Tag Archives: mental-health

The One Writing Skill You Must Have


by Lillian Csernica on December 11, 2017

stock-vector-pop-art-blonde-woman-seat-and-keep-a-diary-comic-girl-hold-a-pen-and-write-in-a-book-vintage-hand-386662831

Here we are in the holiday season. This time of year will stress out anybody, even those people lucky enough to have a “normal” family life. Writers often come from dysfunctional families. Writers often have mental health issues. Put it all together and the holiday season can be quite a gauntlet to run, between day jobs, holiday preparations, family gatherings, and the desperate struggle for time and space write.

My therapist taught me a skill that I will now pass along to you. This skill is designed to buy you the mental and emotional space you need to survive when you find yourself overwhelmed. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try. Three simple words:

Achieve literary distance.

How does one do this? Here’s my method. I always have my tote bag with me. At the moment it contains four notebooks, two manuscripts, one of those zippered pouches for pens, and a few other odds and ends. I take the tote bag everywhere. When life gets too intense, I pull out a notebook and a pen. If I’m stuck in a line, I spot the most interesting people and jot down quick lists of their notable physical and behavioral traits. If I’m in a waiting room, I might write a scene involving two of the people waiting there also.

writing-pen-notebook-flower-sweet-color-design-background-67196175

The point here is to derail our anxiety by making our trains of thought switch tracks. Becoming consciously more observant puts us into a more objective state of mind. Sometimes what we really need is to get out of our own heads. By calling on the skills that help us achieve literary distance, we can at least get out of the Anxiety Attic and go hang out in the Creativity Corner.  When we deliberately shift our focus outward, we may very well lower our anxiety levels.

I know this works for me. I get all stressed out about being on time, getting everything done according to my To Do list, or I’m all knotted up mentally because of a conflict with a family member.  When I achieve literary distance, that helps me step back, take that deep breath, connect pen to paper, and re-establish a calmer, more flexible state of mind.

45990260-learning-new-language-writing-words-many-times-on-the-notebook-russian

Make this skill work for you. If you like texting ideas on the Notepad function of your phone, go for it. If you need a blank journal with no lines and a few broken crayons, more power to you. If you just want to sit in a comfy spot and take some mental notes along with a few deep breaths, that’s good too.

Writing is our superpower. We can use it to rescue ourselves.

9-i-write-whats-your-superpower-mug

 

 

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Christmas, creativity, Depression, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, Special needs, therapy, Writing

How to Keep Writing When Depression Strikes


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2017

babc8475bf97b25b7ad918950c77c69f

Yes, it’s that time again. Life’s daily stressors combined with two or three sudden unwelcome surprises have left me waging guerilla warfare against my own depression. This comes at a particularly bad time. I have writing opportunities to make use of, commitments to fulfill, as well as organizing the celebration of my younger son’s graduation from high school.

These things are very difficult to accomplish when it takes a massive effort of will just to drag myself out of bed every morning.

I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone in suffering the crippling effects of depression, whether temporary or chronic. In keeping with the Buddhist philosophy of “taking positive action for the good,” I offer this list of helpful ideas.

Why Writers Are Prone to Depression

Writing Your Way Out of Depression

Neurological Similarities Between Successful Writers and the Mentally Ill.

7 Ways to Help You Write When You’re Depressed.

The Writer and Depression (Chuck Wendig)

The important thing is to keep writing. Make lists. Brainstorm. Letters to your imaginary friends. Anything that keeps the pen moving. Suspend judgment and blow off the Internal Editor. Just write. One day at a time. Just write.

540_293_resize_20130201_b4753a03bc6881e6e425640c2f5ba5ed_jpg

What do you do when depression gets you down? What helps you keep the pen moving? I would love to hear your ideas and coping strategies. Let’s see how many answers come in before Friday, midnight. I will roll the appropriate die, the winner shall be chosen, and that winner will receive a free ebook copy of either The Writer’s Spellbook or The Fright Factory.

