Eleanor Oliphant: I Adored this Magnificent Piece of Writing but Most Definitely Did Not Find it Funny!

Eleanor OliphantI gobbled up the first ten chapters of my latest read, the bestselling sensation Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It truly is a marvellous book in many ways, exploring society on a level that fiction rarely does. Debut author Gail Honeyman should be incredibly proud of herself for this stunning piece of writing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I struggled through the next twenty chapters. Not because the story was rubbish all of a sudden, far from it. I just couldn’t (and still can’t!) get my head around how anyone would find it funny. The word is used in four of the six quotes on the covers, and most people I know who have personally recommended the book have also said how “hilarious” it is.

So I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and stayed up well past bedtime last night to polish off the last ten chapters. Here are my thoughts, I will do my best not to spoil it for those who’ve not read it.

Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely not fine!

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty years old and has had the same low paying job in an SME since graduating university. She is very socially awkward, and often misreads (or simply doesn’t understand) what is going on around her. She lives alone, and as a rule does not speak to another human between getting home from work on Friday to returning on Monday. She is incredibly intelligent and well read, and does not wallow in self-pity. She eats the same food every day, and drinks two bottles of vodka per week.

Fairly early on we start uncovering Eleanor’s horrendous childhood, and how she partially grew up in care. The full horrors are thankfully never graphically described, and credit to Gail Honeyman, because I for one can’t stomach graphic details. You have to read the entire book to discover Eleanor’s full back story, but the snippets we are given throughout give us enough information to go on. It’s clear that Eleanor is deeply troubled, not to mention phenomenally lonely, and drinks vodka to numb her pain.

Shortly after the story begins, Eleanor strikes up an unlikely friendship, her first proper friend. Someone who isn’t going to screw her over and has her back. Their relationship is genuine and heartwarming, and proves that kindness can be found everywhere when we open our eyes to it.

Is Eleanor Oliphant a female Adrian Mole? 

Eleanor OliphantIn many ways I liken Eleanor to a female Adrian Mole, who I hero worshipped when I was a kid. He provided the backdrop to my own less than perfect childhood, and I absolutely loved all of the late Sue Townsend’s books. Part of me wants to read them again, because I’m almost convinced I will feel the same way about Adrian as I now do about Eleanor.

I see a lot of my daughter Polly’s struggles in Eleanor and am convinced she is on the spectrum. You’ll only get as far as “Is Eleanor Ol….” before Google assumes you want to know if she is autistic. I fear that many of those who are finding Eleanor funny are actually laughing at her, not with her. Perhaps this is just me being overly sensitive due to my own circumstances?

Either way, it’s the reason I struggled through half the book. Eleanor’s awkwardness is cringe worthy at points. She misinterprets many situations, and takes things literally, just like Polly does. Unlike my girl, Eleanor has no-one to bounce her ideas off, and help decode this confusing world.

Eleanor drowns her sorrows in the classic way, and drinks down her tricky feelings. I’ve known so many people over the years who will discuss the minutiae of nothing, yet are completely incapable of processing even slightly uncomfortable emotions. This is a serious problem that rarely gets discussed.

Are mental health problems inescapable when you suffered a traumatic childhood?  

I’ve never encountered a single person who had a traumatic childhood and did not encounter ill mental health at some point as an adult. Anxiety and depression are rife among my own friends, even those who have had extensive therapy and great careers. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done throughout my lowest lows had it not been for my friends. I still have moments of feeling incredibly lonely, and I am blessed with hundreds of friends all over the world. I cannot imagine a life without friendships.

It’s a heartbreaking prospect to think children who go through such trauma, then slip through the cracks in a largely uncaring society. They get no support as adults, and with government cuts getting more brutal each year, things will only get worse as time goes on. The sheer volume of vulnerable young adults who end up being groomed, or enter into violent relationships is absolutely shocking.

Does Eleanor get a happy ending?  

You’ll have to read the book yourself to discover the answer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do! Tweet me @mummytries 

 

What Rock Bottom Feels Like and Three Steps to Get You Back on Track

what rock bottom feels like and three steps to get you back on trackTen years ago, pretty much to the day, I woke up in a Reykjavik hotel bed, drenched in a cold sweat.

I had been there on an all expenses paid work jolly up, and had as per usual got myself into a very messy mess. I had the familiar heart sinking feeling that shit had gone down the night before, but couldn’t recall the details.

