video for Ellie Goulding's 'Love Me Like You Do' as featured in Fifty Shades of Grey.

As I watched the clip and saw snippets of the movie, I figured it was about time I saw what all the fuss was about.

I've never read the books and didn't particularly care to. While I was a fan of the Twilight saga before it became a movie, knowing that FSOG was based on or originally written as erotic fan-fiction wasn't the greatest incentive to read or watch it. (I have this thing with over-hyped things aside from Harry Potter).

I decided to watch it last night, not entirely knowing that to expect, but being an avid reader of Mills and Boon books throughout my teenage years with the idea of 'if I can't date or have sex (due to strict upbringing and religious reasons) I may as well read about people who are', I figured I'd find something to keep me watching.

For a book that was an erotic story, I was kind of expecting something more pornographic in content. Sure there's the build up in each sex scene, but then it cuts to the next scene and you just wait for the next one to come up.

I can't say I particularly cared for the BDSM which is a big part of the movie, but my hopeless romantic side did really like the idea of a high powered CEO and eligible bachelor chasing after the 'nobody' who he finds fascinating and completely refreshing in comparison to the women he's used to being with. I know this is incredibly formulaic, but it is so for a reason: it works!

(Photo credit to Google Images)

I also really like how assertive Anastasia was when it came to the contract and being with Christian. She wanted him as much as he wanted her but wasn't prepared to play by his rules completely in order to be with him. I think that shows a lot of strength where it would be incredibly easily to just succumb to temptation and possibly regret it afterwards.

I am keen to see the next installment when it apparently hits theatres in 2017 from what I've read, however I don't foresee myself acquiring a copy of the books any time soon.

The biggest appeal from the video clip to actually make me want to watch the movie is the sense of stability and security I get from Christian's character. He can afford an incredibly lavish lifestyle and he's wanted by many women all around, but he's not a douche about it. You get the sense from the interview scene between him and Anastasia that there's a lot more to him than meets the eye, as she even said to him.

(Photo credit to weaimtoplease-miss-steele.tumblr.com)

There's a comfort of knowing that when you're with someone like him, you'll be cared for, protected, safe and ultimately loved. He has enough life experience to know what's what and how to treat other people to get a favorable outcome. He also has the power to make things happen which is both advantageous and a hindrance as we saw. Some people like the lavishness all year round, others like the occasional surprise of it but get sick of it after a while like Anastasia did, especially if it's to make up for someone actually being there and a monetary comfort instead of a personal one.

Again, I like that she stood up to him instead of letting herself down by continuing in a relationship of sorts that wasn't emotionally fulfilling for her because he was too scared to let his guard down and kept things physical.

These kinds of storylines are the reasons why I consider myself a hopeless romantic and always have been.

(Photo credit to Google Images)

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a pest control guy a few months ago and more recently, a talk with my therapist about being independent but also letting the guy do 'guy things'.

I like the idea of being taken care of, to an extent. I value my independence a ridiculous amount so I'm not prepared to just settle for whoever comes along just so I can be married and whatever.

I, like I'm sure a lot of women do, want a guy to fight for me. I'm not talking about playing hard to get, although that's probably what some people think it is, I'm talking about a guy putting in the effort that it takes to get the girl that he really wants. Like Christian tells Ana, she's changing him. He has his rules and she's bending them to suit her own will and he's kinda powerless to stop her because it's her that he wants and he always gets what he wants.

(Photo credit to Google Images)

I think my biggest complaint is that Ana is completely naked in a fair few scenes, yet we only see back nudity or torso and up of Christian. If you're going to have a movie with raunchy sex scenes, it's only fair that both parties be as naked as each other. I'm putting this one on the patriarchy. The same reason why a close friend of mine as well as many other fans have a problem with Game of Thrones and the portrayal/treatment of women. If they're going to be naked, the guys should be too, it's only fair.

Ultimately, FSOG is basically a big budget and massively hyped movie version of Mills and Boon books, if you take out the BDSM aspect though. I would be interested to see the character development of both Ana and Christian, so as mentioned earlier, I am keen to see the next installment in a few years time.

It has renewed my love of what I'd call trashy romance novels, given the present lack of romance in my life, but aside from that it's just a case of fifty shades of something, I'm just not entirely sure what.

(Photo credit to favim.com)

Thursday 11 June 2015

Who Are You?!

(Photo credit to windowofinspiration.com)

Over the recent weeks since my mother's sudden passing, I've spent a fair bit of time reflecting upon my life and who I am and comparing it to the life that I knew of my mother.

When I was digging through the multitude of photo albums stashed away in the days after her passing, I discovered photos of her that I'd never seen before and doing things that I'd never be able to imagine her doing, yet there she was. It was mind-boggling.

