Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Book Review

Author: Matthew Quick 
Published: January 2014 by Headline Book Publishing

Leonard Peacock is turning 18.
And he wants to say goodbye.

Not to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing something tragic and horrific.

Nor to his mum who’s moved out and left him to fend form himself. But to his four friends.
A Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour
A teenage violin virtuoso
A pastor’s daughter
A teacher

Most of the time, Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not.

He wants to thank them, and bid them farewell.

matthewquick-forgivemeleonardpeacockI’ve read a lot of books about depression and suicide. I have had Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) for most of my adult life (and probably most of my young adult life, undiagnosed) and find that I can relate well to these characters, draw from their experiences and relate them back to mine, learn from them, grow with them etc, etc, etc. But this book was more than that to me. Unlike All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, in which one of the main characters does, after much fighting against it, eventually kill himself; Leonard, is so adamant to let it consume him and end his life, and he doesn’t fight it. Leonard has accepted his fate, his doom, his demise. And he is content with it, not accepting that anyone can actually help him, regardless of whether he wants them to save him or not. Leonard’s story is about goodbye, not about battling his inner demons; Leonard’s demons have, seemingly, already won.

And that’s one of the things I really like about this book. The gritty, harsh reality of it. Because a lot of the time, (especially at that age, when the bigger picture is so very difficult to see,) giving up is the easiest option. Giving in to the desire, the burning ache, to just end everything and be done with it, is real. Leonard is a little quirky, as most male protagonists in YA lit are these days, but I like his quirks, they’re subtle and cool and even though he doesn’t seem to fit in in his shitty high school, he’d certainly feel at home in college or university. He’s smart, but he is humble. I really liked Leonard’s character.

What I loved secondly about this book, was it’s ability to keep what happened between Leonard and Asher – likely the catalyst for Leonard’s depression – under wraps until Leonard actually allowed himself to think about. Leonard had hidden it away in the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind, and did not want to think about it, and so the reader didn’t get to know about it either. The information on each character that Leonard was saying goodbye to came when, and if, it was needed.

tumblr_ms5g74snHw1rkciaro1_500I also loved, wholeheartedly, the mix of non-traditional prose in this novel. There are three main prose forms in this book: the main traditional prose through which Leonard’s story is told, footnotes to the story to add in after thoughts, additional information and anecdotes that Leonard feels the reader ought to know or to give context, and lastly the letters that Leonard writes ‘from the future’ to his teenage self. This kept the book interesting, even if the letters don’t make sense at first.

The characters, as few of them as there are, also helped to keep this book interesting. Actually, not even really the characters themselves, more the stories behind the way each character was connected to Leonard, and the thoughts that Leonard has about them, how he feels about them, and the ideas he conjures in his own imagination about each one.Herr Silverman was the one I definitely found the most interesting, the way he actually cares about Leonard, ad in a way that Leonard doesn’t even understand. In the end, even though he only kind of admits it, Leonard is glad that there was at least one person, one adult that he could turn to, talk to, and who might even be able to save him. The way Leonard sees Herr Silverman instills in the reader that eternal little blip of hope, that maybe they really aren’t completely alone. And this little blip of hope is IMPORTANT, it sends a great message to anyone that might relate closely with Leonard and his view of the world. The true, gritty insight into Leonards mind is exceedingly well written, engaging and honest, and I LOVED it. I’m sincerely looking forward to picking up more books by Matthew Quick!

Again, I have to say: It’s important to reach out for help if you think you might be suffering from depression, sometimes this is the hardest step to recovery. If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone in your life, sometimes an anonymous ear to listen can go a long way, contacting a counselling service can save a life, or even just someone online who understands what you’re going through (yes, this is an invitation to email me if you ever need to talk to someone). Check out Beyond Blue for more information on battling depression, or suicidal thoughts.

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Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A Book that Became a Movie (t’s not a movie yet, but a movie is in the works)

Images via: Here, here, here,

Five Shows to Watch when you’re Dealing with a Break-Up

Breaking up with someone is HARD. It hurts, and it’s messy and it’s never fun.

I know these things because I have had more than my fair share of break-ups. The three big ones were just before I turned 21, when I was 24, (a milder one at 27) and then a pretty devastating one two years ago when I was 28 that saw me leave him in another country (luckily the last one had a happy ending). And of course all the insignificant splits in-between. There were, of course, many coping mechanisms that I learnt over the years, and one of the great ones is the need to vent and mourn and get all the emotions out of the system. And my favourite of these is watching TV shows. Binge watching to be precise.

TV has so much to offer in regard to dredging up emotion, depending on what you need to feel. So, here are my top five TV shows for purging all negative emotions that come with a break-up.

