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 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.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hollow Kingdom: Final Review

It’s been a long journey from Dennis and S.T.’s house with Big Jim, to Kraai the crow, Migisi the eagle, The One Who Conquers, The Weavers, and The One Who Keeps. The world Kira Jane Buxton creates, at first glance of the back cover, feels magical, grotesque, intriguing. The characters introduced in the first few chapters: Genghis Cat, Winnie the Poodle, and those throughout, like the Humpback whales and a pack of wolves, are filled with personality and never really heard from again. There are so many unsatisfying things about this book, I’m not sure I can fit them in this one post. But I’ll try.

I’ve said before the plot is ingenious: a crow tells the story of how humankind fell. We learn about Aura, the way creatures of the Earth communicate with one another, and we learn how each of them sees humans, from S.T’s fantastical obsession with the resourcefulness of humans (or MoFo’s) to the murder of crow’s less than tasteful view of humans (or Hollows). It’s obvious that Buxton appreciates, loves, and admires animals. It’s a shame she can’t write.

But first, let’s talk about the GOOD things about Hollow Kingdom.

The Good

There are moments Buxton can actually write. The way she describes action–the crows attacking or getting away from danger–is quite realistic. She has a knack for metaphors. Each chapter is riddled with them (we’ll talk about that later), things like “Looking for signs of twisted limbs, hungry vermillion eyes, and neck bones with no rules,” or “Then it flattened its ears to its head and expelled a roar, a roar that tore through the bones of the building . . .” They are great for creating feeling and some are powerful imagery. 

She’s also created a character. I wouldn’t consider S.T likable, but I wouldn’t consider him generic either. He has his own personality, and that personality just happens to harbor extremely cheesy catch phrases and a disturbing sense of loyalty to humanity. He is quite dedicated to first curing humanity and then to keeping Dennis alive and then to carrying out his life as a crow. His big character arc is finally realizing that he is indeed a crow with MoFo mannerisms, not a Mofo in a crow body. What should be a big turning point for S.T. is kind of washed away behind the reason humanity fell. 

Unlike some commenters on Goodreads, I actually enjoyed the toast to nature. The trees, the animals, everything connected and communicating on their own wavelengths (Aura) sounds divine and certainly out of the range of abilities for humans; we’re quite incapable of communicating well, if 2020 has shown us anything. I think where Buxton falls short is the presentation of Aura. 

Which brings us to:

The Bad

Let’s start with how overwritten this book is. The metaphors. They’re great every once in a while, but when every page is riddled with at least ten or fifteen “pendulous trucks” and elephants that “smelled like churned soil and freedom” and an “ancient song of sorrow that the evergreens shook from their leaves” and “calling on the ocean with our breath,” it gets a little tedious. While those are all great descriptions, don’t get me wrong, imagine 304 pages of that, consistently, partnered with lines like “crumble-cheese turd burger” or “yard demolishing fuck trolls” or “pubic badger” or “you could have heard a dust mite queef in there” or “fuck off, you douche flute” or “butt-splosion of information” or “cheese cups, ass clubs” or “scrotum-sanitizing mouth” or any of the other cheesy lines that permeate this book. It reminds me of first-time writer workshop attendees who know that adjectives and metaphors and similes can often carry semi-good writing, so their pieces becomes soggy with figurative language. 

Let’s talk about nictitating membranes, too. I’m fully aware that they are the part of birds that kind of slick across the eyeball in a blinking fashion. I’m also fully aware that Buxton personified a crow who doesn’t really see himself as a crow, so why would he regard his blinking as nictitating membranes licking his eyes or “make [his] nictitating membranes shut out the world momentarily?” Why can’t he just blink? 

We’re also introduced to side characters like Genghis cat, Winnie the Poodle, A fairy Pitta, a polar bear, a spruce tree, an armadillo, a highland cow, a camel, an elephant, a humpback whale and a pack of wolves. We get a conclusion, sort of, on Genghis cat and Winnie the Poodle and the polar bear who is the last bear on the ice. In the beginning of the book it was whimsical, and I looked forward to hearing the view of the world through just a few side characters continuously, but that never happened and they sort of came out of nowhere throughout the book, breaking up the flow of the story. We get short bursts of personalities, but it doesn’t really add much to the plot, other than Genghis cat joining up with the Orangutan(aka The One Who Opens Doors). Winnie the Poodle dying only symbolizes there’s no humans left to help the domestic animals, and we already knew that. 

What happened to the humans, after all? Well, we get some insight on that from Ghubari. He says, and prepare yourself, “it was a virus.” Not like AIDS or Ebola, but “mans creation” from “the internet.” He continues with, “. . . it started with the addiction. Technology was an intangible seductress, a siren calling for ships to meet her jagged rocks. It was a virus that spread through the systems, through the network, chips, watches, phones, tablets. Through eyes, skin, and synapses.” 

So something within the technology seeped into the skin and changed everyone into Cassowaries and giant spiders. 

I’m not kidding. 

Buxton doesn’t refer to The Hideous Ones as Cassowaries, but they’re described as humans who now scream in “the language of a raptor.” They have “hideous skin and jet black holes where there must have been eyes” with “colossal legs propelling them to great heights, and they snapped and shrieked with breaks the color of death.” The weavers have mandibles and eight legs and some weird stuff is going on with them, they silk up other humans and animals and suck them dry, so I’m not sure what kind of computer virus can turn you into a spider, but that’s what we get, folks. The Weavers and The Hideous Ones are the result, according to Ghubari, of humans evolving, their “last-ditch effort at survival.”

To sum it up, S.T says, “addiction to an electronic world caused the downfall of the Mofos. They’d forgotten to connect with each other, to connect with the creatures who missed them and to Nature as She called for them to come home.” 

Preachy, but we get it. 

The Ugly

There’s nothing really ugly about this book, but because I started with “The Good” and “The Bad” it felt wrong not to put “The Ugly.”

Conclusion

I don’t believe any of the reviews on the front of this book. It wasn’t “hilarious” or “exuberant” or “movingly written.” It was “eh.” 

I’ll be reading the sequel simply to bring you guys more Kira Jane Buxton. At the end of Hollow Kingdom, S.T is lead to a human baby in a house, abandoned obviously, and untouched by the technology-spider-cassowary virus. We obviously have to find out together whether there are other babies around the world, whether the human race survives, or whether the animals reclaim the world. I don’t really care which it is, I just have to know one or the other. 

My next full review will be on The Morality Play. I’m almost finished with it. 

What are you all reading this month?

Until Next Time

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Murderous Writing

I don’t know what kind of writer you are, but I am a writer who enjoys mystery, crime, drama, and just a touch of magic. I like stories that are literary in nature, contain weaving motifs and conflicted characters. I want to search for the meaning and if there is no meaning intended I want the creative ability to create a meaning that is meaningful to me. That’s all I ask.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through a book of short stories called Santa Cruz Noir, noir meaning stories full of crime and moral ambiguity. I’m all for it.

Considering I live in Santa Cruz and it was at one point considered the murder capital of the world, I dove right in.

And still the stories shocked me.

The very first story, entitled Buck Low is about a seemingly comfortable and developed serial killer (I inferred that) who has killed a woman, killed her friend looking for her, and took off up into the Bay. He gave me serial killer vibes because of his nonchalance and easy of killing and travel, as if he’s done that before. It felt like the author intentionally created that vibe.

There are odd stories too, like Mischa and the Seal, about a woman marine biologist graduate student. Seals are her muse, they speak to her (quite literally) and she enjoys staying in hotels, particularly a hotel which overlooks the beach. She meets a fellow ocean lover, James, and while they date, a particular seal she communicates with warns her there’s something strange about James and she needs to “dig into it.”

Longer short story short, James is a seal and otter serial killer.

Mischa kills James with his own arrow contraction that he kills the animals with.

She takes a shower, I think, and then seemingly kills herself by also disappearing into the ocean.

I say these stories shocked me because it’s not often I get to read good published crime stories or novels. A lot of them feel contrived to me, although there’s one story I’m hoping is good that I’d like to read about a serial killer who broke out of prison and is searching for his daughter. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. I used to work at a library and saw tons of books I wanted to read. If anyone knows the book I’m talking about, please put it in the comments below.

If you have any crime book recommendations that aren’t detective mysteries, please put those in the comments below too.

I feel like there’s a community of crime writers that are often rejected from the mainstream publishing scene considering murder and darkness scares people. I personally love writing and reading stories that push the boundaries of what we think is acceptable.

I just wrote a story entitled To Jane. My protagonist murdered another woman because she accused my protagonist of stealing some cheap costume jewelry. I sent it off to a couple small magazines, but I’m anticipating rejection; good writers always anticipate rejection. It makes getting published more surprising and fun.

It’s also a grave mistake to pair mental illness and crime together. The two are not synonymous, in fact they’re very opposite of each other. I aim give evidence to that point with my book.

My main work in progress is centered on crime as well; besides the stalking, there is murder, and I’ve learned that murder is acceptable as long as the actual murder isn’t described; people just need the idea of it to conjure their own sick visions. People also like a little mystery.

What is your favorite genre? What do you write? What do you read? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time.

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Grocery Shopping Syndrome [in writing] and A Bad Drawing

You never, ever, ever, ever, ever want the meat of your story to take the form of background music. That’s what’s happening in Hollow Kingdom. Reading through a chapter is like taking a stroll through a grocery store for nothing in particular. You browse items on the shelf, you see cashiers ringing up food, but none of it is really appealing to you; maybe you just don’t feel like Lindt Lindor chocolates today and the line is backed up to hell. You spend a few more minutes waiting for something to capture your fancy and when it doesn’t, you walk out.

Kira Jane Buxton has done something quite extraordinary. She’s built a world with immense creative foundation and no structure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the ideas are beautiful; the execution is mediocre.

S.T and Dennis are still trekking along and why I likened these last few pages to strolling through a grocery store, uninterested, is that I find my focus waning from each sentence. I’ll realize my thoughts have drifted to something even less important than the book: what am I going to eat for dinner tonight? I wonder where the cat is. I have to get up soon.

For reference, it’s 6:44am.

The book just can’t keep my focus, and normally I’m very invested in plot and character development.

It’s something we have to keep in mind while writing our own novels. Not only is brevity a skill to hone, it’s also for the sake of your reader. You can describe brilliant scenes in just a few sentences if you know how. When things stretch beyond their capacity, it just gets weird.

I wouldn’t say Hollow Kingdom is boring, it’s just not captivating. The idea jumps off the bookshelf, but the book itself lands flat on the carpet.

I’m done with the figurative language, I promise.

When I notice parts of my novel that drag, it’s a drag for me too, because that means I have to tweak something that maybe I didn’t want to tweak. To me, it’s fascinating to delve deep into character minds, but to others who don’t know the character in the same way I do, it just becomes overarching and tedious. I also want to also keep in mind that writing a book can bring you very close to fictional people. You squeeze a bit of yourself out into them, and there’s a large possibility that Buxton is quite fond of S.T and his mannerisms and thinks he’s hilarious. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because this book is pretty much her baby. So, I’m not ripping into Buxton to burst her spirit (as if she’s ever going to read THIS) nor am I doing it to burst budding writers’ spirits, I’m doing it because this is the internet and we’re allowed opinions.

It’s truly nothing personal.

I also think reading these types of books are a great way for amateur writers to see what they like, what they don’t like, what to do, and what not to do. Clearly, depending on the publisher, you can get away with extraneous description and rackety rumor, but do you really WANT to?

There are people on Goodreads who find Hollow Kingdom HILARIOUS. And that’s great. I’m not one of those people.

When you or I publish our work, eventually someone is going tell us: “hey. Your book SUCKS.”

And how’s that going to feel?

I imagine it’s going to feel like that time in high school when I read Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was the most entertaining, relatable thing in the world and my friend gave me one of her wild looks and said, “I hate that book, it’s just about a whiny teenager. It’s dumb and boring.”

One day someone will critique our work in similar fashion and we’ll smile about it because we’re published anyway. Then we’ll go home for a couple whiskeys and wonder about our life choices and maybe sing a little Lana Del Rey and drunk-call our agent to ask “am I REALLY a writer, though?”

Were Kira Jane Buxton to beta read for my novel, I’d let her. She can write, after all. There are semblances of her talent brushed throughout Hollow Kingdom. And you know what? She’d probably rip me to shreds in her blog afterward because that’s how things work in 2021. In the wise words of Waka Flocka Flame: “You talkin’ shit like a blogger.”

I mean, is that all we really do, Waka?

Really?

Until next time

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Happiness 2.0

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments because I just couldn’t handle Hollow Kingdom at midnight. Not because it’s scary, but because I didn’t feel like raising my blood pressure.

If you click through some of my older posts, you’ll see I’ve talked a lot about happiness. One post entitled Happiness I wrote when I was taking pain pills for my injured back. I noticed the stark difference between my baseline happiness and this new, inorganic happiness. I struggled with accepting that our brain runs on limitations: we get a finite amount of dopamine, endorphins, and other stimulating neurotransmitters, unless we bring in an outside source. In this case, my outside source was Percocet. It pained me to think the contentment I felt was initiated and could never be natural.

So when I came across the essay The Dangers of Happiness by Carl Cedarstrom, I was inclined to absorb every word.

He talks first about Aristole. If you recall from your undergraduate philosophy days, Aristotle insisted happiness came from being a “good person” and that meant living an ethical life, guided by reason and cultivated virtues. The Stoics, Cedarstrom says, decided no matter how daunting life became, no matter the circumstances, people could be happy. Christians took that and 360’d it: pain was more desirable, as it lead to a “divine union in the afterlife.” Happiness, after all, couldn’t ever be met on Earth, only in the Crystal City with God.

Today in the west, where capitalism rules, we are more inclined to pursue that unobtainable happiness within ourselves. Cedarstrom says “to be happy in a time when we price authenticity and narcissism, we need to express our true inner self, get in touch with our deeper feelings, and follow the path set by ourselves. . . we are assumed to find happiness through work and by being productive. We are required to curate our market value, manage ourselves as corporations, and live according to an entrepreneurial ethos.”

This means if you’re unemployed, you’re worthless.

Okay, not worthless. It means you can’t truly be happy. You must never rely on other people for help, you must “struggle for self-improvement” and your fate is in your own hands. ONLY in your hands.

This is why people beat up homeless people.

This is why money, particularly in my county, is shoveled away from community organizations that are set up to help lessen the circumstances that can cause homelessness. This increases drug use and relapses in mental illness which in turn increases homelessness. Do you see the problem, yet?

Cedarstorm says, “If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like Mr. Bush with convenient excuse[s] to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality, or poverty.”

What Cedarstorm is getting at is quite disturbing: we’re using this message of the American Dream, of this deluded individualism, to distract ourselves from the actual problems we face in society. This is why people go hungry, it’s why crime rates soar and people think “thoughts and prayers” on twitter means something. We’ve created an illusion of happiness.

That’s not to say we can’t be happy, something Cedarstorm doesn’t get into. It’s true we use our self-righteousness as a way to shun those we think aren’t “trying hard enough”, but there is truth to the message that if we want to get somewhere in this society, we have to push ourselves–not because that’s the formula for happiness, but because that’s the formula society has created. It’s an unfortunate creation; rather than help each other, we trample over each other and call it helping.

When I took Percocet, the happiness was distracting. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think, and I nodded out in class. My notes look like someone with Parkinson’s wrote them. But I was happy.

We’ve basically drugged ourselves.

I’m not bashing people who work hard, and I’m not bashing people who don’t work at all. I’m encouraging us to look at things from a different perspective. I’m personally someone who strives for progression in the self and beyond myself; I don’t consider it progress if I’m not lifting others up while I do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have groups of encouraging people surround me. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have continued to progress.

My stubbornness helps.

But the point is, this idea that we have to do everything by ourselves is complete and utter bullshit. That thought process is designed to keep those who are already down further down; when we see them as lazy, as not working hard enough, we don’t feel the need to expend our precious energy on helping them. But in reality, who has helped you get to where you are today?

My parents have helped me, even through all the pain we’ve suffered together.

My former coworkers have given me more emotional support than I’ve ever received, and they are the sole reason I’m continuing my education.

My friends.

Professors who ran after me in the rain and pleaded with me to never stop writing, never stop learning. Professors who walked me through a calculus problem step by step because I learn differently. Professors who just inspire.

Random strangers who have smiled at me on the street, who have engaged in conversation not knowing I was feeling terrified, scared, sad.

The nurse at the last hospital I was in who told me my so-called illness is actually a gift.

The doctors who have been patient with me through all my worries.

And so many more. Without them, I wouldn’t be me, and the same goes for you. You haven’t done anything by yourself.

It’s an illusion.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and catch me on instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Two Books and a Bad Drawing

Keeping to my promise from days ago, I read some more of both Hollow Kingdom and Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. Here’s where I stand:

Dear God, someone burn Hollow Kingdom.

Dear God, someone give me more of 77 Arguments.

Let me explain.

Hollow Kingdom

I’ve started editing this book as I read, crossing out extraneous sentences and verbose explanation, things the readers can infer while we read the book. That is the area which most infuriates me about reading this. Because, the thing is, were that taken care of by the editor, this book would have been close to groundbreaking. There aren’t really any books advertised that describe the apocalypse from the animal’s point of view, and I haven’t read any, so this could have been a very new, very intriguing topic.

For example, instead of saying “he blinks” or “his blinking” or “he blinked”, she says “his nictitating membrane licking his eye.”

Now, I understand the need for varied vocabulary, but not when it takes away from readability and believability. Some advice: just because the ‘dictionary word of the day’ is relevant to your writing, doesn’t mean you should use it.

S.T also calls the crows he doesn’t like “ass trumpets” and I’m just over these silly little names. I would have laughed at ass trumpet when I was 14. I won’t at 25. This isn’t advertised as a kids’ novel or a YA novel either.

I did get a tickle our of the bear cubs being called fuzzy potatoes. If she’s stopped there for that whole chapter and not said ass trumpets or any other silly names, I would have been okay. Fuzzy potatoes passes.

So far I’m only on chapter 8. S.T and Dennis the Dog are embarking on their own travels to seek the wise Onida and find the reason why the MoFo’s (humans, remember?) are acting so strangely. S.T wants to find the cure for his beloved Big Jim. Dennis went after a bear that came out of the library and got side-swiped by a huge claw. Other crows and birds came to their rescue, and S.T has a bit of an attitude with them; we learn that S.T’s wings are clipped and he’s been more of a human pet than a wild crow. The other birds refer to humans a The Hollow Ones, and S.T doesn’t like that either. There’s a whole conversation about S.T going to find Onida and then he rides off on Dennis’ back like fucking Clint Eastwood or something.

I don’t know what Chapter 8 will bring, but if it’s any more silly names, I’m flipping a table.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments

I read two essays, but the one that sucked me in was How Should We Respond to “Evil” by Steven Paulikas. The line ” . . . the notion that evil can be ‘destroyed’ is an ethical version of a fool’s errand.” is what caught my attention.

The subject of this essay, although written in 2016, is the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. This goes for both sides when I repeat, “how can we be sure something is evil and not simply opposed to our interests?” For example, the tragic 3,000 death in the 11th attacks were countered with 460,000 deaths in Iraq, and that includes more American soldier deaths than civilian deaths at the WTC. We are tying to “make order out of chaos”, as Paulikas puts it. What did we solve in meeting murder with murder? What did we prove? Paulikas asks, “can evil ever fully be destroyed . . .?”

He describes Paul Ricoeur, another philosopher who suggests the solution isn’t to identify evil, but to “respond to it appropriately”, that the real pain of evil isn’t the act, but “the experience of the victim.”

I would agree.

And so to bust down the doors on evil’s house, to ransack his place, to steal his jewelry and kill his dog isn’t honoring the experience of the victim, it’s creating more victims; It is, in itself, evil, to respond violently to evil.

We consider these types of responses as justified. When someone murders three people and we put them to death, we consider that justice for the victims when in reality we’ve only created more; the family of the murderer who may not have known that side of him/her, mourn their loss as well. We’ve circulated loss. Congratulations.

