Changing The World: One Book Date At A Time

PieLiving with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.

Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.

We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.

So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.

Praise for #datewithabook

I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny

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I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey

Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette

Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma

There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.

 

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A Message of Hope In Difficult Times

Just over a week ago, the world felt like a different place. Things felt a little less sad and scary than they do today. We are in the aftermath of great tragedies both close to home, Nationally and Internationally; and surrounded by the uncertainty of an election where it feels as though many people are feeling alienated by the politicians who are meant to represent them. Looking at the world feels terrifying, there is so much hatred and suffering right now and we seem to be in the midst of so much change, that it feels really unstable and messy. People around me are hurting and struggling and it’s hard to always find the positivity and hope to get through the tricky bits to a new day. What is the use in powering through if it’s going to just feel the same? In the depths of my struggles and battles with mental illness, I have felt really hopeless at times; I’ve had times where I’ve not been able to imagine a life without my demons and it’s felt awful, to say the least. But, despite the hard times, there were always little glimpses of hope. I think Dumbledore said it best:

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In times of difficulty, it’s so important to take stock of everything around you that is good. Look out for the tiny positives, wherever you can find them because the little things can build up and grow to a much larger amount of hope and goodness. Once you start recognising the good around you, your mindset can be shifted and things can feel a little easier and more positive. When I was in inpatient treatment, we completed a task of noticing positives or negatives during the same day and reporting back to the group. We found that it was much easier for people to find negative things about their day as opposed to those who were looking for positives, however those who were trying to purposefully find something good in their day generally had a better day and noticed the little things that were good. People who were looking for negatives tended to slip into a spiral of catastrophizing everything that was happening around them and assumed their day was going to be bad anyway. Despite it just being a short and non-scientific experiment, it was impressive to see there was a difference between the two groups. Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are

Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are widely discussed, with examples of improvement health, happiness and wellbeing demonstrated.  Whilst looking for a little positivity or gratitude, or even trying to create a little for ourselves each day won’t fix the world around us or protect us from some of the horrible, unfair and upsetting things that life can throw our way; it can help to create the resilience and strength we need to find a way through the dark times and back into the light. These good bits of life are like the little glints of sunshine getting through, add them all up and you might find your days get a little brighter and you feel a little stronger.

We are in difficult times at the moment and it is so important to seek support from those around you or professionals if you are struggling. You deserve happiness and healthiness and you deserve whatever support you need to get to that place. Stay strong everyone.

The World Is Making Me Worried

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It seems like the world is getting more and more muddled each day. I avoid finding out about the daily news, but the headlines seem to creep in regardless. The world is a scary place right now and I’m left wondering what we’re meant to do about it. A powerless millennial, who apparently is responsible for sorting out this mess, but where do we begin.

The UK is in a Brexit muddle and America is dealing with the outcome of Donald Trump taking up the US Presidency. We’re left watching powerful politicians making changes that may affect us for the rest of our lives, and I’m left thinking that they’re not even the ones I wanted to be making those decisions for me. I am feeling disempowered and invalidated on a global scale. I wanted to write something powerful and meaningful, but my friend Sara AlAseeri put it so much better than I ever could:

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” – Ella Fitzgerald.

Unfortunately, if you’re a Muslim in today’s world, where you’re from completely determines where you go.

Unfortunately if you’re a Muslim in today’s world, you live your life fearing that if one country doesn’t want you around that others will soon follow its example too.

Unfortunately, if you’re a Muslim in today’s world others’ stereotyped and racist beliefs of you and people in the Middle East are no longer just their beliefs but are considered valid truths, and no one will look at you as evidence that their “truths” are false.

Unfortunately if you’re a Muslim in today’s world it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how nice you are to others, or how much you contribute to a community. You are a Muslim, and if a minority of people claiming they are muslims have done some terrible things than you should be punished for it too. Even though you have no control of them, don’t even consider them as part of your religion, and want them gone just as much as anyone else.

Basically, if you are Muslim you will be judged or even hated by some based on where you’re from, and you’ll be banned from going to certain places. Thanks for spreading the hate Donald Trump. Good job at accomplishing nothing good for the world.

Thank you to all the kind people who are fighting and protesting against this man and his immigration bans. Thanks for reminding me that there’s still plenty of loving people out there.

-Sara AlAseeri

I’m seeing a world that seems bitter and filled with hate. I’m seeing a world of people who do not want decisions about their lives being made by a minority to whom we have no aliance with or belief in.

