In the Begining – A Mental Health Nightmare

adorable baby baby feet beautiful

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My life is amazing. It is full of people who love and care about me, I’ve been married twenty-five years this month, I have two beautiful grown daughters–almost 19 and 24–who brighten my days, my parents are still married and support me in many ways, we own our home, two furbabies drive me crazy but make my days more enjoyable, we aren’t hurting for anything, save our son who died in 2003 at the age of five. This is the trigger that sets everything in motion.

A parent should never have to see their children die. Simply put, it just isn’t fair.

A parent’s mourning never ends and I wish I could say it gets easier, but for me, it hasn’t. Memories plague my mind. They also warm my soul.

Depression has always been a part of my adult life, even before the death of our son. However, the trauma and tragedy of his passing triggered an entirely different set of symptoms. My ability to continue on with life stopped. A year later I lost a great job, one I loved with all my heart and soul. Yes, I went on to get an even better job, but eventually, I lost that one too. This would become a cycle until the day I couldn’t fathom walking outside of my house and into a workplace.

Happy DJ

The day DJ, my son, left this earth to meet his Maker I was taking a final exam for my Community Nursing course. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. We were presenting projects for our exam and the class ran late. Three of my best friends and I jumped into my car and headed for home. My husband called and told me I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible and provided very little information other than something was deathly wrong with our son. Without thinking, I turned on my hazard lights and stepped on the gas pedal.

Any police officers could follow me to the hospital and give me a ticket there.

We shot past cars, only stopping at a red light to let one of my friends out so she could jump in the car with her mom. She was heading out of town in just a few hours.

Even as I think about it now, my heart races and my stomach fills with pterodactyl sized butterflies. Horror washed over me as we entered the emergency room and were escorted to a private family room–reserved for the worst cases. My son had stopped breathing while taking a nap. The paramedics were able to restart his pulse but he had to be put on a ventilator.

Things you should know about my son:DJ a few days old

  • He was born 15 weeks early, weighing 1 lb 5 oz.
  • His first home was the NICU unit at the trauma hospital. He lived there for three months.
  • His lungs were not fully matured and he spent about six weeks on the ventilator.
  • One of the ventilators vibrated fiercely to keep his lungs expanded.
  • This caused him to have a bleed in his brain.
  • At age 3 he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (actually, we knew this much earlier but, at the time, cerebral palsy could not be diagnosed until age 3.)
  • His fine motor skills were the most affected. He rolled, crawled, pulled himself up on anything he could reach, he even climbed. He talked, laughed, and cried. He smiled and made friends with anyone he came into contact with, except his physical therapist. She made him work and he loved being babied.
  • With the brain bleed came many surgeries: the insertion of a VP shunt into his head to relieve any extra pressure, a permanent feeding tube, a fundoplication–a type of hiatal hernia operation–two more surgeries to replace the initial shunt and another to add a second shunt.
  • He had seizures. He had headaches. He projectile vomited for the first three years of his life.
  • Even with all of these issues, he loved fiercely and unconditionally. He taught us all many lessons about life. And today, as I write this, I am smiling at the memories.

My son always had an experienced caretaker near. If my husband or I weren’t home, he had grandparents. He also had, at the age of three, a personal assistant. I roll my eyes thinking how he twisted the two girls around his finger. One of the PAs had put him down for a nap ten minutes previous to my husband coming home and found him only minutes later.

To shorten this lead-in to the tumultuous times ahead, he walked into God’s arms that night in the spring of 2003. Our hearts shattered, our family shattered, my daughters suffered more grief than any child should.

To be continued…

My Journey – Introduction to Mental Health

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Woot! Woot! I am back from my first vacation in years. My parents, my youngest daughter (18), and I went to visit my sister in Austin, Texas. Everything fell together perfectly and we were able to escape five inches of snow in the Texas Panhandle. Sadly, the National Weather Service is predicting more of the cold, wet stuff overnight on Tuesday and I can’t run this time.

