Something a little different today, and it’s a pleasure to be joining the blog tour for Surviving Me by Jo Johnson. Published in November 2019 by Unbound, it’s available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US: retailers other than Amazon can be found via Goodreads. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support.
I’ll admit that I thought this book was rather too different from my usual for me to include it in my reading – although I really wanted to help spread the word, as it was undoubtedly an important book looking at issues so rarely found in popular fiction. And then I started spotting the reviews – and I’ve really been kicking myself ever since. Ah well – but I do hope others might be tempted to give it a try.
Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.
If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.
I’m delighted to welcome Jo Johnson as my guest today, with a powerful piece she’s called We are not ok, are we?
In my clinical work, I see mostly men. I have lost count of the number of people who’ve said “I never thought I would be the sort of person who would need help from someone like you“.
Sadly, so many people believe human beings can be split into two groups, “normal” and “mental” or perhaps “us” and “them”
Perhaps the best kept secret in Western society is that we are all struggling one way or another and in fact this is the normal human condition. We all experience difficult thoughts, feelings, images and memories every day. Even the best relationships or experiences come with difficult feelings. I love my family but they cause me feelings of anxiety, guilt, frustration and anger. If I try something new I feel uncertainty as well as excitement or disappointment.
Difficult thoughts and feelings are not a problem; problems occur when we believe this unwanted inside stuff is abnormal, struggle to get rid of it and do harmful things to distract or anaesthetise ourselves from the emotional pain.
We desperately need to start talking about our inner experiences, the stuff that comes up inside of us that we don’t like or want. We need to be authentic about what is normal so people are not terrified into taking extreme action to end their emotional pain.
It saddens me that suicide continues to be the top killer of men of working age. Most men who kill themselves, twelve a day, do not have a history of mental illness, a clinical diagnosis or contact with psychological services. Mostly they are regular blokes.
I chose Surviving Me as the title for my novel as surely that’s the most challenging daily task for all of us.
My book is about two regular blokes, Tom and his brother in law, Adam. At the start of the book they both have successful careers and are happily married. They are men people admire and aspire to be.
Tom’s childhood wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible, he lived in a nice house with a clean kitchen. His mother was kind but his father wasn’t. Together they raised a boy with a loud inner voice telling him he was weak and pathetic, not strong and manly like he should be.
Despite leaving school with few qualifications, Tom does well at work. Lots of money, frequent promotions, a trendy flat in Ditchling and an attractive younger wife silence his inner voice, most of the time.
To people looking on, he has it all but it’s a veneer, thin wall paper over gaping holes in the brick work. When he loses his job, a number of other disasters closely follow, that voice resurfaces, shouts loud and pushes him into deep but silent despair. Even his closest friends think he’s ok, because Tom is always ok. Meanwhile, Adam is leading a double life – though for very different reasons. Adam has a degenerative neurological condition that has not yet been diagnosed but, as the family is about to discover, it will blow their future out of the water.
My novel is about two regular blokes whose minds for very different reasons become unfit for purpose. It tackles hard issues such as depression, less than perfect families and degenerative disease in what I’m told is an honest, life-affirming and humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.
I very much hope it will promote some positive conversations and give us permission to tell each other we are not OK.
Thank you, Jo – I hope your book will reach many new readers.
With thanks to Jo and Rachel, I’m delighted to offer two lucky readers the chance to win a signed copy of Surviving Me: five runners-up will win Surviving Me fridge magnets (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions Worldwide entries welcome. The winners will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health. She is the author of nine non-fiction publications, including story books for child relatives of someone with a neurological diagnosis, ‘Grandpa seashells’, ‘Talking to your kids about MS’, ‘My mum makes the best cakes’ and ‘Shrinking the Smirch’. In 2009, she was awarded a plain English award for a practical workbook relating to Multiple sclerosis.
Jo provides resilience training to a range of frontline workers including doctors, nurses and police officers to protect their minds from work-related burnout.
Surviving Me is her first novel and doesn’t shy away from serious issues: suicide, infertility, unwanted pregnancy, religious faith and ill health. These are all themes she knows well and can write about with authenticity. Telling and listening to stories is an integral part of her work as a clinician and speaker.
She is working on the sequel. She lives in West Sussex with her husband and has four children.