Shortly before I sat my A-Level exams, I began to lose use of my wrists – not completely, but enough. I couldn’t write for more than 10-minutes, and I could only do so slowly. This was an issue because 1) I’m a writer and 2) I had three-hour exams.
Society often shames us into hushing-up our symptoms. At the time, I hadn’t been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. My answer to “What’s wrong with you?” was always a defensive, “Well, technically nothing, but—”. Despite having “technically nothing” wrong with me, I did what seemed to be impossible. I asked for help – something noone ever should never be afraid to. I was permitted to use a computer, which, although It still hurt my wrists, made exams much easier. And I came out with some pretty-damn-good grades.
Now, I’m studying Creative Writing at University. It’s increasingly difficult to balance chronic illness with my studies. I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia this January, and it’s around that time I got worse. Moreover, I was receiving no treatment. There’s no cure for Fibromyalgia – but there are ways to cope with it.
I knew none of these ways.
Fibromyalgia became my life. I knew nothing other than Fibromyalgia. It was like an elephant living inside my skull. Heavy. Too big to be there. It’s still like that, but I’m learning ways to deal with it.
Fibromyalgia effects studying in numerous ways. Here, I shall list the main ones and how I personally cope with it. It should be said, everyone experiences Fibromyalgia in different ways, and what works for some may not work for others.
As said earlier in this post, it hurts to write. The muscles in my wrists are so weak, I struggle to put pen-to-paper for more than ten-minutes. This is particularly horrific as I’m a writer. I find it easier to type, but if I do it for too long, typing grows unbearable, too. Not to mention, I find it easier to work on paper – it’s clearer to think that way.
I combat this issue in two ways. One: I take regular breaks. Not only does this help the pain, but it refreshes my brain. As a writer, you often get caught up in different worlds. Two: I use a wrist rest when typing. This keeps the wrists in a more neutral position, putting less strain on the muscles, consequently easing the pain.
Another huge issue is the fibro-fog, or in other words: concentration. In fact, when writing this, I asked a friend, “What would you like to see in this post?” because I couldn’t think. They said, “How it affects concentration.” Touché.
Again, one way I deal with this is to take regular breaks. If you can’t think, staring at the screen won’t help. So, stand up. Stretch. Take a short walk around your house. And then, resume. I always find when I do this, my fibro-fog induced writers-block disappears.
When Fibromyalgia is so bad that I cannot think of anything else – which is sadly often – I write about it. That way, I get work done and I’m able to raise awareness it. And, sometimes, good comes of it. My recent article, ‘15 Things Fibromyalgia Really Is’ was actually published on The Mighty. So, if you don’t really know what it is – go check that out.
If you’re out there, balancing Fibromyalgia with your studies, let me tell you this: I appreciate you. The fact you’re living with a chronic illness and putting yourself through pain to learn – you’re unbelievable. Don’t let the Fibro kick you down.
By Isabel Tyldesley.
Do you know where to go if you want to buy the best fruits and baskets in the whole damn world? Why, you go to Ronaldo at Ronaldo’s Fruit and Basket Stall, of course!
Ronaldo thinks he has a knack for business. You see, people need to eat, and people need to eat healthily. What food’s healthy? Fruit. So, people wanna buy fruit – you’ve gotta eat your five-a-day. But what if there’s five people in your house? That’s twenty-five Fruits. Noone has twenty-five hands – not even Ronaldo. So, people need something to carry the fruit. People need a basket. People buy Ronaldo’s baskets. It’s business at its finest.
And that’s why Ronaldo named himself Ronaldo. Because he thinks he’s the best at what he does; like Ronaldo. Which is fair on Ronaldo, because all the people want Ronaldo’s fruit in their baskets.
“Ooh!” all the people say. “Where did you get that fine basket?”
“I got this cute basket from Ronaldo at Ronaldo’s Fruit and Baskets!” At least, that’s what Ronaldo imagines they say.
Ronaldo sells the best fruit because it isn’t bruised. When you don’t have a basket, he says, your fruit gets bruised. There’s nothing worse than buying a tomato, only for your tomato to be juice and skin on the floor, Ronaldo says.
The Other Fruit Stall Vendors disagree with Ronaldo. They think Ronaldo brings shame to the Fruit Stall Market Corner. Who would bring a basket to an avocado fight? Only Ronaldo.
