The talented Jo Thompson recently wrote a feature for us about her life as a writer, what made her want to write and how she spends her time now. A heartfelt look at her and her children’s own struggles with mental health and how she channelled it into her own writing.
I grew up in a suburb of North London for the most part. The exception was three years in Cornwall when my parents tried to escape the rat race.
I attended local schools and like so many did not quite achieve my full potential.
I suffered with my own mental health issues from mid-teens. Mainly anxiety and an undiagnosed eating disorder. At 14 I tried to write a story, it was way too melodramatic and dark so I ditched it after the first chapter and just wrote down my feelings and emotions in poetry form which I continued to do for many years.
I drifted through various jobs from late teenage years til early twenties in a haze of self-medication.
I was married by 23 and had my first child at 24. That is when the light switched on. I was born to be a mother! It was the most natural thing in the world to me and the first time I felt at one with myself.
The honeymoon period did not last long. My first son started displaying being ‘different’ by 18 months. Before he turned four he had a younger brother and baby sister and I was increasingly becoming detached from my husband.
My first son was first diagnosed with ADHD at 12 years. This got changed to Aspergers at 14 and later a re-diagnosis of PDA (Pathological Demand and Avoidance) at 18. PDA is a little known part of the Autistic Spectrum, but my son had his first booked published earlier this year also, about his challenges and living with this. So he is raising awareness on this topic!
My second son was diagnosed with severe OCD at 12 but again in reflection, I noticed the signs a lot earlier. He was the true inspiration behind my book and the story is true to what happened. Although I compacted it, a lot more has not been shared. My son lives with OCD on a daily basis and continues treatment. He has it mostly under control now. By writing ‘Ted and his Head full of Worries’ I wanted to raise awareness for mental health issues especially in children. Finding help early is key.
My daughter started to display anxiety from about 7 years and continues to fight it. So having three children with mental issues I knew I had a story to tell it was just how. One day last year it came to me on a train trip between Brighton and Canterbury as a children’s story. It was done and dusted by the time I stepped off the train. Both my boys urged me to send it to a publisher. The rest is history, as they say! My publishing journey could not have been easier and ran smoothly from start to finish, of this I am grateful.
When my box of books arrived, I felt such a sense of achievement and pride. My book has had a very good response from friends and professionals. I hope it reaches many more people to help the sufferers and their loved ones manage and cope with this cruel disorder.
I now spend my time between Spain and the UK keeping life simple with plenty of time for, perhaps another story?