Mental Health Monday–Expect the Unexpected

I watched the opening minutes of X Factor last week and was blown away by the first audition.

From Greensboro, NC, the singer came out on stage embodying The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He wore high top sneakers, an oversized jean jacket, a plaid shirt tied around the waist, and had a hi-top hair cut with stripes razored along his hairline.

After he introduced himself, a country music tune blared–twang and all.

Screen shots of the judges going “WTF?” alternated with the kid waiting for his cue.

I watched, mesmerized, wondering whether or not I was about to witness a disaster.

As it turned out, dude could SING.

I bring this example up in order to discuss character development.

As writers, we want to paint a clear picture of who our characters are. We also want to make out characters interesting. And we need to do that by avoiding stereotypes and highlighting uniqueness.

What’s more unique than a “Fresh Prince Country Singer?”

How do youse guys develop interesting, unique characters?

Genre Favorites Blogfest

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting his SEVENTH blog fest today and it’s all about–you guessed it–genre favs!

Participating bloggers are asked to share their favorite genres for movies, books, and music.

Gotta say, my tastes are pretty simple.

My favorite movies are action blockbusters (usually with a sci fi, fantasy, paranormal, or magical twist)

THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy and the HARRY POTTER series are my ALL TIME favs!

My favorite book genres include paranormal and scifi–either YA or adult. I also enjoy urban fantasy.

My favorite music includes alternative rock (a la Bush, Five Finger Death Punch, Alice in Chains, Breaking Benjamin, Pearl Jam, etc), classical, and I LOVE movie soundtracks (LoTR, Harry Potter, Batman (a la Dark Knight), etc).

How about you? What are your fav genres?


Need a character “shrink-wrapped?” Ask me! I’ll feature your question on Mental Health Monday! 🙂

Mental Health Monday–Coping with Illness

Linda Gray asks the following question:

When a person has the possibility of inherited life-threatening disease hanging over her head, and the parent (mother) who may have passed it along to her has died from it, what type of person (character traits) can stand up to that situation with courage and the ability/determination to do whatever possible to live a full life, as opposed to living in dread of developing the disease and dying from it, too?

This is a FANTASTIC question!

Let me reference a particular illness that has physical and psychiatric complications and is heritable (passed down from generation to generation).

HUNTINGTON’S DISEASE is a neurodegenerative disorder with cognitive, psychiatric, and physical symptoms. It is autosomal dominant (which means 50% offspring inherit the disease). It’s particularly tragic because symptoms often develop AFTER childbearing years, so the disease can be unwittingly passed on to the next generation.

It can cause memory disturbance, dementia, psychosis, depression, irritability, and can/does affect muscular coordination. In fact, people develop what’s called “chorea,” which is an abnormal, involuntary, writhing movement of the limbs and torso. Progression can vary, but it often leads to such significant impairment that the person can’t care for themselves and need nursing home level of care.

Genetic testing is available if someone wants to find out if they have inherited the gene. Counseling and education is strongly advised (to help the person cope with the possibility of getting bad news).

This would be devastating news for anyone to hear and certainly a person’s personality makeup has a huge impact on how they handle it. Too many factors go into personality development to predict for certain, but upbringing (caring and nurturing vs cold and neglectful or abusive), experiences (witnessing a parent/loved one go through the disease process), genes (more information is learned daily about the heritability of mental illness and various temperments), and coping skills all play a roll.

Now, every human being on the planet has experienced adversity, suffering, etc. BUT, HOW WE COPE WITH IT CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Therefore, I’d posit that someone with strong coping skills (such as having good problem solving strategies) who is facing a potentially life-altering or life-threatening disease can have a “better” response to such news than someone with poor coping skills (such as having poor problem solving strategies).

Coping skills vary widely. Some people turn to obsessive thinking, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, yelling, breaking things, cutting, or suicide attempts/gestures. Others turn to talking with others, exercising, asking for help, building a support network, and relying on religion or another method of devloping inner peace (like meditation).

Now it’s your turn. What factors would help or hurt someone when dealing with devastating medical news?

Remember, these posts are for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and are not intended for medical advice or treatment.

Please don’t hesitate to ask a #MentalHealthMonday question if you need a character “shrink-wrapped.” 😉

Happy Labor Day!

For the US, today is a holiday for all us laborers. 😉

See y’all on Wednesday when I discuss platform when writing in different genres.

Remember, Mondays are reserved for Mental Health Monday posts, so if you have a character that needs to be shrink-wrapped, don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll host your question here!

I’m still posting my #MentalHealthMondayWritingTips on Twitter. I’m @DiamondLB if you want to follow (link is on the side bar).

Mental Health Monday–Of Alters and Core Personalities

Lydia Kang CC’ed me on an email from a writer who is devloping a character with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Super cool! As a result, I’ve decided to repost an oldie, but goodie post on Dissociative Disorders (in green). I have further comments below, specific to HOW TO WRITE A CHARACTER WITH DISSOCIATIVE SYMPTOMS.