Ronaldo has to go.
The Other Fruit Stall Vendors get to the Fruit Stall Market Corner at 4am – two hours prior to opening – to set-up their wares into a fruity rainbow the public can’t help but want to taste. Ronaldo won’t be there until 6am. His bananas need no prep.
It’s 4am, and The Other Fruit Stall Vendors have a plan.
The Other Fruit Stall Vendors sneak over to Ronaldo’s Fruit and Basket Stall. Knives at the ready. They give each other a knowing, lingering glance. And set to work, cut holes in the bottoms of all Ronaldo’s baskets. Now, when Ronaldo throws all his pears in one basket, they’ll fall through. They’ll bruise. Maybe even… smash.
It’s 6am and the Market is ripe. A lady purchases one of Ronaldo’s melons for a healthy snack. Ronaldo drops the melon into the ladies freshly-holed basket. The melon falls. The melon rolls. Ronaldo sprints. Ronaldo tackles the melon. Ronaldo volleys the melon towards the lady. Ronaldo scores – right into her hands.
Ronaldo 1 – 0 The Other Fruit Stall Vendors.
It’s always tricky to follow up on a beloved series, such as is The Faithful and the Fallen – but John Gwynne’s medieval-fantasy “truthfully” does a “courageous” job. The Faithful and the Fallen series is my favourite of all time; returning to the same world a little over a century later was uncanny. It was familiarly unfamiliar. To see how the world had geographically and socially evolved was charming.
A Time of Dread comes from four different perspectives – Bleda, Drem, Riv, and Sig – that swap chapter-to-chapter. Often with a format like this, you will fall upon a character’s narrative that you find dull, or annoying, or that you want to skip completely. The four perspectives in A Time of Dread, however, are all vastly different and thrilling to read.
Drem is no warrior; his struggles are different and typically internal. The frozen Desolation he resides in is a contrast to the other perspectives and makes me wonder how Britain collapses after 2cm of snow. Sig is a nicely added tribute to the original The Faithful and the Fallen series and allows the reader to reminisce through the eyes of Sig over old characters and battles. Moreover, she is a giant, which thus gives us more of a glimpse into that of the Giant lore and ways of life. Next is Bleda of the Sirak Horse clan, and ward in Drassil. Finally, Riv: a trainee hot-tempered, trainee White-Wing. What’s fun about Bleda and Riv’s narratives is how they entwine with one another, as both characters reside in Drassil, one as a warrior, one as a “hostage”. Thus, through these four points of view, we get to explore various areas of the Banished Lands, we get to partake different journeys – rather than it strictly being warrior training and travelling – and we get to see diverse relationships.
She is like the Sun when she is happy, like a furnace when she is angry. I have never known anyone so utterly opposite to my people.Bleda, Page 189.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fall as in love with Gwynne’s new characters as I did the old – and although noone could ever replace Corban, Camlin, Cywen, Storm and co. the characterisation in the Of Blood and Boneseries has improved. Which is impressive, seeing as it was outstanding to begin with.
The character’s in A Time of Dread are wholly three-dimensional, with Gwynne having adapted more humane characteristics. My personal favourite character, Drem, is compelled to check his pulse, to correct people, to know everything. It’s invigorating to read characters with struggles similar to us. A vast number of us will not have bee to war, or faced the extreme cold of Kergard, or been trained by the Ben-Elim, but we may know what it is to feel the compulsion to do things that we do not need to do, such as feeling our pulse. Thus, the character’s feel that little bit more real and relatable to us – and us readers love being able to imagine ourselves as character’s in a book and being able to connect ourselves to them.
Absently, he lifted two fingers to his throat, searching for his pulse.Drem, Pages 42-43.
A Time of Dread is a remarkable start to Gwynne’s latest series. Despite it being a follow-up series from The Faithful and the Fallen, it can be enjoyed without reading the latter – although it may help to read the original series in terms of lore. Of Blood and Bone comes with an extra added ounce of tension, a pinch of mystery, and a whole-fucking-lot of epicness.
A Time of Dread as available to purchase here.
