This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, as most of you know this is a topic very close to my heart as someone living with Bipolar. I volunteer at a local mental health charity and I write about my own experiences over at my other blog.
It wasn’t a difficult decision to join the blog tour for Gail Marie Mitchell’s Loving the Life Less Lived. While I don’t generally read mental health books I was intrigued by the synopsis and the timing of the tour was perfect for ensuring something went up during this important week. I will be cross posting this over on my other blog so my mental health friends will see it aswell to ensure both my blogging communities get to celebrate this wonderful book.
Also, don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the post, I have one copy of the book for my readers (UK only sorry).
Like many people, Gail Marie Mitchell battled with anxiety and depression for many years, finding it exhausting, stressful and demoralising at times.
Realising that this approach to her condition was futile, Gail chose a different approach: acceptance.
Taking control in this way removed some of the pressure and enabled Gail to focus on developing coping strategies, creating the tips and tools that are included in this empathetic and practical book.
Gail focuses on the positive aspects of her condition, showing how a person living with mental illness is so much more than the label that society puts on them. She found acceptance empowering, enabling her to live her life to the full. Perhaps not the life she had planned, but one that is happy and fulfilling and that she loves. She is Loving the Life Less Lived.
By sharing her experiences and describing what she learnt from them as well as the resulting coping strategies, Gail has created an essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness and their family and friends.
Hi Gail, Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by on BrizzleLass Books.
1. Tell us a bit about Loving the Life Less Lived for those who haven’t come across it before.
It’s part memoir / part self-help book. The ‘memoir’ part talks about my experiences of anxiety and depression over a number of years and my journey to healing. I have tried to be honest about my darkest moments but also hopeful about the possibilities. Mental illness is definitely not a life sentence; in fact looking back it has actually enhanced and enriched my life. The ‘self-help’ bit includes different sections on the ‘tools’ I use to manage my mental health. I don’t believe there is one ‘quick fix’ solution to anxiety or depression so it is about finding what works for you.
2. What inspired you to write your story, and to turn it into a kind of self-help journal?
At the time I wrote the book there were very few titles out there by people who’d actually experienced anxiety and depression. I’d read loads of books by ‘experts’ but people who live through panic and despair day to day are the real experts. There are several more books out there now which is really good news. I wanted to tell people who were living with anxiety and depression that they are not alone. I also wanted to share some of the tools that have helped me on my journey.
3. What made you start referring to your journey as the Life Less Lived?
The actual title for the book came to me in a flash, it literally dropped into my mind one day when I was particularly fed up and hiding under my duvet. Really though the Life Less Lived is a misnomer. In the way most of society judges things my life is ‘less lived’ because my career hasn’t gone as planned, I’ve had lots of deviations in my life, never had my plans turned out quite as I intended but the reason I LOVE it is because the live less lived is, in actual fact, much richer and fulfilling than anything I could have planned.
4. You talk about having a positivity journal, I’m a big fan of journals I have several and also keep lists for everything, do you keep any other journals aside from your positivity journal?
If I had time I definitely would. I’m a great believer in journal writing, both as a healing process in itself but also as a tool to look back and see how far you have come. I spend 5 or 10 minutes a day on my positivity journal, which not only includes things I am thankful for but also lessons I have learnt and achievements I have made. If I get any other time to write during the day I am now turning my hand to fiction, writing a YA novel.
5. You talked about your trip to the USA, this resonated with me having done a trip of my own at a pivotal point in my own journey. What do you think it is about travelling that makes us feel more in control than being at home?
Ooh, great question! I think there is something about travelling which gives the sense of moving on and making progress. I also think seeing different sights, people & places puts things in perspective. When we are at home in our own ‘world’ we can be fooled into thinking that that is the only world but when we travel our everyday lives seem far away, we can see our problems from a distance and they don’t seem so overwhelming or powerful.
6. You speak about contacting the GP, most of us have plenty of stories to tell when it comes to our dealings with GPs, do you have any stories that stand out? (they don’t have to be horror stories…funny ones count!)
There is one that I talk about in the book where I was really at the end of my tether; I didn’t think I could carry on. I had summoned all my energy to visit the GP, psyched myself up to get into the surgery and then, half-sobbing and shaking, I’d blurted out my tale of woe. The GP was looking at my strangely and didn’t appear to be listening. When I’d finished he said ‘you do realise you are morbidly obese don’t you?!’ I was devastated. I went in desperate, I came out thinking I was a physical wreck as well as a mental wreck. It was horrible.
Having said that, there are many very good GPs and I have had some wonderful experiences too, somehow it’s the bad ones that always stand out.
7. You talk about self-help books, yours is very much a self-help books with lots of useful insider tips for managing many of the key aspects of anxiety and depression, that said do you have any recommendations for books which have helped you?
I’m discovering new self-help books all the time. I have just started The Mindfulness Playbook by Dr Barbara Mariposa which is a simple and practical guide to Mindfulness and I am waiting to read Frazzled by Ruby Wax. If I was to pick one self-help book which has really helped me in the past it would probably be Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Dummies although that was quite hard work, it was worth it.
