Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Lack of Compassion

So I’ve decided to use this blog not just to promote my work, but also to perhaps raise awareness about mental illness, especially Psychotic Depression. It’s not one of the mental illnesses you hear very much about but it’s out there, and since it’s more easily hidden by the sufferers the numbers for stats are low. I suspect it’s much higher, and there’s not even a lot of good information out there on what it is and how it is treated. In fact, most people have never heard of it.

On another post I will go into specifics and statistics. Treatments and musings. I want to draw attention to this because I know there are people out there suffering with it who are afraid to speak out. This is not that post however, because today something else is bothering me.

There’s this actress who I’m not going to name, not that she’s ever going to read this, who has had a complete turnaround in her personality just within the last year or so. Up until recently she was a normal young woman with a great career who seemed to be thriving. Recently however it’s been reported that she’s been behaving erratically and getting in trouble with the law. There have also been reports of her muttering to herself while walking around town, and if you follow her in twitter at all, you’ll see that she periodically posts about how people are reading her thoughts.

All of this is just speculation however, I don’t know the woman and god knows what is going on, but if I had to guess I’d say she’s suffering from a pretty bad mental illness. Let’s just say for a moment that this is the problem. All of the behavioral issues she’s experiencing are the result of the fact that her brain has gone rogue on her. We’re all at the mercy of our brains and it seems that this person is having difficulty with hers.

In watching the reaction on social media one notices a disturbing trend. There is almost ZERO compassion. It’s 99% vitriol. Either people are very bad at spotting the signs of someone suffering with a mental illness, or they just plain don’t care. They would rather make fun and waggle their finger at the sick person than attempt to show them any understanding.  I know she is behaving badly and hurting people’s feelings in the process, but I suspect she has little to no control over that right now.

If indeed this whole thing is mental illness like I suspect it is, she can get better and make amends. If someone in her life will step up and get her to a good psychiatrist she can even thrive again, but here’s the thing: she may never really live it down.

She could get well and go on to do great things, but now that this has happened, to some people she will always be a crazy loser.  Being sick is hard, but getting well and discovering that everyone hates you or has abandoned you for something you couldn’t help is worse!

The first year or so after you recover from a major mental illness is very hard. The guilt and shame are isolating and the loneliness you feel can be crushing.  I wasn’t someone who did anything illegal when I was sick, I didn’t insult anyone as far as I know. The biggest thing I did was sit in my room and refuse to go to school. I’m sure I said and did things that didn’t make sense. Portions of it are a blur quite honestly. But I woke up from the nightmare that those years were to very few friends and a family, who although they loved me, didn’t quite understand what had happened and didn’t know what to do with me, and didn’t want to talk about it.

So please, if you know someone who is suffering or who is just beginning to recover, be there for them and show them some compassion. They are especially vulnerable when they’re beginning to get better. You’d think it would be a great time, but honestly, it’s not. You can carry the guilt with you forever.

It only makes sense if you think about it. When someone we love has cancer we don’t leave them alone and we don’t punish them or demand they do penance for their illness. I see no reason why it should be any different for someone who has a sick brain as opposed to a bad heart. We don’t make them beg for forgiveness for the rest of their lives or hold it against them. When they get better we celebrate. We’re happy and consider ourselves lucky that they are still around.

People with mental illness don’t get that reaction from loved ones a whole lot. They get ignored and in some cases looked down on or made the ‘black sheep’ of the family. They can be the subjects of gossip and ridicule from the people who should love and support them most. I see this time and again and it never fails to break my heart.

I don’t know this actress, but my heart absolutely breaks for her too. I hope she can get well. I hope she has good family and friends to support her and I hope when she does get well that people will not judge her based on an illness that she couldn’t control.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Day With Psychosis

I would like to take you back in time with me. We’re not going too far. It was perhaps last April or May, I can’t remember, but it was a day I’d like to share with you. It wasn’t a typical day, but yet it was. This is a day that can happen, and did happen to me. This is a day in the life of someone with Psychotic Depression. Bear in mind that this doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough. This was a moderate to bad day and it went like this.

7:45 – I wake up. Before I even open my eyes I can feel it. Something is there, like a pressure in my head, there seems to be something extra in my brain. It feels like extra air. My head feels heavier somehow. This is bad. When I wake up feeling like this sometimes I just stay that way, but sometimes it progresses into something more.

