A Hole Where Her Soul Should Be

As soon as I met Narinda I could see she was missing something. She was friendly, funny obviously very smart; but there was a hardness to her, a lack of concern for anyone. Art college was a fluffy, hysterical place and we all wailed our way from one drama to another while Narinda stayed back, calm and quietly scathing.

We lived three doors down from each other in halls, and spent polite time together, but she wasn’t someone I could go to with howls of indignation that my latest project had only got 54%, even though I’d poured my soul into it, or tell her the sexy dream I’d had about Brennan from our pottery class. She made me feel childish and emotionally messy; and to be fair I was. Anyway, I didn’t know what set Narinda apart until one drunken night when the truth spilled out of her. I say ‘spilled’, it was more of a controlled release. We were talking about our families. I said how mine was like a zoo: you know, everybody trapped and pacing. Narinda replied,

“My upbringing was like a psychological experiment. In fact, I think that’s what it was. My parents never hugged me or gave me praise. They didn’t like playing with me, never took my photograph even. I thought that was just how they were, and then my sister was born. You should have seen how they were with her: constant kisses and affection. Little gifts that they’d buy her, they’d tie ribbons in her hair. And we had photo albums filled with pictures of her stupid smiling face.”

“Why?” I asked, aghast.

“I said earlier, it was an experiment. It took me a while to work it out, but it’s how they deal with everything. They experiment with food, trying out new recipes and putting odd ingredients together; they buy from different shops and compare prices and quality, writing it all down a notebook. They experiment with TV programs and technology. Once my dad wired a Furby up to the vacuum cleaner. They want to play with things, see how they turn out. My dad wanted to be a chemist, but he couldn’t pass the exams.” She shrugged as if she didn’t care, her voice even and with the slight sneer that accompanied all her words.

We never talked about it properly again. I think with all the other emotions flying around our classes, her measured sadness wasn’t loud enough to be heard. And I didn’t forget what she’d said, but I didn’t think about it either.

The night Narinda vanished, it took until midnight to notice. From there the situation quickly escalated. There was the neatly written note explaining that she’d decided art college wasn’t for her, the measured request for no one to come looking for her. Within a few hours her parents had arrived from Stockport: two nervous, wide-eyed people who held on to each other and fretted. I’m not sure how I ended up looking after Narinda’s father, feeding him tea and awkward sympathy. There just isn’t much to do when someone goes missing, mostly you sit and wait. So he sat on my scabby armchair that I’d found in the street, huddled over a chipped mug and unable to stop talking. I think guilt had caused his mouth to spring a leak.

“We tried to be good parents, we really did. I expect she told you we didn’t care, but we cared, we tried,” he paused, looked at me pleadingly, then shook his head and looked at the floor. He let the words spill again,  “We knew we weren’t giving her what she wanted, but we didn’t know how. We never understood her. She acted as if she didn’t want to be our daughter, right from a baby she was bored with us. It was as if we couldn’t connect. She wouldn’t hug us, didn’t want dolls. I remember I tried to tie a ribbon in her hair once, she pulled it out and threw it in a puddle and stamped on it. She found everything we did an irritation. In her high chair she’d sit and scowl at us, as if we were wasting her time. I thought it was us, but then her sister came along, and well, she was a delight, we could make her happy. But Narinda, it was as if she had something missing. You know?” He looked up at me, his face a cacophony of guilt, sadness, bewilderment and loss. I nodded, because I did.

Blogger recognition Award

I’ve been nominated for an award by The Comic Vault, who writes mostly about comic universes and the stories within them. Thank you Comic Vault!

blogger-award

Here are the award rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2. Write a post to show your award.
3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

I’m not going to do the select-other-bloggers part of this award, because it’s quite a big ask and I’ve done it a few times recently. However, I like to promote, so if anyone reading is in the mood to explore some new blogs, try these, they’re great:

  • David Swan – writes fiction, about his life and publishing. I just bought and read his novel Once When We Were Human and it was very funny, weird and profound.
  • Samantha Henthorn – this is a great story she wrote. She mostly writes entertaining tales about her life.
  • Jenn Moss – she writes whole books online! Fun and exciting fantasy stories, something to get your teeth into.

If they, or anyone else fancies answering the questions with me, then that would be lovely…

Give a brief story how your blog started

Well. It was a dark and stormy night, the sound of traffic swishing through the rain was broken only by the crash and clatter of thunder. I stood soggy and waiting for a bus, feeling the water creep higher and higher up my socks. I didn’t notice a figure step up beside me, he didn’t even seem to step, arrived with more of a shimmer. He leaned over and whispered in my ear,

“We are in the end days, the time is coming and you must be ready.”

“What?” I said, soggily.

“Start a blog,” he said, “keep it innocuous, write odd little stories and make general posts about mental health. Nothing too popular, keep it small.”

