Moving House: A Stressful Time

Moving house has often been said to be one of the most stressful things that a person can do in their lifetime. But, when most days are stressful due to a mental health condition, moving house because even more challenging and can almost break you.

Alex and I have been going through the process of buying a new build property for the past several months – yes, we decided to make a stressful thing even worse by doing it during a pandemic. But we were at the point where we were getting fed up with pissing our money up the wall while renting.

The moving itself isn’t the thing that we find stressful it’s everything else that comes with it. It’s the solicitors and mortgage brokers that just seem to make everything that little bit more complicated. I swear they use words that even they don’t understand just to be difficult. It’s tough to deal with these things, but when you’re having a day where you’re fighting against your brain just to get through the day in one piece, receiving emails and phone calls from people saying things you don’t understand only compounds the issues and make you question whether it’s all worth it.

Thankfully, we’re coming to the end of the nonsense now. We have exchanged contracts on our new build home, and we’re now just waiting for the interior to be finished. We’re hoping to be in there in the next couple of months, and honestly, we can’t wait.

I’ve rented since I moved out at 23, and I thought that always would. The house that we’re currently in is the first house I’ve rented, the other rentals were flats, and despite renting this house, it’s the first place I’ve truly felt at home, and I think that feeling will only intensify when we moved into a house that we actually own.

I’d be lying if I said that having a mortgage over us wasn’t a scary prospect. It puts an extra layer of pressure on our already fragile minds, but it’s something we want to do, so we’re focusing on getting in there and all the things we can do when we move in.

With the rental we’re in, we’ve not really been able to do a lot of personalising because when we decide to leave, we have to return it to pretty much the state it was when we moved in. This has meant not being able to put shelves up and instead having bulky bookcases in rooms where we might not have done, having a garden that we can’t do anything with. When we move, we plan to grow a lot of things in it and even have a greenhouse. Not being able to plant anything in our current garden has limited us as to what we can grow in pots. I never thought I’d be bothered about a garden, but recently I’ve started to really look forward to growing all sorts of fruit and veg so we can be a little bit more self sustained.

To keep ourselves busy and our minds off the interminable wait, we’ve been going through all of our stuff and either packing up what we won’t need until we move or just outright getting rid of things. It’s incredible how stuff builds up. When we were moving into our current house, we got rid of a load of stuff from the flat, but over time things just build up again…mainly mugs, for some reason.

The other thing we’ve been doing is planning how our rooms are going to be; I’ve especially been thinking about this because I want to be able to set up my games room and all my consoles – retro and new – in a space similar to how I had it here. I’ve got them all packed away at the minute, but I can’t wait to get them out and use them again. 

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. In some ways, this is good because we know we’ll be in there soon. But there’s also that impatient part of our heads that wants to be in there now. We’re just lucky that the pandemic hasn’t caused any real delays in the building of our new home. We’ve been keeping everything crossed that everything goes according to plan. We’ve even been driving by every couple of weeks to do our own little drive-by check on the construction progress. It’s just a shame that now that it’s the interior being done, and we can’t really see how it’s going, but we do get regular calls from the developer to update us, so at least that’s something.

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I look forward to sharing some images of our new home when we move in. I’m sure many projects will spawn and I will probably end up telling you about them here. So stay tuned.

Baking Thoughts (+ Bonus Recipe)

With any mental health issues, there is a lot of self-care required. This can be anything that makes you feel better; from reading, writing down your thoughts, talking to people, playing games, cooking, watching movies/TV, pampering yourself with facemasks etc. Who you are and what type of person you are dictates the kind of things that will help you get through the worst of days.

I’ve not really touched on in any of these blogs how cooking and baking can help you.

I consider myself a decent cook, but I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant. I sometimes find that creating something tasty with your own hands is a good way of feeling better about yourself or even just spending time doing something other than staring at social media and feeling worse about yourself.

I like to cook and can make a range of dishes, from simple – throwing pasta, cheese and tuna into a bowl – to more complicated – salt & pepper chicken. But baking isn’t ever something I’ve been all that great at or something that I’ve done a lot of.

At the beginning of the year, when we entered our first national lockdown, I – like many other people around the world – decided that I would bake some bread.

I’ve never baked bread before so I was nervous about how it would turn out, but I threw myself into it anyway. I found a recipe – I think it was on BBC Good Food – for a simple white loaf, gathered all the ingredients together and set off on my bready journey.

I cautiously followed every stage of the recipe, not wanting to deviate from it because God knows what would have happened if I did. But even though I was following the recipe to the letter, at every stage, I would second guess myself and think that it didn’t look or feel right. Anyway, once the dough was made, shaped and thrown in the oven I held my breath – figuratively otherwise I would probably have passed out – until the bread was baked. When it was in the oven, I would occasionally peek through the glass door and wonder if it was meant to look like it did.

Eventually, once the bread was done, I could breathe again as what came out, looked like real bread. I know it was “real bread,” but when you produce something that looks like it’s come fresh from the bakery, it’s a shock – I really didn’t think it would look that good. Maybe you can give me your opinion on it from the images below.

Anyway, once it had cooled and we decided we would have some – we chose to have some very large cheese butties – and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted bread as nice. I know, I know, I’m biased because I made it, but being that I didn’t think I’d ever make bread that looked good, nevermind tasted good it was even better.

I’ve not really made anything else since, other than the meals that we eat at night. But the urge to bake some more bread is always there. I look forward to giving it another try.

At the time, I wasn’t feeling brilliant, but focusing on baking really took my mind off things and gave me something a little bit different to focus on that wasn’t just movies and games – at this time I couldn’t even concentrate on writing all that well.

To anyone thinking of giving it a go, I’d tell them that baking bread is a great and different way to occupy your mind. I’d say any kind of baking is, as it allows maybe just that little bit more creativity than regular cooking might.

