So…This is Neutral…Da Da Da Da…So This is Neutral

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told I “have a temper,” that I’ve been “easy to agitate” my whole life. And I know that. I remember blowing up, here and there, in a way that made people stare and talk. When people have asked about my writing about depression, I answer, “I had some depression issues in the past.” I never answered truthfully. I never said those issues were a background to any day, that it was like a switch was turned and my life was without joy, some days. These lines I’m painting cannot begin to encompass the volleyball that were my moods for most of my life, but I have heard them used to describe me, and I agree with them, to an extent. But, in public, I learned to look normal, to act as though my skin was not on fire with energy. Sure, I talked too fast, worked too fervently, spoke too harshly, at times, but mostly people just thought me quirky, I imagine.

But I never really knew how to describe myself, my needs, my personality. Consistently agitated would be a very large understatement. I’ve had roommates call me obsessive, and that hits the nail on the head. No matter what I’m doing: an assignment, a play, cleaning, writing, researching, I DO it. 100% until I am done. Anything that broke up my time doing that task was met with a volley of frustration, even rage.

I’m empathetic, so empathetic that when other people emote, I emote. Tears stream down my face over injustices they cannot contain. I try to contain them and they spill out of me. When another person is having a bad day and sits down with me to talk about it, I soak their bad day up like a sponge and regurgitate it.

But I think the best way I used to describe myself was the description I told the nurse, who was figuring out how to treat my Bipolar spectrum mood disorder. I told her this: “It’s like a mass of energy sits just under my skin, buzzing around, and any little trigger will explode that energy. If it explodes up, I am a raging storm, angry and dangerous. If it implodes, I am a suicidal mass of self-loathing.” She then asked, “And what about your neutral moments?” I cried. I couldn’t  remember what it was like to have those. I answered her the best I could, “I think that I’m usually just living in between the moments of up and down, afraid of which way I’ll go and trying not to go either way.” I know, just five years ago, I had more frequent spouts of neutrality, but I’ve been trying to manage that energy that never goes away, anymore, for at least a half decade.

So, she recommended medication. Something that has always frightened me. I’ve seen medication handled badly. I’ve seen the results of terrible side effects. Lives almost lost to incorrect dosage. I’ve heard horror stories and I did not want to become one. But I wanted to live, truly live. Not worry about whether I could manage to take my child to ballet class and get work done in the same day. That seemed ridiculous to me, that taking my child to a class she enjoyed might be as much as I could handle in a day. I didn’t just want to manage anymore, and I’d let fear be my master long enough. So I buckled and started on a medication regimen three weeks ago.

The first week was not great. The dose was not high enough and it would wear off midday. I would go from feeling normal–shopping, taking the kids for a walk, cooking dinner–to sobbing and considering a dash into heavy traffic. I think the swings were so extreme not because the medicine worsened them, but because the medication was allowing me a window of neutrality before I was slammed with my normal state of being, which is chemically abnormal. So I couldn’t prepare for how terrible the energy was, how strong and overwhelming it felt. I didn’t wake up with it and take deep breaths, pray and talk myself into dealing. It just hit, all of a sudden. It overwhelmed me. For two hours, I just covered my head and cried or counted the time, shaking, until my husband would get home so I could break down by myself.

And then the dosage was increased, to combat that window. So, now, you might wonder, what is life like? Are you a zombie? Uncreative? Slogging along to the drum of a nurse practitioner. No. I am neutral, which, for a woman who never had euphoric mania, and generally had terrifying aggression, is a truly wondrous place. I’m not going to lie. It’s a little sleepy, even a little nauseous sometimes, but…I can play that game. I can change my schedule to writing in the morning, so I’m not losing my window of productivity. I’m going to have to be a morning person, and that’s okay because I actually feel capable of change.

And I don’t just manage every hour. I feel like, instead, I’m living every hour of the day. I am writing, working and being with my children, and when something goes wrong, doesn’t get finished, falls apart, I DON’T. I stay together, and I figure it out. And isn’t that the most amazing thing?! For years I’ve been fighting neutrality because I was afraid of what medication would do to me. Can I tell you, honestly, it’s given me my life back? Because it has. And I’m making this life thing work. It’s not that I don’t feel. Because I’m crying right now, so happy to feel excitement and appreciation for life. It’s that I feel within a range that does not undo me. When you have a mood disorder, you are used to over-feeling. I’d grown so used to it that I didn’t know how hard I was working. The little window of instability that my first dose offered me made me understand just how much energy I had to put into maintaining my moods. It left so little room for the rest of my life.

So, am I healed? Completely better? No. I still have to workout. I still have to manage my caffeine intake and schedule my life to free myself of little stresses that can trigger episodes. The meds make me insatiably hungry, so there is that. But it all feels so…within my reach. I feel like Cinderella, dancing at a ball and open to endless possibilities, not because a prince saved me, not because my medication saved me, but because I made the choice to save myself by taking an action that was frightening. I was afraid my medicine would change me. And it did. But I’m not afraid of change anymore. It turns out that not all change is bad. I know that when you’re on the Bipolar spectrum, change is hard, but this change has become my friend. And I don’t plan on going back.

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You Don’t Look Sick and Other Microaggressions

This is wonderfully done.

The Real Sarah C.

Having a mental illness means fighting a war on all fronts. I wake up in the morning to fight the same hellacious demons that prevented me from sleeping the night before. And while those dogs follow along snapping at my heels, I navigate a world that is filthy with social landmines: impossible-to-detect people and situations that will inevitably blow up in my face. Some of the worst of these hidden bombshells are the well-meaning, ignorant, or otherwise unaware kind. Harvard psychologist Chester M. Pierce initially coined the term “microaggressions” to connote the insults and dismissals that non-black-Americans hurl at people of color. Later, the term came to apply to all statements of ignorance made by the majority about a minority. For those of us living with a mental illness, these statements belie an underlying dismissal by those who are neurotypical on the bases of invalidation, assumption of inferiority, fear of…

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Momma’s Got a Mood Disorder

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Momma’s got a mood disorder, but she’s managing. In between the pills lies an anger so frightening she shuts herself away sometimes. It’s not about you. You can’t know because you’re still golden. You don’t know why those little white pieces of not-candy that make me sleepy, a little too early, are a very good thing. They keep my hands from shaking and my heart from breaking over yelling, screaming instead of responding and listening. Momma’s got a mood disorder, but she’s managing. Managing not to clean the whole house in a two hour daze, a craze of putting toys away and seething about legos under toes. Letting it be, even if it bothers me and allowing for a bit of chaos.

Momma’s got a mood disorder, and it has no good name. It’s just between Bipolar 1 and severely depressed, it’s intangible madness I think I can tame. But…mommy can’t, without help, and she has to be okay with that, like you’re okay with that. Momma’s got a mood disorder, but she’s managing to write her books, tell her tales, spin a verse, make some sales, ride a bike, teach some classes, run like hell, clean the messes, get the mail, love you dearly, read you books, teach you safety, help you cook, love you deeply, brush your hair, be the world that you orbit, and have time to cuddle in our favorite chair. So, if anyone ever tells you that “I’d love to do this, but I can’t” just know that we all have our choices, even those of us with a crazy slant. Momma’s got a mood disorder, but she’s kicking ass. Because she expects it of herself, and knows that you don’t give a day pass.

