Mental Health Matters

I was going to do this great post today all about mental health and stuff but I’m too upset to think. So here’s what it boils down to:

  1. Be nice to other people. You don’t know what they’re going through.
  2. Be nice to yourself. You deserve it.
  3. If you are feeling the strain, talk to someone.
  4. If someone reaches out to you, just listen. Don’t preach. Just listen.

Love to you all.

Kill It with Fire: Mental Illness as a Plot Device

I have mental illness. This is not a secret. I’m not trying to hide it. I don’t generally open with this fact, but it’s there, and I deal with it.

According to fiction, I should either be living on the streets, plotting to burn down a school, or killing myself right this second. I’m not doing any of those things.

Or I could be in a mental hospital. That’s a popular trope in fiction. But I’ve never been admitted as a patient to the hospital, although I do see a therapist semi-regularly; I am on medication, and I do have family members who have been admitted to the hospital for mental health issues.

Their experience in the hospital is nothing like most fictional characters. They are not surrounded by sadistic or uncaring nurses, have not been tied to the bed or forced into a straight jacket. No one else managed to commit suicide while they were patients, although one patient did self harm, and that caused a new series of lockdowns. There’s no way to sneak out, have sex with other patients, and you can only be kept without your consent for about 24 hours.

That’s not to say it’s relaxing vacation. They do a body cavity search at some hospitals, you get asked the same annoying questions every day (Why are you here? What is your stress level?) You are surrounded by people most of the day. If you stay in your room, they check on you. You have to attend group therapy sessions. The food is boring. Visitors are really, really important, but it can be awkward too.

The thing is, there are a lot of things that define me more than my mental illness. My crazy (pardon the word choice) love of books, the fact that I read extremely fast, and how I completed almost 250 books last year. My seeming eternal struggle to get healthy, which is complicated by a food addiction (wait, that’s a mental health issue), which has got me on a ketogenic diet and going to the gym. My sarcastic, smart aleck sense of humor, which has gotten me into trouble over the years.

In fact, I would rather you say ANYTHING ELSE AT ALL when describing me instead of – “Oh, that’s Speedy Reader. She has depression.” How about, “Oh, that’s Speedy Reader. She likes to read.” Maybe a little obvious. But “Oh, that’s Speedy Reader. She’s one opinionated bitch,” would still be an improvement over the first comment. And it’s true. I am always opinionated and sometimes bitchy.

Writers, please, please, please keep this in mind when you’re writing. It may be trendy right now to talk about mental illness. This is an improvement over the years where it was such a taboo that everyone was ashamed to admit such a thing existed. But using it as a way to give your characters a back story is not an improvement. If you want to see a book about mental illness that’s done right, how about Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman? It’s incredibly moving and real. But how about some books where the character happens to have a mental illness, but it’s not the central defining characteristic of the person? Like The One in  a Million Boy by Monica Wood.

Basically, if you’re writing about neurodiversity, mental health, or treatments for mental health, DO YOUR RESEARCH! You’re not helping by perpetuating false stereotypes. That’s sloppy writing. It’s not edgy. It’s offensive. It’s hurtful. I am a complex person, not just whatever my brain chemistry says. I’m more than that. Come on, fellow writers. Get it right.

Blankets and Reading

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I mentioned it’s winter here, right? Brrr. Being cold sucks. I know this is a book blog, but I wanted to mention another project I have going over at Kickstarter.

I’m trying to raise money to make a dozen quilts for people in need. The plan is to take worn out denim jeans and khaki pants and turn them into warm, soft, comforting handmade quilts. It’s pretty simple. I have jeans, I have a sewing machine, I can sew straight lines, so I can make a quilt!

What I don’t have is cash. Not enough to buy the batting – that’s the soft fluffy stuff that goes in the middle – or all the other supplies to turn said jeans into said quilt. So I need a little help.

There’s more about the project here as well as a list of the rewards you can get if you pledge some money. Please note that some rewards are only for people in the United States.

Thanks for reading, and please pass this message along. It’s really, really cold here right now and it’s only going to get worse. Let’s keep the people warm.

Fantasy Rereads

I have been very stressed lately. My youngest child, W, is getting married this month. He’s the first one to get married and I am knee deep in wedding preparations here. In a moment of madness, I volunteered to make the wedding dress and plan the wedding shower. Yeah. So we got the wedding dress pattern, the fabric, the trim, then basically redesigned the whole thing, got it cut out. Then I realized that the shower was THIS WEEK so I had to rush and get all that stuff done. Then I found a stain right on the central front panel of the dress. It was sewing machine oil. I tried to remove it but only succeeded in snagging the fabric. The stain is still there. Fortunately, I was able to cut another panel, finish all the shower decorations, and tonight we had the wedding shower.

It was a big success, with only one minor flaw – my camera batteries were dead. Other people had cameras, so I’ll get to see the pictures, just not right away. And everything looked great, tasted great, plus we all had fun.

Tomorrow I am taking a break from sewing – hooray! – and I will instead relax with a book and maybe eat a salad for a change. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, when I had a few minutes to read, I reread a couple of fantasy titles I enjoyed before – NPCs by Drew Hayes and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. It’s an interesting match up. NPCs is all about taking the fantasy tropes and turning them on end, with a heavy emphasis on the RPG sort of gaming fantasy, and The Hero and the Crown is old school fantasy, with a heroine who has to go on a solo quest to save the kingdom. They are both available for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, so definitely check them both out. NPCs is Drew Hayes best book, IMO, since I didn’t really like Super Powered. It started out as a strong idea, but the series didn’t hold up and I got bored. This one I loved, even as a reread. And Robin McKinley’s book is I treasured 20 years ago and it’s still a wonderful treat. I forgot a lot of the details, but this is why I loved her books as a girl – great story, strong characters, and well developed settings.

Anyway, I think the posts will be hit or miss until this wedding is over. Long way to go on the dress still, but my back is killing me from hours at the sewing machine, so tomorrow I will rest and read.

Missing Mom

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This week is one year since my mom passed away. I don’t really plan on posting a lot of personal stuff, but she was a huge part of my life and I’m really struggling right now. My mom wasn’t perfect, but she loved me with all her heart. It’s been an eventful  year, with my kids having health challenges, my son going on a mission and coming home with more health problems, me taking charge of my health, and now my son getting engaged. Her absence is deeply felt. I keep wanting to call her and share my news, get some sympathy, some advice, share a laugh. I keep waiting for her to drop by with the latest odd item she found at the store and had to get because she just knew I would like it.

This week I’ve been stuck in bed. I’ve been reading a lot, but I don’t feel much like blogging about it. I would just take a little break, but I think it’s better to be open and honest about it. Our culture doesn’t always talk about grief and loss. I’m always willing to talk, and I hope that by being willing to share what I’ve been through, someone else will feel less alone.

So enjoy your own reading, keep posting, and I’ll be back as soon as I’m able. In the meantime, hug the people you love. You will miss them, even the stuff that drives you crazy, so much more than you can imagine when they are gone.