Tag Archives: Mental Health

Authors: be real. Your readers (and your characters!) will thank you for it.

I have obstacles to overcome. Just like you, just like everyone.

Author E.M. Fitch

One of my obstacles has a name, though as a teen, I didn’t realize it. I have panic attacks. The reason I’m telling you this is because it’s real. I am a real person and I have panic attacks.

My protagonist in Of The Trees, my forthcoming YA novel, has them, too. That’s important. It’s important because every day millions of people have panic attacks. Millions will also suffer anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and depression. As an author, it’s important to me to show this. I want my characters to jump off the page. I want them to be authentic. Giving my characters actual issues, mixed in with the fairy lore, fantasy and horror, will ground them and give them a way to connect with an audience.
There’s a better reason to create characters with mental health issues, however. It’s more important than creating a way for the characters to relate to the readers. It’s giving your readers a chance to connect with someone. One of the worst experiences someone can have is feeling alone. One of the hardest parts of managing an invisible illness is feeling like no one understands what you’re going through. I feel like I’m on the other side of what once was an invisible illness for me. Anxiety creeps into my life in variable doses, but overall, it’s manageable. So my characters are my way of extending a hand. It’s a nod that tells my readers: I see you. I’ve been there, too.
Horror is real. Anxiety, depression, hallucinations, fear – that’s all real, too. But so is growth. There’s is such a thing as learning to overcome – and I don’t mean learning to erase all impact of the invisible illness from your life. I mean a way to manage and cope and breathe and live in spite of, or even because of, whatever’s weighing you down.
So, authors: show this. Be real. Tell your tragedies, show your weaknesses, bleed on your pages. Not only will your characters breathe because of it, your readers might find themselves not so alone after experiencing your own wounds lay bare in print.

 

Only she can hear the deadly whisper of the trees.

High school seniors, Cassie and Laney, spend their days on ghost hunts, Laney trying to pull Cassie into belief. Cassie tolerates it for her best friend, but she doesn’t really believe … until the carnival comes to town. The men who work there watch the girls, disturbing Cassie with the intensity of their collective gaze.

It’s not just their age or the unnerving way they stare. There is something else, something in the shifting of their skin, the way their features seem to change fluid in the shadows, that screams danger. Cassie tries to ignore the uneasy feeling that something bad is about to happen, convinced that once the carnival leaves, life will return to normal.


But it doesn’t.


People start dying and bloody warnings appear around town. Cassie enters into a nightmare where the trees whisper “join us” and strange, seemingly familiar, shape-shifting men haunt the backwoods of her small, isolated town.


When Laney goes missing, Cassie knows it’s the men of the forest who have taken her. She knows that she’s the only one who can help bring her friend back. But the creatures that taunt and hiss through the trees aren’t ready to give Laney up just yet.


E. M. Fitch is an author who loves scary stories, chocolate, and tall trees. Her latest novel, OF THE TREES, is a Young Adult horror/fantasy inspired by haunted cemeteries and the darker musings of W.B. Yeats. She is the author of the Young Adult zombie trilogy: THE BREAK FREE SERIES. When not dreaming up new ways to torture characters, she is usually corralling her four children, or thinking of ways to tire them out so she can get an hour of peace at night. She lives in Connecticut, surrounded by chaos, which she manages with her husband, Marc.

 

Visit www.emfitch.com for more information on her works.

 


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Seeing “Lilo and Stitch” again 11 years later… Through a new set of eyes.

The other day, my husband was scrolling through movies looking for a good family film.  He chose Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. When this movie first came out I remember a coworker saying: “Disney created a character (Lilo) who was mean, nasty and completely unlikable.  A ‘bad’ kid– so he could not enjoy the movie because he disliked her so much.

I saw the movie a few weeks later, and the writer in me recognized that “bad kid” but watched her development into a “better kid” (not a good kid… a better kid)

Watching the movie eleven years and three kids later, I was dumbstruck. The character of Lilo immediately grabbed my attention as so much more than a bad kid.

Lilo was probably one of best-researched Disney characters I have ever seen.

Watching her mouth off at her sister, fighting physically with other kids trying to defend what’s right, having trouble keeping friends, trying desperately to stick to routines, and not listening among a myriad of other traits. Wow.

Lilo has ADHD

She was a classic textbook case of ADHD, and almost everything that happened I could mirror in my own family life.  (Except for the house exploding, thank goodness)  I watched shaking my head, and really feeling for her sister/guardian, Noni as she tried to control the uncontrollable. As she gave in at times just to keep the peace, as she struggled to stop things from happening that she knew were a “trigger”, and as she treasured the few special moments a day when Lilo showed affection.

I found myself wondering if one of the writers had a kid with ADHD to have NAILED the condition so well.  I did a little research, but could not find a mention of the condition in relation to the film.  I found this sad.  Maybe it is because ADHD was not as much in the forefront of pediatric medicine in 2002 as it is nowadays.

What I found encouraging, though, was the very real way the story played out.  (Not the aliens, silly)

Lilo, a kid struggling with her behavior—knowing she is bad but not understanding why—takes  this other “little kid” (Stitch, the alien, who is programmed to do nothing but destroy) under her wing, and tries to help him be a better “person”.

This is so like an ADHD kid.  My “Littlest Dude”, despite his challenges, will always pick out the person “in need” in a crowd, and help to the best of his ability.

Just the other day, he was outside teaching a kid twice his age how to ride a bike.  They were out there for HOURS.  He would not be daunted. Whatever it took, he was going to get that (much older) girl riding her bike.

When I’m sick, he is the child I can trust to be there… to drop everything and take care of me. (Not that the other two don’t help, in case they read this) But the littlest takes the whole situation to heart.

ADHD kids are not monsters.

They may appear that way.

They may destroy things (when they are mad)*

They may punch you in the face (but you probably provoked it)*

They may scream at you (because something is wrong and they feel mistreated)*

But deep inside, they are the cute, cuddly, fluffy version of Stitch.

They don’t want to act out.  They want to help, create,  make friends,  play,  be happy, and be loved by their family like any other kid.

They just need someone to believe in them, and help them control their triggers so they can make the correct choices.

Any kid can be the cute, cuddly version of Stitch.

You just have to believe in them and show them the way.

*Note* ADHD kids truly DO NOT KNOW why they act the way they do.  If you have a kid with behavioral problems, speak to your doctor or look into programs to help control their triggers. Getting help was the best thing I ever did for my family.

 _JenniFer____EatoN

The long and short of it – Your sentences, that is — Rule #22 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #22

22: Vary your sentence lengths. I tend to write short, and it’s amazing what a difference combing a couple of sentences can make.

Remember to be careful with this when you are trying to create a mood.  For instance, a string of short, choppy sentences can create tension when needed.  Overall, though, a mix of lengths in your text will bring it alive.

And while we’re here – watch those overly long sentences.  If a line is over 20 words, you may want to consider breaking that puppy up a bit.

 

Jennifer___Eaton

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Rule #3 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #3

3: Use strong verbs in preference to adverbs. I won’t say avoid adverbs, period, because about once every fifty pages they’re okay! What’s not okay is to use an adverb as an excuse for failing to find the correct verb. To ‘walk slowly’ is much less effective than to ‘plod’ or ‘trudge’. To ‘connect strongly’ is much less effective than to ‘forge a connection’.

This one is a bit easier to swallow.  Everyone knows about adverbs, right?  But using them is sometimes a hard habit to break.  If you find your work laden with adverbs, here is my suggestion:

1.      Make a copy of your work and save the original “just in case”

2.      Go through a chapter and delete all the adverbs.  Resist the desire to look at the sentence at this point.  Just delete.  Using the search feature and looking for “ly” will help with this. Look for “very” while you are at it, and just delete.

3.      Done?  Good! Now go back and read your chapter.  Most likely, if you’ve written a strong scene, you will not even notice they are gone.

Here’s a one sentance example from “Optimal Red”:

His heart beat rapidly in his chest as the doors opened.

His heart pulsed as the doors opened.

Go ahead!  Give it a try?  How did it go?  Were you able to strengthen your manuscript just by deleting?  Did you need to add a little more emphasis to replace the missing word?  Where did you decide to leave an adverb for flavor?

JenniFer_EatonF

Closing Notes and Final Comments – Dealing with a child with behavioral issues: Total Transformation #17

I don’t want to go on forever about my kid, so I’m going to close this thread after this post.  So, why did I do this?  Why did I open up my private struggles for all the world to cringe over?

The truth is when some family members started avoiding us, and friends said “don’t come back.”  I started to feel very alone. (Thanks to everyone who DID stand beside us through all of this)

But I knew that I WASN’T alone.  I knew there had to be others out there struggling and having no idea where to turn.

I’m here telling you that you CAN take your life back.  You just need to take that first step, and then dedicate yourself to it.  Yes, I used one particular program.  I’m not telling anyone to go out and buy the Total Transformation.  There are other products out there.  Do your research.  Pick the one that’s right for you.

The big thing is DO SOMETHING NOW.

I can’t believe how quickly things changed.  It was only a few months ago that I was collapsed of the living room carpet sobbing. It seems like a bad dream now.

I’d like to share a picture with you.  This was taken when Littlest Dude was 3.  He doesn’t even look like this anymore.  It’s precious, isn’t it?

Disney Image058

This picture always made my cry, because I remember this day.  I had taken him so my husband and Dude #1 and Dude #2 could enjoy themselves at Disney World.  I sacrificed myself, and I was miserable.

