Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “OCD”

Not Giving Up Saves Lives …by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Are popsicles coffee?

By Julie

I’m not quite sure how to start this, even though I wrote an outline, because I FEEL it so much. I feel all of the obstacles lying flat beneath my feet, the signs all pointing the way I led everyone to go, and this is what not giving up is about.

Sammy has made so much progress recently it’s unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. A few things have gotten us here: the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right commitment, the right amount of help and the right kind, and a child that lets nothing put him down. All over the past month or so, Sam has gone from NEVER using the potty, to ALWAYS using the potty. He’s learning to separate himself when he feels angry and asking for quiet moments with me reading when he’s ready. He’s speaking really, really smoothly, with zero to minimal jabber, or “word salad.” His attention span is spectacular. This child is a miracle, and he made himself that way.

I hear an awful lot that most mothers would not go this far to support their child. I’ve suffered a lot–but we have suffered a lot. And I cannot let my child suffer. I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the ability to quit some things. Growing, helping, loving, teaching my children is one of them.

Because if I teach my kids that there’s a time to quit, they’ll see nothing but the limits to reach.

If I teach them that their happiness is negotiable, what chance do they have of pushing limits to find it?

If I teach them to stop the harder it gets, I’ve taught them that what they’ve pushed through was unnecessary.

If I teach them to give up, have I taught them anything at all? I’ve only taken from them. Taken their light at the end of their own personal tunnels, taken the depth of their feelings and made light of them, taken their ability to ask “what if” and think of all the other boxes to think outside of and break through. I’ve taken their ability to stop at nothing because I’ve shown them that something can stop me.

We’ve been watching a lot of America’s Got Talent, and I love these people that will stop at nothing, no matter how unconventional their dream. For some people, the dream is just to be happy. But this one made me cry harder than the rest.

I saw this when Sam was just sitting beside me, playing a building game on my tablet, something that would have been too dangerous (yes, dangerous), he wouldn’t have had the ability to sit and do anyway. Pato, because of his OCD, was unable to leave the house, couldn’t ask for help, resorted to begging for money to support himself. To make it where he has is incredible, but all I could think was, my Sammy will never have to experience that because we fought to combat OCD. First.

It’s easy to yell at a child who dictates who goes in what order up the stairs when you’re carrying armfuls of groceries and he’s been making your life hell all day. But seeing what the alternative does to him makes it non-negotiable for me. Imagine that such a trivial thing could throw a child into a wild-eyed sobbing episode for an hour, that he’d remember this moment for days. Imagine facing that every day, having to fight not only himself, his own brain, but to fight for understanding, too. When he can’t understand it himself. Can barely tell us what he wants.

How do you not help that child? How do you not put his needs first?

Because we did this, because I knew what Bipolar Disorder looked like when I brought him to the pediatrician at barely four, because we treated what we could then–OCD and Hyperactivity Disorder–and we were “on watch” for a mood disorder, because we knew what was happening when that mood disorder became real, because we didn’t stop, Sam has every chance of not going through the hell that so many other people have. We got this. That is what not giving up is.

NOW ABOUT ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME.

This summer so far was not about me and my needs, and I knew that going in. I had a strict timeline of what I wanted for Sam, what I needed from professionals, what I needed to see in changes due to behavior therapy and medication, and I needed to see what I could do having him home during such immense changes. July 15th was my deadline for a lot of things. I also was doing editing for clients and trying to have FUN with the kids, because I refuse not to have fun. (We have had so much fun.)

Now is the time for me to focus on my work. What *I* need. So as not to stretch myself too far, I had to suspend working on my own writing because I don’t want to hurt myself (think nervous breakdown, ulcerative colitis, debilitating panic attacks), and I refused to do my best I could do without it being my best.

I made all the right choices.

I have a new list of agents to pitch THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO….a book whose query is now a shining thing of magnificence that begs for reading, and a book that I am now finally able to finish the sequel to! I’m halfway through the sequel, and have a good start on the prequel and had to stop in May to concentrate on other things. My time has come.

Wait, weirdo, you’re writing a sequel and a prequel to a book that isn’t even being published yet?

YES I AM BECAUSE I DON’T STOP AND THIS BOOK WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED.

I don’t write because of what anyone else wants. I write for what I need. And every moment of my life is teaching something to these two amazing kids. They will see that my passion is what drives me and I drive it right back. That I give all I have to get more, and what I want is dependent on nobody but myself. There is no magic number of rejections, no “almosts” in my world. There’s always another way. There’s always more roads to travel. I’ll dig relentlessly making my own if that’s what it takes. And because this is who I am, it is now showing my kids who they are. What they can do and what won’t stop them on their way to it. It’s why Sam remembers little things I say like, “You like what you like. If you like the Alice in Wonderland tea set and you want to offer tea to everyone while doing ninja moves, then hey. You like what you like. Nobody can stop you.”

Be you, everyone. Stop at nothing to be who you want to be. Define your own happiness. Make your own rules–they’re just ideas anyway. Rules about publishing, rules about how young a child can be to show a certain illness, rules about what to say and who to say it to, rules about gender, rules about love, rules that we make for ourselves…. Reshape your world to be what you need. That’s what not giving up is about.

 

Julie Takes the Gloves Off For 2015

TODAY’S BREW: Trader Joe’s Winter Blend. I love this stuff.

By Julie

You guys know me pretty well. What you see is what you get here, so if you think you don’t know me, then you haven’t seen anything. In any case here are some solid truths about me that are important these days:

I’m a determined, will-do sonofabitch. Nothing stops me, I don’t make excuses and I make damn sure that I turn every slip-up, every “failure” or rejection into a building block. I make plans, I change them, and I trust my gut. I’m true to me, I believe in myself and I make my own luck. Even when I lose, I win. And I have a helluva time doing it.

I firmly don’t believe in bad days. I’m a resilient motherfucker, and part of that means not getting bogged down by a string of bad moments, but brushing them off and creating the day you want. This also works for week, month, year, life.

If you know me REALLY well, you know that these things weren’t true of me in 2014. This year was a ballbuster. Hardest year of my life. And it beat me down. I’m one that’s quick to say that things can only beat you down if you let them, and more accurately I exemplify it. I’ve had a lot of experiences that change lives, and I’ve made a lot of life changing choices. I NEVER let my circumstances decide my life for me.

Then New Year’s Eve 2013 came. And my husband suddenly didn’t have a job. We already lived pretty goddamn minimally, and were perfectly happy about it. But this? This removed all of our steady income. Not to mention that we’re creatures of routine and habit. We like familiarity around here. Tim had worked at that job down the street from us since we were in high school. Imagine that feeling at 40 and what it does to a person. But as poor as we were, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love being at home together all the time! The kids, Tim and me? We rarely got irritated by each other, we genuinely enjoyed our time. But it was hard because money and the inevitable depression of unemployment as hard-working people.

Not long after Tim got a new (wonderful for the heart) job, our then 3 year old baby began…. losing himself. WE were losing him. He was always a wild card, earning himself the nickname “Frats” because he was a walking frat party from birth. Without getting too in-depth, his spirit took a turn for violence, debilitating habits that had us walking on eggshells at best, and holding each other sobbing in parking lots at worst. Long, draining story short, we saw (and continue to see) several psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors, finally determining that our boy is not only extremely hyperactive, but has OCD and we need to be on the lookout for bi-polar disorder. Just keeping up with it, the medication, the constant shifting of gears, the effect of changing lots of rules in a house of routine and trying to be fair, nurturing, FUN, and a warrior for my kids’ health while one thrived and grew and the other struggled…. it tore me to shreds. A million times over. The whole time I was virtually isolated due to the new work schedule and my exhaustion. A dark night of the soul indeed.

The hits just kept coming, all year long, one after the other right up until this very week when I found out I have a large fibroid and some other vascular growth to be meddled with.

All of this put my writing and editing jobs into a flummox, and that last of my very own routines was demolished. The thing that was all my own that kept me sane, gone. Sure, RUNNING AWAY came out, and I’m grateful for that, but I wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserves upon publication, and the new book I’m working on has been recently shelved just to give myself a break. (Not for long. I start work again second week of January, so Jolene Haley, don’t freak out. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS is still very much alive.) In other book news, THE HARPY, which was being pitched to traditional publishers by my agent was determined overall to be too dangerous, too risky, too unorthodox and too “abrasive.” Rejections rolled in. But that is a story for another post.

In any case, this post for as little as it touches on our troubles this year, would have had me shuddering and scream-crying even a couple of weeks ago. Not now.

We were determined to give my boys an amazing Christmas. Sam, with all of the hard work he put in this year as just a baby, to simply be happy with himself deserved everything in the world for all his incredible progress. Doctors are shocked that he is so fantastic in public, so wonderful with other kids, so communicative and incredible in his first year of preschool because it must be exhausting for him. This baby tries so hard, most adults will never know how to control their emotions the way this child does. In the meantime, Bennett at 7 years old, is being asked to bend the rules over and over for his brother. He sacrifices, sees violence that he shouldn’t, and yet is happiest when he’s at home. He won an academic achievement award at school, not to mention countless little good behavior tickets from teachers. He’s sensitive, thoughtful, kind, hilarious, and loves his little brother more than I have ever seen any kid love their sibling. He taught him how to write, for chrissakes.

So these kids get ALL THE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. Because if there’s one way to reward a kid for a great year, it’s that way. Simple. Fun. The final pat on the back of the year. Not to mention that our family was all together, when work has not permitted it as much, and we were so happy. Best Christmas ever.

I wanted a Christmas that kicked 2014 in the ass and said, “YOU’RE OVER. YOU CAN GO NOW.” It was my favorite Christmas ever, and Christmas vacation is still as amazing as the days leading up to it. We’re so happy. That’s all I want.

2014 knocked me to the ground and kicked me over and over. I was defensive. There was no plan, only reaction. There was little personal victory because I was always just trying to get up on my knees again.

Those days are over. I’m a warrior at heart, always have been. Any warrior worth his armor takes serious beating before their greatest victory.

Watch out, 2015. I’m coming for you.

Sin Is The Writer’s Element

TODAY’S BREW: The blood of Juan Valdez

By Julie

SIN IS THE WRITER’S ELEMENT

–Francois Mauriac

I love sin. That undeniable darkness of the heart that makes a good person turn to their worst selves and indulge them. These are the best characters, and often the best people. The kind who understand that there’s no straight line in the world, only lines that get you to your endgame faster.

Probably too often, I’ve said how “nice” people don’t generally do anything for me. Anyone can be nice. I want real. I want every imperfection of the people/characters I care about laid out to me. It’s that kind of exposure of the inner demon that makes me trust people, makes me a better person for seeing their honesty with their flaws and the struggle to accept them.

Loving sinners is why I’m a writer, in part. I want to see the dark and dirty of everyone, and when I can’t get it, or need to put my own out there in not so many words, I create that persona. I do my best to make a sinner that’s just like you, in one way or another.

I’m doing a deeper round of research on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Trent, the main character in THE ANIMAL. My initial research gave me all the facts I needed to make sure that his disorder was realistic, and respectful of those who suffer from it. This round, though…..I’ve been reading OCD forums online, hearing the horrors that some of those who are afflicted with OCD suffer. Their bravery in the face of their own irrational thoughts of violence is more painful than I can wrap my head around. My heart was ripped in half plenty of times as I observed these conversations, making me tear up even now. People who get stuck on a terrible image of some awful act they would never probably do, and the guilt that literally keeps them awake at night. Living with thoughts of murder, pedophilia, bestiality….more unimaginable things than you could conceive of….it makes me think harder about the nature of OCD. In every one of these forum chats, the people who suffer these thoughts despise them. They have often just as many obsessive thoughts that cause them to check in constantly with loved ones to be sure they haven’t been hurt. It’s the difference between the people that commit these crimes and those who suffer the thoughts of them. There is no temptation to actually commit them. The sufferers are revolted by the images that overtake their minds, like they’ve been forced to watch the most disturbing part of a movie about themselves over and over and over. Naturally, this leads to extreme guilt and the questions of am I a pedophile if this vision pops in my head over and over? Am I a murderer if it’s all I can think of doing? 

The other symptoms of OCD, the ones we all know of like compulsive hand-washing, for instance, provide only the most momentary relief from the obsessive thought. Committing the crime wouldn only make the afflicted feel worse. Most sufferers of OCD work hard at keeping their obsessions and compulsions a secret, lending to it worsening over time. The folks that I’ve read in the forum chats were desperate to tell someone about their thoughts in hopes it would help expel them, some even asking if they could turn themselves in to the police for crimes they haven’t, and would more often never, commit.

Their heart-wrenching stories have helped me see deeper into Trent’s obsessions and compulsions, and exposed his heart to me even further. I already loved him for his duality, his reserved depth, his fears and memories, and learning more about the disorder has made me wildly protective and closer to him. (Not to mention making me cry uncontrollably for the sufferers of OCD more times than I can say.) Knowing the sins in Trent’s heart, and more so how he wants to triumph over them, makes him a hero to me in his fictional life that’s not quite fictional in my mind.

Sin has a different meaning to everyone, but for all of us it holds a trepidation of what one could do, what we may be capable of. The writer’s job is to explore the worst case scenario of sin. Sure, we need to commit plenty of sins, too. (SIDENOTE: I HAVE NOT AND WILL NOT COMMIT ANY OF THE SINS/CRIMES IN THE ANIMAL.) Being all good all the time is A) zero fun  B) the worst kind of dishonesty with yourself  C) inhibiting and painful. So, yeah, a little debauchery is perfectly fine with me. Doing the wrong thing sometimes, yep, totally cool. But what if it went further? What if it became a monster in your own heart? This is the fear that the writer examines, and what makes for a character that we feel for.

Giving into the sinful side and being oppressed by thoughts of committing sins that disgust you are two different things. One is choice, and one is illness. It’s where these two things intersect that have helped me create THE ANIMAL. But there are plenty of sins out there to see, and writers, don’t turn your back on them.

