It’s Here

I sit here at 3:58 the day before I plan to launch Undertow. I’ve spent the last 2 years
writing, cutting, illustrating, editing, dreaming.

I’ve had doubts:
“Can I do this?”
“Will people like it?”

And, I’ve had determination:
“I know these words need to be heard.”

Undertow is so different than Waves. Waves was a ripple in the ocean on a calm day. Waves was beautiful, and angelic. Undertow is intense, it is powerful, it is hopeful and strong. I remember when I released Waves I was terrified, it was my first time sharing my writing on a large scale, and I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it, or would hold my words against me somehow. But now, now I truly don’t care. And, I don’t say that in a way that means I don’t care about my supporters. I mean, I don’t care if people like it, because I like it. I believe in it. And, I know, the right people will hold this book and feel at home.

I’ve decided to stay with the ocean theme, because it’s one of the only places I’ve ever felt 100% at peace. It’s a place that means so much to me, and I will continue to dedicate my books to the ocean for as long as it feels right to do so.

It took me a while to decide on the title “Undertow.” At first I considered “Riptide” and then realized Vance Joy’s song would literally flood any millennials mind when they read it. I considered “Shipwreck” and “Shoreline” and basically every other ocean word. But none of them fully encapsulated what I think Undertow is.

=This defines my experiences over the last few years. From outer glance, I was moving in a linear, upwards motion. But under the surface, there were riptides, and they tried with all their might to pull me under the surface at times. They groped my legs as I stood on the shore, begging me to anchor down to the bottom of the ocean. Writing Undertow was proof to myself that I could fight the currants, I could stay on the shore.

And now, here I am, completely in awe that the experience of creating Undertow is coming to a close. I’ve come to realize, I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing. Each book I write holds so much, and if it can be a vehicle to help another person feel less alone in the weight of the ocean, that’s all I can really hope for.

I love you all, I wish I could do another book release party, but I know we’ll all celebrate in our own ways together. I’ve launched an online store where you can purchase Undertow, and feel free to use the discount code PRE15 at checkout for a pre-order 15% off. Printing is set to be finished in November, and shipping will occur in December (Aiming for before Christmas). It’s unexpected if COVID19 will cause shipping delays at that time, but rest assured I will do everything in my power to get Undertow into your hands before Christmas.

If you have any questions about Undertow, when shipping will occur, or any other questions for me, feel free to reach out!

xo

Why I Stopped Writing my Second Book

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while but wasn’t sure where to start.

My first book, Waves, took years to write. It was a bundle of poetry and prose written over the span of 7 years. It was a representation of personal torment and growth. Honestly, it came easily. It was burning inside my chest and I didn’t feel relief until I had it all on paper and in the hands of readers.

The words came easily. I would have dreams of ideas for poems and cool phrases and metaphors would come to me often. Of course, it was a process to write the book in its entirety, but overall the process was seamless.

But- here’s what I never talk about when discussing my writing- It kills me and brings me to life simultaneously. While I’m writing, I isolate myself behind closed doors with headphones on and dive into the darkest corners of my mind. Truly, it’s a scary place to be. But, it provides me with compelling content.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if my writing makes me sick, or better. If it provides me serenity or traps me in a nightmare. And the conclusion I have come to is that it does both. I turn into almost a zombie when I’m writing; not showering, sitting at my desk, or more often in bed, writing and deleting and writing and deleting… I forget to go outside, forget to experience life because I’m so consumed with writing about it.

All of that being said, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing my new book, Undertow. Partly because I have to go out and experience things before I have content to write about, and partly because I’m so tired of writing about the past. It’s exhausting and re-traumatizing, to say the least.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to do instead of write
(in hopes that it will give me inspiration when I’m ready to write again) :

  • Seeing friends. Instead of isolating myself and writing, I’ve been trying to connect with old friends and make new ones. Each person I meet inspires me in some way and contributes to new ideas.
  • Focussing on wellness. When I write, I get into a state where I literally forget to take care of myself, no matter how hard I try to remember. It just isn’t on my radar. So lately I’ve been using this break to focus on nutrition, work & relationships.
  • Planning activities that will inspire me. I’ve been planning trips, social events, even just listening to new music, reading new books (different types and genres than I usually read) and watching new movies and tv shows to spark inspiration.
  • Actually experience my life instead of writing about it: This is a big one. For a while, I was so consumed with writing that I rarely left the house except to go to work and do groceries. Now I’m seeking out experiences, staying present in moments instead of thinking about writing of them later and focussing on goals aside from my next book.

