Sunday, 28 April 2019

ANXIETEA & BISCUITS...

Blogger Emma tells us about the camping trip that pushed her to the limits and taught her how to say 'no' in the first of a hard-hitting new series on mental health...

1: 'GET IN, LOSER, WE'RE GOING CAMPING!'

Emma says:
“I keep living, loving and learning the hard way.” As I waited for my suitcase at the baggage area, this is the song I remember hearing through the speakers. I remember thinking how in theory the whole premise of the song seemed ridiculous. Why would you make the same mistake over and over again? I’d been working abroad for a month and had mixed feelings about returning home. It wasn’t like I left my feelings of anxiety back in Ireland like a troubled house pet and said “See you in a month, remember to eat and stay hydrated, K, thanks, bye.” It was always there, but somehow being in a change of scenery made it more manageable. I could pretend that life was always going to be a Venice Beach where the waves didn’t crash half as much.

The baggage belt suddenly started moving pulling me out of my thought, quickly reminding me that whatever pause my 'real life' had been on was firmly over. As I collected my suitcase, the weight of the bag seemed different. It seemed heavier than it did when I had checked it in a few hours beforehand. It stood as a firm reminder that all my baggage was waiting for me now that I was home. Little did I know, in the weeks to come, the bag was about to break. It was about to break in a way I couldn’t sweep under the carpet or ignore. I would have to learn how to properly clean up the mess.

I had been back two days when I was told I’d just under a week to organise and run a camp. It was my own fault. I should have said no. It was a near impossible task, with a built in guarantee that I’d forget something. As someone who colour coordinates their wardrobe and makes countless lists for nearly everything, it was a match made in hell. I still couldn’t say no. A week quickly passed and suddenly I found myself at a camp site, about to run the most organised unorganised camp in history. A camp my name would be tied to and every little thing that went right or more importantly wrong would fall on my shoulders.

I was an experienced camper, but that didn’t matter. Due to other events that occurred in that same week, my mindset and confidence were little to none. The whole premise of guiding is 'giving girls confidence,' yet here I was with over ten years camping experience (with the knowledge that goes with it) and I couldn’t work out how to breathe let alone sort a troublesome tent. I felt like a failure. How was I supposed to be a role model? The skills I'd spent years acquiring suddenly seemed to be as Frozen as the movie, but not nearly as entertaining.

Guiding used to be the place where I felt my strongest. A place where I could escape from my own head. Although the signs were always there, at the age of ten you don’t know what anxiety is. You can’t say how you feel or why you feel so sick whenever a primary school spelling test got the better of you. A lot changes in ten years. It will always be the place where some of my best friends and childhood memories were once tied to, but I wasn’t a child in denial anymore. Even as an adult, those memories still had a hold on me. I felt like while I was there I couldn’t appear to be any less perfect or happy, then I was once upon a time. Over the years, I had slowly gotten better at managing my anxiety, but the way I suppressed my feelings that weekend undid what was honestly years of hard work. All because I didn’t - or couldn’t - say no.

From the outside, the camp went near seamlessly. The activities went fine, no one got food poisoning and the guides miraculously went to sleep with little persuasion and hardly any bribery. However, it was the behind the scenes (or tent if you’d like?) where the cracks started to show and the zip began to unfasten. The hectic pre camp preparation kept coming back to bite me. No one noticed I was breaking down in agony. Then again why would they?? Those who were close to me were miles away and uncontactable due to the unique signal availability. I felt this urge to overcompensate and keep everyone happy. Partly doing so in an effort to try and keep myself together. But it was impossible. It was like chasing a rainbow and I couldn’t find a sliced pan let alone a pot of gold.

It was on the last day the bag finally broke. It was a small incident, a few words that probably meant me no harm. But it was the last thing the bag could take. I felt every part of me breakdown. I had tried so hard to salvage the situation and nothing I did was “right”. But it made me realise I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. These were the words that were my foundation for starting again after the camp ended.

