The Girl who Lost her Shadow: Guest blog by Author, Emily Ilett.

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The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow is a story about sisterhood. It’s about being there for each other when everything feels like it is falling apart.

Gail and Kay used to swim every week, but everything had changed after their dad left. Now, Kay never left her room if she could help it. She hardly ate, and if she looked at Gail, it was like she was looking all the way through her, as if she was invisible.

When Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. So when Kay becomes tired, sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is furious with her sister.

But after Gail’s own shadow disappears on her twelfth birthday, Gail kicks at her sister’s shadow in frustration and it’s then that she begins to understand how Kay really feels.

Her feet prickled as Kay’s shadow gathered around them, silken between her toes. She gasped at the force of it. She felt emptied of everything she cared about, hollow like a clam shell cast up on a beach. Was this how Kay felt?

Kay’s shadow ripples under the bedroom door and out of the house, leaving Gail alone with this new understanding. And so Gail becomes determined to get her sister’s shadow back. She’s sure that if she brings it back, everything will go back to the way it was before Kay became depressed. But the journey she does go on turns out to be quite different.

As she follows Kay’s shadow across the island, she meets Mhirran, a girl who can do Morse code, a storm, and two bird shadows. With her new friends, Gail learns that she is stronger than she thought, and that even though Kay feels so far away, Gail can always find a way to reach her again.

This is a story about the impact of Kay’s depression on Gail, and how Gail finds the courage to be there for her sister, just as Kay has looked out for her so many times before. I think children’s stories about mental health are so important; at a time when everything can be painful and confusing, stories are a way of seeing ourselves and understanding how we can ask for support and give it to those we care about.

Kay said too many people try to do things by themselves – she couldn’t understand it. It’s a brave thing to ask for help, she said. The bravest thing.

When I was a child I struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and at the time I didn’t understand what was happening or that it was a shared experience. As an adult I recently read The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, a beautiful and sensitively written children’s book about a boy called Matthew who has OCD who solves a mystery in his local neighbourhood. It was such a poignant experience reading this book and I am so happy it exists for the next generation of young readers, so that they feel less alone and can find the words to put to their experience or the experience of friends or family.

I hope that The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow will help young people and families talk about depression and mental health, and this tale of magic and adventure provides companionship to young people and supports them to ask for, and give help, themselves.

In this extract, Gail is trapped inside a tree’s shadow and she is looking at a photograph of Kay in the hope that it will give her the strength to escape the shadow.

Gail ran a forefinger down the photo, following the curve of Kay’s cheek. Kay had always been the strong one, not her. She remembered the time when she’d broken her arm and Kay had drawn

twenty-three octopi on her cast so that she had all the arms she needed, and when Kay had spent hours explaining the tides because Gail was afraid of not knowing when the ocean would shift or shrink. She remembered when her sister had taken the blame the day Gail had turned their mum’s umbrella into a jellyfish with pink tissue paper and superglue, and when she’d squeezed Gail’s hand and distracted her with stories of marine biologist Asha de Vos while Gail had her first terrifying injection.

And she remembered one day after Kay had started sinking, when she had turned to Gail in the sticky silence, and said softly, “Do you remember the time we went swimming last October? We stayed in for ages and when we came out our lips and fingers were blue. You squeezed my hand and I couldn’t feel anything at all.” Gail had nodded and Kay stared at her own hand, flexing her fingers. “I feel like that now, Gail. Everything is numb. It’s like I’ve been swimming for hours. But I don’t know how to get out. I can’t get out.”

Gail had stiffened at Kay’s words then. Kay was the strong one. She needed Kay to be the strong one. And so she had tightened her mouth and tapped at the window and shrugged and said nothing at all.

Twigs broke behind her. They crunched in a creature-like way. Gail held her breath; she slipped the photo back in her bag and tried once more to wrestle her feet from the tree’s shadow. It was beginning to convince her that there were leaves growing from her nostrils and in between her teeth: Gail had to touch her face to check that there weren’t. She tugged her hair behind her ears, and shifted her rucksack higher on her back.

Leaves crackled to her right, followed by the scuttling of insects disturbed.

“Hello?” Gail whispered. “Who’s there?”” 

(The Girl who Lost her Shadow)

 

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This blog was written by author Emily Ilett. ‘The Girl Who Lost her Shadow’ is out now with Floris books and on Amazon. 

Loving Yourself: 4 Tips for Living a Body Positive Life: Guest blog by Emma Sturgis

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(image: Emma Sturgis)

Starting to live a body-positive life all begins with you, the individual. It can be challenging with so much pressure from society trying to dictate our lives. It becomes easier when you block out all negative forces and decide to start loving yourself and your body no matter what others have to say.

Loving yourself no matter what will increase your happiness and your overall peace in life. Here are four tips to help you down the body-positive life and feel total peace of mind about your body and physical appearance.

Work on Self-love

A significant number of girls have been through the trauma associated with body shaming, especially in high school. Some have taken the weight of the shame to our adult life where we lose our confidence and tend not to love ourselves as we should.

Many women and girls suffer from poor body image for years, or even through their entire life. The first step into living a body-positive life is by loving yourself first. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and no one is perfect. You just have to own your flaws and flaunt your strengths.

This can often be easier said than done, especially with years of social conditioning. You can achieve self-love through daily practices that make you feel your best physically and emotionally. Tell yourself every day that you appreciate your body and all it does for you.

Eat Instinctively and Respectfully

You don’t have to starve yourself to fit into that wedding dress within an unrealistic time-frame. Diets don’t work and neither does overfeeding any time you are stressed, sad or angry. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what your body desires to look great.

If you feel that you are struggling to keep an eating routine and your mental health is worsening, accept the problem and seek inpatient eating disorder treatment. under a psychiatry team or your local doctor.  

 

Change Your Perspective on Exercising

Most of us quit taking exercise and going to the gym because we hate working out. Exercise can be fun when we redirect the focus from it being a weight loss challenge to treating your body correctly and healthily.

You don’t have to attach any pressure or targets to your daily workout routines. Do exercises that are fun to you and even make it a social event with your friends. Once you start viewing exercise as healthy for your body , you will begin to love it. You will enjoy exercising because of how it makes you feel, endorphins from it will make us feel happy. You may even feel proud after a work out!

 

Pamper Your Body

After all the stress and pressure that your body endures, it deserves to be pampered and treated right. Get some good fitting outfits, wear the best lotions, go for therapeutic massages and take frequent hot tub baths. Fall in love with every curve while you look straight into the mirror.

This will allow you to connect with your body instead of feeling detached and negative toward it. You can make these things part of each day. Carve out some time from your busy schedule to pamper yourself, even if it includes simply putting on your favorite perfume. It will give you a simple confidence boost to carry through your day. Always take time for yourself and don’t let your daily tasks take priority over caring for your physical and mental health.

Once you change your mindset, the journey to living a body-positive life will be so much easier. You don’t have to lose 20 pounds to start loving yourself and your body. You are much more than your physical body.

Knowing your worth is a gift to yourself and your body. Eventually, it helps you rediscover your true self. You will be able to go forward in the world with confidence and give your amazing gifts and what you have to offer, to the universe.

This blog was written by freelance writer Emma Sturgis from the USA