Love and Remission by Annie Belasco: Book review

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(image: Trigger Publishing and Annie Belasco)

I only tend to review books that make an impact on me and that really touch my heart.

I ordered Annie’s book ‘Love and Remission’ , about her life recovering from breast cancer in her twenties and finding the love of her life. Annie and I have been connected on Twitter and she is signed to the same publisher as me so I was super excited to read her inspirational story.

When reading, I found a person of immense strength and an amazing sense of humour. Annie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer aged just 25 years old. Her entire life was falling apart but she found a way through treatment, through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy-to put it back together. She describes what it was like for her to lose her hair and buy wigs, and to go through a masectomy and trying to feel womanly again- which she succeeded in doing. She was scared that the treatment wouldn’t work but she is now incredibly,  in remission.

Annie also had mental health issues due to the trauma but talks about how she slowly overcame her anxiety to live again.

The ‘love’ part in the title refers to her now husband, who she met while undergoing treatment and who stood by her against all the odds.

I don’t want to reveal any more than that- but this book was so inspiring, so moving, so well written that I read it in just two days!

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about cancer and mental health whilst being a young woman. Annies story truly blew me away- with her strength, courage and unique take on life- she is so fun loving- and really loves her friends and family.

I was so touched by this book and her story. Thank you for writing it.

 

(You can buy the book now by Trigger on Amazon and in bookstores).

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How Love Island helps my mental health.

I first discovered the reality dating show Love Island back in 2016, when it returned for its second series.

At first, I didn’t expect a great amount of entertainment, but what I found is that among the frivolity and fake tans, there’s a wonderful exploration of human relationships. Each night at 9pm, you can lose yourself in the dating lives of others.

I suffer from anxiety and have bipolar disorder, and this element of escapism has helped with my mental health issues.

In the past I’ve suffered from panic attacks linked to social anxiety and, at times, stress in the workplace. A distracting outlet like Love Island allows me to shake off the adrenaline highs and the depressive lows that follow.

Instead of feeling anxious or having negative thoughts swirling around in my brain, I can watch Love Island and occupy my mind, while also connecting with other fans online.

Whether its watching someone get ‘pied off’ (rejected) or couples getting together, there is always something going on.

That’s what makes Love Island so addictive and calming, I often feel less anxious once I’ve watched an episode.

There are many humourous elements on the show including bromances (last years one between Kem and Chris and their rapping was a sight to behold) and people form tight friendship groups and attachments very quickly.

Instead of thinking about my daily worries, I’m wondering what’s going on in the contestants’ lives. Whether like last year we followed the ups and downs of Chris and Olivia, or Camilla finally finding her man, watching them build relationships, go on dates and play games is truly fascinating.

Of course, escapism doesn’t replace the support you get from a doctor, counsellor or family and friends.

While personally I’ve had a positive experience watching Love Island, the show has been criticised for exacerbating mental health issues for viewers and for its contestants, too.

Where vulnerability is concerned, all reality TV can influence people, for good or for bad,’ explains Jo Hemmings, a behavioural media and celebrity psychologist.

While it is very often real people in real time, it isn’t in fact a reflection of true reality at all and so it’s important to distinguish that what we are watching is a made-for-entertainment TV series, which may or may not bear any similarity to real life as we live it.

‘My advice would be if it brings you pleasure, enjoy it – but if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, it’s best to watch something else.

‘The Love Island contestants are well-cared for psychologically – assessed before the show and supported throughout. As a reality TV series, it is known for a few enduring relationships and friendships, so again I think they are treated with care and compassion off screen.’

At times, the show promotes a body image that can feel unrealistic, especially for someone like myself, having had a lot of therapy to improve my self-esteem.

Due to the perfect body image presented in can impact peoples self esteem especially if they have an eating disorder.

I asked my Twitter followers whether Love Island was good for our mental health? The most striking issue they presented to me was body image.

Edward Clements  ‘ I can see how it will maybe affect people who are less confident with their body image and cause them to feel worse. This is mainly because most of the men are always shirt less and very fit’.

Sarah TDefinitely makes me body check & compare myself to girls on programme. I wouldnt want to eat whilst watching. I am in a good place at the moment in terms of my eating disorder but if I wasn’t could be triggering. The show encourages placing value of the person in the way they look rather than their personality values too.’

