Social anxiety


Apologies. There is no Word tip today. I’ve been too busy with my new book. Next week…

Cultivating a Fuji is only two days old and already there are several reviews. That’s because of the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources – a very worthy resource.

What pleases me most about all the reviews so far is that the reviewers understood what I was trying to do with this novel… well, almost.

Here’s a table of the reviews so far:

Website Date Quotes
The Bookwormery 15th May [I] found it to be a moving description of social anxiety and just how traumatic a simple meeting can be for sufferers….yes there’s humour, but I found this to be a sad, poignant and thought provoking tale.
FNM 15th May This is a book that is guaranteed to stay with you long after you read it, it is a book that really makes you think with a few surprises along the way.
Jan’s Book Buzz 15th May Drori tells a story that can only come from a place of empathy and recognition. It says: “I know you. I see you. I hear you. I understand you.”
Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog 15th May I think the way Drori went about this was thought provoking. It’s a stage with Martin smack bang in the middle with a spotlight on him.
In de Boekenkast 16th May Cultivating a Fuji is a very touching story about how hard it can be to fit in the crowd. Martin’s character is well-developed and even the minor personalities have their own past and problems in this wonderful story.

One of them has a question I’d like to ponder over.

This review and this review (because it’s on WordPress and Blogger) says, “Drori approaches the topic of social anxiety from the perspective of an outsider, someone living without anxiety, which is an interesting way to go about it.”

Martin does have a voice. It’s true that the novel begins with the views of those around him, but Martin’s thoughts and feelings are there, too.

Cheryl goes on to say, “I wonder if the author decided to approach it this way in an attempt to get more readers or people to relate, and in doing so have a better understanding of social anxiety and how our actions can have an impact on the lives of others.”

I did have something like that in mind. I wanted readers who had met someone like Martin to recognise what they might have thought about him before trying to understand how Martin feels.

But Martin’s point of view comes out strongly, and suggestions that he doesn’t have feelings are raised and refuted by characters in the novel and shown to be false by Martin himself.

Cultivating a Fuji by Miriam Drori

 

 

Advertisements

 

bodyimage_twitter_image_1200x675_yellow

In the UK, today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is: body image.

I know, mostly through meeting social anxiety sufferers online, that body image is huge among the causes or aggravators of social anxiety. People worry that they’re too tall, too short, too thin, too fat, too ugly. It doesn’t matter if these self-perceptions are true; they’re very real for their owners. For people with social anxiety, poor body image is another reason – sometimes the main reason – for them to cover up and hide themselves as much as possible.

And yet, there are other people who are just as tall, short, etc., who are happy with their bodies. Eurovision viewers are about to get another look at Netta, who seems perfectly content with hers.

Here’s a quote – from one of the many who kindly agreed for their words to be published anonymously in my non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed:

I was told I was funny looking, ugly and weird and people laughed at me and I haven’t been able to shake it off, no matter how hard I try. Deep down, I know I’m not ugly, but when I’m in social situations my mind completely changes and there are those doubts and comments that people have made to me creeping around, and I begin to think I’m the ugliest person there.

Martin, the main character in my new novel, Cultivating a Fuji, doesn’t worry about the way he looks. He might have scolded himself for wearing the wrong clothes at a party, but he’s presumably fine with his body, because it’s not something he thinks about. The reason for that is probably that body image is not one of the things he was teased about at school.

For the person quoted above, it probably did start at school. Children can keep laughing at the victim for something that isn’t true, with no idea that this often causes poor self-image that can last for the rest of the victim’s life. This is why adults, who hopefully know better, need to intervene.

Cultivating a Fuji - Front Cover~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CULTIVATING A FUJI is released this Wednesday, 15th May, but there’s no need to wait. This is what you can do now:

10 Years of Blogging

Yes, this blog has been going for TEN years. The very first post went like this:

Speech is Silver; Silence is…

…not golden. Just a fake gold that soon dulls.  Like the necklace I bought in Cyprus. They told me it was gold. I knew they were lying, but I bought it anyway. I felt I had to buy something because they gave me tea….

I’ve been keeping silent for most of my life. It’s time to talk.

So tune in again, keep in touch and don’t suffer in silence.

A lot has happened to me in those ten years.

I began the blog anonymously, and eventually ‘came out.’ I was afraid of negative comments, but so far there haven’t been any.

I’ve had short stories and three… almost four… books published.

And I talk – not so much in conversations, but through my books and even in presentations. Slowly but surely, I’m telling the world about social anxiety.

Miriam Drori - Presentation on Social Anxiety

P.S. Not all my stories involve social anxiety.

