Watch RWISA Write Showcase-Laura Finkelstein, 8/03 #RRBC

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Good day, everyone!  Allow me to introduce fellow author Laurie Finkelstein for a featured blog post.  Laurie is a fellow member of Rave Reviews Book club and a member of RWISA (Rave Writers International Society of Authors). I know of her from RRBC and I can proudly say I have read her book, Next Therapist Please, a heartfelt, honest portrayal of events in her life and how she found help dealing with them.  The following is titled, “Bulletproof Vest.”  I think you will enjoy her prose.

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Bulletproof Vest

By Laurie Finkelstein

The bulk, padding, and steel plates weigh me down. The protection of a bulletproof vest is necessary. No matter the weather, I wear the cloak. The weight is a burden, but I trek on because wrapped is the only way to navigate my journey. The jacket protects my heart from being blown to crimson shards of death.

A direct hit is avoided for days and nights, lulling me into calm and complacency. “All will work out fine,” I tell myself. The truth tells a story I want to change. All my will and might does not make an impact to stop the bombardment.

Experience and time separates me from tragedy. At any moment, the bullets strike. Inside or out. My house cannot provide security, nor can a million people surrounding me. With nowhere to hide, I am a target. Shelter and safety are nonexistent.

Discharges are held back while luck and grace harbor me. The slugs will come, however, in a piercing barrage without warning, and will pummel me.

Knocked to the ground, I am immobilized and rendered helpless. My breathing is halted. My movements are stopped, and I understand what assaulted me.

The shockwave subsides, and in small increments, I am able to take in air. Incapacitated, I continue to lie until I am rescued by the rational thinking buried under an avalanche of pain, doubt, and fear. My thoughts check my vitals to make sure I am in the here and now. “Stay in the moment,” I tell myself. “I can manage this. I will persevere.”

“Rise,” I command. The mass of the garb constricts my movement, but I stand, analyze what must be done, and begin to act. The warrior in me comes out. Battles will be fought. My impervious attire gets me through another crisis, and its weight comforts me. Without the guise, I am unable to prevail against the onslaughts, which pop out of the dark corners of another day.

Yes, my vest is cumbersome, but without my swathe I will not withstand the painful projectiles. Clips are filled, ready to punch and knock me down, disabling me should I forget for a moment to cloak myself within my protective armor.

My bullets are not made of lead, surrounded by a dense metal. The projectiles do not come from terrorists intent on decimating me. The ammo does not come from a police state or a dictator’s command. A barrel is not involved.

My bullets are made of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Composed of irrational thoughts, insipid ideations, and ignorant rationalizations, they are crushing invisible forces. The capacity to shatter my resolve and render me dysfunctional invades me.

My unsociable enemy is treatable, but never disappears. My therapists validate my experiences of being trapped, resentful, guilty, shameful, ill-equipped, grief-stricken, lost, uncertain, and disabled. My growth in therapy helps me accept the challenge with compassion and empathy in my heart.

Throughout my lifetime three stages will haunt me.

Stage one is the onslaught of rounds. The crisis mode. The shock and pain.

Stage two is being slammed down, breath taken away. Sabotaged. Terms and feelings of the emergency are acknowledged.

Stage three is advocacy for myself. Stand. Breathe. Make decisions. Tools in hand to counteract the depression and anxiety and OCD. Utilize appropriate response and care.

Encouraged by others, I enroll in Toastmasters. Time for me to improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet. Professional and compelling ways of expressing my views is a talent I want to possess. Persuasive interactions are in reach. My computer with Google as my guide, I find the Toastmasters website. The rules and guidelines answer many of my questions. Ready to take on the challenge, I enter my credit card information and become a member. A direct thrust knocks me down.

At first, I don’t understand what attacks me. My heartbeat begins speeding up. My gasps for air speed up. My head spins with dizziness. The mighty effects of terror hammer me to the ground. Despair sinks me deeper into the attack.

Stage one. The thought of standing before people enunciating in a clear voice avoiding “ums” and “ahs” strikes with negative force. In a semi-frozen state of fear and regret, I struggle to make sense of my attacker. Groups of Toastmasters are warm, safe environments to learn public speaking and leadership skills. “Warm and safe,” I remind myself. Still my heart beats faster and my breath diminishes by the second. A ghost of recognition appears before me. Panic is familiar.

Stage two. My history tells me to take an extra Klonopin. Scared to death is not an option. Upon reaching my medicine cabinet with weak, wobble-producing legs, I discover my pill case empty. In my next move, I check the bottle. Empty. My heart beats faster and my limbs go numb. Sweat trickles down my forehead. My last attempt before I collapse in a heap of despair, I call my pharmacist. My trembling voice separated from my body explains my attack and lack of pills. “How fast can you fill the prescription?” my quivering voice speaks out. “Is ten minutes okay?” the pharmacy technician asks.