I didn’t sleep properly for months after. I still don’t. But I have faith in time as a healer. Every coping technique seemed useless, every positive affirmation silly. Every fault, every remark made,  manifested itself into the cruellest of intrusive thoughts. Something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I only realised how well I had been doing when I broke down. Getting help again, from the same person I did many years ago was the worst part. How I let them and myself down after months of thriving. I let myself be broken.

It felt like I was back at square one, but this time I knew that saying no was my superpower to saying sane. I wasn’t superwoman and after seeing the consequences of my cape ripping and landing so elegantly on my face, I didn’t want to be.  I am still an overachiever who colour coordinates her clothes. I still feel terrible when I have to say no and that may take years to change.

The key piece of information that keeps me going is simple - I now know that the feeling I get when I say no when I need to is a million times better than falling apart in a camp site bathroom, alone, using a whole bottle of concealer (a very expensive way to deal emotions that is not sustainable for a student). That camp was the blessing that broke me. It may sound confusing. But I’ve learned that sometimes you need to be completely broken so you can rebuild the right way. Like a reboot of an old TV show that had lost all its magic. Life may never be a Venice Beach where you can get fake but gorgeous handbags, but we have no choice but to go through life the same way we’d eat an elephant. One piece at a time, embracing the imperfectly perfect moments on the way.

Cathy says:
I love Emma's honesty and bravery in sharing her experiences with anxiety - I think it will help a lot of people. Have YOU ever struggled with anxiety? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 26 April 2019

NICOLE: MURAL ARTIST

Do YOU know what you'd like to do as a career? In the first of a new DREAMCATCHER series we talk to young people with a whole variety of cool jobs. Prepare to be inspired!

Nicole says: 
I fell in to my job completely by chance! I had started singing at an Open Mic quite near to where I live. It was a really fun thing to do on my Wednesday nights, but as I started making friends with the host, George, we started talking about art. It turned out that he actually painted murals for a living, in hospitals and schools. He ran his own charity called Art For Their Sake - and it had been going for almost fifty years! He asked me if I wanted to volunteer with the charity and I of course said yes!

The first thing that I ever painted for this charity was rocks. Lots and lots and lots of rocks! George taught me that painting on to a wall is very different from painting on to a canvas or on paper. I couldn't quite believe how he had made painting rocks so interesting! I completely fell in love with the job and now, five years later, I can paint everything, from characters, to backgrounds, to more rocks!

It's very hard work, because we do very long hours and the pay isn't  great. It takes time to create a mural! But when you love your job, money doesn't matter, because of how happy it makes you, day in, day out.

I had just finished High School when George asked me to work with him. I wasn't sure at first, because my art teacher had not been a fan of anything I did! She told me, 'You would be lucky to get a 'C' grade.' But then she went on maternity leave... and a wonderful substitute teacher taught us for the year. She told us to believe in ourselves... and just like that, I managed to get a 'B' in art. It still wasn't what I was hoping for, but it showed me that even if you don't get as high a score as you would like in tests and exams, if you are passionate enough, you can still find a way to achieve your dream!

Cathy says:
Wow... what an inspiring message, and what a fabulous, creative job! The satisfaction of creating a bright, beautiful mural for a school or hospital must be huge... and what talent! What is YOUR dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

ARE YOU EXAM SAVVY?

Reader Ruadhan shares her tips on making sure you are ready for whatever the exam season has to throw at you!


Ruadhan says:
Exam time can be really stressful, especially the studying bit! There are ways to deal with that exam stress so that you can feel a lot more confident and relaxed when the time comes… here are my top tips!

- Always drink plenty of water. Believe it of not, it can really help you focus as it refreshes your brain!

- Try listening to classical music. Some people like to study in silence, but for others, music helps them to concentrate. If this is the case for you, try listening to classical rather than pop or rock as it is less distracting and can have a calming effect!

