Kathryn Lund is an author and speaker from the north of England. She brings her experience of personal grief and living with a neurofunctional disorder to her work. Her novel, The Things We Left Sleeping is out now.
More From Melissa and Pursuing Uncomfortable:
fiLLLed Life Newsletter
Leave a review
Pursuing Uncomfortable Book
🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Kathryn Lund lost her mother when she was 25 years old. The amount of grief from that loss brought about a whole slew of neurological symptoms that she is still learning how to accept and manage and live with. She brings her story to the Pursuing Uncomfortable podcast. She wrote a book called The Things We Left Sleeping. It's available now and tells a story of what it is like living with all of these neurological symptoms. And how to pursue a normal life. Once again, I'm pleased to introduce you to Kathryn. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 0:23
Kathryn, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?
Kathryn Lund 0:30
I'm good today I am good. I was a bit stressed. But I sat down, got myself a cup of tea, my exciting, novelty mug. I'm all ready to chat. So hopefully we're gonna have a good conversation.
Melissa Ebken 0:42
We're gonna have an excellent conversation. And clearly by your accent, you're not joining us from Central Illinois. Can you tell us where you're from?
Kathryn Lund 0:51
Of course, so I'm from the north of England. I'm originally from a county called Lancashire. But I live in its arch nemesis and rival Yorkshire which is just over the border in the county town, which is York itself, which is a beautiful walled medieval city. So it's a pretty impressive and beautiful place to live and very lucky.
Melissa Ebken 1:11
It sounds amazing. I might have to visit there someday. So Kathryn, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kathryn Lund 1:20
It's a military hotspot.
Melissa Ebken 1:22
Oh, yeah, I'm sure beautiful walled city.
Kathryn Lund 1:25
And I live in a beautiful place. I'm a very lucky person. I am an author, I have a book called The Things We Left Sleeping, which is all about the parts of ourselves that we lose as we make our journey through life and what we need to do to wake them back up and be the person that we want to be. I work in an arts and pictures framing, framing shop, which is a really interesting place to work when you're very, very nosy because you get to see what everyone's buying what art they're buying; everyone's buying huge pieces at the moment. Everyone's obviously very bored with staring at their walls. So everyone's buying huge bits of arts and gets here for one certificates and graduation pictures. So I spent four days a week at work. And one day, two days a week, trying to be a writer. And that's my sort of work balance that I tried to strike.
Melissa Ebken 2:14
That sounds like a lot of fun. And I love that insight. So if you want to keep with the trends right now, buy huge pieces of art.
Kathryn Lund 2:21
I'm at a unique spot at the moment where, yeah, I mean, lucky place where I do a job, which suits me is good for my health. It fits in with what I want to do. So yeah, very aware that I'm in a very fortunate place at the moment.
Melissa Ebken 2:39
But that wasn't always the case. And judging by the title of your book, Things We Left Sleeping, I would imagine there's quite a story there. So what inspired you?
Kathryn Lund 2:52
I do you consider myself to have had a very, very normal, very lucky childhood, I grew up with my parents, I know there wasn't a lot of money, but there was a lot of love. And it was a very happy, very stable environment. But like, like all families, you know, we've had our problems. So I lost both sets of my grandparents by the time I turned 18. And then when I was 24, I lost my mum, she got pancreatic cancer, which pretty much means you get a diagnosis. And then within six weeks, she was dead. And then just after that, I started really badly developing neurological symptoms; started having seizures, start having absences, started having a lot of chronic pain. So it became very difficult to sort of deal with the situation that I was in dealt with these very big changes in my life, which sort of came along at the same time, which was the death of my mum, which completely changed our family, completely changed our family dynamic. And then my own illness sort of ever been ticking away in the background, but sort of coming out and coming to a head at the same time probably because of all the stress that was the latest for that. And that completely changed me. So I had two key changes in my life at the same time. And really two, huge grief because I had the grief of losing my mum and I had the grief of losing the person that I was before I started to become ill and started to lose all these parts of myself that I just couldn't keep keep hold of. And you know, that is where the title The Things We Left Sleeping comes from. It's those things that you just let lie and let go and drop because you don't feel like you have the energy to have them in your life and you don't feel that person that cared about those things. That person that you were before is there any longer and you let them drop and that's a really sad thing. And a lot of my time over the last 10 years has been learning how to be okay with the ones that I can't get back. They're just gone. But also then how to pick back up the ones that I really want to keep and want to take forward with me into the life that I've got now.