To someone struggling with mental health problems, it adds to the desire to hide away from the world and almost say… well I did tell you everything is bad and scary and broken. I want to be able to fix it and make it ok for those I love. I also have moments where I feel like what’s the point in try and tackle things close to home when everything in the world seems doomed. But the thing is, now is the time to really focus on self care and looking after those around you. We have a responsiblity to do what we can to make the world a better place. If you’re in a position to rally and protest, I wish I could be there with you. But if all you can do is sign a petition, show care to those around you in your community or even just manage to show yourself a moment of kindness today, then please please do.

Stay safe everyone and spread a little kindness today.

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Hoping For Some Sensitivity This Halloween

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Autumn is hands down my favourite season. The crisp frosty mornings, crunchy leaves, beautiful colours and opportunity to wrap up in lots of layers; never ceases to make me happy. The only issue is that it brings with it Halloween… which I meet with an equal amount of excitement and trepidation.

Wednesday Addams is clearly my spirit animal. Those who know me, understand that my dark and twisty soul has a lot in common with her. In theory… Halloween should also be up there with Autumn on the list of best times of year! I mean… dressing up… good… get to wear black… also good… and get to demonstrate your passion for death and doom… perfect! However, it’s fraught with all sorts of things that can make it an anxious persons nightmare. I already had a mini panic yesterday where I feared trick or treaters may be upon the house over the weekend, due to Halloween being on a week day… which meant I was not prepared! Thankfully, we’ve so far not received any early birds… but the anxiety is still there.

For people who are anxious, or struggling with many different elements of their mental health. Halloween can be pretty tricky. If you spend your ‘regular’ days on the look out for doom and the probable terrifying situations your brain invents for you; the addition of actual monsters, witches and zombies (eugh my least favourite) can suddenly make fears seem all the more real. When I am struggling with my OCD, I tend to have ‘lovely’ dreams about horrible and scary things. It’s not ideal to have some of those facing me if I want to head out after dark tomorrow… ironic coming from the girl who watches a lot of CSI and murder mystery… but hey perhaps I’m just trying to be totally clued up, in expectance of an imminent axe murdering!

Halloween has always been an interesting concept for me. When I was little, we were discouraged from trick or treating, with the explanation that it wasn’t really very nice to go around threatening people for sweets and chocolate. Whilst this is perhaps a movement away from the intended fun spirit of the holiday, there’s a grain of truth in there. Last year, despite dutifully opening the door throughout the night and attempting to identify the costumes of small children who appeared at the door (apparently ‘what a lovely dead thing you are’ doesn’t quite cut it!); our house was still egged! For those who feel too anxious to go to the door, it’s really not fair to punish them for not wanting to be involved.

Halloween comes from an ancient festival that celebrated the day of souls crossing over and people would knock on doors asking for food in return for prayers for the dead. The idea of tricks was something that became of Halloween later on. Over the years Halloween has become more of an event, but of course it’s not a compulsory celebration!

I’ve already spent time worrying about whether or not to let Stitch out, after seeing animal activists sharing information about cats being injured or attacked over Halloween; I’ve worried I’ve not got enough sweets and perhaps we may fall victim to tricks regardless; I’ve worried that actually I might not feel up to getting involved and want to just get a chilled early night and pretend I’m not in!! I’ve spent time reading articles about this years array of insensitive ‘crazy person’ costumes… and overall I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps we all need to be a little more sensitive this year over Halloween! Sensitive that some people might not want to get involved or may feel scared by some elements of the celebrations and that’s totally ok. It’s ok to not actually scare people during Halloween but still have a great time!

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Your Comments Aren’t Helping Anyone

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This week Joan Bakewell made a sweeping statement that anorexia was a result of society becoming more narcissistic; she later apologised for the distress caused by her ‘reported views’ and of course has been widely criticised; but I’m still left feeling quite angry and frustrated that this kind of information is still finding it’s way into the world. Of course people are entitled to their own views and opinions, but surely you have to be more careful if you’re in a position of power/influence.

Andrew Radford, chief executive of Beat explained the problem with these kind of comments perfectly:

“Eating disorders are something a lot of people have misunderstandings about and they make throw-away comments as if it’s something you choose to have. This sort of comment is not helpful.”