- Revise in sections. It's never a good idea to jump in and try to cram as much information as you can into your head. It will eventually just become a tangle. Sometimes it is helpful to use notecards rather than reading it straight from a book. Notecards are very handy!

-Give yourself plenty of time. If you have to study during the holidays, your first thought might be, 'I'll do it the week before we go back.' DON'T think this! What will happen is that you'll keep putting it off until you only have a couple of days left. You'll panic and end up not remembering much at all. It may sound simple, but study steadily all throughout the holidays and you will absorb so much more!

- Take a break! When you are under pressure, it can seem like any distraction will ruin your chances of getting a good grade. This isn't true. Studying without a break can harm your chances. Try to see studying like exercise - it is good for you, but do too much and you'll hurt yourself.

- If you are the kind of person who gets very wound up over exams, build in some relaxation. De-stress  when taking those breaks… dance, sing, do yoga… anything to take the weight off your shoulders and allow you to unwind a little. When those exams roll around, you'll be ready to tackle them in style!

Cathy says:
Great advice - my advice is to make a revision timetable, and copy out notes several times as you revise… this usually ensured the info stuck in my head! Do YOU have any revision tips to share? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: CHOCOLATE

Reader Lizzie writes of friendship, romance and chocolate in her fab short story with a clever, chocolatey twist at the end!

