There are experiences in life that we will always hold within us. These times are often those with darkness; grief, loss, heartache, extended negative situation, or a significant life-change.
It can be an extremely vulnerable and lonely place to be. As some of you may well know, I actually created Charlotte Elizabeth due to my own darkness: a whole host of complex illness through my late teens to early twenties.
There are people I met through this journey of whom I will never forget, and never lose my gratitude. When I started sharing my personal journey online, Evie was one of the people I found to help me through even the darkest of times.
To see Evie's journey evolve from severe illness to self-acceptance, compassion and, as a result of all of the wisdom she learnt from being within four walls, bedbound for years, she wrote her debut book, titled fittingly 'Within These Four Walls'.
I believe that all of us have a light within, just waiting to be shone upon. Evie has shown that true strength, true self-compassion, respect and worthiness is found through facing ones very own darkness, and how we, ourselves, have everything we need within us, to get through whatever we may face.
Evie's book 'Within These Four Walls' genuinely altered the way I perceived so much of my own journey with life, and illness. It is a profoundly moving, descriptive, therapeutic and wonderfully rich in honesty account of fighting through the darkness, to reconnect with ones own light.
I hope you enjoy reading Evie's beautiful interview.
How did the idea first come about for your debut book, ‘Within These Four Walls?’
My followers had been telling me to write a book for some time; however, I just wasn’t well enough. But when I hit my two-year anniversary of being completely housebound due to M.E and chronic Lyme Disease, everything changed for me overnight. I was so sad as I couldn’t believe I was still housebound after two years. That night I decided to no longer put my life on hold and to write the book. Even if I wrote one line a day, I was going to write it.
What is the book about?
“Every word written in this book was written from within the confines of my home. Spanning over nearly three years this book is a testament to my time being housebound and proof that despite all the suffering, there is always a happiness to be created, peace to be unearthed, and a life to be lived.
A journey of self-discovery and personal growth, I hope this book may offer you comfort, inspiration, and wisdom, whatever path you find yourself on. And I hope by sharing my story and imparting my thoughts, it may help you in some small way too.”
You’ll find this book is a collection of “pieces”: some longer, some shorter, some reading like letters, others like journal entries, some like poems, and some continuous and broken prose. The book is split into three parts: The Storm, The Aftermath, and The Calm, as well as a bonus chapter called 'A Conversation with Wisdom'. This book will take you on a transformative journey from the bad moments, to the good moments, and everything in between.
Who is the book for?
Good question! I don’t want to say it’s for those who are chronically ill, as not everyone will be in the right headspace to hear about the “positives” of living with a chronic illness, and I never, ever want to push that on someone who is not ready. But it’s also great for those of loved ones to help them “get” it more. At the same time, you don’t have to be chronically ill to read this - I’ve had plenty of love from healthy people too. I would honestly just say it’s for anyone who wants to read it: if you want to be inspired, read a soul-enriching book, be comforted, feel hope, a dose of wisdom, or feel validated, this is the book for you.
It is such a beautifully heartfelt, powerful, and enriching read. Did you write it with the intention to ever be released publicly, or did you write for yourself?
Aww thank you, that is so kind! I did write it for myself. I just can’t do it for the money or publicity, as I think if I had done it for those reasons it would have reflected in my writing. I didn’t actually tell anyone about the book until I had entirely written it. It was quite funny and a bit of a shock to everyone who I talk to every day that I just produced a finished book out of nowhere! But I needed to do it solo, and that was the right decision. I was still too delicate in terms of my dreams and self-worth to share my work in case I got knocked down and then was off-put forever. While I knew I was always going to publish it, that wasn’t the goal I worked towards – the goal was to produce a book I could be proud of and that I could say I put my heart and soul into. It was a testament to my time being housebound and a reminder to me of how much I grew and learnt during these years. I hope that when I’m past all of this in the future, I will see “Within These Four Walls” as like the diary of this time when I was housebound/bedbound.
I am sure you’ve had some wonderful feedback and support from sharing your story so candidly. What have been the highlights for you?
Oh goodness, what a hard question! I think some of the best “wow” moments for me have been when people have bought multiple copies for their family members, friends, or even their GPs, to help them “get it” and what they’re going through. That, for me, makes me believe I did a really good job at candidly exploring the highs and lows of chronic illness. To have my book be the bridge between chronically ill people and non-chronically ill people. As if this is a book you are giving to people you love and trust as a way to help them understand you better, then I know that means they see themselves in my book and feel I have voiced them well, and that’s just the best feedback.
So you had your vision to turn your idea into a book – how did this process begin to steer your dream into a real book that sells globally on Amazon?
I’m quite good at technical things, and I love challenging myself and learning. So the idea of writing and then producing a book was right up my street. I knew both Yung Pueblo’s book “Inward” and Morgan Harper Nichols’s book “Storyteller: 100 Poem Letters” - which I both adored – were published through Amazon KDP, and as my book was similar writing style to theirs it was natural for me to follow their path and go down KDP too. After that, it was just a matter of following the KDP self-publishing guide and a lot of trial and error (especially with the cover design which I also convinced myself I could do!!), and before I knew it, I had a book! It’s not for everyone, but I loved the entire process! I could also do everything in my own time which was very important to me as my health was so bad at the time – I was completely bedbound – I needed no time pressure and everything to be in my control. Self-publishing at the time was the only way I knew I could publish a book without it having repercussions on my health.
Tell us a little more about your book as a product, what did you want to create and why? Did you create it to fill a market? Did you feel there was a great need of filling the gap of talking about something so ‘hidden’ from society? How long did it take to get it right, ordered and word-checked? Did you do any market research for your book and its market?
I wrote it for myself really. The reason I self-published was that I knew I could write this book myself. The layout meant it was written in a poetical style which I knew I had the skills to edit and check. The other reason I self-published was that I was so keen on getting it out there and then. Even though I was bedbound when I wrote and published it, I didn’t want to go through an agent and publisher and then have it published like two years down the line when I was no longer in the same “headspace” as my book. I needed the book to go out now as it was a testament to my time being housebound. I knew I just couldn’t wait to publish later as the book was part of my healing process, and I was ready to get it out and let it go so I could move on to a new chapter. So for this book, I didn’t do any market research or anything like that. Although I am currently finishing my second book and I am doing all of that (marketing, research), so it just depends on the book you’re writing and why!
How did it feel to start receiving orders? I’m sure it was surreal!
It was so surreal! My book hit the best-sellers list for my genre on Amazon within 24 hours - I think I reached number 12 - and I was gobsmacked. I knew the community was going to be lovely and supportive. Still, I didn’t expect so many people to literally press “buy” seconds after I announced I had written it.
I’m sure there’s been a few teething problems along the way, share any here which you feel would help another avoid!
Truthfully the whole process has been a smooth ride for me. As I self-published, it was all in my control, so there were no unforeseeable problems. The only problem was my health as it, of course, held me back so much; everything took me so much longer given my limited energy. But self-publishing in my own time at my own pace worked around that. I’m now in the slow process of trying to get an agent for my second book (different genre and style to “Within These Four Walls”). I’m sure I’ll have a lot of struggles to share with this one as the process is already a million times harder! The only thing I would say is if you’re going to self-publish, you have to be motivated and you have to enjoy the technical side of things too as you do everything yourself.
Tell us about your blog, ‘Mindfully Evie’ – how did it begin (date), how did it evolve and what are your all-time best received posts?
I started it three years ago, March 2017. You, my lovely Charlotte, were one of the reasons I started it!! One night I wrote a short caption about how I was grateful for my illness. Even though I had never shared my feelings or thoughts on Instagram before, I decided to be brave and share that. Moments after I posted it, you left the most lovely and heartfelt comment on my post. I remember it so clearly as it was the first time I shared what was inside of me with someone else and to have someone connect to that was amazing. The “Mindfully Evie” blog sort of evolved from there – me sharing things and that connecting with people, so I just kept writing! My most received blog posts have been a mix of mindfulness and chronic illness type posts. On the more mindfulness side, “How to Mindfully Respond instead of React”, and “Reasons to Live in the Moment” have been the two favourites. On the more chronic illness side, “Ways to Help You Cope with Relationships When Chronically ill” and “What Being Chronically ill Can Teach You” have been the two most popular.
