In the last few months, I’ve:
- moved to a new country, where I know no one but my husband
- left the job (and friends!) I had for nearly five years and started a new one
- spent several days sitting next to my grandma at the hospital while Grandpa (successfully) fought a series of potentially deadly illnesses
- started planning a work trip to Ethiopia
- finished rewriting a novel
- built a new website for myself.
While all of these things – except Grandpa’s brush with mortality – are exciting new adventures, they also come with lashings of stress. Last week, the stress finally caught up with me, and I had a bad anxiety attack.
I found myself waking up at 1am several days in a row, panicked, struggling to breathe, and obsessively composing emails in my mind. I completely lost my appetite for food and coffee – something that’s only ever happened when I had the flu. I was so weepy that I started crying when I was walking through a store and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” came on because I was suddenly heartbroken over Patrick Swayze’s death.
Worst of all, I felt terribly guilty about it. My heart kept telling me “You’re being ridiculous. You’re so lucky. Millions of people are facing actual tragedies.” But my body and brain kept freaking out.
I even found myself accidentally walking down one of my town’s two red light streets (yes, we’re a small Dutch town, so we don’t have enough prostitutes to occupy a full district) and saw a bored-looking middle-aged woman wearing a poorly fitting teddy, sitting in a window behind a row of dildos. “That could be you,” I told myself. “Your work doesn’t involve real dildos, so get over yourself.”
My husband has been amazing as I had what must’ve looked like a complete meltdown; he’s been honest, blunt and compassionate at the same time.
I’m finally feeling back to my old self, after a weekend of talking with friends and family who experience similar issues. Reaching out to them was hugely important, as was finding ways to distract my mind and help it find a happy place while I regained my equilibrium. When I started to recover, I knew I needed to take a few days to let myself relax, and I scanned my TBR pile to find a comforting read.
Kristan Higgins was exactly what I needed. Kristan’s novels are hilarious and poignant at the same time. They’re as much about having a strong, supportive community as they are about finding the right man.
Kristan Higgins is often my go-to gal when I’m stressed or anxious. Last week, she had to work extra hard to make me feel better, but Catch of the Day ended up being just what I needed.
The heroine, Maggie, owns a diner in a small coastal Maine town. She’s slightly jealous of her twin sister’s wonderful family life. She’s also in love with a young Irish priest.
Catch of the Day follows Maggie as she goes on the disastrous dates her priest sets her up on, takes care of the people (and dog) she loves, and discovers that the grumpy lobsterman Malone has a hell of a lot more to offer than scowls.
I was feeling fragile anyway, and some of the things Maggie goes through had me crying in places. But by the end, Kristan had worked her magic and I felt more optimistic than I had all week. That’s the power of a Kristan Higgins novel.
(P.S. A huge thank-you to Janet Webb for giving me Catch of the Day in the first place. I totally owe you.)
(P.P.S This week, contemporary romance author Amie Denman is giving away her novel Her Lucky Catch – and if you like Kristan Higgins’s books I think you’ll love Amie’s, too.)
What authors do you turn to when you need a pick-me-up? Who helps you find a happy place?
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I’m glad you’re feeling better and your grandpa is okay! I can so relate right now! I usually read children’s books for comfort, but I’m going right to Goodreads to add this book to my tbr list. I’ve had the flu and been weepy, so I’ve been watching reruns of “Murder She Wrote” instead of reading (not a lot of “free time”)–Angela Landsbury is somehow comforting. So, I guess I also like those novels with multiple generations, so we can meet those wonderful grandparents, aunts, and uncles who can have wisdom and perspective. I can’t think of any romance novels like that, but Adriana Trigiani and Jennifer Chiaverini both do that well. Thanks for being brave enough to share this post…obviously, you touched something for me. 🙂
Yes! I totally know what you mean about finding something comforting in stories with multiple generations. And actually, Kristan Higgins is great at that, too. In fact, I highly recommend All I Ever Wanted – though it’s bittersweet.
And thank you for the comment, Celia. Sometimes the most important thing is just knowing you’re not alone and not going crazy. We all go through rough times and have to find our own ways of coping. I hope you feel all better soon. Take as much comfort in Angela Landsbury as you need. 🙂
I understand very because i lost my father not so long ago after 7month in hospital… just after i had to be strong to help my mother. i had to take a break in my studies so i was there and now… it’s now that’s harder for me and perhaps it’s because of my birthday in 3weeks but i’m really emotional at the moment. Which book helped me? The mercy thompson serie by Patricia briggs… because mercy is strong and still has a lot of compassion so i know that i don’t have to become a stone heart and that i can still be me and be strong just i need to find a equilibrium.
I’m really your grampa recovered and that you have your husband to help you. I hope you will be a lot better soon.
If you want to change your mind a bit, Dutch isn’t far from Belgium and now nearly each Wk there will be a carnaval somewhere ( not all the city have one but nearly) some very tipical so perhaps you could enjoy a day or two to discover that
all the best
Miki, I’m so, so sorry about your father. No wonder you’re feeling upset facing your birthday. I think what you say about the Mercy Thompson series is beautiful (though I haven’t read it): you don’t have to have a stone heart; you can be yourself and be strong. You’re right – it’s about finding equilibrium. And that can be so difficult when you’ve been through such a painful ordeal like you have.
Thank you for your tip about visiting Belgium. I’ll have to search for some weekend carnivals. 🙂
Sending you a big virtual hug for your birthday. 🙂
i just send you a email with a very interesting Carnaval i hope you have received it
it’s the Carnaval of Stavelot ( in the south of Belgium) the 17, 18 and 19March. The day the most important is the Sunday
all the best
I’m glad you and your grandfather are feeling better. I moved to Italy 5 years ago & I can understand you very well. At the moment I can’t remember any “pick-me-up” author, but every time I’m in need of “feel-good-book” I go to Mary Balogh. She is my peaceful harbor.
That’s so beautifully said, Natalija. And I totally agree about Mary Balogh. Her books are wonderfully diverting.
It’s easy to forget that all change — even the good stuff — is stressful. You have had more than your share of change in a very short period of time so I can understand the temporary breakdown! I’m glad you are feeling better.
My go-to authors for a guaranteed feel good read include Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Tina Fey and Elizabeth Hoyt. SEP has humor and romance, Tina Fey is hilarious and Elizabeth Hoyt’s stories just make me feel good for having read them.
I’m totally with you on SEP! She’s amazing. I had to leave all my copies of her books behind when I left London, but I may have to buy more copies here. (It would be the third time I’ve bought many of them!)
I’ll have to read one of Elizabeth Hoyt’s novels. I keep hearing so much about her. Thanks for the tip!
Hi Kat! Sorry you were having such a horrible time, but glad that your granddad got well and Kristan pulled you out of the dumps. I also love Kristan’s novels. Two others that I love are the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris and Cathy Linz.
Thanks, Cathy! I keep hearing about the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I really need to read one!
So sorry to hear of your problems but glad you got things worked out. I love Kristans books, she is an awesome author.
Yes, she definitely is!
Kristan Higgins is one of my comfort authors as well. I can always count on laugh out loud moments and feeling good in the end. I recently discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips and she’s quickly becoming a favorite comfort author. Reading is a great way to relieve stress and lose myself for a moment or two. I hope your bout with illnesses are over and wishing you a healthy year.
Thanks so much, Na! I totally agree that reading is a great way to relieve stress, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my all-time favorites. She’s the reason I write contemporary romance!
I hope you have a healthy, happy year, too.
Julia Quinn and Julie James are two of my favorites because of their hilarity and strong female characters. Many a train ride home has resulted in concerned glances at me while I LOL at the antics in a Quinn novel. Fantastic for a pick me up!
Kristan Higgins is one of my favorites as well, and her characters (especially the heroines and their four-legged friends) are so sweet that they always lift me up when I down.