Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (WHAD)
by Patrick Redding & Rob Colfax
Memo to staff psychologists: please insert the following sheet into your copies of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). At this time of year, it is likely that you may see an increase in complaints of depression. Be aware of the diagnostic criteria for the specifier Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) as well as this new category, Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (or WHAD).
Criteria for Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (WHAD):
At least five of the following symptoms have been present over the majority of a two-week period, and represent a change from previous functioning. At least one of the symptoms is either (1) Winter holiday-related complaints or (2) general lack of jolliness.
NOTE: Do not include symptoms that are clearly due to a general medical condition (for example, pregnancy) or delusions or hallucinations (for example, seeing dancing sugarplums during alcohol withdrawal).
1. Winter holiday-related complaints
2. Marked lack of jolliness and good will
3. Loss of interest in nearly all activities (do not include sitting in a stupor in front of the TV during football playoffs)
4. Significant weight gain or increase in appetite (especially cravings for “special” foods such as turkey, fudge, rum balls, etc.)
5. Insomnia (including sleeplessness due to carolers outside who just won’t shut up) or hypersomnia (including overdoses of tryptophan from excessive turkey consumption as well as repeated viewings of “Frosty the Snowman” reruns)
6. Psychomotor agitation (including twitching and “bite reflex” exhibited at the sight or sound of Salvation Army bell-ringers, but not including seizures due to those little chasing lights)
7. Repetitive vocalizations (such as “fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” or “Ho ho ho!”)
8. Fatigue or loss of energy at the mention of weekend shopping at the mall
9. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt when unable to come up with “the perfect gift”
10. Discoloration of extremities (such as red nose – do not include redness due to excessive alcohol consumption from self-medication)
11. Paranoia, as evidenced by random vocalizations such as “He knows when you’re sleeping! He knows when you’re awake!”
12. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, particularly when changing lanes in downtown traffic
13. Recurrent homicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a homicide attempt (including attacking the mall Santa with a picket from the fence around the “Santaland” display) or a specific plan for committing homicide (do not include shooting at the neighbor’s plastic rooftop reindeer)
Statistics indicate that WHAD symptoms may be more apparent in individuals employed in retail occupations, but WHAD has been diagnosed over a widespread range of demographics.
In most cases, WHAD symptoms decrease significantly after 6-8 weeks, though flare-ups may continue until St. Patrick’s Day.
There is currently no treatment for WHAD, although symptoms may be alleviated by mild sedatives, antipsychotics, or a weekend in the Bahamas.
© Copyright 2003 by Patrick Redding & Rob Colfax. Republished 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015.
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This Week at Gatewood: August 23–29, 2015
by Frasier MacKenzie
Hello, and thanks for stopping in!
Before getting into our weekly wrap-up, I’d like to make a quick announcement. Freelance writer Robin Flanigan is working on an article for BP magazine, and would like to interview bipolar people over 50 years of age. Please email email@example.com to get in touch if you’re interested in this. Also, we’d appreciate it if you’d help spread the word for her, so feel free to pass the information along to other folks you know. If you want to check out some of her work, her website is The Kinetic Pen.
Here are our features for the week of August 23–29:
Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!
Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.
Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.
That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 23–29, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!
Header photo via Morguefile.
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The Psychology of Ritual
by D.V. Gray
Magick and psychology are very closely linked. It is far more likely, however, to hear this observation made by those practicing magick than by those practicing psychology. Psychology in general – and particularly the field of clinical psychology – takes a dim view of magick, regarding it as superstitious nonsense. “Magickal thinking” is even listed among symptoms of various mental illnesses, defined as “superstition; obsession; attributing cause and effect where there is none.” But how do we define magick? According to Aleister Crowley, magick is simply “the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.” Is this not also the purpose of psychotherapy – to make changes within the individual within the scope of that person’s abilities and purpose in life? Perhaps it’s the “presumption” perceived in defining magick as a science which rankles those more inclined toward the traditional sciences. But if it is practiced well, magick is certainly capable of yielding consistent, replicable results as much as many forms of psychotherapy can.
The relationship between magick and psychology need not be an antagonistic one. One of the most effective uses of combining these two may be in the context of ritual.
There are those who practice magick who would say, of course, that psychology is somewhat like the “debunking squad.” Just when one thinks one has experienced contact with a guardian angel or some such being, along come the neuropsychologists to say that it’s all a brain wave pattern caused by something you ate before you fell asleep. In the twinkling of an eye your guardian angel is no more than a chemical interaction. Enlightenment is reduced to becoming aware that your synapses aren’t firing quite like they ought to.
