Reading Challenge 2017

After taking a 6 week break from reading over summer 2017, I still racked up 351 books in my Goodreads Challenge for for the year.

I found myself starting last year very slowly as my interest in reading psychological and crime thrillers seriously dwindled. I changed predominant genre to romance after summer and my reading mojo reinstated itself.

I exceeded my goal of reading 190 books in Autumn and read over 300 books for the first time ever.

OCD Status

It’s been a while since I wrote about mental health, or more specifically, my mental health. I left group therapy at the end of November this year. It felt like time since early summer and after putting in a lot of thought and reflecting on where I stood in my biannual review with the group I set my mind to leaving.

The last week or so I have been undergoing, what I now realise, is a process of leaving that is pretty much part and parcel of the therapy I have had. I have been down, volatile, self-doubting but I have also felt lighter, self-aware and stronger. I appreciate my personal journey with OCD has not concluded and I may require more therapy in future but I am no longer taking any antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications and I feel in tune with my mental health needs.

It seems 2018 will be a very different kind of year for me in a lot of ways but I don’t regret the journey I took with psychodynamic group therapy and I am so thankful for sharing that journey with everyone who was part of it. My relatively active social life is part of me I reclaimed through therapy and will no doubt be a portal of continuing to be a happier me.

How I Award Stars Now #bookreviews

Originally when I first started rating books I awarded stars based on how much I enjoyed reading the book overall. However, now at 43 years of age in the era of fake news, Brexit and scandals, I freely admit I am rating books on how much (or how little) they annoy me.

A tongue-in-cheek self-reflection, as I ploughed through the list of books I read in the past couple of months, made me realise that there are very few books that don’t have parts that annoy. This should come as no surprise to anyone because life, people and all pastimes have less enjoyable moments and some downright challenging ones. However the annoyance I feel is overshadowing moments of enjoyment more so than ever before.

Maybe due to the volume of books I read I am less patient with characters and superfluous drama and therefore more prone to getting annoyed, who knows? Maybe I’m just a grumpy liberal? Maybe there’s just too many issues surrounding us all that ratchet up the annoyance meter in me a few more notches with which I am comfortable. Whatever it is it has changed what the five star review meter means to me.

This is how I currently award stars:

***** Didn’t annoy me at all or annoyed me so little I don’t recollect.

**** Annoyed me a bit but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

*** Annoyed me enough to irritate but it might just be me who lacks the tolerance to enjoy the eccentricities in this book.

** Annoyed me without a doubt but I still finished it. What does that say about me?

* Annoyed me to an extreme and made me livid for the time and effort I spent (trying to) read it that I’ll never get back.

This is the mental checklist that I automatically default to when clicking the number of stars I give a book. Admittedly I don’t award two or one stars very often, I don’t even recall the last book I gave a single star to, but I have noticed I award three stars more frequently now than ever. The whole rating system is based on the arbitrary frame of mind of readers, maybe a better way of seeking enjoyable reads is looking at the number of people who have chosen to rate the book? Or going back to old fashioned personal recommendations? Either way I will continue rating books in this way and maybe when I’m feeling less cantankerous I will start writing my reviews again.

Unscheduled Blog/Social Media Break

I have been noticeably absent for a few weeks as I haven’t been well. Rest assured treasured regular readers it really isn’t anything too serious and I’m on the mend. Authors I have not forgotten your books and I will be hitting my reading list again soon. 

I hope very much to tackle the backlog in books and blog posts soon. I’m thinking of you all and missing you. I hope normal service will resume soon. 

1001 Blog Posts

Without even realising it I published my 1000th blog post yesterday. It certainly doesn’t feel like I have published so many posts nor does it feel like I’ve been blogging for very long as I’m still learning stuff about blogging. 

When I feel pessimistic one of the things I think about to rally my spirits is the wonderful community and support I encounter from blogging. This is the reason blogging is so much more than keeping a diary. If I just kept all these posts to myself it would be a huge loss to me personally as I would not have the wonderful feedback and comments from fellow bloggers. 

Thank you all for tuning in and reading my ramblings, I hope I have something interesting to say in my future posts. 

Flawed Characters: Real Life vs. Fiction #books #bookbloggers #Weekendbloghop

After reading and appreciating a string of flawed characters recently: Audra, Nora, Kate, Isabel and Crazy Amy to name just a few, I was thinking about how I would perceive such characters in real life and shamefully concluded that I probably wouldn’t find their individual flaws quite as charming in real life. The irony of this isn’t lost on me.

