About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Absent Without Leave By Holly Searle

I was quite moved yesterday by all of the posts on social media to mark Father's Day. All of them positive mentions of dads that are very much present, and sadden by those relating to many that have long since passed.

Oddly enough, for me, as it was my mother's birthday, that wasn't my main focus. And rightly so, for she raised four children, regardless of why, pretty much on her own.

I later went on to do the same raising two alone. And let me tell you this, it is not an easy thing to do.

It's a crying shame to be placed in a position like that, as it can affect so many aspects of your children's lives when they have one parent as opposed to two.

Having one parent can create an incredible strain and vulnerability on the parent that remains as you have to provide all of their emotional, social and economical support, without any for yourself. Plus being a lone parent can often mean that your needs are over looked for the sake of your children's, resulting in a whole host of frustrations that inevitably become the norm.

Lone parenting is a hard graft. It is not for the meek, as you have to cover all of the bases where another person should clearly be positioned in the traditional sense of the expected family ideal.

I was never privy to the constant presence of two parents from the age of 12 and the legacy of this produced many insecurities in me as I grew into adulthood. It's hard to explain to people who have been raised by two parents what it is actually like to be so reliant on one parent, rather than two.

Your expectations are less as is your social affordability. It's all of those silly take for granted things that children from a two parent family just have access to, but you do not, that affect you most of all.

I can remember watching The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid. They were two of my favourite shows. When I think about them now, I realise that they both dealt with two families that featured a mother and a father and their on going lives, and those of their children. Two complete romanticised versions of what family life was like and how they functioned. It's odd when I think about that now. But that was probably why I lapped up the day to day lives of the Ingalls and Walton clans so vicariously like reading a Haynes manual for family life.

I was one of a few kids in my class at school who became the child of a single parent. In the late 70's that was rare. When I became one in the late 80's, there was a dreadful social sigma attached to this moniker. So much so that at times I felt like I should have been wearing a scarlet letter and holding my head in shame at every opportunity. But I didn't.

I did the best I could in the given circumstance, and Child One was always warm, fed, and most importantly loved beyond measure. Yes I struggled with it all. Being homeless with a small child is no mean feat, but it strengthens the reserves that you never thought you had access too, and that can't be a bad thing.

Then I did it all again with Child Two.

For whatever reason they had/have to remain absent without leave, both of the fathers of both of my children have missed out on all their offspring's daily lives. They have not been there to bare witness to the evolution of two of the most remarkable human beings I know. Their day to day progression as they have grown, and become the solid steadfast incredible individuals that they are.

So when I consider all of the angst and worries I have endured to keep us three afloat throughout my years of being their parent, I realise that even though it has at times been difficult and unsupported, I am the parent that has gained the most exceptionally fulfilling experience by being the parent that remained and did it all.

Sometimes, for what ever reason, there is only one choice when it comes to what is best for a child even if it does mean that they may miss out somewhere along the line.

But I have to say that both Child One and Child Two appear to have turned into two incredible human beings regardless. And for that, I am immensely proud of them both.

I know many wonderful fathers, too many to name here. They are engaged and present and that is what a parent should be regardless of whether they are the mother or the father.

So to my mum and all of the fathers, lone parents and parents out there, you're all brilliant. And remember, as long as your presence is felt and your children are loved, they will thrive, and so will you.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) By Holly Searle

And in the news today, death, destruction, misery and a large portion of general finger pointing.

That's pretty much what the news delivers to you and yours on a daily basis via which ever media channel you subscribe to.

I don't know about you, but I have grown incredibly despondent in recent times in my efforts to sign up to any type of media reporting, as it is never happy news. On the contrary, it is always just death, destruction and like I said, general hoodwinking and slight of hand to deliver to you and yours a daily dose of mind blogging reports about events and situations that are in the extreme, negative and non productive, and in reality, just contrived to make you feel angry.

Yes these media whores and paddlers of generic frustration and despair, have blind sided us all. So much so, that in these modern times we inhabit, we are all in a constant anger induced state of flux, resulting in us all just wanting to head for the castle and kill the monster.

After each bulletin, we have all lit our torches, found our pitch forks, and are all togged up and ready to go.

And it is both exhausting and non productive for all our our gentle minds to be constantly bombarded with all of this News. As it leaves us, for the best part, socially and morally impotent, as there is no monster in a castle, but instead at its core, a biased narrative construct, rather than the actual cause of the issues.