“Why?” I asked, feeling a bit peeved. It sounded like a daft thing to do.

“When the time comes, we’ll make ourselves known and all will become clear. Until then, keep the blog.”

And then he vanished. Well, not literally vanished, I could see him splashing through the puddles on the way to his car. I shouted after him,

“Oi! Gi’s a lift!” but he was gone.

So I started this blog. And I’m still waiting.

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers

I’m not adept at blogging, but these are simple things people often don’t do.

  1. Always give your posts a title, it makes them easier to click on.
  2. Make sure you have your website listed on your Gravitar profile, otherwise if people see a comment you’ve written and are curious to know about you, they can’t go to your blog.

 

 

 

Goodreads

This is a general post about Goodreads, plus a small plug and a few questions for all you smart internet-sters out there.

What is Goodreads?

I suspect most of you already know what this website is, I’m always last to be a newbie, but in case you don’t know:

Goodreads is a massive hub for both writers and readers. It has many forums, discussing fiction and the ideas in factual books, as well as authors sharing information about the art of writing and how to self publish. It also allows authors to put up their books and information about themselves, so that readers can find them.

I am now on there!

My just-published book Riddled with Senses is now up, right here, in fact.

And now the questions…

  • So do you use Goodreads?
  • If so is it for learning about new books to read? Or promoting your own writing? (or both?)
  • Are there any good books you have found through it?
  • Do you write on the forums?
  • Which groups have you found interesting/useful?

And, if you’re interested in connecting up with other bloggers on here, then please say your username – I’m on there as Petra Jacob, and currently friendless, so if anyone wants to add me, that would be great.

 

How to Fight Depression: Final Method

Repeated small note: this is one of three methods that I found worked for me last week, but they aren’t replacement for medication, therapy or living healthily, they are only in addition to those things. They can’t cure depression, but notice the warning signs early enough and they may help to stop it taking hold. There are plenty of excellent blogs and medical sites talking about depression and the various ways to fight it, but I haven’t seen these three methods (methods one and two in previous blogs) anywhere else, so I’m writing them down in the hope they will be of use to someone. If they don’t work for you, please try not to get frustrated, we are all different, and depression is a complex illness. 

When the doldrums start to take hold, try:

Doing something you don’t want to do

This sounds counter-intuitive. When I start getting depressed, all I want to do is hide in comforting, often repetitive, behaviour. I want to watch TV programs I’ve seen a thousand times before; or eat cake, then biscuits, then more cake; or browse the same websites over and over. However, instead of making me happy, ultimately this behaviour makes me feel useless and that I’ve wasted time; which leads to me feeling even more disgusted with myself.

As I explained in previous blogs, the things you want to do when depressed tend to be the very things that will lead to more depression. It’s as if the depression gremlin himself is taking control of your behaviour to perpetuate your state of misery. In order to reduce the power of depression you have to ignore what the gremlin is telling you, and do the opposite. In this case that means stop seeking out comforting, lazy behaviour and do something useful that you don’t like doing.

The thing you choose to do needs to fulfil certain criteria:

  • Not too difficult or stressful, something you can definitely do, even when feel rough
  • Something that needs doing and that you tend to avoid doing, so that you can feel smug afterwards
  • Preferably something physically active
  • If not physically active, then something that takes all your concentration

The best things I have found are to clean the flat, sort out bills, or have a tidy up/clear out. Or all of those.

Now the depression will try and convince you that it isn’t fair you should have to do something crappy when you’re feeling bad, but that’s because it wants to survive. And if you’re feeling crap anyway, then you might as well make the most of it.

At the end of the activity you may still feel sad, but at least you won’t have an additional reason to be angry with yourself. And your home will be clean.

A final round-up of the information in these three blogs:

The best time to fight depression is before it has really taken hold. It’s not easy to work out when this is happening, so try to pay attention to when your thinking starts to get negative, learn what kind of thoughts appear when you start getting low.

When are you are still in those early stages, the following methods may help:

  1. Paying attention to pleasant sensations/happenings in order to combat negative focus. Method one here.
  2. Being nice to people, so that they are nicer in return and that makes you feel more positive and happy. Method written about here.
  3. Do something that you tend to put off, so that you can feel smug afterwards.

 

I hope that at least one of these methods is helpful for you. If you’re suffering with depression, please remember you don’t have to go through it alone.

 

 

 

 

Fighting Depression: Method Two

Small note: this is one of three methods that I found worked for me last week, but they aren’t replacement for medication, therapy or living healthily, they are only in addition to those things.. They can’t cure depression, but notice the warning signs early enough and they may help stop it taking hold. There are plenty of excellent blogs and medical sites talking about depression and the various ways to fight it, but I haven’t seen these three methods (method one in yesterday’s blog, method three on Friday) anywhere else, so I’m writing them down in the hope they will be of use to someone. If they don’t work for you, please try not to get frustrated, we are all different, and depression is a complex illness. 

