Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What I've been reading lately

I've been reading up a storm lately so rather than just share my thoughts on the books spread out in different posts I decided to one big post with 3 reviews. Two of the books are from authors I enjoy and one is a author that I was pleasantly surprised by.

A new heart saved her life—but will it help her find out what really happened to its donor? Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was—a boy from her school—and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened.
Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living, took more courage than dying?
This Heart of Mine is a haunting, poignant tale about living and dying, surviving grief, guilt, and heartache, while discovering love and hope in the midst of sadness.

I really liked this book and couldn't believe I hadn't read anything else by the author before! The characters were likeable and the story was full of twists and turns. I liked Leah and found her to be brave but scared, she wasn't expecting this chance at life and while she wants to embrace it she is hesitant of what could happen in the future. I really felt sorry for Matt as he had been dealt some bad cards in life but at the same time he was trying to move forward while also dealing with these what if questions. The two characters together were an unexpected but loveable pair and I liked reading how their story grew throughout the book. This book also really advocated for organ donation and in this day it's not something people think about often so it was great to see a book covering this topic.

This Heart of Mine is available now where all books are sold.

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Foreman - the blurb reads:

A powerful story of empathy and friendship from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of If I Stay.Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.
An emotionally cathartic story of losing love, finding love, and dis­covering the person you are meant to be, I Have Lost My Way is best­selling author Gayle Forman at her finest.

I read a lot of Gayle's books and really enjoyed them, so I had high hopes for this book and while it wasn't bad I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had enjoyed her prior books. The characters were likeable and each had their own personal struggles but this made the book hard to follow at times. I did like how diverse the characters were and how you could see a lot of different cultures along with how certain experiences shaped them. The story flowed nicely and I enjoyed how the story mostly took place over less than 24 hours with flashbacks added in to give depth. I did find that the book ended really abruptly and while this worked fine in If I Stay it didn't fit with the flow of this book and there needed to be an epilogue or another chapter to tie things together. If you liked Gayle's other books you will like this one but go into it with an open mind and be prepared to leave with questions.

I Have Lost My Way is out on March 27th.

Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter - the blurb reads:
After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiancee.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

Every book I read by Denise Hunter is amazing and this book was no exception! It was such a fun book to read and the story was beautifully written. I loved the characters and just adored Hope and her history and how much she valued Brady's friendship and was willing to step up and go beyond to help him. Brady was someone who owned up to mistakes and wasn't prepared to step down when the going got tough. These two really complimented each other despite their differences and challenging histories. The story was really enjoyable and just when I thought I knew it where it was going it took another turn. I also loved how Denise was able to incorporate characters from the other books in The Blue Ridge Romance series and make them a part of the story but without taking away anything from the main story As with all of Denise's books it's not a requirement to read the first 2 books in the series before this one, as all the books can be enjoyed as standalone stories and each focuses on a different pair of characters. This book is a great read and once you start reading it you won't be able to stop.

Honey Suckle Dreams is out May 1st and available to pre-order now.

Hopefully your to-read pile has just gotten a bit bigger and you've found some new books to read next.
***Please note that I was provided with an advanced ebook copy of each book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Five Friday Favourites

Yay for the weekend! I've officially handed in 3 assignments, many more to go! I actually have assignments due every week until my prac (minus the 2 weeks break) which means I've started the crazy part of my studies. Next week actually have 3 assignments due as I'm away the following week due to going over east to celebrate ReachOut's 20th, which is exciting! I couldn't miss it and I'm so thrilled to be going plus it's a Community Service organisation so I feel I should be able justify missing class to go. Thankfully my lecturers seem to agree with me as long as I get my assignments in on time.

Apart from study this week has just been crazy in general and I've been doing a bit of self care after a crazy (but fun!) church camp. I ended up running the quiz night (I did it last year as well) with only 3 days notice and no one could tell. I've been told that it's now my 'thing' to do for camp so bring on next years!

