Strange as it may seem, this life is based on a true story." - Ashleigh Brilliant


name: shanna
age: 28
sign: scorpio
live: louisiana
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Saturday, May 29, 2004

There's nothing quite like lying in bed, half in and half out of sleep, hazily dreaming early on a Saturday morning. It's cool in the room, and warm under the covers - where you're snuggled up close to your man. In your hazy, not-quite-awake state you hope this can last forever.

And then suddenly your sweet, soft sleeping man next to you yells out:
"Come on, motherfuckers."

Ah, life together. That's even better than the time he pulled the covers up to his chin and murmured, like a little boy, "Mmnn...cookies."

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 4:16 AM

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I wrote this piece last week and wasn't going to post it because, seriously, who cares about the crime in Baton Rouge?

Then a terrible thing happened at the Wal-Mart I used to visit at least once a week - a man getting arrested for shoplifting got the gun away from the police officer, a 51-year old woman, and shot and killed her. He also shot two people who were trying to help her, one of them a security guard. He then ran outside, carjacked someone outside and got away. He turned himself in just recently.

I can't tell you how many times I and my friends have shopped in this particular Wal-Mart late at nite, and all times of the day. It's not in the best neighborhood, but it isn't necessarily in a bad one either. I recognize the police woman - she was always there. After hearing about this, I thought my piece just might be relevant after all:

What in the hell is wrong with Baton Rouge? As if this fuckass sorry-excuse-for-a-city wasn't already visually ugly and full of ignorant, old-fashioned, horrible-driving asshats it now has to be one of the most unsafe places to live in the country.

Unknown to many people, Baton Rouge has pretty much always had a higher crime rate, per capita, than the sinfully renowned New Orleans. It doesn't appear to be improving.

As many of you are likely aware, last year found southern Louisiana gripped in fear and panic over a shadowy serial killer. The nameless monster we now know as Derrick Todd Lee was captured May 27, 2003 and the rest of the world soon forgot about Louisiana and its serial killer troubles.

It was a different story for the residents of my home state. Though two other murdered women were linked to Lee via DNA, bringing his total killed to seven, there were still too many unsolved murders floating around for anyone to be comfortable. What hasn't made the national headlines is that last month, April 28, 2004, Sean Vincent Gillis was arrested for the murder of eight other women in southern Louisiana. Looking at the timeline of the murders, this means that from 1994 up until February of this year, with the death of Donna Bennett Johnson, there were two serial killers on the loose and on the prowl.

All you can think at this point is, "That's the two they've found!" There are still unsolved murders that can't be linked to either of these men. If there can be two sickos out there at one time killing innocent people, why can't there be more? Louisiana is getting quite the reputation for churning out lesser life forms.

Everyone remembers the Washington Sniper, John Allen Muhammed. But does everyone remember where the Washington Sniper was from? That's right, Baton Rouge - born and raised. In an amazingly small number of years Louisiana, namely Baton Rouge, has managed to churn out three serial killers.

That's a lot of really sick people hailing from one location. Yet the number of serial killings is nothing compared to the simple old meat-and-potatoes murder that happens every day in Baton Rouge. Yes, every day in Baton Rouge someone gets shot. Every day. Just last week a co-workers' teen brother was killed in a drive-by; he was standing on his porch.

You might be reading this and thinking, "That's no big deal. It's a city - that's what it's like in every city." But this is Baton Rouge, people - it isn't like any other city at all. This is not New York or Chicago with miles and miles of concrete jungle and corporate skyscrapers. Baton Rouge's tallest building, its State Capitol, only has 34 floors. Public transportation is a joke for the fact that the city is so wide and sparse there are parts that buses just don't go to. I call Baton Rouge a "suburban city"; it is a fitting moniker. The people here have a small-town mentality, and if it weren't for the mighty Mississip flowing right through this place, it'd be a horrible choice for a state capitol. There's nothing showy or big or fancy about Baton Rouge. It's a big town with a bigger-than-itself title. The fact that crime is as rampant here as in the streets of New Orleans (which is much more a "real" city), or other real cities like New York or Washington D.C., frightens me.

Louisiana is second in the nation when it comes to stupid kids. No, let's be blunt here. We don't give a rats ass about education in this state - if we did, then we wouldn't have illiterate children graduating high school and more than half of the population now dropping out before they even reach high school. Second-to-worse. Could the influx of criminals coming out of southern Louisiana have something to do with our second-rate education system? I've got a hunch it just might.

Louisiana big-thinkers think the answer to wiping out the unlawful and murderous is to throw them in prison. Lock 'em up, and develop a life-with-no-possibility-for-parole system - that'll fix it right up. Yet it hasn't, and it won't. Louisiana prisons are full and getting fuller; low-level offenders are put back out in the street time and time again because there's just no room for them.

Perhaps it's time for a new approach. Let concentrate on our children, so that they don't grow up to be criminals. Let's stop the problem before it starts, rather than trying to put out a brushfire with a handkerchief. Creating bad apples then locking them all up when they began to rot is fruitless (forgive the pun). If we work harder at raising and educating our children, then maybe we wouldn't have so many Derrick Todd Lee's, Sean Vincent Gillis's, and John Allen Muhammed's running around.

