Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts (Stories of Recovery to Empower and Inspire) by Hayley Graham

Have you ever wanted to understand more about mental health difficulties, such as trauma, OCD, attachment, shame and grief, but been put off by lengthy, academic texts? Have you ever wanted to start a conversation with a child about mental health concerns but not known where to begin? Would you like to help empower your kids to take control of their own psychological wellbeing? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, this is the book for you. Child and adolescent psychotherapist, Hayley Graham, draws on her years of experience to create an accessible resource perfect for parents, teachers and therapists. In Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts, she gives us five beautifully written and deeply-affecting stories designed to educate, empower and inspire. What’s more she provides succinct explanations of the mental health challenges explored and suggests questions related to the stories to facilitate adults to start conversations with children. Conversations to further understanding, empower, and nurture compassion.

Image of book cover for Shadow Monsters by Hayley Graham


Picture of author Hayley Graham with her 2 dogs on a bench

I am a dual trained adult and child and adolescent psychotherapist. I am registered and accredited by the UKCP as a specialist child and adolescent psychotherapist, as well as being an accredited registered member of the BACP and an EMDR (trauma) therapist. I have many years of experience working with children, young people and adults – both within school settings and in private practice. I am also the founder and director of BOUNCE! Brighter Futures Foundation, a registered charity based in Devon. BOUNCE! provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, young people and their families, as well as providing training and support for educators. The service is delivered within primary and secondary schools, alongside low-cost therapy provision delivered directly to the community. Before I trained as a psychotherapist I worked for many years as a community pharmacist. Whilst working as a pharmacist I completed a Master’s in Creative Writing. I’d always loved stories and one of my earliest memories is of waiting for my father in the local library, poring over The Tales of Beatrix Potter, transfixed by the beautiful colour plates veiled with sheets of tracing paper. For me, stories were to become a retreat, an education, and a sign that I wasn’t alone in the world. They seemed to speak to me personally and gave me many gifts, including an enduring interest in the human condition. I think it was this, among other things, that drew me to psychotherapy. The ‘among other things’ was my own mental health story. I was a solitary, anxious child, and my mother died when I was a teenager. I had my struggles and after the birth of my first child, I suffered with post-natal depression and what I now understand was (undiagnosed) peri-natal OCD. Part of the reason it was undiagnosed was the shame I experienced, which meant I kept it hidden. If my book could save one mother from the horror of my experience, it would have been worth writing! Times were tough, but somehow we got back on an even keel. Life improved, it settled and finally we found the courage to have a second child. This time, other than the struggles that all new mums experience, there was no descent into depression and despair. It was a huge relief. Life was good, we were happy. Then in 2005 things changed. This was the year our youngest son, then 8, began to struggle with his mental health. He became highly-anxious and developed emotionally-based school-avoidance. We didn’t understand why, we didn’t know what to do and neither, so it seemed, did anyone else! As we struggled day after day to get him into school, judgement of us as parents was commonplace. It was difficult to bear. When, after many months, we decided to withdraw him from formal education and home-educate, a kind of fearful shunning of us as a family was worse. It seemed that people were concerned the condition might be contagious somehow, that they needed to keep their children at a distance. One of my most painful memories was trying to arrange a play-date for my son only to be repeatedly turned down by the mothers’ of his friends. It broke my heart. I can see now that people weren’t bad, they simply didn’t understand. The consequences of this lack of understanding and our confusion were painful. It was a combination that led to blame, shame and despair. It is lived experience that has had a profound effect. A desperate need to make sense of things set my training (and everything that followed), in motion. It is the reason I wrote Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts, in the hope that within it’s pages people will find acceptance, understanding and compassion not only for themselves but for others too. It’s something we all need.

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