Recently we made some flapjacks. Not just any flapjacks but cinnamon and raisin flapjacks; and they were amazing. Alex did the bulk of the work on them, as I stood by assisting where I could and moving my crutch out of the way.

Below is the recipe that we used. I just thought I’d share it so if you fancied it you could give it a go.

Ingredients

  • 300g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp golden syrup
  • 500g porridge oats
  • 100g of raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of cinnamon

Method

  • STEP 1 – Preheat the oven to 180C/160C
  • STEP 2 – Grease the bottom of a 20cm baking tin
  • STEP 3 – Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a small pan, stir regularly until the butter melts
  • STEP 4 – Once melted, take the pan off the heat and pour in the oats and raisins, making sure to cover the oats evenly. Add cinnamon and mix in.
  • STEP 5 – Tip the mixture into the greased tin and level out with the back of a spoon
  • STEP 6 – Bake for 25 minutes or until brown around the edges
  • STEP 7 – Remove from the oven and leave to cool down for 2-3 minutes in the tin then remove from the tin and leave a further 5 minutes
  • STEP 8 – Once cooled, cut into slices and enjoy

We made one with raisins and one without, so if you don’t like raisins you don’t have to put them in. There are plenty of things you could put in them, raisins, chocolate, cherries and nuts, to name just a few.

If you do have a go, let me know how they turned out and what you thought about them.

Lockdown Writing

I live in the UK, and we’re currently in our…wait a minute, I know this…third lockdown, and we’re experiencing all the fun that goes along with it.

Lockdowns have been sh!t, to say the least. We all have to find ways of getting through them; some people have built things, others painted, watched, read, played, but it has been writing for me.

During this time of world collapse, for me, writing has been a great escape. I know I left my full-time day job at the start of 2020 to focus more on writing, but continually being unable to leave the house is also a good catalyst for getting more writing done.

The first lockdown and the proceeding events gave me time to focus on finishing off The Next Stage. I had more time that I ordinarily would have spent playing games or watching crappy movies that I instead used to be more productive.

It’s so easy during these lockdowns to while away the time without actually doing a great deal, so for me to be able to focus on something has not only helped me pass the time, but the focus has also helped my mental health.

More time for writing doesn’t just mean the act of writing words, but also the planning of a story. I’ve been able to do more research on specific topics that I want to have in my books.

For my latest book, Blindsighted, which is a supernatural horror, I’ve been able to look more depth into hauntings, spells, and even – without giving too much away – spells. The added time for research means that I don’t rush it and simply add the first idea that I come up with; I can look into a few different things and pick which one I think will work the best. I did quite a bit of research for The Next Stage, but it makes me wonder how much I could have done if I had been writing it during these lockdowns. I feel like I put a lot of detail into it as it is, but maybe it would have been even greater if I’d written it now; not that I feel it’s lacking in any way.

It’s not just the writing that has passed the time during lockdowns, but also everything else that comes with being an author.

The publicity of a newly released book took up quite a bit of time. Spending my time on Twitter, not just posting ranty comments – although there have been a few – but interacting with fellow authors, reviewers, and the writing community, in general, has taken the place of the those physical interactions that I may have had while not in lockdown. Even though I’m an innately antisocial person, I still struggle when the choice of being social has been taken away from me. I also started my Instagram and even this blog during one of the lockdowns, both of which have helped me get my work out there to more people.

During the start of this lockdown, I also did my first radio interview; something that came out of nowhere and I never thought I’d ever do. But now that I’ve done one, I’m looking forward to the next.

Even these blogs have helped me. This has been another outlet for book publicity and my frustrations and want for social interaction.

Through my interactions with Twitter, I’ve found that I’m not the only one who has focused on writing through this uncertain time. Fellow writers have also used this time to finish projects they’ve worked on for some time and even publish more works than they would have been able to in an average year.

More books being published, I’ve found, has also helped other non-writers through the lockdowns. Being able to escape to other worlds has got them through the worst times. This, in turn, has again assisted the authors by providing that little bit more income.

I hope we can get out of the lockdowns and the restrictions as soon as possible, but having writing to focus on makes the time go a little quicker and makes it that little bit more tolerable.

Ups and Downs

I decided the other day that I was going to aim to do a new blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I didn’t manage to do it this week, so I’m posting today instead.

A few months ago, I found out that I have a torn labrum in my left hip, this has meant for the majority of this year I have been in a lot of pain – even with pain management.

Yesterday was a particularly bad day as the pain seemed to overwhelm everything. As a knock-on effect of this, I also went downhill mood-wise. Most days, I can deal with the pain, but when it gets really bad, it even starts to affect my mental health.

With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to let it all get on top you. But it’s more important than ever to look after your mental health. Even those without diagnosed mental health issues can struggle in the current climate.

I have a hard time talking about the way I feel sometimes, but even I realise the importance of having people that are there for you and will help you through anything.

If you need to, make sure you talk to someone, a friend, relative, co-worker or even a stranger. Just being able to talk about how you feel will remove some of the burdens that you may be feeling.

It’s a tired saying, but it’s okay to not be okay.

In book news, I’m now over 14000 words on It’s All in the Eyes. It’s going pretty well so far. I think it’s going to end up being a mixture of sci-fi and horror, but that could change the more I write. At the moment, writing is helping me get through the bad times. Escaping to a world of my own creation and building it from within really makes a difference.

Today I also received my author copies of The Next Stage. With these arriving I feel like I can finally put this book to rest and concentrate on something new. It’s a strange feeling, but physically having the book in my hands makes it much more real, and something that I extremely proud of.

Hopefully I’ll be able to do another update tomorrow and actually stick to my own schedule.

Be safe out there.