Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

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It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Dealing with Girl Hate in Literature and Real Life

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An observation pulled from some of my favorite novels, and experiences from my own life, shows there seems to be a lot of girl hate. Bullying. Insecurity. And there seems to be little justification behind the sudden backlash of slurs. Some chalk it up to puberty or jealousy. But it has continued through all aspects of my life, and in many genres of books. I thought I comment on some of the more prominent forms that I’ve experienced.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-08-by-casey-carlisleEven if someone is dealing-with-girlhate-pic-03-by-casey-carlislestruggling with their size, it doesn’t diminish them as a person. In Victorian times having a little extra padding meant you came from wealth because you could afford food. Now it seems packing a few extra pounds is displeasing to the eye. Makes you unattractive. All this PhotoShop re-touching and refusal of fashion designers to manufacture larger sizes, or even display their couture on models over a size 0. Have we became so hateful towards female biology? It is a natural state for girls to carry more body fat as they get older. It has nothing to do with being unhealthy or unattractive, it’s a natural cycle of hormones and metabolism. I read this kind of hate and bullying in books too, though I’m glad that we are starting to see a movement against this stereotype (on television too) Main characters who aren’t rail-thin are starting to pop up in the mainstream. I hope this trend continues and helps to stamp out body shaming, we should be sisters in arms, not tearing each other down with fickle, narcissistic attacks.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-09-by-casey-carlisle dealing-with-girlhate-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleAnd may other reasons. But when did having an opinion, indulging in free speech, make someone so awful? World leaders, innovators, business owners, have all struggled with nasty slurs because they stick to their guns. I actually find it attractive, if someone is resolute in their beliefs. Mental strength and intelligence breeds a fertile environment for growth. These days we see female characters embracing the term. Proud to wear the mantle of bitch. Because it portrays power. It’s not quite free of a negative image, but it’s starting to evolve into something like #girlboss instead of some foul mouth wench with nothing but negative comments spewing from her mouth.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-10-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-05-by-casey-carlisleOr maybe she is not afraid of her own sexuality. And the sad thing is, being called a virgin can be just as derogatory. We really can’t win… Slut shaming seems to be more present in YA than other genres, girls use it to jostle for power in their peer groups, to be the alpha chick who is not to be trifled with or she’ll tear you down. There is still such a stigma with sex through the teen years, and I really wish it could be approached responsibility rather than reinforcing negative views on sex and sexuality. The trend is starting to get addressed on the television screens, but I’ve yet to read much about it in the novels from my shelves. Yes, bullying is attacked in some, but slut shaming tends to be a character trait or a storytelling device. This leads on to another element I’ve personally experienced:

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-11-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-06-by-casey-carlisleI’m five foot eight inches, so sit on the tall end of the scale, and have been called tranny or drag queen by girls in clubs as I’m walking by, or behind my back. Since when is being tall a failing – these slim models gracing our magazines are the same height – it’s just another juvenile hate-filled slur women use to make them feel good about themselves. I tend to see this trend reversed in literature. Girls are described as Amazonian, and strong, warrior-like. Someone to aspire to. This certainly does not translate to real life. I may get a rare “You’ve got lovely long legs” almost hinting that I use them to ensnare men like some black widow spider. Getting called ‘tranny’ is a big pet hate of mine, it’s doubly offensive. It’s said with the intention to make you feel less than a natural born woman, clumsy and unnatural. Which I find preposterous! I know some transgendered women and they are gorgeous, successful, intelligent, and talented women. It’s wonderful to see many book titles being released starring diverse characters on identity and sexuality. They are diffusing these kind of prejudices and hopefully will get rid of this kind of discrimination and bullying for good.

There are so many other aspects bullies latch on to, or make up, to lash out with words. You have short hair, you must be a lesbian. You like sports, or never wear dresses… You wear glasses, or have braces – metal head. Don’t get me started on being called a ginger or bluey because I have red hair. It’s pitiful to be at the blunt end of girl hate. And bullies will always find something. I’m glad to see it getting reduced in my reading choices. Readers are becoming more intelligent, more discerning in their purchase decisions when at the checkout. So it is forcing authors to develop interesting, complex and diverse characters. Tackle more politically aware subject matter and have a social conscience. Granted, it won’t stomp out bad behavior, but it is shining a light on it and forcing nasty characters to explain themselves… and that’s something I really like.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-12-by-casey-carlisleSheesh! A dealing-with-girlhate-pic-07-by-casey-carlislegenuinely gorgeous girl can be reduced to her physical appearance. I’ve heard it said with malice many times in real life. Signalling that the target has the mental capacity of an ape – or that she uses sexuality to get what she wants. She can’t also be a kind and loving person, or a rocket scientist. No. She can’t possible have it all. There is nothing to tear her down with so let’s make perfection a failing… oh please! Women are put on pedestal frequently in books, and having all these attributes is praised, idolized even. But we see plenty of girl hate in real life. But this can also be a negative, because it reduces the character to a two-dimensional caricature.

Women, girls, PEOPLE, are complex creatures. We have motivations, hidden depths. Why do we assume so little at first glance? Why look for the hate? Why not start looking or the amazing?

I’m beginning to find novels coming out with some fantastic female friendships, especially in YA. It’s showing the full range of a character and not reducing a female to a trope or stereotype. It gives me hope that we’ll be able to reduce the amount of girl hate out there. Nasty trolls posting awful comments online, bullying, it feeds girls insecurities and can lead to feeling shame unnecessarily, fearing for your personal safety, depression, behaviors like cutting and even suicide. So let’s put a stop to girl hate and become sisters instead.

Personally, looking back over my life, I’ve been on both sides of the fence in many of these types of behavior. But thankfully, through my experiences and reading habits, I’m identifying potentially harmful behavior and words, and grow into a better version of myself.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – The Teen Romance Series by Mark Zubro

Middle of the road, but addressed realistic issues.

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When I first saw these covers I dismissed this franchise – it looked like a cheap and badly written self-published affair. But I’m glad a small voice in the back of my head convinced me to take a second look. My main reason was hoping to expand the GLBT titles on my shelf. I really enjoy the aspects of identity, angst and the challenges usually faced in this genre – it makes for some compelling reading.

Unfortunately this genre is also glutted with steamy M/M erotica (or fortunately if that’s your thing), but I like a more contemporary title. ‘Safe’ and ‘Hope’ purported to be a YA mystery with a gay protagonist. Both these books are solid reads, entertaining and definitely tugged at my heart strings. My issues came from the a feeling that the story was too mature for the characters; and that many of the adult cast involved in the storylines had a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, blurting out facts and confiding in our protagonist. That left the plot feeling a little contrived and unrealistic.

That aside, the writing is pretty good and deals with many issues facing the gay community. It carried a message but managed it weave it into a pretty good detective style narrative.

This has been my first journey into this subgenre, and while I had some major issues with context, this series was thoroughly entertaining. I’d like to see it continued in a University setting, because I feel many of the problems I had with voice would be fixed in a more mature setting and lend the protagonist and his boyfriend (Roger and Steve) to really shine.

The heart of these books beats strong, (more soul, less angst) but not sure if I would give them a strong recommendation.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Safe’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/book-review-safe-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Hope’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/book-review-hope-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Invaded by Melissa Landers

Exiled to an alien planet without your Boo…

Invaded Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 356

From Goodreads:

Cara always knew life on planet L’eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L’eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her.

Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L’eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L’eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L’eihr relations. Humans don’t know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx’s people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists’ multiple attempts on Aelyx’s life.

The Way clearly needs humans’ help . . . but with what? And what will they ask for in return? 

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I have been intrigued with this trilogy by Melissa Landers, the first novel ‘Alienated’ was fun and easy to read, though the insta-love and narrative style kept it from a 5 star review. I was hoping ‘Invaded’ would bring something new to the story… and while we got to explore Aelyx’s planet through Cara’s eyes and see if their relationship would survive being apart, this second instalment, although enjoyable failed to surpass my initial opinion and rating.