3da74cf4e657e8fc5abcab9ba80f04c6

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under creativity, Depression, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, homework, memoirs, neurodiversity, publication, research, romance, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, therapy, Writing

A Personal Glimpse Inside Autism and ADHD


This weekend Withteeth and I went to a writing conference. I haven’t talked about my writing in a while, but it is still something I’m pursuing. However, conferences are incredibly difficult for me. As such, I wanted to write a bit about the struggles with anxiety and how to deal with it both for people […]

via How to Deal With Anxiety — hessianwithteeth

I’d like to express my gratitude to hessianwithteeth for giving us all these insights into such complex and demanding experiences.

It’s so wonderful that people with visible disabilities are gaining recognition and inclusiveness. Life can be even more difficult for people with conditions that can’t be seen from the outside. My own Major Depressive Disorder has been gaining the upper hand these past two weeks, making this issue all the more immediate and important to me.

Remember. You are not alone!

Lillian

Leave a comment

Filed under autism, Conventions, Depression, frustration, Goals, neurodiversity, publication, Self-image, special education, therapy, worry, Writing

As Jumpy As A Wired Kangaroo


by Lillian Csernica on July 24, 2016

cartoon-kangaroo-running-something-19256926

I really don’t like it when people sneak up on me. I have enough anxiety issues as it is. My son John once crept up behind me, poked me in the ribs, and said, “Boo!” He suddenly found himself staring at the floor with his arm up behind his back. I didn’t do it with much force, but I did it, leaving both of us surprised. I turned him loose and apologized, but I made it clear to John not only is it not polite to sneak up on people, it can be very dangerous.

This also explains why I almost never braid my hair. Every time I’ve ever done so, somebody will come up behind me and yank on my braid like it’s some sort of bell pull. My instincts say I’ve snagged my hair on something, which tends to kick off my fight or flight response due to that time way back when I was four years old and my long hair got caught in a floor fan.  Nothing got cut off, but it took a long time to untangle and it hurt a LOT. What is the deal with this braid-pulling? It’s up there with people being compelled to pat a pregnant woman’s stomach. I don’t care if you “just really had to do it.” Hands off!

cartoon20kangaroo20wallpaper-721429

On a recent trip to the local Dollar Tree, I was standing there trying to remember one of the items I’d come to buy. Suddenly, right behind me, a man cleared his throat quite loudly. I shot up into the air as if I’d been stabbed with a hat pin. I jerked around and almost tripped over him. What on earth was he doing that close to me? He made some attempt at courtesy that still didn’t explain why he was standing well within my personal space. I got away from him, and nothing else came of it, so I didn’t feel a need to tell the manager. I remember his face. If I see him again, he will not have another opportunity to sneak up on me.

Tonight I was out buying groceries for the week. Put everything on the moving belt, pushed my cart forward a half step at a time as the line progressed. Out of nowhere there’s a guy leaning over my left shoulder.  Turns out he was a cashier trying to decide which check stand to close next. So what? He could have taken three steps around me and get a better look at the situation! At the very least, a polite “Excuse me” was called for. What is wrong with some people that they just treat others like objects to be ignored or pushed aside?

I’m jumpy to begin with. I will freely admit that.

However, I’ve been given reason to develop a high-strung temperament due to sudden shocks of a physical and auditory nature. That tends to make one prone to being jumpy.

This is a bit of a psychological Moebius strip. Where does one part end and the other begin?

These are tough times. Caution and courtesy should be our watch words. There are a lot of people suffering from PTSD because there’s a hell of a lot of trauma happening, both visible and invisible.

How do your experiences compare? Do you see this kind of disregard for personal space? Let me hear what’s happening to you.

kangaroo2bcartoon

4 Comments

Filed under Family, Food, frustration, Lillian Csernica, perspective, Self-image, therapy, Writing

My Stress Managment is Too Stressful


by Lillian Csernica on June 30, 2016

canstock20091684

How do I manage my stress?

  • At the end of the day, I watch TV
  • I go to the library and write in my journal or my work notebook.
  • I get out in the sun and enjoy Nature.
  • I play with my cats.
  • I see my physical and mental health care professionals.

stress

How do these activities increase my stress?

woman-watching-tv-free-clip-art

  • Are you familiar with the term “binge watching”? There are a number of TV and cable shows available on Netflix, Hulu, et al. Some of my favorites include “Person of Interest,” “Once Upon A Time,” various Food network shows, and a few that try to document paranormal activity. One episode is just like one potato chip. One is never enough. Even though it’s summer, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. for Michael’s morning routine.  If I stay up too late watching TV (and I do), I don’t get enough sleep. Less sleep = more stress.

0511-0902-0801-4559_woman_thinking_in_a_library_clipart_image

  • Libraries are no longer the Sacred Sites of Silence. I often find a remote corner, depending on the time of day, but even so, noise travels. Shrieking toddlers, teenagers with no concept of muting their phones and themselves, and the endless clicking of everybody’s laptop keyboards. Makes me crazy. If it’s a bad time of day, I retreat to Denny’s. Yes, it’s noisy, but in Tourist Season, I’m OK with that.

stock-photo-santa-cruz-california-usa-july-large-crowds-of-people-flock-to-the-santa-cruz-beach-347851250

  • Santa Cruz County is full of beaches and national parks and redwoods. We’ve got artist colonies and museums and aquariums. And yes, this means we’ve also got Tourist Season. Generally speaking, I like tourists. I can take a stroll down the Boardwalk and hear three or four foreign languages being spoken. What stresses me out is the traffic. People who don’t know Hwy 17, Hwy 9, and the major artery streets can get confused, which means they slow down. Then there are the people who insist on going insanely fast no matter where they are.

il_214x170-894676489_p2m3

  • It’s summer. I have three cats who are all shedding. One is a black longhair who decided to hack up the mother of all hairballs on the stairway landing some time last night. The last thing I want to see first thing in the morning is some big furry disgusting mess on my stairs, especially when there’s a good chance it might be alive. I live in a somewhat more civilized area than I have in the past two towns where I’ve lived, but we still have all kinds of flora and fauna that can and do take me by surprise.

stock-vector-paroxysm-of-ventricular-tachycardia-in-sinus-rhythm-background-vector-professional-information-91857905

  • Now we come to the big issue of the moment. I’m having trouble with my heart. Arrhythmia, which is no big deal. At least I hope not. I had an attack today that lasted long enough to make me consider going to Urgent Care. I made an appointment with my doctor. The thing is, my general practitioner is over the hill in San Jose. That means I’ll be driving Hwy 17 tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Friday of the 4th of July Weekend. That means on my way home I will be dealing with everybody on the face of this part of the planet who wants to spend the holiday weekend at the beach. On a slow day Hwy 17 is a nightmare. Just thinking about it stresses me out. I didn’t realize the logistics of the drive until after I’d made the appointment. Doesn’t matter. I have to see my doctor. This is one of those things that just can’t wait.

heartbeat-clipart-heartbeat

4 Comments

Filed under doctors, Family, frustration, hospital, Lillian Csernica, nature, reality TV, research, specialists, therapy, worry, Writing

Playing the Writer’s Accordion


by Lillian Csernica on June 22, 2016

6193974_orig

First you expand by writing.  Then you compress by editing.  Expand, compress.  Expand, compress.

The trouble is, right now I’m compressing the synopsis for Sword Master, Flower Maiden while also expanding a short story that needs to get out to market.

Playing two separate accordions at once is no simple task. Just when I’ve settled into the mindset to murder my darlings in the synopsis, it’s time to switch gears and open the taps for the short story’s new scenes.

marche-manufacturing-castelfidardo-accordion-cp5fak

Can I work on one project at a time?  Can I finish it and then move on to the other?  I could, but that would slow down my productivity even more.  I have to work on multiple projects at once. The satisfaction of completing a short story and getting it out to market helps me endure the day after day grind of writing a 100,000 word historical romance.

There are days when I do get tired of being neck deep in the details of Japan under the Tokugawa.  I want to run away to modern day and drop some creature of folklore into a situation that causes havoc for all concerned.  I like blowing things up.  It’s very therapeutic.

Sex scenes aren’t as much fun as non-writers seem to think.  Those scenes take a lot more work and attention to detail.  This is why my favorite scenes in Ship of Dreams are the sea battles.  I just loved figuring out how the Black Angel would disable Vasquez’s galleon so he could rescue Rosalind before sinking the ship.

stock-photo-20744432-accordion-player-dressed-in-traditional-costume-montmartre-paris-france

 

So I’m back to my daily 1000 word quota.  And I’m pushing forward on the support documents, so to speak.  And I’m hauling short stories out of inventory, ripping out the seams, adding panels, and freshening the trim.

Whoops.  Just mixed my metaphors.  Oh well.  Tell me you’ve never heard an accordion hit a wrong note!

acca5

2 Comments

Filed under creativity, editing, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, history, Humor, Japan, Lillian Csernica, love, pirates, publication, research, romance, therapy, Writing

In Need of Nurses


by Lillian Csernica on June 18, 2016

vector-of-a-super-hero-wonder-nurse-with-a-rope-by-ron-leishman-26097

I’ve been meaning to write more frequent blog posts.  Life has gotten in the way in the form of being seriously short staffed where Michael is concerned.  Right now I have two R.N.s and my sister, who does have experience with hospital and in-home care.  With Michael out of school, we’re running two eight hour shifts per day.  This means I have to pitch in as well.  I’ve had to take four of the eight hour shifts, three 6:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. and one 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Michael takes seven different medications.  He needs at least two breathing treatments per day which include nebulizer treatment followed by three timed sessions with a percussive therapy vest.  Diaper changes can be quite laborious depending on the nature and quantity of his output.  Michael is twenty years old, close to six feet tall, and weighs 145 lb.  He’s on the gangly side, so rolling him from one side to the other requires considerable effort.

In the morning I fully expect to need Naproxen, if not my carefully hoarded stash of Vicodin.  I’m hoping the Vicodin won’t be necessary because I have an hour’s drive ahead of me in order to attend a writer’s group meeting.

medications-02

Adding to my joy this week is a breakdown in communications with the supplier of my antidepressant medications.  I did get an interim prescription for one of them from my doctor, but there’s been more difficulties with the other prescription.  Tomorrow will be Day 3 without Pristiq.  I will either be what some people might consider manic, or I will have no patience with obstacles and no filters in place to moderate my reactions to such obstacles.

Not really the best frame of mind for giving critiques in a writer’s group setting.

On Sunday we interview yet another R.N.  I’m really hoping she turns out to be a keeper.  We’re stretched mighty thin.  Summer school starts next week, but we still need a third R.N. to take some of the load off of my sister.

All of this leads me to think about what we’ll be facing once Michael is no longer in school.  He has two years left in the County program.  Then we’ll have to find other ways to get him out of the house and keep him occupied so he doesn’t languish in bed for the majority of his day.  That’s not good for his mental or physical health.

Doesn’t do a whole lot for mine, either.

fatigue-clipart-a_tired_woman_with_curlers_in_her_hair_looking_in_the_mirror_royalty_free_clipart_picture_090807-033118-029053

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Baclofen pump, Depression, doctors, Family, frustration, Goals, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, parenting, perspective, Special needs, specialists, therapy, Writing

Family: The Other F-word


by Lillian Csernica on March 6, 2016

huge-0-572

Life is hard when you have one special needs child.  Life gets exponentially harder when you have another child, especially when that child turns out to have special needs also.

The thing that makes life unbearable is when you run into the family member who knows more than you do about everything.  This person isn’t a doctor, a nurse, or a therapist of any sort.  This person might have teaching experience, might have volunteer experience, might even have some experience of special needs with his or her own child.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” — Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

It’s bad enough that as a mother I’m under my own constant scrutiny, watching to see if I’m doing what the doctors and therapists tell me to do so my sons will grow up realizing as much of their potential as possible.  It’s bad enough when people who mean well but who have no real idea about daily life in a special needs household come to me with questions or suggestions that I know won’t work, I’ve tried and modified, or found effective five years ago.  Right here, right now, I know what’s best for my sons.  Why?  I’ve devoted my adult life to finding out.

What really hurts, what goes so deep that the emotional bruising lingers for days, is when a family member decides to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m doing it wrong, or I’m just doing nothing.  Yes, that’s right, just the other day I got a lecture on what a lazy, careless, thoughtless, inconsiderate mother I am.

Every mother knows how much this kind of attack hurts.  No matter how hard we try, there’s always that little nagging voice inside us that sees what we don’t do.  The greater effort we could have made.  The times when we were selfish enough to give ourselves a break.

One of the people I ought to be able to count on for support has just hit me where I live.  This person does not have a sterling track record in the parenting department, but if I dare point that our then I’m just being cruel and trying to dodge the real issue.

The nice thing about people you hire to work with your children is your option of firing them when the time comes.  You can’t fire family.  Blood is blood, even when there’s a strong temptation to spill some.

3e0488479b9dae0f050950ee63d91a1a1

 

4 Comments

Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, Family, frustration, Lillian Csernica, mother, parenting, perspective, Self-image, Special needs, therapy, Writing

Caregivers Who Don’t Care


EDIT: February 19, 2015

We’re down to two R.N.s again, and one is on vacation.  My sister has been working too hard and wound up with an injury.  We run on a pretty slim staff as it is.  When Chris and I have to spell each other taking care of Michael, it’s hard on everybody.  More stress in the house isn’t good for any of us, especially both Michael and John.

With that in mind, I’m re-running this blog post.

by Lillian Csernica on June 29, 2013

stock-photo-77302265-caregiver-reading-a-book-with-a-mentally-disabled-child

I’m seeing a really alarming trend in the news lately.  There are more and more reports of teacher and aides abusing special needs children.   The very people we’re supposed to trust with the safety, care, and education of our learning disabled, medically fragile, and behaviorally challenged children are bullying them and physically abusing them.  This has raised awareness to the point where parents are calling for surveillance equipment in the classrooms to make sure more special needs students don’t suffer at the hands of people despicable enough to abuse their powers of authority.

My younger son John is autistic and has in-home aides who help him after school.  Such aides come to us from the care agency which is contracted with the state agency who pays for this service.  I’m here to tell you that some of the people sent to us by this agency shouldn’t be put in charge of blowing their own noses, much less taking care of a special needs child.  One particular aide John had was a sneaky wretch.  She was all smiles and shipshape manner in front of me, but I found out from one of the other mothers at the park where John played that this aide grabbed his arm and shook him, or she’d drag him around by the arm, and this was before John did anything that might merit strong action.

The day I fired this woman, she stood there in my living room ranting for ten minutes about how the situation was all my fault.  Not until I told her I was about to call the police would she shut up and get out.  I informed all of the mandated reporters I knew about this aide and made it clear to the agency how she had abused my son.

Caveat emptor, my fellow special needs parents.  Just because the state and county agencies say they’ll provide a one to one aide either in school, at home, or both, don’t take whoever they provide at face value.  You would not believe some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other parents about the kinds of people who go into home care, both as nurses and as aides.  Regarding aides, it’s often more or less unskilled labor provided by somebody old enough to make sure the child stays out of trouble and can call 911 if a medical crisis occurs.   That’s not good enough!