It took me some time to gather the momentum to get myself out of bed. I needed the loo but didn’t make it, and instead ended up on the bathroom floor retching. I’ve often wondered if my inability to vomit is a blessing or a curse, and have concluded that it’s both, but that’s a whole other story.

Whilst lying on the bathroom floor trying futilely to eject the poison that I’d been voluntarily feeding myself for the previous forty eight hours, I noticed an empty bottle of wine from the minibar. On the shelf in the shower.

Who in their right mind drinks wine in the shower, straight from the bottle?

That was when I realised I had crossed the line

untitled-design-5Once the retching had passed, I sat with my head in my hands and bawled my eyes out. Snippets of the weekend came back to me in flashes. I remembered arguing with my boss, and making a complete idiot out of myself in front of my work colleagues. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d put myself in unnecessary danger (again) by taking a taxi from one end of town to the other, alone. In the state I had been in, anything could have happened. 

I felt deeply ashamed of myself.

I knew that I could no longer just laugh it all off as I had done so many times before back then. If I was to have a chance of making it through 2007, I couldn’t carry on like that. In the four years between my first mental breakdown and that morning in Iceland, I had many incidents that could (and should) have propelled me to rock bottom.

But they hadn’t. Why not? 

I wasn’t ready to face my demons before that morning, and rock bottom only comes after pushing the boundaries to the absolute max

rock bottom and how to get out of it
I remember being in that hotel room like it was yesterday. After my pity party in the bathroom I had a shower, got myself dressed, and took a long hard look in the mirror. I was a broken mess. I had survived a shitty childhood and in many respects had got through my first decade as an adult by the skin of my teeth.

Yet, amid the chaos of my life, I had met some truly amazing people who I am privileged to call my friends. Without even finishing high school, I had managed to forge a decent and fairly paid career. I had also found my wonderful husband, who I was in serious danger of losing at that moment in time.

Ultimately, I knew there and then that I was deeply flawed as a human being, but I was capable of great things too. I hadn’t come this far to give up, and I would be damned if I allowed my relationship with the bottle destroy everything I’d worked so hard to achieve.

I was overwhelmed with a sense of clarity, and the fighter in me who had given up in favour of getting smashed took over.

rock bottom and how to get out of it Just like that, everything suddenly made sense

I was a weekend bender away from losing absolutely everything and everyone that mattered to me. I knew, sitting there in that hotel room, that things had to change. I also realised, perhaps for the first time, that nothing would change unless I did, and that I needed to change a lot.

My attitude.

My behaviour.

My eating habits.

My outlook on life.

Everything.

So that’s when the hard work began.

Step One: Awareness

rock bottom and how to get out of it It’s so much easier to just ignore our problems and hope they will miraculously disappear, but they never do. What actually happens is they become harder to deal with the longer you leave facing them.

To start helping yourself, you have to acknowledge what your problems are in the first place. Self-reflection can be a bitter pill to swallow, but you absolutely must be willing to do it. 

It became obvious to me that I was in the mess I was in because of the crappy things that had happened to me. However, I came to realise that holding on to the hurt of the past was destroying my chances of future happiness. I had all but written myself off as ‘tragically messed up’, but I wasn’t. I just needed to make peace with my past, so I could move on from it.    

Step Two: Determination 

I truly believe that most self-destructive behaviour stems from being engrossed in the cycle of dysfunction. By getting obliterated we are burying our heads in the sand, and not facing up to our problems. We think at the time that we’re having fun, but actually we’re doing even more damage to our broken selves. In order to start healing we need to surround ourselves with the the very best people.

rock bottom and how to get out of it A supportive partner, real friends or loving family will want to help you thrive and succeed in life. They absolutely, categorically, will not try to sabotage your efforts.

People who genuinely love you would only ever want to encourage your success. If you’re at rock bottom, chances are you have toxic people in your life that are holding you back. You’ll need to identify who they are and either redefine the rules of your relationship, or sever ties with them altogether.  

Step Three: Courage

You will have to get to know yourself, and always be true to who you really are. This means not getting swept up with the crowd, and never living your life according to anyone else’s timetable. You’ll need to become a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person, not someone who changes their personality based on who they happen to be with at that moment. 

It’s time to identify the steps you need to take, that will get you onto the path to the life you deserve. If you need a little help with doing this, you might find my book Become the Best You useful. Click on the image below for more info.    

