Writing Challenges, Ideas, and Being Realistic

As a writer, have you ever gotten in your own damn way? Maybe even not as a writer, but as a creative person? Over the past few years I have written four novels. Three are fully-fleshed out, while one was a side project I wanted to keep in development since I wrote it in pieces. I decided from the get-go that I would piece it together as the bulk of the story came to me; I wasn’t going to go from A to Z, I was just going to write the best scenes as they came to me.

I approach each project with different ideas and methods, so there is no magical potion involved for writing perfection. Perfection is mythology; of this I assure you. I wait to write something because a story has to haunt me for a while and live inside my head first. If it’s the kind that whispers, “Write this.”, then I will. If it goes out like a candle flame, I file it away somewhere inside my creative mind. Sometimes it will resurface, and it’ll be ten times better. That’s always the goal, but not all ideas work like that.

Have you ever become obsessed with a character you’ve created? They become a part of you; you are now living, breathing, and sleeping this character. Your thoughts are their thoughts. Maybe you subconsciously ARE this character. Who knows? It comes to the point where, when you begin writing another female character, you find yourself annoyed by her voice. You’ll catch yourself becoming frustrated. This new female is not as intense, not as strong, maybe not as fierce, or as passionate, but you feel like she could be, if you just pushed her hard enough. If you unleashed her. Except, when you go back to your completed work, you find you’ve named the character the same damn thing you named your previous female lead. Three. Separate. Times. How is that even possible? You’re dumbfounded, because you’ve got a long list of names you could be using, and somehow, you are using the one with all the power.

I’ve found that I love two very specific names for women. I don’t feel like sharing what those names are (I’m many things, but I try not to be an idiot!), outside of saying they’re short, sweet, elegant, classical, and direct, and so are these characters. These names are truly beautiful. Every time I so much as variate from the top two, it’s as if I’m possessed by some kind of naming demon. Each time, I am truly clueless as to how or when the name changed. It’s rough.

These women I’ve created are interesting characters. The kind of women you’d want to be friends with, and the kind of women you’d go to bat for. You automatically like them. Until I was 56,000 words in to a new book and realized I was writing the lead female character differently. She started off fierce and ferocious, and some idiot softened her up. I can’t decide if it was ME or if the lead male character was trying to dominate the damn story, but it stressed me out so badly. I decided I needed to get some reading and research done before revisiting the story. Ultimately, I took time to gain some perspective.

After a few days, I came at this new book with fresh eyes, and wondered how I could change things up to maybe ONE story, as opposed to two. I had considered this particular story a one and done, but when pieced together with the story that felt stalled, it’s a superior body of work. It requires a ton of time and work to achieve this.

So here I am, faced with rewrites because I have to change locations, jobs, names, and re-work things until it’s a smooth transition of combining these two stories into one; albeit one that is better, and eliminates potential cliches and comparisons which have bothered me from day one, but that I’d also worked on heavily to eliminate, which I have managed to do. All of this is to keep the main female character’s strong, intense, fierce voice. I feel pulled towards her voice because it is reasonable, emotionally intelligent, strong, smart, snarky, knowledgeable, without coming off snobby, or sounding like a know-it-all, and because she’s fiercely honest and direct; she does not play games to fill a page with wasted words. She’s got a very serious set of rules and boundaries, and she commands respect. The other female character was coming off weaker, despite similar attributes. I had to come to the realization, on my own, that I cannot write a weak female character.

I have come across this issue before. I could write a weak female, but it nauseates me, and goes against the core of who I am, so nope, not gonna do it. I can’t even tolerate weakness in myself or in others, so it would come off fake on the page. Don’t force yourself to write someone you don’t believe in. I feel that’s a great rule for all writers; if you don’t believe it, neither will anyone else.

I can, and will, do the hard work of putting together a better story. It likely means cutting things out that no longer work, which could be thirty chapters worth of work, or more. It requires me to remain focused on how much better this will be when it is truly completed. It also means, thanks to other opportunities, that it might take another year or two before it is officially done. I have to be realistic about my time, health, and also remember to factor sleep into the equation. This is a real problem for me. Every time I’m on a better path, something interrupts my sleep again! It’s awful, but I am aware of this issue beginning every three months. I am trying to stay on top of it.

The upside of insomnia is that I write between two to seven thousand words almost every night I can’t sleep, and none of it is crap (I instinctively know when I am writing filler, and will immediately delete it.). The downside is being sick and in a lot of pain, and not being able to write for sixteen hours straight. There are days I do, but they are few and far between at the moment, as I recover from a bad allergic reaction to flowers, which ultimately turned into flu-like symptoms with NO Covid symptoms. My allergies stopped responding to allergy medicine, so it was scary to suddenly become so sick from a flower arrangement. It’s never been so bad, but once the larger flowers bloomed, my skin burned, my eyes itched and burned, and my breathing was affected. I misplaced my Epi-Pen, so I was paranoid as hell while it was happening.

This whole situation where medication was useless recently turned into me making homemade cough syrup. Laugh, if you will, but it is probably the best thing for me. Every ingredient is healthy and helpful. My very first dose stopped me from coughing longer than any over-the-counter crap I’ve ever taken, and it also worked better than the codeine syrup I was prescribed, probably since the prescription no longer contains alcohol. Mine does contain a dash of two different types of alcohol I had on hand, as well as two different types of honey, but when you taste it, you are mostly getting a blast of ginger, cayenne, honey, and lemon. I didn’t follow any particular recipe for this, I just grabbed the honey and started mixing it up like a potion before pouring it into a larger container and sticking it in the fridge to give it a longer shelf life. 😉 I didn’t make a lot, so it’ll likely be gone in a day or two, but yes, it’s helped greatly. I no longer have a sore throat, and it’s breaking down congestion I didn’t even know I had. I take it, I rest, and I feel better slowly, but surely. When synthetic shit doesn’t work, go back to basics. I’ve become more dependent on homeopathic medicine than ever before. Hyland’s is helping me considerably to manage my pain levels, though I know it is a temporary fix. If it works, I’ll stick with it, because so much has not. I’d love to get back every cent I wasted trying to get CBD oil to help me. I am embarrassed I kept upping the dose to try and find some relief. 😦 I consider how much work I will have to do to recoup those funds and put them to better use.