The problem with comments, such as those made by Baroness Bakewell, is that they have the power to reinforce the negative stereotypes that surround eating disorders, as well as other mental health problems. They suggest that these illnesses are the ‘fault’ of the individual rather, creating a bit of a blame culture that really doesn’t aid in recovery. I’ve seen mental health issues related to physical health issues in this way often enough; being told that if I had a broken leg, it would be ok to get it treated… I wouldn’t be expected to just keep running on it. In this way, the mental illness is just that, an illness that people deserve support and help to overcome or manage to live alongside.

For many years, my feelings of guilt and shame surrounding my eating problems completely paralysed me. I didn’t want people to know what was going on because I was embarrassed and felt that on some level, I wasn’t even ‘good enough’ at being unwell to deserve any support or treatment… I was still too big, too much but also never enough. Guilt and shame surrounding eating disorders is unfortunately a very common issue amongst sufferers. A driving factor of an eating disorder is secrecy… the illness doesn’t want anyone else involved, it’s easier to maintain what’s happening if that person isolates themselves and retreats from the world. And the feelings of shame, blame and guilt aren’t restricted to the sufferer alone, they can be experienced by carers, friends, family members and those around that individual. Perhaps society, rather than being solely responsible for the disorders, is in fact perpetuating the negative feelings around such illnesses. Ultimately… perhaps these unhelpful views and stereotypes can build on the idea that eating disorders should remain unseen, whereas really we should be talking about them more to help reduce the stigma and allow individuals the right environment to be able to feel empowered and seek the support they need to overcome these horrible illnesses.

Part of me feels sorry for Baroness Bakewell, whom I’m sure did not expect this reaction to what she probably thought was a fairly harmless comment. The trouble is, these types of comments represent a bigger problem within society of not tolerating others who have different struggles to those we have experienced. It can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes if you don’t have their lived experiences… but it’s not that hard to find within yourself a little bit of empathy. We’ve all had a time of our lives where we’ve had moments of hopelessness or feelings that perhaps there’s even something wrong with us. Perhaps we could draw on those feelings before we start making sweeping judgemental and unhelpful comments that really have little basis in facts.

Breaking The Avoidance

353aad1ef4e8029ad92a66931546e982I’ve definitely been avoiding blogging for a while. I’ve had ideas and at times even made a start on a blog; but then the avoidance breaks have jammed back on again! I don’t think it’s even been intentional, life is just very very busy at the moment.

I’ve completed my second week back at Uni and so far it’s been good… hard and weird but good. It’s funny, I was so stressed with all the what if’s of going back to studying that I lost site of all of the positives. It’s been an anxiety filled whirlwind but I *think* I’m on top of everything… I’m working part time alongside Uni, so I’ve had to juggle my workload and try and keep some time free to destress and really focus on my self-care. I was cycling home yesterday thinking that maybe… just maybe… it’s going ok! I think the negative stressy part of my head is waiting for me to start to really struggle, waiting for the inevitable time when it gets too much. But the reality is that it’s going well and I’m really enjoying it!

Perhaps I’m working towards being in a place where I can let go of that negativity or just notice it as my anxious inner self, acknowledge it’s there and let it float off in a mindful way.

Today I’m aiming to finish my first draft of my ethics form… watch this space for exciting mental health research hopefully coming soon!

I’m not sure what I was aiming to get out of blogging today… I guess I’m hoping to break the back of the writers and perfectionist block so I can get back into the swing of things.

The world is changing but it’s still not enough

Yesterday was a really mixed bag of news. #lovewins and gay marriage, or as I like to call it, marriage wasdownload legalised in all 50 states of America; a huge step in LGBT+ rights and marriage equality. But on the same day, a Tunisian student linked to IS extremists carried out a terror attack killing at least 38 people. Unfortunaately it’s not the only act of terror to happen in the last few weeks, I dread watching the news to see what’s going to happen next. It’s upsetting that in one area we can be celebrating inclusivity and equality and yet elsewhere there are unspeakable things happening because of differences in views, beliefs, alliances… you name it.

I worry about the state of the world. I realise that these kind of things will always happen, hatred will always find a way to get between groups of people and awful tragedies will happen. I just wish there was a way to live more peacefully and be more accepting of others. I realise there’s little I can do on a global scale, but it makes me think about my own actions and try and find ways to show more kindness and especially forgiveness to others. I think there is a huge power in forgiveness and perhaps as a race, we could show a little more to others; maybe following the brave families of the Charleston shooting victims who showed such admirable forgiveness routed in their faith.