EDIT: I was happy to receive this from WordPress:

Happy Anniversary from WordPress

The other day, I tweeted the following:

You don’t have to remember how. You only have to remember what.

It was in reply to this, from @jamesgarside_:

People: How do I [do thing] on computer?
Me: *googles how to [do thing] and shows them*
People: Well, I could have just googled that!
Me: But you didn’t. You asked me.
People: YOU should know how to do it without searching for it first.
Me: You didn’t know how to do it at all!!!

The tweet contained an appropriate head-banging GIF.

I could definitely relate that to Microsoft Word. I think most authors use it, even though there is sophisticated software dedicated to writing novels. And most authors have no idea what Word can do – features that would help them immensely if only they knew about them. What, not how. Once you know that a thing is possible, you can find out how to make it happen. But if you don’t know it’s possible, you won’t think of searching, to discover how to make it happen.

Shocked SmileyImage by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

I was shocked to hear one author’s method of working with Word. She creates an Excel sheet with the starting and ending page numbers of each chapter, so that she can go directly to the chapter she wants to review. During (or after) every revision, she updates the Excel files with the new page numbers.

That would never work for me. I have so many revisions that I would never manage to keep the spreadsheet up to date. Fortunately, Word itself has a much simpler solution – one that doesn’t have mistakes because it’s built in.

Working with Word

Cropped screen shot of Cultivating a Fuji in Word

This is how Word looks as I’m working on a novel. Down the left-hand side is my list of chapters. I give the chapters names, even if the names won’t remain in the final version. That way, I know roughly what’s in each chapter. When I want to review a specific chapter, I click on the chapter in the list and Word jumps right there. So much simpler than going to a separate file, rembering a page number and then going to that page in the Word file.

Sometimes I divide the chapter into scenes by creating sub-headings, which also appear in the list. The sub-headings won’t be included in the final version of the novel, but they’re useful while it’s still being written/edited.

I might not remember exactly how to set this up without trying it out, first. I might even need to google it. But the main thing is that I know it’s possible. What, not how.

You don’t have to remember how. You only have to remember what.