What's the future for Baton Rouge? Who wants to raise a family in a town that produces serial killers and murderous criminals at such an alarming rate? Who wants to live in southern Louisiana at all with such people running around? What is it going to take for us to make a change for the better? When Baton Rouge is churning out two new serial killers every year, and hundreds of women have lost their lives, then will they wake up?

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 4:45 AM

Friday, May 21, 2004

For fuck's sake. People you must believe me when I tell you that Baton Rouge has the worst drivers. I know everyone thinks that about where they live, but I promise you, that's only because you've never driven here for an extended period of time.

I'm a good driver, and I'm not some schmuck on the road who thinks that and still drives like a fuckwad. I've never had a speeding ticket, never been in an accident and never talk on my cell phone and drive. When I'm driving, I'm driving and paying attention to the task at hand.

Yet this seems to draw every doing-everything-but-driving-moron to me like a magnet. I almost got hit twice coming home from work today. Twice, and by no fault of my own. When I arrived (somehow) safely at my destination, I was a shaking, furious mess. Even a cigarette couldn't quell the shaking - but it did help with the anger, and then I started crying. I'm going to have to move out of Baton Rouge simply because driving around here is gonig to kill me! And not in the way you may think - most likely in the form of spending the rest of my life in prison after beating the idiot who hits my car to death.

Near-Hit #1
I am sitting at a four-way stop. I start to go. As I begin to cross the intersection, a huge pick-up truck comes at me from the right. At the time, he swung out so far to prepare for his right turn, I thought he just didn't see me and was going to hit me. As it was, he stopped as he was supposed to but was already so far out into the intersection that I had to swerve in the other lane to avoid his knocking the side of my car.

I calmed down and continued my commute. Not too bad, I figured. Just some jerk who pulled out too far.

Near-Hit #2
I was almost home, sitting at the light on the off-ramp behind an Escalade with Dumb Rich White Lady in it. There's only one left turn lane here, so as the light turns green, DRWL procedes to turn at the pace of molasses. When we get onto the road, she is straddling both lanes, then slowly veers over to the left lane. I waited a second to make sure she was going to stay there, then continued turning into and going down the right lane. A few paces down she decides she'd rather be in the right lane and begins just slowly veering over into it - no blinker or anything, just coming right on over. The bomp-bomp-booooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmp of my horn might've have been a hint to more intelligent drivers that they were about to hit someone; not DRWL, though. And she sure as hell was about to hit me - I honestly still don't know how she didn't, because when she started coming over, my front end was about even with the center of her ugly Escalade. Thankfully for Stella and I, DRWL apparently drives like molasses all of the time and I was spared from being knocked off the road by some rich, white bitch who wasn't paying attention to what she was doing. I was livid - and scared. I don't usually get too scared, as I'm usually expecting people to do dumb shit and am prepared - and I'd even kept in mind that she likely might swerve over into my lane, but it was still too close for comfort.

I don't understand. What in the hell are people doing when they're supposed to be driving? I realize that half of them, as anyone can plainly see, are more interested in their cell phone convo's than the road, but what about the ones that aren't on the phone and still aren't driving worth a damn?! There is not a DAY that passes that I don't see someone do something incredibly stupid and dangerous. Not one day - and, folks, I don't drive that much. 15 mins to work, and 15 mins back is about it. Other times we go out, Baret is the one driving and I'm trying not to pay too much attention because it just stresses me out too much.

I can understand blindspots and making mistakes, but unlike the woman in the Beetle a few weeks ago, and this dumb bitch this evening - when I hear someone laying on their horn as I'm changing lanes, I'm going to swerve back and look at where I'm going. I'm sure as hell not going to keep on coming over! What are they thinking: "Oh, they can stop" or "How dare they not let me in?!" Sometimes a blaring horn may be a signal that there is someone in the path you're moving into who can't stop! This is not rocket science. In fact, it's very simple: I'm not honking at you because I feel like you're cutting me off or because I don't want to let you in - I'm honking because you are about to hit MY CAR!! Hel-fucking-lo?!

Deep breaths. Deep breaths and another swig of beer.

There is nothing on the face of the earth that I despise right now more than bad drivers.

But I do feel better for letting that all out. Thank you.

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 3:22 PM

I never know, in any given day, when I walk into the office what kind of problems, or what kind of stupidity I’m going to be faced with. Today seems to be everyone-woke-up-braindead day.

Though it may not always seem like it, I do try very hard not to be one of those snobby, you're-too-dumb-to-understand-this techs. Even if they are, and even if I come and bitch about it later here, I'm always helpful and kind while I'm helping someone. That's why I have to come and bitch about it here!

You see, I know that most people don't "get" computers, and some people will be baffled by them no matter what they do. What drives me crazy are the people that work every day on these machines, and have done so for years, and still do not understand the basic functions. I got into an argument with a supervisor today because he insisted Windows Explorer was not installed on his machine; though I told him a few different ways to access it. He finally came to my office and I showed it to him and he stated, "That's not what I'm used to seeing."

I'm baffled. Nothing has changed with Windows Explorer - all I can figure is that he usually goes into My Computer to get around, and just forgot that, thinking instead that he goes to Explorer. Likely he has always gone to My Computer and just calls it Windows Explorer. Yes, it's fairly common for them one day to just forget something they do every day. I don't know how either.