On Wednesday I managed to fall down the stairs on campus and sprain my right ankle, the stairwell is dim so I couldn't see a step and missed it then my ankle buckled (which I'm used to happening due to be double jointed) when I tried to regain my footing and I fell down 3 steps and landed on the ankle that buckled. I gave 2 of my classmates a scare and I thought I was fine but within a couple of hours my ankle had swelled and it was painful. I was complaining to my mum and sister about why did it happen to me and my sister said 'Don't you mean why didn't it happen to you sooner?!' such a sympathetic sister! I've put it in a pressure bandage and just trying to take it easy for the time being.
I ended up filling out an incident report form on campus, so I will see what happens with that but I doubt we will get better lighting in the stairwell anytime soon.

Moving onto Five Friday Favourites:

Pastel Rainbow Umbrella - did I need this umbrella? Not really but that didn't stop me from buying it last week.  I find the Smiggle umbrellas really hold up well and the colours on this one are so pretty! Its a bit metallic and sparkly to, so perfect to brighten up an outfit on a wet day :) you can also buy a plain rainbow one if pastels aren't your thing (I bought it last year and everyone loves it).

Wonder on DVD - I saw this movie in the theatres and it was so good! It's heart warming and the story is really well told, also the acting is beautiful in it. It's one of those that people of all ages and backgrounds could get something out of and really shows all sides to the story.

Tarte Rainforest of the Sea eyeshadow palette vol. 2 - I was minding my own business last Monday when I got an email saying that Tarte had a buy one get on half price sale with free shipping sale for 6 hours only. So two of these palettes made it into my cart (one for me and one for a gift). I wanted a smallish palette that I could take when I head over to east in a couple of weeks and this one looks perfect, plus you don't need a primer for the shadows either which is great. The colours are also very versatile and there's a decent range for all skin tones.

Cat Bracelet: Shine - this is such a cute delicate bracelet and a fun way to show your love of cats. I've been eyeing this off for my sister (who wears mostly gold, I wear silver) for a while so when it came down to half price I grabbed it and the pictures don't do it justice.  It's perfect to wear anywhere and the charms on it are so cute!

Burden of Truth - I was pleasantly surprised when I started watching this show and despite the main character being a lawyer its in no way a legal drama. When big city lawyer, Joanna Hanley returns to her hometown to try and settle a case with a vaccine company and girls who are getting sick supposedly from the vaccine. She has no idea what she is in for and just how many girls are affected and that reason behind it is much bigger than just a vaccine. Once you start watching this series you won't be able to stop and I am interested to see where it goes!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What can change in a month after a panic attack

Growing up there were so many things I wanted to be (hairdresser, florist, vet nurse, child care worker...) and up until recently I wanted to work in administration environment. I then had to reassess my career plans when after almost 2 years I could not find work in that area. I figured I would study IT and work with computers but after a panic attack on the second day I knew it wasn't meant to be. It's funny looking back on when I had the panic attack it was like my mind was telling me IT work wasn't something I could do and making an excuse to get out of the course. I actually remember feeling SO relieved when I was told I could meet with careers counsellor to find another course if I didn't feel like the course was a good fit for me.
I never in a million years thought I would be studying community services or enjoying it as much as I am. What's also funny is that both my psych and employment agency felt that IT was never going to be a good fit for me and feel that community services is my niche.
Community services is such a broad area so I have no idea where this course will land me. I want to help people, I LOVE the work I do for ReachOut, I've worked in local government before, I have life experience with a mental illness and are able to relate those going through similar experience and I have experience with people with disabilities.
I had a psych appointment yesterday and she was saying how good I look and how she's never seen me this mentally healthy. Sure my anxiety likes to flare up at random times(sometimes for no reason at all) but my down days aren't as frequent and I feel a lot more in control of my anxiety and mental health. I also think not having the unemployment label is helping instead I am a full time student not just someone struggling to find a job in a tough job market. I'm not waiting for the phone to ring regarding job interviews or putting all my hopes and prayers in to job applications or dealing with employment agency meetings that leave me walking away from them in tears. Instead I am studying 3 days a week, doing assignments and getting excited about the future. I'm doing ReachOut forum work on my non class days and at night after study. I'm dreaming of new ways I can get involved as a Youth Ambassador and how I can help ReachOut grow in the future. I'm putting what I am learning into practice with ReachOut and putting my experience with ReachOut into my study.
It's hard to believe that this path all started with a major panic attack and from something so scary something so good could come of it.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Five Friday Favourites

