In Eric Lindstrom’s latest young adult novel, A tragic kind of wonderful, Mel is a beautifully complex young woman grappling with confronting decisions and emotions, navigating relationships with her family, friends and her internal ‘animals’.
Lindstrom’s use of a first person narrative allows the reader to experience the intensity of Mel’s experiences, memories and decisions as she tries so hard to navigate her present dilemmas and the omnipresent events that led to her brother’s death.
As much as Mel would like to curl up and withdraw from the world, her own spirit and those around her prove time and time again the importance of connections and taking leaps of faith.
Mel must face her greatest fears and be honest with herself and others to an extent that to her feels like jumping over a huge cliff.
Before I read this book I thought my review would centre on the ever present challenge Mel had with her Bipolar disorder. However I now feel that Eric Lindstrom presented Mel’s experience so empathetically that I understand how mental illness did not define Mel but was ultimately what made her and her bonds with family and friends all the more tragically wonderful.
This book shows us ways in which mental illness and traumatic events can impact individuals in similar and very different ways and the possibilities for hope that exist at the darkest of times.
Who do you want to be in 2017? Someone better organised/less stressed/fitter/richer/more fulfilled?
The only thing stopping you is you… or maybe it’s just that you haven’t found the right programme, philosophy or inspiration yet. That being the case, here are some suggestions to set you on the path of the righteous/smug.
Rising Tide is a timely new book for kids published in New Zealand aimed at increasing resilience and emotional intelligence.
We all worry and feel anxiety at times in our lives. Anxiety can impact on children and their families in many ways. The Worry Bug Project seeks to support parents and teachers to recognise and address mild to moderate anxiety.
After the success of their previous books Maia and the Worry Bug and Wishes and Worries published after the major earthquakes in Christchurch, families and schools asked the authors for something for older children. Thus Rising Tide was written and developed for Year 5-8 children as a short chapter book. The story is set in New Zealand…
To most people, Ari McInnis is just an ordinary kid. And that’s just the way Ari likes it, because he’s got a secret that he doesn’t want to share – not with anybody. But then something happens to Ari that threatens to expose his secret to everyone. After he helps his Koro in trouble, everyone thinks he’s a hero. If only they knew the truth that is eating away at him. Ari has good skills ‘reading’ water and when he needs some time alone, he retreats to an old dinghy only he knows about. But when the river starts rising in the rain, he – and his Dad who has gone looking for him – are in danger.
Rising Tide is available in both English and Te Reo Māori. Online versions and an audio component are soon to come. In the back of the book parents and educators will find teaching plans and family exercises accompanying the story aimed at increasing resilience and emotional intelligence, based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Narrative Therapy. It looks at topics such as avoidance and catastrophising.
This book is great for parents, whānau, teachers and home school families wanting to delve more into the themes explored here of anxiety, family, self-belief and identity. This would also be a good book to support children struggling with reading and writing.
About the authors
Sarina Dickson is a parent, author and teacher (including tutoring in creative writing for children at the Christchurch School for Young Writers). She is passionate about the re-generation of Christchurch and its people.
1 in 5 New Zealanders are diagnosed with a mental illness, including myself, meaning every New Zealander comes into contact with someone who is affected. That is why I feel it’s very important that we talk about and discuss mental illness, breaking down stereotypes, stigmas and barriers.
The focus for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Connect with Nature for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing.
“Research has shown that spending time in nature is great for mental and physical health. Evidence proves it makes us happier, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, improves concentration, buffers against stress, makes our lives meaningful and reduces health inequalities related to poverty.”
As part of a Mental Health Awareness Week there is a “lockout” organised for lunchtime today. We’re all encourage to get outside, rain or shine, and into the fresh air.
Being in nature helps me unwind, relax and practice mindfulness, which is still something I am working on.
I’m lucky to work for Christchurch City Libraries and to be surrounded by excellent resources. There are some other fantastic resources out there. Here are some of my favourites:
Although this is intended for mental health practitioners it is full of practical, achievable activities for those using self help. I love that I can choose and print out one of the over 40 handouts and work through it at my own pace.
The scheme recommends books, eAudiobooks, eBooks or DVDs about a wide range of mental health issues. The books are selected with the advice of mental health professionals and the Mental Health Foundation of NZ.
For a session dedicated to an honest discussion of how Christchurch people are coping post-quakes ‘How are we doing, Christchurch?’ had a lot of laughs in it.
Mind you, there’s a dry sort of humour that I’ve grown to associate with Christchurch people and the quakes. Jokes in the midst of loss and grief, of chaos, of fear – for some people a wry quip in a tight spot is the only sane choice. The panellists were very much of this sort – though a flippant remark was often an entree to a more thoughtful, sincere response.
Each had a completely different background and area of expertise, coming from a range of professions – Sam Crofskey, owner of C1 Espresso; Katie Pickles, historian and author of Christchurch Ruptures; Ciaran Fox, of the Mental Health Foundation and All Right? campaign; and Robyn Wallace, CEO of He Oranga Pounamu who is also involved in both iwi and local government organisations in the Waimakariri District/Ngāi Tuāhuriri rohe.