I realize I don’t have time to ponder what it means and what might happen later on because it’s a school day and I forgot to make my son’s lunch before I went to sleep last night. I jump up, wake my husband who begins getting ready to take our little boy to school. I make his lunch, get him dressed and at 8:20 they are out the door.

I ask my little boy for a hug, he gives me one, and my skin crawls. My husband kisses me goodbye and my skin crawls. My daughter heads out and hugs me too, and my skin crawls. I don’t want to be touched today, but I never let them know that when I feel this way. I don’t ever want them to think twice about touching me or hugging me because most of the time I love it. But this is one of my symptoms, and today it’s rearing its ugly head.

Another one of the symptoms of this illness is excessive guilt. I begin to feel guilty. Guilt and I are old friends. I’m convinced there is only a certain amount of guilt in the world and I am not only carrying mine, but I’m carrying around someone else’s who’s incapable of feeling it. I don’t just feel guilty because my skin crawled just now when everyone hugged me and told me they loved me, but I feel guilty for existing. I feel guilty for being alive. Then I begin to feel depressed because I know the guilt will be with me all day today. It sucks.

A few minutes later my grandfather gets up. I make his breakfast this day. I normally don’t but he’s been falling a lot recently, he’s getting to that wobbly age and so I get him to sit at the table while I make his oatmeal. He makes small talk with me about the weather and how he slept. I talk back for five minutes or so, probably not even. I can’t give him the attention he deserves this morning. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I just want to be left alone because I’m afraid of what’s coming.

I decide I’m going to the gym today. I’ve gotten into a regular routine of going and as much as I want to stay home, crawl into bed and stay there I force myself to go into the bathroom and get ready.  As I am looking in the mirror and washing my face it starts. I am hearing voices. There they are. They’re back and they’re not friendly.

Some people’s auditory hallucinations are heard inside their mind. That’s when you hear people talk about voices ‘in their head’. Mine are not like that. Mine are heard from outside. It’s like having two invisible assholes following you around and talking about you, and that’s what they are, assholes! I hear them with my ears and the sound of their voices are as real to me as my voice would be to you if we were having a face to face conversation.

They don’t address me directly, but they have conversations with each other about me.  Either that or they fight with each other. Today they are getting along because they are agreeing on how gross I look and talking about what a bad mother I am because I forgot to make lunch the night before.

She makes everyone so unhappy, the woman says what a fucking waste she is.

I know, the man agrees with her. What the fuck is wrong with her?  She just fucks up all over the place.

It’s at this point I have a decision to make. Sitting in my cupboard is an ‘emergency dose’ of Seroquel.  That’s an antipsychotic drug. I could take it. Right about now if you’ve never had a psychiatric illness you’re wondering why I’m debating it.

Taking that drug is not like taking a Tylenol for a headache. Antipsychotics are basically very heavy tranquilizers and if I take one I’ll be out for the rest of the day and most of tomorrow, plus I’ll be groggy for two days following that. Just that one dose will cause me to lose four days. I don’t want to lose four days. I have things to do.  So my choice is either take the drug and lose the days, or suffer through today in hopes that it will get better. I decide to go about my business today, but if they’re still around tomorrow I’ll take it. Hopefully they won’t be.

I grab my stuff and head out for the gym. Hubby hugs me goodbye, my skin crawls again, the guilt washes over me again and I leave. The first thing I do when I get out in the hallway is stick the iPod in my ears and turn it up as loud as it can go. It’s not loud enough to really drown them out but it helps. I turn it down as I get on and off busses because I hate to disturb other people. I know it’s annoying to hear someone’s music through their earphones and I try to be respectful of other people, but when I get to the terminal to switch busses I forget to turn it down as I’m getting on, and as I sit down I notice the driver is yelling.

She’s not just turned around to request that whoever has their music up please turn it down, she is actually yelling! 

“Whoever has that on turn it the hell down or get the hell off my bus!”  Wow, she’s really angry. I discretely reach in my pocket and turn the volume down. She realizes it’s me and gives me a dirty look. “I’m sick of rude ass people,” she says, turning around to start the bus.

At this point the whole incident would be over for most people, but she continues to go on about it. She talks to herself and to some of the people sitting close to the front about how much it irritates her when people do that, all the while giving glances back in my direction once in a while. As my music is no longer on to drown out my imaginary assholes they chime in and start agreeing with her.