Could that apply to other walks of life? What do you think?

~~~~~

News

To celebrate the forthcoming publication of my novel, Cultivating a Fuji, the ebook version of my non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, is completely free for one day only. Today. Do hurry to download it before time runs out…

#SIMTalksWithMiriamThis post is from me, because I think this is important.

Are we brave?

Social Anx (@social_anx) ran a pole on Twitter, asking social anxiety sufferers whether they think they’re brave.

Brave Social Anxiety Sufferers

Only 14% consider themselves brave.

That means 86% of those who took part are wrong, in my view, unless any of those are constantly locked up in a room and never see a soul. I think anyone who defies social anxiety enough to venture out, to do things outside their comfort zone, to face potential derision, disdain, misunderstanding, rejection – is a brave person.

The fact that 86% of responders do not see themselves as brave is due to low self-esteem, a symptom of social anxiety. They are brave and need to recognise that. If they don’t recognise their bravery, no one else will.

And that’s unfortunate.

I am Brave

Yes, this was especially brave, but I say we’re brave all the time.

Stop press! This quote from @SocialAnxiety88 says it all:

You are not weak. People like us, we’re brave. We’re the ones who get up and face our worst fears every day. We keep fighting.

#SIMTalksWithMiriam

A very happy birthday to author Katharine Johnson, who tells us about a particular consequence of social anxiety in her own life and in that of a character in her novel, The Silence, which I loved.

Why I wrote about Selective Mutism

Hello Miriam,

Katharine JohnsonThanks so much for inviting me onto your blog to talk about an issue that’s very important to me and one that (fittingly enough!) I’ve kept quiet about for a long time.

I chose the title for my novel The Silence (a psychological thriller set in England and Tuscany) for two reasons: it represents both the child Abby’s mostly non-verbal state and the adult Abby’s battle to keep her past secret. It’s the first of these situations I want to talk about today.

Selective mutism is usually combined with social anxiety and having experienced both myself, I wanted to show readers what it felt like and tackle some of the misconceptions that surround this disorder. Although my experience was back in the 1970s, my sister Rosie’s a speech therapist who’s an expert in social and behavioural disorders so I was able to make sure I had the most up-to-date information on the condition and treatments today and in 1991-1992 when this part of the novel is set.

Whereas Abby has very good reason for being non-verbal – the guilt over something she said being partly to blame for her mother’s suicide – my situation is much more common in that there wasn’t an obvious trigger. The uninteresting truth is that it stemmed from the shock of hearing my voice on a tape recorder for the first time when I was six. I can recall the moment with complete clarity, standing in a house in Germany while on holiday.  The voice I heard sounded so alien and I also realised in that instant why people were always asking me to repeat sentences like “saucy Susie sewing shorts for sailors” – I had a speech impediment that strangely had never registered in my own ears.

I’m sure these people never meant to be unkind (some were close relatives!). They found it funny and I suppose cute – but I was mortified. The result was that I stopped speaking in school and new situations. At home I was still noisy, out of the home I clammed up.

This apparent ability to be talkative on some occasions while refusing to talk on others makes it a hard condition for other people to understand or believe. Abby’s behaviour is frustrating and embarrassing for her father:

“You’ve got to start talking again some time. And don’t tell me you can’t because you’re talking to me now. There’s nothing wrong with your voice, it’s all in your head – it’s so bloody rude.”

The truth was, it frightened her too, sometimes, the grip the silence had on her. At first she had thought she had some control over it but gradually it rippled out to affect all sorts of people, even those who least deserved it. Once she felt it wrapping around her head, felt herself sinking into its depths, she knew there was no getting away.

“Are you even going to stop talking to me one day?” Her heart clenched at the tiny break in his voice.

“I do try,” she said at last although her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sometimes I can’t. It’s like a scarf wrapping round my neck.”

Although the scarf turns out to have a significance in the story, not talking isn’t a choice Abby makes – she feels physically unable to do so. People react to this in different ways – by getting angry like her father, finding it “spooky” like her stepmother, or by trying to jolly her out of it like her uncle when she first arrives at Villa Leonida:

“Will you shut up? You’re giving me a headache.”

“These approaches are very unlikely to work,” says Rosie. Neither is telling the child to “snap out of it.” They can’t.

Fear of other people’s expectations is a common trigger, which is one of the reasons for Abby’s father sending her to stay with his sister’s family in Italy. Being foreign is helpful to Abby in that the local people have no expectations of her but it’s still a problem within the English family she stays with.

When she first meets her uncle:

those first few moments with someone were crucial. Either she’d find her voice or she wouldn’t. If she didn’t speak to him immediately, she never would.

But it’s different with her cousin Philippa. Whereas other people assume that because Abby says nothing she has nothing to say, Philippa’s intrigued by it.

“Why do you pretend you can’t talk?”

“I don’t do it on purpose.”

Philippa grinned, clearly not convinced. “It’s driving Dad bonkers. Whenever I try  I always forget and get caught out by a question.”

It wasn’t a reaction Abby had encountered before. Most people got impatient or angry. They tried to trick her into talking by insulting her or bribing her with money they clearly didn’t have. Once at school someone had wrenched her arm behind her back further and further to make her scream . Her vision had whited out, she’d seen stars and thought she could feel her arm being ripped out of its socket but despite the pain she hadn’t been able to scream. But Philippa seemed to view it as some kind of talent.

This partly explains the close friendship that grows up between Abby and Philippa and sets them apart from other people, which is important for the story but is also quite a common experience.  

TheSilenceOver the next year, after transferring school and having speech therapy, Abby’s speaking improves although she still feels panicky and tongue-tied in certain situations. She describes her sessions to Philippa in letters – progressing from pointing to words or pictures to express a choice during the first term to the following term making a puppet nod or shake its head. At first her hand freezes even when asked to make the puppet squeak – selective mutism sometimes affects more than the voice, rendering the person immobile as well as non-verbal.

Gradually, she develops from whispering an answer into the ear of her trusted adult (her father) and then whispering from further away and eventually whispering to the speech therapist.

“I said a word in class today.”

Most children do grow out of it although the problem can continue into adulthood. As an adult Abby has it under control but when reintroduced to characters from that summer at Villa Leonida she panics that she won’t be able to speak.

And me? I mostly have it under control (to the extent people probably think I made the whole thing up) although to my shame in three years at university I never spoke up in group tutorials – what a waste!

So I was heartened the other day when I went to an Open Day at Bristol University with my daughter. The speaker for the Philosophy department said they absolutely recognised social anxiety. Students who didn’t feel able to do a presentation could either record themselves doing so or just write a script.

I know there’s still room for improvement but I think this shows what a long way people have come in understanding the issue.

Thank you, Katharine! That’s really interesting and goes a long way to explaining a confusing problem. I also didn’t speak in group tutorials. Presentations weren’t part of the curriculum in those days, although I’d probably have managed them.

The Silence is available in ebook £1.99 and paperback £6.99 (or equivalents) here.

The Silence

Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle – and a secret that could change everything. When human remains are found in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she’s forced to confront the memories she’s suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992 – a summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open.

The Author

Katharine Johnson is the author of three novels and a non-fiction book. A journalist by training, she writes about ordinary people who through a bad choice find themselves in nightmarish situations. She lives in Berkshire, England and has a ramshackle cottage in Tuscany which is nothing like Villa Leonida. Her fourth novel, The Suspects, will be out later this year. When not writing she’s likely to be found with a book in one hand, a cake in the other or walking her spaniel while plotting her next novel.

Connect with Katharine on TwitterFacebookInstagramWebsite/blog.

Katharine has appeared on this blog twice before, in The Allure of Secrets and when she brought Irena to Letters from Elsewhere.