Not sure what it was that didn’t have me totally invested in our protagonists, Aelyx and Cara. Maybe they were a little too goody-two-shoes and didn’t make mistakes? There was no downfall. We see them go through difficulty, but it felt like neither lost all that much to give them opportunity to grow; and subsequently I wasn’t rooting for either character. They lost the underdog edge. Or a good redemption story. Only a little insecurity made them human (pun intended) with an otherwise cyclone of crap hurled at them. So I guess for me the story is great, but the character development lacking.

There are still some fangirly moments over Aelyx – if you enjoy that sort of thing, but understandably, they are few and far between with our OTP separated for the duration of the novel. The biggest thing I appreciate about Cara is her strength and determination, there is a tenuous line of feminism in her bearing.

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The political intrigue grew even stronger and is the best part of this series. Landers really knows how to write tension and collusion in each culture. She also is adept in how many of the secondary cast had separate character arcs.

I really savoured the storyline, it kept me guessing right to the end, and the narrative style is again, easy to read, lending me to complete the novel in a day. But having said that, I didn’t really get into ‘Invaded’ until the last third – a lot of set up for the storyline sapped the pacing. Though it did paint a fantastic landscape for the final instalment of this trilogy.

Which has me looking forward to the last book ‘United’ due for release in August this year. I’m anticipating that the pacing should really be amped up and foreseeing Cara and Aelyx reuniting and facing down their foes.

Overall feeling: cutting and cute.

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Invaded Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle    

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Alienated by Melissa Landers

The school exchange program never looked so good..

Alienated Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 344

From Goodreads:

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.


But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet. 

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I’m not sure if I was sold on the premise of this novel – There seemed to be so much more world building and politics leading up to the point where an alien student exchange could take place. That fact annoyed me and kept me from really immersing myself into ‘Alienated.’ There were also a lot of similarities to the tv series (which is now cancelled) ‘Starcrossed,’ of which I had similar issues with. But ultimately I enjoyed both of these stories and the unique quandaries they offer.

I did appreciate the mythology and origin of the species introduced in ‘Alienated’ and noted the difference of how an alien race has evolved compared to our own. So much of the science behind their development supported the storyline.

The politics overtook the plot towards the end and subtracted from my enjoyment, it made it less personal. The developing relationship between our protagonist Cara and her love interest, Aelyx, was a nice slow burn, but not something I was totally invested in. But still a coupling I would ‘ship.

Alienated Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleCara, forever the overachiever and people-pleaser, is such a strong character, in that you can see the influences of her familial upbringing, giving her the confidence to stick to her morals and what is right. As much as I found it difficult to like Cara in the beginning, because she felt a little cold, I had warmed to her by the end of the book.

Aelyx is an interesting character, and yes, he’s the hunky aloof alien with an agenda very typical of the YA genre, but I liked him more than many others in this trope. Again, as with Cara, both of their descriptions felt a little stiff, and consequently, their burgeoning love felt unrealistic. However on the surface, Cara is the headstrong nerd with a conscious for the planet, and Aelyx the political stoic martian who comes to understand Cara and Earth, and through that journey finding a true connection and life mate.

There is plenty of secondary character arcs going on behind the scenes, and it has been one of the best plotted cast I‘ve read in a while. Melissa Landers weaves an expertly web of storylines that had me revelling in the world of ‘Alienated.’

Some aspects that pulled down the rating for me included the realism of the story line, as mentioned previously; the domination of politics; and at times some scenes felt written in just for the drama. I felt if more attention was given in setting up the landscape and development of the characters narrative if would have dragged me into the story more effectively.

This does end on a cliffhanger too – and am looking forward to jumping into book two: ‘Invaded’ soon to find out all of the characters fates…

A great solid fun read, I managed to complete in a day.

Overall feeling: okie dokie

Alienated Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Alienated Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.