All the Extras
This page is where I'll discuss a mix of other topics which either are important or I just want to discuss and let you know about.
Here we are, at the 4th and final part of this series. Where has the time gone? But as much as these posts have been a bit stressful at times, they've also been cathartic and I'm glad I chose to write them. As I've said, if someone reads this series and realises they're not alone, then I've done some good in sharing my own experiences.
So, if this is new to you, here are Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
I've always loved horses, though haven't yet fully learnt how to ride. It's a thing on my bucket list- not that I've officially made one of those yet, but still. Heartland has been a part of my life for years and I wouldn't want it any other way. I remember picking up Coming Home in my school library and devouring it in barely any time at all, since they're teen books and not really that long.
I soon borrowed the 2nd, and that's where it ended, as the other others were a couple of the later ones, which made no sense to me (and still doesn't). Thanks to a book magazine my school library had, in my final year and only a few months before I left, I was able to order all 20 books all complete with the original covers. Talk about close timing! :)
Heartland follows the life of 15 years old Amy Fleming at her home and horse ranch in Virginia, USA, where the family help heal and re-home previously abandoned and abused horses. After the death of her mother, Amy faces massive challenges in being one of the main runners of Heartland and learning more about herself in the process. The series ends when Amy graduates high school, though there have been some special editions afterwards, but I've not read them.
The tagline for this series is : Healing horses, healing hearts.
Honestly, it couldn't be summed up any better. I've learnt a lot about horses, various alternate therapies, always alongside vet treatment of course, and some great bonding techniques, ect. I've never been lucky enough to own a horse of my own, but the series has been educational and this way, I get to be an observer into the lives of many different horses, even if they are fictional.
Naturally, the main part of the books is the characters focussing on teaching the horses to trust people again, but the other side of that coin is the characters all learning to trust each other. Amy has had some complicated family relationships in the past and, in the wake of her mother's death, several of those get dragged into the present. The transitions of this and trying to keep Heartland open through many situations is where their hearts can begin to heal.
So what does the Heartland series have to do with me personally, and why have I added it to this series? Well, the main thing they taught me about myself growing up was how to handle the grieving process better. I was 7 when my granddad- the relative I'm sure gave me my own love of horses- died, and for a long time, I related these books to help me deal with it where I maybe hadn't. In my last year of school, one of my nannas also passed away. Along with other books, I went back to Heartland for a while.
Almost all of these books make me cry, no matter how many times I read them. But the book which means a lot to me is book 9, Every New Day, cover above. This is the first book set fully outside of Heartland and Amy goes through a lot of transition. Being away from family and home, living with almost complete strangers save for the older members whom her mother knew, and a horse who doesn't seem to want to improve in his condition prove tough for her at times. But it's also the book where she begins to realise that, though her mother is gone, Amy will always have her memory and carry the work of Heartland on which Marion started.
Every New Day taught me a lot about being open and honest with myself and others. The Heartland series as a whole has shown me time and time again that bottling things up never works long term and that there is more support available than it might first seem. With my mental health struggles, I have a whole host of supportive people around me who have seen me at some of my worst moments, such as uni, and been there anyway, no matter how long it took.
That's what family does. We may get on each other's nerves and fall out at times, but we'll always be there for one another. Heartland gives a good picture of what that can be like. But this series comes with horses, so more bonuses. :D
The Heartland series was turned into a TV show in Canada, and is now on its 11th series/season. It's the longest running family show in Canadian TV history and as such has moved well past where the books end, but is evidently still great.
Over here in the UK, the first series or two were shown about ten years ago, if I remember right, before the channel just stopped it. I don't why, maybe distribution rights or something?? Anyway, that meant that I've basically been spending time- whenever I've thought about it as a show- that I'm way, way behind, but will catch up one day, whether through DVD as the first 10 complete series are available. But I will catch up! :)
I plan on re-reading the books this year, as it's been quite a while, so maybe that will get me finally moving past season 2 of the show this year too. That would be nice. :)
And that's it for this series on me and books in relation to my mental health struggles of the past and present. Again, I really hope this has been useful to someone reading the posts. You're amazing and most definitely not alone. All the best.
Welcome back to this series. :) In Part 1, I talked about Hermione and discussed Luna in Part 2, but today, I want to move away from the HP world to another book series I really wish was real. This week's post will be a bit heavier than the past two, but I'm trying to be as honest in these as I can, show other people they're not alone, and try to help break the stigma around mental health.
If I can do even one of those things the tiniest bit, then that's my job done.
