A Devon mum who has endured struggles with her health, has written a new children’s wellbeing book inspired by her experiences.
Laura Loft, 36, from Exeter, has fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME). The conditions cause several sometimes fluctuating symptoms including extreme fatigue, memory problems and widespread pain.
Due to her conditions, Laura had to spend a lot of time in bed unwell while her son Seb, now 6, was a toddler. Laura would tell him stories from her bed, and from these moments, the idea for her book Big Emotions began to form.
Laura said: “I wondered how I could guide him through and provide him with a mental health wellbeing toolkit to use when his ‘Big Emotions’ come knocking.
“In order for children to regulate their emotions, they need to be able to firstly recognise them. They need to know that it is ok to feel these big emotions, that they will come and go and have some ideas of how to deal with them.
“My son witnessed a lot of my symptoms, and I struggled to manage the emotional guilt I felt at not being able to give what I wanted due to my illness and often tried knee jerk reactions to no avail.
“When I tried to really acknowledge his emotions and consistently followed a script of words and actions to help, we were able to identify them and deal with them.”
Big Emotions is aimed at primary and preschool children and follows the adventures of Little Boy (who is based on Seb) and Cat.
During the story, they learn how to recognise and deal with emotions such as sadness, anger and joy. The story also features interactive elements such as songs.
Laura, who is a part-time music educator, said: “A lot of the songs were composed with my son on the ukelele. He loved it because he thinks he’s famous.
“When I was in bed, I’d be writing, and it took a long time to write because I was dipping in and out.
“I’ve found being bored actually fuels creativity. I’m glad something good’s come out of it. It kind of became my therapeutic recovery project as I was getting better.”
Laura has been unwell since she was 18 after a trip to Peru where she and her friend picked up a tropical parasite.
“It flawed us both”, Laura said. “When we returned to the UK, doctors dismissed it. I had massive fatigue, and I started uni that year, and I couldn’t work out my I couldn’t walk to my uni just down the road.
“It took maybe 2-3 years of constant testing from them to diagnose anything. As understanding as people try to be, there’s still so much stigma around it.”
Laura was also in a car accident in her late twenties when she was 30 weeks pregnant, which has also taken its toll on her, and she said that any relapses in her health can still feel “devastating.”
However, she’s hoping that Big Emotions will help others to talk about and understand their emotions – especially during the pandemic.
“I think it can help both adults and children”, she said. “I think we’ll all in a heightened state. My main message is it’s OK to feel big emotions and saying ‘Ok, how do we deal with it.”
Laura was due to do a tour of Big Emotions, but unfortunately due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was unable to go ahead. She has however been able to involve schools with the book which is illustrated by her artist and illustrator friend Nia Gould. Laura said: “It was useful to have that kind of support.”
There are also plans for Big Emotions to be adapted to help older readers and people in refugee families. A songbook and a live show are also on the cards.
Big Emotions is available to buy now from Waterstones, Amazon and Laura’s website where she also sells other Big Emotions resources including flashcards and mindful colouring packs.