I had the amazing opportunity to read and review a beautiful book by the author Gillian Smith. The book ‘Make Yourself’ is inspiring. That is the one single word to describe it. Once you start to read it, you just can’t put it down. Page after page the words fill your head and heart of a true life, a believable life, a life that someone can connect with. To read through and gain an understanding of the struggles, that lead to the successes of one individual. Following the journey of someone
, who has been willing to share their story and include their actual life, the good memories, as well as their battles with mental health. The excitement of reading this book never faded, not just because of how relatable it is, but because of the hope it gives to the readers. The inspiration and the message to everyone that is there, in that you are not alone.
After reading ‘Make Yourself’ I just had to know more, more about how the book came about, and more about who the author was. I was lucky and privileged enough to have been in contact with the amazing author Gillian Smith who kindly agreed to have a chat with me. After life got in the way for us both on many occasions, we finally managed a fabulous video chat the other week. I can honestly say she is a magnificent person and would recommend you check out her Instagram and Twitter pages. I honestly felt like we could have spoken for ages, read on for some background information about her book.
At what point did you make the decision to share your story in the form of a book?
It started out with me writing for myself, as a way of therapy, forcing me to confront my demons, and when I knew how much writing it down had helped me, I began to think it would help others. It was quite late on in the writing process, and I guess it was when I started to realise how much writing had helped me to understand why I had felt the way was feeling. There were a few lightbulb moments in writing the book where I began to really understand myself and my experiences. The whole experience of writing the book, made me want to encourage people to think more deeply about their own experiences.
How did you find the whole experience of writing your story?
It took 10 years on and off to complete. Writing this has helped me so much. The more I wrote the more I understood myself and what I had been through. Some pieces were harder to write, it took its toll, it was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. The book has the nice moments about life in there too. So there were moments that were harder to write, and some that were much easier. I wanted it to not be a book just about mental health, but about whole my life, and how the two things intertwined with one another. We are more than just own mental health, and it was important for me to capture that.
What were the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge has been PR. It has all been done by me, all the rewrites, everything. I used an independent publisher, so the majority of the work was down to me to get the book advertised, and not having done that, it has been a challenge.
Were there any unexpected outcomes from writing your story that you were pleased to notice?
Confidence, I have definitely found more confidence. Also, I feel I have more of a purpose now, I have found something that I think I am good at and I enjoy doing. I want to continue doing this. I feel like I have learnt so much about accepting myself and my mental illness and I want to spread that message as much as possible. I feel like after searching for a purpose my entire life, I have finally found it.
The book is written with so much emotion, and understanding of what you experienced, how has this changed your day to day life now it is published?
I wouldn’t say it has really changed much, but I have learned a lot. I have a daily mantra now, that is we all have good days and bad days, and a bad day will always get better. We need to learn to mix the good with the bad because if we are looking for our lives to be 100% good, we will wait forever. The main thing that I think that has changed since the book has been out is that I am more confident in talking to people I didn’t know. Meeting others and talking to others has been lovely.
Have you changed the way you view yourself since your story has been published?
My view on mental health in general is more open. Since my story has been published it is like I’ve ‘come out’ so now everyone knows it all. So there is no more hiding from people about just how I was feeling. I think it has made that openness easier and conversations more easier to have about mental health with people. This is part of the premise of the book. After hiding how I was feeling for so many years, it almost took my life. So now I know how important it is to be open.
The reviews you have received have been amazing, how have you felt getting these?
The reviews have been mind blowing, and overwhelming. It was strange to think that there were people who were reading my book and writing those things about me. It is so lovely, but yeah, overwhelming, and lovely all at the same time. It shows me that everything I have put myself through trying to get this book published, all the times I pushed myself to do it even when sometimes I wanted to quit, it has all been worth it, to know that I have helped someone.
What would you say to anyone else who is thinking of writing and sharing their story?
Do it, 100% just do it. Do it in anyway you find that works for you, whether that be a blog, podcast, old school notebook. It makes so much sense if it is what you want to do, then just go for it. Self acceptance , and self expression are so important, and it is ok to do things the way you want to, you don’t have to hide. So if you want to share your story, your experiences, go for it.
What do you do to maintain your headspace? Not only when writing but in an everyday scenario?
Having some breathing space, I love nature, walking outside is beautiful. I have recently started wild swimming which is just wonderful. I love being by the water, its so peaceful and natural. Going for that walk, to clear my head and take in the fresh air is just so nice.
What is next for you? Have you got any plans to write anything else?
Who knows, I would love to do more. I am doing some guest blogs, dipping into writing some articles. I feel I have a lot to say, and a lot to offer. I am on a new journey, maybe there is another book in me. For now I am playing it by ear. I just want to get my message out to the people who need to hear it, that its Ok just to be you and if you can learn to acknowledge who you are and what you have been through, you can learn to accept it as part of what makes you, you.
Gillians book is available on amazon, and you can see all of her 5 star reviews that she has already received. It was an absolute pleasure meeting and speaking with her, she really is a gem.
Head over to Gillians Instagram and Twitter pages to keep up to date with what she is getting up to over the coming months, and who knows what writing will appear next. I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled. Gillians story is one of hope, progression, inspiration and success. In health and in life.
Gillian, It has been an honour to read your book (twice), meet you, and showcase you on Butterflies with Rainbows. Wishing you all the best on your next adventure.