This weekend put some things in perspective for me that I have been fighting for more years than I can count. Mental health is a touchy subject for many and also filled with unanswered questions because the brain functions in a mysterious manner. The brain can trick its self into believing false information and the product can be anything from low self-esteem to fully formed hallucinations. Unfortunately, traumas–both past and present–trigger these episodes and can result in unsafe behavior, suicidal ideations, and subsequent hospitalizations.

While my experience is unique, as everyone’s is, I have become consciously aware of other people’s experiences and protective of others fighting a life-long battle. I did not plan to write this post quite yet; but, over the weekend, someone I have come to respect because of their public stance and advocacy of mental health appears to be in the midst of a suspected breakdown. My point is to explain my experiences and educate others about how a dysfunctional brain behaves. Irradically, obviously.

In 2015 my mom found me at my home disoriented and what doctors would later describe as near catatonic. It is necessary for me to stress that I was not high, over-drugged, or chemically altered at this time. After my oldest daughter arrived at my house, she and my mom decided I needed to go to the hospital and that an ambulance should transport me. Leaving my home via stretcher is the last thing I would remember until I awoke at our psychiatric care facility. Family later described the terrifying events that lead to my admission.

As of this moment, I’m not sure my family realizes the terror that accompanies complete memory loss. And, I am positive I do not understand the utter fear they suffered finding me in my deteriorated condition. Mental health affects all aspects of a person’s life. Family, friends, and other loved ones live the horrors along with the affected individual. For me, that was two daughters, a loving husband, two supporting parents, and many other extended family members. I have no lack of love or support. In many ways, people would be surprised at the level of function my perfectly unfunctional family operates.

The only story I can tell from a place of self-awareness and self-acceptance is my own. I hope you’ll join me on a journey of understanding.

I began this post with the idea of approaching everything in one long-winded message. Realization dawned on me and I am going to step into a series of posts, each covering my experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls
Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter (website)
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Williams Morrow
Genre: Adult Thriller
Source: Audible
Synopsis (Goodreads):

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

My Thoughts: I went into this book not knowing what to expect. To say the craziness of this extended dysfunctional family was seemingly normal within their separate nuclear families would be pushing boundaries and shows a great deal of denial. One sister went missing, another covered her pain with booze and pills, and the last lived a lavish, kept-woman life. All oblivious to the danger surrounding them.

The novel is written from a limited third-person point of view. While I love audiobooks for convenience, sometimes shifts in POV happen when I’m in the midst of cleaning or driving and I miss the character shift. When a single narrator attempts to take on several characters, the subtle changes in tone can be imperceptible. This fallacy is something I bypassed with relative ease and continued to be fascinated by the story.

Thriller reviews are difficult for me because it’s so hard to avoid spoilers. This author is a master of ratcheting up the suspense just when you think you might catch up and get a grasp on the story.

World-building: Pretty Girls is a thriller. It is meant to keep the reader wrapt in suspense. The world-building in this novel proves to be a very complicated and intricate design. The descriptions caused me to shiver, shake, and squirm. Gore, violence, and sexual content added a sense of truth to this mystery. Karin Slaughter, the author, proved to be an expert sociopath… or, at least, she writes like one.

Character-building: My favorite aspect of this story was the complicated characters. Each had dramatically different lives with one common denominator–they were family. Over the course of my reading, I enjoyed watching them grow, and suffer, as individuals and reunite as a family.

Audiobook rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Warning: This suspense novel delves into rape, drugs, and vulgar descriptions and vocabulary. I would suggest for mature reading only.

Outside of possible triggers, if you love dark suspense, Pretty Girls is the novel for you.

Buy Links:

Amazon     Audible     Barnes & Noble     Books-a-Million     IndieBound

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

the girl mv4Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young (Website)
Source: Amazon
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Summary: Via Goodreads

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

My take: While I enjoyed Tova’s story, I felt the book started slowly and it took me a few chapters to become invested in the characters. Point-of-views shifted between Tova and Halvard, each written in first-person. However, a few chapters were written in third-person and it proved a bit confusing.