Melissa Ebken 4:57
Wow, that's a lot. So now that I hear you say you were 24, when your mom was diagnosed and passed away.
Kathryn Lund 5:09
Yeah, and that's, I think that's really difficult. All ages are very difficult to lose a parent at. But, you know, you go through being a teenager where you're not really connecting with your parents very much. And you're doing everything you can to move out, be far away that I went to university at the other end of the country, not because I didn't like my parents, but because I wanted that independence, and you go away, and you become this person. And suddenly your parents are people that you really want to talk to, again, you want to connect with them, you want to go places with them, I just started to have that run up relationship with it. And then she was gone. And then all my friends started doing things like getting married and having these big family events. And you become very aware that you've lost a parent at a time when those things are starting to happen. And they're never going to be there for yours. So it's it is at all times difficult to lose a parent, but it's difficult to lose them, I think at a time of transition, when you're going from one stage of your life to another plus, they sort of signal your her death was the end really of, of, you know, my early 20's. And it was the start of the rest of my life. And she's she's not going to be there for it. And that was a really, really difficult and depressing thing to process.
Melissa Ebken 6:25
I can imagine, I could remember who I was at 24. And, wow, that's your right, that's a huge time of transition in your life. That's a time when you're just starting to get your feet underneath you. Or imagine what it or see that vision of what it's going to look like when you do get your feet underneath you. And to have such a significant loss at that time. It's huge.
Kathryn Lund 6:52
It's a formative time. And when you've been lucky enough to have parents who are a big influence in your life, and they were very supportive. My mom was a very supportive person, she was a teacher, she was a special educational needs teacher, she was a music teacher, she was a very nurturing person and a huge influence in my life and to lose her at a very formative time really does make you feel like you're flailing around, because this huge safety net that I had, had gone. And then when I then started to become ill as well, when you're ill you want, you know that parents, I mean, my dad is wonderful. And my dad took fantastic care of me, I'm not taking anything away from my dad. But if you've got that relationship with your mom, you want her there and to have a not be there. And then not be there when I'm very ill was also extremely difficult. And it makes you feel like really the universe is just ganging up on him, because it's sort of like, well, what else is gonna happen next, you know, how much more am I expected to shoulder at this time, it's just not copeable with and for years, I did feel that like I absolutely cannot cope with with where my life is. And with the things that are happening it is it was really, really difficult.
Melissa Ebken 8:03
And then things got worse, you started getting ill. What, what were some symptoms? How did that unfold in your life?
Kathryn Lund 8:14
Sorry, can you say that again?
Melissa Ebken 8:16
Sure. I said, and then in the middle of all of that your illness began in the middle of that grieving process? What were those symptoms? How did that manifest? What did that time look like as you started to be together?
