Why I’ve Fallen in Love with 3 a.m.

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It’s my extreme honor to have Jayme Beddingfield as a guest blogger today. Jayme is an author, podcaster and extraordinary geek. Please enjoy this wonderful guest blog from her. 

Sleep has never been something that came easily to me. The reasons why are countless and varied, but regardless, being the only one stirring in my neighborhood in the middle of the night is not only familiar to me, but it’s become part of who I am.

I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I am obsessed with my work. The desire to succeed overpowers most other needs and desires I have–but, I’m also terrified of it. Between all that I am trying to achieve within my career and remaining an intricate and active member of my family, I often feel like nothing I do is enough. Good enough, fast enough, unique enough, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of inadequacy rolls around in my stomach constantly.

In part, I consider my anti-hero self-perceptive part of my creative process. Or, maybe my habits of how I talk to myself aren’t the best. All the reasons above probably play a big a role into why I haven’t slept through the night in months. I don’t know what dreamless sleep is like. At first, when the wave of interrupted sleep started up again I panicked, it had been a good stretch of decent sleep, and I was plenty stressed out at it was the idea of not having regular sleep scared me.

“I have to be on my A-game,” I said to myself as I laid awake in bed staring at the ceiling I wasn’t able to see what  knew was there. The first week was challenging. I fought the idea of not being able to get through the night without waking up. I was getting to sleep fine, but I wasn’t  staying asleep. A dream would wake me, causing me to open my eyes and be fully alert of all of my surroundings and the dozens of to-dos awaiting me in the morning, the following week, a year from now. Every dream plays out differently, but the theme is always the same. Embarrassment. Failure. An unfixable mistake.

Anxiety started to really set in as this trend continued. Then I started having trouble falling asleep, shutting my mind off, not worrying, not planning, just being.

One night, after finally fighting myself to sleep, I was woken up by a dream. It started out by me getting locked out of my house which was remarkably similar to Jess’s apartment on The New Girl. Right before I woke up I was floating on a boat after losing my computer. That time, I got out of bed went into my backyard and looked up at the stars—there was only a few that I could make out, but in that moment that was enough. I didn’t lay in bed thinking about how much I was screwing myself for the next day. When I went back in my house, I grabbed my notebook, my book light, and a pen and started writing. At first, it was nothing but versions of insanely detailed to-dos, but gradually it transformed into fluid words and read back remarkably resembling a story. I woke up hours later with my notebook squished into my arm feeling well rested and surprised it was morning.

The following night I went to bed, brought two different notebooks with me, I fell asleep writing and woke up feeling like a person who accepted themselves a little more than the day before.

During busier times in the day, I find my mind wondering what my night will be like, not with concern but with anticipation. As the days continue to fill up, and the noise of the world buzzes loudly, I find solace in my pockets of quiet. There is no balancing act when the world around  me is asleep.

When the sky is dark, the streets are quiet, my house is also silent. The warmth and love and craziness that fills the space between the overpriced walls fades into the hum of what is at the heart of all of it, and I write. I write without goals or lists. If I wake up, I take the thoughts and put them down.  The thing about words is that if you follow them, they take you somewhere—a similar thread to accepting ourselves. Is sleep important? Sure. Do I need sleep? Yeah. Do I keep regular hours? Certainly not. I realize that by leaning into my natural inclination even though it’s unconventional, I find a little bit more peace.

In those moments between the departure and arrival of the sun, I can lean into my mind’s need to do something and write, just for me, naively, like I used to.

About Jayme Beddingfield:

profilepicJaymeJayme Beddingfield is the host and producer of ‘Too Many Words’ a comedy interview podcast. She is also the creator of ‘Elliot Granger and The Clueless Brigade’ a weekly serial that follows Elliot Granger as she stumbles through grief and growing up. The series is featured as both a fictional podcast and written story that appears on The Scribbler. Jayme has been crafting stories since her third-grade assignment to write her own fairy tale. She prefers to work from the sofa with her dogs by her feet. Originally from Northern New Jersey, she now lives in Seattle, the city of her dreams. She lives with her husband, two children, and a slew of adopted pets. She is post-apocalyptic obsessed and also admits to being an audio enthusiast and recovering super villain

You Are What You Consume: Don’t Prey on Hate

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My best friend and I stand and chat with her friends in a bar/club that’s so vibrant, so packed to the gills, so explosive and bursting with life that there is nowhere to sit. So I stand while she sways. She and her friend dance in a much more rhythmic way than I’ll ever pull off. I watch them in admiration—their grace, their concentration, the way they look more alive with the movement. I just feel elbowy when I dance, and it seems that her friend’s boyfriend is rhythmically challenged, too. So, we—the bad dancers and awkward socializers—sit and talk only a little and smile at his boyfriend and my silly lady as they conduct a mini dance-off. We hang out until I feel like I’m ready to sleep standing. I leave Just Johns feeling light hearted, my ears ringing, my veins still pulsing to the music. Just Johns is great. I don’t get unwanted advances or judgmental stares. I get music, a night out and an atmosphere so loud I have an excuse to sit back and watch.

