i have been given some copies of my books to sell! it is YA fiction about a mentally ill teenager in his last year of high school!! it was shortlisted for the NZ childrens and young adult awards in 2018! the Big Idea said “every school library should have a copy of this book”! prolific, award winning NZ YA writer Bernard Beckett said “it changes the way i attend to those i teach. i cannot give it higher praise than that”! NZ Herald said it was “never patronising or cliched” and was “an inspirational read”! the Sapling said it was “movingly and poetically told”!! award winning essayist Ashleigh Young said it was “a striking chronicle”! read more reviews and comments on my website at erindonohue.co.nz if you are not convinced! if you are convinced and don’t already have a copy, message me!!! so you can read it and feel quite sad and then maybe like, huh that was kind of nice 📚
last summer, i went to the beach once. after the weather had turned and to a quiet, isolated bay.
i was disappointed to have let my hatred of my body steal so much potential joy from my summer. i love swimming in the ocean. it makes me feel connected and calm. but i was so scared and so ashamed of how i looked. i hadn’t lost weight; i hadn’t earned the privilege of enjoying something i loved.
this summer, i decided i wanted to swim as much as i could. to not deny myself more joy after such a hard year. and i have been to the beach five times so far, including oriental bay on new year’s day with half of wellington. i was anxious and i wore a t-shirt into the water. but no one else took any notice of me. not while i walked along the sand. not while i floated there, having a moment of profound gratitude for being in the water.
i haven’t felt beautiful or confident or even at peace with my body. i have just really wanted to swim. i just decided to do it. despite it all. because it’s hot and it’s something i love. i will probably always feel like this about my body so why not just swim anyway. i just made a choice. it really is that simple.
2021 had some of my best highs and darkest lows. i’m thankful to have learnt so much, to have grown greatly. to have received a diagnosis that aided in my understanding of myself, that allowed me to offer myself forgiveness, that helped my relationship grow stronger in the face of great struggle. i did so many things this year that i was so sure i was incapable of. that my younger self would not believe.
i’m thankful for my therapist, my cat, my scooter and pink skies. i’m thankful for migraine medication, thai food, nail salons and vaccines. i’m thankful for good doctors and every self-set boundary i honoured. i’m thankful for all the times i danced to loud music. for the beach. for being able to have a wedding. i’m thankful for my husband and my best friends. for every good moment and for every moment i was sure i couldn’t go on, but did.
this was a year of immense learnings and i am hoping 2022 is the year of using that knowledge. a year of continuing, as rumi said, that long journey into myself. i hope the same for you.
talking deep and getting fiery at Verb Wellington earlier this month 🧚♀️ unreal that i get to do things like this and that real people pay real money to come and listen 🤪
self promo is the worst BUT tomorrow!! i will be on the radio talking about writing and fairytales and ableism in preparation for the readers and writers festival panel i am on this saturday (link below for tickets 🥰). wellington access radio 106.1FM at 5pm 🎙
It has been dark over here the last few months. I am very privileged to have a good doctor, who has gone above and beyond what i expected of her. through the haze of referrals and medication changes it has often felt as though i am 15 again: alone and scared. i have felt so disappointed to feel as though i have gone so far backwards. to still be in the thick of it a decade later.
it is hard to focus on the reality. which is that i am my oldest wisest self right now. i cannot un-know the skills i have learnt. my progress cannot be erased. here is a list of things 15 year old me was not able to do. i was certain i would never be able to do these things. that i would be sick and stuck forever. but now, at 25, all of these things are doable (though it is often hard), regardless of relapse. healing isn’t linear. it’s okay to be a bit all over the place. ❤️🩹
- move out of home
- cook for myself
- catch a bus
- hold down a job
- make a phone call
- answer a phone call
- have a sustainable, healthy relationship in which i am vulnerable
lately, i’ve been feeling some heavy grief about exisiting in the body i exist in. a body that is fragile and sensitive and often complicated. the type of body that is always back at the doctors. that takes pills and money and treatments and specialists and diets and scans and tests to keep above water. the type of body that hears the words “complex” or “difficult” or even “what are we going to do with you?” from the people who are supposed to help.
every time i feel stable, something new comes up. and every time, it gets more complex and confusing: more difficult for doctors to treat and more difficult for doctors to name. there are so many symptoms and side effects.
recently, i said to a doctor, what do we try if this doesn’t work? is there anything else to try? and it felt scary to say those words. to make space for them. to speak them into reality. which is not to say that i’m life-threateningly ill, but simply that i do not want to live like this for the rest of my life.
i cannot run from this grief forever. this might be what my life looks like. and i am allowed to be sad and frightened and angry. i am allowed to stop and feel this grief. to sit with it. to welcome it, even. to let it do what it is going to do for me. and then, when it’s ready, let it leave, too.