Be nice to everyone.

On the whole I think I’m a fairly cheerful and friendly person, however, when that depression gremlin starts to tighten his grip on my soul, I become negative, whingy and I don’t smile. This is the depression keeping itself going, because by being unpleasant I cause people to be unpleasant back and then the gremlin convinces me that everyone is being horrible because they actually hate me, so I become even more unhappy and unpleasant, and the misery continues. Usually I tell myself at the time, that I physically can’t smile and be friendly, and there is definitely a level of depression when this is the case, but there are many points before that when it is difficult to be nice to people, but still possible. And very much worth it.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who acts this way, I’ve noticed many other people get tetchy and snappy when depressed, so that everyone around them also becomes tetchy and snappy; it’s self perpetuating. In order to stop this cycle, the best method is to be nice. Even to people you don’t like; especially to people you don’t like. This starts a new cycle, you’re nicer to people, so people are nicer to you, so you feel happier, so you feel more able to be nice.

Now if you are struggling, the depression gremlin  is probably whispering to you that you shouldn’t have to be nice to people if they can’t be bothered to be nice to you; that you haven’t even the energy to be nice anyway; that you’re too hopeless to even try. However, he’s saying all that because he doesn’t want to create a situation that is likely to make you happy. Remember why you’re doing this: not for anyone else’s benefit, but for your own.

Note!: If there’s a danger that people might take advantage of your niceness, remember being nice doesn’t have to mean you do whatever anyone wants. You can still say no, just do it gently.

 

 

 

Update! Update!

riddle-cover
I wrote this!

So I just got an email telling me that my book is now on Amazon, which is all kinds of ridiculous and exciting.

Here’s the page Amazon link

And here’s an extract, in case you’re in the mood to be persuaded (or dissuaded, whatever takes your fancy).

I try to exist only as an unreal being striding with large steps across the ocean. In the small, grey, scurrying world I live a little less each day, shrink my shadow so the pedestrians can’t step on it, breathe a little less of the stagnant air. I have a method, it has taken many years to perfect.

“Don’t become another dull fart,” my grandmother used to hiss, “the world has too many dull farts, just look at your parents! They’re like talking wallpaper. You have to be different, you have to stay shiny, not get weighed down and dusty, they’ll never find you if you’re weighed down and dusty.”

“Who?” I would squeak.

“And don’t behave. Don’t get too attached, don’t become part of the parade,” she said through blue smoke curling around brown smoke, her eyes darting to the door to check Bloater wasn’t listening in, “the routines, the rules, it’s all dust. You have to keep shaking it off or you’ll end up looking just like the rest of them. You have to stay shiny.”

 

Three Little Things to Fight Depression

For all my posts about mental illness and brain injury, I haven’t talked about depression, because up until now I didn’t have any useful coping methods to pass on. However, the last few days I’ve felt the depression gremlin creeping up on me, but instead of it dragging me into the murky depths as usual, I figured out a couple of ways to ward it off that actually seemed to work. So in hope that these methods might help someone else (although very aware they might not), here goes…

Spotting the Warning Signs

It’s important to recognise the early signs that depression is curling its fingers around your thoughts. Once the depression has you fully in its grip, most methods of escape are useless (including the following ideas). For me, the warning signs are: believing that nobody likes me, ruminating on past unfairness that doesn’t matter anymore, and thinking of myself in a negative way. When I notice most of my underlying thoughts are like this, bubbling under the surface, then I know I’m in trouble. The sooner I spot the signs, the more able I am to stop a full attack.

So if you notice the first hint of the blues, this might be something to try to stop them taking hold…

The First of the Three Little Things

Focus on small but lovely sensations/events.

This sounds twee I know, and seeing it written down is already irritating me, but when I tried it it simply worked.

Method

Every time you find negative thoughts crowding your head, stop and take a moment to pay attention to something pleasant. For example focus on how your feet are warm, or think about a friendly text message you got earlier, or just remind yourself that something nasty isn’t happening: eg I’m really happy I don’t have to go to the dentist today. Properly focus on that good thing, let it be all you think about for a few seconds.

If you are anything like me, you’ll now be thinking: but how can I focus on my warm feet when my hands are cold? Or Maybe I don’t have to go to the dentist, but I do have to go to work!  The thing is, there are always going to be bad things happening, I’m not asking you to pretend that there aren’t, I’m just asking you to try ignoring them for a few seconds and focus on something good. Don’t just do this once, if you find it helps, do it repeatedly.