Another week is over! I'm 4 weeks down in my TAFE course I am really enjoying it so far, of course I have assignments due in the next few weeks which I'm not really enjoying but I am loving what I am learning :)
Next weekend is church camp down south which I can't wait for, I am so ready for a little getaway and spending time with church family is always fun. I've gotten permission to leave class early on Friday so I am hoping to beat the traffic heading down south for the long weekend (my aim is to race home have a shower and be on the road by 4.00pm). It's always a fun filled weekend with lots of board games, ice cream and fellowship which is just what I need.

Onto Friday Favourites:

Pink and gold leather clutch - do I need another clutch? Probably not, but I've been wanting one from Kikki K for so long I finally went for it :) the size is perfect and the colours make me happy. I have a feeling this will be my go to clutch for events and for outfits where I need a pop of colour.

Greenhouse Academy Season 2 - I watched this last week and I am still speechless, I honestly had no idea where it was going at times but it was really good. I will say some of the characters got on my nerves (looking at Aspen here) but the cast chemistry was great and it was a great season overall. Of course it had to end on a cliff hanger so I am hoping for a season 3.

Dusk Rewards - I finally took the plunge and joined Dusk Rewards, its valid for two years and if you love candles its worth it. You pay $10 which you get back as a voucher emailed to you within 24 hours of joining up. Plus you get 10% off all full priced items and 5% off sale items, you also get a $20 voucher on your birthday. So over 2 years it's $50 worth of value plus all you save from the discounts you get.

Breeze Bud Vase in teal - fresh flowers always make me happy and I think vases are one of those things you never buy. I always think a collection of small vases on a table works for a variety of occasions and you can mix and match colours and materials, I couldn't resist purchasing this vase. Of course it's not for me but for a gift but I really like it and I hope the recipient likes it as well.

Disney Zombies soundtrack - by now it's no secret I love DCOMs and I had to download the latest movie soundtrack. The songs are catchy and fun, though my favourite is Stand (the video clip is a bit weird but the song is good) and I've been playing it on repeat since last Friday.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five Friday Favourites

This past week has been very full on! Its been my first full week of Tafe and I'm really loving my course. I feeling overwhelmed (which is understandable) as I have been given all my assignments and what's expected of me at my course, but bring it on!
I haven't been trying to do much else other than making sure I survive Tafe and keeping my anxiety in check. I saw my psych on Tuesday which was good and something I needed, I've also been trying to get in lots of down time where possible and not plan too much.  I did however see The Greatest Showman with Jocelyn on Tuesday night and I can see what all the hype is about, Hugh Jackman is amazing and it's a great family movie.

Onto Friday Favourites:

Greenhouse Academy season 2 - next Wednesday season 2 is finally released (so if you're single like me throw in a tub of ice cream, maybe a cat or two and your Valentines Day plans are sorted haha) and I am so excited! I'm currently re-watching it for the 4th (?) time to get ready to binge all of season 2. I really like this show and I have no idea why but it's drawn me in despite it not being something I would normally watch. Also this song from it is currently stuck in my head, please send help!

This what anxiety looks like (for me) blog post - this took me a long time to write down but I am so glad I did! It gives a closer look into what goes on in my head an update on how my Tafe studies are going. I am so proud with how I've coped and I'm really enjoying my course, of course today I am dead after 2 full on days but I am happy and feel like I am finally getting somewhere. At this stage I'm just praying I find/get a good prac placement, as I want to start getting up my hours sooner rather than later (I need 120 prac hours and don't want to do it full time for four straight weeks).

Dusk 8 pack soy candle sampler - this was my reward to myself for surviving last week, I really like Dusk candles and find their soy range really nice and the scents not too overpowering. I like how I get to try a range of different scents (including 2 of my favourites - raspberry rosewater and watermelon lemonade) and the candles are so cute while also being a decent size. You could even buy the pack and give the individual candles away as gifts if you wanted.

Everyday movie - I always find at the start of the year there's always a stack of movies I go see at the movies but as the year goes on less get released that I get excited about. This is one those films I intend to see at the movies, I saw the trailer at the movies on Tuesday night and despite seeing it multiple times before (YouTube black holes are real!) I really loved it. It's such an interesting concept and seems like such a great film, the book is currently on my to read list to but whether I read it before or after I see the film is another matter! 

Smash Lunch Bowl - I'm not a huge sandwich fan and would much rather take a salad, soup, leftovers  (we have access to microwaves on campus) or something not a sandwich to Tafe if given the option. The problem is that it can be hard to find containers that are big enough for a decent size portion, won't leak and are microwavable. I was thrilled when I found this among the back to school stuff at Coles and it's been a great container. It fits a decent amount in it, while not being too big or bulky and its microwavable if I take things that need to be reheated up. So far I've had no complaints and it even comes in cute colours (I have the pale blue) which is a fun bonus.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This is what anxiety looks like (for me)

The following two photos in this post were taken just under 24 hours apart (a week ago), these are to help show you the realities of what it's like living with anxiety.
This photo was taken after my first day at Tafe, it had gone well and I was feeling on top of the world. I posted the selfie on Facebook with a positive caption and it got multiple likes within minutes. Yes the anxiety was present but it was at a low level compared to what it had been in the morning.

This photo was taken the next day after the biggest panic attack I have had in years. I look broken. all the make up that I had put on in the morning had been washed away with my tears, my face is puffy and my heart is still racing. I'm in my car in my driveway after driving home from campus after the attack.

In both photos anxiety is present, while it is more obvious in the second it doesn't mean that it's not there in the first. Every day I do things and make decisions surrounding my anxiety, what I can cope with and how it will affect me long term; I can't work full time, I have less stamina than most people as I spend a lot of energy keeping my anxiety under control in new situations, I need routine, I bite my nails (severely I might add) and fidget a lot, I take medication daily and see my doctor regularly to make sure its at the correct dose, I see my psych every 3 weeks, I need more support in new situations to start off with, the list could go on and on...

I started Tafe last week, I had been unemployed for almost 2 years and figured it was time to study something to upskill and hopefully get employed. Monday went well but on Tuesday I had a panic attack.  I felt like I was drowning while trapped in a box and I was thankful to make it to student services in time before it got worse. I had been feeling fragile all morning and even apologised to the lecturer that he would be getting the anxiety version of me (do we need to apologise for having a mental illness?) but at 11.00am something changed, none of my strategies were working and by 11.30am (which was when break started) the attack was coming whether I wanted it or not (I didn't!). I'm so thankful to the staff in student services who were amazing and helped me calm down and assured me it was ok and they always saw panic attacks during the first week. Once I was calm enough they helped discuss my options and helped book an appointment with a careers counsellor the next day (I thankfully didn't have class on Wednesdays).
As soon as I got home  I took the medication I reserve for extreme anxiety situations which helped my heart stop racing and shut down my anxiety ridden brain, I finally got hold of my psych and texted a few people just because I needed to process what had happened and get their view on it. I was feeling like a failure and just wanted to run away from the situation. I posted the above photo to Facebook because I felt that I needed to show people just how bad anxiety can be.
Normally the day after I have a panic attack I spend the day hiding and recharging, but this time I couldn't. One of my friends is heading over east to live and we had a final catch up before she left, I also met with my bible study leader who was concerned about me before I had the careers counsellor appointment in the afternoon. It was really full on and the complete opposite of what I would normally do.
The careers counsellor meeting went well, the student services officer I had seen on Tuesday also came with me. We discussed what I was interested in, why I chose the course I did (desperate for employment? I enjoyed IT in high school?), what I thought set off my panic attack (the course too full on? Lecturers overwhelming me?) and my employment and volunteer history. I wasn't particularly keen to do another IT course and I admitted I found the class load really overwhelming plus all the additional work I would need to put in which I wasn't expecting.
We ended up discussing my volunteering history including how much work I do for ReachOut and what attracted me to that. Because of that we settled on a Cert. 4 in Community Services, there were no places at the campus I was currently enrolled in but there were places at a campus 20 minutes away, so I decided to transfer into that course instead.
I will say that the current campus I was on had no parking and starting at the end of the month we would have to pay for parking. Even getting there at 8.00am didn't mean you got a parking space and you would have to park quite a distance away (off a main road) and walk, which didn't help my anxiety at all.
The load for this course is also a lot less (despite it still being a Cert. 4) and only 2.5 days, so I'm on campus 12.00-4.30pm Wednesdays, 9.00am-4.00pm Thursdays and 9.00am-3.30pm Fridays. Which is totally doable and leaves Mondays and Tuesdays free to do catch up work, psych appointments, ReachOut work and self care (or retail therapy haha). I will also have 4 weeks of prac instead of class in May but that's only 3 days a week which is manageable for me and how many days I want to work.

This all happened a week ago and a week later I am in a completely different place than what was I was this time last week.
I've survived my first day of Cert. 4 Community Services and LOVED IT, I honestly didn't think I would be so excited about studying something. While I am feeling overwhelmed by the assignments I'm also so excited to get into them (remind me when I have them all due!). I really like the lecturer I had on Friday (I only started Friday) and I'm told the lecturers I have on Wednesdays and Thursdays are also good ones.
I've set up an appointment with student support services tomorrow on my new campus which will be good. I would much rather have things put in place now to prevent panic attacks and my anxiety getting in the way than wait and it effect my studies. I'm not too sure what will be put in place, but I would like my lecturers to know that I have anxiety and to be understanding when I have bad days. I also want extra support during my prac as that's going to be a source of anxiety to some stage.
I saw my psychologist today and walked through the attack with her (starting from when I woke up, to the attack happening and what was going on in my brain when it was happening) and she told me there was NOTHING I could do to prevent it from happening. I did everything right and followed the strategies exactly, sometimes these things just happen and its ok. She also thinks this course is perfect for me and did admit she had some concerns regarding the Cert 4 in Computer Systems Technology. She did point out that I was in a stressful workplace for 6 months and didn't have a panic attack at all which is saying something about m old course and it not being right for me.

The reality is that I will always have anxiety and I work SO HARD to keep it under control and manageable. So while I might not look anxious or show the physical symptoms of anxiety it is there, I might just be having a good or ok day or I'm doing such a good job at hiding a bad day so you won't notice.
I'm what anxiety looks like but I am one of many who have anxiety and live with it on a daily basis. There is no picture fits all when it comes to mental illness and that's ok. Remember just because you can't see mental illness doesn't mean its not there.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

When the anxiety won't leave you alone

All the what ifs are circling in my mind and I can't stop them. I want to let the tears falls but know that if I do my anxiety will win and I can't let it, not this early in the game. 
I want to pack a bag and run far away as far away as possible but it's not practical and after all these years I should know I don't have it in me. I'm in a much better place than I was when I last did Tafe, I've been diagnosed with severe panic attacks and received treatment for them, I see a psych every 3 weeks and know the signs but I can't help and wonder whether I will face panic attacks.
I've done things I never in a million years I thought I would do despite my anxiety and I know I can handle Tafe yet the anxiety is telling me I can't and I will fail at it. 
I have these dreams of being trapped in places, my old workplace and the first high school I attended and these have been returning lately. I'm told its due to anticipation anxiety something that is normal yet I long for a dreamless sleep one where I'm not trapped in these places. 
I've had these urges to do things that don't need to be done just yet but my mind said they had to be done or else. It's like my mind is preparing me for the worst, the anxiety that will rule me and take over my life so I need to be organised. I've gone through and repacked my bag for Tafe multiple times, checking the orientation room's location over and over again and looking at the map so I know where I need to be tomorrow morning. I know the time I need to leave by and the time I will most likely leave by because my anxiety will mean I can't stay in the house a minute longer tattooed in my mind. I have what I will wear tomorrow (down to the shoes and jewellery) planned out, how my hair and make up will be done and all these other small (unimportant) details sorted. 
I can pretend that everything is fine but deep down I am struggling to keep the anxiety at bay and wishing it would leave me alone.