A lot of pain patients stop speaking to me whenever I suggest they seek out alternatives which might help them. Ultimately, I believe there is an answer for every single illness humans and animals experience. I believe it is found on Earth, not necessarily inside a lab working with synthetic ingredients. Your answer might not be what works for my body, and vice versa, but I don’t roll my eyes at you and give you attitude, so I have no idea why anyone thinks that’s a workable method with me.

At this point, I feel insurance should fully cover medical marijuana and CBD products as medicine. It helps a large number of people and it has medical oversight. If the cure for something is low or high dose Scorpion venom, as an example, then I feel it should be fully covered by everyone’s health insurance provider no matter what. I already know for a fact that it is being tested on various forms of cancer and for many other things, as well. It has been successful in it’s progress of treatment with zero side effects. It is the most expensive substance on this planet. That ink well you’re looking at on my logo? It’s Scorpion venom.

It may be Thursday, but I am ready to close out this first week of 2022. I have already referred to this month twice as October. Yeah, I know. I need a vacation. Yet, here we are, with Covid stopping everything for the umpteenth time. Indoor mask mandates have come down and in many areas, they begin today. I had not stopped wearing a mask in stores (I’ve also limited my time indoors to the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and only a few others places. I do NOT look forward to returning to a medical building in twelve days. I am, however, grateful that the hospital has reduced the amount of people that can be in the building at one time, and that nine people can NOT accompany one person!), and after hearing how many people got sick before, during, or after Christmas/NYE, and seeing the 6+ hour lines at testing sites, I am glad I didn’t drop my guard. Unfortunately, a lot of people are very sick and in the hospital, or they are sick and have to quarantine, so I keep a few extra masks with me and I remember that this is temporary. But damn does cold air feel good on your skin when a mask makes you feel like you can’t breathe, or like your skin is being smothered to death! I’m sure we’ve all had those moments.

Cough syrup, a simple breakfast, and I’ll see where the day takes me. I am actually considering hitting the kitchen and whipping up some tabouleh, especially since I have the time, believe I have all the necessary ingredients, and it’s so easy to throw together. 🙂 Last night I made homemade ramen, and while very good and a great way to get vegetables and protein into my system, I was slightly frustrated by the fact that a thirty minute meal felt like it had taken hours. Chronic fatigue is a constant reminder that I am not one hundred percent. That’s okay. I’ll settle for fifty percent, if that’s the way I can get multiple things done in a day.

Ever forward, peeps. Ever forward.

copyright © 2022 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Final Caturday of 2021

Next Saturday will be a whole new year. It’ll probably take me ’til March to stop writing 2021. 😉 I don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. They don’t feel like, “holidays” to me, not in the traditional sense of the word, and I realized yesterday that they never have. Do you feel especially celebratory at the end of a year?

Cat used to be like this for the first ten months I had her. I swear, she’d wait until I wasn’t expecting it and just tear me to shreds. She is feeling more playful these days (and she’s eight years old, so that helps.), so she’ll smack my feet or swat at my socks, or she’ll snap her teeth at me. She’s feisty. She will bite me, on occasion, but she’s mostly obsessed with how many hair ties she can thieve. Also, sometimes my socks go missing in the middle of the night. 😉 I guess they offend her or she thinks they’re for her. I’m pretty sure she has dibs on anything soft and fluffy the second I keel over.

As I reflect, very lightly, on this year, I have to factor in that I’ve written over close to one million words on three different manuscripts. That, in and of itself, is quite the achievement. Yet, it barely registers. I’ve been told I’m too humble. Perhaps that’s true. As someone told me nearly two weeks ago, “Anyone can write, but you’re a talented writer.” I’m also not good with compliments.

If the software I used didn’t have a word counter at the bottom of the screen, I’d keep writing until something felt done. It’s a good process. However, I’ve spent the past fifteen years, perhaps longer, obsessing over word count when I am writing something, however large or small. Here, I don’t count words, but WordPress is happy to tell me at the end of each year how many words I’ve written. There have been years I’ve done a quarter of a million words here alone, sometimes more. That’s pretty good considering this material is free. 😉

Today was a grey, rainy, foggy, icy, frigidly cold day. There was so much black ice that many people fell and injured themselves. 😦 My hands and feet are like mini ice sculptures; frozen solid. But it was a good day in the sense that it was predominantly quiet. I was able to get closer to my Goodreads challenge number, as well. I’m currently at one hundred and fifty-sex books read for the year. My goal was one hundred and fifty-three. I just started reading book one hundred and fifty-seven. I might read one hundred and sixty if I stay on point between now and the 31st. Wish me luck with this one. I have to say, the material is compelling or I’d have to force myself to read it, and forcing myself to read shitty material is never a positive experience. To think I did eighty books last year when we were basically under hardcore quarantine for so long. I actually picked up a book Friday afternoon, but I will put it towards for 2022 challenge. If you aren’t a Goodreads member, it is free to join, you can link your Amazon Kindle account, they have tons of giveaways for free books throughout the year, and it’s a nice community. I’ve been a member since 2008, when a friend highly recommended I join. I ended up loving it far more than she did. I have Librarian status, so if you want or need your work added to the database, please get in touch. It’s an excellent networking took for writers.

A big part of me is glad that today is over. I haven’t slept in over forty-eight hours, so I need a good night’s sleep and to go back to being caffeine free (Damn you, Earl Grey tea!!). Tomorrow I’m planning to cook a nice Sunday dinner (Tradition.), and possibly bake either a chocolate mint cake or two dozen peppermint chocolate chip cookies, I can’t decide which to do first, but plan on doing both between this weekend and next weekend. After mid-January, it’s time to go back to eating super healthy again 90% of the time. I ate a ridiculous amount of chocolate before, during, and after Chanukah. I regret about 35% of it. 😉

On this final Caturday of the year, I hope you will make friends with strange cats next year, adopt and not shop for any animal you are looking to bring into your family, and most importantly, I hope you’re granted good health. Many of you don’t know what it’s like to be flaring when you have medication in your system which is supposed to be eliminating all of your pain, whereas a great amount of you do know what this is like. Hell. I’ve been functioning at a very low setting this year, and I’m fighting for a new diagnosis next year. New symptoms have to be addressed, and the sad thing is, bad things could be happening within my system while I wait to be seen by a myriad of doctors. I don’t look forward to additional suffering. Healthcare in this country is shameful. I’ll probably say it more than I care to, but it’s true, and it’s WRONG.

