A Familiar Voice

I was having trouble sleeping that night. My thoughts were racing and I was beyond restless, but at the same time, I was exhausted and my body was begging me to sleep. I tried writing, reading and just laying in bed staring at the ceiling. It didn’t help. My mind wasn’t going to let me sleep. I sighed in frustration as I rocked myself in my chair and resigned myself to staying up late.

Then I heard the voice of Martin Sheen whispering to me. He told me I needed to watch Apocalypse Now. I thought that was an excellent idea. I quickly jumped up from my chair and pulled the DVD from it’s case and popped it into the player. I settled down in my chair as the first notes of The End started playing.

The monotone voice of Martin Sheen began telling the story of Captain Willard and there was something oddly soothing about it. As I listened to the voice my mind calmed down and settled into the rhythm of the slow-paced story line. I didn’t even make it half-way through the movie before my eyelids started to droop and I was finally able to go to bed.

I could go into detail about the parallels between Apocalypse Now and Mental Illness, but that’s not what I want to do right now. Right now my intention is to illustrate how movies (and other forms of media) can help a person cope with Mental Illness. Apocalypse Now is one of the simplest examples of how a movie has helped me work through my illness.

Manic episodes and racing thoughts are both symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, which I have. During my manic episodes I would walk around my apartment complex for hours at a time, just to be moving. Sometimes I would clean the apartment from ceiling to floor, other times I would just drive. It wasn’t something I had control over; I had to be moving  or I would go crazy. My whole body would jumpy and my mind would be all over the place.

The racing thoughts were just as terrible. I couldn’t control them, couldn’t make them slow down. I would think about everything; the newest season of Doctor Who, what I was going to have for dinner that night, what would happen if a tornado formed over my apartment, what I would do if a burglar came to the door? All this would pass through my mind at light-speed. Sometimes I would walk to get my body moving with mind. Sometimes I would throw myself into my work, trying to focus on something and quiet my mind. There were nights I was up until four in the morning unable to sleep, because of my thoughts.

That night when Martin Sheen spoke to me, I wanted desperately to go to sleep, because my newborn son was in the other room; finally sleeping.

Sometimes there is no in-depth analysis into how a movie has helped you cope with mental illness. Sometimes it is something that seems so small that helps you out the most. Like a familiar voice that calms your mind so you can get enough sleep to take care of your infant son when he wakes up.



Because We’re Brothers


I imagine that several of my Facebook friends are genuinely confused by the posts I tag my sister in. I skip past all the posts that say, “Share if you have a sister you love” and tag her in every post that says, “Share if you have a brother you love”. To me, she is my sister, my brother and my best friend; but it wasn’t always that way.

Growing up, my step mom seemed intent on pitting my sister and I against one another. She told me that my sister was rebellious, that she was a liar and I felt like she was putting pressure on me to fix my sister. This led to obvious resentment between my sister and myself. We constantly argued and I remember there were times when all my sister had to do was breath and it pissed me off. I think we were close to hating each other.

When we left our other family, the tension continued, I was angry at her, because she left me to deal with our other father and step-mother and the fall out from her decision to stay in Texas with our real mom. I was scared, because she seemed like a different person, a person I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

A moment came when we realized that even though we were among family, we were alone in what had happened to us and we needed each other. She was the only person I could talk to about the pain our other family had inflicted on us. We set aside our differences and worked through our pain together as best as we could.

But it was this movie, The Boondock Saints, that changed everything for us.

I remember the first time we watched it, we were laughing and just in awe by this crazy-ass movie. We loved it so much we watched it again the next day and then everyday that week. After that we set up Boondock Saints’ Sunday and every Sunday we sat together and watched the movie while eating melt-away cookie dough. Those were happy Sundays.

My sister and I bonded over this movie. I think in those two crazy brothers we saw ourselves. We saw two people against the world, two people who chose to do what they thought was the right thing and we saw it all go horribly wrong and horribly right at the same time and then we saw it all turn out okay.

This is what we had done, we had made a decision that we believed to be the right one and one we intended to see all the way through. We had to believe that everything would turn out okay, because in that moment everything was going terribly wrong.

So these two brothers became for us a new identity. We called each other by their names, I was Murphy and she Connor. We spoke to each other in quotes from the movie and when we were scared, we turned to the brothers for courage. We became close, like brothers, and like sisters are supposed to be.

I had lost my sister a long time ago, to anger and resentment. The Boondock Saints gave me my brother and for that I am very grateful.

Connor man, I love you!



The Man in Black

I was falling down a dark abyss. The abyss was made of my inner demons and my internal struggles. I was drowning in my depression and the ghosts that haunted me were taking over my soul. Just when I thought it was all over an angel with darkened wings reached down into the pit where I was trapped and pulled me out. That angel was Johnny Cash.

Christians can be a difficult group of people, especially when you don’t fit into their preconceived notion of how a Christian should think, talk, act and dress. I had several strikes against me; my mental illness, my depression, my outbursts of anger, my hidden sins and my choice of an all black wardrobe, because for some reason, black is an evil color.

I had turned to Christians for help with my mental illness, but instead of helping, my brothers and sisters looked down on me, because I was not the joyful Christian I was supposed to be. A Christian couldn’t be depressed, because they had Jesus and Jesus made everything better. I stopped talking about my struggles, because instead of encouragement or comfort I received judgment. I kept all of my inner demons a secret, because I knew my struggles with my sins and my illness were signs I wasn’t a true Christian.

I gave up on being a Christian, because I knew I couldn’t be the one other Christians and pastors were telling me I had to be. My demons followed me, mocking me and I knew I would never get rid of them, they would always be with me, whispering, taunting and in that moment, the demons were winning. They were dragging me deeper into the pit of depression.

This is when my angel appeared. He came to me on the television in the form of a Johnny Cash TV special. I was captivated by this man; I went from glancing at the screen from the kitchen, to watching it from the living room, sitting on the edge of the couch. In his face, in his music, I could see everything he had been through. He believed in God, he loved Jesus, but several times he had lost to his demons. He didn’t find Jesus and everything was better, he still had to fight a long and difficult battle, all the way up until the end.

It was the last interview that got me. The one after June died and right before he passed away himself. Listening to him speak, I realized that before that moment I had never understood the grace of God. I saw a man, worn down from his battles, tired from everything life had thrown at him and grieving the loss of wife, but I also saw in his face the peace and the love of God. He talked about his faith, how he wasn’t afraid of death, because he knew he was going to heaven and he knew he was going to see June again.

That interview changed me, because I learned that God does not abandon broken people. He doesn’t give up on us when we lose to our demons. I realized then that the definition of Christian I had been taught was all wrong. It’s not about the clothes we wear,  and it’s not about our sins and illnesses disappearing so we can be happy Christians.

Our lives, the lives of broken people, they’re like pottery that has been broken and then lovingly, painstakingly, put back together and it ends up being more beautiful than it was before it was broken. We are beautiful, because we have survived our battles. We have survived the abyss and I think that is more inspiring than the Christian who says that God made all of their struggles disappear. It’s easy to say God made everything better, it’s difficult to admit that you are still struggling, even when you know that God is with you in the struggle.

So, don’t give up. Sometimes the demons win and sometimes you mental illness will get the better of you, but there will also be times when you win, times when things are good. Fight for those times.

Remember you are not alone. We are out there, the broken people, the outcasts, the rebels, all you have to do is reach out to us.

You can always contact me on the contact page, on Facebook or by email.

The Man in Black watches over us.

Email: krisdgravesauthor@yahoo.com

Facebook:https ://www.facebook.com/authorkrisgraves/





The Socially Anxious Person’s Guide to Comic Con

Do you suffer from social anxiety? Do you wish you could go to Comic Con, but decide not to, because you are worried your anxiety may ruin the experience for you? It the answer is yes, then this guide is for you.

The First Step is to remember that you are not alone.

I ,and several others, also suffer from social anxiety and to us the road to Comic Con is a daunting one, but I also think that many of us will agree that when we finally arrive at Comic Con, we have never felt more at home. At Comic Con, you will be surrounded by everything you love and people who love those same things. These are your people and you will have nothing to be afraid of.

The Second Step is to plan ahead; very, very far ahead. 

There are hundreds of Comic Cons that happen around the world, with some research, you should be able to find one that happens relatively close to you. Wizard World Comic Con is a good place to start, if you are in the United States.

Find the dates of the Con, if it is happening in less than six months; plan on going the next year. A year is about how long it will take to save enough money for tickets, photo-ops, autographs, trinkets and, if desired, a costume.

The Third Step is to give yourself time to enjoy the Con

I suggest that you buy the weekend pass. This will allow you to divide the events you wish to attend between two or three days, and trust me, you want to do this. Lines for autographs and photo-ops are long (think Black Friday sales lines) and can take an hour or even hours to get through. This can depend on the size of the Con and the popularity of the celebrity, but I would be prepared for standing for long periods of time in a line that may or may not be moving.

      This also gives you time at the beginning of each day to just walk the convention floor. I find that when I am in a new place, it helps to just walk around for a few minutes and look around. This way my mind can adjust to the new atmosphere. Take the time to just walk and look around, let your mind adjust to everything that is going on. Then decide which line you want to stand in.

  Be sure to check when the events you want to attend will be happening so you can give yourself enough time to get to each, relieving unnecessary stress. Also make sure to get to the convention center early, lines to get into the Con can be very long as well and could possibly make you late to an event.


What to Expect

Expect it to be loud. There will thousands of people talking over each other and over music and promotional videos. This is honestly the most overwhelming part of Comic Con for me. It is like the scene in some movies where the person is panicking and you hear all the voices swirling around them and building until they freak out. Even remembering it makes me feel anxious, but, deep breath. Deep breaths until you calm down, and if you need to, find a quiet place (the bathroom can be a good option, unless it is crowded), you may have to leave the Con to find such a place.

There will be a lot of people. The convention center will be packed. This may also depend on the size of the Con, but still expect there to be more people than you are used to. What can you do? Get a map of the floor, so you know where you are going, and as much as possible, move with the flow of the crowd. Moving with the crowd means you aren’t having to fight the current to get to where you are going, which will be less stressful for you. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, try stepping off at one of the vendors and hanging out there for a minute or two.

There will be people who talk to you. Don’t worry, they will be friendly. Most likely they will be trying to figure out where they are going or they will be commenting on the line, or just so excited to meet their hero that they have to talk to someone.

If this sounds terrifying, don’t worry, you can also expect to have fun. You will get to meet the actors and actresses you admire, take a picture with them, get their autograph shake their hand, it will be worth it! Roam through the vendors; you could find that one item you haven’t been able find anywhere else. And don’t forget to check out the writers and artists, maybe you will find something new to be a fan of.

Extra Advice

Bring a friend. Comic Con is something that should be shared to begin with, but for the socially anxious person having a friend along also means having a support system; someone who can help you find a quiet place to unwind when you are overwhelmed, or to help you keep track of time so are less anxious about getting to each event on time.

You may think it best for you to wear a costume; in a costume you can be someone else, someone who is not anxious, but I do want you to keep one thing in mind; if you wear a costume, people will want to take pictures of you/ with you. You will have to decide if you will be comfortable with that or not.

I hope this helps you feel ready to attend Comic Con. If you have any questions or if you think there is something I could add to this post, please visit the contact page and leave a comment.









The Women of Criminal Minds

The writers of Criminal Minds have given us a beautiful gift; strong female characters. Good, strong female characters are hard to find.

“Strong” for a female character seems to translate into “bitch” or “masculine”. To be a “strong” female character women must turn off their emotions and they must stop caring. A “strong” woman gets what she wants, it doesn’t matter how she gets it. A “strong” woman is comfortable with sex and freely expresses this with several men.

This is not the type of woman I would want my son falling in love with. These traits are not what makes a strong woman and I wish someone had taught me that when I was younger. My childhood and adolescence would have been a lot easier.

This is why the women of Criminal Minds are so important. They are strong women without losing the very things that make them women.

Jennifer Jareau (JJ) works for the BAU, finding cases for the team to help with, handling the media side of things and assisting in the investigation itself. She is also a wife and a mother.

Emily Prentiss interviews suspects, visits crime scenes, takes down suspects and she has also spent years doing undercover work. She also just enjoys spending time with her cat, or with the other women of the BAU.

Penelope Garcia assists the team using her knowledge of technology. She is a genius. She sees the same horrors the team sees. She also maintains her own unique, quirky style, cooks, goes to Comic Con and enjoys a girl’s night out.

These three are not “strong”, because they aren’t emotional or because they chose a career over family. These women are strong, because of the horrors they face everyday; everyday the see the worst of humankind; they see mutilated bodies, gory crime scenes and child victims. These women see all of these terrible things, but they are still caring, loving and compassionate.

JJ enjoys her job, has received promotions and has been sent on special assignments, but never at the expense of her family. One of my favorite scenes: After a particularly difficult case JJ calls home to check on her son. She asks her husband (boyfriend at the time I believe) if he is still awake. He informs her that Henry said he was not going to bed until mama read to him. Then over the phone, JJ reads a bedtime story to her son. It is such a touching scene to see this hardworking, wonder woman taking the time to care for her son from hundreds of miles away.

I appreciate JJ’s character, because it portrays a working mother in a positive light. Often times a mother character is portrayed as a depressed stay-at-home mom or the distant working mother who’s kids never see her.It is refreshing to see a mother character who both enjoys her job and spending time with her family.

Prentiss is another amazing character. She works hard to prove she belongs in the BAU. She is stubborn and will work hard to do what she thinks is right, but not in a way that harms other people. She is continuously thinking of her team, considering them her family. She shows emotion and compassion for victims.

Prentiss is an amazing character, because she is career oriented woman without being a emotionless character. I’ve seen it so many times. The career driven woman character is in a perpetual state of anger. Anger at those above her, anger at those who question her, anger at those who offer her advice. It is awesome to see a woman who chose to pursue the job she loves and is happy with her life choices.

Don’t get me started on Penelope “Baby Girl” Garcia. I would classify her as the typical “outcast character”, but the truth is I don’t think Garcia really fits into any type of stereotypical role. She is not a typical female character done right, she is an entirely new female character. She is intelligent, sassy and a fashion queen. She is comfortable with herself, she is confident in who she is. She is delightfully quirky. Every girl should look up to Garcia. (This is of course my opinion.)

This new female character is one I could get used to. A strong woman who is strong in completely different way. She is strong in her personality. She is strong, because of her mind. Isn’t that awesome?

Another reason Criminal Minds is a brilliant show; the women characters are respected. Hotchner, Morgan, Reid; they all value the opinions of their female counterparts. No one talks down to Emily, no one tells JJ she should quit and be at home with her family and no one treats Penelope like she is less them. The women are all valued members of the BAU team.

We need more characters like the Women of Criminal Minds. We need to redefine the “strong” woman character. We need the strong woman character to be more like real women.

And to my fellow writers out there, if you want to write a strong female character, I recommend watching Criminal Minds for inspiration.