Ask yourself these questions?

How many interpretations of events have you witnessed either orally or audibly via media channels that have left you feeling angry, sad, confused, and with your mind reeling as if it had been inhabited by poisoned worms?

Many I should imagine. And if you are anything like me, you have probably reacted in the first instance, by being quite shocked and upset that such horrifying incidents take place in this glorious world that we all live in.

It's draining isn't it?

The proof of the pudding is clearly reflected in the way in which social media reacts to these reports. That's us. Having put down our pitch folks and distinguished our flaming torches. We take off our shoes and coat and sit down and vent our worries and concerns via which ever account we subscribe too.

And at this point there is a clear distinction between who is affected and in what way and why.

It brings out the worst in some, whilst others just rise above it and continue to post videos of animals being cute. And whilst some may find those irritating, I say carry on, for it's better for your mental health in the long run to side step the crap that apparently happens by replacing it with something friendly and fluffy.

The point is, I can't absorb it all any more. It's too much for me as I can't continued to be manipulated by something that has been constructed to make me feel unhappy.

And for me those sweet little videos have a place in placating all of the nasty stuff. And if there is a steady stream of cheerfulness being created, well then get this, there must be good events occurring everyday on this planet. And if that is true, and I believe it is, then why can't we have that channelled in equal measure?

In the news today, the sun shone, the birds sang, and we all took time out to be lovely towards one another. Several thousand healthy humans joined our global community by simply being born. Wild game hunters gave up killing endangered animals and started conservation projects. And we all had a global street party and celebrated our differences. Everyone went home happy, healthy and fed. Tomorrow, there will be more of the same.

The point is, happy positive incidents take place as well. So why are we all privy to such negativity? And more importantly generating misery and negativity without addressing the root cause of its occurrence, is not really news is it? To me it just seems like a process that ends up causing more causalities, rather than thinking of a way in which we can make it better.

Wouldn't that be more productive?

Human beings are fragile creatures, and whilst some are more capable of responding in a more resistant manner to these fear factor induced reports, some are not. It festers in them and creates real life scary monsters and super creeps. And that is my point.

In an ironic way, News, whilst reporting on the evils in the world, irresponsibly creates it's own monsters.

And that is the real issue.

I tend to peer over the fence these days to see what is happening in the world. And when I I do, I find myself becoming angered quite quickly and start looking for my pitch folk. But before I light my torch and head for the castle to kill the monster, I switch over (or off), and replace my reactive mood with something positive and truthful (and possibly fluffy). It makes me smile, and I find that is best.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Default Setting review and Interview with Will Green: When Mister or Misses Hyde Takes Over By Holly Searle

Good grief, modernity is a hard place to exist within isn't it?

Isn't it?

It absolutely is my friends.

Everything is so fast and full on and furious, with endless necessities that we don't actually need being forced upon us on a daily basis, coupled with a myriad of demands that we can't hope to forged a healthy relationship with, in addition to a photographic hail storm of images of ideals that we cannot realistically emulate. That it is no wonder that one in four of us ends up with some form of psychological baggage or mental health issue, that has us all seeking out some form of sensual or physical obliteration via self harm, drugs or alcohol in order to enable us to formulate coping mechanisms to block it all out.

Yes modern life can be pretty tough on those who are more sensitive to its expectations, or ill equipped to deal with it all than those who are more robust.

It's hard to know why some of us are more sensitive and inclined to climb into a little box and lock ourselves away from it all when Mister or Misses Hyde takes over.

Is it nature? Or is it nurture? Or is it just both?

Maybe some of us are just better equipped to cope with life whilst some of us possess mental tectonic plates that are prone to shift and create a minor internal quake when life rubs them the wrong way.

For some of us, when we are propelled into an alternative state, usually due to a trigger. This trigger creates an imbalance that changes all that we know and our lives begin to rapidly spiral out of control, until we either become aware of what is happening and ask for help, or we are fortunate enough to be given it.

In his exceptional account of the immediate downfall and the cause and effect of his character Edward Staten's loss of his reality as he is plunged into the darkness of his own mental illness and ensuing breakdown, Will Green's comprehensive book Default Setting: A Nervous Breakdown, examines the grim but honest internal reality of the experience of suffering encountered by those of us who are more at risk from mental illness.

