It’s my pleasure to introduce author, Gail Mitchell, as she releases her fabulous book, Loving the Life Less Lived (you can read my review tomorrow). Over to Gail…
The Fun Stuff:
What part of the world do you come from?
I was born in Nottingham, but spent my teenage years in Brentwood in Essex (before it became famous for TOWIE). After studying in York I came back to Nottingham, moved to Bristol for six years then back to Nottingham again. Nottingham is my home, it’s like a magnet that keeps drawing me back.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An Air Hostess! Even though it’s not politically correct to call them that anymore. Other than that I wanted to be a recluse!
List three words to describe yourself.
Well avoiding the obvious anxiety related words I would say:
Compassionate, Intelligent, Honest
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Well you’ve probably never heard of her but when I saw Vicky Hall on Casualty a few months ago I said, ‘ that’s who I’d have playing me in a movie of my life’!
What’s your favourite snack food when writing?
I rarely snack when I’m writing (which is strange as I snack at all other times) but I love to have a bottle of fizzy flavoured water to sip on. Indulgent huh?
If you had a super power, what would it be?
I’d love to never get tired and never need sleep. I could get so much more done with an extra eight hours a day. And I do sleep a lot, and get very tired, which seems such a waste when my mind has so much to get on with!
The Sensible Side:
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I’ve always written. I still have a diary I kept when I was five and I remember when I was eight I wrote a story at school with several chapters that was read out by my teacher. I started writing poetry in my teens, sometimes comic poetry but most often to express my emotions. I still write poetry when the urge takes me. I love writing for the sense of peace it gives me and how it helps me sort my thoughts into some kind of order. I wrote a novel about fifteen years ago with high hopes of getting it published but it was absolutely diabolical. I’m so glad no one published it because then it would be out there in the public domain with my name on!
When I’m not writing I work as a Bookkeeper / Accountant which might seem a world away from writing but it is similar in that I can get absorbed in it and find it very calming. I have fairly introverted hobbies like doing cryptic crosswords and reading but I do have a good network of friends and enjoy coffee. Sitting in a café and writing is probably my best way to spend a couple of hours. I have travelled a lot in the past and would love to travel some more in the future.
Where did the inspiration for Loving the Life Less Lived come from?
I’d always thought of writing fiction, never this sort of book but then I had an epiphany moment. I describe this in detail in the prologue of the book, so I have included that section as the excerpt for you below. The title kind of came out my musings that same night, I fell in love with the title right away and the idea for the book. It was almost like a calling once I had the idea, something I had to do and keep doing until it was finished.
How difficult was it to share your experiences in this book? Did it help you cope?
Not at all. I’ve always been very open and honest about my experiences of mental health, all I need is an audience, and here the blank page was my audience. Writing it down did help me to rationalise experiences and events in my past but more than that just the process of writing, of being absorbed in something so deeply that you don’t have time or brain space to worry was therapeutic. I did think quite often ‘no one is going to want to read this’ but it didn’t really matter to me at the time. It was just important that I got it written. Like I said above, it was almost like a calling.
Can you give us a brief excerpt from Loving the Life Less Lived?
Excerpt from Loving the Life Less Lived
A few days prior to the checkout incident an old school friend who I hadn’t seen for twenty-five years tweeted a video of herself giving a talk at the Global Summit of Womensphere. Angela is now a marketing executive, she lives in the USA, flies around the world and gives talks at global summits. At school she wasn’t the cleverest, prettiest or funniest person in the class. OK, she may have been up there with the leaders and high achievers, but she had no better start in life than I did. A huge voice inside my head told me not to look at this video. Not to rub salt into the wound of feeling a failure at how successful and fulfilled my classmates were compared to me. At the age of forty-five I had just left yet another job because of my anxiety issues. Did I really want to come face-to-face with how my life could have turned out if things had been a bit different?
