Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lies People Believe About Depression

So here's the thing, fellow digressors: there's a reason why this blog is called 'Digressions of a Demented Scribe'. Several reasons, actually. You've probably picked up on several of them, if not all. I am a highly random person who's just as likely to bring up Messy Mondays, Doctor Who, or the weather in Afghanistan as she is to talk about how her day went on her blog. I have a chronic, neurological disease that messes with my head and gives me such things as photophobia (no, I'm not afraid of light; it just hurts my eyes sometimes), neuropathy (like pins and needles in the hands and feet), neurological tics (that's a new one; I keep randomly jerking my head back and forth), anxiety, and depression. 

One one accepts the idea that Lyme is a real disease, and that it can be chronic (and believe me, not everyone is willing to accept that), most of these are readily forgiven. People understand that, if microscopic parasites have gotten into your bloodstream and made their way to your brain and throughout your nervous system, things are going to get a little wacky. Heads might jerk, light might sting, and it might get uncomfortable to walk. But things like depression and anxiety are often stigmatized, and are widely misunderstood, even if they come about in relation to a separate, officially diagnosed issue. Depression in itself is a diagnosable, treatable problem, but all the same, there are a number of lies that people in general tend to believe about it, whether they pay lip-service to those lies or whether they just hold them in the back of their minds as "something I heard from some knowledgeable friend once." 

So, without further ado, here are a few... 

Lies People Believe About Depression (Debunked) 

Depression is just a bad mood that comes and goes. 

Depression is more than just a bad mood, though such moods are common when the disease is present, due to a low amount of serotonin and other mood-regulating or pleasure-related chemicals in the brain. In fact, sometimes it is not a mood or a feeling at all, but an absence of feeling, and absence of pleasure or of the ability to appreciate what once made a person happy. It may frequently involve tears and guilt and a crushing feeling of hopelessness that strips you of everything you are. But oftentimes, it may keep you chained to your bed, or sitting in a chair in your room, staring at a blank wall or an empty page, struggling to feel, to remember what it might have been like to experience joy, or excitement, or even pain or sadness. It is more than a sadness -- it is a loss of self. And although the intensity of one's "bad mood" may rise and fall, that pervasive sense of being different, of being a non-self without the ability to "fix" oneself, or to even remember who that "self" was before depression, persists. 

Depression has no physical symptoms, and is not a viable disease. 

Clinical depression is a highly researched disease with multiple neurological symptoms, and is often made marginally more bearable through treatments and activities that promote the production of healthy chemicals in the brain, although this is only a temporary "fix" meant to help with day-by-day coping, not a cure. It can affect not only one's mood, but also sleep cycles, concentration, energy levels, body weight, and even a tendency towards substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors (usually as methods of coping or escape). Genetics can also play a role -- some people carry a gene that makes them more likely to suffer from depression or a similar disorder, and this can be passed on to their offspring. Therefore, depression often runs in families, though severity may vary between affected family members. 

Depression impacts nothing beyond a person's basic mood swings. It does not interfere significantly with its victims' lives. 

Among the many documented symptoms of depression are fatigue, lack of focus, severe loss of motivation (to the point where some severe sufferers lose even the will to leave their beds in the morning), and a loss of interest in activities that would normally be pleasurable. I realize I am repeating myself here, but one of the major points here is that depression is not just a mood -- it is a disease, and it should be taken seriously. 

Depression is a choice people make. If they would just try harder, smile more, make an effort to think more positively, exercise more, etc., they could snap out of it. 

Sorry, no. While some of these suggestions might help to alleviate symptoms temporarily (for example, exercise has been proven to release pleasure-related chemicals in the brain of which the sufferer is usually deprived, and promotes health overall), they do not cure depression. A person with hypoglycemia needs frequent blood-sugar-boosting foods to keep them going, but the foods do not cure the hypoglycemia. They are necessary, yes, as exercise and other such things are necessary to someone with depression, but they do not cure the root problem. You would not give a hypoglycemic person a big jar of nuts and say, "Here you go -- you're cured. Now you don't have to worry about that pesky hypoglycemia anymore." Would you? Of course not. It might help deal with their deficiency in the short term, but their blood sugar will run low again when the nuts run out, because that is the nature of their condition. Likewise, you can do things to temporarily boost a depressed person's mood, but eventually the high will wear off. The disease is still there. That does not make the mood-boosters unnecessary or irrelevant, but it does mean that they will not be sufficient to cure the person of their issues on a permanent basis. 

Depression sufferers are selfish and immature because they choose to wallow in self-pity and bring down the moods of everyone around them. 

Most (if not all) depression sufferers actively spend their days battling with their own minds in an attempt to think positively. They are constantly bombarded with thoughts of, "You're pathetic. What's the point? Nobody likes you. Your life stinks. You stink. You should just lock yourself in your room and never come out again. You're a freak. You shouldn't even be talking to normal people. This is all your fault. You should be able to just walk out there and be normal." To even make the effort to leave one's room and participate in normal activities often takes tremendous effort, and is exhausting for the person battling them. Personally, I sometimes find myself telling my brain out loud to shut up and leave me alone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The point is, if people with depression always wallowed in self-pity and made no effort to push past the thoughts their brains manufactured for them, you would never see any of them (us) out of their (our) rooms or even attempting to do anything or to interact with people. If they let their brains win, they might not even live long enough for you to realize they were depressed. They are far from selfish pity-party-throwers -- they are warriors. And their private war should be respected, as hard as it may be to relate to something you cannot always see from the outside. 

Depression sufferers are just lazy and looking for an excuse to get out of work, school, etc. 

Depression sufferers would like nothing more than to be healthy and happy, and to move on with their lives just like the 'normal people'. They want to succeed and to be treated with the same respect as everyone else, and most of them work hard to earn that respect. I have never met one who did not wish they could just be normal and happy like everyone else. I've never met one depressed person who said, "Hey, this depression thing is really convenient. Now I have an excuse to lie around and do nothing all day." It just doesn't happen. If someone with depression appears to be lazy and unmotivated, it is only because they are exhausted and find the idea of doing anything productive daunting beyond belief. 

People with depression are insecure attention-seekers who need to get ahold of themselves. 

It is true that depression sufferers tend to be insecure, but very few actually seek attention unless they are truly desperate and don't know any other way to get help. Most live their lives in fear that those they know will discover the darkness of their inner lives and reject them. People with depression also tend to see themselves as burdens on those they love, and are particularly sensitive to rejection. As such, they do their best to hide their problems with others and appear as "normal" as possible, but when your mind insists on assaulting you on a regular basis, sometimes acting normal is impossible. 

People who try to express or alleviate their depressive symptoms through such destructive behaviors as cutting, eating disorders, drug abuse, etc., are freaks to be shunned, and will obviously go to Hell for making these choices. 

Okay, no. Just no. Where did this idea even originate? True, self-destructive behaviors are terrible things to adopt, and might even be categorized as sin by some, but nothing is beyond the grace of God. I mean, think about it -- God forgave and redeemed Saul of Tarsus, a man who built his reputation on his religious supremacy and persecution of Christ-followers. (Read the book of Acts. Saul is mentioned a couple of times in reference to the stoning of Stephen in chapters 5-7, but much of his story starts in chapter 9.) In fact, Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, one of the most faithful and effective witnesses for Christ ever to be seen. His crimes before coming to Christ were despicable, and I'm sure many believed he had no chance of redemption, but God worked through him nonetheless, and his mistakes now serve as a testament to us of how great God is and how mighty He is to save those who come to Him for forgiveness. 

So taking this into account, in what context can we assume that any person engaging in any behavior (no matter where their sins may fall on our scale of sinfulness) is past redemption? And beyond this, when is it okay to tell someone desperate enough to engage in self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to cope that they are irredeemable freaks unworthy of "righteous" people's attention? People who engage in self-destructive behaviors, while they may sometimes be crying for help with their actions, tend to engage in such behaviors as either a form of self-punishment, a release of tension, to make themselves feel again when depression has numbed them, or as a way to escape from the pain of their everyday lives. They are complex individuals created by God and loved infinitely by Him, and they are in pain. Excruciating pain. Pain so bad that they feel they need to hurt themselves just to survive. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it's common. And it is not your place, not my place, not anyone's place, to judge them. It is our place to love them and to do everything we can to help them deal with the problem behind these behaviors. You've heard that you can't treat the symptoms and ignore the disease and expect the patient to make a full recovery. Well, there you go. 

Depression is a character flaw, and proof that the sufferer doesn't really trust God like they should. 

Depression is a mental disease. It is neurological. It is perpetual. It is torturous and paralyzing. It is not a choice. It is not a mere state of mind. And it is not a sin. And for more on the subject of whether suffering is the result of a lack of trust in God, check out the book of Job. Seriously. Go look it up. Right now. Throughout the book, Job was judged and condemned by advisors who believed that his suffering was the result of some hidden sin, when all the while it was a test. It had nothing to do with Job's sins or with any lack of love for or trust in God. It had everything to do with putting the trust and love he had to the test, and proving just how strong and true it really was. Even when Job did not understand what was going on, even when he wished for death and questioned why God had brought it upon him, still he trusted that God was there, and glorified Him even when he didn't feel like doing it. Job did nothing to deserve his suffering. Likewise, whatever mistakes a person with depression may have made in their life, their depression should never be assumed to be a symptom of any hidden sin or lack of trust in God. Again, it is not our place to judge -- it is our place to accept people as they are, to acknowledge their pain without condemning them for it, and to love as God loves us. 

Depression is a temporary phase, and not to be taken seriously. 

Clinical depression, by its very definition, is a medical condition which can last months, years, or even for a person's entire life. It can severely impair its victims' ability to function and associate with others, or even to take care of themselves, and it drives some to take their own lives, either intentionally or by accident while engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as those listed above. And the longer it is left alone, the worse it gets. 

If someone with depression seems to have several good days and acts "normal" for longer than usual, this is a sign that their depression is gone, and should no longer be acknowledged as a reality. 

Sometimes people with depression have good days. They might even have an entire week of being able to behave normally, and those who are especially good at acting might be able to pass as a healthy individual for even longer. These highs, while enjoyable and encouraging, do not last forever, and often the depressed person may feel even worse when the high crashes, due to profound feelings of disappointment, fear, and guilt because they thought they were getting better. They truly want to be happy and healthy, as stated above, and when a high crashes, the loss of that empowering feeling may make the sufferer feel as though they have lost control. However, they may continue to fake the high so as not to disappoint their loved ones. In this way, the friends and family of depression sufferers are often left in the dark by a well-meaning person who only wants to spare them the hurt which the sufferer himself/herself bears every day and night. 