Bright Blessings, lovelies.

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Happy WordPress Anniversary, Poison In Lethal Doses!

Happy to have been here for nine years. Happier to be with PILD since, well, it’s much, MUCH longer than this website will ever tell you. 😉 Someone told me last week that the difference between being a writer and being a talented writer is knowing your audience. For him, I fall into the latter category. He actually said, “Anyone can type words. It takes talent to write with purpose, and you really have a purpose.”

I would not be here without my readers. Readers, NOT followers. You are all amazing to me. Kind, funny, warm, supportive. It’s a family, in a bowl of linguine kind of way, but family nonetheless. Thank you for everything you read, with or without clicking like. I don’t need to rack up likes to feel a sense of accomplishment. Thank you for reading even if you’re not officially following this site; that’s almost more important because it means something else entirely. And an enormous thank you to whomever voted me an “Inspiring Writer of 2021”. That’s five years in a row, peeps, and I will not forget it. To the person who said I was their favorite writer, I feel like I need to send you flowers or take you to dinner.

I am my most authentic self here (In a “Free of nosy people.”, kind of way.), and I appreciate everyone who drops in and leaves a comment, or tells me on social media how much they liked something I’ve written or said. It means a lot. It keeps me fueled. It also keeps me looking forward to connecting with you on different levels.

2022 is all about new levels, new chapters, and MORE. I can’t wait!

Love & good cheer,

In The Face of Trauma: Fatherless Daughter

Last month, my doctor asked if anything specific was triggering me. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything. Until a specific day came, and I broke down in tears for hours. It had been a long time since I’d allowed myself to do that. 😦

The majority of my breakdowns are quiet. Real quiet. As in, no one else ever knows they’re happening or suspects anything. They have no idea what to look for, either. They have no idea you’re struggling, and they say nothing to help you.

These breakdowns started in late 2002 when my father was in the hospital doing an experimental kidney cancer treatment. At the time, it was still a very rare type of cancer that few people had. He had already lost a kidney to cancer ten years prior. The treatment was via IV and he had to spend weeks on end in the hospital. The key side effects were that it could cause heart problems and/or worsen the cancer you already had. It did both. It took a pea sized tumor and turned it into a constant spread, which eventually became bone and brain cancer. One day, as he was leaving a doctor’s appointment, he turned to my brother and said, “Can you go upstairs and let the office know I’m going next door to the emergency room. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

I remember that phone call like it was yesterday. My whole body tenses up because I truly remember every word. My brother was so panicked and freaked out, and he needed me to do everything. He was frozen and upset, and those are normal reactions, but mine were the polar opposite. They still are. I remember speaking to doctors and surgeons, and making last-minute decisions because my father would have died if I hadn’t known what to do.

The reason my father put me in charge of everything is because he knew my reactions would be in correlation with his wishes. He knew I wouldn’t fall apart or be utterly incapable of speech, leave alone making important decisions in the moment. On occasion, I wish he’d thought I was a moron and laid the responsibility elsewhere. I remember someone implying that he’d made these decisions from a selfish place. I don’t feel that was it at all, but do I resent it at times? A little.

No matter how put together you could ever be, and I have always been wise beyond my years, making medical decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated is difficult. Even if they’d laid it all out for you, making the verbal calls is not easy. It’s emotionally taxing. Today is fourteen years since he passed away, and I can say this much; I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’m a different person. But am I healed? No. I’m scarred.

Interpersonal relationships are extremely difficult to navigate. To this day, I still don’t understand people the way I feel I should. I constantly find myself frustrated and disappointed in people. The more I feel this way, the less I want to interact with anyone, and it probably shows. I just don’t have a lot to offer certain types of people anymore, and I am learning to be okay with that.

After my father’s funeral, I couldn’t get out of bed for almost three months. I had always known he’d die young. I had always known he would not be present to see the celebratory moments in my life, or my brother’s. I knew he was leaving, and I even told him not to do the IV treatment because it would kill him. He told me he had to try, or he’d be sending his children the wrong message regarding how you fight to live. I still disagree with him, and always will. Intuition doesn’t lie, and when he first told me about it, I knew it was the beginning of the end. I just made sure I didn’t say it to my brother, because that would have been wrong, at the time.

All of this knowledge allowed me to write a eulogy which really paid tribute in an honest way. This sense of knowing failed me, though, because it distracted me from the fact that my mother was dying, and didn’t care. That’s a story for another day, but when I compound the mental and emotional trauma on top of the next set of trauma, which was more sudden, I wonder how I get out bed at all. I question myself daily, and far more than anyone else ever could. I legitimately have NO idea why I’m alive. I just don’t see a real purpose to it.

My mother raised two extraordinarily different children (I was easier; my brother tried to break her.). As adults, you can tell we’re siblings by the way we laugh at the same things, in the same way. My brother says I laugh like a villain, and I’ve also been told I have my father’s laugh. You can see us automatically know what the other is thinking by a mere a glance. On bad days, I will say I look exactly like my brother, except that I have hair (He’s going to be SO pissed when he sees this. He only laughed once when I sent him a hilarious photo which made us both laugh for days.), but in reality, that isn’t true. We’re as alike as we are different. He genuinely passes as ethnic, and it takes people a while to see that in me.

I promised myself a long time ago that I would break the sibling curse which I’ve watched plague my family. Some days, I think I’ve done a pretty good job, and other days I feel taken advantage of. On my end, the effort is present. I try. I know my parents and Grandparents can see that. I know I’m not bringing shame down upon them. Or at the very least, I try damn hard not to.

There will always be days when I question how you move past all of this. Not everyone is built the way I am. There are personality types which I will never understand as long as I live. They aren’t passionate about much, so death means very little to them. They don’t place a lot of value on life or the people in their lives, and it’s obvious by the revolving door I see in their relationships. I’m not like that. I have bras older than some people’s friendships, and many still have the tags on them. 😉 I’ve had some of the same friends for over twenty-five years and I don’t usually ditch people out of the blue. I’m loyal and honest to a fault, if nothing else.