I wish you the very best of luck!

rock bottom and how to get out of it

The Things I Wish I had Known Between My First Mental Breakdown and Hitting Rock Bottom Four Years Later

things-i-wish-id-known-between-breakdownsThe ten year anniversary of my second mental breakdown is coming up in a few weeks, so it seems fitting to share this post for World Mental Health Day. My first breakdown happened in 2002. It was triggered by a silly decision, which led to falling out with a lot of my then closest friends.

Over the next four years I unravelled in the most spectacular of ways

My finger was firmly attached to the self-destruct button, and my mental state slowly deteriorated. Cutting ties with my entire family in 2005 took me to a seriously dark place. By November 2006 I properly fell apart, and truly hit rock bottom.

As the anniversary approaches, the date has been playing heavily on my mind. In the last ten years I have fundamentally changed as a person, and have become the type of me I could only dream of being prior to 2006. It took a lot of hard work, but once I was determined to turn my life around, it was clear what I needed to do. I wrote about the entire journey in my book Become the Best You

Here are the things I wish that I’d known between my two mental breakdowns

bad things happen to lead us to the best thingsDon’t doubt him. Ever! He loves you more than you allow yourself to believe could be true, and he will give you a wonderful future if you let him. Marriage, kids, the whole works. You don’t think you deserve him, and that kind of life, but you do.

Real friends will not care that you’ve screwed up, they will love you regardless. They’ll forgive your drunkarn mistakes, offer a shoulder to cry on, and be there in your hour of need.

Blood isn’t always thicker than water. Tough decisions will be made, and you’ll come to realise that walking away from the people who are supposed to love you the most is the only way you will get to be the person you want to be.

The first step of moving on is making peace with the past. No-one drinks themselves into oblivion or takes shed loads of drugs just for sh*ts and giggles. Behind every addict, or person with a drinking problem there is a story. To truly forget the sins of the past, you have to face them head-on, and make peace with them. Unless you do this, they will haunt you forever.

in-the-flush-of-loves-light-we-dare-be-brave-and-suddenly-we-see-that-love-costs-all-we-are-and-will-ever-be-yet-it-i-1Eating well really does help. Cutting out the junk food and refined sugar will do more for your mental state than you could possibly imagine. Changing the way you’re eating sounds scary, but once you get started it’ll be just fine. Gone will be the brain fog and wading through treacle feeling, and you’ll have proper energy for the first time in your life.

No amount of booze or drugs will make you forget. They might do temporarily, but when the hangover and/or comedown kicks in you’ll hate yourself even more. The answers will never be found at the bottom of a bottle, or in a strangers bed.

Counselling costs a lot, but it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. You’ll get over the money as soon as you see how much sense Nina talks. That woman will be sunshine on a rainy day, and you’ll be eternally grateful to her.

What you need and what you want are NOT the same thing. Once you learn to distinguish between the two, and separate them, you’ll notice a dramatic improvement to your quality of life.

in-the-flush-of-loves-light-we-dare-be-brave-and-suddenly-we-see-that-love-costs-all-we-are-and-will-ever-be-yet-it-is-onMaking yourself look good won’t guarantee happiness. Losing weight, fixing your teeth and having a perpetual suntan might occasionally boost your self-esteem, but you’ll learn that there is much more to it than superficial looks.

Self-help books are awesome, but you need to be ready to take the information you’re being given on-board. It’s all well and good reading these enlightening, inspirational books, but you also have to be in a position to implement the advice afterwards.

No-one else can make the changes for you. No man, or woman will save you. You need to make the agonising decisions, and not be afraid to jump in head first, and have the courage of your convictions. A brand new, much happier, life is there for the taking, but you need to really want it, for it to become attainable.

Sending love today to anyone who needs it 💗

The Trouble with Alcohol 

the-trouble-with-alcoholAfter seven years of pregnancy and parenting, I decided that this would to be the year I got my social life back on track, and it’s been amazing. I think I’ve seen my friends (without the kids in tow) more in 2016 than I did in 2009-2015 put together.

The trouble is, that with socialising comes drinking alcohol. My ultimate nemesis!

I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m not afraid to admit that I recognise alcoholic traits in myself.

