Dancing Without Music is Now Available

When major depressive disorder, seizures, and an eating disorder leads to hopelessness, lack of interest, loss of pleasure, and worse: alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, isolation, anxiety, panic attacks, physical illness, and suicidal feelings, seventeen-year-olds Mia Callan and Milo Chatham who only recently began dating find this brutal array of dangers overwhelming, and possibly even deadly.

Bullying on and off social media, spiked drinks at first parties, stalking, and sexual assault are just some of the obstacles they have to face as burgeoning young adults.

What happens when they try to get out of danger? Will it follow them anyway and wreak havoc upon their lives and those of their loved ones. Will they find the correct medications that will allow them to live normal lives full of success, satisfaction, and sobriety? Can a first true love win in the end?

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on Bookshop, TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Bloomsbury, 2016

In this intensely romantic and emotional rollercoaster of a story, Vivi is the type of girl who wants to live her life to the fullest and to record her passage through life, but she has a disease: bipolar disorder. Although she wants to live, the treatment leaves her to be miserable and so she stops taking her medications. Jonah is a boy who lost his father to a heart attack. He and his two older brothers have to take care of the house and their three little brothers. Jonah doesn’t really get to experience everything other kids his age do while Vivi does whatever she possibly can. Throughout the novel, the two characters learn a lot from each other and learn to engage in a lot of new things they usually wouldn’t.

This YA novel was filled with many moments of suspense and joy as it brought out so many different perceptions of each character and overall was just a very exciting read as its storyline is magnificent with its appreciated details that take you into Vivi and Jonah’s world. This well-written experience about accepting yourself and helping others while continuing to live on even though things might not be at their best right now and taking life rain and shine. It’s about how sometimes even our scars can help others and give a little bit of light to those we meet. This book shows how lives can be messy but beautiful while still leaving an impact on so many others, too.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: Haldol and Hyacinths by Melody Moezzi

A Bipolar Life

Avery, A member of Penguin Group, 2013

“People tend to look unfavorably upon the mentally ill, especially those of us who’ve been hospitalized. Losing your mind is indeed traumatizing but doing so in front of a supposedly sane audience is mortifying. It’s not like getting cancer. No one rallies around you or shaves her head in solidarity or brings you sweets. “Normals” (or “normies,” as some of us “crazies” affectionately refer to them) feel uneasy around those of us who’ve lost a grip on reality. Perhaps they’re afraid we might attack them or drool on them or, worse yet, suck them into our alternate universe where slitting your wrists and talking to phantoms seem perfectly rational.” ― Melody Moezzi

Haldol and Hyacinths, is a powerful, funny, and moving narrative that pays tribute to the healing power of hope and humor, by writer Melody Moezzi, an Iranian American and Muslim, who speaks out against the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder. She certainly doesn’t fit the highly inaccurate stereotype of someone with mental illness.

“A lot of ways, when you are labeled with something like manic depression or schizophrenia. That label carries so much weight and you take it on as part of your identity in a way that can be really harmful.” Moezzi said.

She isn’t disabled or violent or contagious. Melody is an attorney with a Master’s degree in Public Health. She is an award-winning author who has made many national and international media appearances. Many people who suffer from mental illnesses are highly educated, high functioning individuals.

For Moezzi, and only after years of mania and depression, was she successfully diagnosed in 2008 and subsequently, found access to the right treatment plan and medication.  Bipolar disorder can be wrought with hallucinations, delusions, extremes highs or lows in mood, and impulsivity. In her case, such impulses led to a suicide attempt. But after years of improper diagnoses, medications, and humiliating, dehumanizing inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, medication, therapy, and having a partner that helped her focus on her full self she managed her illness and found her calling to tell her powerful story. It took a lot of bravery, and humor, for Melody to share her story.  She is quick to point out the importance of speaking, writing, and living authentically.

It was exciting, interesting, and excellent glimpse into the life and mind of an extraordinary young woman with an unfortunate mental disorder.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Facts & How it Affects Me

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OCD is characterized by intrusive, troubling thoughts (obsessions), and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) which are time-consuming, significantly impair functioning and/or cause distress. The average onset of OCD is 19 years old and occurs slightly more often in females than in males. It affects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children.

When an obsession occurs, it almost always corresponds with a significant increase in anxiety and distress. Subsequent compulsions serve to reduce this associated anxiety/distress.

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Common obsessions include:

  • contamination fears
  • worries about harm to self or others
  • need for symmetry, exactness and order
  • religious/moralistic concerns
  • forbidden thoughts (can be sexual or aggressive)
  • a need to seek reassurance or confess

Common compulsions include:

  • cleaning/washing
  • checking
  • counting
  • repeating
  • straightening
  • routinized behaviors
  • confessing
  • praying
  • seeking reassurance
  • touching
  • tapping or rubbing
  • avoidance

Many people with OCD recognize that it isn’t rational but continue to need to act on their obsessions with their corresponding compulsions and may spend lengthy amounts of time, like several hours daily, performing senseless rituals. OCD can be chronic and interfere with a person’s schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Proper treatment with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy can help sufferers regain control over the illness and feel relief from the symptoms.

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My onset was also at 19 years old despite occasional cutting (of my thighs) as a younger teenager. The bulk of my OCD began when with dealing with an alcoholic spouse. I’d start worrying about a fire in the apartment and what the police or firefighters would walk into, so I repetitively cleaned, straightened, and reorganized many times so they wouldn’t think low of me. At 21 years old, when my daughter was born, I worried something bad would happen to her; so I began touching a set of feng-shui coins tied in a red ribbon that I’d nailed to the entry door trim. Then I established the handwashing routine where I’d scrub roughly for eighteen minutes. After that the tapping the table eight times began.

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When I returned to college at age twenty-six, I’d avoid certain hallways and walk unnecessarily around campus as opposed to direct paths. When I had to take the quick routes for social reasons, I’d ask for reassurance that nothing bad would occur. Two years later, after I filed for divorce, I sought help so others wouldn’t see my compulsions. The psychiatrist prescribed SSRIs which eased a good deal of the more embarrassing situations.

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Now, I take Zoloft (serotonin) and Wellbutrin (dopamine) for the chemical imbalances in my brain. Those are an immense help. Now the social disturbances are almost non-existent unless an event occurs that stresses me beyond normal levels, such as my daughter receiving radiation therapy or immunotherapy. The only thing that I compulsively perform is touching the coins when I leave or enter. The reasoning behind that is that nothing will happen to my loved ones. I realize it’s irrational, but I can’t quite handle that obsession and compulsion yet.

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My point is that help is available. You may not be cured, but a combination of medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy may treat it to the point of others not observing your behaviors, especially in confined spaces like classes, meetings, or elevators.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, my writing memoirs, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety and fear. Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the teenage years, though it can sometimes start in younger children or in adults.

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If we consider the statistics, according to the National Institute of Mental Health social anxiety is more common among women than men, and approximately 12.1% of U.S. adults experience a social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. That means that 12 adults in every hundred, struggle with social anxiety, and these numbers are growing every year.

So how can you tell if you’ve got social anxiety? Some of the symptoms are:

  1. avoiding social situations
  2. cancelling plans abruptly
  3. immense guilt when you cancel plans
  4. needing alcohol to face social situations
  5. feeling like you can’t participate
  6. dreading social situations
  7. dreading being outside your safe space (home)
  8. missing school or work due to anxiety
  9. worrying about perceptions of you
  10. overthinking things to say or do
  11. blushing or reddened face
  12. excessive sweating
  13. fast heartbeat when in social situations
  14. talking to strangers
  15. going on dates
  16. meeting new people
  17. making phone calls
  18. making eye contact
  19. using public restrooms
  20. isolating yourself
  21. dizziness in public
  22. muscle tension or twitches when social
  23. stomach trouble when social
  24. dry mouth or throat

At one time or another I’ve experienced many of these. Why? I believe it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors at play.

The good news is that social anxiety responds very well to medication management; at least for me it has.

If you experience these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, do yourself a favor and seek therapy. No one should have to suffer when there are treatments available to at least alleviate some of the symptoms.