My dad reminded me that my mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was about 4, so most of my life was spent caring for her while he was working and my brother wasn't prepared to do the job. This meant that my life and the person that I am was formed from the basis of being a caretaker, or as I've recently discovered the term, 'Adult Child'.

Dad told me that mum was whoever she needed to be or whoever other people wanted her to be depending on who she was with. She played the role of a particular person whether it be best friend, girlfriend, wife, daughter, mother, etc. It made sense. I knew her as a mother, but she wasn't herself as a mother, she was who she thought a mother should be.

Dad also told me that despite battling mental illness, mum tried hard to be normal even though it completed exhausted her to do so. At her memorial service I gave a speech where I talked about what it was like living with mum in her mental state. Most people had absolutely no clue she was mentally ill because she was so skilled at hiding it around those who only saw her for a few hours a week.

Something I realised a fair while back was that although I always thought of my mother's illness as a curse or a burden, it was actually an incredible gift because of what it taught me and the person that it made me. If it weren't for her, her illness or how I had to cope with that growing up, I wouldn't be in the incredibly unique position now of being able to empathise and relate to people going through similar things.

Given how much stigma there still is around mental illness, growing up in a home where we dealt with it on a daily basis was actually a blessing in disguise. People could find some kind of solace or refuge in our home because of how we'd learnt to treat and cope with mum's illness. We didn't necessarily talk about it, but we didn't pretend that it didn't exist either, we weren't in a position to.

I've also realised quite recently that my mother also gave me another indirect gift. The gift of knowing who I really was from an early age. Granted this is a two-part gift since dad never really discouraged me or my interests, unless he thought that pursuing them would harm me in some way.

Mum tried to be who everyone else wanted her to be and she lost herself along the way. I was always determined to never end up like her. She just seemed to be unhappy and tried to convince herself and everyone around her that she was, even though I could see straight through her. She always tried to get me to fit in with the other girls, always compared me whenever I wouldn't do what she wanted me to saying that the other girls my age, and named a few who I didn't particularly like, never talked back to their parents and were always well-behaved. I countered that she couldn't possibly know what they were like behind closed doors, but she told me she imagined that they were well-behaved children unlike me.

(Photo credit to www.indulgebymersene.com)

As mentioned in many previous posts, I tried hard, really hard to fit in, but like mum I got exhausted from trying to keep up with other people. I wasn't interested in the things that they did or talked about, whenever I tried to join in because I was sick of being alone, moments later the group I was with decided that they'd take a communal trip to the toilet or go somewhere that I wasn't interested in, so it seemed completely pointless when I got the impression that they wanted me around as much as I wanted to be around. So I kept to myself and got through the day the only ways I knew how: finding a quiet spot away from everyone and either reading or writing to escape the world I didn't know how to find the exit for.

I've realised that I never really knew mum, of course no one can know their parents the way other people can, especially if they're a lifelong friend. But since mum started forgetting things, I really never got the chance to know her even though I had her for 25 years. The pictures I found only tell part of the story, some of her old letters and things tell another part, but given mum's mental state, I don't think there was any way she could have joined the dots for me.

Something I wrote in an earlier post and that I brought to therapy a few sessions ago was memories of being at church or youth group and because there wasn't much to do or say, people stood around fiddling with their clothes and pretending to be part of the scenery which when I look back on it is both hilarious and pathetic. You just stand there, not talking or really doing anything, just observing the scene in front of you and silently judging those around you because there's not much else to do.

I was thinking about this earlier this week and after plenty of encouragement from a family friend who'd also lost her mother to cancer a few years back and had similar experiences with mental illness in her family, she told me that I was doing incredibly well and I needed to be much kinder to myself especially with everything that had happened of late.

I thought about the people from church who had made me feel essentially like a worthless piece of shit for most of my life and I thought about all the things I'd done for myself since then. I was and am proud of the person I've become, not just because of how hard I've had to fight not only to survive, but to be that person, but because of what that really means in the grand scheme of things.

I had a dream a while back now where the popular religious girl in my class who also happened to be a distant cousin of mine (as well as everyone else with the way that religious communities work), she was hovering over me from behind and I kept asking her why I was treated the way I was. She confirmed that people had wanted me to kill myself, although not saying the actual words, but she confirmed it and told me it was because I had self. I took that as her saying people couldn't understand me and were possibly jealous of the fact that I didn't follow the crowd and they found that fearfully intimidating.

I wondered though, for all those people who get caught up in crowds and soar in popularity, do they really know who they are when they aren't surrounded by people? Do they know what they want, or do they just mindlessly follow what those around them are doing or what other people want them to do for fear of being cast out and becoming the reject and loner like I was?

For me, I always saw being the outcast and loner as a weakness. I just didn't have the strength to keep up appearances and convince everyone else that I was okay when I honestly couldn't even convince myself on most days. Now though, I'm starting to think that maybe the things that fellow creatives of mine have said about being courageous by standing away from the crowd, maybe that's truer than the negative image I've always had of myself.