Then a woman calls me and states they cannot get into our website. I check it out, and everything is up and running fine. I ask her if she's tried refreshing her browser.

'" she asks.

Am I speaking Greek here? "Yes," I try to explain. "You may just need to hit the Refresh button on your browser window."

"Br..browser window," I hear her mumble to herself. Then to someone else in the room, "She says we have to re...fresh window?"

She then puts me on hold. When she finally gets back to me she states that they are "it's working now". Wondering what the problem was, in case it's something I need to know or can help someone else out with, I ask her, "So you Refreshed and that's what it got it working?"

She was silent for a few beats then stammered, "We got it working now, thank you" and promptly hung up.

This woman was obviously calling me from an office, and sounded to be in the clerical profession - meaning she works on a computer at least 8 hours a day/5 days a week and she had no clue what "refresh" or "browser window" was. I can get the browser window part, not many people call it that, but how can you not know how to refresh - or how can you act as if you've never heard those words uttered before in your life by anyone??!

The new computers have passwords that must be changed every certain number of days. I sent out a memo explaining to everyone that the passwords were their responsibility, that we would have no way of knowing their password and that if they locked themselves out there was nothing we could do. If that happened, they needed to call the i.t.-department-over-our-group-of-agencies and have them reset their account. Simple enough, right?

Do you know how many people have called me since that this-is-a-mandatory-read memo was sent out asking me either:
1. Do you know my password? I can't remember it.
2. I'm locked out. What do I need to do?
3. Can you unlock my account?

How am I supposed to know your password? I'm an i.t. tech, not a flippin' mind reader. I don't telepathically know what all 70+ people in the office change their passwords to.

I had one bright individual call me seven-times-in-a-row because their account was locked out. I told them to call the i.t.-department-over-our-group-of-agencies, as they were instructed to do. This didn't work because even though they unlocked the account, said individual count not remember their password. I assured them that I didn't know it and had no way of knowing it and that they needed to call the i-d-o-o-g-o-a back and ask them to "reset the password" rather than "unlock the account". This really confused the individual who after calling them three more times and kept asking them to just unlock the account, couldn't figure out why they still couldn't get in. "Can you come down here?" I was asked. I refused, trying, once again, to explain that there was nothing I could do. I couldn't even call the i-d-o-o-g-o-a for them as policy states they can only unlock systems for the person it belongs to. I guess they eventually got in. The kicker with that incident was, unsatisfied with my answers, they went over me and to my supervisor and asked him to come and help them. Little good it did them, as he refused and told them the exact same things I'd told them.

Did I mention that I'm more-than-grateful that it's Friday? Have a good one, my more-computer-savvy-than-my-co-worker-readers.

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 10:24 AM

Thursday, May 20, 2004

So I've been thinking a lot lately about tits.

No, not just any boob, but one in particular; the boob that changed the world; or, at least, the rules of the FCC and the censorship of American media.

At the time, I commented little on the Super Bowl Boob Incident, for the simple reason than I had no interest in adding anything to the already over-sensationalized incident; which was exactly the shock-factor response the artists were hoping for when they pulled this little stunt. I could care less about the magically materializing mammary, or the fact that it was fuzzily flashed for less than a second on regular television. These things mean nothing to me; no one's going to go to hell for seeing a hastily exposed knocker, nor are your children's eyes going to pop out as their brains explode from lascivious sensory overload. Those that felt "seriously injured" by the incident really should get rid of their television sets and radios and separate themselves from society as they are obviously not able to cope with life. The only thing that bothered me about the exposed Super Bowl boob was that artists I formerly respected had stooped to over-the-top superstar shock-value antics. I really thought better of Justin, and Janet (Miss Boobie if you're nasty). That was my only real gripe about any of it.

However, the influx of stupidity brought about by the incident is another gripe altogether.

Janet Jackson's briefly exposed breast and sheathed nipple, at the time they made their appearance, seemed to herald nothing short of the end days. People were "appalled", "shocked", "mortified", "disgusted", and even "morally traumatized". Letters poured into the FCC expressing outrage and distress, and demanding punishment and accountability. One Tennessee woman even sued Janet Jackson over the "outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury" she and other viewers supposedly suffered after the fleeting, blurry glimpse of teat. Church-goers were mortified, and parents were furious that their children had been exposed to a naked breast on prime time television. America was up in arms over a tit; a blurry, barely-seen one at that. Breasts haven't been such a focus of indignation and conversation since the first Hooters opened its doors 21 years ago.

In response, the FCC cracked down - disc jockeys were fired, shows were cancelled, and all television and radio shows were forced to tone down in an effort to stamp out anything that could be considered "obscene" or "offensive". Like a bunch of five-year-olds, the FCC has sat us all down and said, "This is okay for you to watch and hear, and this isn't." Jackson's jug was one giant leap for ultra-conservative America, and a slap in the face of the First Amendment and our rights as Americans to view and listen to whatever we so choose.

As for the parents, I say, shame on you! With all of the terrible things out there that you need to be protecting your child from, and so many important parenting issues you should be concentrating on, you're going to take on some hazily exposed tit as your personal crusade? Let me tell you something, parents, had you not made such a big deal out of that boob, the kids never would've even noticed it; had they noticed it, they wouldn't have given it another thought. Children don't seem to suffer from the hang-ups most adults do about the human body.

