Surviving Me

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom's lost his job and now he's been labelled 'spermless'. He doesn't exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family's future out of the water.
If they can't be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

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Tom, the main character in Surviving Me, has had a tough year. He was bullied out of his job by a young graduate and he is unable to get his wife pregnant. When things couldn’t get any worse, Adam, his brother in law is diagnosed with a medical condition that is dramatically altering his personality.

He is about to adopt a son but wants to visit his childhood home before he moves forward. His childhood wasn’t great, the kitchen was clean, his parents stayed together but there was no emotional warmth and his father was a drunken bully. He travels with his best friend Harry to visit his mother and sister. This excerpt is from Tom’s perspective as they arrive at the house.

The crunch of the gravel throws me back thirty years. My bedroom window looks much the same: black frame, diamond patterns obscuring a pleasant view. I shiver as I remember the ice on the inside even in the spring. I’d spent so much time looking out, wishing I wasn’t in there, dreaming I was someone else’s child, hoping tonight was the night when he’d come back full of love.

My father drove a large intimidating vehicle with tinted windows. I think it was a Daimler but Harry says it was a Jaguar. It made a great noise grinding into the small stones on the wide driveway as he accelerated himself towards the house. If he saw me at the window he’d look away. As soon as I heard him coming, I’d take a sneaky peek. Would this be the day he’d change, come home as the dad in the movies, present under his arm, shouting, where’s that beautiful boy of mine?

The film star stayed away. The car door would swing open, and out he’d get. No present, just a brown leather case with a brass clip on the top. It was usually dark by now, and he’d lock the car with a hand on the roof to steady himself. I’d watch him stagger a few steps, but then I’d rush back to my cold bed in case he saw me. I’d dive under my flimsy eiderdown, hoping I wouldn’t hear the shouting.

‘Tom.’ Harry’s hand is on my thigh. When we were younger, I’d thought perhaps he was gay. But then I met his father, and I realised he’d learned the touching at home. I didn’t realise men touched other men to express kindness.
‘Sorry, I was miles away.’
‘I know. I’m not sure this is a good thing right now. A lot has gone on. You’re not quite back to yourself. And your mum won’t be looking out. We can just turn around and go to the pub, sort the world out like usual.’
‘Sounds nice, but I have to. If I’m going to be a dad, even if it’s not a biological one, I need to understand.’
‘You will not be him, you never were. That was the problem.’

I’ve been ruminating more and more about what your DNA can do. It’s the invisible killer, unobserved, but silently plotting to drag up your history, repeat patterns when you least expect it. I’d had a dream about hitting a baby. He was sitting in his car seat. He was crying, red in the face, tears squeezing from his eyes. I raised my hand, pulled it back, paused, then smacked my fist in his little face. The seat made an audible thud as it fell upside down onto the hard stone floor. Its contents were gone and there was silence.
I’d woken up with sweat rolling off my head and chest and my heart thudding. When I came to my senses Siri was staring down at me. ‘Tom, Tom! I thought you were having a heart attack.’ She held me while I sobbed.
I want to be the dad that Adam is.
I turn to Harry. ‘Maybe, but I want to make sense of it all.’ I know Harry doesn’t get it: he didn’t want me to come here.

Author Bio –
I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.
I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.
I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.
Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”. 
In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.

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