The whole point of what I’m trying to say, and failing miserably, is that healing is different for everyone. I stopped talking about this day with my brother because then he’d stop speaking to me for a few months and that’s not conducive to any relationship. My closest friends really don’t care to listen (I get it; you’re busy. I, too, will be busy the next time you want to talk for five hours about anything. Blowing a friend off is NEVER cool, especially when you would flip out if I treated you that way.), and if someone does, they certainly haven’t communicated that to me. That’s fine. Truly. One of the good things about me is that I work a lot of shit out on my own. I’ve had to. So when my doctor tells me, “You show up for 99% of your appointments. You do the work. You’re growing and improving, and working on yourself for yourself. What’s great about you is that I don’t have to explain a lot to you, because you’re already ahead of it. You see it and you self-correct.”, I have to take that as a compliment. Usually I think he’s trying to boost my self-esteem, but then I look at the actual work and realize that yes, I did it by myself. He’s basically complimenting me for being a self-starter, but I would say some of that is my personality and the rest is nature versus nurture. It goes back to being the responsible party for things, to some extent.

If you know someone is strong and smart, most people will automatically worry less about them. I will never forget my mother saying, “I don’t worry about you because you’re strong, you’re smart, you’re intuitive, you work hard, and you’ll always land on your feet. I worry about your brother. He’s smart, he has great work ethic, but he doesn’t have your common sense or street smarts. I really worry about him.” All these years later I can assure her he finally has a modicum of common sense and a different set of street smarts. He’ll figure shit out on his own. Despite feeling like I’ve been an excellent role model, my brother has the personality type that wants to learn the hard way. It drives me insane, but you cannot change the core of most people.

I’ve done my level best to look out for my brother, and my family in general. Not everyone listens to me, so I’ve decided to stop giving advice and focus on myself. I’ve invested in myself a lot over the past year and that will continue into 2022 and beyond. I am taking my business sense and everything I was taught, and aiming for more.

Ladies, it is perfectly okay to want more out of life. It is okay to do things differently. It is okay to do things in your own time and space. It is okay to say no to things you don’t want because you see what you do want, and it’s all well within your reach. Stop letting small people tell you your worth, or that you can only achieve great things by doing it the way they think it should be done. Fuck that attitude! Not everything in life in forever, but your achievements will always be your own. No one can can touch that, so please, don’t let them.

Please speak for yourselves. Speak loudly for those who are afraid, right now, to use their voice. Don’t let situations or people diminish you. Remember who you are at the beginning and end of each day. There will always be days when you don’t want to be strong, because you’re exhausted. Allow yourself to rest, to rejuvenate, and give yourself permission to heal from anything and everything.

Go forth, trauma and all, and make someone proud. Even if it’s your deceased father who probably wouldn’t care that much. But in truth, know that you’re really doing it for yourself. The future truly IS female.

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Bear With Me

Hi, everyone! I’m having a rough time, and all this while I am working on so much for this site. 😦 I’ve already ruled out that I’m not having a heart attack, but man, everything feels so much worse right now.

Let me be clear; death anniversaries are hard for me. They involve flashbacks and very real feelings, which, no matter how much time has passed, you find you are still working through. Even with the best of support and growth (and a superb mental health practitioner), it is still painful at times, whereas other years you don’t think about it at all. They also involve minimal to zero support.

I tend not to talk about things I have going on because people are too busy talking at me with their own problems, which drives me insane. It’s like, “Can you pause and ask how I’m doing?” I am already establishing huge boundaries and saying, “No.”, more. I’m also saying, “I cannot listen right now.” I’m not going to apologize for that. I cannot be the sounding board for fifty people, and then have no one to turn to myself. That isn’t right, fair, or okay. I am many things; selfish isn’t one of them. I will not ask for support when it should be a given. I will not repeat the same arguments because people are being assholes, either. I have to be here for ME, before I can do it for everyone else in my world. That’s fair and responsible. I wish people understood this, without immediately taking offense and complaining about how I’m not there for them. That is completely untrue, so if someone says that, they are full of crap.

I would love to know what it’s like to have blind support, but I don’t. Be kinder and judge LESS. I need to take care of me right now. I know most of you will understand.

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Crickets, Dark Depression, Change, & Investment Power

I haven’t written anything here in a while, and I have my reasons. No, I wasn’t too busy. I was stuck in my own head, with my own thoughts, and then I had work in front of me which I was so determined to get done. Most of it went great, but now I’ve got some things I hadn’t anticipated sitting on me. I am handling it. Begrudgingly. The more prevalent issue which has kept me quiet is the fact that my depression has been so bad, I haven’t been myself for a really long time. Most people didn’t pick up on this, though I am certain I’ve mentioned it before.

Despite being under the care of a physician, I’ve had to fight for almost two years to be prescribed new medication. I pick it up this weekend, and there simply aren’t any guarantees it will make me feel more like myself. Honestly, I have no expectations. I’ve been on this hamster wheel a long time and I no longer place any hope on what medication will or will not do for me.

I’ve never taken this medication before, which is surprising because I’ve been on over thirty-five different drugs in various medication classes. It can take up to four weeks for this one to work, and I am starting out on a really low dose because I am chemically sensitive to anything which messes with my brain chemistry.

The benefit of knowing my body really well is that any time a drug starts to screw with me, I mentally shut down the ability for it to change me. I don’t want to be a mindless zombie, nor do I want to take something which shuts off the intelligent creativity I feel is a gift.

For example, I was put on a new (to me) drug a little over three years ago. One of my first reactions to it was, “Okay, I see why this is a controlled substance. If I had an addictive personality, I’d be in trouble.” Early on in my journey with this medication, I was out in public one day and had to take a mid-day dose. I felt it immediately try to give me what I refer to as a, “head high”. It shuts off your thoughts and then you’re basically left thinking, “Oh, this is what normal people’s brains are probably like. I could hang curtains in here. But wait… It’s not normal to have nothing going on inside your mind.” I fought against it. It would shut up my thoughts, but it would also distract me until it wore off. There were times when I didn’t mind the quiet, except that I needed to still be a high performance kind of writer.