So, body image is a real concern for many watching the show. This state of perfection promotes a negative body image and could harm self esteem.

Ben Edwards, relationship coach and self confidence expert agrees with this,

Reality TV shows like Love Island can of course affect our mental health both positively or negatively. Some people may find that this reignites their belief in love as unlikely couples find romance on screen, providing hope. Reality TV does not always reflect reality. It  might seem like harmless, light entertainment, we often compare ourselves because we feel something is missing. Confide in a loved one or seek professional advice if needed.’

The Love Island team said to us in a statement,
The duty of care towards all of our Islanders is always of paramount importance. Our islanders have ongoing access to an on site psychologist as well as show producers should they need it.’

I can’t wait for the next eight weeks of Love Island 2018.

It brings me joy each summer and I hope it will for you, too.

With thanks to Jo Hemmings, Ben Edwards, Love Island Press Team, Edward Clements and Sarah Tayleur for their expert comments.

Dating with a Mental Illness: for Glamourmagazine.co.uk by our founder Eleanor

Here is an extract from an article I wrote for Glamour UK Magazine (online) which was a dream come true. It is my true story about what dating with bipolar and social anxiety is like. I hope it helps you. For full article see link at the end:

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(image: from stock and Glamour)

According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety every single week. Eleanor Segall is one of those six, having lived with bipolar disorder for 13 years. Here, she shares her candid account of what so many millennials struggle with every single day: finding love while secretly battling a mental health disorder. Eleanor reveals in honest detail the judgement she faced in her quest for “The One” and how she finally learnt to open up about the taboo illness and let herself fall in love.

“I sat on my bed with tears running down my face. ‘I have something to tell you’, I said to my boyfriend, two months into dating.

“It isn’t easy and I wanted to tell you sooner but I didn’t want to share it too soon. Three years ago, I was hospitalised for my bipolar disorder. I didn’t want to tell you, in case you saw me differently or thought I was ‘crazy’. I wanted you to get to know me for me and see my personality and who I really am without it.”

He looked at me with genuine care and said, “Eleanor it doesn’t matter. I want to be with you for you, the fact you have an illness doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I want to be educated on it. Tell me more.”

So, for two hours, I told him everything. I told him how I had been diagnosed at 16 with bipolar affective disorder and how it may run in my family. I told him there could be times when I would be unwell with severe depression or mania and would have to stop working, that I had had psychosis in the past – but that I was medicated with Lithium and anti depressants to hold my moods.

I told him I had been hospitalised as a teenager and, at aged 25, my life had been far from easy, but that the love of my family and support from my medical team, had saved my life. He listened, supported and held no stigma towards me or my illness. It was a revelation after many years of dating men that may not have always understood how best to support me or for whom I was not ‘the one’.

With disclosure of a mental health condition and because I was diagnosed so young, there were many years of dating fear for me. I feared others judgement of the fact I had bipolar and at times this turned into anxiety prior to going on dates.

I was worried that people would think I was different or not worthy enough and when I look back, that is because I was struggling to deal with how I saw myself. As a teenager, you don’t want to be different, you want to fit in and as I reached my early 20’s, I began to be very anxious about dating. My self esteem had taken a battering as well as I had had my heart broken in a past relationship, which led to depression and anxiety.

I survived the heartbreak, however, I knew that I wanted to settle down with someone and have a family, but I didn’t know if it would ever be possible. Particularly after I was in hospital, I had no idea whether there would be a man who could deal with my illness and all it can entail.

There were so many times when I cancelled dates (often blind ones set up through well meaning friends or family) because I would get so nervous, my heart would race and I would be terrified that they would see through the well cultivated veneer. On first and second dates particularly I always felt I was hiding something: my mental health past.

But I wasn’t alone. According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety each week.

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Britney Spears, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Demi Lovato have all talked about their struggles with bipolar disorder.

A year and a half after I left hospital and had recovered, I began to date again and signed up to an online dating website to meet new people, set up through acquaintances. The social anxiety was at its height and I often had to cancel dates two or three times before meeting. Some men gave up on me due to this, but some understood.

A year and a half after being fully back on the dating scene, I met my current boyfriend. We clicked from our first date in a coffee shop and our second date (drinks at a lovely local pub).

Read more and full article here: http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/dating-with-a-mental-illness