Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Jezzie “Badass” Flanagan is Useless: Along Came A Spider Flops Hardcore

We’re back with another installment of “I read Along Came A Spider so You Never Have to” because we’ve hit a major character arc: Jezzie Flanagan is useless.

What’s Going On Now?

It hasn’t been too long since page 161 (I’m on page 198) but in the world of James Patterson, things move quickly, and that might be why he sells so many books: people have short attention spans and like things that move beyond the speed of ‘story.’

Like what I did there? “Beyond the speed of story.” Yes, I also enjoy my genius.

So how has the plot moved forward? Well, we get a cringeworthy scene that goes like this: “To top it off, the temperature was about three degrees with the windchill. It was sleeting. The streets and sidewalks were covered with icy slush. A couple of times we joined the street people warming themselves over their garbage can fires. ‘You motherfuckin’ cops always cold, even in the summer,’ one of the young fucks said to us. Both Sampson and I laughed.”

Dear God. My skin shriveled.

While the cops were scouring the town for any information people would have on Gary, they stopped to warm themselves at a garbage can with some homeless people? And one of them just said some weird, rude shit? And then they laughed? It’s not believable. What is believable is that Patterson wrote it as a filler buster.

We get more information about Sampson. Now on page 162, we learn that Alex Cross thinks “it’s weird how well I know his every move. He’s (Sampson) been dusting his glasses like that since he was twelve. Through rain or sleet or snow.”

Who cares?

Patterson is full of these little irrelevant details that are meant to be characterizations of his protagonists but instead they just come off as some sloppy bullshit he threw in last minute as an attempt to bring them to life. It leaves them dead.

Anyway, Sampson and Cross run into an old woman who gives them a tip on old Gary, and they follow Gary to Wilmington, Delaware, where Gary is busy throwing a birthday party for his daughter Roni, with his wife Missy. Gary was absolutely miserable but played it off well and then “…had a reoccurring fantasy–he murdered everyone attending a child’s birthday party. A birthday party–or maybe a children’s Easter egg hunt. That made him feel a little better.”

That’s the end of chapter 36. It’s like Patterson is attempting to create an edgy, dark character and instead created some emo kid from 2001. Which, I suppose, would be ahead of its time, because this book was written in 1993.

Gary evades the police because he overheard a little boy at the party say they saw a routine policeman drive by. While Gary enjoyed the thrill of the chase, the police spoke with Missy who informed them that ‘Gary could easily have his Ph.D in math’ because that’s the only way to prove you’re smart.

Once they leave, return the hotel, we get this riveting paragraph about “the team”: “We were tired and frustrated after the near-miss with Gary Sonja/Murphy. We drank a lot of hard liquor in a short time. Actually, we got along well. ‘The team.’ We got loud, played liars poker, raised some hell in the tony Delaware Room that night. Sampson talked to Jezzie Flanagan for a while. He thought she was a good cop too.”

We get no indication of why Jezzie Flanagan is a good cop.

And then, the big reveal: Jezzie and Alex Cross kiss in the hallway.

Why?

WHO KNOWS.

Who knows what makes Jezzie so attractive to Alex. It would be nice if we, the readers, could get some semblance of an explanation for why these two would end up together, but this is literally only the second time Jezzie has had a block of quotes or even a decent scene. We know nothing about her, only that she’s also a cop with a unique spelling of her name so that must mean she’s someone important. What is Jezzie to Along Came A Spider? A love interest. And there’s nothing I hate more than a woman in a story just to be someone’s piece of ass.

Women characters can be huge assets. They can push along a plot with their compassion or their toughness. They can be very strong characters who deal with the world on their shoulders. They can get away with being masculine and feminine and work well as a surprise accomplice. Women characters are vital. They don’t have to be there just as a sex toy for the male characters. I feel bad for Jezzie Flanagan. She’s got a bad part to play.

Gary goes crazy in a McDonalds, shoots some guy in the head, shoots a cop, and Alex Cross dives in front of a sniper to save Gary’s life so they could learn more about Maggie Rose Dunn.

I summed up ten pages in one sentence so you don’t have to.

I’m reading this book for you all. Not for enjoyment at this point. Please, I implore you, hit the like button. I’m basically torturing myself for you guys.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on instagram @alilivesagain

Posted in advocacy, Freedom, science, writing

Why We Need To Stop Cancelling Artists

Consider this a longread.

I’m not one to talk political at people, and this will not be a political piece. However, there is something that deeply perturbs me about silencing artists. We’ll talk about two today who have received heaping amounts of backlash for commentary they’ve made on a very touchy subject: LGBTQ+ rights.

Let me start off by making my views clear. I absolutely love LGBTQ+ people. I absolutely believe they deserve all the same rights we have as cis gendered people. I believe in gay marriage, I support Trans-rights, and particularly am in love with unisex bathrooms (because we all do the same thing, why are we so separated anyway?). What I don’t understand (and please, feel free to clarify for me in the comments) is why there is an argument over biological sex. Sex is indeed something we’re born into, but as you learn in undergraduate biological psychology, often times the brain can develop more feminine in a male-oriented body or develop more male in a female-oriented body. There are indeed hormones that are more specific to each sex.

This does not make things black and white, however. This means there is indeed a spectrum of gender identity. What this does not mean is that if you “feel kind of boyish” one day and you “feel kind of girlish” the other day, that you are gender non-binary. We all feel kind of feminine and/or masculine depending on who we are around, where we live, and what day it is in our hormonal cycle (because yes, men have them too).

What does any of this have to do with artists?

Well, let’s look at an example.

Dave Chappelle

Source: Daily Hawker

I was talking with a friend some weeks ago and when I mentioned the comedian, she said “oh, didn’t he say something transphobic or whatever?” and I said “I doubt it.” So I watched The Closer. And low and behold, I was absolutely right. Let me tell you what he DID say.

The beginning of his expression about trans rights and activism, he said specifically that he was for trans rights. Now, this doesn’t make someone ABSOLUTELY for trans rights, hell, anyone can say it. But I listened more closely. One of his first points in The Closer was that the LGBTQ+ movement has moved much faster than the civil rights movement. Things are gettin’ done. Fast.

Yes, trans people are still attacked. Yes, gay people are still attacked. Yes, there is still a humungous stigma against those who experience gender dysphoria. Yes, it shouldn’t be like that.

But things are moving forward. Commercials about LGBTQ+ rights are there. People are celebrating life and celebrating those in their life who are apart of that group. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is. But Chappelle made a striking, obvious, and brutal point: “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again.”

Now, that’s not attacking gay people. What that’s saying is that people who are gay (or any of the LGBTQ+) and who are white, still have a privilege and advantage over those of us who are heavily pigmented. Hell, even I have privilege, because I am mixed race and lighter than my father, who is a very dark black. I can admit that. Why can’t some people of the LGBTQ+ community?

One of his more controversial sayings, which I felt uncomfortable about too until I thought about what he said was: “DaBaby shot and killed a [man] in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career. Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [man] but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”

This one is hard. But what he’s saying is clear. Careers, particularly artists like him who are in the eye of the public, are being slandered for saying things like biological sex exists. And it does. You can be born and man, you can be born a woman. No one is telling you that you have to stay as a man or as a woman gender-wise. It’s simply saying when you are born, you either have a penis, a vagina, or a combination therein. Nothing can change that as a fact.

Where Chappelle made a mistake is saying “gender is a fact.” Gender is more fluid, it’s on that spectrum, chemically and mentally, as we all learn now in undergraduate study (if you didn’t learn that, you’re learning it now). Sex is biological, and tied to your hormones, which, whether you like it or not, are still divided: men will have more testosterone than women, and women will have more estrogen than men. Nothing will change that as a fact either. If this wasn’t the case, trans people wouldn’t need hormones to grow into who they really are.

What I really liked, though, was what he said at the end: “Go back, go back tonight, after the show . . . I said, ‘how much do I have to participate in your self-image?’ I said, ‘you shouldn’t discuss this in front of black people,’ I know n**as in Brooklyn who wear high heels just to feel safe.’ I asked you why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it is for Cassius Clay to change his name?”

It’s the last line that seals it for me.

This has never been a tirade against trans people or trans rights or LGBTQ+ rights, it’s been about who gets the most privilege. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s a very well known fact that the experiences of a black trans woman will be much different from a white trans woman. Chappelle points out the imbalance in justice in The Closer. It has absolutely nothing to do with trans rights.

You know who does have to do with trans rights, though?

J.K Rowling

Source: Hawtcelebs

Infamous Harry Potter author.

She liked some tweets by someone who supposedly said something transphobic. If that supposed transphobic thing was “biological sex exists” I’m going to blow my lid.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what tweets Rowling liked because I’m rarely on Twitter and this happened a few years ago. I do know that Rowling having a cross dressing murderer in her book Troubled Blood (which I have) does not mean she is saying trans people are dangerous. Cross-dressing doesn’t even mean someone is trans. Hell, I love wearing dude sweats with a wife beater tank. I cross-dress. I’m not trans.

Now that we got that out of the way.

Rowling wrote an article on all of the allegations against her, and a few quotes stuck out to me, one of which I do indeed have a minor problem with.

One thing she points out is: “The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England), psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that ‘claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not align substantially with any robust data or studies in this tea. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’ “

In fact, one big topic in the trans community that isn’t talked about enough, and which J.K Rowling mentions in this article, is that people DO de-transition. They are silenced, they are rarely lifted up by the trans community, and that to me is disrespectful and hurtful. There are people who transitioned too early and saw it as a mistake. There are people who were confused on what it actually meant to have gender dysphoria, and thought that because they liked boy toys and played with boys as a kid, that they were actually a man. This sometimes does irreversible harm to the body: some women never get their voice back and testosterone permanently alters their physical form. Now, I am not a conservative and I rarely agree with everything YouTuber Blaire White says, but in this video she invites a de-transitioner on her channel and hearing that story made me research this topic on my own. Take a listen.

What Rowling seems to be afraid of is people taking advantage of the system. She says at one point that “the current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may not secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law.”

What I think people THINK she is saying is that people who don’t take hormones or surgery aren’t real trans men or women. She is not saying that. She is saying you can walk up into court, put on a dress as a man, say “I’m a woman” and have a lawful certificate prove it. What Rowling worries about, as a survivor of sexual assault, is sick men praying on vulnerable women.

Now, as someone who has worked for 5+ years as a peer counselor, I will tell you worldview is the first thing we look at and what I hear is a woman who is terrified of something that may never happen because of what has happened to her. I hear a woman who still remembers what it felt like to have a man overpower her, and I hear and understand her worries for other women and children. However, I also believe there are many good men in this world, and most won’t enter a bathroom with the legal guise of a woman to molest or assault a child/woman. Rowling’s comments aren’t coming from a place of hatred, they’re coming from a skewed worldview.

She says: “I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of color, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

This is the quote I had an issue with. For one she said “like women”, as if trans women aren’t women. They are indeed, neurologically, women. Their brans have developed with more feminine hormones and structure, so they are women. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But also, most of her article is so focused on the abuse by men, the overpowering by men, the this by men, the that by men, that it almost comes off like she despises or maybe fears them still. This has absolutely nothing to do with trans women or men. It has to do with Rowling and her own inner demons.

If you’re curious of her full article, click here.

Conclusion

And so we see that when someone is called out for being “transphobic”, we really need to dive into what’s being said and what it means. Saying that biological sex exists is not transphobic. Choosing not to date someone who is transgender is not transphobic. It’s hurtful and discriminatory, but it’s not transphobic. I could choose not to date someone because they’re short. It’s discriminatory but it’s not because I hate short people, it’s because I’m not comfortable with it. And that’s my personal preference and people are allowed to have that when choosing their mates (for the record, my boyfriend is shorter than I am and we get along just fine.) Comparing the injustice against people of color to the quick moving, and quite successful LGBTQ+ movement isn’t transphobic. Being afraid of sexual assault, even when it is based on personal past trauma, has nothing to do with trans rights and therefore is not transphobic.

Saying “I hate trans people” is transphobic.

Hurting someone because they are trans is transphobic.

Refusing service because someone is trans is transphobic.

And last but not least:

Artists are the voice of our generations. They point out things to us that maybe we don’t always see. They speak words that are controversial. They bring in their perspective and yes, sometimes that perspective is based on anger or jealousy or past trauma. They are human.

The day you can’t handle someone else’s opinion is the day you need to get off the internet.

I wish I was famous enough to get cancelled for this article.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

I’m Reading Along Came A Spider So You Never Have To (With Bad Drawings)

Much like we did with Hollow Kingdom, I’ve decided that since I’m only a quarter of the way through James Patternson’s Along Came A Spider, I would share my reading journey with you all. It seemed to work well last time, and I enjoy everyone following along and reading the book with me, essentially. If you haven’t read some of my Hollow Kingdom reviews, please go ahead and give them a look here and here. Warning: there ARE spoilers!

Before we get into this, let’s remember who James Patternson is. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials with this jolly dudes face on it:

Courtesy of Business Insider

He sells more books, according to that linked business insider article, than J.K Rowling or Stephan King. I don’t know how true that holds today, and I’m not going to waste my time reading that article, but if any of you are interested, please come back and let me know what his secret is.

Because his writing infuriates me.

Let’s get started.

Characters

In Along Came A Spider, we’re introduced to Sampson and Alex Cross, the latter being the deputy chief of detectives and also the narrating protagonist. The book opens with them on a case in “the hood.”

Do you see where this is going.

Now, being an African American woman, I have no issue with a white man writing a black character. I have issue with that character having stereotypical actions as part of their repertoire, or around them (like Alex’s daughter calling him “Big Daddy”) or using mannerisms that you wouldn’t normally see in the black community. The real problem with Alex is that he has absolutely no personality. He’s a flat character. There’s no depth. There’s no dimension. He’s just narrating the story. He’s telling what happened. And this is how this book is written.

We get shoddy descriptions of him like “Sampson and I are both physical. We work out at the gym attached to St. Anthony’s–St A’s. Together, we weigh about five hundred pounds. We can intimidate, if we want to. Sometimes it’s necessary in our line of work.”

Flat.

“I couldn’t help grieving as I looked down at the little boy, his sad, lifeless eyes staring up at me. Everything was very noisy inside my head.”

My head and the noise

Flatter.

Considering this book is written with Alex Cross in first person, you’d think we get a little more of a glimpse of what “noisy” means for him. What does “grieving” mean for him? We get a better description of the dead boy than we do of Alex’s reaction; at least we know his eyes are sad and lifeless.

Then we get this weird description of Sampson: “We walked along, goofing on the situation and on each other. Sampson rapped lyrics from pop songs, something he does a lot.”

Really? Really Patternson? Does he do it a lot? Because we’re 161 pages in at that line and we haven’t heard Sampson rap one fucking line. So does he do it a lot or just when you have nothing better to say?

Then, we’re introduced to Jezzie Flanagan and we just know she’s a bad ass because her name is spelled uniquely and she rides a motorcycle or something.

We don’t get much of personality for her either. She’s kind of just there. She gets great descriptive sentences like “it was a neat little scene to watch.”

Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg are two uppity children of political officials and famous persons and go to a fancy private school in some part of Washington D.C. What I like about the children characters is that they fit Patternson’s writing style much better. They don’t need tons of descriptors or beautiful prose or fancy words–because they’re children and most likely don’t know them. He writes through their eyes and that works for the most part.

Then we meet Mr Gary. Mr. Gary is at first a teacher at the private school Maggie and Michael attend, and then he’s their kidnapper and murderer. He comes off sort of childish too, in the way he explains his obsession with the Lindberg kidnapping and his own dirty deeds. Perhaps that’s Patternson’s point: this is a shattered, sick little man who doesn’t have the development of a stable adult. But we’ll never know.

So, what we’ve got are a couple of children, a flat detective, a badass who hasn’t yet gotten to show how badass she is, and a murderer obsessed with fame.

Plot

Sampson and Cross are pulled from their initial murder case (the little black boy with the sad, lifeless eyes) and put on the case of the kidnapped rich, white children, which is brought up as an issue in the book, as it should be. The setting is placed in Washington D.C. in 1992, so although not a heavily racist era, still an era where race played a major role and people weren’t as “woke” as they are now. People didn’t have cell phones to record racist cops or racist shooters and there certainly wasn’t social media around to narrate racist experiences to the world. So, the little black boy with the sad little eyes had to go without so the little white children could be saved.

Spoiler Alert: they don’t save the white children either.

Mr. Gary kidnaps Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg with the intention of becoming one of the most famous criminals. He’s killed multiple people, assumed multiple identities, and Patternson totally stole this idea from me (insert laugh here) and I’m outraged. Gary drugs the children and brings them to a shack where he tosses them in the shed. Michael dies because he has a heart condition and too much of the medicine was administered, but Maggie wakes up and starts screaming. I haven’t yet learned how she died.

Then we get a nice little scene around page 141, Chapter 29, of Gary home with his wife Missy and daughter Roni. Apparently he has both of those things. He is constantly fantasizing about killing them all, including his wife’s brother, in front of each other. We get a nice description of “he imagined beating Marty to death with his snow shovel, actually murdering Kasajian [Marty] in front of Missy and Roni. Show them who the man of the house really was.”

Marty’s Unique Death, P.G Version

What we learn about Gary through the transposition of the plot is that he’s quite the cliche murderer. He wants to kill everyone in sight, never get caught until he wants to get caught, and be one of the most famous bastards in history. Because that’ll show them who the man of the world really is.

It’s boring. We get tons of murderers like that in every crime novel. Can’t we come up with something more creative than the need for fame and the lust over murder?

Mr. Gary also wanted a ransom for the children. The families agreed to a hand off, and Alex Cross was taken handcuffed on a plane with a suitcase full of money by some contact of Gary’s. The contact got away and Alex was left handcuffed to the seat of the private jet. I don’t know man, it sounds like it should be exciting, but it really wasn’t. I glazed over it.

Now that the children are both dead, the media and families are blaming Alex Cross for having ruined the pick up and letting the killer get away. Alex and Sampson get put back on the case of the little black boy with the sad eyes only to discover one of Maggie Rose’s shoes at the crime scene of another murder in the hood.

The connection there, of course, is that Gary is killing everybody. That’s what he does. He’s showin’ them who’s boss, ain’t he?

Conclusion

162 pages in and I’m having trouble getting through the other 273. That’s my conclusion. I have nothing else to say.

Do you like James Patternson? How does he compare to Stephen King, another author who can vomit three or four books in a month? Have you read a book by Patternson that you think I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) rip apart?

I can say I would prefer to re-read Hollow Kingdom than read Along Came A Spider. At least in Hollow Kingdom I was entertained.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hello New Followers

I haven’t been active on this account for a couple months because life got in the way. University has started up and I absolutely abhor my major. I’m working to fix this. I have went back to work as well, almost full time, after taking a year off. Things are moving forward, but not quite in the direction I want.

Luckily, all of this terrible, no good, very bad depression has lent for a great opportunity to read. What better way to combat your depression than by escaping into another world?

I have started reading books by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a wonderful Spanish author who has sadly passed away from cancer. He’s left behind his brilliant magical realistic pieces for book lovers everywhere. I’ll be reviewing The Angels’ Game, The Shadow of the Wind, Labyrinth of the Spirits, and Prisoner of Heaven when I finish the latter two.

I also decided to pick up a book by James Patternson because I read Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner and was obsessed with its hilarity. It wasn’t written well (in terms of falling prey to”cliche characteritis”), but compared to Along Came a Spider by James Patternson, it might as well be considered a masterpiece. More on this later.

I wanted to come on here and update everyone considering I’ve upped in followers in the last few months.

Is there any book you all suggest I read? Either to rip it apart (critically and analytically and sometimes hilariously) or to praise it? Pop your suggestions in the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain

Posted in advocacy, Community, Peer Support, Voices, writing

How I Got Into Peer Support and How You Can Too.

How Did I get Involved?

It was 3 a.m on a particularly difficult night. I was 20 years old. I found myself struggling with sleep, battling with rapid thoughts, and frustrated over my financial situation. A lot of us in the mental health community have dealt with nights like this, I’m sure. my desperation lead me to the Craigslist Job Board where scams glorified work from home jobs and door-to-door food delivery jobs. I didn’t have a very good car back then, nor did I have any secure or reliable internet connection, so both of those jobs were out of the question. I was only lucky that I stumbled across Second Story.

Second Story boasted itself as a peer-led respite house–I had to look up the word Respite–and said that it was looking for individuals from the community who had lived experience. What was lived experience? Mental health distress, diagnosis, and/or involvement in the county mental health system. I had distress and diagnosis and it paid $13 dollars an hour, a whole 3 dollars more than I’d made at the local amusement park. In my manic state, I essentially said “Fuck it” and applied.

This is kind of an unusual story in that the majority of people who got involved with second story either volunteered, had worked there in the past, or stayed there in the past, or were there when it first opened.

When it first opened, I think I’d been a junior or sophomore in high school.

But what really drove me toward peer support wasn’t the idea that I could get paid talking to people and get paid to be a mental health consumer, it was the idea that an alternative treatment to a medical-model made a real-life difference in people’s experience. I wanted to be apart of this, see it with my own eyes.

Through this opportunity, I’ve been to conferences on coercive treatment, been featured on Mad in America, experienced the Pool of Consumer Champions (the largest peer organization in California), helped train peers who were opening their own peer respite, told my story in front of a panel of clinicians and mental health workers, and received training in Motivational Interview, Intentional Peer Support, Mindfulness, and Trauma Informed Care, all without a finished college degree. Working in peer support has done nothing but help my individual growth, show me what true compassion is, and help shift my worldview out of the dark dungeon it was in. I learned about people, became interested in their story and their being, and we walked together, side by side, across whatever fire brews. We are a team and we manage together.

How Can You Get Involved?

It’s not as hard as it seems, although sometimes it can be difficult to break through. Many states (in the U.S) have what’s called Peer Specialist Certification. These are state funded certifications that show you have completed a specific amount of hours of training and therefore are certified to use your skills to walk through someone’s experience with them. California is one of those states that has no state funded certification, as the bill has not yet passed legislation, but there are different regional certifications that you can get that still provide some training and experience.

Now, I never had any of that. I was just some 20 year old punk hearing voices without knowing they were voices, with so much anxiety I’d shake at the thought of doing something out of my routine, who couldn’t keep a clean room and was pretty sure she had undiagnosed autism. I got lucky.

There are many easier ways to get involved, though. NAMI, the national whatever on whatever, does Peer-to Peer classes and groups where your involvement could lead to volunteerism or employment. (Sorry NAMI, I never remember what you’re called, and I don’t ascribe to the idea of mental illness). They’re great to become apart of the community and get to network in your area while also getting support for yourself.

If you are in an area where peer respites are a thing, you can always get involved with one of them. Call the warmline and inquire. Here is a list of some Peer Respites.

If you don’t see your state on that list, try google instead.

There are also smaller peer-run organizations that are always, always looking for volunteers or workers or drivers or someone to just come in and make a difference. Again, try googling it for your area!

If you’re worried about the impact it may have on your social security benefits, just remember that peer places are run by PEERS. They understand. A good peer place will create a mutual schedule, one that works for you and one that works for them.

How Much Training Do I Need?

This of course depends on the organization or respite house you’re working with. Second Story has an umbrella company, one that oversees the house, so we recieve paid trainings with other clinicians and mental health staff. Some respite houses are entirely peer run, meaning they own their house and all the expenses acquired. Grants and donations usually fund the whole of these houses which means trainings may be specific and limited.

If you hate role-plays as much as I do, just remember everyone is learning and it’s okay to sound like a complete idiot.

I hate group role-plays, I should say. One-on-one role plays are fine.

The point being, if you have social anxiety, you WILL be role-playing and you WILL either get comfortable with it or never get comfortable with it and you have to practice accepting one or the other.

Do I Have To Be A Peer Counselor?

No. There are different types of jobs peers can do with trainings and certifications and experience. You can work in a hospital, for example, as a peer specialist, running groups or just walking around and talking to some of the people. If you’ve been in a hospital your self, you can relate to them and just be a general kind person to talk to. If you’ve been in bad hospitals, you know that often you are ignored or seen as dumb or treated with disrespect. You get the chance to be that one person who treats another human as a human.

You can be a driver, you can be an errand runner, you could even work to help people with mental health diagnoses find jobs. You are not limited to being a counselor.

I, for example, am going to train as a NeuroFeedback Technician this next coming month. I will be hooking people up to electrodes and skull caps and watching their brain waves as they complete training tasks. I will talk with them, relate to them a little, gather information, while also working with technology and understanding the results of said trainings. I would not have been able to get this job, pre-bachelor’s degree, without all of the 5 years of experience I have in peer support.

Final Thoughts

The point is, if you’re interested in this kind of work, you will find it. We’re always needing people just like you to be a constant, familiar, kind face for those brothers and sisters who are still struggling deeply. We need people with all sorts of backgrounds, all kinds of experience, and of all racial ethnicities.

We need YOU.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on my instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @happyschizobs.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, psychology

The Philosophy of Altered States

I’d like to talk about altered states. This includes but is not limited to the resulting mind state of those in psychosis, those who are both recreational and addicted drug users, and the natural state of mood changes. Most specifically, we’ll talk about why the want to alter our state of mind is regarded as dangerous and undesirable.

First, I’ll start off with a story: before the pandemic, I injured my back running on a treadmill.

I have a short leg and a displaced hip, so it’s not that I don’t know how a treadmill works, it’s that my body is broken.

I was prescribed Valium and Percocet. The Valium did wonders for my anxiety, especially when it came to speaking in front of panels, but the Percocet did something more. The Percocet gave me unbridled, unregulated, inorganic happiness, something I could never have without the pill itself. It made me sociable, bubbly, understanding, empathetic. It gave me confidence. It made me feel more human than I’ve ever felt.

And so the other day, while watching a terrible talk show yap about a heroin user, I started yearning for what I’d lost: that inorganic happiness. I found my mind racing, focused on pulling any old name from the archives of people I know, so I could ask them if they knew anyone selling Percocet. Once I realized I was frothing at the mouth at work like some sort of tortured, rabid dog, I stopped and pondered.

What was it about inorganic happiness that made me froth at the mouth? And, more importantly, why was I judging this feeling? Why did I label it bad?

Let me explain.

If you are feeling sad, you want to stop feeling sad. When you can’t stop feeling sad by simply telling yourself to stop feeling sad, you start feeling bad because you can’t stop feeling sad. You fall into a circle of sadness, until something–maybe a hot cup of tea or a friend or a therapist–triggers some thought that triggers some chemical that triggers some electricity that triggers another thought that eventually triggers your sadness to alter itself. You feel okay again.

So, what happens when you feel okay and wish to alter that state? What if we held each emotion to the same standard?

If I feel okay, or I feel happy, and I wish to feel more okay, or more happy, is there a moral, universal law that stops me from making that a reality?

The answer is no.

Now, we all know the consequences of going off our meds suddenly and without proper care (I frequently did that in my earlier psychosis years) and we all know the consequences of long-term, heavy, drug use, including regular, doctor-prescribed medication. So, if you’d like, you can think of that as the only hiccup here: there are physical and mental and life-changing consequences for our actions.

But why is happiness the only acceptable emotion to have? Why do we strive simply for that? Why don’t we focus on respecting our sadness, our anger? Why was my first inclination to seek a stronger happiness than I already have? Why do I want to resort to inorganic happiness?

I’ve asked a lot of questions here with no answers because I really want you to think about this. I really want you to ponder why do we put happiness on a pedestal? Why aren’t we allowed to feel other feelings in the same way we feel happiness? And is that why we constantly want to change our state of being? Because happiness is the only socially acceptable form of emotion?

Think about it.

Any thoughts in the comments are always appreciated.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in psychology, Voices

The Schizoaffected Sense

Hey everyone, I have some exciting news.

I decided since this blog has mostly turned into book reviews and travel tips, I’ve moved my mental health segments into a podcast, aptly named The Schizoaffected Sense. Right now all episodes 1-4 are available for listening at this Spotify link.

If you’d like to give it a listen, we talk about self-care, medication, and being mixed race; if you didn’t know already, my mother is white and my father is black and while that’s not uncommon today, I didn’t get to grow up around a lot of kids like me. I knew two, in fact.

Just two.

I share some deeply personal stories in the episode about medication, so if you’re squeamish or triggered by talk of suicide, consider having some support on standby while you listen.

When you do listen, come on over to my instagram @alilivesagain or come back to this post and comment what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly: I’m here for all of it.

P.S my recording studio right now is my car, so don’t expect perfect audio. I had to do a lot of mixing just to get it to sound as it does.

Also, my bad drawings prevail! Muahahahaha!

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me, again, on my instagram @ alilivesagain, on twitter @ happyschizobs and on Tok Tok @alisaysno.

Posted in travel

5 Things To Do While Visiting Las Vegas (that doesn’t include gambling).

If you’re someone with sensory issues like me, the thought of Las Vegas is maybe a little overwhelming, scary, or even intimidating; there are a lot of lights, sounds, people, and general sense of insomnia. Let me show you some ways you can enjoy Vegas too, with a little pre-planning, some ear plugs, and a budget.

1. Omega Mart and Area 15

Omega Mart is the second installation of Meow Wolf (don’t ask) and is a neon, glow in the dark, zip-lining, sliding, hidden treasure interact art installment. Tickets are about $45 USD each, but are worth it. There is a story to follow, with clues and information prompted by a “boop” card which is handed to you before you enter.

Warning: Once you enter, you will be confused. And the confusion will be glorious. I can’t write too much about it without giving away the secrets that make the installation beautiful.

Area 15 holds the Omega Mart as well as a few bars, some eateries–or snackeries depending on what you call ice cream and bakery items–as well as a track zip-line station and some more neon art sculptures. There are a few gift shops specific to Meow Wolf and Area 15, but enter at your own risk: prices vary.

Check that out and more here: https://meowwolf.com/visit/las-vegas

2. Rollin’ Smokes BBQ

If you’re looking for a quick, southern inspired meal, this is the place for you. Smothered in their own personal rub, built upon with several spices of deliciousness, you have the opportunity to choose from brisket, burger, rib, sandwich or salad, partnered with mouth watering sides like bacon potato salad, sweet cornbread, collard greens and brisket, and chipotle coleslaw. Their smoked meatloaf was featured on the travel channel, and has mama’s sweet D-licious sauce to tickle your tastebuds. I tried the Waygu Brisket Burger, which melted beautifully in my mouth and tasted fresh and seasoned like a good burger should. My only complaint was: where’s the bbq sauce, man?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $13 USD to $20 USD for a meal, and more if you decide to ty a sampler platter or a rack of ribs.

Want to see their menu? Check it out here:

3. Boulder City

This quaint little town is a great place to stay if you’re looking to avoid the traffic and crowds of Vegas but still want to enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s about 30 minutes outside of the city, depending on how fast you drive, and is about 15 minutes from the Hoover Dam, a very popular picture site, especially if you’re looking to build memories.

For a hotel, we paid about $250 USD for three nights and four days, a whooping 200 less than what we would have paid on the strip, and we got a beautiful view of the mountains. The only con for this is that you have to find parking in Vegas; this can be done relatively easily, as most casino resorts and parking garages are open 24/7jus, however, it’s pushing through the people that’s the hard part. They walk like they’re impervious to vehicles.

Boulder City has all the gas, markets, and ice cream shops you could hope for, perfect for that 107 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

4. Pinball Hall of Fame

Get your nerd-on here. Pinball machines from the 50’s and onward give you hours of fun. There is no time limit, and when you walk in you simply put some cash in the change machine and use the quarters you receive as money for the machines. Some are vintage, some are new, all are fun.

How much money? As much as you want. Check them out here: http://www.pinballmuseum.org

5. Las Vegas Sign

Come on. If you go to Vegas and skip this picture site, you’ve wasted your time. It’s free, there’s parking, it’s beautiful at night, and it’s proof you visited Sin City. Be prepared to be interrupted by people standing with cameras offering to take your picture and be prepared for crowds also looking to capture that perfect selfie.

It really is the city that never sleeps. And I’m here for it.

What are some of your favorite places in Vegas? Let us know is the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @ alilivesagain, on Twitter @happyschizobs, and on TikTok @alisaysno

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), psychology, writing

Never Fear Chalk, Only Playground Bullies and Staircases.

I’ve talked on here before about my own manuscript: there’s stalking, there’s jealousy, there’s pain, pleasure, basically every ingredient you need to create a believable but obviously fictional life. There’s also crime, a smidgeon of it (not including the stalking), and so I’ve taken to reading a lot of crime novels lately. I’m halfway through two books in particular and much like Hollow Kingdom, I plan on reviewing them as I read them. So let’s get started with that today.