So today, I'll be moving to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, by Sarah J Maas, particularly the second book A Court of Mist and Fury. Regardless of your feelings on the series and the author, this book has been an important part of my life over the last two years. It's responsible for me keeping my sanity somewhat intact when everything was falling in pieces around me and I don't say that lightly.
Today's inspirational characters are the main protagonist, Feyre, and Morrigan (Mor for short), the cousin of Rhys and a very good friend of Feyre's. Originally, I was going to split these characters into two posts, but decided it would be as good fitting them into one.
For anyone who hasn't read the series yet and/or wants to,
there will be minor spoilers from book 1 to follow.
We meet Feyre 3 months after the end of ACOTAR and she's very much a changed person. Not only is she having to deal with her transformation from human into High Fae, but the events of book 1 have left her with PTSD, depression and anxiety. It's fair to note here that all of the main characters- Feyre, Rhys, Tamlin and Lucien- now suffer with PTSD in some way during ACOMAF, but how they choose to deal with it affects them, and those around them, all very differently.
Feyre has withdrawn almost completely from life, isn't eating properly and has vivid nightmares of what happened Under the Mountain. No one in the Spring Court is helping her to deal with this. When Rhys arrives back on the scene to call in the bargain they made, he treats her very differently to Tamlin from the start. In these times, Rhys teaches Feyre to read, something that helps her massively from then on.
"I was burning through books every day- stories about people and places I'd never heard of. They were perhaps the only thing that kept me from teetering into utter despair."
ACOMAF was of help to me when I was in my second year of university, but absolutely in the third and final year. While I had- and still do have- the best support system around me I could have ever asked for, and still don't know what I did to know these people, whenever I felt like I couldn't keep going, and even they couldn't get me out of it, ACOMAF was there to pick up the pieces too.
They were times when I was burning through it- not the entire thing, but certain passages that have really helped me, some I'll talk about as I go through; others- and varying valued quotes from other books- you can find in amongst this week's Top Ten Tuesday post here.
In that year, it felt like I was having breakdowns every week. I was definitely crying almost every day. I had my biggest and longest ever panic attack one night due to a mix of bad depression and anxiety over my dissertation- something which I never want to experience again. I've had plenty of mild ones, but this one lasted close to an hour, and kept deceiving me into thinking I was calm before it would start over. In short, it was terrifying.
"There are different kinds of darkness." Rhys said..."There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful." I pictured each..."It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good."
This short passage was useful when I was trying to sleep after the aforementioned panic attack, but also on nights when my insomnia, probably triggered by my depression, made me stay awake and worry about everything I could not control on my degree. It made me realise that if I chose sleep over worrying, I could. That those kind of nights wouldn't last forever.
Over time with the Night Court, Feyre learns to control her new abilities, emerges from where she was at the start of the book to a place where she's doing much better. It's worth noting that, unlike a lot of books which tackle mental health, ACOMAF is not one of those where 'love cures all' and everything's new and shiny.
Earlier on in the above conversation, Rhys tells Feyre she will be dealing with what happened to her in book 1 for the rest of her life. And Feyre is still struggling at the end of the book- she's says as much to Rhys. She's just learns how to not let her memories and mental health struggles control and define who she is and what she can do.
This is something I've come to realise is true for me, in its own way. I graduated university last July, and in some alternate book that isn't true to life, perhaps all of my mental health illnesses would have disappeared forever on that day.
In reality, I still have social anxiety and depression, close to a year on. I'm always going to have SA, probably depression too. And while, yes the depression has lessened a great deal since the day I finished uni, it's still there. I still have bad days.
As the Inner Circle/Court of Dreams helped Feyre began to heal, so did I also through that. But just like Feyre, I have to choose how to deal with the depression and anxiety and what I let it do to me in the long run.
"The Court of Dreams. The people who knew that there was a price, and one worth paying, for that dream. The bastard-born warriors, the Illyrian half-breed, the monster trapped in a beautiful body, the dreamer born into a court of nightmares...and the huntress with an artist's soul."
"There are good days and hard days for me- even now.
Don't let the hard days win."
"You do what you love. What you need."
Another character who knows all about this is Morrigan. These two above quotes are by her to Feyre early on when Feyre has met the whole Inner Circle. I talk about these a bit more in the Top Ten Tuesday post I liked earlier, but the first one always makes me feel a variety of emotions. It made me feel and know I wasn't alone- that even in a book, there was someone who understood what it felt like to lose part of you and lose sight of who you are to circumstances you can't control. This was the quote when I knew I was going to love Mor.