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) categories various forms of dissociation (a disruption in memory, awareness, identity, and/or perception).

  • Depersonalization disorder: period of feeling detached from one’s self; this is often seen in anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder…or if you stare at yourself in the mirror for too long. Go ahead, try it. Go on.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: a person experiences significant impairment in recall of personal information, often resulting from a serious trauma; duration varies; often spontaneously remits
  • Dissociative fugue: a person “forgets” who they are and may travel to a different city & pick up an entirely different life; this may last hours to days or longer, depending on how severe. It can spontaneously remit and is usually the result of a significant traumatic event.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder): a very rare disorder where a person’s psyche is fractured into several (2-100) different personalities. These personalities are known as “alters,” and each has his or her own way of behaving. Depending on the severity of the situation, the person may or may not be aware of their alters. If the individual is not aware, the times when alters “take over” are experienced as black outs or “lost time.”

It is purported that DID develops as a means of self-protection. Often, those with DID have experienced significant abuse as a child and the personality fragments into several different “people.” This allows the “main personality” to compartmentalize trauma and function in the face of it.

People with dissociative disorders do not choose to become another personality. The idea is that it is out of their control. With therapy, a person becomes more aware of their alters and learns to communicate with them until they are reintegrated.

Dissociative disorders are challenging to treat because people are often reluctant to come into treatment and co-morbid conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and substance use disorders can occur.

That’s all well and good, but how does one go about WRITING a character with DID???

The key to distinguishing each alter personality is to make sure each alter HAS THEIR OWN VOICE. It’s imperative that there’s some clue binding each alter together, especially with the core (the personality seen most) personality. For example, alters are generally aware of the core and can comment about them while they are being dominant. Furthermore, an alter may try to hurt the core (via cutting, burning) or may engage in activities the core wouldn’t ordinarily do, like going to a club, bar, having a one night stand, etc. Whoever the core encounters would be surprised by their “odd” behavior. It would be excellent fodder for a tension-filled dialogue and scene.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and is NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Check out Lydia’s post on Medical Mondays and Sarah Fine’s blog, The Strangest Situation.

Mental Health Monday–#MentalHealthMondayWritingTips

Accurate emotional reactions from characters are CRUCIAL to pull in your reader. On the other hand, an over- or under-reaction jolts your reader out of the story and they just might put your book down.

Working these issues out comes with practice, keen beta readers, crit partners, and skilled editors. There are also several resources and tools out there to help you. I’m sure you’ve heard of The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and you’ve likely visited their blog, The Bookshelf Muse. And perhaps you’ve read The Writer’s Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman.

I’ve been posting various mental health topics in an effort to help writers portray their characters accurately too. Now, in addition to my regular Mental Health Monday posts, I will be supplementing mental health writerly tips on Twitter!

My Twitter:

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for these little tidbits. (And, I’d be most delighted if y’all would help me out by tweeting this post and retweeting my tweets to spread the word.)

Please use the hashtag: #MentalHealthMondayWritingTips

I’m gonna pay it forward by giving away a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus to one lucky commenter!

Also, please check out Amie Borst’s blog today–she’s hosting a MEGA AWESOME GIVEAWAY!!!! TWENTY-FIVE authors are involved, including yours truly. 😉

Don’t forget to pop over the Lydia Kang’s blog to check out her series, Medical Monday. She’ll be back in late August.

(image found on Goodreads)

Mental Health Monday–Telepsychiatry

You’ve perhaps heard of surgeons using robotics to perform surgery on someone in another city, state, or even country?

Well, psychiatrists can also evaluate and treat patients remotely. Called telepsychiatry, it’s a relatively new method of connecting providers with clients when distance is a limiting factor.

I’ve never done telepsychiatry, but know colleagues who have. I’d imagine it could be challenging, considering we use all our senses (including smell) to evaluate clients. On the other hand, a client usually has a therpist or case worker present with them, while the psychiatrist communicates via camera/TV.

So, writers, if you have a character in an isolated location and they need a therapist/psychiatrist, make sure they have access to the interwebz and maybe even Skype. 😉

Let me know if you have any writerly mental health questions, and I’d be happy to answer them here on Mental Health Monday. Check out Lydia’s Medical Mondays as well and Sarah Fine’s blog, The Strangest Situation for more psych related topics.

Remember, these posts are for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Mental Health Monday–A Better Pain Chart

When patients are admitted to the hospital, their vital signs are checked at regular intervals. Vital signs include blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and percent oxygenation of the blood. A fifth vital sign includes rating pain on a scale of 0-10. Since pain is such a subjective thing, the scale includes pictures to help the rater identify where they lie on the scale.

Pain Measurement Scale (CLICK THE LINK TO SEE PIC)


A better pain chart has been made and it’s circling around the interwebz like crazy. So I thought I’d share it with all y’all.