Kathryn Lund 8:30
Because I mean, everyone who's listening, when you've had that grief, you feel so disconnected and so disassociated from the world, you feel like you've taken the sidestep, and you're very numb, and you're very distant, and your grief is really, really isolating. And then the neurological symptoms that I started to present was to become very disassociated. So I'd be watching, you know, a TV program that I knew really well, it will be a repeat of something. And I'd be aware that I know this program, I know who these people are, but I don't actually remember watching this before, I know that I have, but I can't remember what's going to happen, I can't remember what these people are called. So just that feeling that you're not quite remembering the things that you should be remembering. And it's very strange feeling that you've got sort of one piece of time going on inside of your head and another piece of time going on outside so you can't quite mesh, the passing of time together, right? So you find yourself spacing out. And it was at the time I thought it's because I'm going through this grieving process and that's what grieving does to you. It gives you this really isolation to enter dislocation, but actually it wasn't it were actually neurological symptoms. And it became noticeable basically because I started having seizures. I was supply teaching at the time I got out to a school, I was taking the class and then I woke up in the ambulance and it's like, well, you've you've had seizures and then for that week I was in hospital just having successions and seizures, one after the other and that was the sort of turning point of realizing that well, you know, this is, I've always been an anxious person, you know, I've had migraines, and I've had pains, like, nervous pain since university. And it's actually well, they were symptoms that isn't just something that's normal, quite often you say, that's just normal. That's just me, I'm stressed. But actually, no these are all symptoms, and you do have something and those seizures was sort of the not so much the wake up call as as the event that allowed me to actually start accessing help because it's like, well, actually, something is wrong, let's have a look at what's wrong. But it was a long journey to actually get a diagnosis and a long journey to get to a place where I feel well enough that I actually have a life that just existed getting to the next day, I have a life and I enjoy it. And I'm happy. And I'm positive and able to acknowledge that I've got all these great things in my life, but more importantly care about that. Because sometimes, you've got all these great things in my life, but you can't have the emotional energy to care about them. And it's like, I've got all these great friends, but I don't have the emotional energy to care about what they're doing. And to get back to the point where you're like, not only do I have these things, but I care about them. And I, I feel the ability to connect with them that was really, really long, and hard, hard journey.
Melissa Ebken 11:17
I can imagine. I had a similar experience. I've had a lot of different experiences in my life. And some of them were a little bit frightening. And they kind of all came to a head after we had an explosion in the town I live in. And that was quite a whole ordeal. The night that that explosion happened, the power went out and all of these things began happening. Well, then, a couple of weeks later, there was a loud noise in my house. And I started lighting candles, I started doing all of those things that I did, when the power went out, except the power didn't go out. There was a part of my brain that said everything is fine, the powers on and then another part of my brain that was reliving the events of that night. And fortunately, I was able to identify within myself that I was having symptoms of PTSD and was able to seek help. But when you have two different realities going on in your brain, it is unsettling to say the least. And it just leaves you in this state of
Kathryn Lund 12:35
Yep. So yes, that idea of you know, to illnesses, I think that's a really strong way of putting it because now whatever it is that's causing our difficulties, whether it's now whether it's a neurological condition, whether it's a mental health issue, whether it is, you know, something like you're experiencing grief, or you're experiencing a traumatic incident in your life, it does feel that you are inhabiting a different reality. And quite often your brain can even present you with a different reality. And it feels like you're living in a very different place in a very different time. And finding a way to sort of click yourself back round and into sort of the reality that everybody else is experiencing, again, is a very, very difficult thing. And it's a hard one for other people to tell you how to do it. You've almost got to figure out for yourself how it is that you're going to sort of turn and click yourself back in to what's happening. And if you can't do that, you just had to at least be able to acknowledge to yourself that, well, it's okay. It's because this is happening on my brain is doing this, and this is how I'm going to cope with this. And this, this is how I'm gonna, you know, work on the facts and build on that knowledge that my my brand is actually developed some self awareness of what it is that I'm doing, which is a really strong thing and a really important stage to get to.
Melissa Ebken 13:56
Yeah, there's a lot of hope there, when you have a name for your experience, and when you have hope that this doesn't have to be my reality going forward. That's a powerful moment. So when you talk about your situation, when you got a diagnosis, what was that and how did that moving forward look like in your life?
