Depression and Recovery

Has this been the worst, most godforsaken, vindictive, worthless year in existence, or what? I thought 2016 was nothing but suffering, but 2016 was baby toys compared to what 2019 has been. It’s just 2016 with the last number turned upside-down, which apparently makes it worse, though some kind of time necromancy.
Apparently I am not the only one, because I’ve seen more posts about recovery, depression, mental breakdowns and sorrow than I can count in the past month, on different blogs. I usually can find something creative to say when an experience is bad, but I have none for this year, and it’s only halfway over.

I’m battling an extremely difficult recovery, so I know it’s only been a few days since I posted, but that’s the primary reason my review series haven’t wrapped up or developed. All the words have been gradually stolen from me by the abyss, even the ones written by other people! It seems like every time I try to read, a boombox cuts on somewhere and I get serenaded to tuneless bass. Such is life, and nobody in mine can stomach silence.
Cleaning up my ghost stories project has also cannibalized a chunk of my free time, but that’s one of the rare things that are actually positive, so I’m not going to blame it. I feel better now, so hopefully I’ll be able to get to them soon. I suppose many good things have come out of this year, but the costs they’ve come at are almost not worth it.

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Book Review – Tacking on the Styx by Jeffrey L. Hatcher

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Tacking on the Styx: An Epileptic Sails the Facts, Fiction and Philosophy of a Mental Illness
Genre: Psychology / Science
Publication Date: March 15th, 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse

Tacking on the Styx is a fascinating and unabashed look at epilepsy and cognition, unique from your usual psychology book in that it is also intertwined with both memoir and a fiction narrative, so a richer, more empathetic understanding and sense of individuality can be gained as you also learn more about epilepsy and neurology of the brain.

Can I say first that Tacking on the Styx is ridiculously in-depth. It could well be the definitive book on epilepsy. The narrative benefits the medical text strongly as well, which you might not expect. It reminds me of David B.’s graphic novel classic, Epileptic, though is more striking, being from an epileptic person’s viewpoint rather than their close relative as Epileptic was. I would recommend both to get the best understanding if it’s something you wish to know more about.

The body’s most vital organ is a complex landscape. I don’t pretend to be a doctor, definitely having more of an amateur interest in medical science, but I think we can all agree with Hatcher in that empathy is the key to mapping and understanding the mind.
I can speak from personal experience, however, that a healthy environment is also vital. No one with any disorder, whether mental, physical or neurological, can hope to mollify or heal it in an environment completely devoid of empathy and peace.
The roads to recovery and stability are delicate indeed, and I think that while modern medicine is truly a godsend, doctors can lose sight of this, so it’s very necessary to have books like Styx to promote that understanding. Continue reading “Book Review – Tacking on the Styx by Jeffrey L. Hatcher”

Poem – “Discontent”

Damnation that has haunted me since before
Irrational, inevitable
Skulking in the blood around my brain,
Cautiously creeping…
Only you will be my fall, will you not?
Never letting go, clinging like a child ghost
Tantrums, the wails of you drown me out
Eager as a rich fever, stealing me away
Nagging, gnawing like cells of disease
Tyrant in the dark, ruler of one only

©2018 S. M. Shuford
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Poem – “Defiance”

Defiance

Depression is a slow and overwhelming fever,
Defiance is the rage potent enough to break it
Defiance is the torch that burns depression’s fog,
Screaming I want to see again, I want to see clearly
I want my eyes to embrace what you always deny me
I need only my own skeleton, never those you create
I want to diverge from you once and for all

© S. M. Shuford 2018
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Living on Cans of Depresso – A Bit About Me

I’ve been blathering about poetry and books for some time now, so I thought I’d share a bit about myself and how I even came about writing these on a regular basis.

Well, I guess to start, I am a perpetual student of both English and Japanese, two languages you will never be able to stop learning once you’ve begun, though I have more focus on the former. My thing for peculiar phrasing is an ever-growing monster whether it’s fed or not. What better outlet than literature? Only second to art, I think it’s what I’ve been destined to work with, in some way. (Whether I like this fact or not.) I began writing book reviews partly out of this dedication to books, partly just to share my take on the experience.

As the title suggests (that’s a real drink you can buy, by the way), you could say even objectively that there has always been a foundation of extremes in my life – either soul-wrenchingly depressive or euphoric, always distinctly apart. I can’t remember a time without manic depression, but I don’t let it become me. It is not my personality, just one of the clinging insects that we accumulate in life – not to be shaken, you simply have to work with its shifts and waves as best you can. I still struggle often getting the words I have to say out, whether actually pulling them from my head or finding an audience. Publishing… I don’t want to even talk about that.

I grew up in a strange place in the U. S. I like to call “horror story country”, where there was a lot of dilapidation and abandoned buildings rotting amidst a lot of great natural beauty, which seem like opposite things, but really when you look at them they complement each other. A ripe setting for sub-natural things to occur, ever so subtly. I’ve always been kind of haunted by this idea of grotesque moldiness and heavenly scenes being mixed together, which shows up strongly in what I write.

Anyway, thanks for reading. If you like my writings, feel free to follow along or share, as they will be plentiful and hopefully, continuous for years to come. 🙂

-S. M., March 2018

Book Review – Ebb and Flow by Heather Smith

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Genre: Poetry / Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Publisher: Kids Can Press

“On the shoreline there was a lion, tame enough to be climbed, wild enough to play with the waves […] I will stay here until I get stranded. The water will get higher and higher and no one will be able to reach me, to save me, and I will deserve it. I will deserve to be stranded on an island all by myself.”

The fortunes of life are much like the waters of the sea, full of malice as often as they are full of kindness, both on different flipsides of the same waves. This Ebb and Flow gently plucks at the heartstrings, enough to stir but not so much to hurt.

Its prosaic soul tells of how a boy, Jett’s, year and most vital friendships are marred by a few bad events and to him the damage looks like it might be beyond repair. A bully for a friend, a criminal father, the loss of a real best friend who feels Jett’s betrayed him, and a mother who has no more patience for him, all culminate in the summer he leaves for his grandma’s house on the seashore.

Jett and Junior’s friendship is really poignant, if poisonous while it lasted. It’s hard to describe other than a “devil’s deal” – they both shared a dark bond that came from having fathers who had done horrible things, and that no one but them understood, but with a friendship like that no matter how genuine it is, comes with some toxic costs. In the fashion of such a deal, they may have gained a friendship for awhile but it loses them so much more and in the end dissolves anyway.

“I never knew the devil could cry.”

Ebb and Flow‘s characterization is nothing short of beautiful – Jett is a truly kind and patient character warped into cruelty by someone who has never known anything but cruelty, and while Jett can’t change that he can change himself to be different.
The relationships between Jett and his grandma, as well as Junior’s mentally disabled uncle, are absolutely heartwarming but carry a powerful tinge of sorrow.
An engaging and haunting story.

Prose – 4.5/5
Story – 4.5/5
Characterization – 5/5
Overall – 5/5

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Addiction to Procrastination

It is never okay to procrastinate when it comes to your ideas and forming them into something real – a brutal but necessary evil of a lesson I have had much experience with over the past two years. Though it is a lack of getting things done, ironically the act of doing nothing in itself can become an addiction.

Hard as it is to break a habit-less habit, still what sickly, pitiful excuses one will come up with – “I drew a few lines today. That’s something, isn’t it? Better than nothing at all.” or “Well, some of my best friends are procrastinators, so that makes it alright for me.”

Whatever words you use to justify it can’t alter the fact that you’ve wasted that time, and that time is now forever irretrievable. Any curse you could cast can’t revive what you could’ve used well. Breaks are much needed but if we’re finding that all of our time is downtime perhaps that’s not something that we should get used to. As I’ve found, the regret grows awfully deep.

I mention this with the announcement of a lot of new artwork, which I’ve decided to release individually as well. They actually are not that new, but due to some personal issues have had to be put off for a few months, though I can’t say procrastination was part of their horribly late release. As always you can view them as they arrive in the gallery or on my DeviantArt.

-S. M., January 2018

A Dream’s Journey

With the death of the new year, I realize how much dies along with it. How much of ourselves we kill without reason. So many dreams are stillborn, or they die before the sun can seep life into them. Nightmares which are already mutants of mind twist further until they are remnants which don’t resemble anything. Faded, unwanted bits dissolving into nothing.

Many make the journey, but only a few stand out enough to survive the attempts to silence them. So if you are fortunate enough to hear them, listen carefully and do not mute them. The dreams that are silenced are sentenced to a slow death, rotting in some subconscious corner, the beauty they could’ve been softly, but quickly, leeched away from their husks.

I’ve learned a rather surreal lesson in life to never take a nightmare for granted. Even the most tormenting dream can be re-used as fuel for an amazing reality as only the individual can experience. No one else will ever know your dreams unless you translate them into human language through what you do. Never be afraid to show the world what your subconscious shows you, for dreams can never do the harm that a human can by stifling them.

-S. M., Jan. 2018