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The audience poll selected this as the free epic for the May 3, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 goal. This poem is spillover from the January 19, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] redsixwing, [personal profile] sweet_sparrow, and LJ user My_partner_doug. It belongs to The Moon Door series.

Warning: This poem contains topics that some readers may find uncomfortable. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is graphic description of depression and other mental illnesses, someone claiming that happiness is a choice (which someone else immediately challenges), good decision-making process that leads to poor decisions, severe mood swings, emotional overwhelm, and other struggles. Please consider your taste and headspace before reading onward.


"Lunacy"


Hilla and Randie did their best
to help people make mindful choices
about whether lycanthropy would
make a net improvement
in their quality of life.

Most of the time it worked,
and they did a lot of good.

Other times it didn't turn out so well,
and then they tried to provide as
much support as they could.

Lorina Reed suffered
from low back pain due to
degenerative disc disease.
Her baseline was moderate,
but sometimes it flared up into
severe, debilitating pain that
lasted for weeks or months.

"I used to work at the college as
an administrative assistant, but I had
to resign because long periods of sitting
made my condition worse," she said.
"Now I work from home on the phone,
but it pays less and has no job security."

"I pretty much cut ties when I
became a werewolf, so that isn't
much help," Randie admitted.

"I had to switch from full-time teaching
to substitute when I got arthritis," said Edith,
crooking her hands over the top of her cane.
"I learned how to adapt to it, though.
I'm sure that you can too."

"I have a lot of sleep disturbances,"
Lorina said. "Sometimes I can't sleep
at all. Other times I spend all day in bed
because I can't stay awake or can't move."

"Memory foam is your friend," Hilla said.
"It conforms to your body and supports you
without putting too much pressure on the parts
that hurt. I relied on that a lot when I had
multiple sclerosis, and now it makes
the day after a full moon bearable."

"Oh goodness yes," said Pearl,
who was even older than Edith.
"I put memory foam on my bed and
all my chairs." Then she sighed. "It
can't help with my hands, though,
and I miss knitting pretty things
to give to my grandchildren."

"I'm really unhappy with my life,"
Lorina said. "The pain is always
smoldering in the back of my mind, and
it can blaze up at any time. I think that
lycanthropy would make me happier."

"It's an option," Hilla assured her.

"Just take your time and make sure
this is really the right thing
for you," Randie said.

Lorina took her time,
and made the decision,
but it was still the wrong one.

She was miserable as a werewolf.

Lorina couldn't concentrate well enough
to buffer the worst effects of the change,
let alone work on gaining memory
and control in her wolf form.

She had a tendency to dissociate
from discomfort, and that made it hard
to master the skills of the wolf.

Her physical pain was gone as if
it had never been, but her mental
pain was worse than ever.

"I thought that the chronic pain
made me depressed," she said in
a small voice. "I thought that fixing
my back would fix my head too."

"Depression doesn't just go away, hon,"
said Vienna. "It requires treatment.
What were you doing before?"

"I had a prescription, but drugs don't
work on werewolves," said Lorina.

"We need to remember to ask
about that in more detail,"
Hilla muttered to Randie.
"Poor communication skills
undermine good decisions."

"Now I'm even unhappier than I was,"
and I don't know what to do," said Lorina.

"Happiness is a choice," said Edith.
"You have to accept your pain and
choose to be happy anyhow."

"Oh, now don't you start that again,"
Vienna snapped. "Not everyone can
just wish away a bad mood and
suddenly be happy as clams."

"It's not that simple," Edith protested.
"You have to work at it, and most people
just don't stick with the exercises."

"Let it go, Edith," said Pearl. "That trick
works for some people, but not everyone --
just like lycanthropy, I suppose."

Neither of the old women had taken up
the offer. Edith didn't want to risk losing
what was left of her job, and Pearl
refused to risk her grandchildren.

Meanwhile, the lupine emotions
spilled over to make Lorina
snappish and sensitive, which
then set off other people too.

"I thought this was a good idea
at the time, but I want to go back,"
Lorina said, sniffling into a hankie.

"Well, you can't go back," Randie said.

"You'll have to make your way from
where you are now," said Hilla.
"I suggest that you try practicing
mindfulness; it may help you
with your wolf. Soma knows
a lot of meditation techniques,
so you could ask her for help."

"This is lunacy," Lorina said,
raking her hands through
her long blonde curls.

"Yes," said Randie.
"That's a good word for it."

* * *

Notes:

Lorina Reed -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and long curly blonde hair. She is 28 years old. Lorina suffers from low back pain due to degenerative disc disease. She used to work as an administrative assistant, but had to resign because long periods of sitting made her condition worse. Now she works from home via the telephone, but it pays much less and has no real job security, leaving her unhappy. Low life satisfaction and chronic pain have led to depression, sleep disturbances, and other mental issues. Sometimes Lorina can't sleep at all, but other times she spends all day in bed because she can't stay awake and/or can't move. She also dissociates from her body when it hurts. She watches a lot of soap operas.

Lorina's symptoms are italicized, and her baseline level of pain is moderate with flare-ups of severe, debilitating pain that last for weeks or months:
There are several symptoms that are fairly consistent for people with lower back pain or neck pain from degenerative disc disease, including:
• Pain that is usually related to activity and will flare up at times but then return to a low-grade pain level, or the pain will go away entirely
• The amount of chronic pain—referred to as the patient's baseline level of pain—is quite variable between individuals and can range from almost no pain/just a nagging level of irritation, to severe and disabling pain
• Severe episodes of back or neck pain that will generally last from a few days to a few months before returning to the individual's baseline level of chronic pain

• Chronic pain that is completely disabling from degenerative disc disease does happen in some cases, but is relatively rare
• Activities that involve bending, lifting, and twisting will usually make the patient's pain worse
• Certain positions will usually make the pain worse. For example, for lumbar degenerative disc pain, the pain is generally made worse with sitting, since in the seated position the lumbosacral discs are loaded three times more than standing

• Walking, and even running, may actually feel better than prolonged sitting or standing
• Patients will generally feel better if they can change positions frequently
• Patients with lumbar DDD will generally feel better lying in a reclining position (such as with legs propped up in a recliner), or lying down with a pillow under the knees, since these positions relieve stress on the lumbar disc space


Edith Davenport -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short ash-blonde hair that is starting to go gray. She is 50 years old. Edith suffers from arthritis, especially in her hands and legs. She enjoys hiking and is determined to keep up as much as possible with it. She uses a walking stick on the trail, or a cane otherwise. Mild exercise helps keep her joints flexible. Too much makes her condition flare up, and then she gets stuck in bed. Edith has held onto her teaching career, but had to step down from full-time to substitute work. Despite the chronic pain, she is generally cheerful. Edith believes that happiness is a choice, which works for her, but it frustrates or offends some other people who can't just "choose to be happy."

Pearl Alvarez -- She has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly dark hair that is rapidly turning gray. She is Hispanic. She is 61 years old and is a retired jewelry store clerk. Pearl suffers from arthritis, primarily in her hands and feet, which gets worse the more she moves. She is especially frustrated that the disease prevents her from doing things she enjoys, such as knitting and crocheting for her grandchildren. She also likes wearing jewelry, and has repeatedly gotten rings stuck on her fingers.

* * *

Lunacy is an old word for insanity, believed to be related to the Moon. Women are considered especially vulnerable to insanity and mood swings influence by the Moon. Even for ordinary humans, the Moon has a subtle yet definite influence.

Memory foam is a spongy material used in all kinds of bedding.

Dissociation is a survival skill, often taught for pain control. However, like depersonalization, it can make control difficult or impossible. You must be aware of your mind and body in order to make them do what you want.

For some people, happiness is a choice; for others, it is not. You can decide to think positive and move toward happiness, but not to be happy.

Emotional dysregulation ranges from mood swings to labile mood. Know how to cope with erratic emotions.

Mindfulness has many benefits. Meditation is a good starting point, and there are other exercises for mind/body awareness. One of those is the infamous doorway exercise, which is effective but also incredibly annoying. My advice is to skip that one and instead play We Didn't Playtest This At All, which can be ridiculously easy or extremely challenging depending on which cards are in play. Trying to pause before walking through a door is a lot less fun than remembering to say, "Aaah! Zombies!" before you start your turn.

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