It's a roller coaster ride from the opening sentence until the last, that carries the reader along at a breakneck speed wincing all the way as Edward descends from a fully functioning human into life's gutter via a succession of events that although he is aware of, he has no control over.

It is both heartbreaking, intense and well observed. And offers the reader an insight into the vulnerability of those who are more sensitive and therefore more likely to access the dark-side of life and why.

For those who may wish to understand how this is possible, or for those who may have had first hand experience with a partner, family member or a friend who may have encountered mental health issues, I would urge you to access this book.

The book left me reeling with questions for Will which he was gracious enough to answer.

Interview for Pandora’s Box with Will Green, author of Default Setting: A Nervous Breakdown

Was the book based on your own experiences? Is it an autobiographical account?

Default Setting was based on my own experiences but I would stop short of calling it an autobiographical account. It is a fictionalised version of a very dark period of my life. I mean every emotion in Default Setting is real. I felt all the pain, hurt, self-loathing and depression that is documented within it on a daily basis, and I did have the problems with alcohol, drugs, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. So, from that point of view it is a pretty accurate account. In my opinion, in would be a monumental task to write credibly from a first person perspective about the internal workings of such a mind without having experienced it personally.
Story-wise, I have taken the liberty of altering certain aspects in a bid to make it flow better and be more readable, although, I hasten to add that the overwhelming majority of events were true, or at least based on truth.

Did you find writing it a cathartic experience or an uncomfortable one?

I found writing to be cathartic. In fact, it was suggested to me as a form of therapy by a psychiatrist I was seeing. It became something I did to help process what I was feeling. It helped me detach myself from what I was experiencing. To me, there was a real sense that if I could actually make something good out of what happened it would make sense of all of it.
The uncomfortable experience of the writing process was letting people read it. Making it available on-line at Amazon, Kobe, Google Play and i-tunes was a huge step for me. It felt like I was coming out, but I have to say the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

Do you think we all struggle with our demons?

I was very much aware of the statistic that 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental health problem but since releasing Default Setting I have had people writing to me to say they can relate to my writing and what I was saying with their own experiences. These are people that come across as being successful, confident and content. It showed me that mental health touches so many lives. It was naivety on my part to think I was separate and alone with this. So I think, to some extent, almost all people struggle with their own demons. How they manifest themselves, and how we react to them and deal with them is obviously personal to that individual but I do believe it is a common problem which is why I am so pleased that celebrities are speaking out about it and #TimeToTalk recently was trending on Twitter. I believe the first steps to providing adequate support to those with such issues is to de-stigmatise mental illness which will encourage more people to seek help.

Is mental health a direct result of the pressures that society places on us or we place on ourselves in society?

Based on my own personal experiences, there are certainly societal contributory factors, but it is more complicated than one or the other. I think the two are intrinsically linked. It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. I believe that some people are more naturally susceptible to mental health problems than others and this can be exacerbated by external pressures. I mean, you just need to look at the issue of body image and what the media portray as beauty. That has a massive effect on what people deem as acceptable and what they “should” look like. For certain individuals, this perceived failure and lack of adequate coping techniques can lead to low self-esteem, self-loathing and a downward spiral into depression. However, it is by no means clear that it is the definitive root cause of mental health issues as there are certain biological influences at work.

Did you consider making Jess more vocal in the story to flesh out Edward’s history or was it always to be about him and his ongoing addictions?

Default Setting started life as a notebook for me to simply write as a way to express what I was feeling. There was really no plan to make a novel of it until a lot later on. I literally wrote about what was going on with me during a period of my life following a particularly messy and painful break-up. There was no reason for me to write about her as she was no longer in my life. All the experiences of the Jess character (except for one phone call) are in Edward’s head. They were him trying to make sense of everything that was happening, get through and cope. It is written in a stream-of-consciousness style. It wasn’t an active decision to write that way it was just what worked for me at that particular time and that approach left little need for her to feature much. I guess I could have made her more vocal but the simple fact was that, in real life, she wasn’t. She was just gone.

About the Author

Will Green lives in London, which is the backdrop for his d├ębut novel Default Setting. With 1 in 4 people suffering from some kind of mental health problem and suicide remaining the biggest killer of men under 50, this work of contemporary fiction, based on his own experiences, is both relevant and topical. It is available through a distribution deal with Help For Writers as a download for £2.99 on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo. Will has committed to making a donation to a mental health charity from some of the profits made on the sale of the book. You can follow Will on Twitter @WillGreenAuthor