That’s not to say punishment isn’t needed. But that’s exactly Ricoeur’s point: we need to respond appropriately. We must focus on the victims. Help them, support them, lift them up, and let the one who perpetrated the evil live within his perpetrated evil. If that means life in prison or banishment or whatever, then fine, but let’s not put the focus on the evil committed. Let’s put the focus on the victims who suffer. And if the punishment is indeed death as in many places, let’s put the focus then on the victims we’ve created, the family, and know that we can mourn loss with them without feeling sorry for the murderer.

I think this is a touchy, uncomfortable subject for some people because we’re raised behind the mythological versions of good and evil: angels vs demons, good gods vs destructive gods, and we think these things are black and white even when, time and time again, the world shows us the blurred lines. And so friends, I implore you, look beyond what you’ve been taught. People are not simply good or evil, they are an amalgamation of sinful, prideful, grateful, decent, destructive, beautiful–and much more.

I also implore you to read this book. Some of the essays are a little wack, but most of them are quite enlightening.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @ThePhilopsychotic. I appreciate you.

Posted in science, Uncategorized, writing

Why I’m Leaving Behind Psychology as a Major (but still read and talk about research).

It’s not challenging enough, simple as that.

It’s also one of those majors where 80-90% of the students pass because it’s not challenging enough. And what I mean by that is it’s easy to get through a class without doing the supplemental reading or textbook work. You can even write papers without reading all the research necessary for your paper–and still pass.

The problem with textbooks and laxadasical studying is that these students grow into clinical professionals who believe their intuition knows better than science. Now, in some cases, intuition is important. Maybe your client has a tendency toward injuring themselves, and you notice this is increased when they lack eye contact in a session, talk softly, and rub their hands. You ask if they’ve had thoughts of hurting themselves, and maybe that client is comfortable with you, so they admit it. That’s using your intuition correctly.

When you believe that you know how to treat someone’s Panic Disorder or PTSD over the ONLY emprically proven method of CBT, you’re being clinically arrogant.

You can sit here and tell me “well this treatment worked better for me than CBT.” Great. The problem is that’s anecdotal. If we studied your treatment specifically, maybe we’d find your psychologist hyped up the treatment so much, your effects were placebo. Granted, once you knew that, your symptoms could come back full force, but at least you’re know the truth.

If you’re a psychology major and don’t know what “anecdotal” means, you’re only proving my point.

I know many people whose mindset is “C’s get degrees” and that’s true. For some classes like physics where the required GPA at my university is 2.7, that’s true. Those classes are HARD.

If your mindset in psychology is “Cs get degrees” and you become a clinician with the “C’s get degrees” mindset, I wouldn’t want you on my professional team. It’s nothing against you personally, it’s about the drive, the motivation, and the curiosity. I want all three of those things in someone who is digging into my brain.

You can also say there are a lot of different career options under psychology, and that’s true, but none of them interest me. It’s all a bunch of reading and that’s just not challenging enough.

Research psychology tickles my fancy, but what’s the point when the people who are supposed to be reading the papers (clinicians and professionals) DON’T READ THEM.

I. . .

It’s BAFFLING.

Almost sickening.

The general public still believes chemical imbalance is a proven theory, when it’s nothing more than a poorly supported hypothesis (that’s been debunked by researchers many times) that got headway in the media and is easier to accept than “we don’t know what’s going on, maybe people are just a variety of human” or “maybe people are more traumatized than we realize.”

In fact, a lot of research gets headway in the media. Often if you hear a researcher in the news, their article isn’t peer reviewed nor do they have multiple replications of their data under their belt. They just want the recognition. The writers who write about science don’t always have a background in it, mostly a background in journalism or English, and purport things that aren’t discussed in the research or that they are misconstruing; they don’t understand methods and procedures, and therefore misrepresent the findings.

That’s what propels me toward science writing. If I can impact the public, if I can help researchers get valid experiments out to the general public, that would be grand. I’ll have a background in lab science as well as psychology research and I’ll understand when a researcher puts out an article talking about the black hole in the center of our universe, I’ll know it to mean we’re not getting sucked in right away.

I’m not saying don’t pursue psychology. I think they are many great students as well, who are going into it with the mindset of “I want to make a difference.” And that’s beautiful. Just make sure you understand the facts and the research and you and I will be fine.

I’m writing this for others but also for myself. It’s been hard deciding to drop a major I once fell in love with. It’s a break up. I’m processing emotions and feelings of betrayal.

It’s hard, guys.

Until next time.

You’re not following The Philosophical Psychotic? Don’t forget! Just hit that little button and we’ll be all squared away. Join me on instagram @alilivesagain and twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Discovering Purpose

I’m an avid Linked-In user now and follow/am followed by doctors, wellness coaches, and mental health professionals because of my previous career. I came across a post tonight by Chelsea Turgeon, MD, a Career Pivot Coach. Because I’m in the middle of switching careers and educational goals, I thought maybe it would be fun to do her “questions to discover your purpose” journal prompts. I think people here on the blogosphere might find them useful as well. If any of these questions jump out at you, please feel free to answer them in the comments below, or use them in your blog (as long as you credit this site and Chelsea’s Linked-in Profile).

Let’s get to it.

1.What Are the Things You’ve Always Wanted to Do?

This is a harder question than I thought it’d be. I’ve always wanted to travel and somehow integrate that into my career. Not like an airline worker or a travel agent, more like a travel writer, someone who informs others about fun places to be and great places to eat and monumental places to visit. I’ve learned that I love sharing information with people.

I’ve always wanted to be published. I was published once when I was 17 in a Hans Christian Anderson contest, but I just don’t see that as an accomplishment. I want to know people read my work and enjoyed it and they enjoyed it so much that it deserved some extra recognition. I don’t care about what comes from it, if anything, and I don’t care about money. It just warms my heart when people find my work appealing.

I want to ride an ATV, I want to slide down that slide in L.A that’s made of glass on the side of a skyscraper. I want to find happiness and contentment.

2. What’s an idea that keeps coming up for you?

Learning the survey, poll, and statistical results of how many research papers psychologists and clinicians actually read in a year is what started my pull toward science writing. I have an idea to create a research courses for professionals (psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, e.t.c.) that teach them not only how to read up on research, but to inspire them to continue to read it. A lot of what you experience in therapy and in doctor’s offices today are not empirically supported methods. Most of them don’t even know that Gabapentin was never, ever, and has never, ever been studied for any type of anxiety. They don’t know that Parke-Davis, the company that created Gabapentin, said he wanted Gapapentin prescribed for everything from bipolar to headaches.

They might not even know that medical science is the most corrupted science to date.

I want to educate professionals and the public. My idea is to combat publication bias without ever going after a single pharmaceutical company.

If you’re curious about Parke-Davis, read The Two Branches of Psychology. If you’re curious about the research stats, read Is Psychology a Science? Part 1. All relevant links to sources are provided in those posts. The stats in Is Psychology a Science came from my research course.

3. What fascinates you?

People, in a sense. I’m fascinated by our greed and by our altruism. I’m fascinated by our ability to complicate the simple things and breeze through the hard things. I’m fascinated by life too, the mystery of it. It’s quite unique; I don’t know if there’s anything else like it in the universe. We are here and then we aren’t and I’m fascinate by finite things, curious about them really, and how hard-pressed we are for answers.

4. What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?

I read more when I was younger. I preferred to read books than talk with other children and hated when people interrupted me. I enjoyed running around outside and being apart of nature. I enjoyed learning new things and I enjoyed appreciating what there was.

5. What are you secretly obsessed with?

Creating things. I’ve had almost five months off now, and in that time I’ve submitted some short stories, wrote multiple songs, revamped my neglected Linked-In, gained a social media presence, worked on my manuscript thousands of words at a time, edited my friend’s memoir manuscript thousands of words at a time, and now I’m starting a podcast. I mean I just can’t stop.

Well, that was fun. I’m not sure what I learned, but it’s a nice reflective practice. What do you guys think of the questions? Were they difficult to answer for you? Feel free to put answers in the comments or post on your own blog (guidelines above).

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