The story behind my book has two versions; the short one and the more detailed one. For people with limited time I'll start with the short version:

In 2008 I got depression. I did lots of things to get better and one of them was to write my own positive thoughts each day to help improve my mindset. Unfortunately, once I'd recovered from the depression I then developed Repetitive Strain Injury from my corporate office job. At that point, I realised life was trying to tell me something so I took a leap of faith and resigned to create a book of my thoughts to help others. I also illustrated it with fun cartoon characters and animals, and then sent it around some publishers. Disappointingly the book was turned down, however, as I'm not one to be defeated I decided to self-publish it and sell it from a stall at Portobello market in London.

To my delight, the response was completely overwhelming. Books literally flew off my stand and soon there were queues of people wanting multiple copies for everyone they knew. It seemed everyone loved the positive messages and funny illustrations to go with them, and I sold thousands of copies in a very short time. Even royalty and celebrities heard about the stall and came to buy books. About 6 months later a publisher offered me a global publishing deal. Now my book is available around the world, has been translated into lots of different languages and has sold tens of thousands of copies. My thoughts and illustrations also regularly feature in Metro newspaper and I've appeared on national tv and radio many times to talk about my journey through depression. And that's not all, a film investment company love the story behind my book and are going to turn it into a movie!

It's been a whirlwind journey so far. However, no matter what happens with the book, I always intend to sell it at my market stall. That's because I really enjoy meeting my customers and also being part of the market community. When I'm not at the stall I spend a lot of my time giving talks on depression. I do this because I feel it helps spread awareness of mental health, and hopefully reduces the stigma attached to it.

So that's my story so far. If you want to visit my market stall you can find out where it's located and which days I trade by clicking the market stall tab above. To book me for a talk please email me via the contact page on this website.

The More Detailed Version (you may want to have a cup of tea while you read this one!):

The story of my book 'May The Thoughts Be With You' started back in July 2008 when I began to suffer from depression. Let me explain. The depression was the most horrific and challenging two years of my life but it was also the making of me, as you'll discover by the end of this story. At the onset, my GP offered anti-depressants and counselling and although I was in a desperate state, I knew more than anything that I wanted to get better without medication. I didn't want to rely on something outside of myself to recover. I was also scared that if I took pharmaceutical drugs I'd never be able to get off them. I have nothing against medication, but it just wasn't the right path for me personally. I therefore said yes to the counselling and no to the anti-depressants.

The first three months of living with my condition were the worst experience I've had in my entire life. I had no idea what was happening to me. Every day, all day I felt a sense of impending doom and gut-wrenching sadness, the kind you'd have if your entire family had been killed and everyone you loved was gone. However, there was nothing wrong with my life to make me feel that way. I also had strange physical sensations. I felt permanently outside of my body, like I was a ghost observing myself. When I looked through my eyes nothing seemed real, like I was in a waking dream. I had daily headaches and panic attacks and a permanent feeling of a torrent of water gushing through my head. It was terrifying. I thought I was going mad. I later discovered these were symptoms of extreme anxiety and panic disorder that often accompany depression. There was no respite from all these strange emotions and sensations I was experiencing, I even felt the impending doom and sadness in my dreams. It was a 24hr continual hell.

As the three months passed I felt a slight lift in my situation. The symptoms weren't getting any better, but I was getting used to the permanent feeling of panic and unbearable sadness. It made me wonder, maybe my quest to heal naturally would just require patience as it'd be a gradual journey towards a good state of mind. And maybe that gradual journey would involve many different methods of getting better. To me that made sense so I started researching things I could do to help the process.

The first thing I did was go to The Brain Bio centre in Putney, London and saw a psychiatrist who helped me make sense of what was going on. I also consulted the nutritionist at the centre who tested me for all the vitamins and minerals I might be lacking that can lead to depression. I worked with the nutritionist who devised a special supplement plan to address all my body's imbalances, and I also changed my diet from microwave meals to healthy and nutritious home cooking. Exercise also played a crucial part in my recovery. Having never taken regular exercise before I started walking for 1-2 hours every, single day. This gave me a focus and I walked even when I didn't want to as I knew it was making me better.