Kathryn Lund 14:21
I went through several different diagnosis. So first off because I had seizures that was probably some form of epilepsy. So let's try you on epilepsy medication. And that was really how I think that's the illest I've been that is when it was sort of being treated as epilepsy because I was having lots of spasms, just constant sleeping, not being able to wake. Night terrors. It was really, really difficult. And I thought, well, this isn't working. So let's try treating it as muscular Tourette's. So I had the muscular Tourette's diagnosis for a while with you know, lots of side classifications of you know, it's you've got elements of depression going on. So we're going to put you on anti-depressants. And we're going to get into the counselors because you're developing OCD. And you know, some of those little diagnoses like the depression and that the OCD, they are correct. But it was being looked at very, very separately. And I went through several different neurologists, several different first in our country, the way that it works is, you know, you go to your to your local hospital, and they will deal with it, but I wasn't happy. So I requested to go obviously, in by a different area. And they were really helpful, though, you've obviously got chronic migraines, so lets treat the chronic migraine and at least to be able to function because you'll be able to get out of bed, and you'll be able to think, and you'll be able to enter buildings that have their lights on. So let's just deal with this. And then after that, again, I moved in my most recent neurologist has actually just looked at the whole lot and gone well, the reason that the diagnosis it keeps changing is because of people looking at, you know, discrete things. And actually, it what you have is all of those things, all of those things, put together make a functional neurological disorder. And what that means is that you have lots of discrete bits of different neurological problems. And you can, it is a hard one to describe. So you can imagine that all these sort of discrete conditions, and they come together, and you can have the predisposition to have this going on. But in moments of high anxiety in your life, it gets triggered, and it becomes much worse. And then you start to develop other symptoms as well. So it quite often presents at birth, you know, when you're in your very early toddler toddler stages, it quite often sets in your late teens. And it quite often presents in your sort of 50s and 60s. And really when you think about it, that is times when you're going through huge sort of mental changes and huge processing times in your life. So that I mean, I seeing the neuropsychologist at the moment, and she's giving me the best description, which is your brain works absolutely fine. The wires are all there. But the wires aren't actually sending the signals to the right place. So there's nothing, you don't have something where things are damaged, you don't have bits missing, everything's there, it just doesn't work properly. And the more it doesn't work, and the more stressed you get, and the iller you get, the more it starts to spiral and get worse and worse and worse. And I've really struggled with all those diagnosis for a while, mainly because all of them, they're not curable. These are all things where you're going to be living with it for the rest of your life. And being told that this is the best we can do is to manage it, and then what they're giving you to manage, it doesn't work that is extremely difficult. And I do still struggle with it some days, but not as much as I have in the past. Because I'm stable at the moment I have my job, I have lots of things that I'm able. I live independently, which I couldn't do before. So in a way, the diagnostics really helped because it gave me an idea of a label. But it could also, it was also a little bit limited because it did let you focus on different bits. And I'll share this bit and I'll track here in this bit. And I'll try to understand our chat and you can't hear these things, you can only manage them. And more importantly, you can only learn to manage our own relationship with them. And that's the most difficult thing is becoming okay with the person that you are and okay with your relationship with the conditions that you've got.
Melissa Ebken 18:26
So what was your lowest point in all of this?
Kathryn Lund 18:32
I, my whole point was definitely, it was when I was, I'd moved up here to York, I finished MA that I gone back to doing it. I had so much to be feeling positive about like getting my masters and like living independent and I just could not feel positive about it. I had a really, really bad migraine going on that, I'd had it for days. I just have these thoughts in my head that I I cannot spend the rest of my life waking up and being on this level of pain. I just don't want it. I don't the thought that, you know, decades of this being how I'm going to exist was just this absolutely crushing and overwhelming thought. And I just could not get rid of it. And I just started taking my medication. I didn't stop taking it out. I taken about three or four packets worth when I suddenly realized what I was doing. And then I went well. This was a really it was almost like I was having this debate in my head that like this is I just want to go to sleep. I just want all this to go away. But I also don't want to be doing this, too. I started to get really panicked about my dad and like what he would think when he found out that I've done this and that was enough to make me feel guilty enough to bring for an ambulance to you know fortunately tend to be in town and I spent three or four days in hospital. And it took me a while to actually admit to myself what I'd done. I'd have I put I had an accident, I told the hospital it was an accident. And where how I got confused. And I forgot that I've taken my medication. So I kept taking it. And I kept forgetting and I kept taking it. And it probably took me about a year to actually say to myself, No, you did that deliberately, you did that deliberately, because you just wanted this not to be the same situation that you're in, and you can't get out of this situation by getting better. So what's the other option? And, you know, that's, it's a really difficult thing to admit to yourself that you did, because you don't like to think that you've been that selfish, and you don't like to. I certainly didn't like to think that I'd given up that easily. Because, you know, my mom had six weeks, and she she never gave up, she got up every day, she walked round her garden, she, you know, made sure that her school class was all right. And you know, that they understood what was happening. She was a scientist, so she looked up she research science journals was it so she kept going until she literally couldn't stand up. And here's me complaining. And you know thinking that I can't cope. And that was really difficult as well that I felt very, very guilty, but not being able to cope. Because what I have been given is time and time is and extremely precious thing. And I was I was throwing it away. And it was it was guilt that made me being an ambulance. And it was guilt that maybe I ment what it was that I'd done. But it's it's an uncomfortable thought process to work through.