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

Not going to lie, I found this book in Goodwill for $2.99. It was published in 2018, so it’s considered contemporary fiction and the inside jacket revealed there’s a dismembered body of a teenage girl, so there was definitely crime; the book met my two requirements of myself at the moment.

We jump between 2016 and 1986, so far, from a time where our protagonist, Eddie, is a middle-aged adult and back to the time when he was a budding teenager. All of his friends have nicknames and thank God they’re nothing like the ones in Hollow Kingdom. Although they are a bit gimmicky, they’re believable for children: Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Eddie is called Eddie Munster because his surname is Adams, such as in The Addams Family. Apparently “Eddie Munster was out of The Munsters, but it made sense at the time . . .”

Nicky is another one of their friends, a girl who loves hanging with the boys, and her father is the local Vicar. This only becomes a problem at Fat Gav’s birthday party because Eddie’s mother works at an abortion clinic; at some point an argument erupts and Eddie’s father punches Nicky’s father. A few days later, Eddie’s family receives a pig fetus in the mail; I’m hoping this is set up for some further plot development.

Right off the bat, we get a terrifying incident: a girl is severely injured by a rogue piece of fair equipment and Eddie is right in the thick of it, inches from being impaled. He sees the jacked up face of the girl victim but is urged to help her by a strange man, Mr. Halloran. The two, so far, have a decent relationship, although things did get a little weird when Mr. Halloran saved Eddie from some serious sexual assault from some bullies who seem more like budding rapists. He brought Eddie back to his house and Mr. Halloran has a bunch of paintings of some girls from the town, including the jacked up face girl. I think he’s being set up to be the crazed murderer of the town: he’s a teacher, he’s quiet, he’s got a bunch of paintings of girls, and he’s forming a close connection with a student. Yep. Checks all the boxes for fictional murderers.

In 2016, as a middle-aged adult, Eddie lives with a much younger roommate, a young woman he fancies but will never tell her really because he’s “too old.” Fat Gav owns a pub, and he and Hoppo are angry that Eddie didn’t tell them Metal Mickey was back in town. Metal Mickey, we learn, has returned because he wants to write a book on “the incident” and I’m assuming that means the dismembered girl, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. He says he knows who the real murderer is. Spooky.

What I find annoying so far with Tudor’s writing is the constant cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. I get that it’s meant to keep you reading and is a staple of crime fiction, it just turns me off. I want the story to flow some places and hang other places, kind of like how life does. There’s also nothing special about the writing style; Tudor’s voice is average: not quite bland but not quite unique. I’m interested in the plot line, but that’s the only reason I’m continuing to read it.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Having a degree in psychology and living with schizophrenia and going back to school for cognitive science means I know a thing or two about disorders, including the personalities along the Dark Triad, and despite what people think, psychopathy itself is not a mental disorder. It’s a personality TRAIT, alongside Narcissism (which is different from narcissistic personality disorder) and Machiavellianism. So, when I started reading this book and realized it was about serial killers, I was waiting for the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, and sure enough, as cliche as aways, it came.

D.D. Warren is a detective called to a crime scene of a woman having been skinned (in some places) and killed, a bottle of champagne and a rose left on her nightstand. The detective went back to the crime scene, encountered what I’ve learned so far was the murderer, and got shoved down the stairs, enduring an injury that’s left her shoulder and arm completely useless during its healing process.

Doctor Adeline Day (although she goes by a different last name) is the daughter of infamous serial killer Harry Day and sister of infamous serial killer (and youngest to be tried for murderer in their area) Shana Day. Adeline is a psychiatrist and cannot feel pain due to a rare genetic disorder, but she does understand her sister’s troupe of “blood means love”, something their father taught her. Shana cut people to show them how much she loves them and is diagnosed, by her sister, with antisocial personality disorder.

I would like to point out that while the book mentions it’s quite unconventional for a family member to diagnose another family member, it’s something that wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to point out the majority of people diagnosed with and living with antisocial personality disorder are not serial killers. In fact, they live relatively normal lives. They simply don’t care for your feelings and will manipulate the hell out of you to get what they want. They are driven by their own desire and could care less what you think about that. That being said, aggression and violence come easy for them. It just doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm people; it’s more like they could and would feel nothing if they did.

I’m tired of mental disorders being the reason for crime. Why can’t Shana just be a serial killer? Why does she need a label? Why does blood need to equal love? That’s more delusional than antisocial.

Adeline has a secret of her own, though. She goes on dates, sleeps with her dates, and cuts little strips of their skin and puts them in jars as keepsakes. I’m on page 209 right now so I don’t yet know the significance, but it better be something good. I swear to God.

So far the book has been mostly dialogue and I mean this. We get a paragraph or two of set up and story and then we get pages of dialogue, which is fine because most of the time it’s written well, but there are instances where I think the character of Adeline is much too “Hollywood psychiatrist” and a lot less “average psychiatrist,” meaning she talks like she was written for low budget movie. She has great explanations for everything and constantly knows what people are thinking without them saying more than a few words. She also talks kind of like a type-writer: old-fashioned and stiff.

That being said, I want to know who the murderer is and if he is conspiring with Shana Day, as some detectives are starting to think. I want to know if Adeline will get caught with her creepy skin obsession and lose her license (hopefully) and I want to know whether detective D.D. Warren’s shoulder will ever get better. I mean, that’s the real plot line here.

Would you guys read either of these books? What’s your chosen genre these days?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @happyschizobs

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Surfing in Forever Land

I’m back with a new book.

Where did I go, you ask?

Into the Ocean at the End of the Lane. And I Fear(ed) Nothing. I did come across The Chalk Man, though, and he was an interesting fellow. He asked me a lot of questions, including the ever daunting What Is Life.

If you haven’t guessed already, those are all books I’ve been reading and finishing while I took a little break from writing. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman has been by far the easiest and quickest to finish, so today we’ll be reviewing (with spoilers) that book in its entirety. Next time we’ll be talking a little bit about the crime novel Fear Nothing that I picked up from Thriftbooks.com.

If you still buy your books at full price, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but cheap books ain’t one.

Okay, enough jokes. Let’s get into it.

The Ocean at The End of the Lane.

Firstly, Neil Gaiman is not an indie author. He is a seasoned, accomplished one, with quite the knack for what we call Magical Realism over here in America. His imagination is impeccable. That’s not to say there aren’t a few things I wish were different in his book.

We start off meeting a man attending a funeral. He decides to re-visit the farm at the end of the lane of his childhood house where he met a girl aptly named Lettie Hempstock, an eleven-year-old mystery. We flash back to his childhood when he first met Lettie, after a man had stolen his father’s Mini Cooper and ended his life in it. The scene too gruesome for a seven year old, our protagonist is granted the opportunity to spend some time with Lettie, Lettie’s mother (Mrs. Hempstock) and Lettie’s grandmother (Old Mrs. Hempstock).

To right a wrong, Lettie takes our protagonist to this Forever land where the sky is orange. She tells him “do not let go of my hand” no matter what happens, or what he sees. They come across this thing made of canvas with “deep holes in the fabric” and Lettie demanded she name herself. Of course this doesn’t happen and through the course of the terrifying conversation, our protagonist lets go of Lettie’s hand.

Oh how the young doom themselves.

When he returns home, there is something burrowed in his foot. With tweezers and warm water, he pulls half of the worm out (only half because it broke off inside of him) and the next thing we know, a new babysitter arrives named Ursula Monkton.

Ursula, as you may have guessed, is not an Ursula at all, in fact, she’s not even human. She’s the worm.

Before I lose you, I promise this book flows way better than I’m making it sound.

Our protagonist knows this is no ordinary babysitter, but she seems to have everyone wrapped around in little finger. His sister loves Ursula, their mother, who took a new job (hence the need for the babysitter) loves Ursula, and their father really, really loves Ursula, and gets caught having some passionate relations with her in his study. Don’t ask me how that works if she’s a worm.

This forces our protagonist to tell Lettie he let go of her hand in the forest. This creates some problems, but nothing the three Hempstocks can’t fix. They have spells and magic and creative thought to get rid of Ursula Monkton.

But Ursula has some magic of her own. She knows how to manipulate, and gets the father to choke and nearly drown his son in the bathtub. Our protagonist runs to Lettie Hempstock’s farm where magic is used to erase that event from reality; when his parents come looking for him, they believe he is just staying the night and brought his toothbrush for him–since he forgot it and all.

The next day, Lettie and our protagonist set off with “dolls’ eyes and heads and hands, [toy] cars with no wheels, and chipped cat’s eye glass marbles” to get rid of Ursula Monkton. We don’t necessarily learn what these toys are for, but it’s implied they are needed for the magic to work. They confront Monkton, who is now unashamed of her form, and highly overconfident; she’s managed to take over our protagonists’ house and turn everyone against him. Monkton levitates throughout their conversation, and she is the canvas monster for sure, but Lettie threatens her with “the varmints.”

They’re “mean, and they’re hard to get rid of. And they’re always hungry.”

Ursula runs.

We learn that Monkton has buried herself within our protagonists’ heart, and his life keeps her alive. She’s using him for energy, I assume, and we get this kind of awkward explanation of: “It is inside him. it is not a tunnel. Not any longer. It does not end. I fastened the path inside him too well when I made it and the last of it is still inside him. No matter. All I need to do to get away from here is to reach into his chest and pul out his beating heart and finish the path and open the door.”

I say awkward because when I read it, I don’t really feel threatened like it’s intended to be. It feels like a little kid explaining what Ursula Monkton wants, instead of Ursula explaining herself. In the midst of all that, there is a flapping, and then a whooshing, and then came The Hunger Birds, quite honestly my favorite characters in this whole book. They are the varmints, The Ones Who Eat (throwback to Hollow Kingdom). They devour the creature that is Ursula Monkton. But then they turn to our protagonist who still carries part of her inside of him.

Lettie creates a boundary, a fairy ring, and makes our protagonist sit in it. Nothing can come in the circle, and he should not leave the circle. She leaves.

The Hunger Birds play all sorts of games with our protagonist, impersonating his sister, his parents, anyone to try and get him out of the circle, but he does not budge because of his loyalty to Lettie and his understanding that he will be ripped apart if he does. In the end, Lettie sacrifices her life to save our protagonist.

There are a lot of good things about this book. The dialogue flows, we get a character we can feel scared for and two characters we get to root for. I only wish it was a little longer. I appreciate the mystery that the Hempstock’s unknown background provides, but the story itself almost feels rushed. I really wanted description and explanation of the world with the orange sky that lived in the back of the Hempstock’s farm, and the little pond that was really an ocean. I wanted to get a sense of these magical people, and that depth just isn’t there.

The book is enjoyable though, and a quick read. It’s something that kept my turning pages fiercely.

Next post we’ll talk about Fear Nothing, a crime novel with a very cliche Antisocial Personality.