1. Dawson’s Creek

dawsonscreekThis is my number one because it’s the show I can watch a hundred times, without getting sick of it, as annoying as all the characters can be. These are, for me, the TV characters I grew up alongside, and their life lessons were very seriously heeded. The key to Dawson’s being a great break-up show is that it is full of break-ups. It’s full of people being in love, too. And most people think that this is a bad thing when you’re trying to get over someone, however I beg to differ: watching something full of emotion, love, lust, fun and pain brings all your thoughts of the person you’re trying to move on from to the forefront, which, for most people, is something you need to do to get on top of everything, and eventually, move on. This is the show to watch if you need to cry.

2. Sex and the City

sex and the citySex and the City is a brilliant show to marathon while going through the first stages of a break-up, trust me, I’ve done it twice. The amazing thing about this show, is that Carrie is actually giving you advice about your love life, she is literally telling you how to deal with your break-up. It’s genius, and it makes you feel so much better remembering that there are hundreds of thousands of women who have gone through exactly the same thing you are currently going through. Plus it’s nice to see some real, successful women struggling with what you’re struggling with, reminding you that break-ups happen, and being upset about them does not make you weak. This show is a must to get your head into a space where you are prepared and ready to face the break-up head on.

3. Friends

friendsWhen you need to laugh, this is the one. I tend not to trust people who do not love this TV show. This is truly a classic, and most importantly, it’s funny, and laughing really is a great medicine, so do it, and often. Watching this show is also really good at making you feel a lot less alone, with six characters (perhaps even more) who are very relatable to, and very, very lovable. However, the best way to watch Friends during a painful break-up is with your own friends, and with chocolate (just make sure that it’s over before you go out and meet any new people, and not just on a break).

4. Girls

girlsGirls is just what it sounds like, a TV show about a bunch of girls. Of course, there are boys, and the odd man, but for the most part this show is about girls, and that’s what we need when we are hating on men (not like ‘angry crazy-feminist’ hating, but just ‘I hate you for hurting me’ hating). Our girlfriends, mothers, sisters are who we go to when something like a break-up strikes, but for those times when you do just want to be alone, it’s nice to still have some smart, witty, funny and awkward female company to help you start feeling better about yourself. This is the one to watch to laugh and forget about assholes for a while.

5. Chuck

chuckThis one is in the list as being one of my favourite TV shows, but also as being the show that re-teaches you that hope and determination sometimes pay off. That the happy endings are waiting for us somewhere out there, we just need to be patient. Plus the show is funny, geeky, and has a very absorbing story line. But really, I think the best thing about this show are the great characters, and their complex and almost real-worldly relationships (don’t we all wish we could be spies!). This is a fun show to watch, and it is worth investing in, and it makes your heart sing, and hurt and helps emotions flow. But mostly, Zachary Levi is awesome, and really, really cute.

So next time a guy has you down, when you’re eating way more ice-cream than you know you should, and your chest hurts from gasping for air, and your tear stained face looks like complete crap – flick on netflix or grab a DVD, and force yourself you get all the emotions out, and start to feel a little more free. You will cry, you need to, but you will feel better for it, I promise.

Images via herehere, here, here, here, and here.

The Ups and Downs and ‘Are you Okays?’ Of Bipolar

Mental illness is not an excuse. It’s not a scapegoat and it’s not a free ride. It’s hard and crushing and difficult, and it can break lives apart. Or you can do your best to live with it and make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt.

I was first diagnosed with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, when I went through a particularly hard break-up during my university years, I was 24 years old. It was scary and difficult and my friends at the time didn’t really understand it. To be honest, people around me now still don’t really understand it. There are only so many times you can answer ‘Are you Okay?’ with ‘There’s nothing wrong’ when people are poking and prodding and not have them believe you because they simply don’t understand.

The thing about bipolar is that there usually is no reason for the down periods. You are not just sad, you are not just having a bad day. You are depressed, and that is not something that you can’t just shake off and get over. It’s not that easy. I can manage my depression, I’m not suicidal, I haven’t taken medication in a few years and that’s something I’m usually quite proud of. But every now and again I have a bad day or a bad week and I’m just down. I’m not bubbly, or happy, or fun; I’m just down, with a side of irritability and anxiousness. Not many people can do anything to make me feel better (there are a small handful who can), and most people just seem to think that asking what is wrong and enticing me to talk is going to help. And to be honest, it doesn’t. It’s just more frustrating.

Most of the time I’m fine. It’s not something that I introduce myself to the world with – ‘Hi I’m Sam and I have Bipolar’. No, that is not a label that I tend to advertise to the world as easily as I do being a geek or a writer.

5bebe4e4a9faf853d301d917772b3f44Bipolar is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes extreme mood swings. I can be exceedingly happy and grateful and positive, and then other times you couldn’t get any lower, you just want to close the curtains and curl into a ball and cry, and cry, and cry. If you are genuinely interested in what bipolar is you can find out more at the hundreds of websites that have been set up in support of people with bipolar disorder, but here’s a handy infograph to make it easy.