The week after is girl’s night, so we meet at Novak’s instead. In the main room, ladies take the stage and sing along to a myriad of songs, winking, belting and breaking hearts. A couple girls ask me to dance, but I don’t like to dance and I’m taken, so I politely decline. Only Elle can ask me to dance and get a yes. And it takes more than two drinks to get a dance out of me, even then. I’m not here to drink, as much as I’m here to unwind. So we go to the patio, where the vibes are quieter. I get my customary 7 and 7, we order food and we talk. About everything and nothing. We head down the street to another bar after we demolish our food. The drinks are more expensive, but the music is good and we are winding down, anyway. And I dance to The Killers with Elle because I’m past two drinks and because I love her.

For her 31st, Elle decides that we are classy, sophisticated drinkers so we hit up Absolutely Goosed Martini Bar and I get a drink that tastes like a fudge sundae. It’s a classy place, but that doesn’t keep me from licking my glass. Jay teases me about this, and I stick out my chocolatey tongue at him. I’ve never been a martini girl, but that night I am won over.

I’m more of a stay at home and drink tea kind of gal, but Elle invited me out of my shell, asked me to dance and even got me to do so. She knew, deep down, that I’m goofy, that I’m affectionate and even a little unpredictable. She saw that in me and sometimes teased it out by introducing me to her favorite hops. Those nights were hilarious and unforgettable.

But those clubs/bars were rare, things we did once in a while to goof off or unwind. Usually, we just went on walks, had coffee, visited the sculpture park, went shopping, hung out before class, went out to eat, or tried to be as graceful as possible to workout videos. We did things that friends do—some of it weird, some of it wild, some of it meaningful, some of it chill.

But still…we had many fun times in clubs and bars that were considered to be the most LGTBQ friendly in St. Louis. We hung out, danced, drank, and laughed. We grew our friendship and extended it to others. We did what many people unwinding after a week of work or school do. And we did it without fear because we were in a welcoming atmosphere, and because no one should have to be afraid doing something as simple as going out for drinks, dancing and chatting. And more than that, many people who go to these bars and clubs because they are some of the ONLY safe havens for them. People in other places might judge them, speak down to them, glare their way, maybe even harm them.

But people like the Orlando shooter want to make no place safe for the marginalized. Bigoted people live off of fear, suspicion and hate. They paint people as “other,” and they push their worry, anger and hate onto the cardboard cutouts they create. They use those cutouts as targets for words dripping with aversion. They become their fear, embody it, move past words and use the only thing ignorant people know how to use—violence. They attempt to solve problems their own fear creates by beating those problems down.

But they harm more than their imagined targets. Their fear is a plague to humanity.

The humans—the sons, daughters, friends, partners, lovers, sisters, brothers, parents—that walk into a club to dance or sing or shout or chat or even drink are simply trying to capture snapshots of wonder, the cohesive feeling of community. All humans are a myriad of moments, experiences, memories, loves, losses, education, beliefs, sorrows and joys. Every human is a precious collection of all these things and every human deserves a chance to express her or himself in a harmless few hours of revelry, in a place where they feel safe.

If you espouse and support the type of fear that fed the shooter, if you, too, fear a person because of her orientation/friends/partners/religion you are the problem. Your fear will create only one thing: hate. I surround myself with a very diverse set of friends, friends of many faiths, races, and orientations. I am not afraid of this bigger picture. When a life is informed by a different history than mine, it gives me a chance to see the world in a new light. The more I come to know people, the more I feel part of a larger humanity. A breathtaking sea of lovely individuals.

But I cannot say I’m unafraid. I am afraid of the gate keepers of fear. Afraid of the narrowness that breeds hate. And I abhor the feeling. Because I’ve never let myself be ruled by fear. I think of those times I spent hanging with my best friend in some of her favorite spots, and I want to cry. Because those who were shot were in the middle of having a good time, they were in a place that made them feel safe and welcomed, a rare feeling for people who fall out of the norm. And I’ve been in the crowd of a people let loose and feeling finally free and it was a dazzling display. A thing of beauty.

They were like us and are like us and we are them. How do you shut off that human connection long enough to hate? Why would you want to? Turn that connection on. Flip the judgement switch off and learn to empathize with others. Our existences are not the same, but they are all human and deserving of a gentle hand and a kind word. If you preach love, don’t spew hate. Your actions and words are important. What you create can be powerful, so make it beautiful.

You are what you consume, so don’t prey on fear.

My condolences to the family, friends, and partners of those who were victims of hate. My condolences are not enough. We need to do more than feel sorry when bad shit happens. We need to stop being part of the problem.

Misunderstanding

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I just got done recording an episode of Too Many Words with the wonderful Jayme B. Jayme and I get on really well, which is new to me. I don’t always get on  with women for an extended amount of time. We actually talked about this during the episode a little and I discussed this with one of my best friends (someone who has the same problem, and is still a steadfast wonderful friend).

To both of these women, I noted that my humor and my demeanor seems off putting to women specifically, and I’m not sure why. I’ve been getting tons of misunderstood encounters and interactions with other women over the last two years or so. This doesn’t happen with men, as much.

Sometimes men get the wrong idea, but it’s easy enough to be like, “Nope, I was just being nice. I’m not interested in that.” And most men are like, “Okay. Sorry. That’s cool.” Some aren’t, but most are. But why do women have a hard time with me?

I think part of it comes from what I want to call the Caroline Bingley syndrome. For those of you who understand this reference, I tip my geeky hat to you. What I’m referring to is the ways in which women are trained to compete for the attentions of men or other women against one another. A Caroline Bingley is a woman who sees every other woman as competition, someone to scorn to bring herself up. Even though this figure is over 200 years old, I think this still happens. Women are constantly bringing each other down, competing with each other to be the most eligible woman in the room. In-fighting is not going to make winners of us, ladies. Not only do I not want to compete with you, I want to raise you up. Successful women are good for womanhood generally. I am not a jealous person. I am not a covetous person. I don’t want what you have. I have what I have and I like what I have.

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But another thing I that scares other women away, I think, is that I’m weird. My favorite things to do include: discussing politics and important social topics, reading, making shit up and writing that shit down, gardening, tea drinking, dressing up, and talking to myself to get that poem or dialogue right. I’ve found that my hobbies do not fit the area or style of place in which I live. A lot of women my age don’t like the things I like because they are my age and people my age don’t act like they are old. I act older than I am. I always have. When I was a kid, I preferred speaking with adults and didn’t really like to play with other kids. I would, but it was not my first choice. So, I’m weird and act like I’m 20 yrs older than I am. That’s on me.

But what really bugs me is when I’m misunderstood. I am not a mean-spirited person. I like lifting others up, especially those who are often disenfranchised. So, yeah, women, I try to be extra nice to you. I know what it’s like to be shut out of a conversation, to be told what to wear and how to act, etc. Even if I’m not always interested in what other women my age are interested in, I am nice to them and try to lift them up. And I am often met with suspicion. Were you being mean or sarcastic when you said that thing to me? No, I actually do like your hair and think it makes you look like a punk rocker. You don’t want to look punk rock? Oh, sorry. I…I was trying to be nice. Truly. I don’t believe in bringing other people down by speaking badly of them. I like to listen to others and help if I can. So, while I’m sarcastic sometimes, I’m not mean.

Are we women not used to other women being nice? Are we supposed to still be falling into outdated “cat fight” stereotype? If so, I’m not participating. I’m weird. I’ll give you that. I’m not mean. I want people to feel happy about themselves. And even though I’m okay being a bit of a loner, I also kind of miss having a couple close female friends. Being in your 30s and making new female friends is hard when you’re bipolar and weird. And that’s fine. I don’t really need a horde of female friends and I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I had them. Mostly, I miss being understood by that one friend I can have coffee with whenever. I have been, lately, very misunderstood. And it’s a truly blah feeling.

Hypo Rage Craze: How Mania Feels

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Ah, those swings. I thought I had you steadied for a while. But you always come back, don’t you? Just about the time where everyone feels safe. Hannah’s been normal-ish lately. A bit of a diarrhea mouth, but that’s her.  Then, bam! Something’s off about Hannah again…

Last time I posted about the static of depression, the buzz, the way it clings to even bright sunny days and joyous occasions. It didn’t stay long. I pushed back: walked and ran when I felt like sleeping, cleaned the house even though it made me cry. But maybe I pushed too hard?

Now I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to, and I very much do. But I’ll just edit that story, submit to that press, take a long bath, count to 100, toss and turn, give up and stay awake on the couch, away from you. I don’t want to disturb you. But I know that I do. I often disturb you, and you worry about my being disturbing.

Depression is so quiet, so mumble and nod. Not this hypomania. Did you know that “hypomania” is defined as a “less severe” form of mania. Fuck you! If this isn’t severe, I don’t know what is. It’s pretty insensitive to underplay my mania, you asshole internet dictionary! Oh my…maybe that was an over-reaction. I can’t seem to help but over-react. And talk…

When I talk, I repeat myself so much and it all comes out so fast that I can’t think before it is gone, and I say the wrong thing, but maybe you didn’t catch it because you’re so dizzy in my words that keep coming and won’t let you be, and that’s not me; I’m a good listener, I swear, and if I could just shut up for a moment you could see that I also care about you.