Many parents don’t know the right questions to ask, especially when they’re still coping with the shock that follows realizing their child may have special needs.  Many parents aren’t familiar with all of their rights in regard to what they can ask for, and how they can go about making sure the school district provides it.  When Michael reached an age where he could enter the school system, I really wish I’d had somebody there to tell me all the details and guide me through the decisions I had to make.  With these concerns in mind, I’d like to offer this list of helpful and informative links:

Coping with Learning Disabilities

The Assertive Patient

The rights Special Needs Parents have under the IDEA

Expected Standards for a Professional Health Care Worker

The qualifications Care Agencies require from potential in-home workers

As parents, we are the primary caregivers.  We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  We must defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, Family, frustration, housework, Lillian Csernica, marriage, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, perspective, Special needs, worry, Writing

My Personal Chariot of Fire


by Lillian Csernica on January 20, 2016

“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17). All around them, but beyond the capabilities of the five human physical senses, was all the protection necessary. Elisha would be no prisoner that day. His would be captors would be.”

Today I picked up my car.  Today I drove it home from the dealership.  Today I stopped at the grocery store, I put gas in the car, and I drove home.

I was not afraid.  I did not have an anxiety attack.  In fact, I was happy and excited.

I have been a prisoner of my own fears about driving for a long time now.  Almost thirty years.  It’s called learned helplessness, and it’s born of a vicious emotional cycle that includes hopelessness and depression.

Another condition I battle on a daily basis is anticipatory anxiety.  This robs the future of hope and positive thinking.  I told myself I wasn’t afraid of my driving.  I was afraid of everybody else on the road who drove like maniacs, speeding and changing lanes without signalling and coming right up on my rear bumper like they wanted to shove my car aside.  That was true enough.  I think the real truth was, I could no longer face the responsibility of being the driver.

When I was in the car accident that did in fact kill me, my driving had very little to do with what happened.  My employer had assured me he’d replaced the two right tires on the company car, which were worn down to the point of being dangerous.  He lied to me.  I trusted him, so when we loaded the car that night for the drive from Long Beach to San Francisco, I believed him and I did not check the tires myself.

“Put not your faith in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  (Ps. 146:3-4)

Five years ago I took two sets of driving lessons to brush up on my driving skills.  My teacher said I’m a good driver.  I have good reaction time and I’m good at judging braking distance.  I have driven on Hwy 17 all the way down to Capitola and back in the car with my teacher.

And yet, I still couldn’t internalize that knowledge to the extent that I would agree to pick out a car and drive it.  My husband said he’d get me a car, but not until he was sure I would in fact use it, and use it all the time.

Why now?  Why did I suddenly stand up last Saturday and say, “Fine.  Let’s do it today.”?  All I can say is the time was right, and I was ready.  We found a car that was everything I wanted, at a price we could afford.  It was raining, but I didn’t let that hold me back.  I got into the car and I test drove it so my husband could listen to the engine.  I was alert, I was focused, and I kept moving forward through the process of evaluating and the buying the car.

My car has become my chariot of fire.  Just as Divine Protection was present but unseen for the Prophet Elisha, so I believe God is watching out for me.  I may not always have faith in myself, but I do have faith in God.  Just look at what we went through this past summer with Michael’s hospital stay.  When Michael needed a priest, Fr. Ninos got there before the ICU team took Michael to be prepped for surgery.  I still don’t know how Fr. Ninos got there so quickly, but he did, and I give thanks every day that my boy is still alive and healthy.

When the depression has been really bad, I have begged God to help me get better.  I have prayed for strength and for courage and for the determination to defeat all the symptoms that have crippled me emotionally, kept me from writing, and prevented me from being a functional member of my family.

“The Lord is my  light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?” (Ps. 12:1)

It’s time to move on.  No more thinking I’m helpless.  No more being afraid.

2441707836_6b8a14cb41

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Depression, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, frustration, Goals, hospital, perspective, Self-image, therapy, worry, Writing