The Surgeon, Tess Gerritsen

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I am really enjoying this adventure of reading a fantasy series that I absolutely love, and then experimenting with different genres and authors in between each part of the series. My adventure today took me into the world of physician Tess Gerritsen, and the introduction to her detective, Jane Rizzoli. I think that I actually prefer mystery novels to crime, where the perpetrator is under your nose all along and you have a relationship with them from the start. Tess Gerritsen writes crime, where the perpetrator is introduced to the story only a few chapters from the conclusion. The element of mystery stems from the questions surrounding the identity of the suspect, and where he comes from, but it isn’t quite the same as having to pick out the criminal from a line up that you’ve got to know throughout the novel.

Why do I do this to myself?!

I’m not really sure what it is about crime novels and female sexual abuse. I don’t know whether, as society, we have become so desensitized to ‘normal rape’ (I don’t know what else to call it, there is nothing normal about rape) that it doesn’t seem like enough of a crime anymore, that we have to add to it and make it ‘worse’, as if it wasn’t bad enough already. I often wonder whether this comes from a male-dominated genre, but Tess Gerritsen seems to be proving me wrong. So yes, I found this novel quite upsetting, and I don’t know why I do it to myself really.

The Premise

Rizzoli is a female in a man’s world, with a bit of a chip on her shoulder from being the youngest of 3 children, with 2 older brothers who dominate their parents’ favour. As a policewoman, Rizzoli has something to prove.

She and an old police veteran, Thomas Moore, are on the hunt for a serial killer. The seemingly first victim, a year earlier, was tied down and, whilst alive, had her womb surgically removed, before having her throat slit. More victims appear, some showing signs of rape. And the centre of it all is Doctor Catherine Cordell, who shot dead a man who raped her and was responsible for identical crimes 2 years ago in a different State. She is being hunted by what seems to be a copy cat, and Catherine is his ultimate goal.

The Perpetrator

It took me a while to work out that there were 2 people involved in the original killings, but I got there far before the police did. The secrets weren’t well hidden. It took them far too long to work out that all 3 women had been raped not too long prior to their murder, and NOT by the murderer. I had this figured because it was Andrew who was responsible for the rape of previous victims and if their had been an accomplice, his passion lay in the desecration of the womb and the murder of the victim. He was clearly not able ‘perform’ in the traditional sense, only really being aroused by the concept of the incisions.

The problems

I have a few problems.

Firstly, Professor Khan would most definitely have reported Hoyt’s actions. To desecrate the corpse in such a personal way, would not only see him removed from the course but barred from future medical practice. There is no way he should have been able to leave the college without a stain on his record. I think it highlights the attitude differences between men and women. A man damages a female cadaver, masturbates while he does it and gets a light tap on the wrists. There is no respect for the dead, the damage done and the mental impairment that Hoyt shows by being sexually aroused by such an experience. There is no consequence, other than removal from medical school, and this is an unacceptable indictment on society.

Secondly, I don’t particularly warm to Rizzoli. Her ‘woe is me’ little girl run, the younger sister trying to find verification in a man’s world whose chip on her shoulder probably just prevents her from going further. Believe me, I am all for gender equality and sexual harassment and gender bias are unacceptable.But Gerritsen plays on this too much, leading to a cold blooded shooting which is swept under the carpet because Rizzoli rescues Catherine in the final mile. I question the working of the police, both their enrollment – Rizzoli clearly has some issues that need to be worked through – and their ethics. I don’t think this is necessarily an accurate or flattering portrayal of police work.

The Surgeon is not a timeless piece of writing. The reliance on now dated technology, obviously valued and well used 16 years ago, is very telling, and almost uncomfortable to read now.  I know this is no fault of the author’s, but novels are dating much faster now that we have far more access to far more technology. I would be interested to read later novels to see how Gerritsen makes the progression into the new, technologically based world.

The benefits

Gerritsen is a physician and her A&E and surgical knowledge are matched by very few. She reminds me of Eileen Dreyer, a trauma nurse come author, whose knowledge of nursing brings real life to her crime novels. Although sometimes a bit too graphic, Gerritsen brings life to the doctors and the hospital that an outside could not.

Again, this worries me a bit. Will every novel be based in a hospital? Will her simplistic writing style hold up in a less familiar environment? Will she end up just rehashing this story?

That said, Gerritsen writes her characters very well. Despite my problems with Rizzoli, Moore was a very well developed and likeable character. The stock characters around the two key detectives – a sexist, pushy detective, a quiet, likeable detective – were 2D and clearly just there for appearances. Dr Catherine was well developed and her PTSD was well explored, if a little undermining of what the true disorder can feel like. The criminals, Andrew and Hoyt, were scary and mentally unwell, but you could see their progression from simple acts to the worst murders.

Conclusion

Overall, it was passable. Character development was poor, but well written. The writing style was simplistic and the conclusion a little too obvious. There were a lot of issues with key characters, key plot moments and, of course, the attitude towards rape.

This is my main issue with the book, and the genre, as a whole. Do we not consider rape on its own to be a bad enough crime? Thousands of woman are raped every year. They are not then mutilated and murdered. But the horror that they live with is very real. We have got to stop undermining the crime because it’s so common. It’s no wonder that in the media there are so many young people getting away with light sentences and positive media attention for their actions (my mind slips to the American swimmer who sexually assaulted a girl and didn’t get jail time because that one minute of mistake might ruin is career’. The attitude is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. How can we be so accepting of such a damaging and personally traumatising act?

Gerritsen has potential. The characters have potential. I’m just not sure that any of it will be reached.

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The Shadow Rising – Wheel of Time book 4

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Book 4 of The Wheel of Time series has come to a roaring conclusion and it most certainly ended with a bang! Between The Battle for Emond’s Field and both Nina and Rand’s fights against the Forsaken, it was action packed for those last few chapters and every single page from the first to last contains a piece of information that answers something, or comes up later, or leaves you with a hundred questions. This time, rather than focussing on character as I have done previously, I’d actually like to comment on some key sections of the plot. So be warned, if you ever intend to read this series, every word from now on will contain spoilers.

Hmmmm… where to start! Book 4 raced along at a pace even I struggled with a little bit. So much has happened in a relatively short space of time.

He Who Comes with the Dawn

Okay, yes, I want to focus on plot, but actually, what has happened to Rand! He has gone from a bumbling fool walking blindly in the dark, to the uniter of the Aiel, and the defeater of a Forsaken to such an extent that Asmodean has no choice but to teach Rand how to control his power. Throughout the novel, Rand gathers more and more Aiel to himself, and during his time in Rhuidean more is revealed of the prophecies he has spent so long studying. I could spend hours on the intricacies of Rhuidean, but you would definitely start to get bored. The image of a city in the sky, the role of the Wise Ones, the dream walking… it was all very well connected and explained. What I didn’t quite understand, was how seeing the past of the Aiel could be considered a test for Rand. The Aiel are supposed to enter Rhuidean to be tested almost beyond their bearing in order to show that they have the inner strength and ability to lead their clans. Jordan very cleverly manipulated the plot when he had Muradin already in Rhuidean when Rand arrived. For the reader, it showed what the revelation of the true past could do to someone who held so strongly to their belief in who they are as Aielmen – the truth causes Muradin to claw out his own eyes. But for Rand, I do not think this really counted as a test. His interest is vague, to say the least. He is there solely to fulfill prophecy. He doesn’t consider himself Aiel. He had no idea what they thought of their past, so everything he learned wasn’t a matter of unlearning a lifetime of history, but learning something new about a foreign people. Therefore, it wasn’t really a test for him. He simply had to travel through and learn what he could. Mat was tested more when he went through the door. Yet, Rand gets two tattoos and an Aiel following. I question, therefore, the importance of Rand entering Rhuidean. It allowed the reader a valued insight into the Aiel, one which could have just as easily have been achieved as following Aviendha through the heart of the city, and would have more emotionally received by the reader as they experienced the genuine pain that such knowledge can emulate.

