I’ve been silent on Functionally Fictional, on my blog, and here on Coffee House Writers. I want to explain what happened and what I have learned from those experiences.
Everything started in December 2018 on my trip to see my family in Ohio. The symptoms of my mental illness, schizoaffective disorder, got worse starting near the end of May.
By the end of May, I was talking with my hallucinations all day and couldn’t pull myself into reality. I wasn’t writing. I didn’t keep up with any of my responsibilities. I was in survival mode. For a month I didn’t feel like doing anything but sleeping and interacting with my voices.
The voices told me lots of stories I believed to be real. The more I interacted with them, the more I believed they were real people.
Eventually, I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist and got my medicine adjusted so I could pull myself out of the rut I was in and function again.
The medicine wasn’t the only thing that helped me pull out of the funk. Writing and crocheting again, getting out into the sunshine, and using coping skills like staying busy so I wouldn’t converse with the voices all helped bring me back to reality.
I realized the connection between creativity and healing. I still must relearn it repeatedly. If I don’t get my creative energy out through writing or other outlets, the energy manifests itself as the voices getting stronger; drawing me into conversations, telling me many stories and lies.
To keep the voices from misdirecting my creativity, I must… [Read More]
This article is an update on events in my life right now, regarding to the theme of change.
Change is hard. It’s a huge part of my life right now and the uncertainty is driving me crazy.
For one thing, one of my favorite Facebook groups for writers closed down. The admins had too much on their plates and couldn’t keep up with it. My heart hurt to see it close, so I decided that I would take over as sole moderator. It’s a small group, only twenty-seven people, but it’s a huge responsibility since I have to respond and interact with everyone on a daily basis.
Another change in my life is getting displaced out of my room because I have to get the ceilings fixed from Hurricane Irma. I need to pack up all of my things and move them somewhere else out of the way and private but still accessible. I hate having my “nest” disturbed.
Getting the ceilings fixed sets into motion the process of…[Read More]
Both of them were written in anger after a harrowing argument with my mom. I harbored a lot of resentment and anger toward her, and I wrote those articles as a response. It was wrong of me to make those public, and for this I apologize. I’m talking to you, Mom.
I have a habit of thinking in extremes, black and whites, and vilifying or making heroes out of people. I was further encouraged in this way of thinking by my grandma, who has the same habits, especially in regard to how she thinks about others.
I want to give reasons I was in the wrong during those arguments. I also want to explain why my mom is awesome.
One of the main ways I was wrong is for publishing something written in the heat of the moment. It was also wrong of me to vilify her. I simply had expectations of her she couldn’t fill. We’re still struggling to figure out how to navigate the stages between the parent-child and the parent-adult relationships, as most mothers and daughters do around my age. I still have an idealistic view of the world and what my parents can and cannot do. I’m learning to see them as human and accept their limitations without faulting them for it.
When people think of cults the Jim Jones incident of the 70s comes to mind. He laced Kool-Aid with cyanide and convinced his followers to commit a mass-suicide. But cults are a lot more common than that.
Cults usually have several defining characteristics. These are:
Members display zealous and unquestioning loyalty to a central leader, whether alive or dead, and follow his beliefs and ideas religiously.
Questioning, doubt, and other forms of dissent are discouraged and sometimes punished.
Meditation, speaking in tongues, and other mind-altering practices are used to expel doubts about the group and its leaders.
The leaders determine how members should think, act, and feel. This could be controlling which jobs or schools members should go to, who people should marry, and other personal life practices.
The group is elitist.
The group has an “us versus them” mentality and message.
The leader isn’t accountable to authorities in society today.
The group has a mentality of “the ends justify the means” that often results in lying to family members or collecting money for bogus charities and other ethically questionable behavior.
Peer pressure and other methods are used to control members with feelings of shame or guilt.
Members are often encouraged to cut ties with family or friends to make them dependent on the group for all of their social needs.
Recruitment of new members is a top priority.
Making money is also a top priority.
Members are expected to focus the majority of their time on the activities the group holds, regardless of previous obligations.
The most zealous members are completely dependent on the group and can’t imagine a life without it.
One of my friends, Ripley, allowed me to interview her about a religious cult she grew up in.
What was it like growing up in a cult? Specifically, before you noticed something was amiss?
It was nothing odd because it was all I knew. All my friends and their families did it so it was normal for me. I went to a small school within the church. All of my friends were a part of it. When I was young, I had church once every week. Then, in middle school, I had events several times per week. It was normal for me because of what I’d seen with others. It was really apparent something was off once I started opening my eyes, though.
When did you start to notice something was wrong? Was there a certain moment you realized?
Probably in the fourth grade. We were in Bible class at school and I started asking questions. The teacher shamed me, basically giving the impression to me and the other kids that asking questions wasn’t okay.
Another time, in middle school, my mother was struggling to pay tuition to keep me in the church’s private school. I almost had to go to public school, which I had been excited about. All of a sudden the money appeared. It turns out everyone had offered to help pay so I could stay. That struck me as odd.
Then, in high school, I had to go to public school. I was able to evangelize to my classmates at that point. They moved me from a middle school bible study group to a high school group early. It was almost like training me. In high school, we had even more meetings for the church. We had meetings three or four times per week.
What kinds of things did you notice were wrong with their teachings or attitudes?
It wasn’t very loving. It was very instructional. Religion shouldn’t be taught as if it has a handbook. It was like, “Here’s how to share your faith. Here’s how to share how God changed your life.”
They sent us to a retreat in the 8th grade to groom us on these things. They made us [Read More]
This is my latest on Coffee House Writers. I had the inspiration to write this from a friend who mentioned that her therapist had told her about this exercise. I was immediately taken with the idea and wanted to see if it could help me. This is what I came up with since I didn’t want to make an autobiography out of it. You can read the full article here. I hope you enjoy!
The Heroine of My Life:
** Trigger Warning** Mentions of Suicidal Thoughts and Bullying
Someone suggested as a therapy exercise to write my story. However, there was a simple requirement. I had to make myself the strong heroine with a happy ending instead of playing the victim. It’s an exercise to battle negative self-image and self-talk.
Here’s my story:
As a young child, I already had a stubborn personality. I liked to call it determination. My mother and I often butted heads because of this personality trait. It was something she called a battle of wills.
Traits of kindness, loyalty and caring for others appeared. I had a strong sense of justice and always helped others. I love helping my friends figure out their problems.
I was a take-charge kind of person. If I had an idea, I was passionate about; it would consume me to the point of obsession. I would work on the project until I couldn’t work on it anymore. I would stop after exhausting the possibilities or resistance from others.
But, as is always the case with young, strong-willed creatives, it put me through trial after trial of resistance.
I was creative; I was always writing fiction and reading whatever I could get my hands on. When eating, I read cereal boxes or labels on food containers to keep my mind occupied.
I was intelligent. My mind was always thinking. I would evaluate problems and ways to solve them. I sought to understand the world around me, why people thought and acted the way they did. I often wondered why I thought and acted the way I did. Understanding how and why things worked was critical for me. My endless questions of “why” often irritated my parents. They often told me to look answers up in the ancient encyclopedia we had or, later, [Read More]
You will be on a journey of learning your whole life. Along the way, there will be tears, great friends, betrayal, suicidal thoughts, and support. You will go through a lot of hard times, but the good times will make the hard times worth it.
You will be an energetic, stubborn, bossy child with advanced social skills and an affinity for writing. For you writing is an extension of playing pretend. It is fun and exciting to create a world all your own. Music and the life you observe and the worlds you experience from reading will inspire you.
Your parents have their faults but have redeeming qualities, too. You will think they are perfect and will have a hard time coming to terms with the fact they will be toxic for you later in life. They will play favorites and treat your brother better with more support later in your life. You will be on medicine from a young age.
You will experience a psychiatric unit and suicidal thoughts induced by medicine when you are just ten years old. You will come out learning of things like cutting and burning. You will be exposed to a world you shouldn’t have at your age. The next year your aunt will die from suicide. This will be hard to see your family so broken about it. You will feel guilty because you don’t cry. You will grieve your way, and that is okay. This event will save your life many times later in your life when you continue to have suicidal thoughts for yourself.
I had been thinking about a challenge. A challenge to identify my fears as they relate to my Big Dream from Debbie Burns book “The Path to Courage.” A Big Dream is the thing I want to do with the rest of my life to fulfill my calling. I had been thinking all day but had written nothing down. I wrote my Big Dream and all the fears and societal and cultural rules that were stopping me. For reference, my Big Dream is to support myself through writing and writing-related jobs. I don’t want to get stuck in an unfulfilling job and feel miserable. I noticed that a lot of my fears had to do with financial independence and autonomy.
It came to me; I am scared to depend on anyone but myself. I am scared of the rejection and the hurt that comes from trusting someone. I am afraid of having them disappoint or betray me. I am so frightened of trusting others, asking for help, and allowing myself to love.
Looking back on my childhood, this makes sense. From a young age, I was independent. My brother has autism and glaring behavior problems and has my parents’ attention. They praised me for being an “easy, independent” child. When I needed help, they told me too, “figure it out on my own.” I felt betrayed because my brother was getting all the help and attention he needed.
This pattern with my parents’ attention hasn’t changed in 21 years. I still don’t get help from them, even now when I need it more than my brother. He gets a lot more help than he needs. They hold me to higher standards than my brother. I am expected to be autonomous at 21 despite my severe mental illness.
On August 2017, Grandma heard Mom was having trouble with me. Mom had told her and the rest of the family about our problems. Despite this knowledge, she offered to let me live with her for the foreseeable future. For this, I owe her my life.
In the previous three months, I got kicked out of my grandparents’ house and my parents’ house for the second time. I thought I had used up all my family favors and would have to strike out on my own. This was something I was not ready for.
My mental illness is severe enough to make cashiering and food service jobs stressful enough to land me in the hospital. I was not qualified for any other job. Therefore, striking out on my own was impossible. Not to mention I couldn’t handle school and a job at the same time.
So, when Grandma offered to take me in, I saw it as a Godsend. I was determined not to mess it up.
I felt nervous and excited when I arrived from the airport. From the get-go, Grandma stated the ground rules. First, always be honest. When you have a problem with something someone else in the house is doing, say something. Second, everyone contributes. You can cook dinner, wash dishes, clean, vacuum, anything as long as you contribute. No one will nag you to do things. You must do them of your volition. Third, we help and support each other. If you need something, tell the household what it is and how they can help. [Read More]
I wanted to let you know you won’t be getting a card this year for Mother’s Day. There are plenty of reasons. Here are a few.
You play favorites with my brother and me. He has been and always will be your favorite. I don’t know why this is, but it hurts. When I need help, you brush me off and tell me to figure it out on my own. I am only twenty-one and I am now finding my footing in the real world. It’s unrealistic to expect me to not need help with housing or money at this age. My brother is the same age, and when he needs help you rush to his aide. You justify this by saying we’re different people and need different things. But I have a severe mental illness: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar, and anxiety. Every second of every day I hear voices that feel real but aren’t. I can’t go out in public without fearing a mental breakdown and panic attack. My brother has a high functioning form of autism. His symptoms are trouble focusing and reading body language. I have always envied my brother because of the special treatment and extra love and help that he got.
I remember the time he had an internship at a local radio station. He had to be at the internship at ten in the morning and both you and Dad were working. You asked me to drive him. I said no because I was in a bout of depression and had been sleeping until one or two in the afternoon. I couldn’t deal with you picking fights all day and couldn’t force myself to get up and do the things I needed to do. Thinking about getting out of bed and having to face the world exhausted me. I didn’t have the mental or physical energy to deal with anyone or anything. Sleeping was my way of coping. You should understand. You slept through almost every afternoon due to your depression. We weren’t allowed to bother you when you slept 36 hours. When you asked me to drive him, I didn’t want to make a promise I couldn’t keep. But you didn’t understand. Instead, you retaliated by telling me that having a car and a license was a privilege and that I could take the bus. When I asked why my brother couldn’t take the bus your exact words were, “End of conversation.” [Read More].
The Millennial generation and every generation after them are being encouraged to get a college degree. However, the cost of college tuition and materials has gone up exponentially while wages remain about the same. Many people of the older generation say how they paid their way through college working a minimum wage job. If you do the calculations, they look something like this:
As you can see, things have changed a lot. The argument, “I did it, you can too,” is not valid. And people are getting thousands of dollars in debt, if not hundreds of thousands if you add in graduate degrees. All because our culture has instilled the mindset that you have to go to college to get a job. [Read More]
My life is overridden with stress right now. Both good and bad. I figured I would let you know what was going on in my life, as a form of catharsis. I hope it will inspire others that they can make it through the hard times, too.
