The “Ghosts” in my Darkness

This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.

No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.

PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.

IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.

YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.

YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.

SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.

My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at markbierman3@gmail.com. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.

PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.

No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.

That’s complete bulls**t!

I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!

If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.

Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.

What Haunts Me.

Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,

For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much

“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”

I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch

What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,

He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.

We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.

My belief in God.

My wonderful and supportive friends and family.

Prescribed and monitored medication.

Professional counselling.

Leaving the situation (work).

An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

Regular physical exercise.

Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.

Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).

Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.

Pets.

Avoiding the news and social media, at times.

Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.

Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.

I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.

Guest Post by Mae Clair.

Today I’m thrilled to host talented Author Mae Clair! I’ve personally read and enjoyed a number of her books and she comes highly rcommended! She’s here to discuss a new anthology created by seven authors, including herself. They all have something in common,  murder and mystery. You can find out more about purchasing your copy at the end of this blog.

Thank you for visiting! I’ll let Mae take it from here.

BookBrushImage431

Thanks for hosting me today, Mark. I’m delighted to be here sharing news of an anthology in which I have a short story.  Murder They Wrote brings together seven authors writing in various sub genres of whodunits and various time periods.

 

You can see the variety reflected in the blurb: 

Anthology Cover  Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors.

Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder.

For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues.

How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath.

Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party.

Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection.

And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts.

Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.


I am so pleased to be part of this anthology with such an excellent group of authors. My story, A Winter Reckoning, gave me a chance to play outside of my usual supernatural mystery genre. Naturally, the mystery is still there, but this tale lacks for a supernatural presence. No ghosts or creatures.

What you do get is a young knight who accepts a task that would normally fall to his father who has been detained at court. That leaves Richard Essex to escort his mother’s closest friend to a holiday party, in order to protect her from the party’s lecherous host. To complicate matters, the father-in-law who despises him is among the guests.

One of my favorite parts of writing this story was in creating the roster of suspects. It was fun to “stack the deck” with so many potential killers. The pleasure of a mystery rests in trying to piece together the clues and identify the killer before the lead character does. Richard has his hands full with so many suspects. It’s my hope you’ll be guessing, too—trying to discern who has the strongest motive when the host ends up dead. Did I mention Richard is blamed?

My story is just one of seven in which you can do plenty of sleuthing!

Murder They Wrote offers a variety of clever tales in which there are clues to be found, red herrings to avoid, and villains to unmask. And because each short story is a complete mystery, you can engage your detective skills a little at a time, or all at once as your mood dictates.

Thanks again for having me as your guest today, Mark!

Meet Mae Clair and find out more about how to get in touch and purchase her works!

PURCHASE LINK

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

Bio Box 04-23-19

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #15 #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity #fiction

pursootfictionchallengeHappy Sunday! Here is my take on talented Author Suzanne Burkes’ weekly Fiction In a Flash Challenge.  Authors are invited to write a short story about the photo shown. Please click on the above link to go to her blog site. Thank you so much, Suzanne for hosting this regular challenge!

Rosemary’s Treasure

“Grandma, are you sure you want to go up there? They’re in bad shape, and your hip.”

“Oh, pish posh,” Rosemary waved dismissively. “Should have done this years ago and those were built when quality counted.”

“That was seventy-seven years ago. This place has been abandoned for—”

“Twenty years, other than some vandalism, the bones are solid.”

“Maybe, but yours aren’t. Please, just let me have a look. The third floorboard from the back wall of the closet, right?”

Rosemary patted Emily’s hand. “I need to do this myself, with a bit of help from you.”

Emily wiped a tear and hugged her grandmother. “I understand. You were eight and you’ve waited this long. It was your only hope. All these years . . . ” Her grief soaked the purple shawl.

“Shh . . . I’ve made my peace. This must be done before I see him again. I pray God will allow it in Heaven. Father has the other half, that’s why they never found it on him.”

Rosemary’s eyes stung but she must show restraint, be the brave girl that her father had said she was just before he left for the Great War. “Let’s continue, shall we?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” Emily broke her embrace and took the tissue from Rosemary.

“But you must let me check each tread before you step on it and let me guide you. Those are my rules, I’m sorry. I love you too much to lose you.”

Rosemary nodded. “Agreed.”

They moved ahead, arm in arm, with Emily sweeping away the debris with her foot to clear a path. At the base of the stairs, she tested the railing and was satisfied.

“You see, built to last. The stairs will be the same, though the third step might creak. I learned to avoid that one when I’d sneak downstairs after bedtime to grab an extra cookie.” She pointed to the room they’d just left. “My parents would be sitting in their chairs, Mother with her nose in a book, while Father would be asleep. I never got caught, but sometimes I think Mother knew.” Rosemary smiled.

The stairs proved to be every bit as resilient as promised, but every tread protested the disturbance.

The hideous orange and white floral-patterned linoleum flooring installed by the last tenants had chunks missing and revealed the hardwood underneath. Decay wasn’t always bad.

Emily gingerly walked her grandmother across the tripping hazard to the first room on the left. Time had left only a thick layer of dust, cobwebs, and a musty smell in the barren room.

“Hmmm . . . used to be a lot bigger,” Rosemary said. She blamed her watering eyes on the dust and mold. “I loved this room, but after Father was gone, well, we had to move.”

She sighed deeply and shuffled towards the tiny closet. Emily’s hand went to grab her arm, but she brushed it off. “I’m good for now, but I’ll need you to help me kneel.”

The old woman reached the closet and Emily helped her to her knees.

Rosemary struggled to remove the floorboard and Emily offered to help.

“No! I must do this!” Her face softened and her tears splattered into the floor dust. “I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to snap. This arthritis is making it hard. Did they nail it down?”

After what seemed an eternity, the board yielded, and was hoisted with a collectively  held breath. Would it still be there?

Emily handed over the flashlight. The small beam illuminated only cobwebs and dirt. Rosemary dug frantically to clear them, and the light reflected off a silver object lying in between the floor joists.

Rosemary picked up the necklace with shaky hands. Emily gasped, for there it was, the legendary object that she’d heard about since early childhood.

A heart, with one half missing, the other half perhaps lay on a faraway battlefield.

Rosemary clutched the jewelry to her heart, and then wept loudly. Emily rushed to her side and tried to console her grandmother through her own tears.

It took several moments to recover, and Rosemary showed her the inscription in the heart. Because of the shape and the missing piece, it read, ALW TOGE . . . Always Together.

“Oh Grandma, is that true? Do you really believe that?”

“Yes, Emily, all of my life I knew he was there, and soon I will get to see him again and this heart will be whole.”

Worn #writephoto

worn-steps

I wrote this in response to Sue Vincent’s write photo prompt. If you would like to join in the fun, please visit her wonderful blog and have a look around: Sue Vincent

Please suspend your disbelief and picture a convoy of leaf cutter ants crawling across the fourth step from the top, on your right. The ants in this story are all female because worker ants tend to be this gender. The males exist to breed only, surprised? Let’s have a peek into the lives of our six-legged cast, shall we?

“Company halt! Major Amelia, do you have any idea where we are? Why are we crawling into a valley? And a better question is, what are those really tall things sticking up from the ground? They almost reach the sky!”

“Well uh, you see Commander Ava, I, um, was not really, well, you can see, the wind keeps blowing the leaf I’m carrying into my eyes. It’s huge, you know, I am very efficient, as some of us are. The most fungus for the leaf, as they say, or something like that. Hey, you know who might know, because she can’t handle the big stuff? Captain Abigail, of course! Oh, and she’s right here! She’ll know the answer.”

“Very well, Major Amelia, and I’d appreciate a proper antennae salute, or I’ll have you busted down to trash duty? You hear me?”

“Ouch! Yes Commander! Loud and clear. Oh, by the way, did you notice that omeone-say lse-eay idn’t-day altute-say?”

“Enough of that and stop pointing your antennae at the Captain. But yes, you owe me a salute, too, Abigail. And by the way, Major, someone in your position ought to have mastered a simple salute without poking herself in the eye. If your daddy hadn’t taken off after mating with the Queen, I’d swear that he bought your rank for you.”

“But Commander Ava, I don’t even know who my daddy is. None of us do. There’s just too many daddies!”

“Silence! Major Amelia, I’m well aware of how it all works. Now, we have a big problem here and of course, the best way to solve it is first to find out who is to blame.

“Those giants of the Sky Colony that walk up and down these mountains in just eight steps, well, I’ve learned their language. I hear them talk, and that’s what they do.

“We all know that might makes right, and since they are mightier, that means they must be rightier. Isn’t that right?

“No, you imbeciles! What are you, a bunch of dung beetles? Everyone stay in formation! I’m not talking about a direction, just about being right about might. Ah, never mind!

“Captain Abigail, as the lowest rank among the three of us, you are automatically guilty. If you wish to save your precious exoskeleton, you can start by explaining how you created this mess.”

“Me? I mean, Commander Ava, I was third in line, following Major Amelia. I’ve walked in lockstep the entire trip.”

“Hope you like the smell of garbage, because you’ll never forage again.”

“I will take it from here, thank you, Major.”

“Oh, sorry, Commander. But can I just say one thing?”

“Sure, but that’s it.”

“Captain Abigail is lazy. She only carries forty-nine times her bodyweight. She spends most of her time gawking around and smelling the pharaoh moans.”

“And you’re so dumb you can’t even pronounce pheromones.”

“Don’t clack your mandibles at me, Captain. I outrank you, remember?”

“Girls! Can we have order here, please! Now Captain, you’re still guilty and will be punished, but when you mentioned that phero-thingy, came up with a brilliant idea, yet again. You see, the Captain has allowed our route to be sabotaged by the drones of the Sky Colony.”

“No disrespect, Commander, but what are you talking about?”

“Oh, sweet Captain, you have much to learn . . . explains your lowly rank, I suppose. I have personally seen one myself. It was days ago, and it flew over me, on its way up these very mountains. It had black and yellow stripes and made a horrendous buzzing sound.”

“Um, Commander—”

“Do not interrupt me, Captain! Now, as I was saying, the beast flew up these mountains towards that big blue, Sky Portal that the Sky Colony comes from.”

“Um, again, no disrespect, but I don’t think that’s the sky. You see, it’s vertical and the actual sky is— ouch!”

“If the Commander says that it’s the sky, that’s what it is. Now stop rubbing your eye and do not speak until you’re told to.”

“Thank you, Major. I’m ordering everyone to do a smell check. That way we can be sure that no enemy is among us. Look for yellow and black stripes, as well as anyone who buzzes like the gossip mill back at the Hill.

“That’s right! Get those antennae working. Major, get away from me! Ouch! You bit me! That’s it, Captain Abigail is now on permanent trash duty!”

“Me? But that was the Major’s fault.”

“You see me not listening? Yes, that’s what it’s like, but no one cares what you have to say. Alright, halt! It is clear that we have no enemies among us. Now we can resume the blame game. Captain, turn in your badge.”

“But we don’t have badges.”

“That’s it! You’re, hey, what just hit me?”

“Commander! It’s starting to rain! We need to seek shelter before we’re washed down these mountains!”

“Don’t tell me when it is raining, Captain. I’ll tell you, that’s how it works!”

“Um right . . . everyone, we need to get out of here! Move, now!”

“They won’t unless I command it. I say it might be rain, but if it is, then it is only a light rain. It will pass and we shall proceed in determining a new punishment for your insubordination.”

“Everyone, this is your captain speaking! Follow the chain of command but start with me. We’ll pretend the upper ranks do not exist. The rain is getting worse and we’ve no time to reach shelter, get to the base of this mountain and use your leaves to shield yourselves! Yes, that’s it, now hold on. Here comes the downpour!”

“Hey, Not-Captain-Abigail! You are way out of line . . . Major, take that leaf off your head and stand beside me at the edge of this cliff.”

“Y-yes Commander.”

“That’s a good girl, now listen to meee….!”

“They’re gone! I’m glad we listened to you, Captain.”

“All in the chain of command, Sergeant. Now hold steady!”

 

Welcome to Day 5 of #RRBC’S July Spotlight Tour for Karen Black @KARENSSTORIES

Today I have the privilege of welcoming you to Day 5 of RRBC’S July “SPOTLIGHT” Author Tour for Karen Black, a member of Rave Reviews Book Club. Below, you’ll learn about how Karen balances her writing and life. You’ll also discover some of the work she has published. I hope you’ll support her at every stop of her blog tour!

I’ll let Karen tell you herself.

Is writing my full-time job? No. My full-time job is living with the world’s most wonderful husband and a variety of critters, furry and feathered, domestic and wild. From spring until fall, gardening takes up a good bit of time. Herbs are my primary interest, but vegetables are included in the garden. The majority of my writing is done during the winter.

There are days I’ll rarely leave my desk, and others when I never approach it. It is typical for me to have several projects going on at the same time. I’ve found that letting a story sit and returning to review it, after a few days, or a few weeks has worked out best. My stories take on their own life. It is unusual for one to end the way I expected when I wrote the first sentence. I’m never in a hurry to finish a story.

I believe that the more you write, the better writer you’ll become and that a good author never stops reading and improving. For that reason, literary groups take up some of my time. I’ve found networking within these groups encouraging and enlightening. Rave Review Book Club is an excellent example and an outstanding resource for both new and established authors. 

Treacherous Love by Karen Black

 

Meet Karen:

Karen Black

Karen Black lives in the eastern United States, with her husband and a variety of critters, wild and domestic. Hobbies include herb gardening, wildlife watching and wine making, though all are put on hold when she’s caught up in a story. With a lifelong affection for animals, a fascination with the supernatural and a background in criminal justice, the author draws on experience, as well as imagination to create stories that are believable, unique and entertaining. Expect the unexpected.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Twitter:  @KarensStories – https://twitter.com/KarensStories

Facebook:  Stories by Karen – https://www.facebook.com/StoriesbyKaren/

Website:  Stories by Karen – https://storiesbykaren.org/

To follow along with the rest of her tour, please visit the “SPOTLIGHT” Author forum on the RRBC site!

If you’re an author and interested in receiving this kind of support for you and your work, please join us at RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB! We look forward to adding your name to our roster and your books to our catalog!