Lizzie says:
I hate chocolate.
It’s not just the taste, although that’s bad enough. It’s the texture as well. It’s a lose-lose situation – it’s either rock hard so that you practically break your teeth on it, and all you can do is chip off tiny shavings with your incisors – but it’s even worse if it’s soft. Just thinking of the way it dissolves when you chew it into a tacky, syrupy mush, brings bile to my throat.
So, OK, maybe I’m overdramatising. It’s not like I’m eating spiders, or maggots, or anything else that most normal people would consider disgusting. But for some reason, it’s almost worse, because chocolate seems to be everywhere these days and there’s no escaping it. Shops, stalls, birthday presents, Christmas presents …it’s enough to drive anyone crazy, right?
Which is why, when I opened the lid of my desk one damp Monday morning and found a box of rose-scented truffles lurking inside, I wasn’t so much flattered as disgusted.
I appreciated the thought, sure. Wouldn’t any girl be pleased to find she has a secret admirer? I just kind of wished whoever it was had found a slightly different way of expressing his feelings.
I had a problem. These were way too good just to chuck away, and I couldn’t see anyone else in my family wanting them. My dad’s the same as me regarding the whole chocolate phobia, and my sister Linnie is still on mushy green baby food, so the truffles seem to be doomed from the start.
I leaned over the aisle between the desks, whispering, “Hey! Hinnay! Over here!”
She closed the book she had been reading under the desk and glanced up without much interest. “Yeah?”
I leaned closer. “Do you want a box of chocolates? ‘Cause there’s one going free right here.”
Hinnay of all people understands my aversion to chocolate. She’s about the only person who doesn’t stare at me when I push away the end-of-term silver-wrapped Santa, and who doesn’t gape in amazement when I wrinkle my nose at the smell of cocoa. This is why she is my best friend. It’s refreshing being with someone who doesn’t treat you like a freak.
She looked at me now, raising her dark brows in a slant. “How come you’ve got a box of chocolates on you?” she questioned me.
I was unsure if I wanted to tell her about my secret admirer (assuming that’s who they were from) just yet. “Um, I just…do?”
The lame explanation seemed to satisfy her. “Okay, whatever,” she shrugged. “Where’s the ambrosia?”
I snorted at the “ambrosia” remark, reaching into my desk and drawing out the box. I was careful to keep it hidden. If the sender was someone in my class, I didn’t want him to be offended.
“Whoa,” Hinnay said, her brown eyes widening. “Who sent you these, Mel?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
She pushed them back across the desk at me. “I’m not taking these. Even if you’re not going to eat them, you can’t just give them away.”
“What am I supposed to do with them, then?” I protested.
Hinnay sighed. “Put them under your pillow and treasure them for eternity. Where’s your sense of romance?”
I frowned. “Under my pillow? They’d melt.”
“I’m not being literal. Oh, never mind.”
I groaned. “Hinnay, please say you’ll have them.”
She flushed. “Mel…if I’m honest…I don’t really like these praline ones. They’re too rich for me.”
So she hadn’t refused my offer out of concern for my love life, after all.
“Couldn’t you, I don’t know, try and force a couple down?”
“No,” she said flatly. “Last time my aunt sent me some, I threw up.”
That was a no, then.
“Wait!” Suddenly, she was diving into my desk. “There’s a note! Look!”
“Gimme that!” I snatched it, scanning the closely printed, curling writing.
Meet me behind the science garden at four.
I looked at Hinnay and she stared back, wide-eyed.
“Whoa,” we said in unison.
“Mel?”
I glanced up and my mouth fell open.
James Taylor, the most attractive boy in the year was staring down at me. I was so shocked I thought I might suffocate. Admittedly, I knew him better than most of the other boys, but somehow I’d always thought we were more friends than…than…
“Um…hi?” I heard a voice squeak out. How ashamed I was that it was mine.
“Listen…Mel.” His voice was uncharacteristically nervous.  Believe it or not, I was pretty nervous too.
“I know you probably have no idea what’s going on…”
Pause.
 “But I just wanted to say…”
Pause.
 “That I like you…”
Pause.
 “I mean, I really like you…”
Pause.
 “And I sent you those chocolates…”
That was when I blurted out possibly the stupidest thing I have ever, ever, ever said in my whole life. Like, ever.
“I don’t – like chocolate.”
Well, that was quick for a first relationship.
He blinked at me, puzzled. “What?”
I had no choice but to mumble it again. “I don’t like chocolate.”
“Oh.”
He sounded so disappointed I thought I might cry.
“I’m sorry, Mel. I just…I kind of sent them because I like chocolate, and I thought you would too…I’m sorry, I really am. You don’t have to eat them.”
“No, I’m sorry,” I said frantically. “I didn’t mean I don’t like them, I mean, I really like you, but…”
We both froze as I realised what I’d just said.
“You – like me too?” he asked curiously.
I nodded, unable to meet his eyes.
There was a long silence. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I glanced up, maybe to apologise, but the next thing I knew, his mouth was on mine.
After what could have been a minute, or perhaps several sunlit years, we broke apart. I stared at him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
He was apologising for kissing me?
“Don’t be sorry,” I whispered.
Smiling, he kissed me again. I closed my eyes.
His lips tasted of chocolate...

Cathy says:
Beautifully written, what a read! What did YOU think? Do YOU have a chocolate themed romance you'd like to share? COMMENT BELOW...

Friday, 19 April 2019

ADULT BOOK REVIEWS OF SAMI

It's not just children that love CC books, you know! Here are some fab reviews by adults!

EMMA SAYS:
After being inspired by @cathycassidyxx  at Liverpool Reading Rocks, I bought SAMI'S SILVER LINING from the bookshop and once I started, I couldn't put it down! I had goosebumps reading Sami's story and I can't wait to share it with my class on Monday...

LINDY SAYS:
Well I did it, I read a ‘children’s book’ recommended by my daughter... it was SAMI'S SILVER LINING... and I loved it. Relaxing to read (an important  criteria for me after work), beautifully written, informative and educational about a current affairs issue... and it made me cry. I suppose I should listen to Katie’s recommendations more often. (Don’t tell her I said that...)

ALISON SAYS:
I loved SAMI'S SILVER LINING. It is beautiful and quirky and humane and I finished reading it on Saturday and gave it to a friend's daughter, who has been visiting with her family and is also beautiful and quirky and humane. She plays the flute like Sami and spoke of the refugee children who are now at her school in Berlin. Thank you, CC, for writing with such kindness and empathy. The world needs more of this!