But the relationship between magick and psychology need not be an antagonistic one. The fields of parapsychology and transpersonal psychology have made vast inroads into the study of consciousness and the “paranormal.” And either magick or psychology can be easily used to assist with the other. One of the most effective uses of combining these two may be in the context of ritual.
What is ritual? In one sense, a ritual is a ceremonial form of deciding to do something – make some change within yourself, acquire some external object, etc. – and creating the means to do so. In another sense a ritual is a habit. Perhaps both these meanings can shed some light on why rituals are used in magick. A ritual that is based in traditional magick – whether Wiccan, Thelemic or what-have-you – is a consensual ceremony. It may have been passed down for generations or only written up formally with the inception of that particular group’s work, but it has the forces of habit and history behind it. Everyone participating knows that this is the way it’s done, that it works this way, and that others have done this same ritual (with perhaps minor variations). It is as predictable as knowing that if you sit down to read the newspaper after dinner, you’ll probably fall asleep. However, it also has the power of being a ceremony – it is formal, in a sense; it is set apart from everyday activities. As such, it focuses the attention more effectively than, for instance, daydreaming about the object of your ritual while you watch television. Ritual galvanizes the energies and sets them to work upon the task at hand.
Ritual is a ceremonial form of deciding to do something. It has the forces of habit and history behind it, but it also has the power of being a ceremony, set apart from everyday activities.
This is one of the much misunderstood elements of magick. There seems to be a not uncommon idea that magick is mostly about ritual in the sense of gathering up all the necessary tools and articles, saying the right words in the right order as you make the right motions, and the next thing you know, you have a new job (or boyfriend or car, it doesn’t much matter) just as you wanted. I cannot count the number of requests I hear for “spells” or sigils or amulets or what-not. Magick is not fundamentally about following a recipe. Many of the items which were specified in those traditional rituals are there because of the time when they came into being; a witch in the 1700’s may have used mandrake root dug by the dark of the moon for a very specific reason which had nothing to do with any inherent powers of the root itself. It took far more effort in that time and place for a woman to slip out of her house at night unnoticed with a tool suitable for digging than it takes for most of us to drive out to the nearest herb shop or natural health center and purchase the same item. One must consider that the acquisition of the ingredients and tools specified very likely had as much importance as the actual items themselves, if not more. In a similar way, A.O. Spare as well as Crowley added energy to their own rituals by drawing upon the sexual elements – but what was taboo in Crowley’s England is commonplace now, and unlikely to produce the same effect for anyone except the very sheltered.
As far as tools go, there is much to be said for creating your own. Tradition may say that one needs a wand, a cup, a sword and a pantacle – but if you don’t truly understand the use of or need for a pantacle, then why on earth have one? Or any other tool, for that matter? The purpose of the tools is to assist you practically (as in using the cup to hold the wine or whatever liquid you may need), but they also serve to set you into a particular frame of mind, to focus your energies on the task at hand. If the staff you carved from a fallen tree branch gives you a stronger sense of your own power than the conductor’s wand you bought at the store, then by all means, use your staff! If, on the other hand, you firmly believe that the only tools which will work are the ones described specifically in minute detail in an old book of magick you found at a second-hand store, then you’d better get started on searching for those particular tools; if you are that convinced that no others will suit your purposes, then they probably won’t.
The success of a ritual depends more on elements of psychology than on one’s tools or strength of faith or desire.
So why do rituals work? If it isn’t the specific ingredients, and the way in which we go about getting them is far different from our ancestors’ methods, then what is left to our ritual that makes it work? The secret lies within the individual. It is a matter of expectation and belief. I do not mean belief in a deity or godform or anything such as that; nor do I mean that when a ritual “didn’t work” it is because someone “didn’t believe enough” – an idea akin to the Christian demand for “faith”. (And Christianity is a magickal religion too, as much as Wicca or any of the others.) What I mean has more to do with psychology – a concept called the “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Most people know the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The classic example is the student who worries so much about failing a test that he actually does fail the test, despite all his preparation. Or the person who is so terrified of public speaking that she gets laryngitis before her class presentation. However, they often work in “positive” ways as well – for example, look at the success of the concept of “positive thinking.” This is nothing more or less than putting the self-fulfilling prophecy to work for you – just like a magickal ritual. Rituals work on the same principle; we assume that they will, and so they do. If you are relatively new to the ritual and cannot rely on your personal experience to be sure it’s worth trying, there are still hundreds or thousands of others who have performed the same ritual with success; vicarious results are often as effective as personal ones in setting up expectations.