It seems to be much more palatable to read about characters with a dangerous edge than to accept those around us in real life live with flaws we find unforgivable. No doubt the self-preservation reflex to avoid unpredictability and danger is the root of how we react to aberrant characters in real life, but I really wish I was laid back enough to appreciate the beauty of not quite moral decisions people make in real life.

With the advent of social media it is much more prevalent to make damning judgments of our fellow man vociferously and vocally, but isn’t this just diversionary tactics to diminish and camouflage our own flaws? When we are criticising others we boost our own moral values and attain a superior position from which to look down on others. It mitigates our insecurity to highlight and emphasis our moral security. Is this why we like reading flawed characters in fiction? Are we all looking to be better than the next person?

What is behind our need to find villains and vilify them, when we find a flaws and all character in a book so gratifying to read? Today I ask more questions than I can satisfactorily answer, so please do share your thoughts on flawed literary characters and our aversion to real life flaws. I am genuinely intrigued. 

 

What Do  You Do When You Are Tugged Down The Rabbit Hole (again)? #mentalhealth #depression #weekendblogshare

Most of the time I manage to maintain a sort of equilibrium, but occasionally I slip into a darkness akin to what it would feel like if the dementors in Harry Potter were real. In fact, the depression I am currently suffering from is real. It takes a lot of insight and self-awareness to realise a low mood, flat effect and compulsive pessimistic thoughts are not quite a facile lifestyle choice.

I am lucky to have an excellent sounding board in a therapy group I deeply care for, but when in session I focus on others and pragmatic problem-solving rather than expressing what I feel. Circling emotions is easier than expressing them. It’s a fear of being ashamed of showing my true emotions that hold me back. I know I would tell anyone else that they have nothing to be ashamed of when expressing how they feel in a depressive episode, but convincing myself is harder.

It’s been a long time since I found myself feeling this low and I frightened myself this morning when I woke to utter the words, “I want to die.” I have no reason to feel this way. I am well supported, feel pleasure from doing many things as hobbies, I have the freedom to choose to do anything I wish, but alas that voice in my head tells me I’m not a doo-er. My reading has slowed since my mental health began to deteriorate early this year. For the first time I find myself behind three books in my Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s taken me weeks to write a suitable blog post about the truth of my mood.

When in therapy there’s a special type of shame that comes with failing to remain optimistic. It’s seriously like I’m failing a course, but I cannot deny how I feel and I no longer have the energy to push it to one side. I’m circulating a crisis, but I’m not being furtive about it. If I was having an acute asthma attack it wouldn’t carry the shame I’m burdened with for having an acute depressive episode, and why not? Administering drugs to ease someone’s airways is heroic as opposed to acknowledging the darkness in their thoughts, which at best is indulging narcissism at worst aiding laziness, if you ignorantly believe anyone would want to feel this way.

I’ve been open and communicated my concerns about myself, now I have to rely on that old adage of time and the new mindfulness based cognitive behavioural techniques I have read and championed. Not so easy when I feel I’m being smothered in a lead curtain of impending doom.I’m tired of being me and no amount of reminding myself how lucky I am, the miracle that is life is so rare and precious, can convince me I have a purpose. 

This too shall pass, they tell me. Eventually. 

Honouring My Biggest Commitment: Keeping Myself Well


Even though I limit myself there’s still a lot of competition for my time and never has it been as busy as it’s going to be this month. March will see trips to The Royal Hallamshire PVDU and an endoscopy, at my local hospital as well as diabetes outpatients and the usual routine appointments. Never have I felt less motivated to attend appointments or take long journeys, as in all honesty, I am tired. Not just physically but mentally too. 

I rouse myself from sleep with a bone deep fatigue that I cannot imagine ever being free from. I could happily sleep fourteen hours a day but don’t remember what it’s like to feel refreshed. I suppose I really do need these hospital appointments as clearly this isn’t me at my best and my ability to do the things I enjoy is severely restricted yet again. 

I make no apologies for prioritising my well-being and my outpatient appointments. Thankfully those with a modicum of understanding agree with my need to attend outpatients and are not demanding anything of me that would make matters worse. Those who aren’t so generous are not so deserving of my time.