How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
Apparently, this was too hard for me to answer, so I just asked my mum - comforting, validating, and hopeful!
What is your best advice to other chronic illness warriors like yourself?
Whatever you’re feeling is okay. If you’re grieving, give yourself time to grieve. If you’re sad, give your sadness space to breathe. If you’re in pain, give your pain self-compassion. Every journey starts with where you are now, and where you now start with accepting everything you feel in your heart and the circumstances you find yourself in. Don’t look outward - yes, you can find hope, support and inspiration in other people. But ultimately this is a solo journey you are travelling on, so everything starts within yourself. And often that requires going through your pain first - but the key is to not stop there. Don’t stop in the tunnel of your pain and think that this is the end of your road. There is a light at the end of your tunnel; keep walking until you find it. Don’t ever give up. I promise it gets better.
What would you tell anyone who has a dream and unsure whether to go after it?
I think the biggest thing that stops people from chasing their dreams is the fear of failure. And the biggest obstacle preventing people from being okay with failure is a lack of self-compassion. So, in a round-about way, I would say, practice self-compassion. Be okay with failing. Be okay with things not working out. Be okay with criticism from others knowing your own approval and opinion about yourself is far more important than anyone else’s opinion or approval of you. Realise you are SO much more than your failures or achievements. The more self-compassion you hold, the less you worry about the outcome and the more you realise that often the only thing stopping you, is you. Try and move out of your own way first, and then you’ll naturally find yourself chasing your dreams because why on earth wouldn’t you chase them?!
Believe in yourself. Believe in what you do. Believe in who you are. Believe in your dreams.
What are your little moments of happiness throughout the day?
Right now I’m seeing improvement in my health for the first time in my 7 years since falling ill with glandular fever, so the joys are stacking up – making my own breakfast, being able to get my own cup of tea, washing my own hair, going downstairs, talking to people, sitting in a chair!!
What’s your happy place?
My imagination – it takes me anywhere I want or need to go. I’m such a daydreamer!
When did you last feel brave? How do you define bravery?
Bravery comes in so many shapes and sizes, but I think the biggest acts of bravery are the often the ones we do behind closed doors – the ones no one knows about. Like getting out of bed when you don’t feel like. Choosing not to listen to your perfectionism thoughts. Little things like that which take so much from you, but you don’t have anyone applauding you for. You do them for yourself, by yourself, and they can often take the most courage.
Every day at the moment I feel scared, so I guess that means every day I also feel brave as I chose to carry on anyway. I’m trying to trust my body after it’s failed me for endless years being so sick. And putting my trust back into my body and having faith that I am healing is terrifying. But I’m choosing to live outside my fear and believing my body can do it, so I guess this is bravery.
What do you wish to see more of in the world?
Less outward judgment; more inward reflection.
What inspires you?
Kind people. Wholesome people. Books. 14th Dalai Lama. Em Carey. Nature. Writing. My best friends. People trying to make the world a better place.
Favourite adventure you’ve ever had?
Exploring the universe within me – who knew there was so much to discover!
What do we need to show more of in the world?
What do you wish you’d known when you were young?
It would be so easy to say I wish I could have told my younger self that it gets better, but I know I would never have believed you. So instead, I’ll say this to my younger self…
You don’t always need to find meaning in everything. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not sieve through the memories but to leave the memories behind so you can move forward. You don’t need to carry everything you have been through – some of it is meant to be left behind.
Good things can come from unexpected places.
What’s your dream?
To be an established author and write books for a living, and travel the world!
Follow Evie's journey @mindfullyevie
Check out her blog www.mindfullyevie.com
Buy her book www.amazon.com 'Within These Four Walls' by Mindfully Evie