Things You Save in a Fire Book Review and Mental Health Tips

books, Mental Health

If you haven’t read Things You Save in a Fire, I highly recommend that you do. I recently had one of my social media followers ask about books I recommend for mental health. Personally, I have a hard time finishing self help books. I follow podcasts, Ted Talks, and watch a lot of documentaries. I read ALOT, whether it be a book or an article. I personally relate more to story telling. I love books that I am able to escape reality with but also learn something. Things You Save in a Fire taught me how to begin to move on from something that caused me severe trauma and PTSD. The steps to forgiveness and why it is important to forgive even when someone will no longer be a part of your life completely changed my thought process. I didn’t believe that it was possible to see the good in a situation so devastating. I thought that if I admitted that any good had come from that situation, I was saying that was slightly less awful. As a mother, how do you feel okay saying that something good came from a situation that stole your child’s innocence?

Step One: To forgive you must admit that someone hurt you. That sounds easy enough, right? While I will admit that most of the time this is the easiest step, for fellow empaths or others who overanalyze every situation, this isn’t always a piece of cake. I have always been hard on myself. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. I realized that in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I caused myself destructive anxiety. I believe that there is such thing as a worry that is productive. Being excited about something can be an exceptional motivation factor, but being anxious about something that you have absolutely no control over is destructive. I have a desire to fix everyone and every situation. I want to know what I did wrong and I’d rather be wrong because then I can be proactive about the situation. Admitting that someone else caused me pain and the situation was not within my power to alter was extremely hard for me. Seeing those words in writing while reading someone else’s story put everything into perspective. I knew the answers all along and I was fighting to change something that I had no choice but to accept or let it destroy me. Admit to yourself that you allowed someone to get close to you. Admit to yourself that you were a victim of a crime. Admit to yourself that you are a little bit broken right now. Admit to yourself that you are allowed to feel pain. To become a survivor, you have to feel what you need to feel first. Feeling the pain now allows your body to time to process the emotions. As someone who still suffers from PTSD, I thought that avoiding the emotions would keep me from feeling pain.

For example, I tried my best to stay off social media. Don’t misread what I’m saying. Taking a break from social media and distancing yourself from any kind of negative environment is a good thing. In my case, social media was important to me before the trauma. I stayed in touch with my family and friends and by avoiding it all together, as well as not allowing myself to process my trauma in a healthy way, I cast the entire trauma off on social media. I didn’t know who to blame anymore. I didn’t even have a lucid version of what actually happened in my mind. I became triggered everytime I received an email or text message. I dreaded checking social media accounts to the point where I had anxiety attacks just thinking about reading a message. I associated any pain that I was feeling with social media. In the process, I missed positive messages from friends and family and pushed people who wanted to support me away.

It’s important to admit what happened. I am all about taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and I would never tell you to place blame where it is not due. However, we have so many negative thoughts that go through our head every single day. Telling yourself that something was your fault when it wasn’t will not make the pain go away. It will not give you any more control over the situation. It will only prolong the healing process. Admitting what happened is important for the next step.

Step Two: Acknowledge that the person who hurt you is flawed, like all people are. To me, this was a lot bigger than just saying that someone sucked. It was saying that in a way, we are all a little broken. Our flaws can add character, and they can cause some serious damage. In acknowledging that the person who hurt me is flawed, I also acknowledged that I was. I learned that sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes two people can be toxic for each other. People don’t always apologize and you won’t always receive the closure that you so desperately hoped for. Part of the healing process is gaining an understanding of what happened. In no way do I mean fixate on the situation or allow it to control your life. But you need to have an idea of what went wrong, the parts of the situation that you do have control over, and the parts that you do not. You can control your reaction to someone else’s actions, but you cannot control their actions.

What do you do when the person who hurt you is blaming you? This question is precisely why forgiveness is so important. Forgiving someone else is not always for them. It’s so that you can move on. If you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in life, not only will you be miserable, but you will limit yourself in ways that you cannot even imagine. So again, feel what you need to feel…and then move on. You are in no way saying that because all people have flaws, someone’s flaws did not hurt you. You are simply saying that imperfections can cause pain and gaining a better understanding of boundaries that you may need to set in the future.

Are you ready for step three? I know I wasn’t, but here goes.

Step Three: Find something positive that would not have happened if the situation had not occurred. For the longest time I thought that finding something good discredited me. I thought that finding a glimmer of light and hope would give someone the power to say that I spent no time in the dark. The trauma we suffered was real. I know this because I finally allowed myself to feel. That doesn’t mean that I’m never allowed to experience joy again. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find peace and move on. It doesn’t mean that I wanted this to happen to me. Finding the good in a bad situation allows you to change your story. It doesn’t delete the chapters before it. They will always be with you. But it allows room for new characters and events. Someone once told me that the reason some people stay stuck in the worst moments of their life is because that’s all they have. They live in that moment because it was significant.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away because you really should read it for yourself, but I will reference a part of the book (with no spoiler context) that was super relateable to me. One of the characters mentioned that when she envisioned her trauma, she pictured herself as scared and hopeless. When she finally embraced the power of forgiveness, she pictured the woman that she had become sitting alongside the scared little girl. She pictured herself giving her a hug and letting her know that it will be okay. That might sound crazy to some, but for trauma victims it’s common to feel as though your life was split into two parts: the part of you that lived before the trauma, and the person that you became afterwards. The middle can be kind of hazy sometimes. Your body has a way of shutting down some of those thoughts and preventing you from remembering certain things. Don’t spend so much time wishing that the past didn’t happen. It did. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to remain stuck in the moment? Will you use your knowledge to help others see the light?

If you found this helpful, let me know in a comment and feel free to follow along! Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann and TikTok @ashleelemay.

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

81038614_10159171185958146_6173684397561085952_o

Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom