Tag Archives: psychology

Just a Normal Tuesday, an SCBWI Book Review

Just a Normal Tuesday

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I did not mean to do two books on incredibly sensitive topics in a row.  It just worked out that way.  Next time I’m definitely going to have to do Caraval, because The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD.  Gotta break up the heavy topics a little.  So…

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE

Book: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation: I think you can tell that this is not something you pick up for a bit of light reading.  That being said, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of psychology, has experienced suicidal thoughts, or knows someone who has taken his or her own life.  This book might be the companion you need if you’re feeling all alone or trapped inside your own head.

Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Kai comes home and checks the mail to find a letter from her older sister, Jen, informing Kai and their parents that she is going to kill herself, and Kai rushes to her sister’s apartment only to find out that she is too late and what follows is Kai’s descent into depression followed by a trip to grief camp where she learns that she can find a way to live through the tragedy that struck her.

(Necessarily) Long Review: This book is a little different.  I feel that something that touches on such an important and sensitive topic merits a very careful analysis and critique.  Therefore I won’t be separating out positive and negative comments this time.

At this point I’d like to note that it is extremely difficult for me to critique Turrisi here, as this story is semi-autobiographical; when she was fifteen, her sister killed herself.  But, to be fair, I am offering critique, not criticism (slight difference in connotation there).

Firstly, if you read this book, you are going to cry.  If you have a heart at all, you will end up bawling your eyes out at some point.  This could end up being a very necessary catharsis for you.  If you have experience with suicide or suicidal thoughts, you might not even make it all the way through the book.  That being said, I feel that Turrisi laid it on a little thick at times.  Suicide is already such an emotionally impactful event that I feel you don’t really need to push to convey that impact to readers.  The times when Turrisi shined brightest were when she let genuine emotions do the talking, rather than trying to emphasize the emotional weight with repetition and figurative language.

The biggest faults are the repetition and the occasional clunky piece of dialogue.  It sometimes borders on cheesy, and there’s a bit of a pacing issue.  The cursing sometimes feels gratuitous, the title is referenced multiple times with different wording (one crazy Tuesday, just another Monday, etc.), and the words “tingle,” “tingly,” and “tingling,” were used just a few times too many for my liking.

Another thing I have to say is that the book starts out with Kai finding her sister’s suicide letter, so we don’t get to see any characterization of the sister, Jen, except through brief little snapshots that barely warrant the term “flashback.”  Similarly, we don’t really know who Kai is as a person.  Towards the end of the book she starts to realize that she’s defining herself through her relationship with her sister, and I would have liked to see the character take steps to learn more about who she is as an individual.  I appreciate beginning in medias res, but a jump backward in time after the suicide note could have helped to establish Kai and Jen as characters.  Jen’s death would have meant more to me if that had happened.  As it was, and again I hate to say this, the first half of the novel started to drag after a while.  Because the book begins with Kai at an all-time low, we don’t get to see a downward spiral.  Instead, she starts out at rock bottom, and she slowly creeps a little farther downward over numerous pages.

The grief camp part of the book, on the other hand, picks up considerably.  Possibly because Turrisi relied a little more on fabrication – since she herself never attended such a camp  – we see a slew of interesting characters, a burgeoning romance, and some truly heartfelt and gut-wrenching stories of loss and suffering.

Overall, it’s not the perfect novel, but I genuinely believe it might be helpful to those out there who are suffering from a similar loss, or who are plagued by suicidal thoughts themselves.  I think what Turrisi created is commendable to say the least, and I would recommend picking it up as long as you are prepared to be hit where it hurts.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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The Cold Truth About Depression

WordPress is kinda getting on my nerves.  I wrote this post already.  Last night.  I saved it as a draft because I wasn’t ready to publish it yet.  This morning, I wake up and go to my site.  Lo and behold, no drafts.  The entire post isn’t there.  So now I’m rewriting from memory.  Let’s see if I can remember how I did this.

The title is a pun.  I apologize to all those pun-haters out there that I have offended.

A few days ago, I watched the movie, Frozen, in Spanish because I was trying to practice my oral comprehension.  Incidentally, the song, “Let it Go,” is changed to, “I’m free” [Libre Soy].  Disney spares no expenses with their translations.  They translate the songs, the signs, everything.  They even make sure the songs still rhyme in Spanish, all while fitting the same meter.  Anyway, I watched Frozen [Congelado] and then a few days after that I had an “off day.”  Some of you will recall that I have written about my mental issues in the past.  Funnily enough, that post also had to do with the cold.  I don’t like to make my depression or anxiety a secret, because I think they’re a part of my humanity, and I think that it’s good to remind the internet of your humanity every once in a while.

