About a year ago my boyfriend bought me a book called Calm. It was, from what I saw to be, his attempt to come to terms with and understand the tangled web which is my mental health. I think he believed that, in his own way, he could contribute towards a pathway forward for me. Unfortunately, due to the stressed and flurried nature of my first year in university I had never gotten round to reading it properly.
However, it was only a matter of time before it fell back into my hands and that just so happened to be when I needed it the most.
The ending of the summer holidays marked a definitive ending to the best of times for me and it was the first time that I would not be spending every day with my boyfriend like I had been in the previous four months. University provides the luxury of extremely extended holiday periods, a pleasure that is almost the last of its kind before the working world hits you. It was a brilliant time, filled with drunken antics, sunshine, friends and travel. However, as the saying goes ‘all good things must come to an end’ and inevitably they did.
With this ending there was also the new beginnings and as it became time for me to return to university it also became time for him to finally (in his head not mine) pack his bags and head off in the direction of his career and aspiration, acting school. For me this was incredibly difficult to deal with. I have severe issues with separation anxiety and an innate need to place a reliance on people close to me. This dramatic change has obviously sparked a burning fire within me, which I am finding increasingly difficult to extinguish. After all, it is necessary for me to at least pretend I’m alright and encourage him in what I know must be a pretty nerve wracking time.
After a night of absolutely no sleep and an overly active, horrible mind I decided to hit at myself hard. At 4 am I was awake researching different strands of anxiety and almost typing HELP! into the Google search bar and hoping for any outcome that was better than the state I was in at that time. It was not until hours of crying, nightmares and sleeplessness later that I stumbled across this book when attempting to read something to send me off. The name? ‘Calm’.
A quick description will go a long way for this amazing piece of work. It is finished in a beautiful, relaxing blue which got me off to the right start when considering the methods to calm myself down. It is paper back and inside the easy to read print and beautifully constructed pages are enough to make anyone smile. It is perfect for something to pick up and flick through at even the most stressful of times.
It makes it clear from the start that there is no particular order in which you have to read this book. That was almost my favourite part about it. Having a very overactive mind often leads to the type of skim reading that would make most bookworms squirm in their seat. It is splattered with activities as well as text and words and phrases that are aimed at instilling mindfulness and calm. Featured quotes from influential thinkers and inspirational people shows that you really can be anything you want to be. It’s such a positive and uplifting message throughout without the stereotypical cheesy narrative that you get with a lot of self help books.
Calm has somehow successfully started me off on a new path. It’s helping me to deal with the feelings that I feel and how to own them. It’s taught me how to be alone and how to love myself before loving others. Mainly however it has encouraged me to take some time, once in a while, to breathe sit down and think about what’s next in my hectic head and lifestyle. It has most definitely bought a sense of calm into my life.
My favourite and most recommended page in the book is what I have called ‘calm island’. You get to draw your own little world with recommendations to get you started. Whilst panicking at 4 am this had me weirdly mesmerised as I mapped out exactly what it would look like and where things would go. I have genuinely gone on to use my little island in meditation or panic attack restraints. A councillor once gave me a similar idea of making a happy place and going there but for me visualising it on paper has made it more realistic and given me the ability to really take myself there more often.
I have a long way to go in learning about myself and finding myself in a place where I can be alone and be happy without the support of someone 24/7. It has come close to wrecking havoc on my relationship (just like my last), messing up my university experience and derailing me entirely but I’m getting there and this book has been the icing on the cake for someone like me who sometimes needs a guiding hand.
You know it may not work for everyone, but for me and my struggle to find anything that helps (medication, counselling, self-help books etc.) it is the only thing I have come across which I would tell everyone out there to go out and buy, mental illness or not.
I have to give a huge thank you to one of my best friends, Zola, for writing this amazing book review for my blog and kindly letting me feature it (after much harassment). It is safe to say I have very talented people in my life.
Please check her blog that she has recently revived, she deserves so much support!