A Writer’s Sanity Is Often In Doubt

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As a writer, I sometimes have to go places that scare the crap out of me…and given my high level of empathy, I live the situation, become the people, think and “do” things that make me wonder if I’m entirely sane. I often take inspiration from things I observe, or in some cases, from my own life. And when neither provides inspiration, I have to make my own. In Agent of the Dragon, for instance, I delved into my psychology background and examined the various therapeutic modalities. I took aspects of a few, blended them, then took them far beyond the therapy milieu and twisted them. Combining the result with recognized brainwashing processes, and applying “magic” to speed the process, I created a method for creating sleeper agents that makes the Manchurian Candidate seem like a knitting circle (Oh, wait…). It took a while for me to be able to look in a mirror without flinching after that.

Yesterday was another day where I had to delve into places that scare me. First, I had to get into the mind of a person who commits suicide. It’s not an unheard cry for help. It’s not a final attempt at regaining control of his life. He’s been put under too much emotional pain and forced to remain there as the pressure builds beyond his control. He doesn’t want to commit suicide, and yet he finds himself researching the least painful ways to kill yourself. He sees it coming and doesn’t really want to, but is unable to stop himself. Again, I have to delve into my psych background to get the dissociation necessary for this. In the process of coming to understand the character, I started to lose hold of the barrier between me and the character. As the character fought against the dark impulse to suicide…and failed…I too felt myself sliding down a greased hallway towards an open door that would slam shut irrevocably after I passed through. (Those who’ve read my blog from the first post will recognize THAT particular image.)

The second time I scared myself a bit was both less and more disturbing. In another scene, the character is speaking with one of the people primarily responsible for his emotional pain, someone the character considered a good friend. He is pushed too far, and instead of blowing up or attacking or even breaking into tears, his mind temporarily splits into a second personality. The first personality watches in horror as the second personality says, coldly (imagine Picard after being assimilated into the Borg crossed with Javert from Les Miserables):

“The Sean you knew is dead. And you have killed him. I warned him against you, but he was too tender hearted. He saw pain and wanted to heal it. Now I must protect his memory. Congratulations.”

This is something I seriously doubt I would actually say, and yet, I could almost feel the dual personality as I wrote it. I certainly have the pain in real life to fuel it, and I felt the mixture of pain, despair, and the irresistible urge to lash out at the person in question. Worse yet, I could actually see me using this against one or two specific people in real life. Not that my psyche would actually split, but that I would pretend it had. It is a statement designed specifically to cause as much pain, guilt, and suffering to the other person as possible. The words themselves are hurtful. The implication of causing such trauma that the mind’s best defense is to split greatly magnifies the impact. The unemotional delivery emphasizes the shift in personality, lending credence to the death of a personality. The lack of histrionics contrasts with the expected fireworks, and as any writer or actor can tell you, contrasts between what is expected and what is delivers a much more solid emotional punch than pushing over the top.

(At this point, I’d like to give a shout out to a very good friend of mine who helped me recalibrate myself, mentally and emotionally speaking. You know who you are.)

Everything I write in my stories is fiction. I just want to be sure that is understood. The inspirations for certain parts of the stories, however, are often heavily based in real life. I try to change the details so that any one situation is unrecognizable by anyone not directly involved, and those who were/are directly involved see only a situation that reminds them of an event or situation in their life. Based on the commonality of human experiences, I hope that many people will see themselves and their experiences in what I write. And I sincerely hope that my occasional trips into the realms of mental and emotional instability provide entertainment.

(Huh. I think I’m beginning to truly understand why Poe, among others, was an alcoholic and addict.)

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Travelling Thoughts

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Whenever I have a significant distance to travel, parts of my mind follows random tracks while the rest pays attention to the driving. Today provided one such opportunity as I drove home from Sherwood Forest Faire in central Texas. Here are some of the things that went through my head.

1. Happiness is a hand to hold, a cheek to brush, a laugh to share. It is the effort of the heart to connect with others to make life bearable. It is a thought of a smile soon to be enjoyed. It is tremor of terror when you let go and damn the consequences. Happiness is to be cherished, but never sought, for by seeking you are constantly reminded that you are not happy.