Marlene Dietrich once said: "Sex: In American an obsession. In other parts of the world, a fact." Foreign countries are renowned for having sexually explicit commercials and music videos; and nudity on regular programming is accepted. No big deal is made about it - it just is. Naked human bodies are an everyday thing, and not something to make a big deal about if seen on the TV screen. Perhaps if we weren't so staunch on trying to hide young people's eyes from natural, human bodies we wouldn't have such a prevalent problem of low self-esteem and physical self-loathing in this country. Perhaps if we didn't inundate young minds with sexual overtones in everything then scream bloody murder when a titty is flashed, we wouldn't have so many people growing up with sexual dysfunctions, hang-ups and confusions.

The worse thing about the entire knocker episode was America's reaction. Just another reason for the rest of the world to laugh at us?

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 12:33 PM

Monday, May 17, 2004

(Note: It's way long, but because of the content, I decided to post it all and with no editing.)

Struggles with Mental Illness

If you've been keeping up with my good friend Rose's trials as of late, you might have read about her decision to try out medication to help with the crushing anxiety and mild depression she's been suffering through. Another young girl that I talk to online, a teen who cuts and found me through my self-injury site, Bleeding Out the Pain was telling me that her mental-meds (as I call them) had been upped, and how she wasn't happy about it. I watched my sister take them for a few years, to help with social anxiety and I've seen her boyfriend struggle through trying to find the-one-that-works-for-him. He, along with his doctors, seem to have found the right pill and his quality of life, according to him, has improved drastically.

I've probably mentioned before that I'm an (unofficially) diagnosed mental/emotional wreck. I'm aware that I have problems, some psychiatrists I've visited have suggested bi-polar and/or borderline personality disorder. Never one for labels anyway, I'm content not to have an "official" diagnosis of my psychosis - I rather prefer just being "me"; even though "me" tends to be a little bit crazy.

Seeing so many people as of late going through mental/emotional struggles, and even reading Rachel powerfully professing her similar struggles, has brought all of this to the fore in my mind. I've never sat and combined all of my battles, looked at the entire mess of it as a whole; in fact, I rarely deal with those issues at all - preferring, instead, to chalk it up to "this is just who I am" and just dealing with it. But last night, during a phone conversation with my soulmate, I began to lay it all out before me and put to the test my thoughts, beliefs and musings on mental illness and where I fit into the big scheme of it all.

I truly believe such deep soul-searching is best shared; brought out and expressed. You never know who might be helped by reading what you've written, who might be going through the same struggles and confused in their own right. Besides, baring my soul is cathartic for me, believe it or not. As any recovering cutter will tell you, we're of the type that likes to "bring things out" rather than keeping them inside to fester. So it is with complete open honesty, warts and all, that I share with you my walk down the unstable road of mental illness and emotional distress. Perhaps you've been there, or can relate some - mayhaps you'll just think I'm a nut. I'm not worried about what people think; I'm interested, only, in reaching out to others that understand, and finally stepping up to the plate and admitting my own problems in the light of day.

It may not make much sense - I'm just going to go with it, so bear with me. Let's have at it, then:

I've always been somewhat of an emotional wreck. The happiest of children until I hit my teens, some sort of black cloud developed over me at that time. Puberty does that to people - to extremely passionate people, the effects are rather magnified. I was unhappy, and made sure that everyone around me was so as well. Misery loves company, after all.

I've never been one for blaming my family for my shortcomings. There comes a time, as an adult, that you have to take responsibility for who you have become. My family isn't the sanest, most ordinary bunch around - for which I'm thankful. But we've come to blows many times over the years; I having always been the "black sheep" of the brood. It is probable that some of my earlier problems stemmed from my family, when I lived with them. I did begin cutting to try and reach my alcoholic father - to convince him that his drinking was hurting us in tangible ways. But I don't blame him for that - cutting is something I would've done eventually and regardless. That or some other form of self-injury; I am my own worst enemy. It is true that the constant brow-beating was injurious to my self-esteem; but that's how my family is - we ruthlessly tease and berate one another. Making cruel and hurtful stabs, also, seems to run in our blood; I'm guilty of it myself. Yet I feel that I've conquered the self-esteem issue pretty well as I've grown, so I hold no blame there either. Since family seems to always be a dynamic in these things, I wanted to clear that up.

From 13-on it all went downhill. In case you weren't aware, I'm lactose intolerant - I can't digest milk products (cheese, ice cream, bread, etc.). The malady is a bit better known now, but back then not many people knew about it. All I, or my family, knew was that one day I started getting severe diarrhea; horrible, painful diarrhea that can only be compared to food poisoning. I had no clue that my body was unable to digest the lactose that was in just about everything I was eating. No one could figure out what was wrong with me, and those close to me begin to believe that I was dying of stomach cancer. I stopped eating - because doing so made me ill. I, seriously, lived off of Light Pringles. I dropped down to 99 lbs and looked as if the believed diagnosis just might be true. At that point, I didn't care. I was in pain constantly and truly felt death would be a welcome release from the hell I was living in. That I was existing in the black blanket of a deep depression would be putting it lightly. Two years later my paternal grandmother suggested that I might be lactose intolerant after reading about the affliction in a magazine. I bought some Lactaid pills and began testing the waters - it took a year for me to get it all straight; how much to take and with what foods. For that year, and the one after, I suffered through various stomach and gastric ailments - brought about, obviously, by having had severe diarrhea for two years. Though still in pain, and miserable, having a name to call my illness was a light in the darkness.

I got through it - and towards the end of that struggle, I cut myself for the first time. The first time was baby steps - really nothing. The next time was in a fit of rage that produced my very first (though not my last) scars. Those that know or have met me can attest to the vicious scars that cover both arms (and parts of my legs). They are not pretty and in no way inconspicuous - I scar out rather than in, and though some are faded, white lines, others are thick, pink, ropey marks that are impossible not to notice. A long-ago count had the total number at 18 - but I've added a few to the fray since, including my worst to date. I no longer cut on a whim, but the need is always there and so I will always call myself a "recovering cutter" - it's not something you ever truly get over.

The cutting went on, and into, my early adult life - which is when I really lost it. I can't say exactly what triggered my breakdown; my downward spiral to rock bottom. Like I said, I've always been extremely passionate - positively and negatively; nothing is ever pastel with me. Whether it was the overwhelming experience of my first love, the nagging fear that I knew he would leave me someday, or the anxiety that arose from my being unable to trust him, I slowly came unhinged during our three+ years together. Though I freely talk about, and admit, to my behavior during those times, it is still a bitter pill to swallow. I'm ashamed of how I acted, and how I treated my ex; I'm ashamed at myself for losing control. Without going into details about the mess our life had come to be at the end, suffice it to say that I was undeniably, at that time, crazy as a fucking loon. My parents, I've since learned, went to my ex and talked to him about getting me put away and getting me some help. There were times, not few, that he threw me over his shoulder and marched towards the door, with the intent of bringing me to the mental clinic and leaving me there. I had become so obsessed with him, and the fear of his leaving, that I never allowed him to leave my sight. He lost his job, because I wouldn't let him go to it. We lost everything because I couldn't work either - it got so bad that I couldn't breathe if he wasn’t in my presence. I lived in constant fear and panicked anxiety - watching his every move, sometimes afraid to fall asleep for the fear that he would sneak out on me. For all intents and purposes, he had every right to! My mind was in constant chaos and I was mentally and emotionally drained, exhausted and defeated. When he finally did end it, though it was horribly painful, I believe I was ready. I knew I couldn't take much more.

Six months later I had planned to kill myself. The date was to be March 7th, and I still have the notes that I wrote to each of my family members. I had no job, no life to speak of, and I was wretched. Everything was ready and planned, and on March 7th I intended to slit my wrists and end my miserable existence. I only intended to tell one person of my plan - my ex. We still saw each other every few weeks - no doubt not helping me one bit in my attempts to "get over him". On what was to be our last visit, I told him. He cried, said he couldn't stop me if that was what I wished, but that he hoped I would reconsider. He then did something that changed my life. He said I should, rather than kill myself, try and get some help. I insisted that I didn't need any help - that I was quite clear on my motives and reasons. He asked me, if I was so together, then what about my cutting. That, I informed him, was not a problem. I had it under control and could stop at any time. He simply, without saying another word, took one arm and begin counting my scars, out loud. He'd gotten way past 10 before he even started on the second arm, and I was in tears. Why that changed my perspective on my problem, I don't know. Perhaps I was no longer able to live in my fantasy world of denial with the brutal truth right in front of my face. The next day he left and I called my Mom (I was living with friends at the time) and asked her to come and get me. I admitted, for the first time, that I had a problem with cutting and I wanted to get help. The day after that I was enrolled in a daily group-therapy program that I began attending. I felt life deserved a second chance. Again, there was light in the darkness.

They say when one door closes, another opens. They also say that we often look so longingly on that closed door that we sometimes miss the new one swung wide open. Not long after I enrolled in therapy, my ex disappeared. No one knew where he'd gone, but I did. He'd left Louisiana - I knew it and felt it in my heart. Though it broke my heart with despair and pain when I realized it, I knew it was for the best. Without that door opening and shutting every few weeks in my life, I truly could begin to move on. Many doors begin to open for me as I took another stab at this thing we call life. I met my soulmate, and in the months following, I got a job and had moved in with two friends in the city.

I was happy for a few years, then this nightmare with my leg problems began, which has thrown me way back down into despair, anxiety and depression. That's where I'm at now in my life - it's been quite a long, strange trip.

It's not that I never tried to get help along the way; just that it was always a joke when I did. When I attended college (I only went for a semester and a half), just when I was first meeting my ex, I tried to go to see a psychiatrist at the college clinic. Obviously a doc-in-training, this fresh-faced kid (not but a few years older than myself), looked positively horrified when I showed him my scars and told him about my cutting. Not exactly what you want to see when you try to get help. This person could not help me, I thought, and I never went back. When the ex and I were together, I went to a free clinic here in Baton Rouge. I told them my problems - depression and anxiety and cutting and they determined I was somewhat suicidal. That's about as diagnosed as I've ever been. They sent me on my way with a 'scrip for some mental-meds that I no longer remember the name of. Did I mention that I'm sensitive to pills? Whatever this shit was, it had me, literally, tripping balls for 12 or so hours. The next two days I couldn't get out of bed because every muscle in my body was sore from the exertion of being tense while I was on the medication. I never took another, and never went back. Though I followed through with the aforementioned therapy I enrolled in at the end, I was out of there in two weeks. You see, I was ready to stop cutting, and that's all it really takes to stop most addictions; an intense desire to really stop. I didn't need much counseling. In those sessions it was suggested that I was likely bi-polar and co-dependent, and possibly even borderline. And that's about as official as it ever got. After leaving, they put me on Zoloft.

And here's where I entered the world of the millions of others diagnosed with mental problems and hopped up on happy pills. And it lasted about a month.

Yes, I was happy. Yes, I could handle things and, yes, life was better. But I wasn't me. The happiness and calm wasn't real, and I had turned into a pastel Shanna, rather than blood-red passionate Shanna. I got off the pills. I'm not saying my decision is for everyone or could even work for everyone. Some people do need the pills (shit, I probably do, too) and I don't think there's anything wrong with being on them. Please don't take me wrong on this. But for me, personally, I couldn't abide living life inside of a pill-bubble. I decided then and there that I was an emotionally unbalanced and rather crazy individual - but that was WHO I WAS and I had to learn to live with and around my problems and my nuances rather than masking them or trying to be someone or something I was not. Again, this was my decision and my thoughts - and it's not like that for everyone else. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps the quieter, more sane and calm Shanna that was on medication is the real Shanna. But I had to do what I felt was right for me, and being pastel didn't feel right at all.

I learned to live well being on an emotional roller-coaster. I was happy otherwise in my life and so what if I was crying one second and laughing the next? It was who I was. Some days I woke up angry, and others I woke up elated. Many days I was stressed and full of anxiety, but this, I told myself, was life. Life is stressful and hard - I just had to deal with it. I truly had found my "zen" spot.

Of course, life threw me another curve - it likes to do that. These problems with my leg have made me someone other than the strong, independent and emotionally able-to-handle-myself person I'd fought so hard to become. There were times I thought about going back on the pills, and there were times when I seriously considered ending it all. I've taken it all in stride, and just fight the fight every day instead. But it's hard, and I wouldn't call myself 'happy' these days in any way.

On the phone last nite my soulmate asked me why I always feel so "bad". He knows because he feels what I feel, and he wondered why all he ever felt coming from me was hurt, anxiety and depression. And I began to wonder - was I wrong about the meds? Would it be a wise idea to try them again, and see if they helped? He himself is an "officially diagnosed" ADD & ADHD, bipolar, borderline personality individual who also suffers from some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome. He gets it and he believes, from what he knows of me, that I suffer from the same or a few of the same.

The thing is, I've never liked to apply labels to myself. It's easier to think I'm just a little more messed up than the next guy and deal with it. If I say that I am these things, then they own me. Then everything I do I can just blame it on my illnesses rather than trying to work through it. Maybe I wouldn't do that, but that's what I think. It seems that everyone and his sister is bipolar or borderline or OCD these days. Are we all really that mental, or does the society we live in create such unstable living conditions that we just can't cope with this life? I don't know the answer. I know that myself and all of the wonderful people I know who do have these problems, or others, are not hypochondriacs or making it up. But I always wonder if people in the older days just handled life better - it was much simpler in many ways. Did they just have better control of their emotions and their minds? Or was everyone just undiagnosed and living very unhappily? They didn't smile in their photographs, so maybe that's it.

It's all very confusing to me, you see. I *know* that I have some mental problems - but if I own them and call them by name, it seems, somehow to me, that I make them all the more real. If I'm just "kinda crazy", that's one thing - it's just me and I can live with it. But if I'm "bipolar", that's something else. That's an illness, a condition of the mind that stops me from functioning like "normal" people and that I have no control over other than to take pills to live "normally". What the hell is normal? What's a normal person live like? No stress, no anxiety? I don't believe that. Where does being a regular Joe who is very emotional and suffers from stress with everyday life turn into bipolar Joe who needs to be on meds to deal with those emotions and stresses? Where's the line drawn, and who draws it? That's where I'm lost. I'm emotional, highs and lows; sometimes I'm so namelessly sad that I can only cry and go to bed early. Sometimes I'm bouncing off the walls with silliness and joy. Sometimes I'm just really stressed out and having a panic attack. Am I just a normal almost-30-something year old living and experiencing life (which is, let's face it, stressful and hectic and a wee bit crazy), or am I a person with strange chemicals affecting my brain that causes me to be a little more passionate and emotional and stressed than everyone else, and who needs to be on meds to correct that? How do I know? How does anyone know??

This is where I'm at - struggling to find some answers in the whole swirling mess of mental illness and the stresses of life. Perhaps others can offer some insights. In the interim, I hope that my own admissions of past pain and struggle can help some of you.

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 8:21 AM

Saturday, May 15, 2004

I'm still alive - really.

So I get an instant message the other day while I wasn't home that said, simply:
"Checked out your webpage, you look really hot - but loose the cigarette, it's not sexy" or something to that effect.

My first thought was, "Yeah, neither is misspelling."

Then I got to thinking. It's not the first time that someone has told me this. "You're very pretty, so why are you taking pictures of yourself smoking? That's not attractive." "You'd be one hot babe if you'd get rid of that cigarette". Says who?

I really have a problem with someone telling me what "is" and "is not" sexy. Sexy is a state of mind to begin with, and what is or isn't sexy is completely and utterly up to the beholder. Maybe smoking a cigarette isn't sexy to these people, but it doesn't mean it isn't to some or that I am un-sexy because I'm doing it. What makes people think they can throw around their opinions as if they're fact?

You know, that is so not sexy.

I happen to like smoking - though I'm no a-pack-a-day fiend, I smoke one or two every one or two days. I also just so happen to have what I term a "smoking fetish"; wherein I find pictures of people smoking rather appealing - it turns me on. I've been known to light up during certain sexual acts, if my partner was okay with it, and I'm not me if I don't enjoy a good smoke after giving a good blow. Smoking is sexy to me - it doesn't mean I believe that smoking is sexy as a matter of fact, or that it is even to the majority of the populace.

To each his own is my rule and if you don't like what you see here - feel free to move along.

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 3:16 PM

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Problem of The Froggy Death Trap

I went out in my lovely garden patio this morning to have an early morning cigarette - my version of most people's coffee wake-me-up - and noticed a small frog clinging to the side of the small koi pond half. His lower half was in the water and though his head was well above it, I knew from experience, that it wouldn't be long before, exhausted, he slipped underneath and drowned.

With a squeak, I quickly hobbled over and rescued the hapless little fellow, offering my apologies and making sure the cats weren't around to notice this new and easy prey. And easy he would've been; the little frog was so weary - who knows how long he'd clung there - he didn't even attempt to hop off.

Our little "pond" (or "hole in the ground" if you want to get technical) is a froggy death trap. We've found a number of dead frogs in it - their deaths the result of drowning because they were unable to get once they'd hopped in.

My question is, any ideas on what we could do to turn this into a "safe" pond for frogs? We thought of putting something floating in the water that would allow them to get on, and hop out - but would float and still be strong enough to hold the frogs? (These aren't tree frogs we're talking about, here). I've thought of sticking a plank of wood into the pond that sticks out a bit - not attractive, but it might work. Just wondering if you guys might be able to come up with something better.

To see:


- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 4:13 PM

Friday, May 07, 2004

Not much time, but thought you'd all would get a laugh out of my "Best Search Queries" page for my main website:

How You Find Me.

If you thought people typed in strange things to find this blog (I've added the top ones on a list to the left there), then you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Have a great weekend.

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 10:29 AM

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

If you know little about the southern state of Louisiana, other than your exposure to it from me here, you might believe it to be teeming with open-minded, rather free-thinking, individuals. The truth is, you'd be very, very wrong.

While not sitting exactly inside of the "Bible-belt", Louisiana is still, for all intents and purposes, a largely fanatical Christian state and (barring New Orleans, of course) very conservative. Baton Rouge itself, where I live, is one tight-ass city. Even those just from New Orleans come and are shocked at the puritan, conventional ways of the common folk.

That said, it should come as no surprise to find out where the majority of Louisianians stand on the issue of gay marriage. This article appeared in yesterdays The Advocate (the main newspaper for south Louisiana):

Group Urges Ban on Same Sex Marriages

A group of Protestant ministers, a Roman Catholic priest and a handful of legislators told a committee room overflowing with supporters Monday that Louisiana needs a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

One of three bills in the Legislature to create that amendment is up for debate today in the Senate Judiciary A committee.
The group also opposes four pending bills that it deems pro-homosexuality.

"Sodomites have a right to marry, just not to one another," Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in New Orleans told the cheering crowd at the State Capitol.

Louisiana law already allows marriage only between a man and woman, and Louisiana does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The bill being heard today would lock traditional marriage into the state constitution, making the law harder to change in the future.
According to Shanks, God views gay marriage as an abomination and, unless Louisiana bans it stronger, God might visit a calamity on the state worthy of Noah.

"One Category 5 hurricane coming up the river would take care of all Sodomite marriages -- along with ours and our churches'," he said.
The group -- which has no name -- was formed by Apostle Willie Wooten of Gideon Fellowship in New Orleans, said organizer Leslie Ellison. "It's not really an organization. Apostle Wooten led the charge," Ellison said.

The group -- ministers at the committee room's dais and people in the audience -- went to the Capitol to lobby legislators on the proposed amendment and other bills, Ellison said.

Supporters filled the 100 seats in the hearing room, crowded the aisles and clogged the hallway. House officials opened another hearing room with an audio-video feed to handle the overflow.

"We call on our lawmakers -- and especially the Black Caucus members -- to be strong and courageous as you give priority to this matter and do all that is in your power to protect historic marriage," Wooten said.

Disasters "heaped upon" Louisiana's black community occur because "a lot of our legislators are not on the side of God and His moral laws," Wooten said.

The four bills Wooten fingered for opposition, because he said they promote homosexuality, are all filed by black legislators.

· Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, has Senate Bill 217 on granting sick leave. It would define a domestic partner as a spouse.

· Sen. Paulette Irons, D-New Orleans, has Senate Bill 700 on making public schools create policies on bullying. The bill, Wooten said, would force schools to teach tolerance of homosexuality.

· Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, filed House Bill 845, which would prohibit any discrimination based on sexual orientation. Wooten said it would make being homosexual a civil right.

· Rep. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, has House Bill 1229, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"My bill makes sense," said Murray, who described himself as a practicing Christian active in his church.

"The Christianity I practices teaches that you should respect people," Murray said. He said his bill does nothing but bar discrimination against people who are gay.

Wooten disagreed.

"It is not a civil-rights issue. It is not an issue of discrimination. It is a moral issue," Wooten said.

The state needs to be protected from "counterfeit" marriages that will devalue other, traditional marriages, he said.

Homosexual marriage is contrary to Scripture, said the Rev. William Maestri, a priest with the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"If you eliminate the uniqueness of marriage, you destroy it," said the Rev. Larry Bizette of the Baton Rouge Christian Center Church.
Because voters must approve it, "the constitutional amendment will allow the people of the state of Louisiana to define what marriage is," said Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum.

The measure requires approval of two thirds of the House and Senate and majority approval by voters this fall.

One legislator, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, told the crowd that protecting traditional marriage in the state's constitution is vital.
A recent court decision in Massachusetts and actions by the "rogue" mayor of San Francisco to sanction same-sex marriages could force the state to accept those marriages, he said.

Scalise is one of the sponsors of another constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

We're working with some real geniuses here, folks.

My favorite line, also that of my gay friends that have read this bilge, is that a major storm will come and wipe out the state if gays are allowed to marry. That's right, their ever-loving and I'm-so-damn-peaceful-I-have-a-dove-for-one-of-my-symbols God is going to rain down a Category 5 Hurricane on Louisiana if gays are allowed to marry. Makes perfect sense to me.

And I'm angered, but not surprised, by this charming line:
...has Senate Bill 700 on making public schools create policies on bullying. The bill, Wooten said, would force schools to teach tolerance of homosexuality.
Oh for fuck's sake, let's not do that. Let's teach children that it's a-okay to beat up anyone in school they think might be gay. All the world needs is a few more horrible Matthew Shepard incidents; it's ok to bully and hurt gay people because "God doesn't like them". Yes, that's what I'd want to teach MY children. I thought Jesus taught to love everyone - even those you consider your enemies.

And are we living in the Middle Ages again? Make it okay to fire someone because of their sexual preference?? "Yes, sorry, Frank, you're the best employee we've got, you work your ass off, meet all deadlines and get along with everyone here at the office. But we found out you're gay, so we're going to have to let you go. You understand." Give me a fucking break.

Their big main gripe is, as always, about Sodom. Supposedly (though it never officially says so), the Sodomites were gay - so gay people today are sodomites; evil as can be. So what about lesbians? I always wondered...does God like lesbians, then?

I'm convinced that "Apostle Willie Wooten", leader of some anonymous "group", is nothing but a fucking crock anyway, but still. All of these other somewhat valid religious leaders going to rally against equality and the entire love-everyone concept fills me with anger, and shame for my home state.

God is Love they always like to say, but he HATES gay people. Where in the love is there room for hate? Why does God hate gay people? I've read, in one of those infamous Chick Tracts (my version - Trick Tracts) that sodomy was the only sin God ever wiped out an entire city for. Excuse me, didn't the old bastard wipe out the entire world once because everyone was so cruel and unloving? Yeah, thought so. I can't believe in a homophobic God, I'm sorry. God is so above our human foibles and worries and judgements it's not even funny. At one time, people read into the Bible and believed that God created black people to be slaves - it didn't make it TRUE or RIGHT! Chew on that one for a bit.

We can't give them equal rights because they are different - they are gay and we are not. Isn't the entire foundation of the United States equality for all? But still, blacks and women had to fight for their rights, and now, so do gay people. Want to hear the argument I always hear to that statement? "It's different - women can't help being female, and blacks can't change their skin color. They were born that way. Gay people choose to be gay." Oh, really? And you know this for a fact? Okay then, let's play a little game, Conservative Homophobe, I want you, right now, to choose to be attracted to, and able to have a relationship with, someone of the same sex. Come on, right now, do it. If it's so easy to just "not be gay", then try it. Do you choose to be straight?! No, you were born that way. So what's the fucking difference, you morons?

The whole mess makes me sick - it's so unfair and completely not right on so many different levels. I've never seen the Christian church do much of anything good, and this just furthers that stance. Burn the witches, strike down the non-conformists, stone the New Age shops, stamp out the gays. Welcome to the cult of Christ - believe or be damned.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go board up my windows for that Category 5 hurricane that is going to beat down on my bi-sexual self's house while I sit in a tub full of ice preparing for my downward descent into hell because I hang out with and support all these sodomites. Because, remember kiddies, "Sodomites have a right to marry - just not to one another."

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 5:17 AM

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I'm still here! Just been - well, busy.

Work's still been rough, but at least bearable. Installing computers now for a different group of people who - compared to the aggravations of those beforehand - have been kind, helpful and understanding. Even though it's still tedious and draining work, it's better.

The weekend flew by - way too fast - I spent Saturday with my soulmate and Sunday working on a website while Baret cleaned out the shed and washed clothes. Yesterday I called in a sick day. Not much else to report.

Hope everyone is well and I'll try to get back here with something juicy soon as I can!

- shanna bared her soul & griped a bit @ 4:53 AM

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