Book review: Under Rose-tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

What happens when one day you just wake up with mental illness, like agoraphobia, anxiety, or OCD? For thirteen-year-old Norah Dean that is her reality. There is no concrete reason why her, but now seventeen-year-old Norah no longer leaves the house without having a panic attack. She can’t even walk down the stairs without a ritual. So she has extremely limited human interaction with that being her mom, therapist, and an occasional guy from Helping Hands. She relies on social media and her house to feel a sense of security.

Then seventeen-year-old, courageous Norah meets charming neighbor Luke, and now she wants to get better and get over her illness. This novel is about Norah’s struggle with her insecurities and self-perception, but can she do anything to stop it. Norah, the heroine, works hard to not let these things define her throughout the story.

The author’s descriptions of social anxiety were spot on and had me recognizing similar feelings myself. Louise Gornall didn’t shy away from mental illness; instead, she explains the mortifying effects of mental illness that can leave one sheltered and lonesome. On the lighter side, the book had humorous dialogue, particularly between the mother and daughter. It is a brutally honest read that also leaves you entertained and appreciative that Norah was beyond her illness and for shedding light on mental illness with an accurate portrayal of her mental illness and self-acceptance.

Book review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Dial Books, 2016

Agoraphobic sixteen-year-old Solomon Reed has not left his house in three years due to acute anxiety, crippling panic attacks, and agoraphobia, but Lisa Praytor is determined to change that by beating his illness and saving Solomon from himself—and to write a scholarship-winning essay based on the results, which Solomon knows nothing of the sort. Lisa remembers the day in eighth grade when Solomon stripped to his underwear and got into a fountain as a result of a panic attack. But he isn’t depressed, strange, angry, excessively shy, or any of the other negative qualities characters with mental illnesses receive in literature. Instead, Solomon is a funny and compassionate young man who loves his family and friends

So, with the help of her boyfriend Clark, who Solomon ends up crushing on, Lisa enters Solomon’s world in order to observe him for her essay which will get her to university on scholarship and out of suburban California. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.  This story shines with how the characters handle the aftermath of such a ludicrous intention as armchair psychology to cure mental illness.

This book provides a human look at mental illness and how we need to treat those who have mental illness as people first. The hilarious, heartwarming, skillfully told coming of age story alternates between Lisa and Solomon’s witty, bantering voices. Solomon’s grandmother who’s his best friend, is portrayed with youthfulness and quirkiness which adds a fresh tone to the novel. It’s a quirky and endearing character portrayal that explores the intricacies of friendship, trust, and identity, in addition to mental health issues.

Book review: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

Random House, 2017

This YA fiction novel tells the story of Adam, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is about to start a new school, and is also in a clinical trial for an experimental drug to manage his symptoms, the most prominent being that he’s sees people that aren’t there, all the time. Adam discusses friends, family, and love as he navigates a world much different than his peers. He gains a new best friend, attracts the attention of a bully, and falls in love all the while his main concern is traversing a new social situation without giving anyone reason to think he’s “crazy.”

This book is comprised of Adam’s journal entries to his therapist. I think the end just really highlights the strong relationships Adam has, and how they can support him. Adam is an amazing character, because he feels so real. I enjoyed reading his thoughts about the little things and his vision of the world. This book will make you laugh, cry and smile. It also brings a new light on schizophrenia, a disease most people do not know much of. This book sits right next to The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Words on Bathroom Walls is a beautiful, touching book, a true masterpiece. Adam is so engaging and funny, and his commentary on the cast of characters in his head so fascinating. While he wants to keep a secret from close ones at all costs, his drive behind it is that Adam just wants to be known as a normal kid. I like that Adam himself is a complex, but likeable character; he likes making people happy and does noble deeds, but he makes mistakes from time to time as well.

The conflict Adam has with himself, over keeping his mental illness a secret is well-written and the people Adam hallucinates and interacts with as a symbol throughout the book represent Adam’s thoughts and feelings, adding to the conflict. Above all, I came away with mental Illness isn’t something we can control. Learning to live with it is difficult and we should never have to apologize.

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