 

Main Characters:

Tova: In the beginning, I found her annoying. She was found by the Svell after her mother believed her to be dead. Tova’s attachment and dependence upon Jorrund, the tribes Tala, felt codependent. She had great abilities, though she had never learned to hone them correctly. The saving grace for my ability to like her was the ability of the author to show fierce character progression.

Halvard: Strangely enough, I liked him immediately. His character was forced to mature quickly as he would come to lead his people at an early age.

 

Passages I loved:

          “The All Seer had seen what lay inside the heart of Vigdis and had come in warning. But the Svell didn’t know the language of the future the way I did. They didn’t understand that there was no such thing as a secret. The truth was everywhere. It was in everything. You only had to open your eyes to see it. The Spinners sat beneath the Tree of Uror, watching. Listening. Weaving away at the web of fate.” Zova, page 91

          “‘The stones? You don’t listen to the stones!’ I flung a hand toward the blood-soaked glade, my voice rising. ‘You want to believe that you can carve fate into a river that leads you where you want to go. It doesn’t work that way, Jorrund.'” Zova, Page 96

I love a story involving fate and destiny. I love the way characters embrace their own beliefs. This story is firmly defined by fate and there wasn’t much of a debate between fate and free-will, which I wished to see.

Overall, The Girl the Sea Gave Back interested me and held my attention. The world-building could have been better for a fantasy novel, in my opinion. The author’s writing, while there was a little too much telling, was concise without grammar or spelling errors.

 

Rating: 3.5

 

Buy links:     Amazon    Audible    Barnes and Noble     Kobo     GoogleBooks

 

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Proofreading and Editing

As an aspiring writer, it takes some time to get your work in progress ready to submit to publishers, agents, or to self-publish. I can tell you from a perfectionist’s point of view editing is the worst part of the writing process.

You had a blast writing the first draft, felt good about what you wrote, then you have some beta-readers look at it and they start pointing out plot holes, continuity problems, and silly grammar and spelling mistakes.

Now is the time for the hard work. Editing. I want to be your partner, cheerleading squad, and your advocate. I want to be the person who tries to make editing a little easier in the long run.

I have four years of editing experience, I have references, and examples from authors who have given me permission to share. I will also edit a chapter of your choosing free to make sure we are a good fit.

  • Content Editing, also known as substantive or developmental editing, is the process of reading the WIP in its entirety. It is also the first step and the most intensive part of the editing process. I will be looking for continuity, plot holes, dynamic vs. flat characters, unrealistic dialogue, mushy middles, info dumps, and many other things. For the most part, there will be no editing of spelling or grammar mistakes at this point. I will make notes using track changes in Word or Google Docs, and then will write you a detailed report so to point out my thoughts more thoroughly.
  • Line Editing is the next step in editing hell. I will be responsible for looking at every single line of your manuscript. When line editing I will look for passive voice, wordiness, weak words, overused words, overused phrases, redundancy, etc. Again, line editing is looking at content, not spelling or grammar.
  • Finally, we made it to Copy Editing. This is the step where I look for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Occasionally, a small continuity error or something missed in the other steps and I would jot down a note on track changes.

Honestly, it is usually hard for me to leave spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors alone at any point in the editing process. Typos or small errors can be easily fixed along the way.

Pricing:

  • I price on a flat fee. Once I’ve looked over a chapter or two of your manuscript, know the length, and what type of editing you are looking for, I will send you a quote. Most of my quotes begin at $400 -$6oo, but I am always open to negotiation. I do not believe in charging by the word because that quickly gets into thousands of dollars.
  • What I look at to decide pricing does include the length of the book, but I get a glimpse at how invasive the editing process will be with each project. It also depends if you just want me to do one of the editing processes or a combination.
  • I will set up a payment plan with authors who are serious. I require half upfront and it is non-refundable. After this, you can make payments as you need as long as the final payment is made on the day or before I finish. I cannot send you a finished manuscript without payment in full.