A Better Pain Chart (CLICK LINK TO SEE PIC)


I deleted the pic to avoid copyright infringement, so I’ll paraphrase the scale…

0: No pain

1: Not sure if I’m in pain

2: Just need a band-aid

3: Distressed; don’t like what’s happening

4: Pain is not effing around

5: Why is this happening to me???

6: Ow. Pain is super legit right now

7: I see Jesus coming for me and I’m scared

8: Pain is disturbing. I may be dying

9: I am almost definitely dying

10: I am actually being mauled by a bear

11: Blood will explode out my face any moment

Too Serious for Numbers: You probably have ebola. It appears you may also be suffering from stigmata and/or pinkeye

Quite useful, isn’t it?

Don’t forget to check out my GIVEAWAY posts. There’s a week left to enter!

Click HERE to see my announcement and book + 3 chapter crit giveaway (just leave a comment to enter)

Click HERE to check out Rachel Firasek’s new novella and get a chance to win it (just leave a comment)

Mental Health Monday–Phobias: Are They Catching?

Natasha Hanova asks:

What is the difference between haphephobia and chiratophobia? Is it believable that a child with such a parent might exhibit symptoms too?


I had to do some research to find the answer…

HAPHEPHOBIA, simply put, is the fear of being touched. This can happen particularly in the cases of sexual assault whereby the victim becomes phobic of being touched by a member of the opposite sex (or the sex of whomever assaulted them, I’d guess).

A bit of lit trivia: Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey apparently suffers from this phobia…though I didn’t really get that vibe from reading the book. He had trouble with casual touch, but when it came to, well, BDSM, he had a grand old time. *ahem*

Moving on…

Other names for Haphephobia include:

  • aphephobia
  • haphophobia
  • hapnophobia
  • haptephobia
  • haptophobia
  • thixophobia
  • chiratophobia

(Thank you, Wikipedia, for that info!

Phobias are considered the most common Anxiety Disorder. Most suffers are women (90% of phobia sufferers are women, in fact). Phobias often start from some sort of childhood incident that incited fear, dread, fear of death, or panic. Once someone equates fear with an object or situation (and the incident is extreme enough for that person), then they develop symptoms of anxiety and panic whenever presented with said object or situation. No one likes how anxiety/panic feels, so then the object or situation is avoided. MOST kids outgrow these fears (like the fear of the dark), HOWEVER, some people retain these phobias into adulthood.

There are several theories of how phobias work. It appears to include a combination of genetic inheritance (people with anxiety are likely to pass it off to their offspring genetically AND behaviorally), learned behaviors (I’m repeating myself, in a way, but it comes down to the Nature vs. Nuture debate), and individual experiences with scary things.

So, to answer Natasha’s second question, I’d say:

Yes, children can develop similar symptoms to their parents if their parents exhibit a phobia. They would likely be genetically prone to developing an anxiety disorder and symptoms can emerge based on how their parents interact with them.

For instance, a parent who is phobic of touching probably wouldn’t engage in much hugging, kissing, or general affection, etc with their kid and so the child would learn that it’s not okay to touch or that touching isn’t part of how people interact.

The good news is that phobias ARE treatable with therapy and/or medication.

Ok. Enough of my rambling. I hope that was helpful, Natasha!

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT intended to be medical/psychiatric advice or treatment.

Please don’t hesitate to ask a question–I’d be happy to host your Mental Health Monday question any time! Just leave a question in the comments, email me, tweet me, or find me on Facebook–links are on the sidebar.


(photo credit)

Mental Health Monday–Zombie Apocalypse and Bath Salts


The news has been rife with stories of cannibalism lately. I’d say the subject itself isn’t new, but the gruesomeness and the occurrence of it in “civilized” cities is alarming to say the least. (Zombie experts have long warned of this day, I might add.)

Hmmm, maybe the Mayans are onto something.


Anywho, the dude in Florida (who attacked someone and ate parts of their face–YUCK and YIKES!) was high on something called “Bath salts.” Not to be confused with the fragrant, soothing stuff we add to our baths, bath salts (in the illicit substance world) is actually a concotion of synthetic stimulants including mephedrone, MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone), and methylone.

Symptoms of intoxication include:

Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, high blood pressure, tacchycardia, and suicidality.

(Source: WebMD)

It’s been described as worse than LSD, PCP, esctasy, and meth.

I would readily agree.

We’ve seen cases of this locally and people intoxicated on this stuff (who end up on the inpatient psych unit) are often very difficult to keep calm and difficult to treat because our standard anti-psychotic medications are not as effective in treating bath salt induced psychosis.

Some of the people we’ve treated never recover (meaning they have chronic, severe symptoms of psychosis for months or longer after intoxication on bath salts) and end up being transferred to the longer term facility for prolonged inpatient care.



Photo credit

Mental Health Monday posts are for writing purposes only. They are not to be construed as medical treatment or advice.

If you have a writerly mental health question, please don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