Guest Post: We Are All Damaged in Some Way

I’m so pleased to introduce this guest post from debut author Kristen Darling. I was drawn to her book, which I will review soon, because her main character suffers with severe anxiety. Here, Kristen discusses her own experience of having GAD and how this influenced the book.

I’m so pleased to have a crossover piece like this which brings together both sides of my blog. Thank you so much to Kristen for taking the time to write this lovely post.

Kristen Darling Author ImageToday I am having what I refer to as one of my “anxious days”. I use this term to warn my husband and children that I am not my usual “happy-go-lucky” self and that I may be quick to snap, or slow to respond, or simply have to disappear for awhile.

If you suffer from any type of emotional or mental issue, you most likely would be able to diagnose my symptoms just based on what I’ve written above. I suffer from GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder.

Kristen Darling Panic ImageMy symptoms were under control for a long time, but this past summer brought great amounts of stress into our lives and for the first time in the twenty-plus years that I have lived with anxiety, I decided to accept my doctor’s advice and fill a prescription for Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication.

I used to worry about being a freak – of not appearing normal because of my anxiety and frequent panic attacks. I started to avoid social situations this summer, preferring to stay close to home in case I should have a panic attack. I thought I was the only one.

Then casually, during a night out with a new friend (a night I almost canceled because of my fear), I brought up my symptoms and told her about my anxiety. I expected a sympathetic response, or perhaps a shocked look, or maybe a series of questions “What do you do to treat it?”

Instead, she stared at me for about fifteen seconds, before leaning across the table and confiding that she, too, suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.

Kristen Darling ImageI was absolutely amazed by her revelation, and for some reason it made me calmer than I have been in weeks. I was not alone. Someone understood my symptoms and knew exactly what I meant when I said that sometimes I feel like I am crawling out of my skin for no reason whatsoever.

For the next few weeks, I was even more surprised to learn that many other friends and even family members suffer in silence in their own way. During my conversations with friends and family about the fact that I decided to try Ativan for my panic attacks, words such as “Xanax”, “rapid heart beat”, trouble breathing”, “depression”, “Zoloft”, “Prozac”, “PTSD”, “Bipolar” and “Valium” came up time and time again. I learned that many of the same people who appeared to have everything together are actually struggling with symptoms that are similar or even worse than my own.

The Ghost of You CoverAs the saying goes, “Things aren’t often what they appear to be.” And this saying resonated deeply with me as I began to write my first novel, The Ghost of You.

I knew in my heart that this story would be a romance novel about lost love, something else that resonates deeply with me. But I wanted my heroine to be real, and damaged, and vulnerable. From the outside, she might appear to be flawless; one of those women who seem to have a perfect life. But Kaitlyn Vandere is flawed, which I feel makes her extremely relatable to readers.

Kristen Darling Kristen ImageKaitlyn is a beautiful young woman, but she has her own secret demons. I knew early on that she would present with panic attacks, and this theme plays an important role throughout the story. It was easy to describe Kaitlyn’s panic attacks, having suffered so many throughout my own life, but writing the scenes was difficult for me. Those scenes brought up all of the fear and terror that I try so hard to forget about. They brought back memories of certain occasions when I truly felt I was going to die. But in a strange way, they also brought me peace; I was able to transfer some would-be panic attacks into my writing, creating a very powerful and real-life story about romance, heartache, and the daily demons we all face.

Yes, we are all damaged in some way. Realizing this has made me a better friend, a better parent, and a better spouse. It has made me more patient with strangers who seem uptight or rude. I give them the benefit of the doubt because I simply don’t know what they are going through on that particular day, at that particular time.

At the end of the day, every single one of us is struggling to survive, to overcome, to achieve, to recover and to try and find our happily ever after. We all have our baggage to carry, our ghosts to face, our fear to try and knock us down. But ultimately, I truly believe that each one of us will find our own way through.  Maybe even Kaitlyn.

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Guest Post: On the Road to Recovery

Rebecca Lombardo has recently released a book detailing her battle with bipolar disorder. In this blog post she gives us a taste of what the book has in store with a summary of what life was like at its lowest for her and how she came to write her book.

TW: Detail around self harm and suicide, please only read if you are comfortable with this content.