2. That woman was cute. Too bad we only ran into each other at the pub sing just before the faire closed. Where had she been all day? Oh well.

3. I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Oh yeah. My blog. Haven’t posted anything there for several days. *refrains from slapping his own hand while driving*

4. That bit on happiness was good. Profound. And ever so slightly pretentious. How should I present it? Turn it into a poem? No. My poetry is adequate, and people tend to skip over merely adequate poetry. So prose, then. Sermon? Hardly. Ah yes. Random thoughts.

5. What was her name? Never got a chance to use it.

6. Ouch. Legs sore. Feet sore. Back sore. Face pink. These are the true costs of going to a renfaire. Was it worth it? Yes. If only to prove to myself that past associations wouldn’t crush my heart. It came close a time or two, but I would go again…as long as I didn’t go alone. Ren Faires are no places to be alone in.

7. That happiness closer is really good. I wonder if I can actually apply it to my life. Here’s to trying….

You’re Doing What? Why?

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The Wear All White for Women’s Rights movement (http://www.facebook.com/WearAllWhiteForWomensRights) is sponsoring an event on April 2nd that encourages people to wear all white clothing (or as much white as possible). We’ve even provided patterns for iron-on and do-it-yourself T-shirt logos. Honestly, I expected more hate mail than we’re getting. Except for a couple of fairly civil and respectful disagreements, most of our headaches due to combative postings are coming, not from opposition to what our ultimate goal is, but our initial step: getting as many people to wear all white on the same day.

Here’s my response to one such combative message:

<name redacted out of respect>, you are quite correct in that congressmen and senators will ignore a bunch of people in white. But keep in mind that every movement, every mass uprising against oppression, every attempt to change policy requires a certain critical mass. Socially speaking, that is what this movement is about.

The white clothing is not for the policy makers, but for us. It lets us know in a visual way that others share our viewpoints, and that they are willing to at least be publicly identified as someone who holds that opinion. When I see someone wearing all white on April 2, I know I can network with that person, I know that here is someone I can work with to fulfill the next step of the process.

This _is_ the first step in doing something. The first step in dealing with any problem is acknowledging it exists. Admitting to ourselves and to others in such a public way provides an impetus to action that may not otherwise exist. For those of us in areas where the purpose of this movement is…unpopular, publicly taking a stand is a huge step. For you it may be this is a silly and unnecessary part of the process, but for me and others in similar situations, this is a critical point. Please allow us the time it takes to catch up with the rest of you who are already so publicly committed that the only step remaining is writing personal letters to the people we voted in…and hopefully are about to vote out.

A little later we were dissed as being “slacktivists”. As you can imagine, this pushed a few people’s angry buttons. Our response, after the initial anger-in-response-to-insult bit, was:

<name redacted out of respect>, thank you for sharing your opinion. It’s great that you’re willing to really get into the thick of things and get your hands dirty. We’ll miss you April 2, but maybe you’ll lead the way on the next stage of the cause.

It did, however, get us thinking and looking around. Guess what we found! It turns out “slacktivists” provide some of the most meaningful support any cause could desire. Here’s an excellent illustrative article: Why Slacktivism is Underrated.

 

Here’s an additional viewpoint on why we’re doing a visibility protest: Why a Visibility Protest?

I’m Wearing White. Are you?

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Here is the text of a press release for the Where All White for Women’s Rights movement. This movement was started by a long time friend of mine, currently living in NYC. I don’t often make a big deal about actions I’m taking, but given the topic and the number of women among my friends, it just made sense that when asked to be part of her campaign team, I joined (and used my real name). That’s right. Quiet me has volunteered to be loud about something. As I said in a Facebook status: “I’ve put my foot in it, now…this is going to be interesting.”

Press Release:

Based on the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee’s nonviolent protest for women’s rights in Liberia, I have started this protest as a single woman in New York, a woman who is horrified at watching my rights being stripped away in this country that I love so much. I can no longer sit back and do nothing. I am beginning this grass roots movement to stand up for my rights, your rights, human rights. Will you stand with me?