Melissa Ebken 21:25
Then you wrote your book.
Kathryn Lund 21:29
I did, I did. I wrote my book. And my book's all about somebody who is going through a similar experience. So she's suffering seizures, just trapped inside her own mind. And it's, it seems to be a different world to the world that's going on outside, she's completely in her own reality. And what she does it she writes her way out of that reality, she starts to keep a journal and in her journal, she starts to control her day, and then control what she's doing and then control the universe that's inside her head. And she's trying to write her way back to reality. And that's what I was doing with my book, I was trying to take the starting point of this blank page, and write my way out of basically the confusion in my own brain, I was trying to basically write my disease out of myself, because it's such a hard thing to explain. And it's such a hard place to be in. And I can't get out of it, but the character in the book she can. So what I was trying to do is show people what that journey is, like, as you're trying to make your way out and trying to make your way onwards and trying to make your way back to the people that love you. And that's what she's trying to do in the book. She's trying to get back to her partner, Stevie, she's trying to get back to her dad, she's trying to get back to the world, she's just not always doing very well at it. So when you look at the book, it's got one side, which is easy, the character side. And she's writing in word pictures, she's she started off with a blank page, she's putting words on it, she's breaking them into word pictures, the word pictures become sentences. And she's just basically trying to create a narrative. And that's really what it's about when you've had a seizure, it's like, you've got a completely blank page, and you're trying to put your thoughts back together. And I've spoken to another friendwho has had seizures and it's like, everything's gone gobblede, and you're trying to rearrange everything and put everything back together. And that's what she's doing on one side. And on the other side of the page, on the right hand side, we're following the story of her family as they kind of do the same thing. They're trying to make sense of, you know, what's happened to this person and how it's affected them. Because of course, while we're struggling as a family, and the people that love us are struggling around us, because they're dealing with the fact that you've lost a huge part of yourself. And it's affecting them as well. So I wanted to show that, you know, when something happens to you, it happens to the people around you. And everybody's trying to do the same thing, but we're just not always connecting. So it's really a book about people trying to connect back together. And obviously, as we work through the book, people are they're doing that. And you know, the stories are getting more and more to the point where they can come back into one story and everyone's back, you know, in the place where they're, they're feeling alright about themselves.
Melissa Ebken 24:17
Have you made your way back in your life?
Kathryn Lund 24:19
I think I think I, I have in that I no longer. I say that at the start I really grieve for the person that I was before, that 24 year old because she was confident and she was happy. And she just absolutely adored her life. Like I remember I went to a job interview once and they went said, why'd you get out of bed in the morning? And I said, Well, why wouldn't you? And I, I felt so much grief and so much loss for that girl. And I spent so long trying to replicate it trying to be her and she was just gone. And I felt better once I realized that she's not going to that that is something to leave, just leave her. But there are bits of her that you can carry forward. And so my mum carrying her forward, carrying my family forward, you know, that urge to be independent, I love writing these, the really important things they stick with you. And you'll find that you absolutely don't want to let them go. And you will struggle on for them. So, you know, I said my dad has taken absolutely brilliant care of me someday that I absolutely struggle on for him, and I'm not going to drop my dad, he's not going to be one of those things. You know, that I just leave in this place. But other things? Absolutely. I can leave. Let's just. Let's just move on. So, in writing the book, I really did come to realize what was important for me, it wasn't just about what was important for the characters, it's what was important for me, and, you know, I'm in a place where, you know, I, I feel loved, I feel happy. I feel safe. And you know, that's the place where we all want to end up. And yeah, I think I definitely have and it's a place where I don't want to sit still I want to carry on moving forward, and I have the energy to move forward. And that's a fantastic feeling as well.