I wrote this essay as an attempt to explore and understand my strange and ever-shifting experience with body dysmorphia as I move through anorexia recovery still. I feel like, despite writing a whole essay about it, I somehow managed to only skirt around how disjointing and fantastical it can be to not know what you look like in any consistent way. But right now, this is the best I can articulate it. Thank you, Starling mag, for giving these words a home 💜
Feeling some shame about the way my body is carrying the side effects (swelling and fluid retention) of the steroids I am on for a connective tissue disorder flare up. Especially during this season of hyper focus on body image. I know to others my face may not look swollen but it, and the rest of my body, looks and feels different since I started the steroids before Christmas. I am thankful I have access to treatments that lessen my pain and I know the changes to my body are likely temporary and my body will likely shift and change a hundred more times in my life. In a hundred different ways. I know the changes are largely only noticeable to me and those close to me. That I still hold extreme privilege to be in the body I am in.
But that doesn’t alleviate the shame. As our queen, Brené Brown, says “The less we talk about shame, the more power it has over our lives ... If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees.”
So in an attempt to combat my shame, to cut it off at the knees, here is some selfies of my face, however it looks, in all its glory 🌝🌝🌝
The year is stumbling to its messy end once again and there is a lot to reflect on. I got engaged. Watched my grandparents celebrate 60 years of marriage. I started to teach myself te reo māori and Irish Gaelic. I welcomed a beautiful new nephew to the world. I received the first royalties directly from my publisher for my book. I had more writing accepted for publication. All good, true, bright things. And yet, as we know, only a small part of the year. This year I was brought to my knees by my own sadness time and time again. Was so scared my chest grew tight and rigid and cold. I let myself sneak back into the comfort of harmful behaviours. I watched several people I love, family and friends, go through some of the worst times of their lives. I did too. We all lived in a constant state of continuous trauma. Anyone with even a sliver of empathy was, at some point, ripped open while watching this years events unfold worldwide. We did not have to look far for tragedy and suffering and heartache. Everything awful was tangible and palpable and unavoidable. But it was also a year of seeing community in action: people in Italy singing from balconies during lockdown; old friends offering to bring me supplies during level four; the way we prioritised kindness, even to strangers. I learnt invaluable lessons about connection and presence and boundaries and quality time and using my words to say exactly how I feel. I have watched my friends and family grow more into themselves. Watched them overcome, persevere, hold on. Despite it all. I am grateful for all of the people I am lucky enough to love. I am grateful for all of the unlearning I did
This year, I’ve done a lot of extremely hard work in therapy. Over the course of all of my treatment, I have never experienced the level of therapy trepidation and fatigue I have been feeling this year.
I would leave therapy somehow both numb and red raw. Somehow feeling nothing and also knowing that the slightest thing would set me off. I would take weeks to recover and the next session would come up too quickly, every time. I was never ready and always filled with thick, tense dread.
This is my eighth year in therapy, of hard work, and I have never experienced this feeling before. Nothing has been this heavily lingering. None of it has dripped off me like this. Into every aspect of my everyday life.
My therapist says, that's how you know it’s what you need to work on. It’s as simple as that. It’s how you know you’re on the right track.
All of this is to say, I am still doing the heavy, life-altering work. Nearly a decade in, I am still learning and unlearning in a way I did not know existed or needed to be done. If you are in the depths now too, you’re on the right path. You are doing the most important work and there’s more than just you down here. I’m wading through too. ✨🥰💛
#mentalillness #mentalhealth #recovery #therapy
tomorrow i am going to back into the office for the first time since early march. we were instructed to work from home before the government even announced the COVID alert level system. and because the company is global and based in america, we have had strict policies in place globally only allowing a certain number of people in the office, even when we were a lot better off than other countries and were at level 1. it feels strange to be about to step into a space i left quickly one afternoon, thinking i would return in a matter of weeks, after eight long months. i have learnt a lot about myself over this time: what i need and what i don’t; what i get from my work and what i need from people and different environments; the ways in which i need to take care of myself to be alone for a long time; the importance of connection and presence and fresh air and movement and my cat. i have been a hundred different people over these months. and i am ready to see who i become as my life shifts gently again.
sometimes recovery looks like this. like being scared but going into the dressing room anyway. like forcing yourself to take photos in the new jeans. like being anxious but still going out for lunch. like doing the big and bad things and sitting with the big and bad feelings and doing it all again tomorrow. like knowing the only way to recover is to do things that scare you and keep doing them. challenge yourself and repeat. sit with the discomfort and repeat. eat and repeat. this recovery thing seems never ending but i’m going to get up tomorrow and try again.