Before this year, I was your average American person, not really political – just trying to live my life, pay my bills, pursue my dreams – same as the next person. I voted in major elections but that was the extent of my political prowess.  Then things started showing up in my facebook newsfeed – things from my politically active friends who did read about what was going on in the world.  Needless to say, I was upset.  I started finding articles for myself – and I am now more than upset, I am scared.  The more I read, the more frightened I have become about what is happening to my rights as a woman.  So I did what I could.  I resolved to vote this year, to continue to educate myself more thoroughly, and to talk about it with others and get the word out.  I’ve posted articles I found on facebook and twitter.  I’ve written notes about it.  I’ve talked to people about it in bars and restaurants and subway cars.  I’ve looked into places to volunteer my time.

Then I stumbled upon an article about Leymah Gbowee, the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, awarded to her for her work in Liberia. What I read was an inspiration. If one woman could do it there, then why couldn’t one woman do it here? So I am setting off to follow her example, to no longer sit idly by as my rights are stripped away by lawmakers, but instead, to stand up and be heard – and I’ve realized that I want help.  I want to make this into a viral grassroots movement for all the other people out there like me, people who are horrified by what is happening but aren’t sure what to do.  I want to turn postings on social media into a visual force to remind the country, lawmakers and citizens alike that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there are many voices desperate to be heard.  I want an outlet for those voices, a place where they can come and not only be heard, but also make an impact.  Most importantly, I want a way in which every person, regardless of income, ability to travel, age, gender, race, or political leanings could participate.

Along the way I’ve picked up a pretty amazing team. 

Jasmine Witmer recently received a Bachelor of Arts in history and women’s studies, subjects that reflect an on-going interest in women’s welfare, past and present.  For some time, activism has played a large role in her life, most notably when she participated in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s  “Practicum for Advocacy” at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and when she traveled to El Salvador to record oral histories of female Guerilla war survivors. For this campaign, Jasmine is acting as a media consultant and assistant publicist.

Cass Morris works in the education department of the American Shakespeare Center and is also a freelance writer of historical nonfiction and genre fiction. She has joined the project out of frustration with a national legislative trend that treats her body like state or public property. Cass is acting as a social media consultant and assistant publicist.

Shandy Smith is a musician, martial artist, and writer. He joins the team as researcher, general cheerleader and all around go-to guy. As a multi-form artist, the right for individual expression is hallowed to him, so when I invited him to be part of the team, he joined up with a hearty smile.

And me?  I’m just a girl.  I live in NYC, pursuing my dreams of becoming a successful theatrical director.  I didn’t consider myself political until recent events forced me to pay attention.  And now I head up this team of wonderful people, trying to reach and motivate as many people as possible. Which brings me to this.

The real goals of this movement are empowerment, education, motivation and change.  I want us all, average citizen and lawmaker alike, to remember who has ultimate control over this – and that’s us – the voters.  I know our political system is far from perfect, but if we don’t speak up when it matters, then it will never get any better.    I want everyone to have a voice, and I want to find a way in which all those voices are heard. Restrictions or laws that affect only on a single subset of people (in this case women) are discrimination, pure and simple.  All people should fight against discrimination, in all its forms, at all times. Leymah Gbowee had a great idea that began with just a handful of women wearing white (five according to her interview) and eventually spread across the country to thousands, enabling her and her movement to vanquish a dictator and enable peace talks for her war torn country.  If Gbowee can do all of that with a grassroots protest there, then imagine what we can do here!  Please, stand by women’s rights and wear all white on April 2nd. Make it noticeable, and tell people why you’re doing it. Post on the community facebook page, share your stories, photos and videos. This is way for everyone to stand up and speak out, regardless of age, race, location or ability to travel.

Lawmakers today seem to have forgotten who those laws are being made for; seem to have forgotten how many of us there are who vote to keep them in office, or to take them out. How about a friendly reminder?

I stand by and for women’s rights.

By wearing all white, or a white shirt with pink “I support women’s rights” on this day, April 2, 2012, I am reminding those who write and pass bills:

Those women deserve honesty from their doctors – 100% of the time.