My doctor was shocked and impressed that I had the ability to say, “Yeah, you’re medication, but you’re not going to screw with me or turn me into someone who is obsessively dependent on a tiny pill 2-3 times a day, every single day, for the rest of my life.” In all his years as a physician, no one had ever said to him, “I can see why this is addictive, but I’m NOT letting it reach me in that way. I’m only going to take it as needed.” Most people would never have caught the tiny change to their brain, which I did, and that’s because I am realistic about how science works within the body. I could physically feel it try to tickle my brain, and I rejected it. Bear in mind, this drug was one of the most successful I’ve ever been on and I still take it on occasion. It does help, but it’s brief and because I am careful with it, I don’t worry about taking it. I know that taking it every single day is unrealistic for me from a health and mental health perspective. The less synthetic crap in my system, the better off I am.

My doctor and I later talked about the mind and will power it takes to fight off the addictive qualities of something that is supposed to help you feel better. To this day, that drug still makes me feel better temporarily. I can focus in a sharper way and get more done in a day, because it often provides me with a false sense of energy. I’d recommend it to anyone with my ability to fight off addictive qualities, but because it is so often abused, I never talked about it publicly. In fact, the reason I didn’t speak about it is because I had a former friend tell me it was poison when I was suicidal (Which, to this day, still pisses me off. That is medication shaming, and I’m not here for it.), and another friend recently told me, “You don’t need it.” I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much. She did not present her medical license after the fact, so I set her straight very quickly. Here’s a little known fact I want to be clear about; when I talk about a prescription and you feel the need to be a disrespectful twat, I will NEVER confide in you again. I have boundaries and if you cross them, I am okay with you no longer having access to me.

When someone says, “I take this so I don’t hurt myself.”, please respect that. Do a little research before you say something hurtful, cruel, asinine, or go straight to, D) all of the above. You don’t know what others might be fighting when all you see is a smile or someone who is put together, or all you know is the person who always has your back, so please judge less and educate yourself more.

I remember when someone told me they’d been diagnosed with a specific disease. I didn’t know much about it at the time. In order to not offend or say the wrong thing, and to be supportive, I researched it. It takes five to ten minutes of reading about something so you don’t come off like an asshole. Never once did I want to make this person feel bad about themselves, about medication, doctor’s appointments, etc. I came from a judgment-free place because it could easily be diagnosed for someone closer to me tomorrow. Those are simple enough facts to put me into research mode, as opposed to, “Let me hurt this person’s feelings.” and show how ignorant I am. Yup, I just rolled my eyes. Basically, no matter what you suffer from, I probably understand far more than you realize and I’m NOT going to judge you. Especially if it’s something someone is confiding in me. My brother always says, “My sister is like a Mossad agent on steroids. She will never tell you a fucking thing. She magically knows things before you even say a word. It’s fucking creepy.” Yet, when I do speak about something or someone, I don’t name names. I’ll discuss a situation, but I keep names out of it.

A few days ago, someone I’ve known for about six years took offense to something I said about a newer migraine medication. Her comment was directed at both myself and a close friend. I replied by saying it ISN’T recommended for chronic migraine. It isn’t, and anyone who suffers and does their homework knows this. It’s on the damn packaging and they make it clear in all of their commercials, as well. She said she suffered from chronic migraine and hadn’t had one in about six months. Okay, that’s great, but be honest about how often you get migraines and how it is prescribed. The new injectable CGRP drugs are not for people who have over thirteen migraine days a month. That’s not considered chronic migraine, either. I’ve had migraines which have lasted for months on end, so I am coming from a place of knowledge and experience. I keep track of every new drug being researched or tested within the pipeline, and everything that’s in the final approval stages. I do this on a global scale for everything involving mental health care, migraines, chronic pain, etc. I can’t afford to be a stupid patient. Nothing I said in response was even remotely offensive, so when she decided it bothered her, I almost laughed. Mostly because she said nothing, but acted like a child. I will never force someone to remain friends with me, but I also know I didn’t come from a cruel place or say anything insulting. That’s not who I am. Her being offended is not going to magically change anything about me. In fact, I am good with being unfriended, especially when I didn’t do or say anything wrong. People who are uncomfortable or who somehow feel inferior with me being myself aren’t my real friends, and I know this. I’m not taking it personally because I do find it amusing when a person can’t admit that another person makes them uncomfortable. Those aren’t my issues to carry, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good. I also know I didn’t offend the person I am actually closer to, and that’s more important to me. I don’t go out of my way to offend people.

This year I have felt especially protective of my real friends, and far less protective of anyone who merely wants a surface level relationship with me. I am not the kind of person who will do surface level bullshit with you. I realized this about myself during lockdown. There was a serious shift in priorities. There still is, because we’re not out of the woods yet.

For starters, I stopped wearing makeup entirely. That sounds vain, but for me, it took away the creativity I channel when I do put makeup on (Eye makeup is my art project. It still is.), and pared me down to the most basic of self. My skin was probably thrilled for the break, even though I never wore heavy foundation or anything like that because I didn’t need it. I still don’t. The downside was that I developed a lifelong skin issue because of a chemical used on all of the paper based masks we were all wearing. Even after switching to cloth, my skin still hates being confined. My doctor said I’m allergic, so I have to be careful with everything more than I used to be. The bonus was (finally!) meeting with my dermatologist who said, “Whatever you’ve been doing, just keep doing it. You don’t have a single sign of aging, you have zero sun damage, and it’s obvious you’ve always taken really good care of your skin. Trust me, this doesn’t happen every day. Most people are coming in with things they want lasered off because they have never worn sunscreen in their lives, and you wear SPF 100 anytime you’re going to be in the sun for more than five minutes.” At my most recent appointment, we talked about the treatment regimen I use to help the skin issue I developed. The treatment I am using is both life-changing and skin-changing, and I’ve recommended it to so many people who’ve talked to me about being embarrassed that they don’t have flawless skin. Neither do I, but on a good day, and skin deep, I appear to. I remember sending a new photo to a family member and the first thing she said was, “What foundation are you wearing? Your skin is flawless.” The truth was, I only had concealer on in that photo and a very basic neutral eye look, which I’d matched with a lip gloss I’ve had for way too long (Seriously, I should replace it immediately. I’m not even sure the company is still in business!).