It is gratifying to feel that you got what you wanted simply because you wanted it badly enough. But wanting or wishing very hard for your ritual to work is generally not nearly as effective as simply expecting it to work.
And that word brings up another issue: that of expectation versus desire. It is gratifying, even therapeutic sometimes, to feel that you got what you wanted simply because you wanted it badly enough. (This seems to be the case especially with adolescents performing “love spells.”) It is also satisfying to the obsessive-compulsive individual to think that the reason for the success of their ritual was due to meticulous preparation and precision in carrying out the ceremony. But wanting or wishing very hard for your ritual to work is generally not nearly as effective as simply expecting it to work. Crowley likened this frame of mind to the same expectation you would feel if you asked your servant to bring a drink or accomplish some errand. Most of us, of course, don’t have servants, but a more applicable way of illustrating the point might be the frame of mind you enter when you have just given your order to a waiter at a restaurant. Unless you’ve become accustomed to abysmal service in restaurants, you assume that the waiter will bring you what you ordered, and that he will do so within a reasonable amount of time. As soon as you have given your order and he has left the table, then, the matter is out of your mind. You don’t continue to call out your order to him, or hope that he heard you, or sit there still contemplating how much you love chicken marsala. You have done all that was necessary, and now you can forget about it and talk with your dinner companion until the waiter reappears with your order.
If you assume that your ritual will accomplish what you wanted, then it will. Worrying over it or considering how it might go wrong will only create those possibilities on a larger scale. They are already potentialities, but giving attention to them gives them a life of their own, so to speak. And since it can be tricky to think very hard of what you want without also implying what you don’t want, that may well be one reason why it seems to work best to do the ritual and forget about it. Have you ever noticed that you can want something very badly but once you no longer want it, that is when you actually get it? Ritual is often like planting seeds; you can put them into the ground and water them but it will be of absolutely no use to keep going back and digging them up to see if they’ve grown yet. Nor will it help them grow faster if you pull on the shoots when they begin to peek through the soil. In the same way, a ritual works itself out when the time is right – no sooner, no later.
Think of this the next time someone tells you that magick is “all in your head.” And let us hope now that knowing how it happens will not keep you from being able to make it happen!
© Copyright 1999 by D.V. Gray. Republished 2013, 2015.
[This article previously appeared in SKOPOS Vol. II No. 3; it is presented here in an updated format by permission of the author.]
Photo via Pixabay.
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And Make Up Stories
by Patrick Redding
I wake at six o’clock, too early to get up, too dark. My head aches, wakes up the little bird who reminds me to take some more pills. They never run out all at the same time. Always I’m left with one lingering symptom or another, nothing ever coming out even. Everything coming out odd. I take more pills to complement the ones still in my system, go back to bed and hope everything comes out right the next time I wake. It doesn’t; the ones I took merely slowed down the release of the others, so I wake up stoned.
We talk about the movie we saw yesterday, a surreal wash of free-associating forms that slipped from one reality to another as easily as a dream. A shared vision, a way of seeing invisible things, a lucid dream extending beyond the rectangle of canvas, encroaching so subtly that my own reality shifts and becomes questionable. Hubcaps become dinner plates. A birthday candle, cloned and copied, becomes a torchlight parade. The boundaries of reality are mostly imaginary anyway, cosmic longitude and latitude lines. We keep them there for comfort.
Suppose everyone is an artist, capable of altering the focus, shifting the view, in such a way that the viewer will question their own perceptions for months, years, afterward. Suppose we are all simultaneously artist and viewer, audience and participant.
Not everyone would be cut out for such an art show, of course; some would go mad, blathering on about angels and fire, having to be sedated, medicated, quarantined before they infected the others. Some would be disappointed because they expected a picture of melting watches and instead got their own house full of clocks mangled into shapes so bizarre they’ll never be able to explain to the cleaning lady. They’ll require plastic surgery to remove the dripping Timex from their arm. None of them will ever be able to tell time again, and why would they want to?
I have no idea what time it is. Time for breakfast, she says, listening to the yowling of my stomach. Wasn’t it sick last night? Was that where all this started? It’s empty now. The sun is out, and I’m warm, and there is a sparrow nesting in the bed beside me but we must get up, get dressed. Was I supposed to be at work today? No? No school either? Then let us nest, let us rest awhile longer. Let us lie among the fresh white sheets and make up stories and flirt with words.