My family and close friends helped me get well too. Having their support meant I could talk about how strange and awful I was feeling to understanding and kind people. I also had various alternative, holistic treatments and found five element acupuncture to be extremely therapeutic. My acupuncturist treated my spirit and helped me understand what was happening to me on a soul level. I remember her saying that all my suffering would be worth it because one day I'd use it to help other people. In my darkest and desperate hours, I clung to that thought for dear life. Even though there was no 'quick fix' for my illness, I at least felt there could be a reason for it. In the meantime, all I could do was endure the process and pray that I'd make it through to the other side.

There was one thing, however, that sparked an idea in me as I dealt with my condition. I wondered that if I could make myself think of a positive thought each Monday to Friday, then maybe my outlook on life would improve. I won't lie, it was virtually impossible to have even one positive thought during that time, but I made myself do it. I guess I was somehow trying to coax or even trick my brain in thinking better, happier thoughts.

I decided that I'd post my thought each weekday morning as my Facebook status. Making that commitment meant I had another focus to each day as well as my walking. I also wondered if the thoughts I was writing to help myself could be of any use to friends too. Little did I know then that what had started out as a small and personal attempt to heal my mind would eventually turn into an unimaginable source of happiness for me, and would also be the way I'd help lots of other people too, just like my acupuncturist had predicted.

Back in 2008 I called my Facebook thoughts 'Thought Of The Day'. After the first couple of weeks I had a few friends who'd religiously follow my daily updates. However, as the weeks turned into months, more and more friends were following my thoughts and I'd get lots of emails asking where 'Thought Of The Day' was if I ever took a week off to go on holiday. Countless friends then started to say, 'Char, why not turn your thoughts into a book?' (some even politely demanded I did!). Of course it was a great idea, but I just didn't feel well enough or confident enough to do it.

And so life carried on as it had and gradually, with all the things I was doing to get better, I did recover from the depression. It had taken a painstaking two years of my life to get there, but I now felt stronger and wiser than ever before. I finally felt ready to get my teeth stuck back into things again. However, unbeknown to me there was another life challenge lurking around the corner, waiting to try and pull me apart again.

It was 2010 by that time and without any warning, one day I suddenly became ill on a physical level. I developed Repetitive Strain Injury. I'd been working in an office for quite some time and my body hadn't responded well to sitting and typing at a computer all day. The RSI had affected my central nervous system which meant I was experiencing a lot of nerve pain. I was referred to an orthopaedic consultant who explained that nerves heal at an alarmingly slow rate and said I'd need to be signed off work for two years. He put me on an in-depth recovery regime involving hours of physiotherapy each week and told me not to use a computer so my nervous system could heal.

For the two years I was off work, I experienced pain on a daily basis; sometimes it was unbearable nerve pain throughout my whole body, others it was excruciatingly aching joints and muscles. And then to top it all off, I was also diagnosed with extreme adrenal exhaustion which meant I had no energy. My life felt like it had fallen apart. I couldn't believe that after working so hard to heal my mind from depression, my body had then become ill. I was so frustrated. My days were suddenly filled with seeing doctors, pain management specialists, doing physiotherapy and trying to eliminate all stress from my life. I also had to help my nervous system heal by cutting out all stimulants from my diet like alcohol, sugar and caffeine.

After a while, all these changes meant I did improve a lot, but I couldn't quite shake the condition off in full. By that stage I was utterly fed up and was trying to make sense of why I'd had these health issues over the four years. And then I started to wonder something; maybe it was actually my soul that needed healing more than anything? Maybe if I did something I'd always wanted to with my life then my health would return.

As a teenager, I'd always dreamt of making a living out of being creative. It felt like now, more than ever, that I had to follow that dream. I was sure my health and happiness lay in expressing myself in some way. And that's when it dawned on me; I would follow my friends' suggestion and turn a collection of my thoughts into a book. I realised I could even write it by hand so I wouldn't have to use a computer- what a wonderful idea! The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. Yes, I would create a book and then try and get it published...And if I couldn't get it published I'd simply self-publish. Suddenly everything made sense. The depression had given me a strength I didn't have before. If I could get through that I could get through anything, including writing a book!