MARISA SAYS:
I read SAMI'S SILVER LINING because my daughter wouldn't stop talking about it and I wanted to understand why it had made such an impression. This may be a children's book but boy did it grip me. It's a long time since I've read something so thought-provoking, eye-opening and powerful, and as a family we've had several big discussions triggered by the story. I've passed the book on to a friend (although my daughter wants it back as soon as she's read it...) and also bought a copy for my daughter's school. My daughter and I are both now huge CC fans.

KAREN SAYS:
Fifteen year old Sami is trying to come to terms with his new life in England living with his aunt and uncle. He has escaped from war-torn Syria, lived for a while in the cramped conditions of a refugee camp and then made a perilous journey in an overcrowded  boat across the icy waters of the Aegean Sea to Kos. The boat capsized and he was hauled out of the sea with no sign of his father, mother or little sister. After more hardship, he arrives in the UK with virtually nothing but his flute and the battered old, silver lined coat that used to belong to his dad. I strongly recommend this well told multi-layered story which is all about friendship and camaraderie. Without spoiling the plot, I need to reassure you that there is a very positive ending and eventually Sami is ready to take off the coat and to give it a new life. Cassidy is keenly aware of the political power of fiction to help readers understand and want to ask questions about real world concerns. In the afterword, she explains that Sami’s story is based on the reality faced by thousands of child refugees who are trying to find sanctuary in the UK. As such, this is an important campaigning novel with a clear message for readers. 

BOB SAYS:
Cathy  Cassidy has always written books with characters we care about. THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series set a high benchmark for weaving a series of  individual, yet interconnected tales, but if the first two books in her  new series, the LOST & FOUND are anything to go by, this new series will  be even better. SAMI'S SILVER LINING focuses on Sami, a Syrian refugee. It  gives us the story of his present day adventures with the band, but this  is interspersed with extracts from his notebook, telling the moving and  powerful story of his journey from Syria to Britain. This is where the  book moves from being a superbly written and thoroughly enjoyable tale, to being a highly affecting and important book which needs to be read and read widely. Sami's tale is one of hope through the direst adversity but reminds us that for every Sami, there are thousands of other  displaced people who are not as fortunate. This wonderful book should be read, loved and taught in every school and is the work of an author at the peak of her powers. Just read it.

CATHY SAYS:
It means a lot that adults are connecting to SAMI'S SILVER LINING just as strongly as kids are... wow! Have YOU read it yet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

BEAUTY SLEEP - WIN WIN WIN!!!

My name is Kathryn Evans and the lovely Cathy has let me hijack DREAMCATCHER for the day - I thought I'd tell you about my new book and set a cool COMPETITION for you! 

The comp is easy - just tell me what YOU'D put into a time capsule!

In my new book, BEAUTY SLEEP, sixteen year old Laura is put into cryostasis in 1986.  She has to pack a few things that will be there for her in the future when she’s woken up. Laura’s box is very similar to the things I’d have packed when I was her age! (Yes, OK, that's me on the right when I was a teen...)
So... into my time capsule I'd pack...

Scrapbook
I was obsessed with scrap books when I was a teenager. I stuck in pictures of all the bands I loved, from magazines like Smash Hits. I was absolutely in love with John Taylor from Duran Duran so there were loads of pics of him. I’ve still got this picture ! If I was a teenager now though, my scrapbook would definitely be full of all the things I got up to with my friends - we just didn’t have that many photographs back then. 

Tape of fave tunes 
I can’t live without music. I love festivals and always have the radio on. In 1986 there was no Spotify, so we mixed our own tapes and gave them as gifts. Laura puts a tape she’d recorded with her best friend Stacey into the time capsule.