So how are we?
Not doing “number twos” in the backyard any more but possibly not as well as we’d like?
It was really interesting to me that Crofskey admitted outright lying to outsiders about how they were doing, early on, saving his honesty for those in his family and community. “I didn’t have the words for people who weren’t affected,” he said.
This particularly hit home for me yesterday when I read a New Zealand Herald column, by a visiting Aucklander who that mentioned that he’d heard “very little whinging” from Christchurch people during a recent stay. The column was a light-hearted one admittedly, but I couldn’t help feeling that it didn’t reflect the reality of Christchurch in the slightest. And certainly not the genuine concern mixed with weariness I felt in that room.
Crofskey’s experiences as a central city dweller, in the early days of the post-quake response emphasised this idea of outsiders not really understanding, when he spoke of “White knights in hi-luxes” trying to out-aid each other and others imposing their own ideas of what was needed –
Let’s put on a rugby game for them and make them happy again.
There was also a really great discussion about whether the Christchurch we’re rebuilding is for everyone, or if it’s for the men in suits who run things. Pickles’ hope, certainly, is that we can break out of some of those old pre-quake patterns of operating and make a city that everyone feels at home in. Perhaps we need another 4 or 5 Margaret Mahy type playgrounds around the city, for instance?
Crofskey’s wish for future Christchurch was a simple one – “I want a city my children want to stay in”.
One of Fox’s points made a lot of sense for me personally. He simply pointed out that we’re all really tired, and that being tired affects your ability to see solutions to problems. You fall back on the tried and the true. It certainly hinders your ability to be innovative and to take risks. If you scale the personal up to the organisational level, is it possible that this is part of what’s hindering a really creative, innovative recovery?
All panelists were in agreement that Christchurch people have had a “crisis of trust” in various systems and mechanisms / bureaucracy which are not working for them. There were many, many sounds of agreement from the audience on this point.
Audience questions ran the gamut from rants about the consenting process, to concerns about post-quake democracy, and how to keep and spread the energy of innovative projects like GapFiller into other arenas.
Did we solve Christchurch’s problems? No. But I certainly came away from the session feeling less alone, and comforted by the fact that many other people feel more or less as I do about our shared home.
‘Buy This Book’. I have never, in all the many blogs I have written started a blog with these three words.
Lucy Hone wrote What Abi Taught Us after the traumatic death of her 12 year old daughter Abi in a car accident. Abi left the house to go for a drive with family friends. And she never came back. How does one cope with a life event like this?
Standing alone centre stage, without even the use of the podium provided, Lucy Hone reached out to all of us to share her strategies for survival in the face of one of life’s crueller events.
She made us think about what resilience meant to us, that it is not a suit of armour that you don, but rather a way of leaning into pain and hardship that allows us to feel the emotion while continuing to function in our lives, which just carry right on.
She used her studies in Psychology and qualifications in Resilience Psychology to work out what strategies we need to nurture our own mental health – even in the face of the unthinkable. The three Determinants of Happiness are: 50% from your genetic start point ( the Mum and Dad stuff), 10% from outside influences (winning the lotto or surviving an earthquake) and 40% from our own thoughts and actions. And it is in that wriggle room of 40% that Hone has developed the five strategies that we all need:
Strategy 1 – Choose where you focus your attention
We don’t have infinite processing capacity. Our brains can only manage 7 pieces of information at a time. Genetically (and understandably, for survival’s sake) we are hard-wired to notice the bad stuff. We need to practise noticing what is going well. People who have higher gratitude scores have better well-being. Lucy has a sign in her kitchen – a bright pink poster and on it the words: ACCEPT THE GOOD. She refers to it often.
Strategy 2 – Never Lose Hope
Lucy paid tribute to the building we were in – the brand new The Piano – as a concrete manifestation of hope for Christchurch. She stressed how important it is to recognise that we all have some big hopes and many smaller ones. When tragedy occurs, turn to your smaller hopes. Ask yourself: What am I hoping for now? It may be something very small. Go for that smaller hope.
Strategy 3 – Nurture Your Relationships
Good relationships are a great predictor of happiness. Be careful with your communications, even when you are in pain. It takes 5 positive interactions to cancel out one negative communication. The negative is unfortunately very powerful.
Strategy 4 – Ask yourself: Is this thing helping or harming me?
Lucy and her husband chose not to view the motor vehicle in which Abi lost her life. They asked themselves this question and the answer was No, this will not help. It is a very simple tool. It will help you get up out of bed, put one foot in front of the next and grieve and function at the same time.
Strategy 5 – Understand that struggle is a part of life
Sometimes we just have to be brave. Sometimes the happy FaceBook version of our life is so far from the truth. We have to allow ourselves to feel sad. Resilience Therapy understands that the bad stuff will happen – just don’t get stuck in one emotional state for too long. Try not to bottle it up. Lucy worried that she might cry in this presentation. Then she thought – So What. Crying is just crying. She grieves while simultaneously living.