Of course she’s pissed off at her. Everyone fucking hates her. Look what she did. This is what happens when she leaves the house. They have to put up with her and look at her too. Yuck. She’s ruining everyone’s day.

It’s a ten minute hellish bus ride to the gym and my stop is coming up. I’m nervous now because I know I have to walk past the driver to get out and I just know she’s going to say something to me, I can just freakin’ feel it. It’s been ten minutes and she’s still seething. The bus stops, I get up and as I walk past her, sure enough she says, “the next time you do that I will kick you right off the bus. I’m so sick of rude ass people.”  I know she’s sick of rude ass people because she’s said it at least five times by now.

Now I know some of you are sitting there saying you would have told her off or what not, but what can you say? “I’m sorry, I just have it up so loud because I’m experiencing a bit of psychosis today. I’m hearing voices and sometimes loud music helps drown it out.”

Ha! No, you do NOT ever say that! I simply tell her I’m sorry.

I am sorry. I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s day or be rude, I’m just trying to get through mine.

Finally I’m at the gym. I swipe my key barcode thingy and go inside. The voices have a lot to say in here.  They hurl quite a few insults at me during the short walk from the door to the change room. When I get in the change room I go for the bathroom stall right away. I don’t have to use it, but I do have to cry.

She’s so pathetic, they say. I feel pathetic now. I’m 38 years old and hiding in a bathroom stall crying. It’s like elementary school all over again.

After ten minutes I pull myself together and head out onto the floor. I can play the iPod as loud as I want in here because everyone else is doing the same. Nobody gives a shit because they’d never hear your music over their own.

I blast the Foo Fighters for a solid hour. Dave Grohl is a great singer, but he’s also a great screamer and I’ve found their heavier stuff to be perfect for days like today.  I put, “White Limo” on repeat and on blast and work out for a solid hour. The assholes barely say anything. Either they figure it’s futile to try and be heard above the noise or they’re Foo Fighters fans too.

The moment I get off the machine and shut the iPod down they are back. I have a headache and I’m exhausted. I have to pick up some things at the grocery store though and luckily it’s in the same building as the gym. I head in and grab a little cart.

I go as quickly as I can because any time someone makes eye contact with me the assholes tell me it’s because they are disgusted to have to look at me. Apparently I’m so ugly I should just stay in the house forever. Oh, and I ruined everyone’s life by being born. I should not have been born because I upset the balance of things…they like that particular insult. They say it a LOT!

By the time I get to the counter and to the head of the line I am beginning to double over. The guilt is awful now. I swear to god I could not feel more guilt if I had murdered someone.  I feel like I am being eaten alive at this point.  The very nice lady at Sobeys asks me if I’m ok. I think that’s sweet. It’s rare to run into someone who would ask. I tell her I’m fine, I just came from the gym and probably pulled a muscle or something. I grab my bag and haul ass out of there. There’s a bus that will take me straight home if I can catch it and it’s coming in five minutes.

I just barely make it, thank god, because I don’t want to take a chance on going back to the terminal and running into that other bus driver. I keep the iPod off just to be safe. I don’t want to have any more encounters with strangers today. I’ve had enough.

I get home, put the groceries away and lie down. I should take a shower but I’m too exhausted. The assholes tell me what a horrible human being I am while I lay there, and then all of a sudden they shut up. They’re gone just as suddenly as they appeared this morning. It’s 1pm and I fall asleep.

At 2:30pm my son arrives home from school. He bounces on me, happy to see me after being in school all day. He asks for snacks, drinks. I’m too exhausted. Plus the second I opened my eyes, guess what?  If you’re still reading I don’t have to tell you who’s back. I tell him to go ask Daddy for his snack and I will see him at supper time.

My daughter comes home at 3pm. Tells me a few things about her day. She’s excited about something. She’s a great kid. I want to listen to her and hear what she has to say, but the assholes have just become too loud now. I tell her I love her and ask her to come wake me up at 4:30 so I can make supper. She agrees.

At 4:30 she wakes me again. I get up and make supper. Everyone asks, “What’s for supper?” I tell them. I don’t remember what it was but nobody seems happy with it. I feel guilty. I double over alone in the kitchen when nobody is looking with guilt. I feel so remorseful it’s almost crushing me now.