That a fetus’s life is not more important that the mother’s life.

That state sanctioned rape is still rape and not ok.

That it is not ok to charge a mother with attempted murder for a miscarriage.

That it is not ok to force women to carry a stillborn baby to term.

That it is not ok to take away the funding of women to receive medical treatment to make a political point.

That it is not ok to fire a woman because she is taking a medicine you disagree with.

For these and many other things currently being debated about in legislature, I stand for and by women’s rights.

Leymah Gbowee said, “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.”

Here is a way to start:

Commit to wearing all white on Monday April 2. Send this invite to people you know. Call your senators and congressmen and let them know you do not approve of what’s happening right now. Stay informed. Talk about it. Shout about it. Do not stop until they have listened. Start visual protests of your own. Vote. Vote. Vote. Do research on what candidates actually believe and look at their voting history. Stay informed. Vote. Be the change.

Will you stand with me?

https://www.facebook.com/events/191936044250957/

Please join in the community to share pictures and stories:

https://www.facebook.com/WearAllWhiteForWomensRights

Contact wearwhite4womensrights@gmail.com

I Have Had Enough!

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“Self-righteousness is the root of all bad behavior.” –Meg Barnhouse

And the words of meditation just keep on coming. This weeks words that came to me during the meditation time seems to invoke the unseen strength everyone feels from time to time.

May this flame of a single, fragile point
Join the wall of fire
And forever burn
In friendship and love and hope.

May this flame upon a tiny candle
Be strong enough to light my way
Through turbulent darkness
And bring others with me.

May this flame of delicate light
Shine endlessly in the storm
That I may help others
When they reach for shelter.

Today’s sermon topic was “enoughness”, a Quaker concept of balancing lack with acquisition. With such a topic, one would expect the sermon to boil down to: “Seek moderation, stop buying what you don’t need, and be content with what you have.” But no. We are Unitarian Universalists. Our sermons are never that easy. “Enough” is a concept that varies from person to person. How much is “enough”? How can you tell too little from too much? These are questions that everyone needs to answer for themselves.

What “enough” is not is complacency, apathy, neutrality. Enough is the balance each person must find in order to put forth the appropriate amount of effort. Enough provides both a motivation and a solid foundation from which to act. Enough is the amount of action necessary to achieve a goal…however much that might be and whatever the goal is. Enough is a solid center a person can rely on without being smothered with a surfeit. I am reminded of a quote from Marry Poppins: “Enough is as good as a feast.”

As my words of meditation may indicate, there are some things I have had enough of. I have had enough of darkness. I have had enough of pain. I have had enough of doubt. I have had enough of the storm. I say this not as a frustrated cry. I do not regret what I’ve been through. I see it as a necessary series of events. When I say, “I have had enough!” it is a simple statement of “enoughness.” I have no wish to enter the danger of wallowing in pain and doubt and darkness, so I say, “No thanks. I have had enough.”

Some Thoughts on Depression

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Depression comes in two main types: acute (single incident or short term) and chronic (long term; i.e. 6+ months and/or recurrent). Within each type are many layers of severity ranging from “I can’t do anything right” to “I don’t even have the energy to commit suicide.”

In everyday vernacular, “depressed” is just another word for “sad”. While this may be true in most cases, in many cases it is a serious and potentially life threatening problem. Being “clinically depressed” doesn’t mean you’re always sad or down. But it is often difficult to describe to people what it’s like to be depressed. It’s usually even more difficult to convince them it is not a temporary thing that can be “gotten over” with time and/or distraction. That being said, here are a few of my thoughts on what it’s like to be Depressed.

“Depression isn’t sadness. Depression is Life, in all its underwhelming glory, as it crushes your soul.”

“If happiness were a 100 yard dash, I’d start somewhere two miles behind the starting line.”

“I have determined that I can become invisible against my will. Despite sitting in nearly empty halls, no passing friend greets me.”

“My heart breaks in these empty halls
Echoes of laughter, echoes of tears
Sound and resound in my soul.”