Did you catch that? Because I’ve forgotten what I was saying. I’ll just repeat myself again, after I clean the house, mow the lawn, write four chapters, cook a huge meal, play with the kids, go on a jog…what was I doing now? I don’t know, but even after a ten-mile day I can’t seem to slow down.

And I’m so angry. A woman said something stupid to my child. Told my child, with her twenty-five cent sticky hand toy, if it slapped her she’d slap my little girl. In my mind, I saw myself grab her ignorant face and bash her head against the wall until it bled, satisfying crimson. Have you ever had a thought that contained that much rage? If not, you can’t understand how consuming and frightening it is.

I didn’t do that thing, but the words I said, the look in my eyes, frightened the woman, who took a step back and, with an apology, fled. I wasn’t sorry. I was just mad. Until my I saw my child react. She was scared, too. But not of the lady’s threat. Of me. She’s scared of me, and I’m scared of me and I’m so fucking angry.

And horny as hell. Did you realize that was the sick frosting on this jacked up cake? It is. A ball of horny energy mixed with rage.  I am aware. Thank God for that. I know why I feel the way I do and I can usually just run until horny can’t catch me cuz my body doesn’t work. But I didn’t always know where this urge came from, why it was impossible to fill, and I was ashamed. I AM ashamed, even though I can’t help it. I simply work around it. Pray it will go away, stop plaguing my every day.

I know I will dip back down. I will no longer be able to write all night and run all day, and I’ll feel so lazy and blissfully normal. And my words will stop running down my chin, so much drool. I will be able to put words together with thoughtful pause, and they won’t be full of anger or innuendo.

Maybe I control it enough that it’s just amusing to you.

But me? I’m paranoid. That everyone can see the crazy leaking out of my potty mouth. That they are all silently judging me, my parenting, my teaching, my insane. And maybe they are. And maybe who cares?

I do. I am sorry for releasing so much anger when my children might have been able to see me react intelligently, with composure. Do they even know what that looks like in a mother? I’m sorry for not thinking and just speaking and not being able to stop and play that game of Monopoly because if I stop moving I’ll be angry.

But know, my babies, that I don’t think it’s okay to always jump to anger, to scare and bully people who say ignorant things. Ignorance meeting ignorance doesn’t breed anything good. Maybe I should just try again. Tomorrow. I can try again. Perhaps that’s a lesson I’m teaching them.

Don’t give up. You always have another day to try to do better than the day before. At the end of your years, you can be proud that you can say, “I was not perfect, but I always tried to be better than my worst days.”

I do always try to do better than my worst days, my loves. And that is not enough. Not even close to being enough.

About H.M. Jones

4589075_origH.M. Jones is a spinner of verse and a flinger of flagrant lies. You’ll never know her fact from fiction, and that’s part of the fun. She’s written books and short stories and poetry aplenty, won awards and lost awards. You can find her at www.hmjones.net, on twitter @HMJonesWrites, and on facebook.

Recognizing Static

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I am not always mentally healthy; I can’t always see myself falling off the edge of sane. But my publisher announced that they are done, and it made me feel done even before I knew it. At first it was shock, then I just stewed and did nothing.

In the peripheral I saw other authors grow angry. I understood their rage, but I could not feel it, could not appreciate their response. Normal me is not quick to anger. I think I know that. I think normal me must be very patient and understanding. That’s the person I know I am. I remember her when her little sister wanted to play the same thing over and over again. I remember her when she babysat community children, walked them to the park, read to them the same book they always wanted read. I see that woman cooking with her children, helping friends out, repeating instructions in her class. She is me and I am proud of her.

But upon hearing the news that my book would fall through, I just felt numb. And that’s not the same as patient. Then I felt tired. And that’s not the same as not angry. Now I feel panicked because my body didn’t respond to an issue when it happened. I know I’ll be alright but there’s static in my mind, my body’s abnormal response to stress.

It’s a crap situation, but I’m confident in my writing, in my story, in my fans. So why do I feel like crying every night? Why am I abrupt and angry and unsure? I feel you, depression. I hear the static you make. I understand that you want to take me under, but I’ve got work to do. And I can’t let you.

As I get older, I know that buzzing numb for what it is. I like that it’s spring. I can walk it off for hours in the warm weather, dip my hands in dirt and sand until I’m buried in busy and unable to be numb. I talk to my animals and add extra sugar. I snuggle my kids even when I don’t feel like touch. That often works; not always but often enough. And I’ve staved it off-that static-by wearing me thin. Will it make it worse in the end? Will the dive be harder or will I contend with the feelings I can’t always control?

I will do what I must. I will write because I do and I love to. I will work past the static and publish and pine for the sanity that I want to call mine. And I’ll never hold it forever, but I’ll hold it tight while it’s here. With every word, every sentence I ink into being, I cling tighter to you, sanity.

 

Which Stage of Survival Are You: Victim, Survivor, Thriver?

Guest Post by Rachel Thompson

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It is my extreme pleasure to host this enlightening, informative and feeling guest post from the author, blogger, media manager and poet, Rachel Thompson. Read, enjoy, share:

Which Stage of Survival Are You: Victim, Survivor, Thriver?

By Rachel Thompson

At what point does a sexual abuse survivor (or any trauma survivor) go from victim to survivor, from survivor to thriver?

In our society, victim has a negative connotation (don’t be a victim! a constant mantra) however, in a purely legal sense, those of us who have been victims of horrific sexual abuse or traumatic events are recognized by the law as victims, just as those who perpetrated those crimes are perpetrators. What happened to us is criminal, and those who committed these crimes are criminals.

Telling us to ‘get over it,’ puts the onus on us, when we didn’t do anything wrong. Children don’t sexually abuse themselves.

 

Societal Ignorance

 

There’s such a huge amount of ignorance when it comes to people who treat victims of sexual abuse crimes and traumatic events. We’re told constantly to move on, get over it, don’t be a victim, as if we can simply put a little adhesive bandage on those feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, and whole host of other PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms that become a victim’s unwanted best friend post-trauma.

 

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at age eleven, I’ve never considered myself a victim, even though I unknowingly suffered from many of what I mentioned above (not realizing until later, in therapy). My parents didn’t know how to deal with it, so in their own shame and guilt, they swept it under the proverbial rug. Finding my own way became my M.O., and it worked – or it seemed to – until I became a mother and my façade came crashing down. Depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, constant worrying about how to keep my baby safe became my constant obsession — I had moved back from survivor to victim again, and I did not want to be there. Thank goodness, I got help.

 

The Three Stages of Survival Defined

 

According to GoodTherapy.org:

The Victim Stage:

 

An individual in the victim stage feels as though he or she is still in the trauma—no matter how long ago the actual traumatic incident(s) occurred. The sense of being in that moment of time permeates the person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and even his or her sense of self. It is common for an individual in this stage to avoid many emotions while experiencing in abundance feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, fragility, self-pity, numbness, defeat, shame, self-hatred, and discouragement. 

The Survivor Stage:

 

Is the time when one begins to feel strong and confident and to truly believe that there are resources and choices. A key realization of this stage is that an individual has gotten through the trauma intact, or mostly intact, and is indeed outside of it. This understanding allows the person to begin integrating the trauma into his or her life story, to take control of life, and to recognize potential for change and growth, with less suffering, less pain, less guilt, and definitely less depression

The Thriver Stage:

 

The thriver stage crystallizes the growth of the survivor stage and takes one’s healing to the point where he or she has general satisfaction with life as well as a sense that ordinary life is both interesting and enjoyable. Commitment to moving forward, to taking care of one’s physical health, to investing in one’s career, relationships, and love and life allow these gains to occur. On an emotional level, feelings of strength, empowerment, compassion, resilience, and self-determination eclipse the emotions experienced within the victim stage. In addition a renewed sense of joy, peace, and happiness arises because one has grown, despite the traumatic experience, and is living well.

The Survival Dance

 

In my own experience, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a businessperson, mother, and writer cruising between survivor and thriver. I’m currently mostly in thriver mode, though I have my moments and occasional triggers, which I’ve learned to deal with through therapy, meds, support, and most importantly for me, through writing.

I’ve written five books, two about my experiences as what I’ve always referred to as being a survivor of the abuse (I never refer to those who have lived through any kind of traumatic experiences as victims because of the negative connotations, whether I agree with them or not). Perhaps, I need to rethink that and change it to thriver!

Sharing my own stories (in poetry in prose in Broken Pieces and Broken Placeswriting Broken People now) was a huge part of my own recovery, led me to starting the weekly Twitter chat #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday, 6pm pst/9pm est) in 2013 with incest survivor/licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, as well as now directing the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, which brings stories of trauma and recovery to life (both fiction and nonfiction), like H.M. Jones’ Monochrome – one of my favorite books in the imprint!

Telling our stories, sharing our worth, showing our vulnerability and growth – it all matters because we matter. I always advise authors to ‘Write what scares you,” brene brown shamebecause if you don’t feel it as you write it, we won’t feel it as we read it. This is part of thriving. I didn’t realize it myself as I wrote my own books; only later, as I read back through them and think, ‘Wow, I really went there, didn’t I?’ do I sit quietly with my thoughts and hope that someone feels less alone through my words.

Give yourself a break as you move through these stages, as it’s a journey, a process to recover. Part of you is lost, that’s true; but, part of you, a beautiful, amazing part, is also waiting to be found.

GET OVER IT

Stephen Fry, which child abuse victim do you think changed their mind about trigger warnings when you told them to grow up? 