Clean All the Messes

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Lately, I’ve felt like my life is just a series of cleaning up after other people. This feeling is helped by a few factors: having a new puppy, being a mother of preschoolers, being a woman, being bi-polar, and being a feminist blogger.
Firstly, it’s incumbent upon me to say that, when I am having a bit of a hard time sleeping, am having mood issues, am overly angry because chemicals, I clean. And I don’t mean “tidy up.” I clean the house like each spec of dust, each stray toy is the blight of my existence. I clean like the dirt is on the inside, but I’m taking it out on the linoleum.
Secondly, I’m a mother of very young children who can’t yet keep up with my chore requests. I have them help, but, eventually, the toys, the spills, the crumbs, the clothing wins. And my house looks like every toy, piece of clothing and spec of filth decided that the living room is the best place to hold their weekly, “How do we help drive Hannah over the edge” meeting.
So how should I make life more disgusting, I ask myself one day? How about a puppy. A cute, fuzzy, silly puppy? You might ask, “Aren’t two young children and two-part time jobs enough for a woman who’s half-nuts most of the time?” Yes. I don’t know why PUPPY screamed through my head as a good idea. I tend to cling to an idea and can’t shake it. Puppy was that idea for me. He IS cute. He IS fuzzy. He IS silly. And he eats everything, poops on everything, pees on everything and digs up my gardens. He’s the naughtiest creature alive, and that’s saying something from a mom with a 3 and 5 year-old.
But I decided that physical messes weren’t enough. Oh, no. I’m an over-the-top kind of gal, so I went big. How about I start blogging about taboo issues? Like mental illness, motherhood expectations, and gender inequality. Let me just tell you, physical messes are easier. They are pick-upable, tangible. The mess of trolls, assholes and sarcasm that comes at you when you make an online presence? That’s the truly grueling mess. It doesn’t come off with a sponge and cleaner. Thankfully, they have a “block” button for that.
So, I do what I often do when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I start coming up with poetry. Some verses for the mess cleaners of the world to get behind. So, if you feel like you’re always cleaning, this poem is for you:
“Clean All the Messes”
-H.M. Jones-
Consistently clipping, trimming and clamping
my body, my garden, a puppy’s all-night escapade
a pooper-scooper existence;
I’ll take a walk, brush it off
but the cleaner in me takes a bag, picks up cans
cusses like a sailor when sandals ooze
with dog shit hiding in the sand
of a beach that looks like a dumping ground
for glass, vehicle parts and tar-tainted trees.
After the outer mess is managed,
sit down with my cup of tea and breathe,
relax in front of the Asus screen,
but I got five different comments,
making me want to scream,
about the shit job I’m doing parenting,
or the length of my hair, legs, nose;
“You wanna bang?”
“You want a friend?”
“You’re a crazy fuck who needs to turn her children in.”
It gets me seething, thinking,
if all functioning adults picked up after themselves,
the world would sparkle.
In paradise, there will be no need for bleach,
butt wipes,
pooper-scoopers
or the block button

Is Writing Magical Realism/Fantasy the Easy Way Out?

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It will soon become apparent to readers that my answer to the above post is a firm and annoyed, “No.” Since I first picked up The House of The Spirits in college, magical realism has been a first love of mine. The ways in which important and potent topics are merged with the fantastic creates a place where the mind can think and believe anything. And that’s the beauty of magical realism; it doesn’t limit the reader to the logical. It says, “Not everything that happens in life is explained away by logic, and those slightly uncomfortable places are where we want to live.”

Magical realism authors think of the world in a very spiritual way, not “religious,” just spiritual. Authors who write magical realism make people a little uncomfortable because the realities of their books are easy to imagine, but the unreality of their books start to live alongside the realities in a way that makes them seem, well, believable. Uncanny is one of the best ways I can describe magical realism books. Because they often have a smattering of paranormal, spiritual, or just eerie elements that compliment the easy to believe setting, characters and situations, it gives readers a feeling of unease, maybe even a bit of horror without the main objective of horrifying.

Indeed, the main objective of most magical realism books that shake my being is not to horrify but to expand reader’s minds. For instance, in A Great and Terrible Beauty, Bray expands the limited and stiff world of the protagonists in order to create a space where women can be powerful, even dangerous. Set in a time where young women were sexual property, the other world of the book gave them a place to speak, to live, to run and to become anything: even if that anything turned out to be uncomfortably wild, even mad.

In The Golem and the Jinni, the fantastic elements are the protagonists themselves and the ways in which the other characters react to their otherworldliness creates unease and suspense on the part of readers. What would it be like to twist your fate with beings that were beyond the laws of religion and science? How does one morally engage on that level? This book questions easy logic and proposes complexity.

I could keep describing the beauty and wonder of magical realism, but most of you understand it, if you’re reading it. Why I wrote this particular blog is because I’ve been asked before why I made my debut novel about PPD a magical realism/dark fantasy rather than a memoir.

Honestly, the book very much mirrors my own experience with postpartum depression, so I think people were asking the question, in part, to see why I didn’t just come out with it. Take possession of my story. Well, for me, writing experience as magical realism was owning it.

To be depressed, to feel capable of atrocious things against a helpless being was not just uncanny, it was horrifying. I wanted people who never experience postpartum depression to understand just how unsettling a world it is, how dark and terrifying a physical representation would be. And that’s what magical realism does: It takes the unexplainable and explains it, gives it a body, a setting, a voice. That, to me, was power. I could give depression a face. My characters could physically fight their depression in a way that I was unable to do. Abigail could get out of depression. And if she could, in that book, well, so could I.

So, to those who feel that magical realism is less honest than non-fiction, please reconsider. Magical realism just gives room for the aspects of life that are, well, magical, spiritual and outside of our understanding. Just because we cannot see something, after all, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

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H.M. Jones is the B.R.A.G Medallion author of Monochrome, re-released by Gravity, an imprint of Booktrope. She is also responsible for the Attempting to Define poetry quartet and has contributed a short story to Master’s of Time: A Sci-Fi  and Fantasy Time Travel Anthology, “The Light Storm of 2015.” A bestseller only in her mind, Jones pays the electric bill by teaching English and research courses at Northwest Indian College. Jones is also the moderator for Elite Indie Reads, a review website for Indie and Self published books. Besides buying enough second-hand books to fill a library, Jones loves to spend time helping her preschoolers grow into thinking, feeling citizens of this world, run, weave, pull with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family and attempt to deserve her handsome husband, who is helping pay the other bills until his wife becomes the next big thing.
H.M. can be found on her Website and on Twitter

BlogTalk Radio, Featuring H.M. Jones and Monochrome

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Hello, blog world. If you’ve read my blog, you know that speaking to parenthood, postpartum depression, depression, mood disorders and writing is my passion. Well, if you have questions for me, want to know more about why I write about stigma through fantasy, are interested in asking a question about Monochrome, my newly released dark fantasy about depression, loss, motherhood and the importance of memories, click the above photo to be taken to the link for my BlogTalk feature. You will see a number you can call on August 5th, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time U.S. I’d love to answer your questions.

Facebook Launch Party and Reading for Monochrome, H.M. Jones

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The day is finally here! I hope you will join me, my launch team, my publishing team and other wonderful people at my Facebook launch party for Monochrome today. Just click the embeded link/picture below to join in on the fun, 8-11 p.m. Eastern Time, US.

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Below, I’ve added a trailer, a sample reading and a synopsis. Please enjoy and come celebrate my dark fantasy/magical realism book about a life’s worth of memories, a mother fighting against her own darkness through a world representative of the depressed mind.

Synopsis of Monochrome, H.M. Jones:

What would you do to save your most precious memories?

That’s the question that Abigail Bennet, a new mother, must answer in this dark fantasy.

The cries of her new baby throw Abigail into rage and desperation. Frightened by foreign anger and overwhelming depression, the first-time mother decides to end her life to spare the life of her only child. But before she acts on her dark intuition, she is overcome by a panic attack and blacks out.

When she awakes, everything is blue: the trees, the grass, the rocks and still, scentless sky above her. Everything except the face of the man who stands over her. He is Ishmael Dubois and claims to be her Guide through the dangerous world of Monochrome, a physical manifestation of the depressed mind. But in a place where good memories are currency, nightmares walk, and hopeless people are hired to bring down those who still have the will to live, Abigail starts to wonder if she’ll ever make it back to her family. Despite her growing feelings for her handsome, mysterious Guide, Abigail must fight for the life she once wished to take or fade into the blue.