But the growling drives us out, and she forages in the kitchen and comes flittering through the hallway with bottles of juice and cherry cheese bear claws. She comments on a preview we saw at the movies, something with Donald Sutherland. She isn’t talking about the preview itself so much as about Donald Sutherland, who, she informs me, is incredibly hot, now that he’s old enough to be interesting. She isn’t old enough to have seen him when he was younger except in late-night movies rerun on Channel 17 when she was in grade school. This is how she entertains me while I brush my teeth and take inventory of my bones and do a system check to see which joints might function properly today and which ones won’t.
I’m stuck at the sink; my head feels fine but my back feels twice its age (done got old, can’t do the things I used to do, at least not without help straightening out the next morning) so she slathers it in menthol and pops it back into a standing position so I don’t feel quite so much like Darwin’s unmentioned ape-cousin. It will stick again when I sit down in the study, but as the day grows older my bones grow younger and by late afternoon I’ll be doing things I ought to know better than doing again.
She reads my scribbled notes from a dream in the middle of the night and promptly diagnoses it as unresolved frustration with my mother. “How very Freudian,” I remark, watching her drain the last drop of juice from my bottle. She shrugs, grins, elaborates as she reads my notes aloud: I received a text message on my phone but it was in the form of a crossword puzzle; it was from Mrs. Pitts, an elderly lady who lived across the way when I lived on the other side of town, and Mrs. Pitts wanted me to call so she could tell me all about the terrible things going on in the neighborhood.
Cross words from an old lady, the little bird chirps, perching on the arm of my chair. She dissects the pun of Mrs. Pitts; her name a sardonic metaphor for a peach of a woman, the hard, bitter, poisonous core hidden under fuzzy, saccharine platitudes. My mother always calls to tell me who’s sick or dying or dead back home, bless their hearts. I don’t know most of them; I moved away more than half a lifetime ago. The roll call of the dead never ends. It’s a small town; you’d think they’d eventually run out of people. The implication is that it’s all my fault, that none of these terrible things would ever have happened if I hadn’t left.
Displaced guilt, the little bird coos, grooming my disheveled hair. Don’t let them impose their reality on yours. The sun is out and the sky is blue – let us lie in the cool green grass and burrow in the colored leaves and formulate a theory of clouds as continents in some other more mutable reality. Let us adopt some acorns as our children and give them the names of gods and watch them grow and stretch their roots in the good, dark earth and wave their branches in the air – conductors of a magnificent neo-transcendental symphony.
The little bird flits away and I hear her tinkering with the stereo, putting on a Randy Newman song I haven’t heard in years, “In Germany Before the War.” I don’t have this on disc – or on tape or vinyl or anything, for that matter; I lost it years ago and never got around to replacing it. But realities blur and bend and fold themselves over, sometimes they do, and she plays the song straight from the memory in my head (an unreliable media, to be sure – not nearly as secure as a CD and far less convenient than a USB drive). “We lie beneath the autumn sky, my little golden girl and I.” Forlorn piano, haunting voice. “I’m looking at the river but I’m thinking of the sea.” Thinking of the sea. Thinking of the sea. Thinking I can see.
I close my eyes and we are lying on the crunchy frost-bitten heather of the bald on Ragged Mountain, underneath the wide open sky. A huge white bird circles overhead, sweeping spirals as its feathers catch the sunlight, shifting from white to silver and gray, back to white. It circles, predatory, waiting. Could it pick me up, bear me away like so much carrion? I feel her clasp my hand. No – it couldn’t. It doesn’t even look real, I think. As I watch, it flies higher and higher until it disappears. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of mind, out of being. What is real? The afternoon sun is warm, and my bones breathe fire and drink electricity. That is real. I half-close my eyes and drift into shimmering dreams of golden birds. I am born again, a new man. Let us lie here awhile and make up stories.
© Copyright 2005 by Patrick Redding. Republished 2011, 2015.
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by F.G. Magdalen
One controversial way to treat depression is with ECT – electroconvulsive therapy. Some favor it when nothing else works, while others consider it a closed-skull lobotomy.
Deep and lasting depression had haunted Kelly for quite some time. Suicidal thoughts clogged her thinking like molasses. She felt powerless to do much of anything, much less anything remotely resembling helping herself.
Constant bickering took place. If she wasn’t sad, she was angry – usually at her parents. At one point she boxed up some gifts they had given her, and sent them back. There seemed no bottom to the wretched despair she lived with day and night. It clung to her like the funk from BO but no shower could remedy this.