Stage three. My inner voice tells me to be brave. Think of a serene place. My happy place. Take deep soothing breaths. My toolbox is ransacked for more options until I come to grips with the present. The dispensary is too far to hike, so I must drive to pick up my pills. Cranked engine. Foot on pedal. Brake released. My self-talk takes me on a wild ride to the drug store. My trembling legs walk me to the back of the aisles. The friendly face of the tech reassures me. The credit card transaction is signed with a jellylike hand, completing the purchase.

Back in my car, I down the remedy with tepid water from an old bottle sitting in my trash. My panting is steadier, my heart pounding a little less. Within thirty minutes, I am relaxed, able to pursue my day. Ready to reassess my decision to become a Toastmaster. The choice is sound and important.

My bulletproof vest is worn as a badge of honor and survival. Without my garb, I would be a prisoner in my house, hiding in bed. Sick to my stomach. Useless.

The stigma of mental illness must be broken. My vest is worn with pride. I am a survivor. I am the voice of one in every five Americans experiencing the assailant. I am not alone.

*

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Laurie Finkelstein RWISA Author Page

 

Victim and Victor. #AtoZChallenge

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

In departing from the usual format of the AtoZ Blogger’s challenge and therefore, presenting two “V” words, I am writing for those who fight a daily battle.  They struggle with their own nature or issues of depression, anxiety, other various mental illnesses, addiction, self-doubt, obsession, etc.  Sometimes the person is both the victor and the victim.  They are a victim to their illness but emerge a victor every 24 hours that they’re alive to see a new day, wake up sober, or go to bed in their own home because they did not get lost or side-tracked.  Between the victor and the victim, though, one does not always destroy the other, but rather, sometimes they just shake hands at night and say, “We’re done fighting for now.”

Yet, for many, that battle picks right up the next morning.  For others, the battle rages on through the night, despite meds and various med changes.  Many of us suffer these things in one way or another at different degrees.  I get riddled with anxiety at times over things I can’t control or I feel I could have changed, had I done things differently. Sometimes I worry about the future. (If x happens, then I will….) I don’t know what I’ll do in the future, but I hope I’ll do it with love for the person who needs it.   I am fortunate to say that this is not a daily battle, but an occasional occurrence, perhaps when things just pile up for me.

Many of us have loved ones like this who fight that battle daily.  It’s enough to make you want to cry to see them struggle so.  There is a period of mourning.  However, I think there must be a co-existence with their struggle.  There needs to be a time of rejoicing for the victories they have made, like that of simply living and of not giving up.  Yes, it may seem odd to simply rejoice for the fact of a person going on living, except that many of us have almost lost them, a few times too many.  I’ve been helped by participating in online forums with others who fight this battle either with the illness or with accepting the illness in a loved one.  I can’t describe what goes on in my loved one’s mind; it’s not my story to tell.  Only learning to love the reality of who this person has become is.

We all mourned when Carrie Fisher passed away, but she was a victor who went on living for sixty years of life and wrote honestly about her struggle with mental illness and drug abuse.  There are many who have fallen victim to their struggle of the mind, but also, many who have been victorious.  I feel she was truly victorious, and several of her books opened my eyes regarding the struggle with mental illness.

I salute all of the victors who may have their coping mechanisms that seem strange to the rest of us.  We, their loved ones, cannot be victorious over their struggle, only they can.  That is a tough realization.  Especially if you are the parent.  We want to show our kids it will be alright, yet, we can’t guarantee that.  We want to tell them to keep taking their meds and the _______(voices, insomnia, sadness, racing thoughts, etc.) will stop. Sometimes they only subside.  Sometimes they come back.  We may feel a victim at times, but we can only be victorious over our own mindset.  We have to co-exist with their struggle and find our place in it, our purpose to them, and our standing as a co-defendant of the person instead of feeling like another victim of their illness.

I write this in honor of someone I love who fights a daily battle within the mind.  I am constantly working on my mindset and how to best accept the situation while always giving my unconditional love.  I won’t pretend that I know it all;  I’m turning to many places for information and support to learn how to respond to daily pitfalls and things I do not understand.  Sometimes, I know I fall short.

 

**The AtoZ Challenge theme for my blog is “Who I am.” Yes, it’s wide open.  In April, I will blog from A to Z to include little tidbits about me, poems I’ll share, and stories. Each day I will write something based on the next letter in the alphabet.  It’s been fun so far, yet it has really given me a chance to pause for reflection as well.  This topic is closely personal for me.  It has not been a subject of my fiction, yet it colors my characters and situations, no doubt.  It creeps into my blog posts, as well.  It has become a part of my experience.

Want to know more about the A-Z blog challenge?  Visit http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

P.S. I am currently reading a highly acclaimed book on this subject, titled I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, written by Dr. Xavier Amador.  I’ve expereienced having to help someone accept their diagnosis.  According to Dr. Amador, lack of insight about one’s illness is suffered by several who have a mental illness.  I am still in the first few chapters, but perhaps I’ll give a more thorough review later.  Check this link for more info.: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0967718929/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_4