Monday, October 16, 2017

Faintly Haunted Halloween

There's just something about fall.  The rich colors, the fresh smell in the air, the crunch of the leaves underfoot.  It's the perfect time of the year to hear scary stories out by a fire or settling indoors with a good book.  The perfect tales in my estimation are the ones that are only slightly spooky, so I thought I would share some of the stories I have found that are only Faintly Haunted.

My favorite book came to me as a movie first, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R.A. Dick. Published in 1946, it is as charming as the movie and television series.  Some of the writing may be a tiny bit dated but the story is so well crafted it can be overlooked.  The ghost of a sea captain comes to life and the underlying romance keep us in suspense till the end.

The second book, The Uninvited was also made into a movie in 1944 but I read the book first.  I found it through another author, Barbara Michaels whose character was reading it in her novel. (Into the Darkness) Because I so liked Barbara Michaels stories I thought it was worth reading anything she would recommend.  Set in 1942, a brother and sister come to rent an old mansion and find it wrapped in a mystery of unexplained death.  Low voices, the smell of old perfume and sinister figures make this a sure-fire creepy tale.

I would be remiss if I didn't include a book by Barbara Michaels.  Although I love all the stories by Ms. Michaels (Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Mertz), my favorites are all very similar stories - Into the Darkness, Ammie Come Home and Be Buried in the Rain.  Each one has the same sort of hauntings that I enjoy.  The ones that could be real and we have experienced to some degree; cold spots, strange noises and a feeling of someone there just beyond our notice.

Recently, I finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  The prose is ominous yet so clear and the dialogue is effortless and enjoyable.  Written in the 60's it has none of the gore that the modern day movie of the same name has.  Like movies from that time period it has a certain feel--the author isn't going to lead you through the story.  Instead, you are an active participant.  A small group of people are brought to a house to see if they can truly confirm a haunted house.

Edith Wharton's ghost stories took me by surprise.  Written in the early 1900's they are a marvelous group of creepy stories.  She also isn't an author that spoon feeds you a story.  The endings are sometimes open ended to let you decide what exactly happened.  They are so well written you soon are immersed in the tales (and I'm not often a fan of short stories).

No list would be complete for me without Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  The popular movie has charm but the written word is even better.  Mr. Marion's prose is almost poetic.  A small amount of gore can be excused when you wrap it in a story as well told as this one.  The story does deviate from the movie in a way that I think made it more believable.  (The Burning World - The second in the series is as well written and maybe even more compelling).

Now, the diabolical laughter ought to begin and the room fade to black, perhaps a branch should scratch at the window.  Happy Haunted Reading, dear friends.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Coping with Depression and Anxiety

I'm not an expert on depression and anxiety but I am an expert on my own journey through life with many struggles with the disease.  I've struggled since I was a young girl.  Never feeling as if I fit in or was accepted, my stomach would roil at the thought of anything putting me into the limelight with my peers.  Eating in front of others, being the last chosen in gym, teased about my clothing, nose and boyish figure - I became trapped within myself, unable to believe people would like me for myself.

Through the usual childhood journeys amid bullies, changing friends and school blunders, I pushed on as we all tend to do and soon found myself an adult with a baby who never slept.  At a time of great happiness I was exhausted, which occasionally led to a feeling of inadequacy and failure.  With time also came Rheumatoid Arthritis, multiple surgeries and pain, and the isolation made me feel even more alone.  However, this blog isn't about my specific stories, it's more about the way I've learned to cope.

I've read a lot of books, gone through many varied therapies - writing, talk, workouts, homeopathic, hypnotherapy, etc - and tried many medications without a great deal of success.  A few years ago, I read an article that talked about changing your brain patterns.  When your thoughts turn dark or you are repeating conversations and incidents it stated you should try to change the way your brain is processing.

At this point, anything, no matter how weird, was worth a try.  I don't expect these items to work for everyone because depression and anxiety are different for everyone. If one idea helps someone else ease their pain, this article will have been a success.

I have them written on a poster on my office wall so I will be reminded of my determination to get well.

  • Listen to a Pandora channel of my favorite comics - for me that's Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan and Kathleen Madigan.
  • Dance - who can be sad or think of hurtful conversations when you're dancing?  I love all the old 60's, 70's and 80's music myself.
  • Play piano - I just started lesson's 5 years ago but I love to play and having to figure out the notes puts my attention somewhere else.  (Must remember this one more, I've gotten out of the habit over the holidays)
  • Yoga, walking, meditating.  These have been wonderful techniques to help me combat both depression and anxiety before they begin.
  • Ask myself what is the worst outcome of whatever I'm afraid of - even if as in flying, the answer is death, you can face that head on.  Do I want to die?  No, but if it happens I can't do anything to stop it so I can let the thought go.
  • I color - yes, I'm one of those adults who enjoys coloring.
  • I take photos - actually any hobby will do if you can immerse yourself in it.
  • Allow myself 10 minutes to listen to sad music and feel the negative emotions, journal them then tear up the paper.  I find it cathartic to destroy the feelings. 

These may seem like simple ideas but sometimes simplicity is best.  I've found that it helps if I can get myself moving and concentrating on something that challenges my mind.

Please talk to your doctor if you are feeling hopeless and anxious.  If you are thinking of harming yourself please call a hotline immediately.  There are people who care about you and want to help!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - (800)237-8255

For hotlines in your state or more information -