First, I wanted to mention the bad stress because that’s what everyone focuses on. That way, I can end my article with the good. There are good things in everyone’s life. You must look for it. Learning to appreciate the small stuff goes a long way. And it is something I am still trying to learn, but I am getting better at it.
To start, I am worried about the rainy season in Florida. The rainy season is from April to October, and it rains heavily every day. Why am I worried about it? Because our house was damaged, and we don’t have the money to fix it. So, every time it rains my room becomes a lake. Water drips through the ceiling at a heavy rate and soaks my stuff and the tile floor, this causes stress. It is easy to slip and fall, and it forces me to sleep in the living room with sheer curtains and windows on either side of me. I don’t like windows because they make me feel exposed. It is because of my schizoaffective disorder and paranoid delusions. If you want to learn more about what life is like with schizoaffective disorder, click here to read my article.
Also, when it rains, the Internet is spotty and rarely works for days. This is frustrating because I go to school online and need a reliable Internet connection to do so. If I stayed in Florida, I wouldn’t have that.
I am trying to move to Ohio. The only problem? None of my family will allow me to stay with them. I am only allowed to stay with them for two weeks but nothing on a semi-permanent basis. Not even my parents’ house.
Because of the lack of support, I have been feeling unwanted and like a burden.
I almost hurt my baby cousin. I lost my balance and nearly fell on top of her, which was more traumatizing for me than it was for her. I was sleep deprived because she woke up and screamed bloody murder at 2 am. I hadn’t been able to sleep before or after that.
I need a job. I have never kept one for more than three months due to stress and my mental illness, so that is another stressor.
My voices get worse with stress, which increases my stress. That makes the voices worse. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
Many people know about John Nash, the Nobel-Prize winning economist who had schizophrenia. Many know of him because of the movie, A Beautiful Mind. It is a fascinating cinematic portrayal of schizophrenic hallucinations.
However, there is not much content out there about schizophrenic symptoms and coping skills written by someone who has experienced them; this is a niche I can fill.
I was put on prescription medication by my parents as a young child. So early, in fact, that I am not sure when I was put on them. I was at least in the third grade, but it might have been before that. I remember taking my pills in peanut butter because I couldn’t swallow them for three years, which is why the smell makes me ill.
I’m not sure if this caused my current mental state or whether it contributed to it, but I’ll never know. There’s no use worrying about it because it won’t change anything except make me blame my parents, and that isn’t something that I want to be bitter over.
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at eighteen. It is a form of schizophrenia with milder hallucinations. Usually a better grip on reality, and a mood disorder to go along with the hallucinations, such as depression or bipolar. I have the bipolar type. Even though I was diagnosed as a legal adult, I had been experiencing symptoms since I was fifteen. It is hard to say when I first…[Read More]
For Black History Month, I thought I would talk about the story of a slave named, Jerry Finney. I found his story a few years ago and was enraptured by it.
Jerry Finney was a slave in Kentucky. His owner, Mrs. Bathsheba D. Long (widowed), permitted two of her men to bring him across the Ohio border to help them in a task. I am not sure what it was, or who the men were.
Jerry ended up escaping and living in Columbus, Ohio for over two decades, working as a cook and a waiter. He had a family and was well loved by the community.
That’s the part that interests me as a writer: what made him so well liked? He had to have been respectful, at least in that time period. Was he also kind? Charismatic? Funny? I can’t find any personal accounts of people who knew him, so it is hard to tell what he was like then. Near impossible, really.
Anyway, years after she lost him, Mrs. Long hired two men, Forbes and Armitage, to find Jerry and bring him back. They did so, but were put on trial for kidnapping in the court case I found: Forbes and Armitage vs. The State of Ohio. The court case was the only substantial record I found of what happened to Jerry. All the other records only mentioned his story for a page or less.
Unfortunately, Jerry had to stay in Kentucky after the kidnapping for unknown reasons. The people of Columbus, Ohio loved him so much, they… [Read More]