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Short Stories: June 05, 2024 Issue [#12576]

 This week: The Bell Jar
  Edited by: Shannon
                             More Newsletters By This Editor  

Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

Welcome to the Short Stories Newsletter. I am Shannon and I'm your editor this week.

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Letter from the editor

"If you never heal from what hurt you, you'll bleed on people who didn't cut you."
~ Tamara Kulish

According to Johns Hopkins,   millions of Americans (1 out of every 4 adults and 1 out of every 6 juveniles aged 6-17) are affected by mental illness each year. Conditions range from anxiety disorders to schizophrenia, and mental illness does not discriminate; every demographic group is affected.

If you've written a story with a moderate cast of characters, chances are at least one suffers from mental illness to some degree. When thinking about literature's most memorable mentally ill characters, several stories come to mind: Catcher in the Rye, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, Gone Girl, The Woman in the Window, Lord of the Flies, Misery, Shutter Island, Psycho, and The Bell Jar to name a few. Except for Catcher in the Rye, every one of these stories has a film adaptation. We are fascinated and sometimes terrified by these characters, and we can't get enough of their stories. We even relate to and sympathize with some of them because we or someone we know has suffered from mental illness.

Mental illness can be devastating for the sufferer and their loved ones. Sometimes it affects their ability to sleep, maintain employment, or even leave the house. It impacts their lives in myriad ways, and as writers, it's our job to convey this to the reader as if they're experiencing it themselves.

The DSM-5   is the most comprehensive collection of mental disorders available. It includes diagnostic features of each disorder, associated features supporting the diagnosis, development and course of the disorder, comorbidities, risk and prognostic factors, and differential diagnosis. This is a great place to start if you need to flesh out a character with mental illness. The link above provides the manual in its entirety (nearly 1,000 pages) and I recommend downloading it for future reference. Better Health   and NAMI   are also excellent resources.

To convincingly craft a character with mental illness, we must know what that mental illness looks and feels like. Here are a few examples we've read about or seen on film:

*Bullet* Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder
         PTSD is a complicated mental illness that develops after a traumatic event. According to the National Center for PTSD,   6 out of every 100 people (6%) will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Symptoms include flashbacks; recurring memories or dreams; distressing thoughts; physical signs of stress; avoiding places, events, objects, or people related to the traumatic event; avoiding thoughts or feelings associated with the traumatic event; being easily startled; feeling tense or on edge; difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or staying asleep; irritability; angry or aggressive outbursts; risky or destructive behavior; feeling negative thoughts about oneself; losing interest in enjoyable activities; and social isolation. Treatment includes psychotherapy and medication management.
         For an outstanding depiction of a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD (and one of my favorite movies of all time), watch Sylvester Stallone in First Blood. The book by David Morrell is also excellent.

*Bullet* Schizophrenia
         A chronic psychotic disorder that afflicts less than 1% of the population and usually develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. Sufferers can't tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. It is equally prevalent in men and women. In the early prodromal period before full psychosis appears, family and friends may notice changes in the person's behavior such as social withdrawal, changes in grades, difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping, and volatile mood swings. In the later stages of the disorder symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and catatonia. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but the disorder can be managed. Treatment includes antipsychotic medications, psychosocial therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization for severe cases.
         For a chilling depiction of a teenager suffering from schizophrenia, see Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.

*Bullet* Agoraphobia
         An anxiety disorder that afflicts approximately 1/3 of those suffering from panic disorders. People with agoraphobia fear becoming overwhelmed or unable to escape new or unfamiliar situations. In the worst cases, people are so overcome by fear and anxiety that they are unable to leave their homes. Symptoms include chest pain, elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, excessive sweating, chills or flushing, and upset stomach. Treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, and lifestyle changes.
         For a masterful depiction of a woman suffering from agoraphobia, read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn or watch the film adaptation starring Amy Adams.

*Bullet* Paranoia
         An irrational and persistent feeling that people are out to get you. There are three main types of paranoia: paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoia can make it difficult to function socially or in relationships. Symptoms include hostility toward others, difficulty trusting people, defensiveness, believing that people are talking about you behind your back, suspicion of others' motives, persecution complex, and feeling under constant threat. Treatment includes medication management, therapy, coping skills, and hospitalization.
         For a thrilling portrayal of a man with paranoia, watch Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. As Kurt Cobain once said, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."

*Bullet* Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA)
         Formerly known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another is characterized by acting as if someone in their care (e.g., a child, an elderly parent or grandparent) is afflicted with a mental or physical illness when they are not. FDIA is found to be the cause of approximately 1,000 out of every 2.5 million child abuse cases and is more prevalent in women. Persons afflicted with FDIA lie about the person's "condition" to others, including medical personnel, for sympathy and attention. Doctors scramble to discover what is wrong by running tests and even performing unnecessary surgeries. Warning signs include multiple hospitalizations; medical histories that don't make sense; symptoms being reported by the caregiver with FDIA and not witnessed by medical staff; contradictory or inconsistent symptoms or lab/diagnostic results; conditions that improve while the patient is in the hospital but worsen once (s)he returns home; signs of chemicals in the blood, urine, or stool; and strange or unexplained illnesses and/or deaths in the family. Treatment includes psychotherapy, medication management, and hospitalization.
          For an appalling true case of Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, see the documentary Gypsy's Revenge on Youtube.

Have you written a story about someone with mental illness? Do you have a mentally ill protagonist you want to share with the WDC community? Every registered author who shares their ideas and/or creative endeavors relating to or inspired by this week's topic will receive an exclusive "Mental Health" trinket. The image used to make this month's trinket was created by yours truly. I will retire this month's limited-edition trinket in August when my next short stories newsletter goes live.

"A person begging for their humanity to be acknowledged can sound an awful lot like rage."
~ Kalen Dion

Thank you for reading.
A swirly signature I made using the Mutlu font and a drop shadow.
Newsletter Archives  (E)
A listing of all my newsletters in one easy-to-find place.
#1555482 by Shannon

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Institute of Mental Health has a comprehensive list of resources here.  

Editor's Picks

I hope you enjoy this week's featured selections. I occasionally feature static items by members who are no longer with us; some have passed away while others simply aren't active members. Their absence doesn't render their work any less relevant, and if it fits the week's topic I will include it.

Thank you, and have a great week!

Looking Back - Day One  (18+)
Chapter One of "Looking Back" - a story of adopting a child with mental illness.
#1582068 by audra_branson

 The Changeling  (13+)
A young man spends his Christmas Birthday struggling with life, death, sanity, and freedom
#1226741 by Basilides

 Ronnie's New Girlfriend  (E)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
#1217015 by Coffeebean

Possession  (18+)
In an asylum for the criminally insane, a young orderly discovers true possession...
#1028269 by W.D.Wilcox

 Sleep  (18+)
A story about coping with tragedy.
#1792412 by dharma

 Jake  (18+)
A boy suspects that there's something very wrong with his friend.
#1186197 by Mike R.

And because I wrote a story about a character with PTSD, I decided to include it.

Spook  (18+)
Sometimes survival isn't all it's cracked up to be. 1st Place, "What a Character" contest.
#1866855 by Shannon

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Ask & Answer

The following is in response to "Dear Boss:

*Vignette5* ~

Princess Megan Rose 22 Years writes: Sad Jack The Ripper was never caught. What a sick man. We have always had bad men. This was nicely written with well-defined details. This held the reader's interest. I enjoyed reading this.

*Vignette5* ~

s writes: I have been known to tackle historical stories in my own way often. In fact, I went through a Jack the Ripper phase a few years ago and wrote 3 alternate stories about the murderer. Always fun.

*Vignette5* ~

Beacon's Light writes: When I heard about the stories, no one knows who Jack The Ripper was and why he was doing horrible things to women. I do like your Newsletter and keep them coming.

*Vignette5* ~

Damon Nomad writes: One of my published stories in the anthology Buy Jane Nightshade's Serial Encounters @ Amazon.Com! is my only real true crime-inspired story. The call for submissions asked for fictional encounters with serial killers before they became infamous. My story "Death Trap" involves a car mechanic's encounter with Ted Bundy.

Excellent newsletter and clever marketing hook. I never planned on writing a true crime-inspired story until I came across an anthology call involving serial killers. It did not sound like what I would be interested in but their ground rules got me interested. No mentioning actual victims and cannot make the killer into a hero. I ended up researching Ted Bundy for several days as well as the time frame he was active. I wrote a story about a car mechanic who ends up with Bundy’s car in his shop. It was selected and you can find Death Trap in Jane Nightshade’s Serial Encounters.

*Vignette5* ~

Jeff writes: I've tried my hand at the alternative history genre before (a different spin on a major event), but I've never taken the approach with specific smaller-scale incidents like crimes, or local matters. Sounds like it would be fun to try, though!

*Vignette5* ~

BIG BAD WOLF is 35 on June 3 writes: I know that I've put a twist on a few stories.

*Vignette5* ~

sindbad writes: Hi, Shannon. The Boss as a title is strong and expresses events that happened in 19th century. As a reader the way you captured the finer aspects of the crime, and their effects are truly worth a masterpiece. This is an interesting newsletter with inputs that are apt and complete for a topic that has always interested the fascination of old young and diverse readers...sindbad

*Vignette5* ~

WakeUpAndLive️~🚬🚭2024 writes: Interesting newsletter. I once wrote a true crime story about Nicky Verstappen, a young kid who disappeared and was found murdered. The murderer fled the country but was captured. The Netherlands was in shock about this crime for very long. "Nicky Verstappen [ASR]

*Vignette5* ~

Brian K Compton writes: The advancement of AI and its application in science holds promising potential for resolving historical mysteries and cold cases. By aggregating and analyzing vast amounts of data from various sources, AI can uncover patterns and connections that might have been missed by human investigators. This is already happening in the medical field, where AI helps diagnose rare conditions by sifting through extensive medical records and literature. If similar techniques are applied to historical cases like Jack the Ripper, we might get closer to answers that have eluded us for over a century. Some mysteries might remain unsolved due to the limitations of available data and the passage of time.

I prefer the more current fascinations, as podcasts are proving, or shows like ‘Only Murders In The Building.’ Though, who dunnit has been around a long time. But, reality and ‘How To Catch A Killer’ has that little extra something, like…no resolution. So, we all become sleuths to see if we can be like Patricia Cornwell. Was that a mistake? *shrug*

*Vignette5* ~

dogpack:saving 4 premium: DWG writes: I wrote this as a Newspaper story. My computer is extremely s l o w. "Paper Investigations Newspaper [ASR]

*Vignette5* ~

Detective writes: I've never written a well-known story from a different perspective. I've often wondered, "What if?" But I've never felt particularly inclined to write one, or even write a true crime in general.

*Vignette5* ~

The following is in response to "To Be or Not to Be

dogpack:saving 4 premium: DWG writes: My family is the closest I can get to this topic. I was born six weeks early. They took me home and gave me the very best life possible instead of putting me in an institution. I was loved and nurtured and now am having a great life as an adult. Thank you, Mom, Dad, and Sis. "Seeking Family [E]

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