I view it almost as a warning. It’s like in the movie Paycheque, or the Disney movie Tomorrowland – when people have knowledge of the future, they try so hard to change it that they drive themselves towards it in all of their efforts to present it. Rand has read the prophecies – as far as he is able, he has seen into the future. He doesn’t fully understand it, and he doesn’t know what it means, but the bits that he can fulfill, he does. The prophecy ends with death, and blood, and a second breaking. Being ta’veren, I know that Rand cannot escape his destiny. But it seems that he fulfills his own prophecies solely because he knows them. This brings into question the whole concept of free will, and the Christian debate of pre-destination vs free will. It is an interesting concept that in seeing his future, as it was written, Rand cannot help but follow it because he thinks he has to. Moraine Sedai seems to understand this, and keeps trying to make Rand stop and think. But, gone is the shepherd who didn’t know he could channel, who thought he loved Egwene and whose biggest problem was seeing someone he didn’t think was there. Now we have battle hardened, magic-weary Rand, who sees people as a tool for his use. Because he has to. Because the prophecies say so. I find it frustrating and fascinating.

Anyway, the final scene of the novel is Rand bringing Asmodean home with him, to learn how to control his magic. I had no idea as I worked through the novel that this was Rand’s plan – both he and Jordan managed to keep the secret thoroughly and well. The battle scene was impressive, if, and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a 14 book series, a little rushed. Rand now hold more power than anyone could ever imagine, and he’s slowly going to be going mad. Not a good sign.

The Battle for Emond Field

I have said from book one that Perrin is my favourite character, not necessarily because of who he is but due to how well developed he is as a character, and how genuine his progression appears. And, just to get it out of my system, PERRIN AND FAILE ARE MARRIED AND I’M SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY ABOUT IT. But back to the battle.

My boyfriend is on book 10 and tells me this is his favourite scene in the series so far. It was pretty incredible. I have a pretty thorough knowledge of fantasy literature and assumed I knew everything. I knew Faile would come back. I did not link the dying man to the help coming from the other side. And I did NOT see it coming that Lord Luc was Slayer. Jordan does a fantastic job of springing little surprises on you like that. It was such an emotional and beautiful moment as the battle concluded that all Perrin could see was his wife, beautiful and bold, and their reunion was so sweet. I wish that they could now ride off into their sunset, but that’s not going to happen!

A special mention here to Loial and Gaul for shutting the Waygate. It makes me sad that we didn’t spend any time on their journey. Alongside Perrin, Loial is one of my favourite characters (I can’t tell you how happy I was when they teamed up) and it would have been interesting to see Loial and Gaul develop a friendship.

Nynaeve vs the Forsaken

For ease, I call Nyaeve Nina, as I can’t really pronounce her name, and it’s also going to be easier to type here. Nina really came into her own here. I still don’t like her. She has ‘blocked’ herself, according to Moghedien, and I find this frustrating. She clearly has great power. She clearly has immense potential. But if Nina was a man, she would have given in to the madness long ago. If she stayed too long in Tar Valon, I would not be surprised to see her become the next Elaida. I don’t quite trust Nina, because I don’t think she should trust herself.

That said, what a battle! I love the image of the male a’dam – the black colour, the need for two bracelets, and the fact that the madness is transferable even to a female. It makes you wonder – why isn’t Saidin tainted? What is it that holds the women together?

Nina and Moghedien are the first time that someone other than Rand has really had to face up to the Forsaken and hold her own. It shows how important each and every thread of the strand is. Nina followed to bring the boys home, and she has rescued the male a’dam from the hands of Black Ajah. Once again, the predestination argument seems prominant and the choices of individuals almost futile.

The Fall of Tar Valon

Of course, for me the most shocking bit was the fall of Tar Valon. By the time you get to it, you almost forget Min’s visions when she walks in to the Amyrilin Seat with news. But her visions are accurate.

Firstly, my heart breaks for Gawyn and his misguided actions which led to Siuan being stilled. I hope that he can be redeemed and forgiven. The images of teacher against student, student against teacher, friend against friend… they’re very biblical in their powerful statements hierarchy and control. Many times we cheer the young ones on as they overpower the seeming enemy, but in this case we think they’re wrong. The bible says that in the final days, there will be father against son, brother against brother. Obviously, with another 10 books to go, these aren’t quite the final days, but alongside the predestination debate as described earlier, I wonder if there is more to the battle for Tar Valon than just youth and passion overpowering wisdom and age.

