Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

This week I got together with a friend who wanted to discuss the story she’s been working on. Let’s call her Jane Doe. Jane has realized that she primarily wants to write books. As long as I’ve known Jane, she’s always mentioned her stories. She has finished the first draft of her debut novel. The problem she is up against now is she works full-time to pay the bills. Yet writing takes lots of time also. Jane works when she wants to be writing. Then, when she writes, the time disappears in a flash, and she has to go back to her job again.
Every author deals with this. Jane Doe is not the first. Over the years, dozens of people have told me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” And, these days, anyone can with easy access to numerous self-publishing avenues these days, from Amazon to Wattpad, to B&N Press, and aggregators, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords for distribution. In the last five years, more books have been self-published than have been printed since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. The market is simply glutted with fiction.

Ease of publication aside, writing is a brutal business. The reality (though I did not tell Jane these facts) is that only 5% of authors ever hit the big time and make enough money to retire from their day job. 95% of authors will sell no more than 100 copies of each book. There were a lot of bitter realities I did not tell Jane about. See the bite marks all over my tongue.
The only people who write books are starry-eyed newbies (who will never write more than one or two novels at most) or those poor souls who can’t NOT write and are therefore doomed to continue stabbing away at the keyboards all their live long days, whether they ever sell anything or not. Jane Doe is one of the latter. As am I. For us, “the time goes by in a flash” whenever we are writing. I remember, many years ago, telling my landlord about the time issue, and he said, “Yes, it’s like that when I’m painting. Time disappears into a black hole. You look up and realize hours have gone by.” I have repeated the black hole saying a lot over the years because when things strike you as ultimately true they bear repeating.

My friend Jane Doe and I are the same. We have no choice but to write, no matter what the outcome. We write when we’re happy, we write when we’re sad. We write when we have free time. We write when we’re busy. We write during the week, on the weekends, at night, and on holiday. We’re not chasing the Booker Prize, hoping to gain fans or fame, or to win a publishing deal (although all those things would be nice), we’re writing because it comes as naturally as breathing or thinking or talking.
For me, writing fiction started as a bid to escape from the mundanity of bottles and diapers as a seventeen-year-old stay-at-home-mum. It worked. There was no need for any other therapy. Having that creative outlet and being in the zone gave me positivity in an otherwise tricky situation. When you find the things you can do in this life that makes time disappear into a black hole, all is well with the world. In unstable times we need more sources of positive energy, these resources anchor us. They give us strength.

So I encourage Jane with all my might. I have offered to read her story to give some overall critique, and she will do the same for me. The first volume in my next series, currently written in the rough, needs a ton of work. So we embark on a journey together.
I have always been a writer. It’s a joy, a beloved part of me. Some of us write because we want to author a book one day. Some of us write because we have to. Hopefully, the end result is the same, and there is more beautiful, inspiring, revealing, humanizing prose in the world for people to imbibe. Because in times of stress, we turn to the arts.
What about you? What is the thing you most love to do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“For me, euphoria is simply the act of waking up, making my coffee, and sitting down with a book and being able to read.” Elliot Page

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When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
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I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol
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“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White

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