Rebecca LombardoRecovery means many different things to many different people.  It’s a very difficult and personal journey. Not everyone is strong enough to realize they need help, let alone know what to do once they get it.  You often hear people speaking about a place called “Rock Bottom.” The consensus is that to help yourself, you have to realize when you’ve hit the bottom.  Some people take years to get to that point.  Some people never get there.  I’m grateful to say that I am one of those that beat the odds.  I hit that bottom, and I hit it hard.  The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do was make my way back up.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. I started taking medication at that time and still do at age 42.  I’ve always been realistic about my condition.  Having attempted to exist without medications, I know that they are a necessary evil.  If I stop taking them, it doesn’t take long for me to fall into a deep, dark depression.  If the physical symptoms of withdrawal don’t kill me first. I’m logical enough to understand that I will never fully recover from bipolar disorder, and I’m OK with that.  Some people have to take medication for the rest of their lives for diabetes or heart disease.  So, I don’t burden myself with the thought of getting better.  Don’t get me wrong, I am always trying to improve myself and the way that I feel, but I know that there is no cure for bipolar disorder.

In my late 20’s I made the mistake of thinking that I might not want to be around anymore.  My depression was beginning to take over my life.  Even relatively normal heartaches seem to affect me much greater than the average person.  I was also experiencing migraines that started at the age of 12.  The older I got, the worse they got.  I felt like I had lost complete control over my life, so I was going to try to kill myself.  I was using an old razor, and when I didn’t receive the desired effect, I kept going.  Eventually, I stopped thinking about dying and starting to experience what could only be described as calm.  I had no idea that this was “a thing”.

My mind just kept taking me back to the thought that I was such a failure at life, I couldn’t even commit suicide correctly. Eventually, self-injury became a huge part of my life.  I had rituals, songs I played, an entire box of instruments, and a safe place to hide them.  One night, I made a mistake and went too far.  I couldn’t possibly confess to my parents what I was doing, so I did the only thing I thought I could. I called my then boyfriend that abused me, and asked him for help.  He drove me to his sister’s house because she had once studied to be a medical assistant.  Sitting at her dining room table, she stitched up my arm, with no sanitation and no numbing solution for the pain.

As I got a little older, self-injury wasn’t necessarily as important to me, but it was always in the back of my mind.  I was humiliated when I would date, and the guy would see my scars.  I was covered with them.  In May of 2001, I officially started dating the man that would become my husband.  He was extremely supportive, but just as confused as anyone else was.  He didn’t understand that I was already beating myself up enough; I didn’t need him to get mad at me for the behavior.  Eventually, we started working through it, and my urges were much less frequent.

In fact, I went five years without an incident until 2013.

Despite the fact that self-injury was no longer a big piece of my life, I still kept some instruments hidden in our house.  When my life went into a full-on tailspin that June, it was the only thing I could think about. Truthfully, once I started again, I was so depressed that I didn’t care if I died.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  With each pass over my skin, I felt a myriad of emotions.  Failure, fear, guilt, and even a small amount of relief.  I couldn’t stop sobbing, and eventually I must have cried myself to sleep because I woke up some time later to my doorbell ringing. My husband had called my family from work and sent my dad and my sister over.  At that point, I was the only one that knew I had also swallowed a full bottle of medication.

Rebecca LombardoI was admitted to the hospital, and later I was committed by the state.  It was the worst experience I have ever had in my entire life.  It was a horrible, horrible facility.  I played the game and was a model patient.  After four days, they let me out. Driving home from that hellhole with my husband, I swore I would never take another sharp instrument to my skin again.  I pushed all of the past failures to the side. I focused on the here and now and started a clean slate.  I developed my own coping skills, and I started writing.  I wrote a lot.  It began as a blog but has become a book.  I am proud to say it was just released on August 21, 2015!

Don’t get me wrong, I still have urges.  They may never go away.  However, I know now how to put a voice to my feelings and communicate with my loved ones.  This past June, I celebrated two years clean of self-injury.  What an enormous milestone for me. I’m so grateful to the people that stuck by me during this journey.  Nothing about it has been easy, but I am a survivor.  In fact, I’m a warrior.

Rebecca Lombardo Links:

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To find out more about the book stay tuned as I will be reviewing it soon.

Book Review: Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness by Various for Mind

Dear Stranger Letters on the subject of happinessTitle: Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness
Author: Various
Genre: Mental Health / Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2 July 2015
Format: eBook / Hardcover
Pages: 202
Buy: Amazon UK Amazon US

Book Blurb:
‘Dear Stranger is an inspiration’ Stylist

Continue reading Book Review: Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness by Various for Mind