A Precursor to Anxiety – Mental Health

20180802_160553I came to consciousness one early morning; confused and scared. A nurse called my name and sat me in a chair to do my vital signs. Other individuals, both men and women, wondered around a room with a couple of worn couches, one round table and another longer one sat toward the other end of the room. A counter placed against a wall held a coffee pot and water. Other than the nurses standing behind the nursing station, nothing clearly marked as to where I had slept the night with these strangers.

This room should have been familiar to me as I did my mental health nursing rotation in this facility, specifically, inside this room. Only after talking to my mother on the phone later did I realize I had been committed to the Pavillion, my city’s only in-house psych facility. No recollection of the several days leading to this point existed. Not after I talked to the nurses, the doctors, the counselors, or the patients. Not after I spoke to anyone in my family.

Sketchy pieces of memories from that hospital stay flashed–continue to flash–in my ungrounded mind. The things my family revealed to me frightened me to the core; however, the things other people have told me are suspicious. Skepticism lingers at the edges of my every move, peeking out here or there, like peripheral vision. You catch a glance of something too quick to identify before it disappears again.

What I have been told, that I do not remember, is I was found disoriented with slurred speech. I rode in the ambulance to the hospital where I stayed in the ER for a while.  From there I was transferred into a semi-private room where my daughters stayed overnight with me. There are some flashes of this memory I recognize. However, apparently, at some point, and I don’t know when, I begged my family to take me to the cops so I could turn myself in. For what? Hell if I know. Upon my release from the medical hospital, I was asked if I wanted to be admitted to the Pavillion and I said yes. As my oldest daughter said, “That’s when we realized how sick you were.” Apparently, I answered all the “orientation” questions correctly and the healthcare workers diagnosed me as being in my right mind, so off to the Pavillion I went.

**The entire time I stayed at the Pav, nobody could convince me I wasn’t in some sort of experiment or job interview or reality TV show or a torture chamber. I followed the pack to groups, to meals, to bed. I never questioned anything aloud but boy did my mind try to solve all sorts of puzzles. Little arrows carved into tiny tiles on the floor led me to the bathroom and back to my bed again. A book I read said I needed to just lay down and die, so I tried to hold my breath. (Yes, I was a nurse and know you can only hold your breath until you pass out and then you start breathing again. I can tell you that at this time, on this day, as of this moment.)

**Everybody watched me, observed my every move, I actually thought at some point the patients were implants to trigger my paranoia. And, still to this day, I am unsure of what I experienced. The questions are always there, creeping and filling my head with doubt. Why was that one always on the phone? Why was that one asking me questions he already knew? Why did they sit outside my room at night and discuss me? How did paperwork from 2006 get hung up around the unit in 2015? So many questions that I don’t have the answers to and may never know the answers. Without a concrete memory, there is nothing tying me to the situation.

The attending psychiatrist found me to be partially catatonic at the Pav and wouldn’t release me until “I asked to go home with a smile.” This, I remember vividly. Maybe because I have never been so scared or wanted to go home so bad in all my life. Maybe because asking to go home and smiling seemed like an impossible fete.

I’ve seen my medical records from the medical hospital and know they also characterized me as catatonic. I also know I had not tried to commit suicide or overdosed on anything because I have my medical records from that day, and my medical records from the next several times I showed up at the emergency room. Only benzodiazepines showed up in a minuscule amount and since I was prescribed Xanax, it stands to reason that the test would show positive. I am afraid to peruse my records from the Pav because I’m not certain I will believe them.

**Once home, every sound bothered me. My husband’s video games talked to me. My dogs weren’t really my dogs. People drove by to check on me. The house was booby-trapped so I could only move and touch certain things. I always saw “messages” on the television. My lack of concentration kept me from reading. The fear of what I saw kept me from reading, writing, or much of anything else. People who called my phone were decidedly not real. Appointments magically changed dates. My family continuously played a game by moving their feet around.

ambulance architecture building business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And so much more.

Honestly, my family didn’t know how to communicate with me, so they side-eyed me, talked to me in soft whispers, and treated me as if I was truly insane. They all say they never met with one of my counselors, nurses, or doctors and were left in the dark as what to do with me.

These bouts of paranoia continue to plague me, though I am stronger now than I have been in many years, I recognize my thought processes and can usually turn them around before falling into Alice’s rabbit hole.

My last episode happened in May of this year. My husband knew something was off and so did my oldest daughter. I made a doctor’s appointment that brought about skeptical feelings. They wanted a urine sample and I was unable to give them one. Once we got to the emergency room, when they pulled me back three hours later, they plied me with normal saline and a urine sample was obtained. This incident nearly had me begging to go back to the Pavillion again. A place I promised I would never enter again as a patient.

So many memories. The scariest yet to come.