(Photo credit to addictedtosuccess.com)

I imagined the other night bumping into one of the girls I graduated with who's since married and has a baby. From memory she was one of the first in our class to do so. In my fantasy/daydream/whatever you want to call it, she was struggling to wrangle her baby and her husband was out with the guys so she was left to her own devices. I stopped by her and offered to help her out. I asked her how she was doing generally as well as with marriage and motherhood. She admitted to me that it was hard work, much harder than she thought it would be and I got the sense that she'd been so caught up in the crowd and doing what was expected of her that the wake up call of reality was more than she bargained for and she was just riding the wave as best as she could.

She told me later on that she admired how well I'd done in life and that no matter how badly she or anyone else had treated me when we were growing up, that it had come from a place of jealousy and awe. I refused to let anyone tell me who I was, what to do or who to be, and that was all that everyone else had ever done for the girls I'd grown up with. They were expected to find a partner, settle down, get a job, attend church on Sundays and live happily ever after. I'd done none of that and I was the better for it.

I was also flipping through the signature book from my 21st that one of my best friends at the time had given me. Her message in the front of it was a great validation of who I am. She wrote that she liked that I was my own person and encouraged me to keep standing up for things that I believe in.
Another friend wrote that she liked I was always honest about things but expressed it in a way that didn't hurt the other persons feelings. Both were great things to hear.

Some other friends of mine, one being the school counsellor who I'd become close to, told me I had wonderful qualities to be treasured and the former year advisor/second mother told me how much I'd grown over the time she'd known me and really treasured my friendship.

Mum's one was the hardest to read given how raw her loss still is, but she wrote that I was still my parents bundle of joy and that I'd had grown into a lovely young lady, something which I mentally questioned. Dad, after much coercion (he usually left card messages and the like for mum to do and sign his name at the bottom) wrote that I had a gift of sorts of finding true friendships in a variety of different people and they didn't change over time. He commented that the array of people that came to celebrate my 21st year of life surprised him. Some were younger, only a few were the same age and the rest were older. There was someone from nearly every aspect of my life, but only people who were genuine which was an incredible blessing to both myself and my parents.

I was having a discussion with the same friend who encouraged me to be kind to myself, and I was telling her that I didn't understand people who went out and got drunk or high every weekend since it held absolutely no appeal to me. She told me that they had no life purpose so all they could do was find different forms of instant gratification to wile away their time. That made sense but I also thought it was incredibly sad. I've always known that I had a huge job to do, that my life purpose was important because I couldn't imagine going through what I had and having it mean nothing at the end of the day.

So let me ask you, dear reader of the obscenely long yet highly insightful and reflective post, who are you? Do you know the answer or even how to answer that? Are you the person who sits quietly in a corner minding their own business like me? Or are you the person who is constantly surrounded by people and isn't sure of what to do when they're not around? Maybe you thrive in a crowd and know exactly who you are and what you want. Maybe not.

My gut instincts have always been strong. If someone wanted to me to do something and there was peer pressure but I really didn't want to do it, I wouldn't. If I was going to be liked, it had to be for who I was and not for who people around me wanted me to be, no exceptions. I found that the times when I tried to be who others wanted me to be, it just felt wrong and after a while I stopped because I got tired of it and the people I was trying to impress were just going to see how far they could push me, they didn't really care.

If you don't know who you are or what you want, that's more than okay. Conversely, if you do, that's great too. If you don't, you have every opportunity to find out. Firstly you need to stop listening to everyone else and listen to yourself. Find hobbies, try out a variety of different things until you find something that you're drawn to and follow that. If you can't afford to do so, find a way to just observe or if it's a class or something, talk to the instructor/teacher and ask if you can volunteer or take part in some way until you can afford to take it on in a greater capacity.

Whatever you do, do it for you. That's the only surefire way to know who you are!

(Photo credit to www.pinterest.com)

Tuesday 9 June 2015


(Photo credit to www.bloglovinfollowers.net)

For bloggers that don't know, Bloglovin' is a site where bloggers and blog readers connect.

I recently joined it after reading a blog post that a friend linked to me and saw that they had a badge on their site and I thought I'd look into it a bit more.

If you have an existing blog, you can sign up (for free!) and claim your blog which puts it in front of a whole new audience.

If you're looking for new blogs to follow, this site it perfect for you. You sign up, select the blog categories that interest you and bloglovin' brings you all the best blogs that match your searching preferences and interests.

It's kind of like Instagram for blogs. Well that's my take on it anyway.

Check it out if you're looking for your next blogging fix, something new, want to boost your own audience, or everything in between.


(Photo credit to www.sourceofsubstance.com)