“A shadow creeps in and paints everything in despair.
It bleeds off hope and joy. It shuts off your air.”

“Normally I have no problem looking at my feelings, but now I’m scared to look into that soul-sucking abyss.”

“When you are a depressive, you often don’t want to go to bed. This is not because you don’t want the day to end, but because you don’t want tomorrow to begin.”

It is important to note that while most people have had similar thoughts from time to time, those who are depressed often feel they are the embodiment of these thoughts. And it is not that we who are Depressed cannot feel joy or happiness, contentment or euphoria; rather, it is that the statements above are descriptions of our base line existence.

In many ways, we are as handicapped as those with Aspberger’s Syndrome. Often our social and pragmatic skills are retarded. Certainly how we see ourselves and our place in society and with other people is distorted, sometimes unbelievably so to those who are fortunate enough not to have to deal with it, or are only on the periphery. And as a result of that distortion, how we react to some things surprises or shocks those around us. For instance, it took more than 20 years for me to feel that friendly teasing was not an all-out attack on my personal worth. It is something I still have trouble with, sometimes, and as a result, I don’t often tease others on a personal level.

The good news is that, though it cannot be cured, Depression can be treated. The bad news is that the treatments are expensive. To give an example: on the spectrum of Depression, I have a moderate to light case. Yet without insurance, my course of medication is roughly $800 each month…and I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s not unusual for the cost of medications to exceed $1000. That’s just medication. Never mind the visits to the doctor/psychiatrist, or even the hospital E.R. or in-patient services.

Are there other conditions that are more expensive to treat? Absolutely. Even over the lifetime of the person. This is not about “whose life sucks more”. This is about educating those who see only someone who seems perpetually down or irritable, those whose only glimpse into our everyday lives is the death of a loved one or the obliteration of a cherished hope. And we, too, lose loved ones. We, too, have hopes that are destroyed.

If you know someone who is Depressed, seek to understand them rather than pity or avoid them. You’ll find that Depressives are among the most empathic people you meet.

How do you know if you or someone else is depressed? See a psychiatrist. When is it time to see a psychiatrist? If you consistently have 3 or more of these symptoms:
+ difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
+ fatigue and decreased energy
+ feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
+ feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
+ insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
+ irritability, restlessness
+ loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
+ overeating or appetite loss
+ persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
+ persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
+ thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts (even if this is the only symptom, see a psychiatrist as soon as possible)

If you have any or all of these symptoms, are you Depressed? Maybe, maybe not. See someone qualified. Psychologist/Psychiatrist visits are now often covered by insurance. Take advantage of it if you have insurance. If you don’t, sometimes therapists will do pro bono work. When they do, they often post flyers in places like a YMCA or community center bulletin board.

No Wonder

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I was driving home, when on the sign outside a church that announces the sermon topic for the week, I saw: “Beware of your thoughts, they might become words”. Wow. It took me a while to get over the shock of seeing that. When I finally did, my first thought was “No wonder people are starting to be okay with a police state.”

I may not always agree with the churches in the area, but I’ve always respected them. I’m not so sure I can do that for this church any more. It seems the pastor believes that thinking and acting are the same thing, that if you disagree with someone, you will inevitably come to dislike them. Carried further, this simple statement is the foundation of George Orwell’s “thought crime”. If you think it, the belief goes, you will act on it. So to prevent disrupting the status quo for good or ill, the act must be stopped at the thought. And what makes it really scary is that people listen to their pastor/minister/priest/etc. They put faith in what the person says, and try to follow the strictures set down by such an authority.

I realize that, since I do not attend that church, I do not know what the sermon is actually about. On the other hand, when putting something on display to draw people in, it is probably best not to announce that you will try to control their thoughts and beliefs. Just down the street, there is another church that has as it’s announcement: “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” This, to me, is a much better draw. It says to me that God will take care of you and give you the tools you need to face the unrest in the world. I don’t attend that church either, but on the whole, they tend to be more positive in their approach. I don’t always agree with the messages they put up; but then, agreement isn’t necessary to get along–respect is. And they have my respect.

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