Then there’s the evil. Stilling. Gentling. Such calm and soft words. They hide a myriad of evil. My boyfriend suggested that they are perhaps an analogy for depression. The sense of missing something, of reaching out for something that is not there. The fading away without a purpose. The pain of it. I can see where he’s coming from. I felt such empathy with Siuan as she reached out for the power and it wasn’t there. What’s interesting is that Siuan and Logain now have a purpose together. Perhaps, by taking away the power, the Aes Sedai have created far worse enemies than they could have imagined. Because revenge, justice and a righting of the wrong, that is all they have to survive on now, and a desperate person takes desperate risks. I worry for Leane, I don’t think she’ll make it. And when Siuan reaches her goal, what will she have left? Not a lot left to live for, in all honesty.

But do I think that Jordan is speaking of depression? Does depression give you power? Can you find a purpose that is worth more than the way your life was going before, because of the depression? Is it the stilling that relates to depression, or the power itself? I think that my boyfriend gives depression too much power – in my situation that is. I’d like to take a closer look.

Depression + The One Power

Depression is a deep blackness inside you. It climbs up your spine and into your brain almost unnoticed, taking control of limbs that you didn’t know could shake like that, and thoughts that you didn’t think you would ever think. It takes over.

The one power fills people almost uncontrollably. When people are at their best they feel powerful, invincible, and when they’re at their worst they are weak and tired and beyond healing because they have stretched themselves too far. If a person were strong enough, the power would take over completely.

Depression gives you a sense of utter helplessness. You are no longer in control of your life, your thoughts, and sometimes your body.

The one power has a way of being controlled even by the unskilled. It makes itself -as Rand shows repeatedly – into what is needed.

There are strands of depression – related to eating, sleeping, talking, breathing, exercising and everything in between. Each strand effects a person differently.

There are strands of the power, some are strong in one area while others are strong in the others. Each strand of power works differently for each person.

So yes, there are comparisons. But to what relevance?

Saidin is a drug. Its users become dependent. Its male users go made. But it does hearken to depression. The lack of control, the need for more, the loss of self – age and image.

So perhaps it isn’t the stilling, as my boyfriend thinks, that is the problem. Perhaps it is the power itself. A sickness, not only in men, that drives humankind to evil and uncontrolled ends, even at the risk of damaging themselves. I can see the links between the power and depression. I think they may be stronger than the links between stilling and depression.

So what is the solution? Well, for the Wheel of Time, perhaps it is the eradication of power altogether. Without it, there would have been no breaking, would be no second breaking. People would be more equal. Perhaps that is why the world must break again. Perhaps the one power, and not just the dark one, need to be returned to where they belong.

For anyone out there who does suffer from depression, if a farm boy from the Two Rivers can do it, so can you!

Back in the pool

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These past few weeks I’ve been working really hard on trying to improve my day to day health. I have gone gluten free to see if that helps with my absolute exhaustion and fatigue. I have been feeling slightly better, though whether that’s because of the gluten or not will only be confirmed once I go back on gluten for a while. I’ve been trying to cycle to work twice a week, walk to church when it’s at the church near by and encourage Jack to take walks with me during his lunch break when I stay at his.

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We are ridiculously adorable sometimes!!

This morning I took another step, with Jack’s support. To start with, I woke up at 4am and worked until 7am, so I was feeling super productive anyway! I woke Jack up at 7am with a cup of tea and a banana. And, an hour later, we went swimming.

I haven’t been swimming properly since June when I was visiting my big sister in Australia. I did a triathlon in July, with no training whatsoever, and swam 400m in that, but aside from that I haven’t been in a pool except to supervise children. I have run since the half marathon in September. And cycling to work takes 8 minutes – I really don’t feel I can count that as exercise! But this morning’s escapade was something different.

We paid our £4 entry fee and wandered round like fools for about 5 minutes, totally unable to find the changing rooms and, for a while, the pool itself! But we found it eventually and before I knew it we were standing at the edge of the pool’s medium swimmer lane and it was time to get in.

I LOVE swimming. It is one of my all time favourite things to do. It’s a form of exercise with minimum pain and it reaps great benefits. But I was frightened. I was really scared. My anxiety was sky high as I looked down the length of the 33m pool (bearing in mind that the pool I had been training in last year was only 18m long!). It seemed endless and vast and totally unconquerable. But I’ve learned recently that there are some things you have to take a day at a time. I decided to take this a length at a time.

First length, front crawl

Second length, breast stroke

2 lengths, front crawl

2 lengths breast stroke

3 lengths front crawl

2 lengths breast stroke

4 lengths front crawl

2 lengths breaststroke

A length at a time worked. Some were slow, some were speedy. For some I did backstroke, for others I doggy paddled the last 10m. I took 10 second timed breaks when necessary and stopped a couple of times to chat to Jack.

Actually, let’s just take a moment here to dwell on how wonderful Jack is. He is not feeling well today, and when I woke him up he really, really struggled. We walked down the wrong street to get to the pool because he was so tired. He’s resting right now, well deserved. And you know what? Before we even got in the pool he told me he was proud of me, and reminded me not to do a typical me and overdo it completely. Every time we paused for a chat he told me I was doing ‘amazingly’ and encouraged me to keep going, within reason. The walk home he couldn’t stop telling me how proud of me he was.

Jack understands what a big deal today was. It wasn’t just a swim. It wasn’t just exploring a new pool. It was facing a fear. It was standing up to my illness and saying ‘no, today, I will not be beaten back down’.

And I swam just over 1km. Slowly, with breaks. But I did it. I came home and literally in the time it took Jack to find sausages for his breakfast in the freezer, I had fallen back sleep in bed. I woke up half an hour later, refreshed and excited.

It wasn’t a great workout. It wasn’t up to the standard my swimming was at this time a year and a half ago. My back hurts and I have water trapped in my ear :p But today, I took a step in the right direction.

It’s funny really. I hadn’t realised how intertwined all aspects of my life are. The depression separated me from this blog after only 1 post. It took away my exercise, my sleep, my health, my books. It kept me in bed, knocked me down time and time again, until I had forgotten what enjoyment and non-despair felt like. Starting back on this blog was a small step. Reading books again, that was a massive step. Seeing doctors. Taking medication. Explaining to friends. And now trying to get back into exercise and taking control of my diet. Maybe, just maybe, the depression isn’t running my life anymore.

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Anxiety – what it’s like and how to help

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I suffer from depression and anxiety, and although this blog doesn’t focus on this, I’m having a bad day from it all and thought that maybe if I write some of it down, it may help. So here’s a handy guide to MY anxiety and how to help ME. It’s so individual from person to person, sometimes even from day to day. But maybe this could help.

What it’s like

There’s no real way to describe what my anxiety feels like. Sometimes it’s like this massive weight on my chest, and I can’t breathe except in small gasps. Other times it’s insomnia because I’m worried about something. The other day, when my boyfriend asked me how I had slept, I told him honestly that I slept awfully because I was so worried about Donald Trump becoming president (this was after the election results) and there was nothing I could do about it. At other times I shake uncontrollably. Others I can’t move for fear. Sometimes it’s a panic attack. There are so many different ways to feel it. All I can say really is this: it’s constant. It NEVER goes away. It’s always there, eating at my self confidence and waiting to pounce.

I have several key triggers. These include, but are not excluded to:

  • Food: Where is my next meal coming from? Will my breaks at work fit around when I’m actually hungry? What if I eat too much? Is this bingeing or just being really hungry? What if someone cooks something I don’t like and I can’t eat? What if I get stuck in traffic without food? What if I get hungry for no reason? What if I can’t function because I’m hungry?
  • Sleep: What if I don’t sleep tonight? What if I need a nap? If I’m tired, will I be able to go to work? What if I can’t drive somewhere because I’m tired? What if I fall asleep at work? What if my bed breaks? What if I have bad dreams? What if I can’t get to sleep and then have to go the day without any sleep at all? Will I die from lack of sleep?
  • Money: Can I afford shopping? What if I can’t? What if I don’t get enough shifts to pay rent? What if my car breaks down? What if I don’t have a mortgage in 5 years? What if I owe someone money? Why can’t I budget for three year’s time? Why can’t I control every expense in advance? Can I afford this?
  • Social Situations: What if no one likes me? What if they call me names? What if I can’t think of anything to say? What if I don’t fit in? What if they aren’t all going to be my friends? Will I know what they’re saying when I’m not in the room?
  • Work: What if I can’t do what I need to do? Will my breaks fit in around how tired I am? Are they annoyed because I can’t lift and need sit down breaks every now and then? Am I even good at my job? What if they find someone better and replace me? What if my managers don’t like me? What if that person who was a little short with me really hates me and is going to report me? What if I have a break down at work?  Did I give  out the correct change? Have a written a good talk? Am I doing enough to be valued during times of change? Did that customer want ketchup or BBQ sauce?
  • Relationships: Do I lean on that person too much? Are they fed up with me? Are they bored of me? Will they be mad if I am myself? Will they help me? Do they have other relationships they like better than me? Is this a reciprocal relationship or am I just a blood sucker taking and not giving? Did I remember their birthday? Is it too early to add them on Facebook?