I’m very lucky that I have a very supportive family, friends and boyfriend. But there are always the odd few who will never understand and make it their business to get all up in your business. Being anxious and over self-aware and judgemental, kinda miserable and very irritable leads to a not very positive response to the constant ‘Are you Okay?’s ‘What’s really wrong’s and persistent ‘Why are you so sad? Just be happy’s. I know most people think they mean well, but these comments are toxic. They drive you to believe that there must be something wrong with you, that you can’t just be you, that there’s a reason, there has to be a reason, and they desperately need to know what that reason is. I can’t tell you how sick I am of making excuses, of coming up with some reason or another as to why I’m not my ‘bubbly self’ this week. The truth is, that that ‘bubbly’ side isn’t really me either, that’s the up that shows such a harsh contrast to my more frequent down.

a93a931f6a60a535d76b44eee2d941e3Having said that, my bipolar is not an excuse either. When I am asked the question ‘What’s wrong’ and the answer is ‘nothing’, that is the truth. When I say it’s my bipolar, that is not an excuse, that is what is actually happening, it’s fact. And it’s not easy, I would LOVE for the answer to be something else, like having a fight with my boyfriend or getting a shitty fine. While shitty things influence my mood in general, I’m not saying they don’t, when it is bipolar, it’s not caused by anything, there is no catalyst. I don’t know what mood I’ll be in when I wake up in the morning, I can’t predict how I’ll feel. I don’t know what’s coming and unpredictability is really scary. People have left me in the past for less than a depressed week, they can’t handle the mood swings, the ups and downs, the snappiness, the unpredictability. This is partially why I had such a deep distrust of men, thinking they were constantly doing wrong by me, not knowing the whole time that I was, and not narcissistically, the problem.

I’ve found a place where, aside from the constant lack of understanding, I am able for the most part to manage my illness, and am actually leading a very normal, and boring, little life. I just wish that other people could leave me alone to do it in peace without needed to know what the catalyst is for every bad day – because sometimes, it’s you.

At the end of the day, it’s frustrating that there is such a lack of understanding and a huge amount of taboo still placed on mental illnesses. So many people don’t understand them, and that lack of understanding affects people with mental illnesses every day. So yeah, it’s nice to care, and it’s nice to have people who care, and asking someone who is sad if they are okay, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But an understanding of what that person is actually dealing with, what they are actually going through, would help them a whole lot more.

You can also read my essay: Stress and its effects as a result of Bipolar Disorder Including Interventions to Treating Stress for more information.

Life, the universe, but not everything.

Some people think they are so much better than others – here’s some news for you:

There is not such thing as better. Just different.

People are not stupid for having different views than you do, or different views about you. And while some people are actually stupid, that still doesn’t make you better than them. People make mistakes, and the biggest people are the ones who can admit that. I have made a lot of mistakes this year, a lot of poor decisions and a lot of hard ones. Some that even broke my heart, but I can admit that while what I did was hard, or mean, or cold, or bitchy, or cowardly, or strong-willed; none of it was wrong.

I have to be thankful for this year. I’m not American and don’t celebrate thanksgiving, even though it was a few days ago, but I am thankful for all the lessons I’ve learnt this year. Lessons that have made me stronger, wiser and a better version of myself, but not better than anyone else.

And none of what I have done this year makes me any less of a person than any other either, or any worse of a person than someone who is seeing things through dark rose-tinted glasses. Coloured tints are cheap and tacky anyway, go for a polarised lens, it reduces more glaringly obvious bullshit.

Life is good. I am happy, regardless of the things I lack. I am lucky, and blessed and cherish what I do have and am no longer dwelling on any of the rest.

Lost Things

I’ve lost my Batman Tshirt.

We all lose things, and for the most part, we all find it frustrating. It’s always something we need immediately, and it’s always in the last place we look – obviously, we stop looking one we find it, right? If only it were as easy as attaching little beepers to everything that made little whistles when we call or clap – but unfortunately, not everything we lose can be found, and sometimes that’s a choice.

One of the few things I find more frustrating than losing something though, is when I lend or give something to someone and they lose it, misplace it or throw it away. I’ve found this has been happening more and more frequently of late, and sadly, this is making me less inclined to lend or give things to my friends. Friends are meant to be the ones we can trust, the ones we can open up to and be ourselves with. When they lose things of ours, our trust, our friendship – it seriously does nothing less than suck.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about personal relationships. When you give someone your trust, love, friendship and a part of yourself and they don’t take care of it. even worse is when they throw it away. I’ve recently lost a number of friends, each through different circumstances, and it has left me wondering what you do in those situations? Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘universal friend’ that you can go out and buy for $20 to replace the original that was lost. Unfortunately, it may stand, that we can never replace those that we lose, and are forced to endure the agony of having everything we see, hear, smell and do remind us of their absence in our life.