~~~

Do you want to write (or talk) about one or more of the SIM topics – Social anxiety, Israel, Misunderstandings? The details are here.

#SIMTalksWithMiriam

A hearty welcome, please, for C.J. Sutton, author of Dortmund Hibernate and This Strange Hell. He’s travelled a long way to be here. Over to you, CJ.

Taming the Mind

Social anxiety is an issue very close to me. Despite finding techniques to create a confident exterior, being placed in a crowded room or asked personal questions can still cause the heart to beat faster than it should. Many writers, to varying degrees, live with social anxiety. Our ideas thrive in our minds, transferred onto the screen and page for others to see at their leisure without our physical presence. This craft works best in isolation.

C.J. Sutton, authorI learned quite quickly that I could tell a story. But my storytelling needed preparation if I was to be placed on that stage. Put a blank page in front of me and I’ll smash out a short story before the day is out. Replace the page with real faces and the result would not be identical.

Being socially anxious can mean even the most mundane task, such as ordering a meal or getting a haircut, can lead to avoidance. I know people who fear speaking on telephones and attending meetings but will happily hold a snake or ride a rollercoaster. What is the cause? It’s hard to say, because the mind is rogue, and everyone finds fear in a different cave.

The characters I create are constantly in situations I would dread. Being the creator of those scenes allows a unique perspective. One can explore the why and the when, constructing responses that appear resolute. But I am never anxious when I’m writing. Never. 

In my debut novel Dortmund Hibernate, the protagonist is a psychologist tasked with nine criminally insane patients. He faces drug dealers, gangsters, sex addicts, murderers, rapists and all manner of sick minds. In his approach to his patients, this psychologist uses his education and passion for the job to remain calm and seek best solutions. But when having a drink at a bar, this changed. Suddenly, he cares what everyone else thinks of him and the room is suffocating.

This Strange Life by C.J. SuttonIn my new novel This Strange Hell, a main character lives in a town governed by a violent gang and hidden from police patrol. When this gang enters a public place wielding guns and requesting donations, she is a pillar amongst the locals and does what she can to keep her friends at ease. Ten pages later, when meeting a love interest for a meal on her birthday, this same character is trembling and acting out of the norm. She owns guns and works off the land. Informal. When life becomes formal, she starts to crumble.

Social anxiety is different for everybody. Whether it’s crowds, queues, attention or expectation, the feeling of being trapped in that situation can be the equivalent of pain. People may call someone out for being shy or introverted, and they may think that person is rude or uninterested. But within, their hearts are fluttering and terror dawns.

I know social anxiety.

Thank you, CJ. And yes, social anxiety is different for everybody. When I mention having social anxiety, people assume I don’t like doing public speaking or talking to strangers. Neither is true.

THIS STRANGE HELL by C. J. Sutton

A suited man runs from a burning tower in Melbourne as bodies rain down upon him.

Before the city’s millions can compose, he boards a train into the countryside. Hiding his identity and changing his appearance, the man finds his way to Sulley Ridge, a lawless town in the heart of the harsh Victorian outback.

The following day, a burned man wakes up in a hospital bed. Surging with rage, he speaks a name. Within an hour, the suited man’s face is across every screen in the country. It’s the greatest manhunt Australia has ever seen.

But as he tries to camouflage in Sulley Ridge, he soon realises the town has its own problems. Under the iron fist of a violent leader, the locals are trapped within slow and torturous decay…

As we learn more about the night of the burning tower, the connection between the suited man and the burned man threatens to leave a trail of destruction across the state.

Here is the story of a man on the run from his past, as the line between sanity and evil is danced upon.

Here is the tale of This Strange Hell.

Find C.J. Sutton

on his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

He previously appeared on this blog when he brought Walter Perch along to Letters from Elsewhere.

~~~

Another fascinating letter from elsewhere was written by Dr Eloise Kluft, who was brought by Stephanie Bretherton, author of Bone Lines. This book is now published and available from all the places listed on her website.

~~~

Do you know what Uplift means? I hope to blog about this in a few days. It has connections with my new book, Cultivating a Fuji, out in May.

Next Page »