Melissa Ebken 26:14
What would you say to someone who is experiencing that fugue right now, who doesn't? Hasn't come through their healing, yet? They're still feeling the effects of those different realities in their minds? What would you say to them to encourage them in their moments?
Kathryn Lund 26:38
It's a difficult question. Because when you are in those moments, you absolutely don't care what anybody else thinks. And when people try and give you advice, it can be very Oh, that's not how I feel that doesn't work very, you've lost that sense of connection. So all I can say to them, you know, there's, there's the opportunity for it to get better. And all you can do is keep going, but check what direction you go in. Because, you know, for a while I was absolutely planning on this. And I was planning on am I going to do this, I'm going to do this. And I'm going to get well and I'm going to do this and I'm going to see this person and they're going to help me and then I'm going to do this. And one of the most useful things anyone's ever said to me, it was a psychologist who was like, why are you taking downwards, because you're putting all this energy into this idea that you are going to be well and you are going to do this in your life is going to be this and all you're doing is digging downwards in a hole and it's getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And that's why some days you just feel like you can't get out. And so, stop digging downwards, and let go of the things that you just can't carry. And it's okay to let them go let them go. Leave them in that hole, have a look around and decide what am I gonna do instead. And it's alright to do something and say it's alright to be the person that you become. I'm a very different person. Well, my friends would dispute that I think I'm a slightly different person and edited version of the person that I was before but it's, it's okay to edit. You can't take it all with you. You can't carry oh, you absolutely need to leave some of those things sleeping and you absolutely need to wake some of those things up and keep going. And that's okay. And it's your choice but you take with you it's absolutely your choice what you carry with you. It's your energy, it's your life. And you can always go back to stuff later. Like it's not going anywhere. It's it's all there somewhere. So yeah, just keep going but try to make a decision about where you're going and why. And even though guilt is helpful don't don't feel guilty all the time. Like that goes well. Because as I say guilt helped me sometimes but sometimes all it does is drag you backwards. Like Like let go of that as well and leave that not helpful.
Melissa Ebken 28:58
And Kathryn where can we find this beautiful book?
Kathryn Lund 29:04
Thank you well, I'm by publishers our Atmosphere Press who are an American Independent so thank you very much. That's a it's an excellent spot from them. I have a website which is www.kathrynlundtheauthor.co.uk/. So and Kathryn KATHRYN LUND Kathrynlundtheauthor.co.uk so you can look there you can look on Atmosphere Press who obviously are the publishers. You can look on Amazon, Barnes Noble, Waterstones. Basically any major online retailer will be able to, or go into your local bookstore and request it's available for them or most of their purchasing options. And you know, if you've got an App it helps create a little bit of a demand but and hopefully I get give the book a read it's my journey. It doesn't mean it's your journey, but maybe it will help in give you a few signposts and if we flag posts for how to get to it is where you need to go with us. I think we all need to be going somewhere. We can stand still for a bit, but then we all need to be going somewhere.
Melissa Ebken 30:03
I couldn't agree more. And all of those links will be in the show show notes. So if you're listening to this, and you didn't catch all of that information, not to worry, the links are there for you. And you can just tap on it and have that book in no time. Kathryn, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. And for writing this book. It's going to be amazing. I can't wait to read it. And I know it's going to be inspiring, because I don't want to sit still, either.
Kathryn Lund 30:37
Thank you very much for having me. And thank thank you for listening and hearing me out. It's so important to be heard. So the act of listening is such an important one and you can do it for me, you can do it. Maybe for somebody who's who you know, at the moment who just needs listening to the act of listening is hugely powerful. So let's go out there and let's listen.
Melissa Ebken 30:58
Alright, thank you, Catherine. Bye bye.
Kathryn Lund 31:00
🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