I sometimes find that the best ‘self-help’ books are not self-help books at all. Just getting stuck into a great work of fiction can take you to another space and time and distract you from your worries. I’ve just finished The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood which I was really able to escape into.
8. Given your experiences do you think we as people or society as a whole puts too much pressure on us to live up to an ideal that the majority of us cannot meet?
Yes, absolutely. I don’t think it is intentional but it seems that there is more and more pressure from employers to meet targets, from advertisers to get the latest products, from magazines to be sexier and happier. I think it is worse for children and teenagers today, to get good grades, to keep up with their friends, to look the ‘right’ way. Young people today have access to the internet 24/7 so the pressure is never ending. I want to get the message out that it’s ok to be not ok. It’s fine to be ordinary; it’s great to be different.
9. How did you find it sharing your experiences? Opening up about painful times in your life?
It was cathartic. I had already worked through a lot of the experiences I wrote about but some I hadn’t and writing them down as though explaining them to a friend helped me process them in my mind. I didn’t want to sugar coat anything but I also wanted to show that I learnt something from every experience and that, even at the times when I thought I couldn’t carry on, the situation eventually passed and I came out stronger.
The harder bit was letting people read it. Not strangers, I never minded that but my family and close friends. I was very worried about their reaction as I’ve never been able to explain so clearly how I feel verbally but somehow writing it down, it just flowed. Thankfully they were all great and I got really good feedback from everyone which was a relief!
10. The theme of mental health awareness week is striving or thriving, what do these mean to you?
I never use the expression to ‘suffer’ from anxiety and depression, although in the past I have definitely suffered from them! Now I manage them, mostly successfully, sometimes I still have a blip but having mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t also have a fulfilling career, close friends, a loving relationship and achieve all your aims and ambitions. You can live life to the full and love every minute of it. True you might have to take more care of yourself, rest more, get support, pace yourself but having experienced the darker side of life can really make you appreciate the joy and beauty in the ordinary and everyday experiences which many people take for granted.
Thank you so much for stopping by and wishing you all the best with the book.
Despite my own issues with mental health I’m wary about reading memoirs because they are so personal to the person who has written them, if I don’t like them I always worry how my review will affect them (I’ve had a bad experience in this area and it is not one I wish to repeat). I also as a rule don’t like self help books so steer clear of these.
There was something about this synopsis though that made me rethink my policy of avoid avoid avoid, and I have to say I’m very glad I did. Gail Marie Mitchell writes in a similar manner to the way I do about my own mental health with a raw honesty and openness. She doesn’t hold back any dark or light corners of her life as she works through her experiences with depression and anxiety.
Certainly something that stood out to me as I read through the book was how many similarities in our stories there were. While my illness was technically different I still suffer with depression and anxiety, I still get panic attacks so could relate to the symptoms and experiences that Gail talks about in this book. Things she has been through often mirrored things I have been through and things she has tried to cope with so have I.
The more I read the more I realised that there are so many of us out here with these stories, who have similar experiences whatever our mental illness. I think that’s one of the most accomplishing things with a book that’s well written like this, it’s like a hug from a friend saying “I know what you’re going through”.
The other aspect to her book is her more self-help aspect, within each chapter she offers advice on dealing with whatever the focus of that chapter has been, from approaching the GP, to managing a panic attack. What I liked about these are they are practical learned tips from someone who has lived them. I found myself nodding my way through the tips knowing they are similar to the tips I would offer someone if they asked me, yet many of them are different to the “official” advice that would be offered in a professionally written book or if handed out by someone in a professional capacity.
While I found some of this hard to read, just because it will always be hard to read about someone struggling with their mental health for me. I felt an affinity with Gail that I haven’t felt reading someone’s memoir in a very long time. I feel like I came away from the book with a new friend and confidante.
I highly recommend this book, especially to people who may be newly struggling with anxiety and or depression, it will help you understand how to manage practically and probably help you avoid some of the pitfalls which can creep up in front of you.
Sending a huge thanks to Gail Marie Mitchell and Anna at Red Door Publishing for the eARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.
About Gail Marie Mitchell
Gail Marie Mitchell has tried her hand at many things over the years from studying chemistry at the University of York to teaching in the favelas of Brazil. She now works in the exciting world of accountancy, supporting small charities in the East Midlands area. She lives in a country idyll with her husband and spends her time working, writing and trying to make sense of this crazy, confused and broken world we live in. She has lived for much of her life with anxiety and depression, conditions she has slowly learnt to accept and celebrate and which have led her to write Loving the Life Less Lived.
You can read her blog and poetry on her website at www.lovingthelifelesslived.com
Book & Buy Links
Title: Loving the Life Less Lived
Author: Gail Marie Mitchell
Genre: Mental Health | Memoir | Self-Help
Publisher: Red Door Publishing
Publication Date: 4 May 2017
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: Paperback
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository