Hypervigilance

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To most, “hypervigilance” is but another word amongst millions of words. Likely, it’s a word few people use in their daily life. But for those of us with an anxiety disorder, hypervigilance is the thing that paralyzes us with fear. Imagine.

I had the resonator in my car’s exhaust system replaced the beginning of February. The place that did it had great reviews on Yelp and came recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust. (No, this isn’t about the muffler shop, not really, but read on.) A month or so later, I noticed my car had a clicking noise when I shut it down. Immediately fight-or-flight kicked in.

What’s that noise? What does it mean? Lots of cars click. It’s the metal contracting, isn’t it? I have a new metal thing in my car, and this is the first time I’ve driven it in warmer weather. That’s got to be it, right? I can’t take a car back to a muffler shop and say my car is clicking. It’s a stupid reason. All cars click. This is the sort of inner dialogue I must always invoke when confronted with fearsome things. This is what hypervigilance leads me to.

So I decided it was likely a normal thing and let it be. Well, sort of. You see, once a thing is revealed under the influence of hypervigilance, it doesn’t simply “go away.” And letting it be? Well, forget that. The refrigerator turning on and turning off has been known to send me reeling. And that’s a set of noises I have carefully catalogued as “normal.”

I “ignored” the clicking for a little over a week. Then a few days ago, I had reason to get out of my car while it was running, and I heard (oh, those pesky, hypervigilant ears of mine) the same sound that had sent me to the muffler shop in the first place. (And in my defense, let me say that I hadn’t heard the sound initially—the guy at the smog check place had originally pointed it out to me.) I freaked. I’d had the new resonator for just over a month, and it already broke?

This led to an overnight anxiety attack. I decided I’d call the shop in the morning, get a feel for their response. That would allay some of my fear. The guy at the shop said he couldn’t tell me if continuing to drive the car would be safe unless he saw it. Okaaaaay…

So off to the shop I went yesterday. It turns out the clicking sound which others might have noticed or might not have noticed, but which I dismissed because my coping mechanism convinced me it was a dismissible thing turned out to be the very thing that caused the mechanic to decide to replace the original resonator. Not the sound I thought sounded like the sound that had triggered the comment from the smog-check guy. The click I’d dismissed!

This is what hypervigilance does to those of us disabled by anxiety. I see things and hear things and smell things that set every nerve in body off on tangents I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. So I share this because most people don’t “get” anxiety and tend to tell those of us who do to relax and that everything’s fine. “Don’t worry about it,” they advise condescendingly. Sorry, that’s not possible in my universe.

What the Heck Is “Witch Lit”? Meet Wendy Steele

Today, I am thrilled to share one of my favorite people and authors with you all—the fab Wendy Steele. Wendy’s latest is The Naked Witch, and I’ve asked her to tell us a little about herself, her writing and this genre known as Witch Lit.

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Hart: So what is Witch Lit?
Wendy: Borrowing the basis from the genre Chick Lit, heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists within a modern world, coping with work and home life and with a soupçon of humour, substitute ‘witch’ for ‘chick’.

H: Why Witch Lit?
W: Women read more fiction than men, so why not? Who wouldn’t want to read about a female protagonist who can destroy three coconuts on a shy…on a bad day? The basis for the genre may be borrowed from Chick Lit but you won’t find witches pining for love, though they’re not averse to a shapely buttock and a chiseled jaw line. For the past decade, magical realism has showcased vampires, werewolves and a popular school for witches. Now it’s time for real magic and real people.

H: Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
W: I’ve always come home from days out and holidays and written about my experiences. I dabbled with children’s stories and poetry in my twenties, was inspired by a writing workshop in my thirties and spent three years writing my first novel. My first published novel, Destiny of Angels—first book in The Lilith Trilogy, was in 2012. Since then, I’ve published a further novel, three novellas, had short stories published online and in anthologies and read my stories on my YouTube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon. My first Witch Lit novel, The Naked Witch, is available to pre-order.
I live in mid Wales with my partner and cats and am a member of the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers.
I teach tribal style belly dance and perform with Tribal Unity Wales.

H: You describe yourself as author, wise woman and goddess. What does that mean?
W: Though the three labels overlap, these words sum me up as a person. Author is writer, story teller, inspirer and teacher. Wise woman is dance teacher and witch, treading her own magical path. Goddess is woman, mother, writer, dancer and healer.