This isn’t to say that there won’t be another book, it’s just going to take longer than I initially thought.

Here’s to living, and experiencing.

TJ

Another Article I found Interesting:

https://www.bustle.com/articles/66871-5-reasons-why-writers-should-take-a-break-from-writing-every-now-and-then-and-what

5 Poetry Books to Read When You’re Struggling

I’m an avid poetry book reader. I have read some that I love, and some that didn’t resonate with me. Here are my top 5 poetry books I read when I’m struggling with mental illness (in no particular order.)

  1. The Sun and Her Flowers– Rupi Kaur
    Words cannot express my love for this author. She covers such a wide spread of topics from heartbreak to immigration and loss. Reading this book was like traveling the world in her shoes. I could feel her pain. Right when I thought she couldn’t top Milk and Honey, she proved me so wrong. And I’m glad she did.

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  2. Pansy – Andrea Gibson
    Andrea Gibsons ability to perform her spoken word so humbly while still wrenching my chest has always amazed me. I was pleasantly surprised by their book. I truly didn’t think the spoken versions of their poetry could translate onto pages without seeming empty. I was 100% wrong. This book is like a big hug when the world is crumbling around you. These poems are your night time screams into your pillow. They hit you in the face and you’ll surely go back for more.

    “They’re telling you to blend in, like you’ve never seen how a blender works, like you’ve never seen the mess from the blade.”

  3. Become  – Emery Allen
    This was the first poetry book I ever fell in love with. It’s imperfectly perfect and will surely engulf you in one breath. It’s simply about growing up…becoming. Great for a nostalgic kinda feel.
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  4. Depression and Other Magic Tricks – Sabrina Benaim
    This book intrigues me. The writing is spectacularly odd. The depth of the symbolism is what kept me turning the pages. It’s perfect for anyone struggling to be. She creates a friendship with the reader and reminds you you’re never alone.
    “I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness I cannot baptise myself in”

  5. Neon Soul – Alexandra Elle
    A hopeful collection of prose and poetry. Elle creates a sense of undeniable hope. These poems are gentle and undeniable inspiring. This book is a healing experience paired with beautiful illustrations. This book should be in everyones self-care tool box.
    “Sometimes you’ll 
    be too magical to contain 
    in a human heart.”

Medication and Mental Illness

Taking medication for mental illness has always been a struggle for me. Not because I think it makes me weak, but because I know most of society thinks so. I’d like to raise the argument that taking medication isn’t for the weak, but for the fighters, the people ready to battle the side effects, judgement and spend years trying to find a medication that doesn’t make them sicker than the mental illness itself.

I have been medicated on and off since the age of 12. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression with components of OCD and insomnia. The doctor prescribed me a baby dose of Effexor. It made me sick, paranoid and put me in a lull of numbness. But, as a young teen, I thought that’s just what my life was going to be like on medication.

I spent 10 years trying to adjust the dose so I could function properly in school, without hyper-paranoia and constant shaking. Eventually at 17 I tried to get off the drug all together. The side-effects were so unbearable, I decided I’d rather battle the mental illness than the medication.

Getting off Effexor was the hardest thing I’ve tried to do. Physically I was nauseous, weak, shaking so badly I could barely get out of bed, my brain zapped and I couldn’t hold a train of thought. I felt like my brain was crumbling and I worried it would always be this way. I got down to a low dose but couldn’t get off of it completely.

In my last semester of High School I tried to end my life. The battle of getting off such an addictive drug, and fighting depression proved to be too much. I felt alone and like the world was a harsh, judgemental space that I had no place in.