By Isabel Tyldesley
Persepolis is the true story of Marjane Satrapi. This impassioned graphic novel, that was originally published in 2000 and later republished by VINTAGE in 2008, details what it was like – from Satrapi’s personal experience – to grow up during and after the Iraq-Iran war. We see Satrapi’s transformation from a child into a young woman. We see her move to Austria, where her parents sent her for her own protection. We see monstrosities that no child should have to see.
Art is obviously a fundamental feature in a graphic novel. The art style of Persepolis is simplistically monochrome. The majority of Satrapi’s graphic novel comes from the point of view of a child or teenager, as is reflected in her artwork; The visuals aren’t overly complicated – it’s believable a child could have drawn them. Yet, they are sophisticated, clever, and well-thought out. The writing and the art are symbiotic of one another, neither taking lead to dominate the other.
I don’t know about you, but I often get confused by who’s who – and this might be something you’re weary on when purchasing a graphic novel, especially one in black and white. Satrapi’s illustrations, however, are distinctive and individual. Each character stands out, making it easy to pick apart who is who. Not to mention, the characters feel real, because, of course, they are real, which arguably helped create strong characterisation and is a lesson any writer should take to heart. Even if you are not writing memoir, or something even slightly based upon a true story, a great way to create strong characters is to base them upon real people – whether they be people you know, historical figures, or anything in-between.
Satrapi, imaginably, aimed to educate people on the Iraq-Iran war; an aim which was achieved in a confidently engaging way. The majority of people blank out at reading blocks of analytical, detailed text – even those of us who are fascinated with learning about history. Persepolis, however, proves education does not have to be boring, but beautiful. Insightful. Heart-wrenching. Additionally, it being from the perspective of a child, makes it easily understandable and somewhat relatable. Even though we did not go through the same experiences, we all know what it is like to be an overwhelmed child, confused by your surroundings. Thus, even if you previously knew nothing about the Iran-Iraq war (like myself), Persepolis is easy to understand and is a great gateway into broadening your knowledge.
Satrapi’s work is enlightening. If you find yourself reading exclusively white, male authors, expand your horizon’s and give Satrapi’s Persepolis a read. Besides – Persepolis is banned in Satrapi’s homeland of Iran, which is even more reason to read it, if you ask me.
By Isabel Tyldesley
Look outside. Is it daytime? Yes? Then put down this book.
Murakami’s peacefully intense After Dark should only be read when it’s dark outside, or if you’re isolated from the rest of the world – else, the effect of this book is lost.
Personally, I read it on an early train. The sense of travelling from one place to another surrounded by strangers as the sun rose (somewhat) in time with the book added some much-needed atmosphere to my reading experience. The only thing that could beat it is reading After Dark in time with the events of the book, which are handily noted at the beginning of each chapter with a clock illustration.
A pre-warning for this book: if you’re looking for answers, this book won’t satisfy you. If you’re looking to be thrown into a mildly uncomfortable, philosophical ditch, then great! This book will most-likely-probably satisfy you.
There are three main narratives, and each seamlessly intertwines with the other; a prime example of artifice fiction. You have the tale of Mari Essai, and trombone playing Takahashi. You have Chinese Gangsters and Love Hos, with Kaoru and Shirakawa. You have Eri Assai and the Man with No Face. You have every variation between. After Dark is a culmination of a city’s worth of stories that take place across a single night. Are you willing to step foot into late-night Tokyo? A city that:
Between the time the last train leaves and the first train arrives, the place changes: it’s not the same as in daytime.Page 58.
There are some minor spoilers in the following sections.
There are many arguments for what point of view is taken in After Dark. Is it a ghost story? A psychedelic dream? Or, rather than a point of view – is it simply magic realism at its finest?
The broad answer is: it’s all of those things at once.
A closer look reveals that Mari’s image is still reflected in the mirror over the sink. The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side. … But there is no one on this side.Page 67.
It could be argued Mari is sleeping, and the Other Mari is a fragment of that dream. It could, however, be seen that we, the reader, take the form of a ghost, thus why we are able to move at will through narratives, and even into different dimensions held in a television.
All we have to do is separate from the flesh, leafve all substance behind, and allow ourselves to become a conceptual point of view devoid of mass.Page 108.
Of course, all fiction is open to interpretation; After Dark is a prime example.