 About Rachel Thompson: 

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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places(one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

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Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia

Hermit’s Life for Me

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I want to tuck me away, in 600 square feet, creaky floor boards, wood heat. I want to dig in the dirt, make life bloom, eat food without fluff that I caught or prepared over a slow burning fire. I want to have only two outfits to my name, a bed and a warm blanket, a shelf of books and tea. I want to throw it all away so that there’s nothing left to clean. I want to pull through the waves all day long, or chase down the goats to milk, or haul hay. I want to be completely physically drained until there is no room for sad. There is only room for the kind of tired that puts your heart to rest. When I get this way, I only want to do. I don’t want to think, feel or emote because it all comes out as a scream or a joke. I want to be so alone that my movements echo off the walls. I want to work until my hands blister and my face is burned and raw. I want to smash my phone and laptop against the wall, get away from the drone, the social melee of spewed information without content. I want to be content without…without…without. I want to be the one who creates not regurgitates. I want to be without.

Fear Closes Doors

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David Wong wrote a comic piece for cracked called “10 Simple Facts To Make You Feel Better About This Year’s Election.”  The piece is, quite simple, poignant, funny and brilliant. But mostly it’s a relief after an onslaught of hateful anti-Muslim Facebook and Twitter posts. It truly astounds me how quickly people will jump to hate when fear is in play. Was what happened in Brussels terrifying and wrong? Absolutely. It was meant to both harm and terrify people. That was the pointless point behind those ugly attacks. But those attacks were bred in the same hateful mentality that led some people to post things like, “All Muslims deserve to burn for this.”

Besides that statement being truly ignorant, it also shows that those who post things like this have let terrorism do it’s job-they have let fear turn to hate. They are letting hate rule them. It’s hard to know what to say when someone you think you know posts something like this. So I stated simply that I have friends who are Muslim and that I thought that was a truly ugly thing to write. I acknowledged that that sort of hatred is bred in fear and that I won’t allow fear to run my life. I had to write this statement several times. It made me very very sad to have to do so. Because I love some of the people who are writing those hateful things. Or I know them. Or I thought I did.

I was not astounded but was disappointed when people jumped to stand up for the ugly statement, asking me to fear for my life as a woman, who colors her hair, who would not be safe walking in this or that country. No one needs to remind me that I am a target simply for being a woman. What I wanted to say, but did not say, is that I am a target here, in the U.S., and that he just proved that. I am a target because I am a woman and that is the case no matter which country I live in.

My statement of displeasure was quickly met with an attack on my femininity-a reminder that woman are abused for their hair choice or for simply being women, daily. But that doesn’t just happen “there” folks. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I can tell you that that happens everywhere, even in your beloved country. The fact that I am a target does not make me fear. If I feared that reality, I would not leave the house.

And that’s why reading Wong’s article made me feel lighter. I don’t argue with ugliness and hate, though I will stand against it. But the fact that he recognized the fear, what it is, what it does, brought me some relief. He writes:

“As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the key is not to confuse “Fear clouds your thoughts” with “The world is free from danger.” The world is dangerous as shit! But fear shuts down the rational-thinking part of your brain, and these problems need rational thought, goddammit.”

And he’s right on point. It’s okay to understand the dangers you’re faced with. It would be foolish to pretend that there is nothing to fear in a world where school shootings, rape, hate crimes and, yes, bombings occur daily. We need to face our problems with clear heads, rational choices and thought-out solutions. We need to understand that whatever percentage of this or that group carries out hateful things is not representative of the whole.

I’m Christian, and people do all sorts of awful shit in the name of Christ, they have for centuries. The only reason people can rail on Muslim people is because, in this country, they are a minority. And minorities are fair game for hatred here. It is easier to blame immigrants, Muslims, gay and lesbian people, for the country’s problems then to understand that those are not the people running our country. Those are the people under the thumb of unfair prejudice and anger, under the rule of those in power here. If anything, those are the people who have a right to live in fear.

Yet, my queer and minority friends are not as hateful as some of my majority culture friends. They are not as often prone to hateful or fearful posts. And I have to think it’s because they’ve learned to not live in fear. After all, it would be hard to be different in a country where Donald Trump can run as a valid candidate, on a platform of hate and bigotry. They live as outsiders in a world who would label them as an extension of evil because telling the difference between terrorists and neighbors is just too hard. So maybe they got over letting fear rule them, so they that they can live. And maybe majority people are not used to being afraid. Maybe white men are not used to being afraid for being who they are. Because that’s where most of those Twitter, Facebook hateful posts come from.

Let’s agree, no matter where we stand politically, that hatred is wrong. That there are friends, sons, daughters, and lovers out there who are not like you, but are not automatically terrorists because of their differences. Maybe they are Muslim. Maybe they have brown eyes like that one terrorist. Maybe they listen to the same music that person did before he shot up a school. Well, most men I interact with are white, and I don’t see them as a school shooter, my rapist, or that guy who once told me he’d rather kill me than lose me. I don’t do that to every white male I see. I don’t fear them for how they are similar to people who have hurt me or those I love. Because fear will shut you down. It will make you a person who could condone or even conduct  acts as terrible as what we’ve witnessed in the news recently.