The next day I took a bold leap and decided to resign from my job. It meant cutting off the financial support while I was still ill (I was employed by a corporate company who'd been paying two thirds of my salary while I was off sick) but I knew it had to be done. When it actually came to telling the HR team though, I did feel fearful. It was real, I was stepping out into the great unknown. I had a little bit of money saved up so I knew I'd be able to support myself for the next three to four months, but then what?!

That fear lingered with me for a while but I just kept telling myself it was nothing compared to dealing with depression. So I just put my head down and threw myself into making my book. When I thought about what the title should be, I distinctly remember a sudden voice appearing in my head saying 'call it May The Thoughts Be With You'. I grabbed my phone and frantically googled the words. I was shocked to find that nothing on the internet already had that name. It was just perfect!

I wanted the book to have a friendly, accessible feel and I knew that could be achieved by having fun and colourful illustrations. I wanted the drawings to feature funny stickmen and animals and thought about hiring an illustrator. However, I quickly went off that idea as I didn't have any budget to pay them! There was only one thing for it; I was going to have to do the drawings myself. It's worth noting that I never went to art college, I just decided I'd have a go at doing the illustrations.

People are often surprised that I'd even think to illustrate a book without knowing how to do it, but luckily I'd already read a great book called The Artist's Way which gave me the confidence I lacked. The book is a course in rediscovering your creative self. It had helped me realise that everyone is an artist, if they'd just allow themselves to be. I therefore had the courage to at least try to illustrate my book.

The next step was to purchase my materials. I'd never been to an art shop before and had no clue what to buy. What paper should I draw on? What pen should I draw with? And how should I colour the drawings in?! I walked around Cass Art on High Street Kensington in London, nervously looking at all the products. I kept thinking 'one of the shop assistants is going to realise I'm not an artist. I don't belong here'. I felt like a fool but thankfully The Artist's Way had warned me that our inner critic will always try and ruin our creative endeavours if we let it, so I simply ignored that voice and carried on. As it turns out, the Cass Art staff were incredibly friendly and when I asked for their advice they made me feel so welcome. Little did I know then that their shop would become a place I'd visit regularly and spent a lot of time in!

Creating the book took about 3 months. It was a very special time in my life as I got completely immersed in the world of the characters I was thinking up. I spent day after day at my dining room table drawing them and it was almost as if each character came alive on the page to communicate their wisdom directly to me. It's safe to say these little characters became my companions, guides and friends.

When the book was finally ready I found a small and cheap printing firm and decided to get 200 copies printed. I wanted to send some copies around publishers to try and get a book deal, and the rest I would start trying to sell myself. Within seven days of me submitting the artwork to printer, the 200 books arrived at my home. I remember feeling quite terrified as I looked at all the boxes. It was ACTUALLY happening- my book was real! And I felt much worse when I checked the order and saw that quite a few of the books had their pages stuck in upside down! Luckily the printer was very apologetic and quickly replaced the faulty stock. And that was that, I was ready to go.

Over the next few days I sent copies out to some publishers but to no success. The feedback was either 'It's lovely but not for us' or 'we only publish books with famous people's quotes in.' I was very disappointed and disheartened, but luckily not defeated. I'd always said to myself that if I couldn't get a publishing deal then I'd self-publish instead. So that's what I did.

Initially, I started selling the rest of the 200 copies to family, friends and friends of friends. I was delighted as they went like hot cakes and everyone's feedback was beyond encouraging. I felt more alive and excited than I ever had in my life. This gave me the courage to order another 200 books with the idea of approaching some independent book and gifts shops, to see if they'd take some to sell on my behalf.

Each morning I'd put 20 copies in my rucksack and just walk into various shops to ask the shop managers. Most of them said no at first but when I got a book out to show them and explained how well it was already selling, they changed their mind. To my sheer delight, they even helped me by putting the books by the till so everyone could see them!

With its prime location, the book became popular very quickly and in some shops, it was their best-seller. The shops kept re-ordering books saying how much their customers were raving about it. I actually had to buy a large suitcase to transport the books everywhere as some of the bigger shops were ordering 50 copies at a time. Oh yes, and one of the shops that stocked the book was the famous Notting Hill Bookshop which features in the film Notting Hill. It felt so surreal to see my book in such an iconic place!

