Poem – “No Concentration”

No Concentration

You strive to stay mellow, stay chill
A will all-important, an impossible achievement
When a cacophony’s always storming your way
No concentration, no focus, no cerebral strength
An antithesis of thought, you can’t breathe
Your brothers are so afraid of silence, its phantoms,
That their cowardice might be the end of you

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
Amazon | Bookstore | Goodreads
Support my work on Ko-Fi.

Advertisements

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.

Book Review – Perfect by Natasha Friend

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: September 16th, 2004
Publisher: Milkweed Editions

You are never alone in anything, no matter how it feels. Everyone must face their own tragedy, and deal with their own disorder. Some are just better at seeming composed.

I could read this book about a thousand times and find scarce to dislike. I believe this is one of the absolute best young adult books, especially for girls. Friend, I’ve noticed, takes care to challenge the conventional concept of perfection, and if it’s even necessary. Which it isn’t, spoiler alert. Coming from a staunch perfectionist who’s struggled with abandoning society’s expectations, you know I’m serious about that. At the end of the day, if the goal you’ve reached is the desire of someone who isn’t you, and came at the cost of important facets of your personality, it wasn’t worth it, and will be replaced with a new one to covet tomorrow.

Perfect is about the cycle of unhappiness that spawns eating disorders, though there are a lot of small and traumatic events that usually factor into it. Friend writes in a way that’s easy to approach and never preachy or contrived, letting you come to your own conclusion about Isabelle’s path.
The death of her father led into a depression, and the only influence outside of that is a girl she befriends at school, who despite all appearances as “the perfect girl”, has an extremely damaged self-image and forces herself to throw up so often that she starts bleeding from the mouth. Isabelle sees in her a mirror of her own bulimia, and their relationship becomes a paradox of enabling each other’s disorder and offering a genuine bond based around it. Continue reading “Book Review – Perfect by Natasha Friend”

Poem – “Alive”

Alive

Awake, a heart beating only in motion
Never alive without the ominous question
Will the blood still churn in the morning?
Will I succumb like those before me,
Weeping like children in front of an audience
That never tried to notice until hours burnt down
The shack of wills, so hasty and pointless, was felled
And they decided not to exist, only a motion

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
Amazon | Bookstore | Goodreads
Support my work on Ko-Fi.

Poem – “Anxious, Anxious”

Anxious, Anxious

Trying to entrance myself into believing
That it isn’t a major ordeal at all,
That there’s no needle-teeth lurking beneath
Everything I try to hold in reverence
And it’s not true that it means nothing at all
But it’s a pit of vipers under its skin

Anxious, anxious
I don’t know what’s lying
But I know you mean harm
Underneath your surface
Anxious, anxious
What it is, it never is
All a pit of snakes in waiting

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
Follow my poetry on Tumblr.
Bookstore on Amazon.

Support my work on Ko-Fi.

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 – “Disruption”

Disruption

A biome of stories die untold in my head
I cannot break free of the restraints,
I cannot pull the golden chips from my eyes
Labyrinth of blindness,
Disrupted connections
It is no longer possible to spin a story
I can barely weave together the letters
That form my own name

Copyright ©2018 S. M. Shuford
Follow my poetry on Tumblr.
Get my newest book on Amazon.

Book Review – The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Horror / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2017
Publisher: The Asylum Emporium

“I shall devote what is left of my life to making my prison my palace. Just think of it, ladies: an asylum, by definition, ought to be a sanctuary for those who need one, and I fear I shall always need one.”

Not even the devil could envy the madwoman.
The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls juxtaposes Autumn’s personal experiences in a modern mental hospital with the dark magic realism of a fictional womens’ asylum in the mid-1800s, told by an alternate Emily “with a Y”. Emilie and Emily begin to communicate through journals and letters, and find that though the façade of their fate has changed, underneath it… nothing’s gotten better.
A point needed to be made about mental healthcare for women, though it’s one that jitters the nerves of the stomach to think about too much. I believe Autumn’s succeeded, and for that you should read it.

For awhile, I was obsessed with Emilie Autumn’s music. I mean totally engrossed in dark cabaret – finding her album “Opheliac” had a massive impact on what I desired to create in life. I still love her music and I recommend that album especially.
I had heard about The Asylum and craved it desperately. It needed to become a part of my permanent cerebral library by any means necessary, but at the time it was rarer than unicorn blood and about as expensive.

By the time I’d found one of these elusive collectibles and was able to borrow one, I’d rather worn myself out on Autumn’s discography, so I think that combined with the sheer unavailability of the thing had a bad impact and I didn’t like it much. The new version, which is thankfully quite easy to find, is a thousand times improved. In a way it comes across a twisted reversal of A Little Princess, with themes of isolation and friendship in hard times.

Continue reading “Book Review – The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn”

Book Review – The Gown by Emilie Autumn

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Short Story / Horror
Publication Date: February 19th, 2018
Publisher: The Asylum Emporium

The tile of the ward is colder than death’s heart, and yet it always tries to coax us back into its arms with a lie about its nature.

A young woman is admitted to a hospital several times over her life, at first for an innocuous general visit as a teen then for her deteriorating mental and physical health as an adult. Each time one same old gown turns up, stained with the blood of a past embarrassment that seems to haunt her, an omen which only seems to serve to add insult to her injuries.

“The gown had become a staple of her wardrobe, a reviled relative that would not die and kept visiting even though he was not wanted and he knew it very well.”

All mental illness stories, true or fiction, tend to be horror stories. Horror plants its flora in the guts of fear and tragedy, and mental illness breeds both in abundance.

A criticism of The Gown is that the protagonist is overreacting to an unlikely bloodstain, and that it isn’t a “realistic” depiction of mental illness.
You have to consider what the stain means in the context of paranoia, though. To a person admitted again and again to a hospital in a fragile state of mind, how could it seem like anything other than fate taunting “No matter where you run, you’ll always end up here.”
Being mocked and constrained by even the little things in your environment is any mental illness in a nutshell, which is part of why it’s so hard to fight them. There is not really any freedom that’s meant for your hands, even if you had everything in the world at your disposal. It will just turn against you, eventually.

So, I find this story quite realistic, save for perhaps the over-the-top ending. I didn’t think the study questions were really… necessary, but I do think the subject of this short is one more people should consider from other perspectives and ask themselves about in-depth. It can be the tiniest, most inanimate, most innocent things that trigger the worst catastrophes in us.