When I hit rock bottom after my second mental breakdown in 2006, I knew that it was time to sort my life out, and top of my priority list was getting my alcohol consumption under control. I started binge drinking at the age of twelve. My first experience was neat rum, which led to me passing out in a park. This pretty much sums up my relationship with the bottle back then. I was always pushing the boundaries, and never knew when enough was enough.

dont-be-afraid-to-admit-you-were-wrongIn my late teens and early twenties I prided myself on being able to keep up with the boys. I’d be the only girl standing (more like wobbling) come seven, eight in the morning when the hardcore were still awake putting the world to rights. I’d be the one walking to the dodgy off licence in the middle of the night for more supplies.

I have plenty of funny anecdotes from those days, but I also have horror stories. One involved a taxi driver, and ended up with me running down a dual carriageway in the early hours of the morning. I put myself in serious danger on numerous occasions, and I genuinely look back and wonder how on earth I’m still alive.

It’s incredible how much of a hold the booze had over me back then, which isn’t hugely surprising given my alcoholic step-father

Going teetotal for ever is a big deal though. Apart from not wanting to be ‘that’ person, who everyone starts avoiding because they can’t be around booze, I think it’s a huge statement to make at such a young age. I’m also inclined to believe that it can lead to ‘falling off the wagon’ in spectacular fashion, which then leads to a whole host of other problems.

I find abstinence easy. Having a few and calling it a night has always been my problem.

After rock bottom, I didn’t have a single drink for three months, after that I learnt control. I taught myself how to enjoy a drink or two, and not feel the need to get obliterated. It was a complete revelation, before then I would only ever drink to get drunk.

untitled-design-2Two years and a whole load of self-reflection later, I found myself pregnant with Polly. It was a shock after being categorically told that I was infertile, but that’s another story. I was a saint during those nine months. I didn’t even drink caffeine let alone alcohol (apart from a glass of champagne on my wedding day). 

By the time Clara was born – when Polly was two and a half – her sleep problems were in full swing. Life was super stressful and I turned to the bottle for solace too many times. When C was a year old we went out for a big group lunch with my husband’s uni friends. I got plastered, the way I used to get plastered. It wasn’t my finest hour.

I was a complete embarrassment. To him, to myself, to our children.

So I took a few months break from the booze, once again, and it helped me learn to control it, once again. Shortly after this I fell pregnant with Freddy, and when he was eight weeks old I embarked on the GAPS Intro diet, and didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for almost six months.

I have never felt as good as I did when I was on GAPS. I had an abundance of energy, and clarity of mind, despite only getting three or four broken hours sleep per night. I truly believe that GAPS was how I managed to write my first book Become the Best You. In it I talk about all the things I did to change my life, and become the version of myself I once dreamed of being.

It’s time to take my own advice

I’ve had a lot of fun getting my social life on track this year, but I’ve been absolutely useless at knowing when to stop.

“…but you deserve a night out!”

“…you have such a stressful life, and need to let your hair down!”

“…everyone has a few drinks as a treat, it’s fine!”

I can try and justify my behaviour all I like, but I know it’s unfair on the people who love me the most. Ultimately, I know that it’s totally out of order on my husband. Who, in his own words, carries emotional scars from the early days of our relationship. Unsurprisingly.

rdlukewarmGoing out also means that I’m not parenting to the best of my abilities for a day or two afterwards. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety or depression following a big night. It’s simply not okay to put myself in that position when I have children to look after, one of whom I’m home educating. I don’t aim for perfection, but being a lukewarm mama isn’t good for any of us. 

Yes, my life is hard and stressful, and I need a release every now and then, but I know deep down that my life is made worse by getting hammered. The consequences last much longer than the fun. 

Plus, it’s beyond ironic that someone who eats as healthily as I do, can tune out to the health pitfalls of drinking to excess. We’ve heard lots about the health benefits we can gain from having a couple of glasses of red wine, but no amount of antioxidants can counteract the after effect of drinking two bottles of the stuff. I view junk food as pollution, and this is no different. 

It’s not good for my body, mind or soul. So here’s where it stops!

I’m not feeling ashamed of myself, the way I have in the past. Yes I partied in Ibiza, yes I’ve had some raucous nights with besties, and yes I had to stay in my friend’s hotel room on Friday night, but I don’t regret any of it.

I guess I have learnt a lot from my life lessons. 

I’m not saying that I’m giving up alcohol altogether, because I still don’t think that’s the solution for me. Perhaps I’m wrong, only time will tell. I definitely need another break though, so I can try and get back to a place where I can have a few sociable drinks and quit while I’m ahead.

Wish me luck ❤

I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. It's an act of survival

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove