Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mental Health and Queens of Geek - My Story

Hey, all! 

I just finished reading Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde. 

I am going to review it, yes. But I'm also taking this opportunity to go over something that my blog rarely ever talks about - mental health. No, it's not going to be a rant about how authors don't portray it correctly, I promise :) 

"Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe."

I think it's best to go over one storyline at a time. 

First, I loved the setting to bits - a bunch of geeks at a convention with all kinds of fandoms, where words like OTP and vlogging are just normal vocabulary. This is something I could relate to right away, just as I'm sure many of us readers could! It's been a dream of mine to go to BEA since forever, and I can just imagine how excited our characters were! 

Then we get our two characters - Charlie and Taylor. 

Charlie's story didn't speak to me as much - extroverted youtuber and actress who meets one of her online crushes who actually likes her back! Now I'm all for queer representation in books, it's so nice to see that authors now find it easier to include it! But I just couldn't find myself to be interested in her story. I guess its because of Taylor. 

I could relate to Taylor in almost every single way. Her absolute love of books and certain series, her shy geekiness and her leaning onto friends. I could even relate to her in the movies she quoted things directly from as references! Another big thing I could relate to was her fear of change. I was thus super drawn to her story and kind of left Charlie's aside ^^

One main thing I had against the book was the second half of it. The first half was realistic and relatable and was super fun to read about! But the second each of the characters find themselves in a relationship, things fell apart, in my opinion. It got incredibly cheesy. I mean to the point where Taylor would talk to Jamie about an insecurity, he'd say one thing, and she'd reply like 'oh that's right! I didn't think about that! All my problems are solved now, and I'm going to ignore my anxiety and choose to be brave!" 

Now, that's not necessarily bad. But I do think someone my age (22 soon), can see past that. 

HOWEVER, I highly recommend this book to teens from 13-17. That's a very impressionable age, and this book really drives the message to love yourself the way you are - if you stand out by not conforming to gender 'norms', or if it's a mental health issue, you are yourself. Your 'peculiarity' does not define you. Through this this book reminded me a lot of the teen self-help books I read when I was in middle school. 

About that...

I'm gonna tell you guys something I don't really talk about in general. And it's Taylor in this book that kind of inspired me to write this section in my blog that I think is going to help me a lot, by putting it down in words and sharing it with people. With you guys, my readers. 

I have always been a thinker. I think all the time, to the point where I have insomia (since I was 2). However, the overthinking got extended: in my first year of university started getting what I thought were mood swings. for no apparent reason, I would go into a state of cold, ignoring, quiet attitude, where I felt 'dark and twisty', didn't want to talk to people and found nothing to be funny, sad, interesting or entertaining. Even the sound of people talking made me uncomfortable, and in these times I would start to think that people secretly hated me and that any kindness was out of obligation. Thankfully this would last about 12-18 hours at most and was about once every 2-3 weeks, so it wasn't constant. That's how I knew it wasn't depression (thanks psychology friends!) 

It got a bit better when I met my best friend at the end of my second year. He's a lot more care-free, loves life and just goes for whatever goal he has in mind, whether it's for school, work or for fun. Like when I moved to the Netherlands, hanging out with him and his sunshine personality helped me get over many insecurities. My dark moods withdrew a quite a bit. 

But in my last year of university, when I started thinking of the future with my thesis, masters degree, graduation, moving away from home, things started to get real again. I found myself to fall in these twisty times more often again. That's when I decided to take advantage of the university services for the first time and to see the uni psychologist. I knew that I would feel better once I had a name for my whatever it is, that I would know how to handle it. 

I went to her office, she gave me tea (already points for that!), and we talked about everything I mentioned above. At first, she was confused - fear of change is common enough, but with no immediate change in sight? Plus otherwise, I'm a happy child with good friends and family situation? But after 3 sessions, she narrowed it - and my insomnia - down to Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity is when you are unconsciously triggered by what I like to call 'people being idiots'. It results in overthinking and thus the dark and twisties, for a few hours. 

The 'official' term is HSP - Highly Sensitive Person. I am more prone to be annoyed by that one sound, to take things offensively, to overthink what people mean by a joke or to find that subway uncomfortable. It's a state where my senses can be overloaded, both physicaly and mentally.

It made sense to me - I got in my worse moods when I would hear people make honest fun of others, be cruel behind someone else's back, or thought of the future too much. I still get triggered by little things like exhaustion and the fact that I miss my friends, and that time usually means drifting apart. Time's always scared me - when I was little my birthday wish was to say 3 forever. 

But now that I have a word for it, I know how to handle it. I know that tea and dark chocolate helps, that watching a fun series such as The Big Bang Theory or Friends helps me get my mind off things and that sometimes I need to let myself feel all the emotions at once, or they'll build up. 

It's not a nice thing to have, but I did something recently. 

I made peace with it

I know that I'm going to have these moments, but I'm not afraid of them anymore. I know I can ask my friends to talk it out or to recommend music or youtube videos and I'll have some distractions. They're all helpful without even realizing it because I never fully explained it to them (except for the one mentioned above, he knew everything as it happened). 

But now I'm fine with it, as I know what it is, and how to handle it. I wanted to tell you guys about my hypersensitivity because writing it down and putting it out there is a good way to increase my confidence - to be able to tell everyone I'm okay and still happy and sunny despite something that is darker. It does not define me, and I won't let it do so. 

It's to the point where I don't need to talk about it, or let it control me. If I tell my parent's "I'm in one of my bad moods" they get it. I recently did a lot more reasearch about it and, since then, I have been more comfortable on a day-to-day basis. 

I guess that Taylor's acceptance of it helped me a bit, too. It's never shameful to as for help or guidance from friends or a professional. 

Overall I'm giving Queens of Geek a 4/5 feathers! Cute but a bit too biased towards Taylor ^^ 

Stay bookish,

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