How Running a Book Blog Helps Me Cope With Fibromyalgia


I’ve always loved to read. Reading is one of my favorite things to do. I love getting lost in a story, whether it’s a fantasy world with dragons and magic, or a domestic thriller, or a horror story (though not too scary!). Even as a child, I always had my nose stuck in a book. Apparently, I was starting to read by the age of 2, and I’ve rarely put a book down since.

In 2014, I started The Bandwagon blog. It started off with a few book reviews, and then I began to reach out to authors, asking for interviews. To my surprise, many of them agreed. I started to receive review copies of books, getting my name on reviewer lists and becoming known to publishers and authors alike.

 

The blog was tiny at first, but still, after only a few months, I managed to score some amazing interviews. During WorldCon in London, I interviewed Patrick Rothfuss at the Gollancz headquarters, and Leigh Bardugo in a hotel nearby. Then, aboard the Sunborn Yacht Hotel, I interviewed George R.R. Martin.

I was ecstatic. The interview was like a dream. Why would he want to speak to me, with my tiny blog? But he did, and it was a pleasure. George is a really nice guy, funny and interesting, as well as an incredible author, so spending time with him was amazing. All of the authors I interviewed that day were great to talk to, and full of advice for aspiring writers. I went home that day feeling tired, but exhilarated.

This was a couple of years before my diagnosis, but the stress of running around the ExCeL Centre that day left me unable to get out of bed the next. I told my partner and friend to go without me, and I spent the day in bed, in pain, feeling sorry for myself. I struggled with Perthes disease as a kid, and my left hip was in agony. My whole body was exhausted – I shuffled around the house like I was 80, just about managing to make a few cups of tea. I later discovered this was all down to fibromyalgia, and since I’d overdone it, my body was paying me back by forcing me to rest. I went back the day after with a walking stick and tried to ignore the looks of pity I received.

A few people have asked how I manage to keep a blog running while I’ve been ill. The answer is simple: since it’s my blog, there’s no pressure. If I don’t post for a few months, I’m only letting myself down. But I generally do keep posting, because I find writing cathartic. Living with a chronic illness can make you feel alone. Writing, and reaching out to people, has meant I’ve connected with so many others who live with a similar condition. The Bandwagon grew to accommodate stories about feminism and chronic illness, and we regularly feature authors to help them grow sales.

Books are still my escape. There’s nothing more I love than curling up with a good book, or falling asleep to an audiobook. I had to close my blog to review requests – we were getting so many, and my team of reviewers couldn’t keep up – but I still take on books I like the look of. I suppose that’s the beauty of having a now-established blog – you can be picky. There’s no pressure from anyone else. If I’m feeling up to it, I can schedule several posts. If I’m feeling particularly tired, I can take a break. Fibromyalgia is all about flares, and the exhaustion and pain can leave you under the cloud of “fibro fog,” making it difficult to do anything.

Now, my blog is exactly what I want it to be. I ran an Inspiring Women feature last year, promoting women who deserve to be in the spotlight. The For Choice Project is open to stories about having an abortion. I self-published a book of short stories, and promote it regularly. I write about living with fibromyalgia, experiencing sexual assault or learning to be body-confident. I even share recipes. Writing is one of the ways I escape; putting my pain into words helps draw it out of me. It’s also a way to connect, to make sure you don’t feel alone. It’s a way to be heard, to speak up, to make a difference. And that, to me, is a powerful thing.

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Thinkstock photo via mallmo.


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