I bribed him to stop and take this picture with me, hoping it would be a wonderful memory.  Instead when I looked at it on my wall, I knew it was a lie.

I don’t look at it as a lie anymore.  I look at this picture with a gleam of hope in my heart.  I actually have REAL moments like this with my child now.  I feel love from him, and that love is returned.

I know we will have ups and downs, but doesn’t every family?

Normal, for the first time is six years, is in reach.

If you have a child with behavioral problems, get help.  It will be the greatest gift you’ll ever give your family.

JenniFer_EatonF

Dealing with a child with behavioral issues: Our Journey with the Total Transformation #3

If you’d like to be filled in on our journey thus far, please see post #1 and Post #2.  I’m not going to go over this stuff again here. and here is Post #3

Continued from Monday …

Dang guys, once again I am overwhelmed by the support, and all the personal emails–many of which made me cry.  Part of writing these posts is self-motivation to FORCE me to keep going, because I have committed myself.  I really appreciate all the good wishes.

This is what I have learned thus far from disk #1.  My son doesn’t think the way normal people do.  I can’t expect him to be logical.  I can’t expect him to react rationally.  I cannot expect him to act “normal” when he is upset.  He does not have the ability.  In other words… I CANNOT PARENT HIM THE WAY I PARENTED HIS OLDER SIBLINGS.

Is there something wrong with him?  Well, only in that he doesn’t THINK the way most people do.

*** He doesn’t think the way most people do ***

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  My job is to help him work around this.  I can teach him to be a normal, thinking adult, but if I don’t act now, the chances of it becoming worse are far too high.

Now, I don’t know how to do this yet.  Herein lies our frustration.  Following the course by the letter, we need to do our workbook and let this all sink in before going to lesson two.  BUT WE WANT HELP NOW.

I’m turning again to the CD of “10 things to help you right now” and I am listening to it again.

***Putting the Plan into action***

Last night, my 6 year old punched my 9 year old in the face because it was bedtime.  I called the “help line” and they walked me through what to do.  What I needed to do sounded incredibly stupid.  What I wanted to do was what my parents did – beat me senseless—but I have to realize that my 6 year old is not me.  Returning the anger and spanking will not work with this child. So I sat down and told him everything they said… and he went to bed.

***Problems with the older kids***

Now here is a new problem.  “Mom, you’re just letting him get away with that?”

The older kids felt like I’d done nothing.  I called them aside, and explained “The Total Transformation” to them.  They complained that this isn’t going to be fair to them… that they would be punished for things and their lives would have to change because of the youngest.

I said, “Yes, things will change, but this is what we need to do to get our lives back.”

They were not happy.  They groan when they start acting up and I hit them with one of the “ten things to help you right now” tips… of course, they then immediately cave and do what I want. Crap – if anything I have to say this stuff works with the older kids without a hitch.  The youngest?  He can still tirade through it.

But it’s a new day in the Eaton household.  I’m not really sure what that means.  But I’m convicted to making that true.  Now that I am a little more “educated” and understand more about my son’s challenges, and our challenges as parents to a behaviorally challenged child, at least I am ready to move forward.

At the moment, though… after week one… chaos still ensues.  And something upstairs just broke… and yep, there’s the screaming.  Bedtime is always such a joy… until next time!

Dealing with a child with behavioral issues: Our Journey with the Total Transformation #2

Last week I opened up with some really personal information, and I was encouraged by the outpouring of well-wishes, and emboldened by the number of you who contacted me both publicly and privately about your own personal battles.

Click here to see last week’s post. This is where we are.

My son’s most common phrase:  “I hate you.”

It doesn’t even hurt anymore.  I’ve managed to turn off my emotions.  I wish the rest of the family could.  It’s so hard, and my handling things without emotion just leads to fights between me and my husband, which escalate and draw in the rest of the family in one way or another.  Like I said last week, this is as close to Hell as I ever want to come.

We need to *****

Sorry, I had to mediate the screaming session going on upstairs. (again) and I completely lost my thoughts.

Anyway… We’ve now listened to lesson one “Why is my kid like this?”

Our frustration level with the program is pretty high right now.  We want help, but the first disk is really informational.  I’m trying to be as positive as I can.  I’m trying to keep my husband from throwing it against the wall.

Thinking it over, and remembering a comment from someone last week, the first disk seems a lot like a first professional session with parents.  It is all about assuring the parents that this is not our fault, which was a big concern.  Did we slip on the last one? Was he exposed to too much from his older siblings? Are we too easy on him? Too hard on him?  Why is our parenting working on the older kids and not him?

This is my situation.  I have a 9 year old and a 12 year old who are both off the charts smart.  They come home, throttle through their homework, and anything less than an “A” on a report card is a surprise (That we discuss in a manner of “how can we help with this” rather than being judgmental… we want school to be fun.)

Then we have our youngest, who acts out in school, has seen a counselor for anger, and his recent report card rated him at mid-kindergarten level across the board, and he is in the middle of first grade. I quietly contacted the teacher and asked if he was going to be left back.  This is when our lines of communication opened with her and his reading teacher.  I told them what we were doing, and they were excited and asked how they could help. Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get.

I’m going to cut this post here and continue it on Wednesday, because on finishing it I realized it was way too long.  I’ll start up right where I left off on Wednesday.

Dealing with a child with behavioral issues: Our family’s journey with The Total Transformation program

Hello.  My Name in Jennifer Eaton.  And I have a child with behavioral problems.

Whew!  Getting that off my chest is HUGE.  If you have a child with a behavior disorder, be it ADD, ADHD, or any of the myriad of other things out there, just admitting that there is a problem is a pretty big step in the right direction.

Since my youngest was two, he’s always been “a handful”.  We kept waiting for him to get out of the terrible two’s.  I used to joke about him still being in his terrible two’s at five.

At six, when his “bad” behavior started becoming violent… when his siblings began to get hurt, when he would scream at us and break things if he didn’t get his way…  When I was afraid to sit beside him… when I cringed in fear when my son came near … we realized we had a problem.

We tried everything we could think of.  But it just got worse.

I work full time at an office, and my husband works full time from home.  He gets the worst of it.  Near the “end” I would drive up and sit in the garage for a little while, preparing myself for what I would walk into.  Sometimes I cried before even opening the door.

Our lives had become as close to Hell as I EVER wanted to come.  Our family was being torn apart.  We yelled at all of our children, not just the troubled one.  My husband and I started to fight– and quite honestly only our values kept our marriage together.

One day, my husband left (again) just because he had to get away from the house.  I understood.  I don’t know how he keeps sane… but within half an hour my middle son was bleeding from an altercation with my youngest, and I was sprawled on the livingroom floor uncontrollably sobbing, with my oldest son holding me, himself in tears.

This had become my life.  Lost, alone, and hurting with nowhere to turn.

That night, we contacted a child psychiatrist.  I was horrified, because being medicine-phobic, I didn’t want to pump my son full of drugs, but I had to protect my family, both physically and mentally at that point, because my other children were being harmed emotionally now.

The psychiatrist told us he could have us come in for six sessions at $200 a session, and by the end of the sixth session … are you ready for this … “I will be able to tell you if I can help you or not.”

What????? $1200 just to evaluate him?  Six more weeks of sinking further into Dante’s Inferno, and not even knowing if this is the right course of action?

My husband and I stewed over this for a few more horrible weeks.  When one of my husband’s relatives neglected to invite us to a family party, and we found out it was because of our son, my husband lost it.  Our lives were falling apart, and our family was hanging by a thread.

After much prayer and contemplation, and hearing the radio commercial for the Umteenth time (If that was you, God, sorry I didn’t call the number sooner) I contacted “The Total Transformation”.

I’d hesitated before, because my son was only 3, then 4, then 5, now six.  I still was afraid that he was too young, but someone on the website said it worked for their six year old.

The package has arrived, and it is a workbook and a series of DVDs for a seven week program.  For the price of two visits to the shrink, I have a whole program, and for an additional $50 a month, I have live professional help from 9 AM to 10 PM on weekdays (Which I plan on using a lot)

I listened to the first “Quick help” DVD, and tried out one of the solutions on one of my older kids.  It sounded dumb, even coming out of my mouth, but my son blinked, looked at me for a minute, and then did exactly what I asked him to do.

It was a heck of a surprise!

Now, will it work on the problem child?  Only time will tell.  I’m not expecting a miracle, but I need to do something.  I need to get my family back, and I need to save my son.

If you have a problem child, you are not alone.  You may feel that way, but you are not.

We know this is going to be work.  I’m not expecting a miracle overnight change.  The next seven weeks are probably going to be the hardest weeks of our lives, but if we can get our family back… If we can stop walking on eggshells… if we can stop worrying about our children hurting each other, or breaking things, or even hurting US… wow… taking any one of those things out of our lives would be a step in the right direction.

I’m going to let you know how this works for me, because I KNOW there are others out there in situations like this.  And if a stupid set of DVDs can give you your life back, then DERNIT I want to let you know about it.

I will fill you in as we go along.

Take a deep breath, and pray for us.  We’re gonna need it.

Note:  Other than buying this product, I am in no way connected to the Total Transformation, so if it stinks, I will be a fair judge.  My husband and I have agreed to follow it exactly, and not take any shortcuts.  Trust me… we can’t afford to.  We need this to work.

Jennifer___Eaton