If you need to talk about obsessive thoughts and compulsions, contact  1-800-950-NAMI (6264), the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Or search OCD forums to talk to others who can help you.

Immersion vs. Obsession

TODAY’S BREW: More coffee than you can even believe exists considering I have to deal with this dinosaur laptop.

By Julie

Since finishing the edits on RUNNING AWAY, a book that took me 6 months to write, all in all, I’ve been able to look up from the laptop and really enjoy the world around me without those characters fighting for my attention in my mind. It’s been great to read a book without all but timing myself to make sure I don’t waste too much editing time, to go to the park with the kids and Tim and not feel like I was taking an unauthorized work break, to watch movies and play games and enjoy the simplicity of my life outside of my head.

Hacking away at the jungle that was RUNNING AWAY was incredibly involved and time consuming. I’m not accustomed to having to dig through so much information without just starting from scratch, which is so much easier. I was a missing person on Twitter, have not checked Facebook for weeks, missed working out at the gym a few times, haven’t returned phone calls, and haven’t been what you’d call Susie Homemaker around the house. I pored over every sentence in that book, careful to make sure nothing seemed transitory, a means to an end, or superflous. I committed myself until I felt like I might need to be committed, if you know what I mean.

I entirely own that my editing and writing process borders on obsession. Such is the way of life when you live inside your own imagination.

“Bordering” on obsession for me means that I do and can stop myself, eventually from letting the process consume me. I read for an extensive time to my boys every night, I make sure to eat meals and not snack like a fiend, to work out pretty regularly. I take time all day long to hug my kids, talk to them about what they’re doing, to cuddle with Tim, and be part of this family. I make sure that while my family knows I’m entrenched in my work, that it’s making me better, not deteriorating me. That’s the difference between being immersed in your work and obsessing with it; does it improve you and and itself, or does it tear you apart?

Now that I’m working on THE ANIMAL again, it feels like spring is all around me. The timing has been perfect. RUNNING AWAY begged for me to be trapped inside with snow piling up against the windows, delving deep inside my head. This book is streamlined, and only asks me to tell the reader more, show the inner workings more, not weed through a tangle to pull out what’s necessary. Writing Trent Dixon feels like a release, for both him and I. He’s a character with more inside him that needs expulsion than just the god that’s possessed him. He suffers from OCD, deeply rooted in his painful past, and being along for the ride that he brings us on is intense. Trying to free Trent’s obsessions is the best way to immerse myself in my work without letting my work pull me apart.

I’m happy that my work isn’t something I just HAVE to do, it’s something I WANT to do. The need to write these books and perfect them is only seconded by my desire to do it. It doesn’t run away with me, I’m the one in control. I can be obsessed with immersing myself in them, and never have to tell the two apart, and I ache to do it for the rest of my life. Healthy or not, it’s a passion I can’t live without, and one I don’t intend to.

 

March Madness: It begins!

Today’s Brew:  All the coffee

KRISTEN

You may or may not be relieved to find this post has nothing to do with college basketball. Julie’s husband came up with a great concept for the month of March:  March Madness.  Julie and I will be exploring all that is creepy–haunted stuff, insanity, mental institutions, deviants, and scary old buildings.  On Manic Mondays, check in for short stories.

This Old House

Julie and I were obsessed with this house when we were kids.  It looks much better now than it did then.  It’s previous owner had let it fall into disrepair to the point we thought they had abandoned it.  You may have a hard time believing this, but we were bold little kids, and we had no problem going right up to the windows and sticking our faces in. Today we would realize the old owners were just  hoarders, not the killers we assumed.  We’d see yellowing newspapers and moldy boxes of Cheese Its.  I don’t remember, but Julie says she say someone sleeping on a bed inside.  (Side note by Julie: I was almost certain that person was dead. They so weren’t, of course, but I was convinced.) That didn’t stop us from peaking in, seeing what we could see.  Both of us credit that house with our current fascination with abandoned buildings in disrepair. Sometimes I photograph them.  I like to call them wreckage.  Even more fascinating is that some of these dilapidated buildings are still in use!   I stopped to take pictures of what I thought was a closed business in a neighboring town one day, shocked to realize that it was very much still in operation.

JULIE

March Madness gives me a reason to play with insanity, a terror I hold near and dear. Kristen and I are excited to toy with the creative genius and their madnesses. The best works are reflective of the inner lunatic, I believe. I’ll work on insane vampire myths and stories, as well as plenty on asylums, which I am particularly psyched out of my mind for. I will be researching OCD this month, too, for my Trent from The Animal, so I will keep you updated. You may get to see something from my favorite vampire serial killer, Chris Lynch, also, if you’re lucky.

Strap up that straightjacket, friends, for some decadently dark stuff this month.

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