Picture of my family
I grew up in a family of seven - four kids, Mum, Dad and Nana. As annoying as brothers and sisters can be, I wouldn’t be without them. I’d show you a picture but they’d kill me... 

Teddy 
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not childish to love your teddy. Your teddy sees you through the best and the worst of times. Your teddy is your confident and pal and never criticises or judges. I’d take my teddy over some people anyway of the week. Here he is, this is Scruffy - you may recognise the description of Laura’s teddy from this actual real life , moth eaten old bear. I love him and I don’t care who knows it.

Favourite clothes 
I had to save money from my paper round to buy any decent clothes so every item was precious - a pair of blue skin tight jeans with white piping down the side were my prized possession. Once I bought a studded belt, I’d wanted one FOREVER. My dad marched me back to the shop and made me give it back - he said he didn’t want a punk rocker for a daughter! I gave Laura a couple things that I would have loved to own but didn’t have the money for - a blue Bennetton jumper and a Choose Life t-shirt. She should have had a ra-ra skirt too. I did eventually save up enough to buy a grey one of those - just as they went out of fashion.

COMP!!!!
If you were going to sleep for forty years, what would YOU pack to take with you? The list I love best will win a Choose Life T-shirt – just like Laura’s - and a copy of my brand new book BEAUTY SLEEP!  



Cathy says:
Kathryn's book BEAUTY SLEEP is hands down the best book I've read this year - it's gripping, thought-provoking and chilling by turn... I seriously could not put it down! If you like YA books with a dystopian twist you'll love it! To enter the comp, either COMMENT BELOW or email me with the list of what YOUR time capsule would include HERE. What are you waiting for?!!!

Friday, 12 April 2019

YOUNG LIBRARIANS - EASTER UPDATE!

The TERRIBLE TRIO + ONE are back with their round up of springtime news from their fab school library... take a look!

Easter is upon us, and we are feeling happy in the library. This links to our new display: 'How are you feeling today?' Our school does its best to promote wellbeing and we know that reading is a good way to relax and calm down as well as reading for pleasure.

Our Easter bunnies (student librarians) have been putting away all our books and patrolling in the library. Our newly extended library bunny family (the newest recruits) have settled in and seem like they have been here for years. World Book Day wasn't too long ago, and we have the new selection of World Book Day books in the library. As a school we all enjoy World Book Day and this year we all walked into town and purchased our books with the school tokens. What book will you choose?


Westacre have recently had a visit from the book fair, which was as popular as ever, with pupils buying a variety of books for themselves and others, as well as a significant amount of stationery! We made a grand total of £110! That money will go towards more books for the library, for everyone to enjoy. 

As Easter is approaching we are all on the lookout for good books to read over the holidays.
Here are our top Easter reads to share with little brothers and sisters...
The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert;
Llama Llama Easter Egg by Ann Dewdney
The Easter Bunny’s Assistant by Jan Thomas
Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood
Pete the Cat - Big Easter Adventure by Kimberly & James Dean
Emma the Easter Fairy by Daisy Meadows

Over the last couple of months, we have started a book club where we all read the same book – along with other local schools - and then meet up and discuss the book together. In March, we visited one of the schools and discussed our current book at the time - Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Pax is about a young boy and his pet fox Pax - however war breaks out and he is forced to leave his fox forever in order to live with his grandfather many miles away. The two then begin the quest to find one another. I thought the book was a little bit predictable but many people thought it was a good read!  
Our next read is Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. This book is a compelling story about a boy who gets shot by a policeman who mistakes his toy gun for a real one... check it out!  
In February, we went to go see Candy Gourlay. She was at the Kings’ School, Worcester and she did an author talk. We all bought her book Bone Talk and got our books signed. We also got a signed book for the library! We stayed until the end of the meeting and were able to get a picture with Candy!
We have loved our new experiences recently and we are looking forward to those ahead... see you soon for more library news!
The Terrible Trio + One!