And with the negative response, I don’t believe it’s the clear and rational thought that it seems to be, but the depression messing with your perspective. Because the depression gremlin is very persuasive and he wants to survive, he makes sure that you perpetuate behaviour that will make you miserable. If you try and do anything that might quash the depression, then he needs to convince you you’re wrong. So, ignore the nasty voice telling you to dwell on shitty things and, for a few moments, concentrate on the delightful; relish your senses, or a memory, or just anything nice. Give your mood a few moments of relief.

I reckon this method works because a big part of depression involves the build up of whispered nasty thoughts. You might not even notice these thoughts until they have taken you over, but they are there: telling you you are crap, that your life is awful, that everything is going wrong, that you can’t cope. It’s very difficult to just stop thinking these thoughts because they are so insidious and constant, but it is possible to drown them out with positive repetitive thoughts.

Next method on Wednesday…

Let me know if any of you find this helpful. I’m always very aware with depression that any advice on overcoming it can seem like trivialisation of a very serious and complex illness. I’ve been battling the gremlin for most of my life, and I know that there are no simple, cure-all solutions, but I’ve managed to figure out a few methods that seem to help me,  and I really hope they might benefit someone else too.

 

Footsteps

I got inspired by another mindlovemiserysmenagerie prompt.

The image and first line given were:

Footsteps echoed eerily in the fog.

fog

And here’s my flash:

Footsteps echoed eerily in the fog, and she kept an exact pace so that her soft padding through the wood could not be heard. For three nights now she had followed the steps, but never caught up with the spectre that made them. She could see the footprints as they pressed into the ground and vanished, she could see the breath of the ghost as it mingled with the mist like curls of smoke, but she never saw its face. Footsteps echoed eerily in the fog, and she followed, tonight would be the night she reached out and touched death. She couldn’t wait.

A Novel Extract: Riddled with Senses

This is a little bit from my novel which is currently weaving its way through the printers. It’s written mostly from the point of view of a Hazel, a bitter seventeen year old, here writing in her diary right before her life gets thrown upside-down. It’s a little different to how I write now, more intense, more cynical, more lyrical I think.

Finally we tumbled wearily into Ditchley Park where we are slouching the morning with relief, isolated in nature where pedestrians daren’t tread. Outside the fence we can see them hurry and fluster from one dull detail to the next, huffing and rasping, out of focus at the edges of our movie.

We stretch out the hours sinking into the grass. Cant makes a small crop circle in the grass, walking his fingers in a spiral, pretending to be a little alien impressing the ants. We talk in rhymes, feel out of time, easy, tricking the light and dancing the dust, sleazy, slightly stoned and wheezy.

“This is how life should be,” declares Cant and I know he’s right, of course it should, no shouting, no hither and thither, no distress. We wonder why our tragic species ever strayed from the park, why leave the place we truly belong in order to create a world of confusion? Is that really evolution? Why do we need forms, bar codes and barriers? Why spend all that time building things only to smash them up to make space for new things? Why bitch and bicker? Why catch trains or buy stamps or wear stilettos?

“If people just thought to ask us, we could sort all this mess out,” says Cant thoughtfully chewing on a daisy, “but people never think.”

“If someone set up cameras and a news network in the park, then we could share our newfound understanding with the world,” I add.

We fill in the gaps to our New Theory of Where Man Went Wrong, plotting his tragic journey from park to street; his simple beginnings surrounded by grass, with easy access to the public toilets and the mobile cafe selling hot drinks and dogs to the complexities of corners and escalators; from happy, upright species to hunched, wary carcasses.

“The biggest nail in the coffin was when we started building banks,” declares Cant.

We’re thinking of selling our thesis to a science graduate, they’re all fucked on drugs anyway, they’d never realise it was bollocks and we could make a fortune.

When lunch comes around we walk back to school slowly and sadly, vowing one day to return to the park and bring others, to show them the way life should be. Back in the melting and solidifying streets, we pick up our pace, our thoughts quickening, becoming brittle, our spines in a stoop, our brows in a furrow. We become townies once again.

 

 

Almost More Mystery Than You Can Handle

Image result for an egg

Siddiebowtie is running a competition way more exciting than all those ‘nominate a hundred blogs and get them all to write an essay about what they did on their holidays’ competitions.

This competition has unknown rules!

– you have to make up your own and whoever gets it right wins.

It has unknown prizes!

possible prizes include a wooden testicle, an egg and an evil book.

You may never know if you’ve actually won it or not…

Although you might win a crafty object of delight!

And the post is really funny in the kind of delightful and ridiculous way that can only brighten your day.

Now I appreciate you’re busy, you have commitments, you just remembered you have to feed the goldfish and cut your toenails and put the Roomba out for the night. However, the significance of those things pale into comparison with this competition.

So, time to play

Siddiebowtie’s Mysterious Competition

I mean seriously, when was the last time you had some proper mystery in your life? Now’s the time folks, now’s the time…