My heart goes out to Brussels. I pray for peace daily. To all those who are suffering pain at the hands of hate, my love and support is behind you.

 

Learn or Be Left Behind: Violence Against Women

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I’ve recently been more active in my social media: blogging, tweeting, googleplusing, etc. As an author, I like to try to keep fans up to date, and blog about things that are important to me and important to those who enjoy my fiction and non-fiction. Lately, however, I’ve been getting more trolls than positive feedback and it’s not great for my mental health. As a woman with a mood disorder and anxiety, I’ve found that I have to know when it’s time for a break. And I often take them, but I don’t stay away, as some do. And this is why:

The last month has been a troll haven. I have received a barrage of sexist, even violent comments and messages. These things come mainly through Twitter and Google+, for some reason. I think I’ve had to delete about 12 messages in the last week from strange men who’ve written various harassing things either under my innocuous posts or via google messenger. These things range from gross “YourehotttakeoffyourclothesIwanttoseeyounaked” to violent “Iwanttorapeyourpussy.” And they are usually written like the above examples, in a stream of ignorance. I delete them and try not to get upset. But the terrifying messages about violence against me or even just perverted things that men would do to me are hard to ignore. Because it triggers me, a survivor of sexual assault. And because it shows me just how far we have to go in this society to become peaceable, accepting, caring.

And it’s funny (not ha-ha funny, mind you; more ironic funny) because my posts on feminism and sexism and gender inequality are often met with a roll of the eyes or outright disagreement. How can it not be clear that these things exist? When I get 12 disgusting to violent messages a day, how can you doubt this? When the statistics for Violence Against Women are staggering, how can you ignore that these things happen daily? Happen often?

I’d like to take a moment to ask the male authors or male social networkers our there, how many times a day does someone threaten to rape you? Send you dick picks? Even pester you with unwanted advances? Not often? Not ever? Once in a blue moon? Because I get at least 12 a week. And I think it’s safe to say that I’m not famous, so I imagine it’s worse for those women with a much bigger following.

And that’s why, despite the headache and triggering brought about by social networking, I continue to write about things I know will be met with, in the least, dismissal, in the worst rage or violence.

Because I’m not afraid. I’m done with fear. And it’s clear that this dialogue still needs to happen.

My main character in Monochrome, Abigail, is surrounded by the violent intent of men. Even the one man she trusts in Monochrome doesn’t understand what women are up against, how it’s different:

“She didn’t want to have to explain to [Ishmael] that it was different for women. When women were desperate they were expected to debase themselves, and so many of them did. Men weren’t expected to give their bodies to strangers in order to feed, clothe and house themselves. They weren’t seen as walking sexual prey. He’d never understand, so she held her tongue […] If he’d ever been attacked–his body treated as a steak needing tenderizing–or lived his life on the tips of his toes, poised to flee from a smile that could turn to a sneer, he’d think before joking so casually about the women of Red Street Brothel.  (Monochrome, H.M. Jones)”

I write about violence against women, even in my fiction, because it’s clear to me that even some of my best male friends don’t understand. So let me make it clear: violence and the threat of violence is my every day anxiety. Don’t, for a second, believe that women don’t have more to shit to slog through. We have a history that places us as not very valuable property, as punching bags, as weak.

But we live in an age where women are fighting back, are brave despite the fear and will not accept ignorance. So learn or be left behind, but don’t pretend that inequality doesn’t exist.

Hunger Pains

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I have been in a constant state of hunger for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I feel absolutely starving, actually, panicked and shaky. I’ve also been overweight and obese most of my life, which seems backwards. Why are you hungry if you eat a lot, Hannah? I always thought that I was always hungry because my stomach was bigger than other people’s stomachs, and there might be some truth to that. It takes more calories to fill me up, my stomach is more expanded than that of a person who sits in the “normal” weight zone. But I’ve been really trying to be healthy lately, and have become so frustrated.

Trips to the gym leave me light-headed and shaking. I am not just hungry when I’m done. I’m famished. A fog covers my thoughts, my hands tremble violently on my steering wheel. I get out my nut and fruit bar and it takes all my will power not to demolish it without chewing. I know that chewing better aids digestion, and, thus, weight loss, so I’m working on it. But I’m so hungry that the small bar feels like water running through me.

To top it off, two weeks before my period, I’m always ravenous for sugar. I daydream about it so much that it becomes an obsession. If I don’t sate the urge, I will obsess about it. If I do sate the urge, I’ll feel badly for ruining my good habits. Most women get cravings, but these are not two days before my cycle. It is for two weeks before it hits and it’s consistent. I did some research on why that might be, and it seems that my premenstrual cycle combined with my bi-polar mood disorder is a terrible combination. A combination that creates animal-like eating habits.