H: I spent several weeks in Wales many years ago, and I found it to be a rather magical place. What influence do the mysteries of Wales have on your writing—both of Witch lit and your other magical books?
W: Where I live has had a huge impact on my writing. I live on a hillside in mid Wales. Above me is a Bronze Age settlement site and below me, the River Grannell circuits my land. We have our own riverbank, a perfect place to sit and soak up the beauty of the Welsh landscape. I often sit on my ‘beach’ by the water, thinking or writing, allowing the river to bring me down ideas from the mountains. The idea for The Standing Stone book series came directly from my new home.


Welsh myths and legends have also played a part in my writing. The Mabinogion contains the stories of the past, the beginnings of the Taliesin traditions and stories. Some of the stories I knew, but many I read with fresh eyes. Storytelling traditions are important in Welsh culture, as are poetry and singing, and I love to include them in my work.
In Destiny of Angels and Wrath of Angels, the first two books in The Lilith Trilogy, Angel Parsons lives in the south of England but has a holiday home in Wales, big enough to invite her friends to join her for the Equinoxes and Solstices.
In my Witch Lit novels, Lizzie Martin in The Naked Witch (UK link) lives in Essex, but she discovers that the family she misses so much are living in Wales. In the second book, The Orphan Witch, Lizzie and her best friend, Louise set off on a road trip, travelling along the coast and through the mountains below Snowdonia.

H: Yummy. I’d love to hear more details about The Naked Witch (US link).

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W: Lizzie Martin lives in Romford with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Rowan. She enjoys her job as a receptionist and typist at an old established, family-run company. She clothes herself from charity shops in vibrant, joyful colours with matching headbands she makes herself. Colour is Lizzie’s armour, and she uses it to hold at bay the emotional angst caused by her ex-husband, Josh, whose girlfriend is barely out of her teens, her mother who has the sensitivity of a crocodile, and the big bad world from which she tries to protect her daughter. But today Edward Brown—her new boss—has asked Lizzie to ‘bare all’, and become more corporate. For Lizzie, swapping paisley for pin stripe is like asking a parrot to wear pea hen. Meanwhile, as Edward Brown retakes his position as head of the law firm, Lizzie has to choose between her job and her integrity, cope with an unexpected stay in hospital, continue seeking the truth about her father’s death and juggle two new men in her life. There is hope though. At the bottom of the garden is a little wooden shed that Lizzie calls Sanctuary. Within its warm and welcoming walls, Lizzie surrounds herself with magic.

H: Tell me, are there certain things a witch should carry about her person?
W: I can’t speak for every witch, of course, but a bottle of good lavender essential oil, safety pins, a notebook and pencil, a ginger sweet and a stone or shell from the beach are always in my handbag.

H: Do you have to be a witch or a pagan to enjoy Witch Lit?
W: Not at all! It’s always the story first for me, and Lizzie’s battle with her head and heart is a compelling one.

H: Where can we find out more about you and your stories?
W: My website is a great place to start www.wendysteele.com.

Further links to Wendy include:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WendyWooauthor
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/destinyofangelsnovel/?fref=ts https://www.facebook.com/WendyWooBooks https://www.facebook.com/TheStandingStone
Amazon author:
http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=216391838&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Goodreads author:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6548666.Wendy_Steele
YouTube channel: The Phoenix and the Dragon https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

The Shadows That Guide Me

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I am a seat-of-the-pants kind of author. I used to outline, then put all my scenes on individual cards, and only after that would I allow myself to start putting words to paper. It worked fine. It also stole a great deal of time from actually writing. To be fair, it did speed up the process of getting the words down, but there were always those scenes that ended up being something completely different from the original plan, necessitating changes in the subsequent outline/cards.

With my most recent book, Protector of Thristas, however, I had a few pages of notes and a minimal amount of 4×6″ cards when I began writing, and as I wrote, the notes grew and the cards stacked up until the entire story had unfolded on the page. I found this highly stimulating intellectually and creatively and decided that with the next book—my current work in progress—I would simply start writing, filling in the cards and the notes as the story evolved in my mind.

My muse has encouraged this behavior. She manipulates the characters and story like puppet shadows, allowing them to become real as they and their plot lines take full form on the page. These shadows swim around and through me while the story gains momentum, and I follow them, picking up their bits of ghostly threads to weave into the tale. The only downside to this method is that I spend half the story asking “How the heck does it end?” (Endings, after all, require setting up, and how can one set up what one doesn’t know yet?)