Well of course I did. If there is a scab there, it is human nature to pick at it. I was lying in bed at the time, feeling very sorry for myself as I watched Angela’s clip. She hadn’t changed at all, hadn’t even developed an annoying American accent (at least I could have hated her for that!). Her six-minute video talked about creating your own unique personal brand. Angela explained that we each have a unique and powerful set of skills and experiences that we can use to extend our influence and help others. She urged the women in the room to be their authentic selves and walk their own path. She said it’s the things that are different about you, rather than the similarities with others, that make you memorable.
I turned the video off feeling utterly depressed and cried into my pillow. Not only was I a worthless nobody compared to my classmates (Angela had by now personified every other person I was at school with – they were all successful business women inmy mind) but she was wrong! Maybe the people sitting in a conference room had a ‘unique and powerful skill set,’ but I didn’t.
All I’m good at, I thought to myself bleakly, is being anxious, worrying and messing up my life. I thought about it a bit longer. Yep, that’s definitely all I’m good at, my sorry-for-myself head told me. ‘And writing,’ a slightly positive voice chipped in. Feeling anxious … and writing? Yes, I have over forty years’ personal experience of anxiety and mental health issues – and I quite like to write. Was it possible that this was my unique personal brand?
No – don’t be ridiculous. No one wants to hear about mental health issues. Do they? And yet, according to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience mental health problems in the course of any one year, with anxiety and depression being the most common. That means that in a room of twenty people, five of them will have a mental health problem this year! Worldwide, 450 million people have a mental health problem. Views towards mental health have changed over the past twenty years but there is still a huge stigma attached to it and many people still find it embarrassing to admit to or talk about. A quick search on that large online bookstore that is so popular nowadays showed me that there are hundreds of books by so-called experts on anxiety, panic, phobias and depression, but I could count on one hand the books written by people who had actually lived through it.
One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. Fundamental Facts About Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, reproduced with kind permission
So this is my story, but maybe it’s your story too. If you had plans, dreams and aspirations and yet somehow illness, grief, mental ill health or just ‘life’ came along and robbed you of those plans, then welcome to Loving the Life Less Lived. It’s time to celebrate!
It is true that, on my better days, I love my life and the new experiences my disability has brought me. I wouldn’t swap places with anyone, however glamorous and exciting their life looks like from the outside. I have lived through panic attacks, suicidal periods, depression, fears, terrors and daily anxiety and I always bounce back smiling, learning and loving life more.
If you are feeling anxious, low or depressed, this book won’t magically make you feel better but it will hopefully make you realise you are not alone. It might not provide any answers, although I hope you will find something useful within its pages; after all, nearly a lifetime of mental ill health has made me somewhat of an expert in the field, more than any amount of academic study could have done.
I’m not writing this book to wear my heart on my sleeve and tell you how hard done by I am. I am definitely not hard done by. Almost all of my problems have been in my head and I am sure you have experienced much worse. What I want to share with you is the lessons I have learned along the way. They won’t be your lessons but I hope they will inspire you to tell your own story, to discover your own unique and authentic personality and experience, and most importantly to realise that the Life Less
Lived is the best life of all.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am halfway through the first draft of a young adult fiction, it has themes of mental health in it but it is still fiction. I have some ideas for follow ups to Loving the Life Less Lived but I want to see how the first book is received before I do anymore. As well as continuing with writing I also have ambitions to set up or get involved in a charity to support people with mental health issues to use writing to express themselves and to make sense of their emotions. It has always been a valuable tool for me and one I would like to share with others.
How can we contact you or find out more about you and your books?
I have a website where you can see some of my poetry and read a bit more about me: www.lovingthelifelesslived.com
If you haven’t already seen Red Door have an author’s page on me
You can follow me on twitter: @GailMitchell42
I have a page on Facebook too (but I don’t put much on that). It’s called Loving the Life Less Lived.
HUGE thanks to Gail for sharing her journey with us today, be sure to check out Living the Life Less Lived.
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