Cathy says:
Love this library round-up by the cool student librarians at Westacre! Have YOU ever thought of getting involved in your school library? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

DISCOVERING CC BOOKS...

Reader Hannah describes a meeting with Cathy Cassidy - and finding new books to fall in love with!

Hannah says:
I met Cathy Cassidy on her trip to Trim Library in October last year, when my school went along to the library as part of Children's Books Ireland Festival. I recently bought the book LOOKING GLASS GIRL and I must say I'm in love. The dark theme is one I love reading! I'm twelve years old, so it's all very relatable for me... well, except the coma part of course!

Cathy Cassidy's books seem very down to earth and real, and I can tell with no doubt in my mind they are extremely accurate to how girls my age behave and think. It feels like looking in a mirror.
I plan to purchase or borrow CC's newest book, SAMI'S SILVER LINING. Not only because the book will undoubtedly be fantastic, but because the topic is one that is very close to my heart.
I am of Syrian heritage, so when Cathy talked about her inspiration for the book, I was greatly moved.

I am very into art. I like singing, writing poems, drawing and writing stories especially. Although my stories are more fantasy based than CC's would typically be, I noticed while reading her books they reminded me of something I'd maybe write myself. CC books are a big inspiration to me now and I really like their style - it is 100% my cup of tea. I am very happy I finally found an author whose books I can relate to!

Pic posed by model

Cathy says:
Aww... what a lovely blog! Thank you so much Hannah - I think we all love discovering a new author whose work we love! Have YOU ever been to a CC book event? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 1 April 2019

HOLLIE: I DYED MY HAIR PURPLE FOR EPILEPSY AWARENESS!

Holly says:
Epilepsy awareness is hugely important to me; I was diagnosed with absence seizures at the age of twelve. Because not many people know what absence seizures are, it makes it all the more difficult to explain to friends - and it can frighten them. I want people to know there’s more than one type of epilepsy, there’s more than twenty, even. My seizures were where I would lose consciousness for five to ten seconds, but I’d stay standing up, just staring into space. A lot of my friends didn’t even notice! Unless I’m having a cluster of lots at once, they can be quite difficult to spot. For me, it just feels like I’ve fast forwarded a bit on a TV show and am trying to work out what happened. 

When people don’t always understand all types of epilepsy, it can feel quite isolating, and having to explain all the time, although I was happy to do it, sometimes made me feel a bit frustrated. No one understood. 

Purple Day is a national day to raise awareness of epilepsy. Everything goes purple on the 26th of March, to get the message out there of what epilepsy is. It’s also a great way to raise funds for epilepsy charities such as Epilepsy Action, who sent me an information pack explaining my diagnosis when I was twelve. I was controlled for a number of years on one medication, but I had to start taking other meds for mental health problems and they interacted and I’ve struggled to gain control ever since. Today I’ve been absence seizure free for six months! 

This year, I decided to dye my hair for Purple Day - to raise awareness,  as well as a bit of money! I set a target of raising £50, but with some wonderful support from friends and family, they sponsored me for over £500! I now have bright purple hair and my friends from college also all dressed up on the day in purple, and raised a further £30, they’re amazing! They were so supportive, I think because they’ve seen the effect that changing my epilepsy meds has had on me over the last six months. I may have been seizure free, but the withdrawal symptoms and side effects have caused real problems. So it meant a lot when they all supported me by dressing up! 

One in every hundred people has epilepsy, so chances are you will know someone who does. Read up on it and see what you can do to support them - that bit of knowledge will mean the world!

Cathy says:
This is a subject close to my heart, as my daughter had the same diagnosis as Hollie when she was a young teen, and took time to come to terms with it. I love Hollie's can-do attitude - and her awesome purple hair! Have YOU ever raised money to help a cause you really believe in? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

WISHES FOR A POST-LOCKDOWN WORLD...

We asked which things you'd like to leave behind in a post-lockdown world and which you'd like to hang onto... your answers were ins...