As my book journey progressed into a little business it was hard to avoid computer use, however, I soon found a solution. I used the voice recognition on my iPhone to dictate emails, and my boyfriend at the time very kindly built this website for me to host an online shop. As the book spread by word of mouth, my online sales started to grow. By this time it was May 2013 my book was generating a healthy income. Unfortunately though, it wasn't quite enough to keep getting more books printed AND pay myself a full salary to live off.

Up until then I'd used my savings to pay for my book's print runs and now those savings had completely diminished. I suddenly felt the fear and enormity of what I was doing, just like I had when I'd resigned from my office job. I realised I needed some part time work but it had to be something I could fit around running my book business.

In the end I found a job with flexible hours working as what was essentially a human mannequin! I was employed to go around the different fashion houses in London to be the 'body' their clothes were fit to before the garments went into production. It sounded fun at first but the reality meant I had to stand deadly still for long periods while designers stuck pins into their clothes I was wearing, and often into me too by mistake! Let's just say it wasn't the job for me. I left 2 months later with only a few hundred pounds remaining in my bank account.

That period was a very tough time. I couldn't believe that after working so hard to get my book off the ground I had so little money to my name. I knew I was at a cross roads in life. I could either go and find a proper job and give up on my book dream, or, I could take what money I had left and spend it on my business to try and turn it into something more. I won't deny I was scared but my fear was outweighed by my sheer commitment to make my book a success. It just had to be!

It was then I had the idea of taking a stall at Portobello Market in Notting Hill, to try and sell my book there. I'd originally shied away from running a stall as I thought books wouldn't sell at a market, but I felt I had no other choice. I took a deep breath and spent the last of my money on stock. I got some prints made up of my favourite thoughts from the book and bought nice frames to display them. I also bought more suitcases to transport stuff to the market and signed up for annual market traders' insurance. And that was it, all my money was gone...the market was going to HAVE to work!

I'll never forget my first day of trading. It was a monumental day in the story of May The Thoughts Be With You as it was the day that literally, everything changed for me. My mum had travelled down to London to come with me for moral support, and when we returned to my house that evening with hardly any books or prints left in my suitcases, we were both stunned and over the moon!

Over the weeks as I continued to run my stall, I was astounded by the response I got and how many books and prints I was selling. Although my book had been selling well in the shops, I'd never seen an actual reaction from a customer before. It was amazing! They would smile with delight as they leafed through the book's pages, giggling away at the drawings, and some even burst into tears because they said the thoughts spoke to them so much!

People would buy a book or a print and come back within an hour to buy loads more. They said they knew lots of people in need of my cheery work; a family member with a chronic illness, a friend in hospital, a sister with a broken heart, a depressed boyfriend, a lonely neighbour, a daughter that wanted a career change, a brother with PTSD, a best friend going through rehab, a son with autism or simply a friend whose birthday was approaching. Even the local police and MP's stopped to read a few thoughts from my book as they walked past.

I was totally speechless. My little book, which had originated from such a dark, sad and lonely time in my life, was being enjoyed and appreciated by so many people. It was such a lovely feeling. I frequently had queues of people at my stall wanting multiple copies of the book, and I'd get visited by people from all around the who'd been following my book on Facebook, often making a special trip to the UK to visit my stall.

If there was anyone who couldn't get to the stall, I'd go to them. I remember arranging to meet one woman in a car park in East London on a dark winter's evening. I got in her car and signed the ten books she wanted. We laughed as it looked like a dodgy drug deal when it was everything but! People also asked me to meet them as they were passing through train stations so I could sell them books, and local customers would even drive over to my house whenever they needed more books to give as gifts.