If you discover that someone you know is depressed, you should ignore their complaints and divert the conversation whenever possible. They will cheer up eventually on their own as long as no-one fosters their negativity. 

If you discover that someone you know is depressed, support them. Yes, cheering them up can sometimes be helpful (depending upon the person and how severe their depression is), and dwelling on the negative aspects of life can certainly be harmful. But what this person needs from you now is not just a pep talk, not just a cheery conversation about the weather or a TV show -- they need an ally, someone they know will be there no matter how rough things get, someone they can trust with their deepest insecurities. They need you to be the voice of sympathy and reason that does battle with the voices of insecurity and hopelessness that scream at them at all hours of the day. They need to feel that they can express their feelings and seek your help without being judged for what they say or do. Basically, actions speak louder than words, and your actions, whatever their nature, will positively scream your intentions in times like these. 

If depression is not a character flaw, then it must be the result of sin. Therefore, depression sufferers should be confronted and judged until they realize the error of their ways. 

Let's just start here: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1, KJV) We already looked at the book of Job and discussed how suffering is not necessarily the result of sin or of a lack of trust in God. Suffering is a natural part of living in this sin-cursed world of ours. But even if it were the result of a person's own private sin, that is between them and God. Again, it is not your job to judge them. It is your job to love them. Yes, encourage them to think of good things. Gently encourage them to abstain from behaviors which harm themselves and others. Be honest, but also be loving. And in the case of depression, recognize the tremendous measure of strength it takes just to get through each day while suffering from this crippling disease. The error of their ways? Your friend, family member, etc. deserves a great big hug just for getting out of bed today, just for drawing breath again and again despite what their brain might try to make them do. Remember, you are not them. You do not know how they feel or what they are going through. You are in no position to judge them. 

And now, here's a big one: 

Depression sufferers are weak. 

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. 

And again, just to clarify: NO. 

Try this: Imagine the person you trust most is standing in front of you, the person whose ideas tend to most often match your own, whose opinion you value above all others. Now imagine that they're spouting out lies about you, horrible lies that tear you down and strip away whatever dignity you might have had previously. Now imagine they're sitting on your shoulders, and that you're forced to carry their weight all day, every day, and that they keep whispering these horrible lies while you try to sleep at night. They repeatedly tap your head in the most irritating and distracting way, making it impossible to focus, and whenever you try to do anything enjoyable or productive, they scream the futility of your actions into your ear, and don't quiet down until you give up and go back to bed. Then they just go back to whispering. You try to shake them off, but every attempt just makes them grab on more tightly. It's as if they're stuck to you with Gorilla glue, and it takes more energy than it's worth to pry them loose, so after the first couple of days, you just give up and try to ignore them. 

And they blame you for all of it. 

Over time, you begin to realize that this is not a person on your back -- it is a monster, and it's digging its claws into you, especially into your head. It makes it hard to sleep at night, and hard to get up in the morning, and what seemed like just a set of hurtful annoyances on the first day becomes a terrible routine and soon, you start to believe that all this is somehow your fault. You deserve this. Maybe those things the monster is saying about you really are true. Maybe nothing you do has a point. Maybe there's not really glue sticking them to you; by now, you should have just been able to shake them off and move on with your life. But they're still there. So now you believe you are a pathetic weakling who deserves all this distraction, discouragement, etc., just by nature of the fact that you're not able to get rid of this horrible, destructive person on your own. 

Congratulations. You've just gotten a tiny glimpse of what it's like to live with clinical depression. 

Now imagine that everyone around you sees you limping along with this leech on your back, but either they cannot see your burden, or they choose to ignore it, despite any pleas you may manage to communicate to them. And they start spouting things at you: 

"It's just a bad mood. You'll be fine." 

"Something on your back? Of course not. It's all in your head." 

"This isn't going to affect your work, is it?" 

"You know, if you would just straighten up and smile more, you'd forget all about that imaginary monster on your back." 

"How can you be so selfish? You should be running alongside all the rest of us, not asking for help with some little pest that's supposedly on your back. Shut up and man up." 

"You're just doing this to get a break from work/school/chores, aren't you?" 

"Sheesh, quit whining so much. It's not like you really have anything to complain about. Get ahold of yourself. You wouldn't even have these problems if you'd just stop complaining so much." 

"If there really is something on your back, it must mean God is punishing you. You're such a horrible person." 

"You're such a weakling."  

How do you think you would feel? 

I hope this post has been helpful in debunking a few of the common myths regarding depression. My intent is not to antagonize anyone, but simply to shed some light on a commonly misunderstood condition and help those who know and love someone with depression be better equipped to understand and help them. 

If you are depressed and thinking about hurting yourself, or are already engaged in some self-destructive behavior, I urge you to seek help. Talk to a parent, a trusted friend, a doctor or your pastor, but realize that you do not have to deal with this alone. Even if you have difficulty finding the support you need in your immediate group of friends and family, there are other options. Sites such as IMAlive allow you to chat instantly with someone who is trained in crisis intervention and wants desperately to help you through this, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1 (800) 273-8255. And above all else, remember that you are a unique human being created by God, loved infinitely by Him, and with a purpose in life far beyond anything you can see right now. However hopeless things might seem right now, you are not alone, and there is always hope. The next time you feel weak or worthless or like no-one cares, place your hand over your chest and feel your heartbeat, how it's still going despite everything that has happened to keep you from making it to today. And remember that Jesus Christ came to earth to give His life for you, to take your sins and pay for them with His own blood, because HE LOVES YOU. And no disease, no mistake you've made, nothing anyone else says can change that. 

Thanks for reading. Oh, yeah -- and Merry Christmas. I ought to make an effort to post something a bit more cheery before Christmas comes tomorrow. Is it tomorrow already? Wow. That's close. And guess what, you out there still reading this? You made it this far. Now keep holding on, and celebrate Christ's birth, death, and resurrection with me and everyone else who remembers the true meaning of the holiday. He came for you, you know. Christmas happens because God loved you enough to send His only son for you. I think that's something worth celebrating, don't you? 

But, of course... I digress. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Triumphant Return (And Another Musical Monday Post)

Hello there, fellow digressors. I bet you thought I'd run off in the T.A.R.D.I.S. and forgotten about you all, huh? Well, I'll blame my scattered brain for that. Poor thing takes a lot of blame. Maybe if it would behave, that wouldn't happen so much. 

So a couple of weeks ago, I started something called 'Musical Mondays', posted one song, then disappeared. Well, it is Monday again, and guess what else? Christmas is ten days away! (Yayyyyy!) 

So today, in honor of the yuletide season, I present to you a hauntingly beautiful rendition of 'Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence'. 

And here are the lyrics (derived from Habakkuk 2:20, "But the Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him."): 

"Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

Rank on rank the host of Heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of Hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Alleluia, Lord Most High!"

Ralph Vaughan Williams

I personally get chills listening to this song. I tend to go for the mellow, flowing pieces, especially in minor keys. I have to make a conscious effort to compose anything else. Usually, if I just sit down to play something off the top of my head, it will sound like the score to a sad scene from some movie somewhere. It's fun, though. 

But I digress. What do you think of this song? Do you have a favorite Christmas song? I'd love to hear from you! I'm horrible with favorites, though, so if you ask mine, be prepared to spend the next hour reading my list. 

P. S. I know that a while back, I posted the opener for a character interview (the final one in this series) with Sern Jesyn here. However, given the state of my brain and the fact that I only received two questions from readers, I never posted the results. I will try to garner more questions, and if I get enough in the next day or two, I'll post the results. Otherwise, I might just have to directly reply to the askers and not do a full interview. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ask Sern!

Wow, it's late... By the time I post this, it might actually be Sunday. Sorry about that! Today was busy. Well, at least it was busy by my standards. Which basically means, I left the house more than once and actually did stuff. Yay for an active lifestyle. 

Anyways, the character up for interview this week is Sern Jesyn, father of Dertryn Jesyn, and also the former guardian of Sheth Terrem.  

Sern Jesyn

Sern is past the point where most people would be comfortable with broadcasting their age, but I'll embarrass him anyways: he's forty-seven. Right? *checks the timeline* Of course right. Anyways, he was born a Serdak, and as a young man, he was a dragon-rider/soldier. As such, he learned to be flexible and get the job done even when he didn't feel comfortable or was certain he had no idea what he was doing. If you need help with something, and ask him to assist you, he probably won't tell you if he has no clue how to get it done. He'll just figure it out, and you'll never know the difference. He married at age seventeen, and he and his wife, Syra, had two boys -- Nolan and Dertryn. 

One night fifteen years ago, raiders attacked Sern's town, killed Syra and Nolan -- then fifteen years old -- and kidnapped Dertryn. Upon hearing that searches of the nearby areas yielded no sign of Dertryn, a broken-hearted Sern disregarded his own physical wounds and left his mountain homestead in search of his son. His search only brought him near death with exhaustion, and did nothing to help him find Dertryn. A man in one of the last cities wherein Sern search forced him to take time for recovery, introduced him to Yahveh-Jeshua, and helped him find a new purpose in life, though Sern never gave up hope of finding his child. When a riot took Sheth Terrem's parents, Sern took charge of him, and became like a father to him, a fact which did not comfort Dertryn when he caught up with Sern and discovered his new situation. Sern and Dertryn have been estranged since, but a recent encounter brought them together again, and Sern hopes to regain what has been lost. Since his dragon-riding days, Sern has had many professions -- builder, repairman, tutor, evangelist, etc., as the situation demanded. Despite the fact that he lives often outside of his comfort zone, he is an introvert with little natural patience for incompetent or cruel people, and might be as likely to punch someone as turn the other cheek. He usually restrains himself, but it's difficult. 

Oh! Also, Sern was one of the few people to see Siran's (Sohrem's) predicament in Lans and make any effort to reach out to him, The response was underwhelming, but I'm sure it was at least remembered. Sern also insists on calling Sohrem by his given name (Siran), despite his protests. But I'm guessing it's more out of habit than from spite. Probably. Though Sern hides his thoughts and feelings so well, we might never know. 

Anyways, Sern will be around and taking questions through Wednesday, as usual. Since I've posted this so late, I'll try to post the results as late in the day as possible. Oh, um, about the punching thing -- he hasn't punched anyone who didn't deserve it in years, if ever. So as long as you don't start picking on people or physically assault him, he should be pretty polite. He's an adult, after all. He can usually handle himself with grace. Usually. *ahem* 

Also, I might take a break from the character interviews soon and start another series of some sort. What would you like to see? Writing tips? More music stuff? Lyme posts? Or would you rather keep going with the character interviews? (I'd probably come back to them at some point; I just might back off of them for a while.) Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear from you. Well, not hear, obviously. Unless you want to send me an audio clip, or make a Youtube video, or something. But then I might just end up spending my entire day on Youtube and not do anything in regards to the blog. That wouldn't be very productive. But it might be fun... 

...But, as is ever the case with me, I digress. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Character Interview #7: Sheth Terrem

Well, fellow digressors, it's the day before Thanksgiving. Wow. Where has the time gone? I mean, seriously. I can't believe 2015 is so near. There are a great many things I could put on my list of things I'm thankful for, but for now, I'll just share the results of Sheth Terrem's character interview with you all. I'll warn you in advance that Sheth, as a bookworm and an amateur historian, has certain obsessions which may be expressed through his answers. This is good for my lazy brain, which doesn't want to come up with extra questions to fill out the post. Whether it makes for an interesting interview remains to be seen. But anyways, here you are: An interview with the famous (or, er, not so famous) Sheth Terrem. 

Hey, buddy. How are you today? 

Buddy...? Isn't that what you always call Sohrem? 

Can't I have more than one buddy? And anyways, you were my buddy first, and I can call you whatever I want. So, what's your favorite food? 

I've learned over the years not to be a picky eater. My least favorite food would probably be keita bread, not because it tastes bad, necessarily, but just because I've had it so much. As for my favorite food... I like turkey. 

Turkey? Really? Out of all the food you've ever had, that's your favorite? 

I don't know. I'm not good at picking favorites. 

Huh. Turkey. Wow, what a coincidence... 

How's that? 

Nothing. It's an American thing. How do you feel about said fangirls? 

I wasn't aware I had any... 

Huh? Where have you been for the past couple of years? 

In Jaern...? Well, until recently. 

Oh, never mind. Listen, you have fangirls. So how do you feel about them? 

It seems a little strange, since I'm more used to fading into the background, but I guess I don't mind. I only hope people don't expect me to be perfect and always live up to their expectations. That could be a little intimidating. 

As a young kid, were you more interested in reading books and such, or was that something you enjoyed once you were older? 

My mother used to read to me, and I always enjoyed it. She did all my schooling, and taught me to read when I was seven. After that, we'd read to each other in turns, and eventually, she decided that she preferred for me to do all the reading aloud. My father never really got into it. He was more interested in the practical aspects of keeping the wagon together and such. I'm not even sure he knew how to read. He never approved of people sticking their heads into the clouds while there was work to be done. That made it a special thing between my mother and I. Though I do recall a few times where my father told me to keep reading, even when he pretended not to be interested. So maybe he enjoyed it, as well. 

So... Fangirls. What are your thoughts on them in general? 

I guess it depends upon how they handle themselves. I don't think infatuation is healthy, but it's only natural to admire people sometimes. So in that sense, I think fangirls are all right. Just so long as you don't make the person you admire the center of your life, or anything. 

Hm... So here's a question of my own: Have you ever been a fanboy? I mean, you read a lot, or used to, so you must have admired some character or historical figure in there, at least. 

I admire Rhedan, one of the instigators of the Rhenor Civil War. Well, technically, Dahker started it by attempting to overthrow the theocratic system. He organized a series of protests and speeches, and convinced a great number of people that the nation would be better off without Yahveh at the center. I think Dahker felt like the government was pushing faith on its citizens against their will, and he wanted to be free from it. But it got out of hand. 

*whispers* Grab some popcorn, fellow digressors. We might be here for a while. 

Excuse me? 

No, no, keep going. *eats popcorn* 

...I'm sorry. I guess I lecture too much. It's just a fascinating bit of history. 


You must be bored. 

Procrastinating, actually. Go on. 

All right... Well, Dahker started a revolution, with the intent of reforming the government. It worked, but instead of just removing the expectation of belief, the unbelieving population turned on the Yahveh-followers, and tried to either kill them, drive them out, or make them renounce their faith. I only know what I've read in history books, but I get the impression that Dahker completely lost control of the revolution in the weeks after the rebels overthrew the system. 

Rhedan was a childhood friend of Dahker's, but he was also a Yahveh-follower, so he opposed the revolution, and then when things got violent, he helped a lot of other Followers escape into various tunnels and such outside of Rhenor territory, though by then it was called Khanor territory, and religious literature was forbidden. Some of them enocountered Kirat settlers and intermarried with them, which produced the Serdak, also called Dragon-Riders. Some left the mountains entirely and became the Reshen, the people in whose territories I've lived my whole life. And Rhedan and some others took a huge risk by venturing back into Khanor territory to witness to people and bring contraband literature to help those who still lived there and wanted to know more about Yahveh. Rhedan eventually gave his life while helping some believers escape Khanor law enforcement. Years later, Dahker left the Khanor and gave himself over to the Reshen, which makes me think that he didn't intend all the harm that came to be. 

Sooooo... Who do you think was right? 

Honestly? I'm not sure either Rhedan or Dahker were completely right or wrong. I don't believe the government should force anyone to believe in anything, however true it might be, but actually the revolution resulted in an outlawing of Yahveh-followership, essentially forcing people to say that He did not exist and forbidding them to practice their belief in Him if they did have it. If I had lived in their time, I think I would have been caught in the middle. But Rhedan ended up helping a lot of people, and he never gave up, no matter how bad things got. So you could say I'm a "fanboy" of Rhedan's. But of course, he was human just like everyone else, so I'm not blind enough to think he didn't have flaws. And... I just said entirely too much, didn't I? I'm sorry. 

No, actually, you aided my procrastination -- er, filled out the interview quite well. *ahem* What would you have said to your parents before they left if you knew they would (inevitably) die? 

...I think I still would have tried to convince them not to go. I would have told them I loved them, promised my father that I would stay sensible, and assured my mother that I would be all right. Now that I'm a Yahveh-follower, I would tell them about my faith and try to convince them to believe, too, but of course I didn't know about any of that back then. So... I guess that's it. I don't really want to talk about it anymore. 

Okay... Oh! Here's an extra question especially for Thanksgiving: What are you thankful for, Sheth? 

I'm thankful the Reshen still allow Yahveh-followers to practice freely, thankful that Sern stepped up and took me in all those years ago, and thankful that I met Yannah at Jaern. I'm also thankful to my parents for giving me a good upbringing, even if they didn't always get everything right. And since everything good comes from Yahveh, of course I have to be thankful to Him for caring and looking after me even when I make mistakes or question Him. And... I'm also thankful that not everyone gets upset with me for rambling like this. 

Oh, you get it from your mother. AUTHOR. You get it from me. Not your mother. I'm not... You know what I mean. 

...Right. May I go now? 

Sure. Happy Thanksgiving, bud. 

I'm not sure what that is, but all right... 

Well, there it is, folks. I think Sheth's bookishness showed a little bit there. Just a little. That's okay; apparently, it's part of why people love him. It's also a very big part of why Sohrem doesn't like him, methinks. Oh, well. It's cute when he tells Yannah his stories. Maybe he should be a writer someday. 


So what are y'all thankful for? I'm thankful for a loving family and friends who don't think I'm crazy even when I'm convinced that I am, for the means to treat this disease I have, and for the freedom to worship God freely and serve and write about Him without fear. I'm thankful for a brain that can still come up with stories, no matter how addled it might be, and for hands that can still hold a pen or use a keyboard so that others can experience those stories. I'm also thankful for my readers, who apparently find enough merit in my ramblings and far-fetched stories to keep reading them. 

How about food? Does your Thanksgiving dinner consist of traditional foods like turkey and pumpkin pie (the best parts of the meal, IMHO), or are you more unconventional? Will you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? I'm really not sure about that last one, myself. It seems to get less and less interesting for me every year, but I'm a traditionalist, so I'll probably at least watch part of it. I wonder what balloons they'll have this year, or whether we'll mostly just see the reporters' heads blocking the way...? Oh, well. I guess any view is better than none. 

...But, of course, I digress. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another Announcement -- Musical Mondays!

Hey there, fellow digressors. So, you're probably wondering (1) what on earth I'm announcing this time, and (2) what exactly 'Musical Mondays' are. Well, since starting the whole series of character interviews, I've been reminded of something I actually discovered a long time ago: I need deadlines. I can try to work without them, but I'll be much more productive if I have some idea of exactly what I'm supposed to do and when it needs to be finished. This has proven true with the character interviews, in that I consistently post those, even when I don't get anything else done. 

So, I am instigating a new tradition: Musical Mondays. Henceforth, Mondays -- while previously dedicated to a celebration of doom, dread, and, um... um... of failed alliterations -- shall bring with them a post containing or related to a piece of music. This could be a hymn, a classical piece, movie score, or one of my own compositions. Anything goes. This flexibility is halfway there to provide variety, and halfway contrived to give my scattered brain freedom to choose whatever its evil little heart desires. (Do brains have hearts? That would be disturbing. Or if a brain literally had a mind of its own, and so you actually had two brains inside your head... That would almost be cool. ANYWAYS.) 

For the first Musical Monday, I am going to share with you a ballad that I wrote just yesterday. A friend from Go Teen Writers shared a song she'd written about one of her characters, and it inspired me to write a ballad of my own. It's called 'Heart of the Innocent', and gives a general outline of one character's developmental arc throughout the books so far. (I could tell you which one, if you like, but I'll withhold that information for the moment, in case anyone out there hates spoilers. And anyways, I think at least four or five characters are mentioned at least vaguely throughout the song.) 

I only have one halfway decent recording, and it's a cappella, because playing the piano might have involved inadvertently waking a couple of adorable kids who were napping nearby. It is by no means a perfect recording, but it should at least give you an idea of how the song is supposed to go. I'll also include the lyrics below, in case you either can't understand them in the video or don't feel inclined to play it at all (shame on you, sir or madam; shame, indeed). Oh -- and this is the first time I've written a ballad, as far as I can remember, so please be gentle. I've only written hymns/spiritual songs previously. Well, I mean, I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger, and I've read and listened to 'The Highwayman' probably way too many times, but... Anyways, here it is: 

Heart of the Innocent

"Come and hear now the tale
Of the child of a beggar-man,
How his world changed overnight.
All he held dear
Was ripped from his fingertips,
And he tried to make it all right
For the one in his care,
All that remained for him; his life he’d gladly spend
For one little boy
With the heart of an innocent.

The price of his soul
Seemed a small one to pay,
But the deal, it was only the start,
And the child of a beggar-man
Found that his means of escape
Had fallen apart.
But a desperate man, he holds tight to his plans;
He does things that he never meant.
And with one blow,
He shattered the heart of the innocent.

Well, the beggar-man’s child,
His song came to an end
But the shattered heart he left behind
Went searching for love,
Searching for light,
But darkness was all he could find.
Long he lived in the night;
It was all that he knew,
But something inside was still bent
On finding someone
To rebuild the heart of the innocent.

Though the darkness said
There was no light to be found,
The innocent searched, and then
He thought one he met
Would the damage repair,
But they shattered him over again.
Oh hear how he cries,
How his hope, now it dies,
How in fear, to the flames he went.
Now so black,
Black is the heart of the innocent.

Now the light burns his eyes,
And when love comes, he flies.
When he falls, no-one sees his descent
But one girl,
One with the heart of an innocent.

Now the darkness abates
And the innocent waits,
Longs so, but fears to relent.
Is there still hope,
Hope for the heart of the innocent?"

Copyright (c) 2014 by C. F. Barrows

Yes, yes, rest assured the "innocent" hates me with every fiber of his being. But I'm not all that afraid of him, so meh. Even if he did work up the nerve to attack me, he'd probably be horrified at himself afterwards. Here's hoping he never finds any sort of portal into the real world. Do you think the Doctor would help him? Man, that's a scary thought... What if they see me as this big, cruel monster who's bent on gobbling up all the poor little people under my jurisdiction? 

Iiiii'm not sure I really want to think about that. 

OH. Also, a reminder: I'll be taking questions for Sheth Terrem over here until Wednesday. Make sure to get yours in by then! I promise he doesn't bite. He's one of the nice charries. Usually. 

So, heard any good ballads lately? Loreena McKennitt did a gorgeous cover of 'The Highwayman' once. It's somewhat abridged, but it's still ten minutes long, and utterly haunting. I can't speak for or against the rest of her work, but I love that song. It's so much fun to sing, too. The beauty... The flow... The creepiness... 

.........Buuuuut, as always... I digress. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ask Sheth!

Hey, digressors! Sorry I'm so late with this post; it was a busy day, preceded by busier ones, and there are more of the same fast approaching, so free time has been somewhat restricted. But without further ado, I shall introduce to you this week's character to be interviewed, Sheth Terrem. (Yes, fangirls,  please contain your shrieking, or we'll never get this interview underway.) 

Sheth Terrem

Sheth Terrem was born to Kheleth immigrants, and spent most of his growing-up years in the back of a wagon. His parents were merchants, largely of animals and their byproducts, but also of various other transportable goods. When Sheth was sixteen, the family made a stop in the Reshan-Shamindo bordertown of Lans and, while Sheth guarded the wagon, Shamindo cultists attacked the town and robbed him of both parents. The city council assigned him to live with Sern Jesyn, a Serdak dragon-rider turned evangelist who eventually led him to Yahveh-Jeshua. Seven years after moving in with Sern, Sheth is on his own, and has been called up for service in the Reshan Guard, despite his pacifistic stance. Now traveling with a ragtag combination of Reshen, Khanor, Shamindo, Kiratai, and Serdakai, Sheth struggles to stay strong in his faith without alienating certain others around him. Sheth is an introvert with a dry sense of humor, and loves books and stories. If he could be anywhere in the world, he would likely choose to return to his childhood home-base of Delnam and read a good book with his dog, Tori, beside him. (Poor Tori -- she must miss Sheth quite a bit, as I'm not convinced that the Guard allows recruits to keep pets.) Sheth is currently courting (or whatever you call the process) Yannah Delraen, and is in an uneasy truce with Sohrem Terahl, who assaulted him once for fighting with Yannah and making her cry (long story, Sheth and Yannah have since reconciled, and it wasn't really worth the assault). 

Sheth is the protagonist of 'The Follower', and also (arguably) of 'The Merchant's Son'. He's been bumped from that role for 'The Rescuer', but he's still in there, and he still has fangirls. Hm. I wonder if Yannah ever gets jealous...? 

Anyways, here he is, peopleses. Have fun asking questions. I shall do my best to post the answers a bit earlier in the day on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Character Interview #6: Kyra Daehr

Hello again, peopleses. Er, fellow digressors, I mean. Wow, it's late in the day to be posting, isn't it? *says the person who usually posts things after midnight* 

Anyways, on Thursday, I opened up my character, Kyra Daehr, for an interview, and some of you asked some great questions. As anticipated, she was a little rude in answering them, so you'll have to forgive her. I promise she's not heartless. She's just, er... a little hostile. *ahem* Anyways, here she is. 

Well, here goes nothing, I guess. Kyra, are you a troublemaker? 

No. If someone else makes trouble, I'll deal with them, but I don't cause trouble intentionally. That would be idiotic. 

Have you ever been one? 

In the sense that I haven't always conformed to the given rules, sure. I got into trouble for continuing my attack on a fellow trainee once when I had him on the ground. Apparently, that was considered bad form. I still say that if you don't learn to fight on the ground in training, you'll be dead in an actual fight. So any trouble I've caused was trouble that had to be made. 

Riiiiight. Why don't you get along with Sohrem? 

Because he's a spineless, secretive brat who doesn't know how to keep his nose out of everyone else's business. He's trouble personified. Ask anyone. Except for Shaetha, since she thinks everyone is some misunderstood innocent who just needs a hug or two. 

Hey, I like Shaetha. And her personality makes it a lot easier for her to talk with Sohrem without getting into trouble. Being nice does wonders. You should try it sometime. Maybe Lehn could give you lessons, since he apparently raised Shaetha so well. ANYWAYS. What is the most ridiculous thing you've ever done? 

That depends on who you ask. 

Well, I'm asking you. 

I think the most ridiculous thing I've ever done was let Jorthen take charge after Ender disappeared. The man is a traitor in the worst sense, and doesn't know when to step down. Others would say that the most ridiculous thing I've done was running back into the Lair when I realized we'd left Ender behind. I guess that was fairly stupid, too. 

Do you think that your friendship with Lehn could go further, and do you want it to? 

...Further than what? 

Further than normal friendship. Come on, girlie -- it's not like you haven't been ribbed enough about this. Don't play dumb. 

I'm not playing dumb. I just think it's ridiculous that so many people have shown so much interest in our relationship. As if I have time to think about relationships while I'm busy trying to get everyone home alive. 

Okay, Catnip. Whatever you say. 

What did you just call me? 


Look, my friendship with Lehn is no-one's business. 

Wow, Catnip -- you're looking a little red there. Is it hot in here? 

Don't make me hurt you. And stop calling me that. No-one ever calls anyone else 'Catnip'. 

...*ahem* Do you feel threatened by others because of your race, and if so, what kind of treatment do you get that prompts that response? 

It depends on the situation. People tend to be more afraid of me than anything else. The Kiratai have always been known for being nomadic and aggressive. We've had to be. The clans tend to required a certain amount of distance between each other, and of course we have to travel between them for any trade or other relations. It's a dangerous area. We also believe that the stronger man always prevails. If you can't be physically strong, or strong enough in will to make up for it, you're seen as being no good to anyone else. Honestly, I've been removed from the culture for a decade and a half, which is most of my life, so I don't remember much firsthand. But suffice to say, people with a Kirat heritage are assumed to be aggressive and to show no mercy right from the get-go. So people either do their best to stay out of our way or take it upon themselves to show us our place. We usually pummel them if they try often enough. It's really none of their business. 

Personally, I've gotten a fair amount of verbal abuse, if you can even call it that. Basically, people try to tell me that I'm a savage or that I'm not as strong as I think I am, in cruder terms. I don't care. In most cases, they go up against me in a sparring match an hour later and regret every word. So it doesn't matter. 

What's unique about your Kirat heritage as opposed to others? 

Well, for one thing, I think it gives me a stronger will and greater stamina than most people. I was raised to follow through and stay strong, so that's what I do. It makes me an effective soldier. It might not make me a very nice person to talk to, but I'm not much for talking, so who really cares? We're generally very easy to pick out in a crowd, because we have darker skin than everyone else. We don't all have the same shade, of course. Ender and I have bronze skin, while Kohr, a friend of ours, has dark brown skin. It varies depending upon which clans are in your bloodlines. I think there's also something in all of us that makes it hard to settle in one place for long. If we have to stay rooted in one place, then we have to be actively involved and progressing in something to avoid losing our minds. 

Oh -- and I think most Kiratai believe in some sort of elemental spirits or gods, but again, I was young when I started living with the Khanor, and I don't think our family was typical. I specifically heard my father mention Yahveh a few times, and in my experience, most Yahveh-followers don't tend to believe in other gods. 

Which clan are you from? I'm curious now. 

I don't remember. It wasn't vital information for a five-year-old to know. But I do remember that we lived at the base of a mountain. You could probably find the ruins of the village and see if there's any evidence of which clan built it. 

Fine. What do you like the most about your heritage? 

Like I said, it gives me a backbone. It enables me to get things done when no-one else will. 

And then Lehn teaches you how to be a good person. 

If you say one more word about Lehn, I will cut you. 

No need. *shoves Kyra into the character closet, then quickly locks and bolsters a heavy chair against the door* 


Well, there you have it, folks. Like I said, I swear she has a heart. She can actually be very protective when she sets her mind to it, and she wouldn't really kill anyone unless it really had to be done. But hey, now you've heard her side of the story, at least as much as she's willing to tell. I can rat her out further, if you wish. For now, I must be off to eat dinner. Dinner is important. Feel free to ask any further questions in the comments below. Maaaaaybe I can even drag Kyra back in here to answer them. Maybe. Otherwise, I'll answer them for her (i.e., I can answer them out of character; I'm not quite so insane as to actually believe she's a real person, or at least not yet).