So on my “off day,” I was feeling depressedI was stress-eating and I couldn’t stop myself.  And that’s when it hit me: There is a scene in Frozen that perfectly encapsulates the nature of depression.  It’s a fairly innocuous scene in context, with throwaway humor from the comic relief snowman.  Take a look:

Frozen 1

Frozen 2

Frozen 3

Frozen 4

Look at the hesitation on Anna’s face, and the confusion on Olaf’s.  It’s such a simple task.  Olaf can’t understand what on Earth would prevent Anna from being able to knock on a door.  Now comes the frustrating truth:

The Frustrating Truth

These two characters do not represent two different minds.  Both of them exist in the same mind.  Anna’s hesitation and Olaf’s confusion exist together.  There’s a third character on screen, but you can ignore him.

Not Relevant

Look at this scene with different wording.  When I’m depressed, getting out of bed suddenly becomes a herculean effort.

Depression 1

Depression 2

Depression 3

Depression 4

That’s my brain.  Right there.  Depression in a nutshell.  Oh yeah, and my stress-eating, too.  It’s the exact same thing.

Depression 5

Depression 6

Depression 7

Depression 8

That’s what it feels like.

I want to say for the record that I am fine now.  I had one bad day in a sea of good ones.  I didn’t write (and then rewrite) this post just to make non-depressed people feel bad, or to make depressed people feel worse, or to make my family and friends worry.  All I wanted to do was jump on the Explaining Mental Health Issues Bandwagon.  Raising awareness is important.  For those with depression, this might seem obvious and familiar.  For those without it, maybe I’ve shed some light on the condition.  There’s nothing much else for me to say, except of course:

It gets better!

If you have depression, do not suffer in silence.  You owe yourself a chance at getting better, and remember that, thanks to the internet, the world is your support group.  There’s help out there.  There are people out there who understand what you’re going through.  Remember not to berate yourself when you can’t knock on the door.  Olaf will get through to you eventually.  Take it at your own pace.

That’s all I’ve got!

We're-Okay

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It’s a Bit Cold

Everyone is so up in arms about winter happening.  Yes, it’s colder than it usually is, but let’s focus on the real problem here, shall we?  How it affected ME.

I went home for my birthday, which is late in December.  I flew United, which turns out to have been a mistake.  Here is a brief overview of my recent air travel experience:

1. Flight from NY to CA – I arrived at the airport at 4 AM, having not slept the night before, to find out that my flight was delayed by about two hours.  Since this meant missing my connecting flight, I had to call the convenient customer service number.  The robotic voice told me I’d be on hold for about three minutes.  I was on hold for over an hour.  Flight got rebooked, everything was fine I guess.

2. Making my way back to NY – So apparently the midwest was royally screwed by the weather, but my flight was not to the midwest.  My connection was in DC.  But as I was sitting in the airport waiting for my first flight, an announcement was made that there was a “mechanical” issue with our plane and go rebook all your flights now.  Long story short: Two hours waiting in the line for customer service, rebooked on a flight that was leaving a full twelve hours after I got to the airport, got to Washington DC only to find that my connecting flight to NY had been cancelled, more customer service, crying at the customer service desk, finally get flown in to a city that is over an hour’s drive from where I live, stop at the airport I was supposed to be at to pick up luggage, get told luggage never left CA.

My anti-anxiety/depression medication was in my checked bag.  A bag I paid to have checked, mind you.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: You idiot, Bex.  Who packs their medication in their checked luggage?

I know, I know.  But I did.  It happened.  And nearly a week later, I still haven’t heard about my luggage.

Let me just tell you a little bit about anxiety.  This is me/my brain without anti-anxiety medication:

Anxiety

It’s especially bad when you stop taking those meds very suddenly.  Fortunately, I finally got over my own stubbornness and called my doctor for an emergency refill.  But as long as we’re on the subject, let’s go ahead and talk a little more about my mental problems.  Especially since some people seem to believe they’re made up.  Not you, of course, but some people.

This is my anxiety:

Anxiety

It’s a little beast that spills milk and makes me cry over it.  Worse, it makes me cry over all the milk that has yet to spill.  Hell, it might not ever spill but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to worry about it anyway.  Because the anxiety beast tells me to.

This is my depression:

Depression

It’s a shadowy creature that whispers to me that I’m worthless.  It tells me not to care.  To stay in bed all day and watch YouTube videos and not eat because nothing matters.

My family and friends are very supportive, don’t get me wrong.  I’d be nowhere near this sane if it weren’t for them (and a little therapy).  But the medication also helps.  It gives me the push I need to be Okay.  With a capital O.  It is a sword I use to fight the monsters.  And it works quite well.  So when United airlines took that away from me, I got pretty mad.

I hope I see my luggage again one day.

That is all.

Word of the Day: Overwrought (adj) – extremely or excessively excited or agitated

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