To explore the magic realism aspect, we’ll focus on that of Eri Assai. She resides in a seemingly normal bedroom, but “magical” things happen – and in conjunction with the rest of the happenings in the book – they seem almost normal. The television turns itself on. Eri Essai swaps with the room in the television. Shirakawa’s pencils appear in Eri Essai’s room. How? Why? Once again, Murakami only raises more questions than he resolves.
The surreal aspect of After Dark is only emphasised by the meta-fiction quality that Murakami ingeniously embeds into the narrative.
Murakami’s use of meta-fiction is powerful primarily in two ways:
Our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera that can move freely about the room.Page 25.
Immediately, we are aware that we are separate and viewing Murakami’s world through a lens rather than being “present” in the room. Thus, the reader feels detached from the world, a contrast to the sense of belonging we typically experience when reading a good book. The sense of defamiliarization adds to the otherworldly feeling of the three intertwined narratives of night-time Tokyo. As put by Murakami:
We observe, but we do not intervene.Page 27.
At times, Murakami arguably hints that the characters know we are present such as in Chapter 6 – the following quote also interlaces Kaoru’s and Eri Essai’s narrative, through the mention of the camera.
The walls have ears – and digital cameras.Page 74.
Murakami is the director and you are the camera. You are only shown what you need to see – hence: every word of After Dark is valuable and engaging. You never want to skip a word – a key sign to a phenomenal read.
…our ever-alert camera circles to the back of the device and reveals that the television’s plug has been pulled.Page 28.
Often, the specific details just increase the reader’s confusion. For example, the fixation on time makes the reader anxious to know what it going to happen when the sun rises. The unplugged television confuses you as to how it turned on. The precise mention of ‘VERITECH’ on Shirakawa’s pencils and ‘VERITECH’ being on the pencils in Eri Essai’s room makes you wonder if they are the same pencils.
Each detail keeps you intrigued – makes you want to read more – to get the answers to your questions.
After spending a night with these characters, you begin to feel like they are real. You’re getting on the train with Mari Essai, you’re hunting down the business man with the Chinese Gangsters. You’re eating what feels like a billion meals with Takahashi.
You will feel fulfilled. Fulfilled from the connection you form with these characters. Fulfilled by your night in Tokyo.
You will feel unfulfilled. Unfulfilled from not knowing how these character’s stories end. Unfulfilled by all your unanswered questions.
But, most importantly, you will be happy.
You will be happy you read After Dark. I know it will stay with me forever.
By Isabel Tyldesley
When I tell people I have Fibromyalgia a lot of people stare blankly, or go “I’m so sorry” or, “I can’t even imagine” – sometimes it’s a combination of all three. Of course, it’s pretty difficult to understand what it’s like to have something you don’t have. I’m hoping that, after reading this, you’ll empathise somewhat.
This is what it’s really like to have Fibromyalgia.
…It’s reaching to pick something up next to you and pulling a muscle instead.
…It’s constant leg cramp – and continuing to walk despite it.
…And that’s not, “It’s been a long day and I want a nap,” but more like: “It’s been a long 19 years and I never want to wake up.”
…And knowing you’re being judged for it, because people don’t understand how you can complain about pain and still get up and do life anyway. They think you’re lying, but I can promise you: Yes, it hurts to walk. Yes, it hurts to write. Yes, I do it anyway.
…So to all of you I never make plans with – I’m sorry. I love you. Please, be patient.
…If there’s too much happening, whether that’s noise, smell, people, it can make your anxiety go into overdrive
…And then, it’s feeling stupid for being anxious because the TV is on, and someone else is talking on the phone, and your dog is nudging you for a cuddle. (I’m sorry, Molly, you’re super cute and I adore you.)
…Because you have to focus all your energy into work and living.
…As a kid, I wanted to be an athlete.
…By strangers, friends, Doctors.
…I walk around 7km a day despite my legs begging otherwise. Sorry that I don’t run a daily marathon on top of that.
…Oh boy, the many, many years I spent being told I was just “mildly anaemic”.
…Which is a whole issue on its own and deserves a separate post.
…It’s not being able to keep up in a conversation.
…It’s forgetting everyday things.
It often feels you are when suffering from any chronic illness – but you’re not. There’s an entire community of people around you who understand. Reach out to one another. You are never alone.