Driven to Distraction

This week I’ve had my first sneaky peak at the cover design for my next novel and given that The Missing Husband won’t be published in the UK until July, the anticipation is driving me to distraction. But while the waiting goes on, I thought it might be a good time to tell you a little something about the book.

The Missing Husband is about a woman called Jo who is in her early thirties. On the face of it she has a successful career, is happily married and expecting her first child. The story begins one morning when her husband goes to work and she pretends to be asleep to avoid giving him a lift to the station. When he doesn’t come home, Jo faces the prospect of never finding out why he could disappear without trace. While the story explores what was behind her husband’s disappearance, the focus is on the impact it has on Jo’s life and in particular the effect on her mental health.

I’ve always tried to view mental health in the same was as physical health in that we have to work at keeping well. Body and mind can be affected by serious conditions and debilitating illness but sometimes we can simply be unfit, and that stores up problems for the future. We live in a society where we all know how to look after our bodies, even if we don’t always put that theory into practice. We know how our lifestyle choices affect our risks of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease but what should we be doing to maintain our mental wellbeing? Isn’t that just as important?

Of course taking care of our mental health is easier said than done. None of us can control the things that happen to us and we can’t always control how we reaction to them, if at all. In Jo, I created a character who was generally happy and well, who might have had the odd idiosyncrasies but she is no different to you or I – in fact a lot of her existing rituals and obsessions came from things I know I do or other people have mentioned when I told them about the character I was writing.

What I hope readers will relate to is how this average woman could go from relatively good mental health to having severe anxiety to such a degree that it completely debilitates her. I didn’t want her to be the kind of person you immediately imagine would have a mental illness, but I think that’s the point, most people with mental illness aren’t those ‘stereotypes’ that make the headlines. They’re just like me and you, in fact they could be me or you which is a sobering thought.

There have been stress points in my life and times where my mental health has suffered and although I’ve been lucky enough to avoid mental illness, it could have been so much worse. I still don’t know why or how I managed to avoid becoming seriously ill. One factor which undoubtedly helped was my writing, whether through poetry, journals or complete works of fiction that allowed me to create worlds over which I did have full control. Losing weight and exercising helped too even though I wasn’t consciously thinking these were things that would improve my mental wellbeing at the time, only my physical health. I’ve since realised that these were the right things to do and there are plenty of resources out there to help anyone wanting to improve their mental health. A good start is described here on the NHS website.

I can’t wait to share my new novel with you and I hope to be able to share the cover design with you soon. In the meantime, I hope you all stay healthy in mind as well as body.

Is it worth mentioning now that reading is also proven to help improve mental wellbeing?

Reading is Good for You