Thehealthsite.com lists bipolar disorder and the premenstrual cycle as factors in extreme hunger:

“Mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and manic depression associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, hormonal deficiencies, and genetic factors can increase your desire for food enormously.”

Unfortunately, I’ve also been diagnosed with anxiety, and, yes, stress and anxiety leads to increased hunger. The same site says this about anxiety and over-eating:

“Persistent stress and anxiety is a definite trigger for excessive hunger. Whenever we are stressed the brain is triggered to produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenaline, which suppress appetite. But if stress persists, the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite.”

So what do I do? You might ask. Do you just eat until you’re full? Let me make it clear: I’m very rarely full, so that would be a bad idea. The answer is, I do eat more than I should a lot of the time. But even when I’m eating pretty well, I don’t lose weight quickly. That, my doctor says, is probably because I have a family history of obesity and obesity is genetic. He said my body doesn’t metabolize as well as others because of my genetic make-up. Thanks, chubby genes!

Currently, I’m considered obese, at 5′ 11″ and 215 lbs. Take into consideration that my frame is pretty large. There is such a thing as difference in mass, and I have a sizable bone structure. But even taking that into consideration, my doctor honestly told me that a healthy weight for my frame puts me at 175-180 lbs. That’s 35-40 lbs lighter than my current weight, which, I’ll give myself credit for, is 5 lbs lighter than last month.

Me at 220 lbs (last month):

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And I’m never full. I’m so hungry right now, and I just had yogurt and granola, which are supposed to be filling. I’m at such a loss because I now that overeating will lead to more overeating, and it’s worse now that I’m back to working out everyday. I am not just hungry, folks, I’m starving, shaking and tired.

David Ludwig, in a NY Times article, explains the starvation feeling in obese people (and there’s no need to reassure me that I’m not obese. I am medically obese, so it is what it is):

“We think of obesity as a state of excess, but it’s really more akin to a state of starvation. If the fat cells are storing too many calories, the brain doesn’t have access to enough to make sure that metabolism runs properly. So the brain makes us hungry in an attempt to solve that problem, and we overeat and feel better temporarily. But if the fat cells continue to take in too many calories, then we get stuck in this never-ending cycle of overeating and weight gain.”

So, I’m at a point where I am very slowly and painstakingly working not for my figure but for my mental and physical health. My knees aren’t great and I start getting nerve pains in my feet when my weight spikes. I hurt when I get over 220. It’s all so defeating because, unlike people with good mental health and genetics, I am fighting an uphill battle.

And the other day I heard a fit and shorter person at the gym say, “She’s tall, but you can tell she weighs a lot. I’d be rail thin if I was that height.” I usually try not to care what people think about me, but that made me so mad because I doubt she’s ever had to fight with what I fight with. It isn’t about how I look. I actually think I’m pretty damn gorgeous. But is it right to shame someone who is at the gym for her mental and physical health? No, it sucks. That person is fighting a battle you can’t understand. And she often loses it. If you’ve never had the obsession to eat two bags of Oreos and still crave more, than you don’t know what I’m going through.

I’m not doing this to win a beauty contest. I have a husband who loves me and kids to think about. I’m fighting my genetics and my mental health, and I’m doing what I’m doing to stay a little more sane, to fight off depression and rage, to keep my weight from going out of control, yet again. To stave off diabetes. And I’m trying to make it work along with working a job as a college instructor part-time, being a full-time mother and writing two books a year. That’s a lot of shit. And it makes me so angry that people are callous, that people fat shame and call names like we’re in middle school, that women say mean things about other women to make themselves feel more worthy. It makes me sad, but not for me as much as for the chubby and fat girls who don’t have the confidence I do to keep going. I understand why people give up. I really do. I feel like giving up all the time.

I ate too much pizza today after a “starvation” spout. I feel sick now. And so I’m writing to keep myself in check. It was a mistake to overeat. It made me feel worse mentally and physically. But I can do better tonight and tomorrow and I can keep trying to be a healthy version of me. And I’m not doing it to be skinny or for the validation of shallow people. I’m doing it for me and my little family. If I keep reminding myself that my life is at stake, keep looking at my children fighting the same battle, I’ll keep trying to do better everyday.

For all of you going through the same fight, I hope you get some peace, I hope you manage to be healthy and happy and this is all. The above poem is a featured poem on Brazen Bitch about what it is to be a female in our world. I think this battle has a lot to do with that, as well.

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H. M. Jones is the author of Monochrome, which delves mental illness, motherhood and depression into a fantastical setting. She has also authored several short stories and is included in a handful of poetry books. Check out what she’s up to at http://www.hmjones.net.

She is currently working on the prequel to Monochrome so that her fans will get to read another book with their book boyfriend Ishmael.