Likewise, this applies to the second too. When all everyone was talking to me about, or asking was "How's uni going?", there was a lot of pressure for me to solely give it my focus. I didn't do hardly any reading because I felt guilty for it, but it did feel like I'd lost part of myself. Hitting my Goodreads challenge last year was something I didn't think would happen, something I talked about in the post I wrote for it in that section of my blog.
This post has been about my experiences in how A Court of Mist and Fury helped me at a time when I really needed it, and it kept me as sane as it possibly could. Velaris is one of those places I could easily spend my days if it were real, and, just like Narnia and Hogwarts, I highly wish it were.
I'm not the only one of the fandom who has cited ACOMAF as being the book that helped them through an event in their life, or helped them see they weren't alone for various reasons. Though I know this won't be the case for everyone, I do, however, believe that there is a book that people can say is/was a lifeline for them. Personally, I have several books for various times in my life.
On Goodreads, there is a section called 'Lists', where you can search by tags, such as mental health for example, and browse books that might be of use. Books on Goodreads include standard information, along with reviews by people in the community.
Remember that you're amazing and not alone.
And that's it for today. I hope this has been useful for someone.
Next Saturday will be the fourth and final part of this series, where I'll be discussing one of my favourite childhood series (also one of my series re-reads for the year!)
All the best.
Time for the next instalment, also Harry Potter related. In Part 1 last week, I talked about Hermione. Today, my favourite Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood gets her turn.
In case you didn't know, I'm a proud Hufflepuff, but through various tests, I also know that Ravenclaw would have been my second House. I'm glad that we got to meet Luna and see a bit more of Ravenclaw throughout the last few books.
In Part 1, I mentioned about the bullying I experienced at school and how I related to Hermione in that through wanting to do well. There was the other side of that when people couldn't understand me for reading so much and not being part of the 'popular' crowd. The library was my safe space in school. But do see how I was probably quite a bit different to other people, even when I tried to fit in.
Luna taught me it was ok to stand out, regardless of what other people thought. This is not a new thing for me. At school, I didn't know who I was really, so the concept of 'being myself' was one I couldn't really grasp. Moving on in life, though I had social anxiety, depression and was an introvert, I had no proper names for these.
Though I do now, it's sometimes really hard to not wonder how people view me. Anxiety especially likes to play tricks on my brain like that.
As much as I love Luna's personality and how much of a great friend and person she is, it's quite likely that my favourite aspect of her is to simply not care what others say about her, and if she does care, she doesn't show it. It's a skill that has taken me many years to accept I need and I'm still not 100% there in terms of perfecting it.
My anxiety, in particular, is kind of good at making me worry unnecessarily. When I struggle to use the phone, the main reason is my social anxiety. My introversion comes in somewhere, but that's a part of who I am and because I prefer to see a person's body language and reactions in front of me, which the phone obstructs.
Social anxiety turns it into something much nastier- What does my voice sound like to them? Am I just going to mess this up? Will they think I'm an idiot? What if I forget something now and have to ring them back?? Will they think I'm not organised?
...And the list goes on.
The last two I wrote on the spot, thought they could be real possibilities for someone who suffers from SA. The others are or have been all real enough for me.
I'm the one who avoids the phone at all costs. If I really must use it, then I'm sits next to it, thinking through every part of the conversation, rehearses it a lot, and still panics I'm going to mess it up. I take deep breaths to prepare myself, only to find I can't physically pick up the phone on the first attempt.
Even my own parents don't understand why this is so hard for me. The last time I had to call someone, about a month ago, I had a small panic attack which ended up with me crying because I hate having SA. Eventually I made it through the phone call but was shaking a bit by the end.
Yes, it hinders me a lot sometimes. No, it's not easy with all of the stigmas and makes me feel worse on my bad days when I get told to 'Just get on with it' or 'You can't go through your life without [using the telephone/insert other things here].'
I know these people (usually) mean well but it doesn't make me leap into action. If anything, I want to curl up into a ball and not surface from my bedroom for at least a year.
But if Luna Lovegood can be a bit 'weird', live in her own world and believe in nargles without listening to what people think about her for that, then surely, I can survive few bad encounters with my own brain even if people think I'm crazy.
Even if Luna is only my friend when I'm in the HP universe, she's still one of my most treasured book heroines. She's taught me a lot about myself and, in this year when I attempt to control my SA more, there's a lot I can learn from Luna when going forward.
Let's face it, she brightens people up even on their worst day. <3
Who else is a big fan of Luna? What aspects of her personality do you admire? Can you relate to any of this post at all (if so, you're really not alone)? All the best.
Hi, I'm an animal lover and have a degree. You can usually find me either reading or writing. Failing that, I might have actually ventured into the outside world...