The thing is, everyone asks themselves these questions. The problem with anxiety is that I am asking myself a mix of about 6 of these questions at any one time, and that’s on a good day when I can actually function. I can’t compartmentalise the anxiety, or put it aside.

For example, as I write my boyfriend is sitting in the other room. I told him I wanted a nap, but I didn’t, but I was too scared to tell him that I actually just needed some time alone. I don’t know when he’s going to start cooking dinner and I’m starting to get hungry and I don’t want to annoy him because he eats on a different schedule to me. Is he brooding on how annoying I am because we cancelled a cinema trip because I was having a bit of a break down? Did I eat too much today? Will I manage the drive tonight to a meeting? What if I get really tired? Or lost? What if I can’t manage my Teach First training that’s starting in July? Oh, can I afford rent in January? Did I forget anyone for Christmas? Have I done all the Christmas stuff I need to do for church?

That’s literally all happening in my mind RIGHT NOW! And when you have anxiety, there’s never a break from it. It doesn’t stop harassing you because you need some head space. In fact, the more stressed or tired or worn out you are, the more it attacks you from every side.

How to help

You can’t ‘fix’ me. No amount of reassurance will stop me from worrying tomorrow about whether you love me or not. But here are some tips:

  1. Don’t make me go through a door first: First time social situations terrify me. Don’t think you’re being chivalrous by holding the door open. Just go through and let me follow.
  2. Give me time: Sometimes I can’t answer something quickly because I have to process every inch of worry that comes with the question. Don’t make me rush to answer, as that just adds to extra stress.
  3. Be patient: I get tired really easily. I get down really easily. I can be fine at 5pm and at 5.01pm I can be having a break down. I don’t plan it. I can’t help it.
  4. Tell me it’s okay: My boyfriend is amazing at this, and I never get tired of him holding me, or talking down the phone, saying things like ‘it’s okay honey, I’m still here, I’m still with you. It’s okay.’
  5. Don’t tell me not to worry: Seriously! If I could help it, I would. There is a difference between a worry, which I can control, and an anxiety which just frequently heads out of control.
  6. Be kind: My workplace is kind. They’ve made shift and break arrangements for me. They’ve been patient and supportive. I literally wouldn’t have survived without them.
  7. Remember, it goes on for ages: I can have a non-anxious week (well, I hope I can, I haven’t yet). And then I can spiral for 2 weeks. Don’t expect me to always be okay because I seemed it on one day.
  8. Understand that sometimes I have to go OTT to manage the problem: Yes, I’ve shown up at work with 3 people’s worth of food, an extra pair of trousers and a request to finish early. Yes, I know that I have literally planned out the next 5 months expenditure penny to penny. It helps, sometimes.
  9. Tell me when I’m being too much: My boyfriend is incredible. My family is supportive. My best friends check on me regularly. But I understand that it’s not easy maintaining a relationship with someone who is like this all the time. Tell me when I’m being too much, don’t suffer in silence. I’d rather keep your friendship and feel offended for a while than drive you away.
  10. And finally, if you want to know, ask: I am sick. I have an illness which can debilitate me some days. I am on medication and progressing through it slowly. But I am able to tell you what it’s like. If you’re suffering, I can help you. If you’re interested, I can tell you lots of stories. If you just want to know what you can do to help, ask. It’s my favourite thing about my boyfriend. When he’s at a loss what to do, he says ‘what can I do to help?’. That in itself is often enough.

It’s not easy

Writing this blog isn’t easy. Admitting I have a problem isn’t easy. Every single day is a difficult struggle. But I persevere through. I’m already feeling my heart beat faster at the thought of publishing this, but I will do it. The one thing that defeats my anxiety over things like that is the fact that I’m pretty spontaneous. If I think I won’t do it in a minute, I’ll do it right now. Which is happening.

Thanks for reading and please, if you have any questions, just ask.