But here’s one thing I have learned about myself after writing four books—I always figure it out. Whatever “it” may be, the answer comes when it’s meant to come. And if the answer I get doesn’t fit the previously completed narrative, then I have to regroup, rewrite and run a little faster to catch up with the shadows who have moved on without me.

I love those shadow creatures, and I love hosting them as I tell the story as they’ve told it to me. Now, I’m not advising every writer to use this method. It’s chaotic as a box filled with kittens and twice as bloody if you let down your guard. But if you, like me, revel in the magic of that chaos, then you’ll understand how the shadows guide me.

One Book or Two?

I have found myself recently running a back-and-forth in my head surrounding the efficacy of splitting the final book in the Lisen of Solsta series into two separate volumes. I’ve just passed the point where I would break it, and I certainly do not have enough “story” apparent in my remaining notecards.

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But here’s the thing. The number of notecards left to be brought to life in the text has little relation to the amount of writing left to be done. My notecard system (previously described) continues on in an abstract configuration until I begin to narrow in on the sequence of events noted in a single card. Then that card, like a living cell, splits into two, into four, into eight—you get the picture.

So, do I have two books in this story? Or, will I end up with but one, slightly longer than the last but not long enough to split up? Stay tuned. Only time will tell.

Carrie on, Courageous Sister

Two events stand out in my life from 1977—I read the third (and what I thought of as final) book in the Dune series, Children of Dune, and I saw Star Wars at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on a Thursday afternoon with two friends. Both moments contributed to what eventually became my Lisen of Solsta series. The first because upon finishing it, I threw the book across the room and declared, “If Frank Herbert won’t write the book I want to read, then I will.” (Upon re-reading the book, I discovered it was actually pretty good when I didn’t make my personal expectations impediments to my enjoyment.)

As for Star Wars, what can I say? The ads and teasers left me thinking swashbuckler in space. Swords and young people swinging across chasms? I was on board before I ever saw it. Months later when I set out to write “my” story (you know, the one Frank Herbert didn’t write), I chose a female hero because I thought it was time for as many Princess Leias as there were Luke Skywalkers.

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Carrie Fisher died today, and I’m one of thousands, if not millions, recording their feelings for posterity about this woman who stood proud and never attempted to hide her reality. And her reality was often brutal. Standing as an icon to geek-dom while still in her early twenties, struggling with addiction and then facing the diagnosis of bipolar disorder—she could have played her little violin, and all her fans would have fallen in line to pity her. But Carrie Fisher wasn’t a violinist, and she declined people’s pity. Instead she wrote. And what she wrote!

She wrote biographical novels about her relationship with her famous mother. She wrote memoirs about life in a brighter-than-light spotlight. She wrote one-woman plays detailing her battles with the iconic life of a princess, drugs and mental disease. Rather than run away from these things, she celebrated them with humor and fearless reflection.

I suffered a few losses of my own this year (previously documented), but when I learned of Carrie’s passing, although not unexpected, I cried and realized her loss leaves me as empty as those other losses do. May the Goddess bless her on this new leg of her journey, but damn it, I had so wished to read her take on flat-lining on a plane.

2016 Sucked in More Ways than you Think

For most of my friends, 2016 will be remembered for the shock they felt when the candidate for president of the United States whom a good many of us felt was thoroughly qualified failed to get enough electoral votes to take office in January 2017. And, to be honest, that shocked me, too. For me, however, 2016 sucked for other reasons.

In September of 2015, my best friend was diagnosed with stage IV parotid gland cancer. Neck and mouth cancers are among the most difficult to treat because they are rarely discovered before they have metastasized (hence, the stage IV) and oncologists and other medical professionals tend to throw everything at the cancer (and the patient) because they apparently have no idea how to stop it.

My friend’s prognosis was six months from diagnosis. She began chemotherapy late in November and within a couple of days had what at first appeared to be a horrible reaction to the poison they’d pumped into her system. On a Sunday morning she called me, painfully distraught. “I feel so sick,” she said. “I can’t take care of the cats. You have to come and take them to the shelter.” And then she named a nearby shelter that she believed was open on Sundays. I asked her if she’d called her doctor. Being the stoic, controlled Midwesterner that she was, of course, she hadn’t. I told her to call the doctor and I’d figure something out with the cats.

When I hung up the phone, I came apart. She was so sick that she was ready to dump her beloved cats? How could she do that? And I was not going to take them to a shelter. I couldn’t. They’d be euthanized.  Given the fact that one was eight and the other thirteen or fourteen, they’d never get adopted. Hyperventilating and crying, I called my neighbor and asked her to go with me to my friend’s house. Then I called and begged my sister (who lived nearby) to take the cats on a temporary basis. I brought my cage to keep them in, and my sister, after conferring with her daughter, agreed.

We couldn’t catch the cats that morning. My friend had already headed to the ER at the on-call doctor’s insistence, and my neighbor and I retreated back to my house to regroup. In the early evening, my friend’s neighbor called me. She’d been to the hospital and seen my friend, and my friend had told her to tell me in no uncertain terms that when she got home there’d better not be any cats in the house. Frightened, feeling threatened by the effects of a disease that wasn’t even my disease, I headed back to her house, picking up my sister on the way. Two of my friend’s neighbors showed up, and they succeeded in corralling the cats, and my sister and I transported them (and the litter box—apparently part of the offending problem connected with the cats—along with their food) to my sister’s house.

It took two months to find a home for the cats together. My sister never once complained about caring for them or the intrusion they were on her life. But that’s my sister. In those two months, my friend came home after three days in the hospital where they discovered three masses in her brain—likely the guilty party in her aversion to the cats. Her second chemo treatment was delayed with the plan being to see how she did, and if she felt well enough after, the younger of her two cats would come home. (I didn’t understand that either. Why not both? Only a little extra work. But there was a lot I never understood.  It wasn’t my journey, and I could only watch.)

She had her second chemo treatment between Christmas and New Years. Unbeknownst to me and those treating her, she’d developed a severe case of diarrhea on Christmas Eve. She hid it from me to protect my anxious psyche; she hid it from her medical team because, I believe, she didn’t want to delay the chemo any longer. She was strong, determined, ready to take the cancer on again. After the second round of chemo (a cocktail, I might add, that consisted of three most potentially powerful anticancer drugs available), the diarrhea became so bad she ended up in the hospital and stayed for a week-and-a-half. She never went home again. From the hospital she went into “rehab,” and she stayed in that nursing home until her death eight months later. She survived just over a year after her diagnosis.

I had two directives.  The first was my own.  “Keep her safe.” That meant nursing home care. The second directive came from her early on in her stay in the nursing home. Recognizing that she’d likely never leave, she expressed to me her fear that she’d run out of money if she stayed after her Medicare ran out. So, to keep her there, to keep her safe and to keep her from using up her savings, I contacted a company that manages getting the aging on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) to ensure long-term care. There were three of us “watching over” my friend, but none of us could take on the 24-hour-a-day attention we knew she’d require. I took care of protecting her assets. Another one of us saw to selling her mobile home and its contents because all of her income would become “share of cost” with nothing left for the rent on her space or any other expenses. I will always owe this woman a debt that cannot be repaid.

For several months, March through July, I wondered why we even kept her in the nursing home. I mean, I knew I couldn’t have her stay with me; my anxiety disorder wouldn’t let me sleep if she were there. She understood that. But still, she was stuck in a place where most everyone is suffering from some form of dementia, and she wasn’t. There was always someone yelling all night long, and that made it hard for her to sleep. I should have just bit the bullet and brought her home with me, but as it was, I was getting sick (fever, chills, lack of appetite, sleeping all the time) about once a month for 5 or 6 days. I couldn’t take care of her with that going on. (Whether these bouts with illness were merely a product of stress or related to an actual physical cause will soon be determined as I go through testing and referral to a specialist.)

She died on a Monday afternoon late in September of this year (this awful year of 2016) around 4 p.m. It was peaceful and quiet, and I felt privileged to be present. And then came the business matters. She’d organized everything well, so it was fairly simple to close out various accounts and disappear her from the system. The year is nearly done, and all that’s left are her taxes, which can’t be done until next year anyway.

Oh, and my cat died two weeks ago. 2016 sucked.

#cancersucks

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How do I explain to my child-self that it’s okay that Nancy’s kitties have a new home?  Their new home.  The new home they need because their mommy can’t take care of them anymore.  How do I tell Nancy?  She’ll put her good face on, but I know inside she can’t help but weep.  It should be good news, but damn it, it’s not good news.  It says Nancy is dying and is too sick to take care of them ever again.

Why does she listen to my advice and proclaim me the person in charge?  I’m not, you know.  Not yet.  Until she is declared “incapacitated” by two doctors, her word goes.  But she’s deferring to me, and that scares me.  Everything scares me, and everything about this scares me more than anything I’ve ever done before.  My parents?  They were easy compared to this.

What happens if I fuck it up royally?  I almost did, just this Monday.  The nursing home wanted to send her to her oncologist 12 miles away.  By transport.  A long trip for a woman who cannot sit up in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes.  I made some phone calls and determined this was for a followup for her to continue chemo.  We’ve discussed this and it was my understanding that she was done with the injection of poisons into her body.  (But my crazy mind wants to know—is she done with chemo because she’s done with chemo, or is she done with chemo because I’ve expressed the opinion that I suspect she’s done with chemo?)  I called the rehab facility and talked to her nurse, suggesting that she talk to Nancy about whether or not she wants to go back for more chemo.  I mean, why put her through a difficult trek if she doesn’t want it anymore?  And then I hung up, proud of my kindness and hard work on behalf of my friend.

Three hours later, I sit up, like a bolt, on the couch.  If Medicare can give her a 48-hour notice for refusing physical therapy or making no further progress on it, what’s to keep them from throwing her out for refusing treatment?  I freaked out.  Multiple phone calls to multiple friends, including Nancy encouraging her to tell them she’s not sure if she wants chemo or not and maybe they should remake the appointment.

Now, we are a little more than 48 hours out from beginning the push for emergency Medi-Cal, the thing that will keep her safe in the nursing home until it’s over, and another thought occurs to me.  Why does Medicare think everyone has a family at home to take care of them, a family who can put the time and the money into their loved one when so many single, childless boomers are reaching this stage in their lives?  Nancy has no family, and I’m her only friend left in the area—another matter, this one rejection by one of her friends that left me alone and sent me reeling last week.  It’s me and no one else.  I have to get her on Medi-Cal or I’ll either have to live with her or have her live in my house.  I’m already losing it the way it is; how well do you think that is going to work?

Tuesday morning I called the man who’s going to handle the urgent Medi-Cal filing and tell him the predicament I think I’ve gotten her in.  It turns out that physical therapy and treatment options are two different animals in the Medicare zoo, and a refusal to continue chemo should not elicit a Medicare eviction notice.  And, so far, it hasn’t.

This is the hardest situation I can ever remember endeavoring to survive.  My introversion is reacting with massive exhaustion as I spend too many days in a row out amongst people whose souls continue to suck the life out of me, and my anxiety disorder, quite simply, keeps begging me to ditch the bitch and run away.  It’s tempting, believe me, but how could I?  She’s my friend, and none of my struggles can compare on any scale anywhere to the state of her life now.

Soon, I hope, with the Medi-Cal issue settled, I’ll be able to give myself a little self-care—lunch out with a friend or two, a movie, maybe even a pedicure or that way-overdue visit to my own doctor.  Not to mention a few days off after every foray out into the world.  In the meantime, I will rely on friendly phone conversations spiced up with a joke or two and the kindness of not so much strangers as that of those who have traveled this rocky path before me.

Yes, indeed, #cancersucks.

Dancing with the Denouement

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The best piece of writing I’ve ever experienced was not a book or a short story. It was a movie—The Terminator. I found myself thinking about this movie and its brilliant screenplay by James Cameron last night as I was considering how to approach an explanation to a writing friend of what I call the punch-line denouement[1].

For those who’ve never seen it, The Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor, a 1980s college student working as a waitress. Sarah’s life is irreparably changed when two travelers arrive from the future. One—a cyborg—has come to kill her to keep her from conceiving the savior of humankind. The other—Kyle Reese—intends to stop the cyborg and keep Sarah alive.

From a feminist standpoint, this movie is perhaps the first I ever saw with a female hero at the helm of an action film. Yes, Sarah is the hero. It is she who must change in order to make the future possible.  She begins as a fun-loving young woman who by the end has gathered together all the strength she possesses in order to face that future straight on.

Back to my point. Storytelling. The amazing screenplay by James Cameron blows me away every time I watch the movie or even think about it. I recommend it to anyone who wants to taste the joy of how to tell a very complicated story in a couple of hours. Cameron hands us each piece of information required at the very moment we require it.

Two men are after Sarah. Who are they? Are they both bad guys? Or, if one of them is good, which one is it? Boom. It’s Kyle Reese, the young man who looks totally out-gunned by Arnold and who came back in time because he’d fallen in love with Sarah from a Polaroid picture. Why is Arnold after her? What does he intend to do with or to her? Boom. She’s the future mother of the man who sent Kyle back in time to save her. How can you tell these cyborgs from humans? Dogs can sniff them out. And it goes on.

If you haven’t seen The Terminator and you’re a writer of any kind of fiction, I highly recommend it as the next movie you stream. Don’t accept watching it on commercial television; they cut out the stupidest stuff, including any time a blow from Arnold connects, even when he punches through a windshield. Brilliantly concocted and shot on a budget that apparently precluded getting permits from the city of Los Angeles for all those street racing night scenes (they filmed them on the sly then slipped away into the night without getting caught), it is, in many ways, an indie film.

But, the most important aspect of this film is the way Cameron sets up his final scene. The movie reaches its climactic ending right after Sarah and Kyle have consummated their blooming love for one another. The terminator kills Kyle and then Sarah terminates the terminator. Glorious.

Cut to the final scene. Sarah in a Jeep driving through the desert, dictating into a tape recorder saying, “Do I tell you about your father?” Then, she rubs her very pregnant belly and continues on briefly about Kyle.  A dog sits with her in the Jeep.

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She pulls up to a little gas station out in the middle of nowhere. A boy runs up to the Jeep and exchanges a couple of lines with Sarah. He has a Spanish accent. He takes her picture with his Polaroid and then asks for payment which she gives him. It’s the picture Kyle had fallen in love with. The boy’s grandfather says something in Spanish, and Sarah asks the boy what he said. “A storm is coming.” Sarah looks off in the direction she’s headed and agrees when she sees the cloud. Then she drives off, and the credits begin with the Jeep heading away from the camera. Fade to black.

Now that all took far more time to describe than it takes on the screen. It’s a simple little scene, and every single aspect of it requires no explanation to the viewer because Cameron set it all up earlier in the movie. And that, my friends, is how to deliver the punch line to a story. Set-up is everything. You shouldn’t have to rely on explanations in the denouement. It should stand on its own.

[1] The denouement is the final outcome of the story, generally occurring after the climax of the plot. Often it’s where all the secrets (if there are any) are revealed and loose ends are tied up. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/what-is-a-denouement

A Heartfelt Admonition to my Mormon Friends

For those who aren’t Mormon, a bit of history: On October 23, 2015, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the final two of their thirteen gospel topic essays, the first being on “Priesthood, Temple and Women” and the second on “Mother in Heaven.” I won’t take the time here to go into the details of these essays, but they did get a lot of Mormons talking about how this affected the place of women in the church.

For nearly two years now, I, an apostate ex-Mormon, have involved myself in the activities of a group called Ordain Women who advocate for priesthood for women in the LDS church. I have written about this before and won’t belabor it here, but my time in the company of these progressive, brilliant women and men has taught me that at least a few members of the church are not the old fuddy-duddies I remember from my youth.

The last couple of weeks have been difficult for these people I have learned to cherish and love. First, the above essays were released, and I watched as some took hope from their content, while others remained skeptical. I desired more than anything to warn them that the seeming small steps forward the leaders of the LDS “corporation” had taken were, as Princess Leia would put it, “a trap!” But I refrained because this is not my spiritual journey, and each of these individuals will have to come to their own conclusions.

And then the world broke. This Thursday, November 5, 2015, the church made a small but very significant change to what they call the Church Handbook, a tome to which only priesthood holders (hence, only men—save a half-dozen-or-so women in top positions of leadership in the church) are privy. They amended the definition of who is considered an apostate and, therefore, immediately excommunicable. They added members of the church in same-sex marriages. Now, I don’t want to get too hung up on the unfairness of this because my point is not this but what this then precipitated with their next declaration.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

As for children, a separate section of the handbook says that natural or adopted kids of same-sex parents, whether married or just living together, may not receive a naming blessing.
The policy also bars children from being baptized, confirmed, ordained to the church’s all-male priesthood or recommended for missionary service without the permission of the faith’s highest leaders — the governing First Presidency.
To get that permission, the policy states that a request must be made through a mission president or a regional church leader, and only after certain requirements are met. Those requirements are that a child is committed to living church doctrine and “specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage,” is 18 “and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”

The church explained this policy as one to protect the children, and on the surface, one might find herself inclined to accept this. But here’s the dilemma. Not all of these children are progeny of the same-sex marriage alone. Many, all too many, I suspect, were born into mixed-orientation, Mormon-temple-sanctified marriages which were annulled in line with the church’s guidelines and rules when one of the parents came out as gay to allow the straight spouse to remarry. Custody as declared during the divorce was often joint, with one parent or both continuing to take the children with them on Sundays to worship with the rest of the “saints.”