Maybe my most terrifying delusion of hallucination involved my sister and her wife who flew up to make certain I wasn’t being “a drain on society.” To make certain I was making some “positive efforts and functioning as a normal human.” They trapped me in my room threatening to take me back home with them where they would track everything I did on the computer, cell phone, or reading tablets

I’m not sure where this scenario came from, but, my sister and her wife had found a way to turn me into a piece of cloth that would blow with the wind and eventually, the cloth would deteriorate until I was, literally, nothing more than a piece of sand and my existence was erased from all of history. No birth record, no baptism certificate, no marriage certificate, no children, no husband–only a grain of sand. Nothing more.

close up photo of woman with black and purple eye shadow

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

When I come to my senses, I recognized how impossible it would be to turn me into a piece of cloth, but people, hear this; in the middle of a psychotic event, everything feels real. My sister and I don’t have an unhealthy relationship. We are friends, my family all just took a vacation and we stayed with them. Nothing abnormal happened.

To put all this succinctly, I was fucking scared. (I don’t apologize for the language, because come on people, there’s no other way to describe this experience.)

Again, this routine would return several times over the next few years; it still returns presently. There is a single commonality among every “episode.” I always have a urinary tract infection when these things happen. After over four years of this, I find that too pretty of a package tied up with a bow. I have read study after study talking about how UTIs can cause major psychoses but after everything I have been through, my brain refuses to fall for such an easy answer.

I’ve been free from these spells for over six months. While this is positive, there is also a tickle in my mind wondering when the next hallucinations will strike.

I am much better now. I can write about it and talk about it but most people don’t get my dark sense of humor. Every breath I take is another second of life that cannot be wasted.

*As I’ve mentioned before, the things I write are my experiences and mine alone. Each person in my family has their own stories but those I cannot tell.

**These paragraphs are filled with imagery and my experience inside a psychotic break.

Next article: Anxiety

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth HouseTitle: Ninth House: Alex Cross #1
Series: Alex Cross
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Macmillan: Flatiron Books
Publishing Year: 2019
Edition: Hardcover
Purchased: Barnes & Noble (Brick and Mortar)
Image and blurb attributed to Goodreads

Blurb:

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

 


My Thoughts: Ninth House has many conflicting reviews. I will go on record as saying I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Bardugo’s newest novel. The bevy of characters fascinated me, especially since the author consistently added to each of the characters’ stories. Every turn of the page brought surprises, shocks, and awes. My heart pounded, pulse raced, and head ached from the whiplash unleashed.

Major Character Overview:

Galaxy Stern (AKA-Alex Stern): An odd addition to Yale. At 20 years of age, one of the deans found her in a hospital and insisted she go to Yale on a full scholarship. When she enrolled she had only a GED, but she possessed other skills the university desperately needed. Her past was littered with trouble and inconsistencies. As the narrator, she proved to be unreliable. Secrets encased her, hiding her self-apprehension. All Alex’s mysterious enigma slowly fades as her reality is unveiled, piece by piece.

Daniel Arlington (AKA-Darlington): As the leader of the Lethe House he had a duty to watch over eight other houses, all possessing some type of paranormal abilities. His official title: the Virgil. A perfect specimen of Yale University’s college life. He spoke many languages, learned everything possible about the Lethe, took his duty as a student and a Virgil seriously, and resented Alex.

Pamela Dawes (AKA-Dawes): Dawes served the Lethe as the Oculus, according to Darlington, “[She] keeps everything running and ensures I [Darlington] don’t make too big a fool of myself.” Dawes and Alex have a tenuous relationship throughout the book. Dawes’s occlusive ways and her attachment to Tarot cards helped separate her from others.

My Thoughts: While there are many other important characters, these are the three that advance the mysterious plotline throughout the chapters. Ninth House was my baptism into Leigh Bardugo’s writing and reading this around Halloween built the suspense and the horror of the prognostications performed by the eight other houses. The cast of characters each has secrets and you can never think you know anything about anyone. Their personalities and anything assumed can change with the flip of a page.

There are a few flaws in the writing and I’m not particularly fond of the back and forth from present to past and past to present because it muddles the clarity. Especially since you are dropped into the middle of the action and are then forced to look to the past, the present, and the future. As one fellow bookstagrammer said, “it was completely unnecessary.” Once I acclimated myself, the story flowed and I became invested in the characters, the houses, the Lethe house history, and the grays. More than one mystery is presented, a few are solved, and many more are left unanswered.

I thought of a million things to say about this novel, but all of them are cliche. Ms. Bardugo’s writing beguiled and enraptured me within the pages of this wonderfully dark, mysterious, and horrifying suspense. While this author’s other novels are strongly categorized as Young Adult, Ninth House is for mature readers due to violence and vocabulary.

A definite 5/5 star read for me. The hype behind this book was huge. If you’ve read Ninth House leave me a comment and tell me how you felt about this crazy story.

Buy Links:

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Books-a-Million     IndieBooks

Audible     GoogleBooks

In the Begining – A Mental Health Nightmare

adorable baby baby feet beautiful

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

ambulance architecture building business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.