I feed everyone. After supper I sit in the living room. This would be a great time for most people, but not for me, not today.  The TV is on and those people are talking, the computer is going and someone is watching YouTube, my Dad’s TV is going and my daughter’s TV is on in the distance.  My assholes are still talking too.

It’s at this point I seriously rethink the Seroquel. At least if I can’t stop the noise in my house I can be unconscious. I decide against that and go hide in the bathroom. I sit there for ten minutes listening to the assholes criticize me. They’ve started with the name calling now which is always super awesome. The “C” word is thrown around liberally.  I realize I haven’t had a shower yet.

I grab some clothes and a towel and stay in there as long as I can. The shower helps a bit. The assholes don’t exactly go away but they’re a bit quieter.

It’s about 6pm now. I ask my daughter if I can have her room for a little bit. She agrees, although she is slightly annoyed. We live in a two bedroom apartment and I have no room of my own to get away. I lay down.

Everyone can see I’m not having a great day at this point. They know something is wrong but they don’t know what. I’m left alone for about two hours, until it’s time to put my son to bed. I give him a snack and send him in. Then I put the iPod back in my ears, more Foo Fighters, and do the dishes.

At 9:30 pm is when my Dad heads to bed. I say goodnight to him. It’s really only the second time I’ve talked to him today. More guilt. The TV is on and it’s loud. I ask my husband to turn it down, he gets annoyed but does it anyway. I don’t blame him, it wasn’t that loud but between that and the assholes I just want a little more quiet. The TV stays on until 11:30 and by that time I’m shaking.

Finally it’s dark, it’s quiet and the assholes seem to be petering out a bit. This is my time to write. I open my latest thing I’m working on. It’s a dystopian future tale that I’m really loving. I was having fun writing it last night and I knew when I stopped exactly where I’d pick it up this night. My goal is 1000 words a day.

 I sit.

 I get about 150 words. I should be impressed that I got anything at all, but still, it feels like a failure. I shut the whole thing down hoping tomorrow will be better.

I lay down on the couch. They’re not talking too much now. Still definitely there but not enough to keep me awake, thankfully. Sometimes they do that. I’m totally exhausted and I fall asleep hoping tomorrow will be better.

Luckily…it is.

 

18 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Most Important Quality for a Writer

Question: What is the most important quality a writer needs to have?  Depending on who you ask you’ll get lots of different answers. Some will say determination, others will say an active imagination, more still will say the ability to set and achieve goals. I agree with all of those qualities and could list many more.  However the one quality I think a writer absolutely needs, above everything else, is empathy.

Think about it.

How many hours is a writer going to spend thinking about other people’s lives? We create people from nothing (although most of us are writing about ourselves in one form or another most of the time) and give them personalities and baggage, and then we have to help them figure out what to do with it all. That takes a lot of empathy.

I think the worst thing a writer can do to themselves is walk around being judgemental.  When you see a person who is not doing as well as you are, for whatever reason, don’t hold them up to your own personal measuring stick. I find it to be the height of arrogance when someone says, “Well I went through the same thing that person went through and I didn’t do XY and Z when it happened.” Honestly folks, if you find yourself doing that a lot, and you are an ‘aspiring writer’ (whatever that is), you might want to think about doing something else.

If you don’t have the brain power to realize that everyone is different, making us deal with the events in our lives in our own way, then you might want to re think your writing. Your characters are going to have to do things you don’t like or approve of, things you’d never do, and you want to be able to write about that as authentically as possible while still having your characters be sympathetic.

God knows I’m not perfect. Judgement is part of human nature, but I constantly and consciously work at it. I’ve matured as an adult to the point where if I catch myself judging someone I immediately stop and remind myself….

A)     I’m not perfect and have no right to judge anyone else. 

B)      I might not like what the person is doing but everyone has a reason for acting the way they do. It might be a lousy justification for whatever is going on, but that person is a human being just like me and they may only be behaving in a way that they were taught. Perhaps they don’t know any better, and yes maybe they should strive to learn, but some just don’t have the insight to do it and never will. Therefore my judgement of them only serves to frustrate and hurt myself.

Honestly I try not to judge anyone, anymore. I’ve been on the receiving end of so much judgement that dishing it out, even toward someone in the privacy of my own mind, makes me feel like a louse. I know what it feels like to be talked about, made fun of and ridiculed. I would never spread that around no matter who was on the receiving end, or if they ‘deserved’ it. It’s stupid. It hurts them, it hurts me and it hurts my writing.

