Mental health challenges
Like many other people I’ve had my fair share of “mental health” challenges over the last few years. I’ve had waves of anxiety and depression during my mid-twenties which seemed to hang around for a couple of years, accompanied by physical symptoms including a chronic and nauseating tension headache which never seemed to cease. This made the psychological side much more difficult to cope with.
And like many other people, I’ve tried various medications to help, originally amitriptyline for the headaches (which unfortunately did not provide a relief), then sertraline. At the time, I couldn’t quite understand it. I had a stable job (albeit not high paying enough for financial security), good friends and a caring family.
But still I felt like I was constantly covered by a dark shroud, pretending to others that I was fine and to some closer to me I would try and explain how I was feeling. To me, it didn’t seem like they understood. They wanted to help, but I knew they couldn’t. And that felt incredibly isolating, which is meant as no criticism - it’s just how I felt at that time.
Recurring mental health issues I faced
The symptoms eventually subsided and I started to feel good again. However, during the pandemic it got too much for me. I am in a position of privilege where I can get access to medication. And I can see a therapist privately. Which I did, and still am in both cases. I take citalopram daily, and see my therapist bi-weekly. This has been the situation for over a year, and it helps me greatly, a weight feels like it is being lifted after every session.
I’m now in a far more comfortable place psychologically. One of the things that has stuck with me from therapy, is the fact that I was unable to identify, register and process emotions, often suppressing them little by little until I blew up when things got too much. When this realisation materialised, I was amazed.
Then I was shocked, as another realisation came to mind. It’s taken me over thirty years to get to grips with a fundamental part of being human. I pondered why this is. I had a great upbringing and love and admire my parents. But there is something that I think is broken in our culture. Not only were we not taught about emotions as children by adults, the Western systems sublimely tells us to suppress them.
In the workplace, it’s “unprofessional” to be upset, or mad, about something, anything. At school, if you cry you’re called a wimp by your classmates. There’s so many blogs and vlogs out there about getting out of your comfort zone and always having to achieve, even if it is at the cost of the environment or your health, and thinking positively and manifesting great things… It’s exhausting and impossible! Either most people are suppressing feelings in the office or at school, or they must not have any at all.
Sensitivity from childhood
As a child, I was sensitive and I, now proudly, still am. But I read an incredible book recently about The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elizabeth Scott, which highlighted how being sensitive isn’t a weakness. It’s a strength. My sensitivity made me empathetic, compassionate, creative and imaginative. Traits that are frowned upon in some circles. As a child, I drew to express myself. It made me feel comforted. And it has the same effect as an adult. It’s meditative. Above is something I designed as a 9 year old which was used in an Adnam's Brewery anti-crime campaign!
We’ve had a pandemic unfolding way before COVID hit us - the mental health pandemic. I’m not a counsellor or mental health expert, but I was a child and I know when we are young, we are like sponges of knowledge, learning from what’s around us. I think it’s essential that children learn how to be comfortable with their emotions and feelings. They should be allowed and supported to discuss them, to overcome challenges that could turn into a traumatic experience if suppressed.
It’s vital that they are okay with how they feel, and others around them. It’s so common to see others shut down when someone else is expressing a strong emotion, not giving them the space to process. Imagine a world where emotions are normalised, and seen for the biological experience that they are, not some form of dark magic. A world where we can safely break down in front of people and they are okay with it.
Creating the That's Okay children's mental health book
It was with this mindset, or mission, combined with my love for creativity that motivated me to make a children’s emotions and feelings book. As with finding strength with sensitivity, I utilised my imagination which some have seen as bizarre, to create vibrant characters that a child would find fun or amusing. I want to give children the opportunity to learn that all emotions are okay - being angry is part of being a human being. Hopefully this will give them the emotional awareness for adulthood where society becomes more kind and caring toward each other.
At the time of writing, the free version of the eBook has been downloaded almost 1,000 times which is fantastic. And I’ve had lots of great feedback from parents and teachers who are advocating for their children’s mental health. I’ve even been asked to do a reading of the book for a preschool! It’s amazing to see this positivity in the community. And that feeling of isolation has long gone as I can clearly see many people are on the same page about mental health.
About The Book
Emotions can feel strange for adults and children. Sometimes it can be hard to know how you feel and why. That’s why these colourful creatures are here to help.
Through this book, you and your child will meet them all. They all have different emotions from happy to sad.
This book has been created to help children identify what emotions they are feeling and that they don't have to be scary, or upsetting. It should also help children and adults, whether that's a parent, teacher or counsellor, to communicate about feelings
I have illustrated each of the colourful creatures by hand, so that children can read through and enjoy the book whilst learning.
Perfect for children from 4 - 8 years of age.
- 32 page small file size PDF covering 15 different emotions
- Fully illustrated hand-drawn graphics that are vibrant and colourful
- Examples of emotional situations that children and adults can relate to and discuss
- Possible physical feelings of emotions to help the child identify them
- The book has already been downloaded by just under 1,000 people
- Perfect for parents, teachers, counsellors and those in social work