Abi loved the book Allegiant from the Divergent Trilogy and had highlighted a passage from it. Lucy found this passage after Abi had died. She sees what she is doing as being like a line from that highlited quote, that she is making:
the slow walk towards a better life
There was not a dry eye in the Concert Hall at 12pm.
Health providers may suggest a title from this scheme, or you can choose them from the book list yourself. You might want to discuss the books with your health provider or librarian but this is entirely up to you. Your family and friends can also use the scheme as it is sometimes very helpful for those closest to you to understand some of the issues that you may be dealing with and to find ways that they can help.
Books on the Reading In Mind book list have been recommended by mental health professionals and the scheme was developed by Pegasus Health, Christchurch City Libraries and The Mental Health Education and Resource Centre (MHERC) which is located at 116 Marshlands Road. MHERC is also has a very good library which is free to use, and many of their books are included in the Reading In Mind booklists.
HealthInfo is another great resource to get information on Mental Health as well as other health issues.
Browse booklists of titles you can borrow from our libraries.
Find a local club in CINCH or simply walk the dog, dance around the house to some cheerful tunes or get exercising with friends.
Get out of the house
Now this is a simple one. Withdrawing from day to day social contact with your fellow humans can have a negative effect on your mood. Yes, it’s cold out but there are warm places to go such as your local library! Ensure that you socialise with your friends and family regularly or find a social group on CINCH.
Brighten up your house
Let more light in by opening curtains and trimming trees. Ensure your body gets light by sitting by the window. Less light in winter can affect your mood.
Volunteer your time. Helping others is great for our own mental health. It gets you out of the house, socialising and you may even get some exercise too.
I just can’t do it!
Is depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress stopping you from having a positive outlook and fulfilling life? Visit your doctor/counsellor and these organisations to get help getting your life back.
This afternoon I had the back of my head blown off (in a good way) by a psychotherapist.
Susie Orbach is the author of a number of books, most famously Fat is a Feminist Issue which came out in the seventies and which Orbach refers to as “Fifi”, as if it’s an aggressively groomed poodle instead of a guide through the murky waters of how we feel about our bodies and food.
Despite the fact that Orbach has revisited the book in recent times, adding to it as our issues with our bodies, rather than getting better have only become more expansive and weird, she’s never re-read it because she’s not sure she’d be kind to her younger self. “I’m frightened of it”, she says. Is it a shame that we still need books like this? She thinks so.
Fifi has unfortunately stayed in print.
The discussion ranged far and wide and touched on so many things – this is mainly what has caused the metaphorical gaping hole in the back of my noggin as all the ideas have tried to escape – but always was grounded in the basic idea that western culture, or more correctly “Vulture Capitalism” is grooming us to view our bodies in completely the wrong way, and making a nice profit out of it, thanks very much.
This session solidified for me, some of the vague disquiets I’ve been feeling in recent years about self-image, messages about food, the beauty industry, and the media.
Orbach is of the opinion that painting particular foods as “bad” or “good” isn’t useful when helping people to learn how to eat well.
Refined sugar isn’t that great, but it’s not poison…They’re making it as attractive as heroin.
Regarding the “obesity epidemic”, she points out that many people of all body types eat compulsively. Focusing only on people on the larger end of the spectrum isn’t really getting to the seat of the problem. Instead of dealing with the problem eating, what you’re really focusing on is the “problem body”, which when you think about it, is kind of the wrong way round of doing things.
She’s also not a fan of dieting and views Weight Watchers and their ilk with a cynical eye, given the combination of incredibly high recidivism rates (in the 90%+ region) and that it’s incredibly lucrative.
If dieting really worked you’d only have to do it once.
Hard to argue with cold hard facts like that.
Orbach herself was anything but cold and hard. She seemed genuinely embarrassed by the applause she received and listened with great patience (occupational hazard, I guess) to an audience question that was so long-winded people were beginning to shuffle in their seats and check their watches.
The session touched on so many big ideas it’s hard to squish it down into a meagre blog post – like globalisation and how that has hastened a merge towards one acceptable version of beauty (the kind that prompts Fijian teenagers to bulimia, Korean women to jaw-shaving surgery, and plastic surgery selfie-apps for 10 year olds).
This is something that Orbach is actively working against in her work with Endangered Bodies.
Orbach also talked about her BBC Radio show In Therapy, in which she has attempted to recreate “the intimacy of the therapy session”. I have never listened to it but it sounds intriguing. Completely unscripted, Orbach interacts with actors as if it were a real therapy session. All she knows about their characters beforehand is a few brief facts and then the rest is her reacting to what the actors create. There are plans a second series and for a book based on the transcripts of the show (due out in November).
When asked for thoughts on how to help young people avoid the unhealthy body obsessions that are so prevalent now that they’re not even considered real mental health problems any more, she offered that when her own children were growing up she made sure never to express disappointment or exasperation with her body because “I wouldn’t want them to think that the way you become a grownup woman is by hating yourself”.
Which, when you think about it, is bloody good advice and it’s a bit shameful that we need it. Challenge laid, Ms Orbach. I’m going to try and follow it if I can.