With these new “rules” in place, what happens to these children as they reach the various church-defined childhood milestones? Will they be left out? The church assures their membership that these children will continue to be welcome, but at what cost? The degree of bullying and ostracism is likely to be intense.

Picture this. A boy becomes eligiblefor the first step in the priesthood at age twelve. Girls don’t, but that’s a separate story. So this young man comes forward to his bishop to discuss his impending calling to be a deacon, and the bishop says, “Sorry, Johnny, but your mom is a lesbian living with another lesbian so you will have to sit with the girls while all your friends pass the sacrament.” Ouch. Not to mention the intentional and unintentional meanness that children can visit upon one of their own who is considered “other.”

One last thing. The church is ultimately responsible for the situation these children of mixed-orientation marriage followed by divorce and subsequent same-sex remarriage find themselves in. The church encourages—encourages—young men and women to enter into unions despite any sexual orientation questions on either side. They promise the young couple that all these problems will be solved simply by the sharing of covenants in the temple and faithful adherence to all the church’s requirements day in and day out. And these young people, filled with the magic of a religion that promises so many blessings in the end, comply and submit to the sacrament of holy matrimony as Mormons define it.

So here’s the church, telling these kids that it’s all going to be okay, that Heavenly Father will make it right if they’re just good enough and then sending them off to a lifetime of unhappiness. In the end, many divorce, remain friends because there was probably love if not physical affection, and share custody of their kids. And then comes this ultimate betrayal. They did what the church told them to do, believed the promises which failed to materialize in their marriage, then divorced for the sake of their own sanity and the good of their children. And now this church which claims lineage directly from Jesus Christ has just fucked their children over.

I’ve hesitated for weeks to say what I’m about to say. I love the friends I’ve made through Ordain Women, and I don’t want to hurt any of them. I don’t understand why they stay, but I try to accept that they stay. But doesn’t there come a time when you just have to get up and walk away? When an organization such as the LDS church can so cavalierly brush little children away, how can you stay? I get the ancestral heritage stuff, and I get the Amish-like-but-unwritten policy of shunning and how in a neighborhood of nothing but Mormons living as an outcast is an uneasy feat. But I admonish you, please…

STOP DRINKING THE FUCKING KOOL-AID.

Not One Word

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SSRIs, the wonder drugs of this and the previous century. They can make all your troubles go away. But what they don’t tell you is what the cost is upon withdrawal.

Part of my anxiety approaches OCD proportions, and when it comes to medications, I wander the internet for hours to find everything I can. And in all my searches over the last several years as I’ve toyed on and off with these things, I never found THIS. (Who would’ve thought I’d have to put in “SSRI withdrawal” specifically?)

Officially, they call it SSRI antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (because it has to be addictive to cause withdrawal), and it can manifest in all sorts of ways. For me I started having problems even before I “withdrew.” My body could no longer regulate its internal temperature. Which means I run fevers. All the time.

I’m taking Tylenol and/or ibuprofen on a very regular basis to control it, but it means I’m breaking a fever every 5 or 6 hours. Sweating and all. Every place flesh meets flesh. And I smell. I’m hoping that once the weather goes into full autumn, I’ll be doing better, but my research when I finally did look for SSRI withdrawal tells me this could go on for months.

Why didn’t my psychiatrist tell me about this? Why didn’t my previous psychiatrist tell me about this? Why doesn’t the information sheet you get with every prescription include this? They say talk to your doctor before you stop taking it, but I’ve stopped multiple times (I have a high sensitivity to SSRIs to begin with), and I’ve heard nothing of this. Not a word.

NOT.

ONE.

FUCKING.

WORD.

Mine is cautionary tale. Now that I’m pissed as shit and not going to take it anymore (it’s my body, damn it), I feel much better, thank you. And if you find anything I’ve said here offensive, please understand that I’m feeling raped by the complexity that calls itself the pharmaceutical industry. They lied by omission, along with my doctors and my own pharmacy. Be aware. Be afraid. I know they’re a godsend for some people, but be prepared for the new horrors that may enter your life. (And sweating isn’t the only one; it just happens to be my personal cross to bear.)