Girl in a forest: FACING YOUR CHILDHOOD FEARS

Facing your Childhood Fears

Continuing with themes behind Sussex thriller, LETHAL TIES, with a special emphasis on mental health, I would like to introduce another main protagonist in this story. Maisie. She might appear professional on the outside but on the inside, her world is falling apart.

A possible survivor of child abuse like Joe, Maisie turns to psychotherapy. This post looks deeper into the symptoms of abuse, a turmoil that affects her every day life, as well as other young adults like her.

  • What are the origins behind Maisie’s recurring nightmares?
  • For what reason does she have a phobia of forests?
  • What causes her to suffer anxiety and panic attacks?
  • Maisie finds it hard to settle into relationships, lacks confidence, has a fear of intimacy.
  • But can psychotherapy regress her enough to unlock those painful childhood traumas?

What could have happened in Maisie’s life to trigger such powerful responses? Let’s start by examining her experiences, starting from her early childhood.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MAISIE

Maisie Bell, a character from LETHAL TIES
  • Maisie lost her entire family in a car accident when she was small.
  • Traumatised beyond reason, she became withdrawn, froze people out, shied away from relationships and made herself unlovable.
  • Condemned to live in a children’s home, she befriended Joe and later Sam.
  • She also remember’s the home’s creepy owner, Mr Mortimer.
  • Her memories are vague, but something bad happened in that home, something that has haunted her right up to present day.
  • Her lucky escape came when she was fostered by a loving couple in Kent, with whom she spent the rest of her childhood.

A character driven thriller, there is a mystery at the heart of this story.

Maisie has never forgotten Orchard Grange, the children’s home she and Joe lived in, nor the parties Mortimer dragged them to. Neither can they forget their friend, Sam, a vulnerable 11-year old boy who disappeared one night… He has been missing for twenty years.

Nightmares 

Trees seems to be a common theme in Maisie’s thoughts. In addition to her unusual phobia – where the very thought of walking into a forest brings on a panic attack – she sees trees in her recurring nightmare; specifically a spidery network of branches silhouetted against a night sky.

Maisie has no recollection of what happened on the night of the party she was taken to, other than what Joe has spoken of himself. It’s as if this memory has been erased, leaving a terrifying black void. But from leaks in her subconscious mind, (resulting from therapy) she begins to form the impression that whatever trauma happened took place in some forest…

Tree branches silhouetted against a night sky

Why Panic Attacks?

Thinking of a conversation I had with a senior officer from the Metropolitan Police, who handled child abuse cases, I was advised that recovered memories from psychotherapy cannot be relied upon. He did say however, that one of the most powerful triggers in recalling memories originates from smell, e.g. a particular aftershave at the time the abuse took place. 

In Maisie’s case, it is the musty smell of forests, traces of leaf mould and damp soil that has her reeling in fear, every time she goes near them.

TYPES OF THERAPY

For people like Maisie who suffer some form of trauma in childhood – something that impacts on every day life – there are various types of help available. 

In the first instance there is counselling. Just talking about problems can be a huge help as opposed to bottling them up inside. Even a fear such as a common spider phobia can be attributed to something harrowing in the past. Facing childhood fears is never pleasant, but in some cases may act as a release valve and once addressed can help the individual to move forward.

Counselling is available on the NHS but in some cases, may not go deep enough to get to the root of more complex traumas. This being the case, the next stage may be to look for a less general, more specific type of help.

Psychotherapy

When stressful events that people experience or witness make them feel unsafe or vulnerable, psychotherapy can help by eliminating or controlling troubling symptoms, in order to function better and improve well-being. Like counselling, psychotherapy is designed to get people talking about their symptoms, and devising coping strategies to improve mental health. 

Regressive Therapy involves placing a patient into a relaxed state, or inducing a mild hypnotic trance, so they can recover painful memories. These may include childhood traumas. 

Anyone considering this type approach needs to do their research though, make sure the therapist complies to accepted medical standards and is accredited with governing bodies such as BABCP (British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies), BPS (British Psychological Society) or UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy). Some examples of regression can be dangerous and have even been known to implant harmful ideas.

CBT

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, reference: Mind-health.co.uk) is designed to help patients understand their current thought patterns. This may include such things as their mental image and beliefs, but is used to identify harmful thoughts and misperceptions, anything that may be holding them back in life. It is possible that negative thought patterns can be reversed by trying to do things differently, which may in turn help the patient discover new paths in life.

IN THE CONTEXT OF MAISIE 

Maisie’s phobia of woods, anxiety attacks and nightmares are the cognitive responses that have a negative impact. But at a deeper level, her fear of intimacy is the more harmful issue that stops her from enjoying a happy, fulfilling life and settling into a lasting relationship. This is not unusual in abuse victims as I have read in various blogs I’ve researched. Thus, in one of her therapy sessions, she describes her first sexual experience as traumatic; that she became so frozen, so tense it felt more like consenting to a rape. 

A hooded figure used as an illustration in my blog

LETHAL TIES is a work of fiction, intended as a suspenseful, twisty novel, but also addresses some of the mental health issues that prevail in today’s society. Next time, I’m writing about Asperger’s with a view to promoting a better understanding of the condition.

Guest Post by Carol Thomas

Writing within the romance genre.

Carol ThomasIt is lovely to invite Carol Thomas to my blog with her enlightening article about writing romance. I first met Carol via the author networking group CHINDI. Carol lives just up the road from me on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively young Labrador.

Carol writes for both adults and children: Her contemporary romance novels, have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads; while her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.

So what other ingredients can Carol share about romance writing?

“While all romance novels have a central relationship focused around a ‘love’ story and the expectation of a satisfying and optimistic ending how the author portrays that relationship, the journey they take their characters on and the manner in which a satisfying ending is achieved can vary greatly from novel to novel. This diversity is facilitated by the fact romance is a term encompassing many sub-genres, including, romantic thrillers, romantic suspense, historical, and contemporary romance, to name but a few.

My writing falls into the subgenre of contemporary romance; it reflects the mores of life and relationships today. As such it errs on the side of realism. As a keen people watcher, I love to collect moments and situations in my notebook. When I am writing I like to draw on these and to thread them through my fiction. I think this helps readers relate to my characters and the manner in which they deal with the situations they find themselves in.

My current work in progress, like many contemporary romance novels, contains elements of comedy. One piece I particularly enjoyed writing is based on conversations my daughter and her friends had after a sex education lesson at school. She was seven at the time, so I am sure you can imagine they had some interesting things to say on the subject. With permission I have borrowed their words and given them to the children of one of my main characters. Such classic moments are hard to make up and deserve to be shared. This is another of the things I love about writing within this genre. It enables you to share the lighter moments of life, as well as those that are more challenging, such as the theme of infidelity in my novel Crazy Over You.”

Crazy Over You by Carol ThomasWhile writing Crazy Over You I wanted to ensure I portrayed the depth of my main character’s feelings honestly. Abby’s world has been turned upside down and her fifteen-year marriage is potentially over. These are big, life changing events and I wanted to treat them as such. That is not to say that Crazy Over You is a sad story. Yes it has its moments, infidelity is not a subject you can tackle honestly without reflecting some of the impact on those concerned, but the story also contains warmth, humour and a strong sense of moving forwards. As Abby attempts to gain control of her life and make decisions about her future, it becomes clear that Crazy Over You is as much a story about friendship, family and love as it is of infidelity.

Creating and maintaining a balance between realism, romance and humour is one of the many reasons I enjoy writing within the contemporary romance genre. I hope that the journey my readers embark on will lead them to empathise with my characters as they laugh, cry and fall in love with them. Ultimately I want them to feel that they know my characters, that they could be them themselves or that they know someone like them. If my writing achieves this, then I am happy.

Crazy Over You: Love can drive you crazy… in more ways than one!

When Abby met Simon it was the start of something special, a love Abby believed would last a lifetime.

A wedding, two daughters and fifteen years later Abby’s world is falling apart. Having discovered Simon has had an affair her normally ordered mind is spiralling out of control. Crushed by the betrayal and shocked by her own reaction, she knows she needs to get herself together. She’s just not sure where to start.

With Simon on a mission to win her back and a close friend hiding a secret that could push her further over the edge, Abby finds strength and support where she least expects it. But as she attempts to gain control of her life and make decisions about her future, it may be more than the limits of Abby’s mind that are put to the test!

Watch the book trailer:

Genre: Contemporary romance
Release date: 28th October 2015
Publisher: Matador

Buy Crazy Over You:

http://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/books
Amazon.co.uk: http://tinyurl.com/COY-Amazonuk
Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/COY-Amazoncom

To find out more about books by Carol Thomas:

http://www.carol-thomas.co.uk
http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2