My online sales were doing really well too. Because Portobello Road is such a tourist destination it had really helped spread the word about my work and loads of people from all around the world were ordering off my online shop. By that time, I was receiving email after email from customers thanking me for writing the book. They would write such lovely, heartfelt messages saying how much the book had helped them. Some of the emails were so touching they actually made me cry! One email that stood out in particular was from a young woman. She said she'd been suicidal for a year but my book had made her not want to give up. She explained how she read one page each day to keep her going and the fact that I'd recovered from depression gave her hope that she could too. She signed off by saying that my book had changed her life. It made me think back to my own dark days. And I suddenly remembered how my acupuncturist had told me that one day my suffering would help people. It seemed like that time was now.

Every part of my book's journey was a surprise but what surprised me the most was how popular the book seemed to be with children. Of course I'd written it with adults in mind but customers would come back to my stall to tell me how much their kids had enjoyed it too, and countless teachers were buying it to teach their pupils how to think more positively. I was then approached by The Educational App Store who asked if they could sell an electronic version of my book on their website for schools and teachers to download- and of course my answer was yes!

I even had a surprise in the form of a royal customer too- the King of Malaysia. He visited Portobello one day and when his body guards saw my stall they brought the king over to have a look. As the king flicked through my book he smiled and said he wanted a copy. He also asked me to sign it to him which was a very surreal moment. There were lots of people crowding around my stall and photographers taking pictures. I felt like I was in a movie. And just when everything had gone back to normal again, the two bodyguards suddenly reappeared saying they wanted a copy each too!

As time passed and my sales continued to grow, a lady who'd bought my book emailed to say she'd shown it to her friend Shaa Wasmund, a very successful entrepreneur. Shaa then contacted me to say she felt my book should be in the hands of many and told global publisher Hay House about me. A month later I was offered a publishing deal on my 36th birthday. Hay House didn't know it was my birthday but maybe destiny did! I had some initial worries about handing my book over as I'd become incredibly attached to it. However, I soon realised what an incredible, life-changing opportunity it was so I said yes. And the lovely thing was that Hay House were very supportive of me continuing my market stall which was important to me as I'd grown so fond of selling my book in person.

By the time that Hay House were ready to launch their edition of my book, I'd sold over 5,000 copies of my self-published version. I'd even had celebrities visit the stall to buy my work. Among them was American hip hop artist RUN DMC and another was singer/songwriter Natalie Imbruglia. Natalie actually liked my book so much that she agreed to endorse it when I asked her. She also kindly gave a book to her friend Kylie Minogue and another to the comedian David Walliams. I almost fainted when David then started following me on Twitter!

Hay House released their version of my book across the UK in November 2014 and since then it's been published in lots of other countries across the globe, has been translated into many different languages and has sold tens of thousands of copies. My thoughts and illustrations also now appear regularly in Metro newspaper and soon I will be bringing out a range of merchandise based on the book. And what's even more exciting is that a film investment company want to turn the story behind my book into a movie!

As you can see from this story, truly wonderful things can spring from very difficult times. When I was suffering with depression I saw it as a curse. However now I'm out the other side, I see it as an incredible gift because it gave me the material to write my book. A book that now has a life of its own and seems to find its way into the hands of people who need it most. As for the RSI, I still have it to some degree but it doesn't bother me in the way it did. If I lead a healthy lifestyle and don't push myself to the limit I can remain relatively symptom free. If I have a flare up I thank my body for telling me I'm doing too much and need to get back in balance. I also thank the RSI for another reason too; I thank it for forcing me to write and draw my book by hand, which is one of the things people love about it!

Of course, the depression and RSI were horrendous and challenging conditions to go through, but they've made me realise that often the worst things that happen to us are our biggest opportunities for growth and change.

I really hope that by reading this story you'll feel better or inspired in some way. If you're going through a tough time and are in the depths of pain, I hope this story makes you feel there may be a positive reason for it in the end. Although you're suffering know that you are healing as well. Your soul is just trying to find its way back home, and it will.

Just before I go, I want to say that I'm still running my Portobello stall so maybe I'll see you down there one day. I certainly hope so! Check out the ‘market stall‘ tab above for more info. I also post more of my thoughts and illustrations each Monday to Friday on the May The Thoughts Be With You Facebook, Instagram and Twitter page so you're welcome to follow them there! Click on the 'home' tab for links to my social media.

Lots of love and cheerio for now,

Charlotte xxx