Erm... remember last month (or in fact, January) when I said I would update my blog more frequently and well, at least once a month?
Well, can we just ignore the silence that was February. To be fair, February was a bit mad. And a month I have been happy to consign to the bin and file under "months we must never, ever talk about again".
Generally January is my black month - where I mope about thinking about my tax bill (yeuch!) and how cold it is and all other such things. But January passed in quite an uneventful haze of writing, not being really all that cold and tax bill being paid just about on time.
February, however, unleashed itself like a hound of hell on me (Does that sound dramatic enough? I want it to sound just about as dramatic as it can?). First of all I HAD to finish the book - which meant writing around the clock on top of general mammy-ness and working full time and all that. (Not meant to be a woe is me post, but I felt a bit woe is me). I also took to baking a lot - trying the Marian Keyes, "it it's broke, feck it in the oven and bake the hoop out of it" approach.
And I made soup - a LOT of soup - all Slimming World friendly and exceptionally time consuming it was too. When I say I made soup, I mean from scratch. In a big heavy bottomed pot with loads of fresh veg and stock and not a single tin opener.
It was lovely soup, I have to say. Really healthy and nutritious but as I stood sweating onions and blending tomatoes and crushing garlic I thought of the perfectly lovely tinned soup in the cupboard which I could open and heat in three minutes and wondered - really, did I have to make my own soup? I firmly believe the baking and the soup making started to serve as a welcome distraction from the book writing, which then made me more anxious....a vicious cycle of buns and Leek and Potato soup and book guilt ensued.
Oh yes, anxiety. It came back - in waves of horrible adrenalin coursing through my body, starting at the top of head and rushing downwards hitting every nerve on the way making me feel nauseous to the point that yes, I started being physically sick. (Which was nothing to do with the soup or the buns, before anyone gets smart). I started doing the crying thing too - as I did the last time "the darkness" took hold which meant when I wasn't snapping at people I was bursting into tears.
And the dark thoughts returned as well. The thing about the dark thoughts, and the crying and the adrenalin is that you don't know how long it will stay for. Will be a day or two of feeling crappy and scared, or more? How dark will the thoughts get? How scary will it be? How will you be able to cope? Do you want to cope any more?
I am aware this is essentially a light hearted author page/ blog and I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about how bad things got, but they have - mostly - passed. I still am taking medication for panic attacks. I have to be religious about taking my anti-depressants. Not taking them does not end well. I have to keep making the soup and eating well and trying to get some fresh air. And I cut out a little picture from my Slimming World magazine which says "You Can Do It" and I put it in my purse and look at it often.
People say maybe I should remind myself there are people worse off than me - and while that is a relatively good technique - too much time thinking about people who are worse off than me leads me to feel really doubly guilty and very anxious about the state of the world and wondering when the bad things which have happened to them will happen to me. So really, for someone as neurotic as I am it might not be a good move afterall.
I'm lucky I know though that I have had friends and family who have helped me through. Who have been there (and sometimes just being there is enough), who have listened and who haven't said "Pull yourself together". That means a lot.
Now, the other thing which February brought was the experience of me having a smear test with a toddler in the room. (This was not a planned occurence, in case you wondered). Simple tip for anyone going for a dreaded smear (which you MUST MUST have because fandangos are precious commodities) is bring an inquisitive toddler with you. You will be so concerned wondering if she will say, do or see something inappropriate that the actual act of getting your hoo-haa out for a relative stranger will be much less daunting. My own version of toddler came out with a cracker. She stayed head end, chatting to me but did ask the doctor what was "up there" as she delved around in my region.
As I had (very badly - slapped wrist to me) put off my smear test for a year I was TERRIFIED waiting for the result (which probably contributed to the 'bad' days) - but thankfully I got an all clear. I have vowed not to put them off ever again - although by the time I'm next due one I won't have a toddler to make it more bearable any more and I don't see anyone offering me a loan of one of theirs... Note to self: Must find a different coping strategy for 2015.
In writing news I FINISHED THE BOOK. I cried (happy tears thankfully) when I finished it, looked at it for a long time and felt as I had been on a mammoth journey. The book, called What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, is the most out and out love story I've ever written - except that of course it's a couple of love stories, with very many spanners thrown in the works, and broken hearts akimbo and all. It really touched me in a way none of my other books have and made me tap into my own feelings about love and marriage - how tough it can be, how good it can be, how sometimes love isn't enough and (to quote a cheesy song) how sometimes all you need is love. It's set between a magazine office (the same one from Rainy Days and Tuesdays) and a wedding dress shop called The White Room, which I actually really want to own and run.
It is now with my publishers and agent and please God, it will be out before the end of the year.
And finally, my brother made a YouTube ad for me - on the theme If Only You Knew about Claire Allan.
We maybe should have put a disclaimer on the end (You know, the Irish one...not the other one who writes very serious books and appears in The Guardian and the like...).