Luckily, I got placed in CHEO’s mental health unit, they immediately helped me wean off Effexor (little did I know what I was doing was super dangerous). I tried a handful of different medications under supervision of the Drs at the hospital. Some made me sick, and some made me sicker. I began to lose hope of ever finding relief. Until they tried me on Zoloft. It didn’t make me as sick as any of the others. And eventually, it started to reduce my anxiety and I felt able to face the world again.

I have been on Zoloft since. I have tried to go off of it countless times due to my internal shame and perception that society won’t accept me if I’m on medication. But, I’ve been working to challenge those thoughts. I’d argue that medication is not for the weak, but for the people who are ready to fight for their lives.

I am open about my medication use and mental illness now. At work, I’ll disclose my anxiety and depression with close co-workers. And for the most part, I have experienced only support. Many of them will share their struggles, or open up about family members who have struggled through mental illness. I find this empowering and motivates me to stay stable so I can continue to connect with others who are fighting their way through.

Once we share our stories, we can empower others to do the same.

 

Staying Inspired When Struggling

When I wrote my first book Waves, a poetry book surrounding my experiences with mental illness, (Purchase here) I found it incredibly hard to stay inspired and motivated. It took me years (more than 5…) to compile all of the poems, edit, format, hire an artist and get the books made. My problem wasn’t that I was lazy or even too busy. It was that I was lacking inspiration which translated into lacking motivation!

Inspiration = Motivation

Struggling with depression and anxiety can make finding inspiration and motivation difficult at times. When all I can focus on is not having a panic attack when I’m at work and not letting the depression consume my energy, there isn’t much room left in my brain to become inspired by the world around me. This translates for any mental illness. They take up so much room in our brains, and in our lives, that other aspects of life sometimes get pushed to the back burner. But, there is hope.

Here are steps that I’ve found to be helpful when struggling with writers block/ lack of creativity and have had a hard time staying inspired and finding motivation.

  1. Get out of your normal space. Seriously, your wallpaper isn’t changing. You need to go outside, to a coffee shop, on the bus, to a mall, anywhere that has stimuli you aren’t used to. (When I used to take the bus, I would imagine the lives of different people on the bus and I would write poems about them.) This is a prime example of how leaving whats comfortable a.k.a home, for something far less comfortable.
  2. Expose yourself to new/different creative content. New music, books, exercises and even movies has left me feeling inspired in the middle of a depressive episode. I’ve gone to different art shows and yoga classes and music festivals in the past that have filled me with enough inspiration to write new poems.
  3. Foster a space for creativity to bloom. When you do create inside, try to create a space that’s comfortable and has the tools you need to be creative. If you know you like to paint with music that inspires you or takes you back to a specific time on, make sure there’s a music device in the room. If you know you have to be sitting comfortably to write, make sure you have a decent chair and some fluffy pillows. A space that is comfortable and inviting will likely lure you in more often, which hopefully leads to inspiration and creativity. (I’ll include a list of my creative space must-haves in the next post!)
  4. Connect with other artists. As someone with extreme social anxiety, this one is still a struggle for me. But, when I force myself out of my comfortable space and collaborate with others, I find it to be extremely inspirational.When writing Waves, I hired an artist who’s work I loved. But I also loved our coffee shop meetings. I found we both had the ability to inspire each other. It might not happen each time you hang out, but when it does happen it’ll be worth it.
  5. Force it. When all else fails, force it. I don’t believe creativity can be forced. But, I do believe if you force yourself to sit in your comfortable space, or in a new space with room for inspiration, you will likely notice by the end of the time you’ve spent, you will have created something. I used to force myself to write when I was at coffee shops between classes or when I was off work and bored at home. I’d usually start doodling and just playing with my phone. But, eventually some sort of magic would usually happen. Just holding the pen would ignite a certain flame in my brain and the words would eventually flow. If you’re a painter pick up the brush. A musician? Pick up the instrument. A writer? Pick up the pen. This rings true for just about anything. Starting is the hardest part.

I hope at least one of these can help all you creatives who struggle with mental health and/or finding inspiration and motivation. ❤