People actually thought my wearing makeup was a mask, and it never was. Now, people are seeing my skin and asking me more about skincare. There’s a reason I still consult with brands on their skincare lines. When they send me boxes of products to try and give an honest opinion on, I am working with a blank canvas. As a result, I no longer feel the need to do a full face of makeup. Unfortunately, I should at least use the eyeshadow because a company sent me five palettes recently and I just had to turn down nine more. Five years ago I would have been ecstatic over this opportunity. Now, I am trying to be more minimalist than ever before. You’ll hear me say, “I don’t have to put makeup on. No one is looking at me.” I have days when I do grab a palette and do something a bit dramatic with my eyes, but I also wear sunglasses wherever I go, even in the dark, so sometimes that defeats the purpose.

I chose not to be a freelance makeup artist, and decided to invest in something more valuable; myself. I pared down the one slightly dramatic thing about me, and now, people listen more. I noticed pretty quickly that people were more inspired by what I have to say. That’s fantastic, and a lovely compliment, but I’m not going to stop washing my face. 😉

I appear to have been quiet for many months, but the truth is, I’ve been working and working through shit. Writing has been good to me this year. I will have success, and potentially the occasional failure, like any other human-being, and I know there’s nothing wrong with not being “normal”. There’s nothing wrong with being transparent about the imperfections of life, health, etc., and still managing to remain authentic.

I don’t buy followers or readers. I will never do that on social media or on my website, because I’m not desperate for attention. The right attention finds you when you’re putting out the right vibe and the right material. Period. This is nonnegotiable, and I hope people realize I practice what I preach.

Back to work I go, at 5:30 a.m., on a Saturday. What will I do next? You’ll have to keep an eye out for all of it. I am already incredibly proud of the work, and hopefully you will like it, as well. 🙂

Wishing you all a healing, restful weekend,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses, and all involved logos, are registered trademarks ®™ owned by the author. Information about the designer is available via written request.

Stopping By

Hello, everyone! It’s been a while, and under normal circumstances I might apologize, but the truth is; that’s not necessary.

It’s been a very rough period of time for me, and as a direct result, this has affected my health in some very serious ways, which I am trying to reconcile. It’s not simple. I am coming off a few weeks of two doctors dismissing my concerns, triggering me into a very dark place, and me coming away angry and triggered into a place where I’m determined to fix the feelings and my approach. I’m lucky to have one doctor who takes me seriously and validates what I’m saying, how I make decisions, etc. That helps, but my support system is nil. I have noticed, more than ever, how people come to me with their thoughts, feelings, pain, and problems, but rarely, if ever, ask if I’m okay or if I need anything. The stronger you are as a person, the less people think you are actually in need of anything. 2020 showed me people’s true colors and 2021 has shown me their level of selfishness and privilege.

Those are two things I will never grasp; coming from such a profound sense of privilege that you actually believe the world revolves around you AND the selfishness of others. I’m the polar opposite. I know what I am most grateful for in this world and that there are privileges attached to that, but as a person, I am not selfish and would want to rip my own throat out if ever I came off as privileged. That’s genuinely not how I operate.

I have struggled for over a decade with how invisible I seem to be. I’m struggling with other issues, as well, and I speak to someone about these things and I do the damn work. That’s my responsibility to myself, and to others. Not to come from a place of ignorance or selfishness.

I realize I’ve reached a new level of fed up. Burnt out. Severe Insomnia. My stress levels could kill me. And yet, a doctor had the audacity to ask me yesterday what in the world I have to be stressed about. She can have an answer when she finally learns my damn name!

We’re all going through something; some more so than others. I’ve been hard at work on various projects which I’m not sharing information on just yet, but one of those projects in particular has been my saving grace over the past two and a half weeks. It has been my catharsis. It has been every bit of my truth. Think a novel can’t be finished in that time? Think again. A solidly good idea means the story will flow. I don’t normally write things of that nature from start to finish, but this one has worked out differently. Over two hundred pages and closing in on 85,000 words in the final draft. I am extremely proud of how therapeutic this experience has been. It will go out into the world in a month or so, and I’ll see who is willing to publish it. It is the most honest, authentic, fair, reasonable, and emotional piece of fiction I’ve ever read, or written. But once it leaves my carefully crafted storytelling, I am on to the next project. That’s my new rule. Write, sell, and keep writing. Sell your brilliance, but keep some on hand because the world needs it.

I wish I had more to say in the moment, but I’m keeping things very close to the chest at the moment; much like a deck of cards. It is unfortunate I have to adhere to those rules, but they have served me well.

I will be back as soon as possible. Maybe I’ll have more to share then.

Wishing you all the best for now,

Check In

Is it really Thursday? AGAIN? My best friend and I say this every week, especially if we don’t get a few hours to chat about what’s going on in our lives. Factor in a seven hour time difference. I won’t lie; there are many moments when I have almost crawled into bed and stayed up because she was messaging me as I was about to turn my phone off for the night. What’s a little lost sleep between the bonds of friendship?

This week took its toll on me. Neurologically, I’m not looking forward to having, “the serious talk” with my doctor next week. But I have to, because everything I’m experiencing is indicative of a stress related breakdown or a possible stroke. When I’ve brought these issues up to both my primary care physician and my neurologist, both of them refused to order tests, deeming them, “unnecessary”, and proceeded to ignore my suffering. I’m putting my foot down and demanding an fMRI of my brain to rule out specific issues.

My mother had half a dozen strokes, and because they don’t always show correctly in women with precise indicators, we didn’t know about them until after tests were run and doctors were shocked that none of them had been serious. I remember the first one quite clearly, because she nearly hit a newly planted tree and I was with her. We both thought she’d had an anxiety attack. I talked her down, got her cold water and a tiny dose of anti-anxiety meds. She said the medication helped immensely, so she believed it was anxiety. Fast forward two hours later when the police showed up to ask her where she’d been and if she’d hit a tree, because some asshole called it in, but didn’t bother to come out and make sure either of us was all right. I have to wonder about the priorities of a person like that. Ultimately, nothing came of it; there was no damage to her car and no damage to the tree, unless you count some earth getting moved around (I thoroughly checked it all before we left.), but as I have thought about that day many times, I am experiencing some of the same brain related issues and it’s scary. Language issues, where I type not in English, but in another language entirely, or where my brain scrambles the words I use in my daily vernacular, is difficult for someone like me, who prides herself on her memory and her skill set. Generally, I type with zero typos or spelling errors, but now, I am having to retrace my steps through everything because I find the most basic mistakes. One has to be concerned about their brain when they are experiencing such troubling symptoms.

A close friend is trying to help me navigate this mess, from another state, and while I appreciate the bits of guidance and encouragement, I also get annoyed at times because I don’t want to be anyone’s pet project. I should not have to fight this hard for proper medical care. No one should have to endure this.

Add in a month long migraine, vertigo attacks, balance issues, and a lot of neck and shoulder pain, and I’m basically a husk. One day, I will have better news.

For now, I thought I’d check in. It’s the equivalent of sticking my head into a room and then ducking out gracefully. 😉

Amid all this craziness, I am doing the final revision on a novel. I cracked 150,000 words, and realize this is an achievement all by itself, but I’m still polishing the diamond (because it needs polishing, and a few more facets.). The character development has far exceeded my expectations and I’m pleased with the new material I’ve written, and what I’ll continue to write as I head toward the finish line. I’ve also done some writing on the psychological thriller, which I feel good about. I chose to do it to challenge myself, and I’m so glad I listened to that voice that told me, “You have a story to tell.” Those characters are developing at a slower pace, but they will get there. In between, I’ve been focused on a lengthy piece about racism and then, I began writing about a few incidents which occurred earlier this week. When I get mad, I make sure I am doing something constructive to get it out of my system, and help others think or look at it from a different point of view. I don’t write anything I don’t feel is valuable to others, so hopefully, upon completion, these pieces will make an impact on someone. Both will be submitted to magazines. I have an additional creative idea for my followers, so stay tuned. I am determined to make major changes this year, and I’ve been doing a lot behind the scenes. 🙂

Someone had the audacity to make it sound like writers don’t actually do any, “real work”, and they, quite stupidly, said it to me, as if that kind of thing is acceptable. Not understanding something does not mean you get to insult it. It’s a good thing we’re still social distancing, or someone would be missing their face.

If this person knew how hard I worked (sometimes for 16+ hours with no real break), with no guaranteed salary, they would be in a psychiatric wing, because what I do is not simple, easy, or lesser. Writing is a high form of art. It’s not black and white. It is full of grey area, and I tend to drown myself in the grey most of the time. I am a writer because I have talent, a voice, and I know how important it is to use that voice on the right platforms, at the right time. I’m not trying to be funny or force humor, which is usually when people find me hilarious. When I’m serious, sometimes people think I’m kidding and they laugh even harder. Other times, I’m genuinely kidding and people think I’m serious. <shrugs> This person doesn’t seem to grasp that if you insult me, I will work harder and, eventually, make you cry for your disrespect. What’s worse? The fact that they don’t grasp that it is an insult to begin with.

As such, I will now return to work. Then I’ll catch some sleep. Wish me luck!

Buena notte,

What Are You Looking For In A Therapist?

You’ve seen the title of this piece, so let me start by saying this question has been asked of me by my doctor, and it’s a long story. Overall, my best response was, “Someone who isn’t an asshole. Someone who isn’t going to waste my time, and someone whose office I will not leave more furious than when I went in.” If you’ve never dealt with a therapist before, believe me when I say these are supremely honest, reasonable requests. Then I noted my history and realized how much this traumatizes me, repeatedly.

I began talking with psychiatrists and therapists around age twelve or thirteen, as a way to combat the damage I was experiencing at home, with an abusive, controlling father. The first doctor was fired after roughly two sessions, in which he threatened to hospitalize me at the first appointment because I didn’t care to talk to him. “If you don’t change your behavior, I will hospitalize you.” First time meeting me, barely knew a thing about me, and he was already making undue threats. That’s called, “abuse of power”. There’s not a single mental health professional who should be threatening their patients. That’s illegal and, depending on the personality they are dealing with, quite dangerous. He had already openly admitted of being afraid of meeting up with someone like me in a dark alley, but he made no attempt to connect or get to know me and what I was going through.

To provide helpful background, I was in no danger of harming myself or others, but he saw fit to disrespect me, to call my mother names when he asked her to leave the room for a short period of time to “chat” with me (Asking me about her personality and disrespecting her for seeking out help for her child. Yeah, that didn’t sit well with me. To this day, despite the fact that my mother has been gone almost thirteen years, if someone disrespects her or speaks negatively about her, they might end up choking on their own teeth. I tend to warn people in advance, but I only warn you once.), and when I told her precisely what was said behind closed doors, she called and cancelled the following appointment, letting him know I would not be returning. He had the audacity to call her and ask why I didn’t show up for my appointment, pretending he had not received notice of the cancellation. She had given him plenty of notice as to why I would not be coming back, but once he called, he opened himself up to being schooled for his horrible behavior. This first introduction to a psychiatrist, one who specialized in treating adolescents, left me scarred. I was not scared of this doctor, but I did contemplate going back to his house (he worked out of a home office) and cutting his tires. I had to return to the person who’d referred me and explain why this doctor should not be seeing anyone, leave alone children. I don’t remember his name, but I hope he rots for how he treated me. I didn’t need an abusive doctor; I already had enough abuse at home.

After that, I saw a therapist for a few years, and she was all right. At this point, I was already an established writer and I was careful with my words with her. She still assisted for a while when I moved out of state.

My next doctor wasn’t much better, except that instead of abuse or threats (or a combination of both), her answer to everything was medication. For over a year, she practically force-fed me Prozac until I put my foot down and refused to take it. I was about five foot three at the time and one hundred and twenty pounds. Antidepressants in that particular class can cause severe weight gain and other health issues. I wasn’t eating any differently, nor was I eating more often, but suddenly I was trapped in a body that wasn’t my own. If I hadn’t started out depressed, I was by the time I fired her. I spent two straight years on roughly ten different medications before I finally decided to stop seeing her. She was unreachable when not in the office, she was not helping me in any way because she had misdiagnosed me, and when my therapist at the same location left, so did I. I then spent a few years obsessed with working out in my attempt to shed the medication weight. I was working out three times a day. This doctor didn’t understand that she’d destroyed my sense of self and self-esteem. Her answer for everything was pills.