Judgement kills creativity because all of art is, ‘man tries to understand others’, ‘man tries to understand self’. Anyone else remember doing that in school?  You’ll never get to the point in your art where you can explore how you feel about the world around you if you are up on your high horse in ‘judgie land’. 

If you think you’re better than people who are struggling how will you ever write about the struggle itself?  Struggle is universal, it’s only the type of problem we struggle with that is different. We should all, as writers and human beings, learn to see the things in each other that are the same and not focus on what’s different because the differences don’t really matter. We should all strive to see what’s the same, and extend a hand if need be. But if you can’t do that, please, please don’t go out of your way to hurt someone else with gossip or judgement, especially if you are a writer. You’re only devaluing yourself and your work if you do.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hanging out

So, something is bothering me and I thought I’d share it with you all. The Vampires of Soldiers Cove has been out since March now, and has done pretty well. I mean not well by big name standards. That kind of success is like winning the lottery. It’s been pretty much well received and moreover, I’ve produced a book that I’m proud of. Is it perfect? Nothing is, so no. Do I love it? Hell yes, I do!

Like I said, I’ve received some lovely reviews, but I notice something that keeps popping up over and over again on the positive ones. They are happy it’s not a cliff hanger. Hey, I’m happy you’re happy. I’ve always believed the first book in a series should be able to stand alone, and this one does which I am proud of.  I am afraid however, dear readers, that this is a series and like so many before it, I will have to leave you with a cliff hanger this time. The Vampires of Soldier Cove: One Crow Sorrow, has a lot of story and if I were to have written the entire thing out to its conclusion it would have been about 500 pages.

So what?  I hear you saying. Lots of books are 500 pages, just make your book 500 pages!

If only it were that simple. There were many reasons I had to cut it off where I did, not the least of which is practicality. If eBooks were the only thing I had to worry about that may have been doable, but I sell a large number of paperbacks that I ship myself. The current book is just barely fitting through the mail slot to be sent as an oversize letter. Any more pages and I’d be pushing it. That’s a $4 difference in shipping and I can’t pay that or pass it on to my readers.

Also, creatively, the story just needed to end where it did. I needed a break and a chance to breathe, and so did Rachel and Gavin. When you read it you’ll see why. I would say about 95% of what happens in the book gets resolved by the end, but then another situation pops up and everything gets turned upside down. That’s the lead in for the next installment and the large turning point in Rachel’s journey that will carry the story through the final two books which span a 15 year timeline.

I’ll tell you a secret though. I’m scared to death. I’ve had so much positive feedback from NOT having a cliff hanger this time that I’m scared shitless that everyone will be upset with me next time. I’m not scared as in it will stop me from doing it or changing what happens in the book. Penelope decided what was to be written a while back and she’s standing in the corner, broken beer bottle in hand and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, prepared to chase me around the kitchen if I don’t do what I’m told. (Side note: If you’re wondering who Penelope is go a few blog posts down and meet her.)

People have a real hate on for cliff hangers these days it seems. I’m at a loss as to explain why. Before I released my book I thought of cliff hangers as something fun. I’m dating myself here, but I’m old enough to remember the whole, ‘Who Shot J.R” thing in the 80s and everyone loved it. My favorite TV show, Being Human, has ended the last two seasons on brilliant cliff hangers. I was overjoyed. It meant that the show was coming back, and not just that, there was a plan! They teased me like a coyote teases its prey, and I LOVED it! I hope they do it again.  People, it seems, will actually rate a book one less star because of cliff hangers though. That to me is childish, especially if you KNOW you are reading a series. I might be aggravated that I don’t get to see what happens right now, but to me, rating the book one less star is like a toddler throwing a tantrum because they want their desert before they finish their dinner. It’s sad that people negate the book and the enjoyment they’ve received from it because they didn’t get gratified in the moment.

Perhaps it’s the overall attitude these days though. We want instant satisfaction and we want things a certain way…our way.  I’m not sure what to make of that, and I don’t think I could figure it out if I sat here thinking about it for the next year. Plus that would prevent me from writing any more books. I’m excited about the next book, and whatever comes my way, I will bend over and take it. The cliff hanger stays!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vampires of Soldiers Cove with Jessica MacIntyre

An interview with Vampy’s Ramblings. 🙂

Vampires of Soldiers Cove with Jessica MacIntyre.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized