All posts by jbstilwellauthor

I'm a paranormal fiction author who was born and raised in the foothills of Appalachia. I'm eclectic, having diverse interests which shows in my writing. I have a degree in Sociology in which my studies focused on crime and deviant behavior and race and gender relations in post-grad. I love to travel, particularly to India, and my varied experiences around the world are woven into my stories. I love reading, music and learning. I currently reside in the Seattle metro area with my husband and Goddess-like daughter Maya. As Emma would say, variety is the spice of life, but too much spice gives me heartburn.

Wellness and Giving Thanks


smash-patriarchyI’m taking part in my employer’s wellness program. It’s part of my journey toward a healthier lifestyle. The current goal in the wellness program is to take the next seven days and each day, write about something for which I’m thankful. The first thing that came to mind was being thankful for my mental illness.

That statement seems odd now that I look at it typed out on the page. But, it’s a sincere statement. Is having a mental illness challenging? Yes. Is it considered a disability? Yes. However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to view my mental illness through a different lens, with a different perspective. What has my mental illness allowed me to do? Well, it’s definitely allowed me to have somewhat unique experiences. I say somewhat because although not experiences that the “average” person has, I’m not the only one to ever struggle with bipolar disorder or anxiety. There are similar experiences in every story of mental illness. I’m using unique here to qualify my experiences as being different than the experiences of someone who doesn’t live daily with mental illness.

These experiences have taught me. They have helped mold me into the person that I am at this moment. One thing they have most definitely done is helped me to a more empathetic person. Because of my relationship with my illness, I genuinely care for and feel for people who are in pain, those dealing with mental and emotional anguish, those who are existing in a state of despair. I seek to connect with those people, many of whom have had people turn away from them because of their challenges. I feel that in doing this, I have grown a little bit as a person, that it has helped me to develop as an individual.

I would not wish mental illness on anyone. Yet, I’m thankful that it’s me and not you – at least not right now. And if the time ever comes where it is you, I’m here. Reach out to me. I may not completely understand, but I can listen using my unique filter. We are all worth this, and so much more. For this, I’m thankful.

MLK and Mental Illness


mlk-dream-bannerI went to church yesterday. As is usual with most Unitarian Universalist churches, the day was spent in reflection of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those of us who are caucasian pinned pink ribbons to our tops, a reminder for the day that people are treated differently because of their skin tone and that as caucasians, we have a duty to acknowledge our ancestors’ history and challenge injustice whenever we witness it. I had planned to pen an elaborate post regarding my thoughts on the service.

Then I had a mental health episode. It was a rough night, and I struggled with old coping mechanisms such as self-injury and alcohol. This is not the life that I want to lead, and I recommit myself to my overall health – including my spiritual and mental health.

Today I began to wonder, what would Dr. King say about how we treat the mentally ill in this country. I found this blog and wasn’t surprised to learn that Dr. King himself often battled with depression. People who are challenged with mental illness tend to be some of the most self-reflective and empathetic people you will ever meet. It’s not lost on me that someone like MLK who spent his life thinking deeply about injustice would struggle with the psychological impact of such a dreary reality.

There is still a stigma against the mentally ill. I could never compare this to the experience that African Americans have had in this society. Yet I’m compelled to call out injustice wherever I see it, for mental illness is something that does not discriminate based on the color of your skin. If we know that mental illness is stigmatize, and that racial minorities are discriminated against, one would shudder at the injustice of mental illness within those communities. Unfortunately, culturally speaking, some groups balk even more at the thought of mental health treatment. My husband is from India and there’s a long history of denying the need for therapy and that one should fix things on their own, which is a damaging and dangerous perspective. Damaging because it belittles those of us who seek help. Dangerous because it suggests a path that almost always fails.

We need to speak out in all of our communities that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, rather it’s something that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, just like MLK did. There is no weakness in asking for help as it is true strength and courage that allows you to recognize that you can’t do it alone. Growing up, we’re not taught to deal with these issues, so we need to learn from those who can help us. Regardless of our backgrounds, there is a counselor that can meet our needs.

If you need any support in exploring these issues, please reach out to me. I’m listening.

Ouch – a bad review?


I made the mistake of looking at my reviews on Amazon. I got a recent one – and it was BAD. The person gave me one star and said that they wished that they could give zero stars. Wow.

Normally, I would let this bother me. However, with a different perspective on things – and better medication – I can somewhat easily shrug it off. The universe was listening because when I went to Goodreads, I saw this post from one of my favorite authors, Charlaine Harris when someone asked her about bad reviews:

“First off, consider the source. Have you read other criticism from this reviewer? Did you agree with the reviewer’s comments on someone else’s book? If you did, then you might want to give that reviewer’s opinion some serious consideration. It can help you improve your writing. But in general, I advise you not to read most of your reviews, particularly on Amazon or any other site where reviews can be anonymous. That anonymity opens the door for cruelty.”

Thank you for the reminder, Charlaine! Not today, Satan, not today.

Ancestry


23andme

I never knew much about my heritage. I didn’t know many people on my dad’s side of the family, so I was curious as to my background. I felt like I was pretty confident in my heritage on my mother’s side. To quench my thirst for knowledge, I had my DNA tested with 23andMe.

My results were pretty much to be expected. 23andMe is good with continuing to do research on the genotypes even after you get your initial results. This further research has caused a mystery on my mom’s side of the family.

There was a story that I heard growing up – that one of my great-great-grandmothers was Native American. Even more than that, it was stated that she was a cousin to Chief Sitting Bull, which would have made her Oglala Lakota. The French-speaking people in my family were quite racist – they allegedly made comments that they didn’t care if the person was “red or black,” they didn’t want them in the family and disowned my great-great-grandfather for marrying a non-white.

This story was very unsettling to me. Because of the hatred my great-great-grandmother experienced, I made it my mission to be as respectful of and learn as much as I could about the Lakota people. I felt that by honoring my great-great-grandmother, I was doing my part in rectifying the hatred within my own family.

23andMe recently released some more genetic reports providing a deeper dive into the genotypes and the locations in the world from which they came. I recently looked at my results and was surprised to see 0% Native American! The “family story” is a lie. So, what’s the truth. Well, with the generational breakdown, in the time of 1710-1800, the genotype that shows up is Subsaharan African. Curiouser and curiouser.

Further investigation will tell – but my first impression of this new information? Not only was the story a lie, but the ancestor in question was likely of mixed African origin.

Free Books on Amazon Kindle


Don’t forget! All of my books are free on Amazon Kindle through January 1, 2019. This promotion applies to all of Amazon’s international sites. Here are the links for the U.S. site:

The Source (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 1)

Mining the Dark (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 2)

Finding Serenity: A Novella of the Mountain State Vampire Series

I Am Becoming: A collection of poetry and personal prose

2018 Reflections


2019-clock

In many ways 2018 was one of my best years – I was promoted, got a raise, started doing a job that I love, lost 92 pounds, improved my health to the point that I’ve been able to stop certain medications, and overall am happy with my position in life.

In some ways, though, 2018 was one of the worst years in recent history. In July, the world lost an amazing human being. My friend, my spiritual mentor, my colleague, my soul brother, Okey J. Napier, Jr. Although it has been five months since he passed to the Summerlands, I find it difficult to comprehend a life without him in it. The thought is still so surreal to me that I have kept a copy of his obituary in my e-mail, reminding myself everyday that yes, he is gone. For whatever reason, I feel that I have to do this because emotionally I’m not ready to accept it yet, but must keep myself grounded in the reality of his passing.

I take comfort in the fact that my faith has helped me through this unthinkable time. You see, I don’t believe that death is the end, but merely another path in the journey of existence. Okey still exists, just not in physical form, not on this plane, in this realm. But he’s still here, just not in the way I’m used to. I still talk to him, and I know that he can hear me. It saddens me deeply that I cannot reciprocate, that my earthly body is limited in this way. Not that I don’t believe that we can interact with spirits – I most certainly believe that…I sometimes pause to recognize something, knowing it’s a message from that realm. I wholeheartedly believe that he’s at peace and with his beloved Granny.

But I’m selfish. It’s not enough for me. At least not now. I miss our talks. We would often chat online or have Skype conversations to talk about everything from life to religion to our writing projects. I miss going to his place whenever I would visit Huntington. We would talk for hours over cups of coffee, often glowing over our nostalgia for the good old days when we were both students at Marshall University, ready to take on the world for the good fight in LGBT rights. He would make me laugh with his stories and humble me with his expressed respect for my knowledge and talent. These are memories that will forever live in my heart.

I recently went back to Huntington to visit family for the holidays. It was a good trip, but noticeably hollow in the fact that it was the first time since his memorial that I went to the area and didn’t spend time with him. For my own emotional well-being, I paid tribute to our connection by doing what we would normally do – I went to Starbucks at Pullman Square, had a big cup of coffee, and reflected on life, the issues of the day, and imagined what Okey would have to say about it all. As the tears ran down my face, I tried my hardest to smile as I thought about him. I’m not there yet. One day I will be able to express happiness for all that was. I guess right now, I’m still grieving.

Over the past few months, all I can think of is one of the last things that I said to him during my visit in June. We were discussing the Egyptian Goddess Bast, the cat Goddess of Joy. He had asked me my opinion on how things were going in life, and I told him that by Bast, to enjoy means to live IN joy – that’s what is meant for us.

In honor of him, I’m going to do my best to live up to that.

Free Kindle Books!


grave

To ring in 2019, I have made ALL of my books on Kindle free through January 1! If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app, you can get these awesome tomes on any of Amazon’s web sites (including the international sites). Here are the links for the U.S. site:

The Source (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 1)

Mining the Dark (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 2)

Finding Serenity: A Novella of the Mountain State Vampire Series

I Am Becoming: A collection of poetry and personal prose