After firing several more doctors, I would end up back in session with the therapist who had left, but now had her own practice. In three years, I didn’t feel she did much for me, and when she was pregnant with her first child, she decided not to see patients any more. She left me in limbo, and I’m sure this was true for others, as well.

A year or so later, I ended up in the office of another doctor. To say he was a piece of work would be a vast understatement. Don’t assume a physician who went to three Ivy League schools is better equipped at helping you than one who went to medical school elsewhere. He was a nightmare, and my neurologist at the time had referred me to him. This doctor refused to take my mental health seriously, and wanted to put me into some kind of “day program” where I would interact with other people who suffered from varying degrees of mental illness. He thought this was the only way I’d, “get better”. He even yelled at me during an appointment in which he had to fill out a form for my insurance, which took less than ten minutes of his time at the end of a session which cost roughly $500 for an hour. Mind you, this was his charge before insurance reimbursed me. This “relationship” where he refused to help me did not last long. In fact, it lead me to a new therapist who would refer me to a psychiatrist who happened to know the previous doctor.

I was under the care of the new psychiatrist for sixteen years. His treatment was sub-par, outside of when I was in his office. When my records were requested in 2016, he actually claimed I was never under his care! After having submitted my entire chart, which was over six hundred pages, which included personal notes which never should have seen the light of day, I called him and confronted him. For sixteen years, he told me I was suffering from Bipolar I and II, mixed episode. This diagnosis was one hundred percent inaccurate.

In an attempt to help myself, I did see a therapist for six months in 2012. When I lost my insurance, she disappeared. I’m still annoyed by that because I feel like she was a good therapist for me.

When I met my current treating physician, he was astounded by how much medical neglect I had endured between doctors and inept therapists. When he handed me my new diagnosis, it was a game-changer, but it also left me devastated, because there was no way to fix any of it. The damage was done, and all we could do was treat things here and there.

The day I first met him, he disclosed he’d be leaving in a month. Our last discussion, days before he left that particular hospital, he said his biggest regret was not being able to do more to help me. This stayed with me. Upon his departure, my case was handed over to another doctor who, upon meeting me, in less than ten minutes, insinuated I was an addict because I was taking medication she didn’t approve of. This woman tried to damage my medical record as part of her vendetta, and she pursued getting me kicked out of the mental health care clinic, but I lucked out with a therapist who fought on my behalf. Unfortunately, nine months later, she would also leave that particular hospital.

I was now left with no therapist and no doctor. I signed up for waitlists with a handful of places offering therapy and either no doctor or they had someone who came in once a month to prescribe medication. After meeting with two different therapists, I lost my patience and let both of them know I would not be returning. Not long after, I bumped into my doctor in one of the medical buildings where I now go, having since changed insurance companies to one that covers a broader spectrum of things and has a larger service coverage area (the entire state, pretty much, along with parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut). In less than two weeks, I had an appointment and was “back in business”, so to speak.

My doctor actually gives a fuck about me. I am trying to keep this in mind because I’m annoyed as hell with him right now. His first attempt of setting me up with a therapist he works with crashed and burned. I wasted ten months of my life dealing with this woman, and at my very first appointment, she made the crucial mistake of threatening me. Knowing what I know about what needs to be said between clinician and patient, I tried to let it go, but I then spent the entire time waiting for her to be a better therapist, which never happened. I cancelled my last appointment with her because 1, I was going to tear her a new asshole. 2, I did not feel she would be receptive to the feedback, and more than that, did I really want her to get paid as I shredded her for being a useless therapist? No. She didn’t deserve to be paid when I was going to be angry going in and leaving. That’s not right, or fair. When I explained this to my doctor, he agreed I did the right thing by being silent, but explaining to him why it didn’t work out. She was in no way invested in my well-being, and it was obvious, especially as she repeatedly checked the clock from the second I arrived, right up until the final moments of each session.

Collectively, my doctor and I decided to shelve the pursuant of a new therapist after I called twenty different therapists, all to be told that they had full practices, which means they aren’t taking on new patients. A few had a three year waiting list to see them, and at that point, I’d had enough of the bullshit of flaky therapists.

When it came up towards the end of last year, he didn’t really have too many ideas or options for me, but was willing to keep trying. I had actually considered fighting for my out-of-network benefits to return to a previous therapist, providing she agreed.

Today is the day to go over the whole, “What are you looking for in a therapist?” question for what is hopefully the last time, and see where this goes. It gives me anxiety and makes me sick to my stomach. Because ultimately, I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a therapist and feel they are a “good fit” for me. It takes time to build trust and establish a relationship enough to be vulnerable. Anyone who truly knows me, knows I’m the least likely person in any given room to put myself in a position of weakness. I’m pretty glacial most of the time. I’m not a welcoming person; I will get to know you first. I am not overly trusting, either. These are things you have to earn with me, yet I see people give away trust like tissues all the time, and then they wonder why they’re devastated in the end.

It is so rare for me to meet anyone and feel an immediate sense of rightness, but when I do, I am much more forthcoming with them because I know I’m not being judged. Over the past year I have come to realize that, in many instances, people tell me everything about their lives, and this likely stems from being a good listener, a solid confidant, and someone people often rely on in an advisory capacity, but if asked, they would not be able to tell you much about me. This is why people often say, “Check on your strong friends.” The person who is everyone’s rock is not always okay, but by turning to them constantly, never asking about their health or life, you are diminishing them and that isn’t acceptable behavior. In fact, it’s a quick way for me to boot you out of my life. It’s not “the silent treatment”, it’s walking away from toxicity with your self-respect. That’s what I have to do to preserve my sanity at times, and I will never apologize for it.

I’ll see how this Telehealth appointment goes and make my decision from there. I know whatever happens, it will be a collaborative discussion. Having a doctor who doesn’t Lord over you is important. If you’re working on your mental health, keep this in mind through your journey.

Brightest of Blessings,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.