Every antidepressant had been tried and none had helped. Sleep was all Kelly wanted, and to be left alone. When she wasn’t asleep she’d watch The Exorcist on TV and get some fast food for a meal. Cleaning was unheard of. Neither she nor the cat minded.
Finally she stopped arguing with her parents and stopped speaking to them at all. She did stay in touch with her sister and an aunt. Most importantly, she agreed to ECT treatments.
With a packed bag, off Kelly went to the hospital, though she could never recall who took her. Along for the ride she took three Beverly Lewis Amish books, which she read while there but later couldn’t tell you a thing about.
Kelly got to stay on the open unit as she waited for time to roll around for treatments. That time came soon the next day as all who would receive ECT were rounded up and seated in a white van on a chilly morning. They were then driven to the main hospital.
Kelly took a room with another larger woman who would quickly grab a gown and head for the bathroom. While this commotion went on, Kelly quickly and quietly slipped her gown on.
Kelly had a number of treatments. She could even recall the doc swabbing her head. After the treatments each day they were taken back in the little van.
Kelly didn’t like the effect the ECT was having on her. She was still depressed but forgetting herself. She was having problems knowing who she was. Who did she used to be? She was very upset over losing her identity.
The treatments continued, and Kelly felt scared and alone. She wanted to call her parents but felt like something bad had happened. What, she couldn’t recall. Finally she took her chances, and called and got her mom on the phone. This was the first the family had heard of Kelly getting ECT. Her mom assured her everything was OK, and that when she was discharged, they would come and get her.
The psychiatrist had a good sense of humor and told Kelly jokes when he visited to check on her. Over time, she began to laugh along with him. As a result of this he decided to cut the treatments short and Kelly didn’t receive a full round.
The hospital then discharged her, and her parents picked her up. They went to her apartment, and were doing a little cleaning up when Kelly’s cat made an appearance. She came out, looked at the two women in the kitchen, and howled and howled. She was normally a shy, timid kitty. Kelly’s psychologist had been feeding it while she was gone so it had had the run of the place all to itself. It was hard to imagine what it was trying to say now.
Things stayed confusing for awhile after Kelly’s treatments. One day she broke down and called her sister to ask how she usually paid her bills. Kelly’s mom didn’t think the treatments helped at all. If they did, it was short-lived, as Kelly’s counseling resumed quickly afterward.
© Copyright 2014 by F.G. Magdalen
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Kelly & the Hospital
by F.G. Magdalen
Kelly was a unique person who sometimes needed help with the problems life dealt her. In the early part of her life, she had a good many visits to mental health hospitals.
While her weight bounced around 275 pounds, Kelly was a lusty looking BBW who hated being hungry. She was also an avid soda freak.
For yet another time in her life, Kelly was trying to eat less and avoid soda. Being diabetic, it was important to monitor her sugar readings, and this time – in half a day’s time – she saw them drop. This was encouraging but was not to last.
By the end of the next day the sugar readings were good, and Kelly had been good all day but now, damn it, she was hungry. Not to mention slightly irritated and really craving a soda. She finally caved in and drove down to Arby’s and got fries, a sandwich and a soda – a good fountain soda with the extra fizz. She drove home and ate the unhealthy guilt-inducing combo and was both content and sad.
Diets had been a part of Kelly’s life for quite some time. However, there was another time she was supposed to feel guilty.
At that time Kelly was on the closed unit of a psychiatric hospital. Patients had less freedom on this side and were thought to be more seriously ill. It also stank on this side. The food was bad too. Patients were not allowed to go to the dining room. A meal was brought to them on a thermal tray. It was only slightly warm and a bad choice. Kelly was a picky eater.
It wasn’t long before Kelly was very hungry and wanting a soda. A diet was the furthest thing from her mind at this time too.
There were a number of folks in there with her but it was a very lonely, depressing, isolated place to be. There was not much to do either, as someone else had usually commandeered the TV. This created the perfect environment for Kelly to focus on how bad she felt and how hungry she was and how one fed off the other.
The bed was hard and uncomfortable and the covers were scant. It was not nearly the same as the one she had at home and liked to lie in most of the time. She decided to poke about the little kitchenette to see if she might find something – anything – to eat.
The cupboards were not a treasure trove. On opening the freezer of the refrigerator, she found something – kind of. It was an already opened box of Fudgsicles. Chocolate!
Kelly took one. There was a very good reason she didn’t keep this stuff at home. Normally she just picked up one when she was out.
Another Fudgsicle accidentally fell into Kelly’s mouth. A man came over and he had one too. It was starting to help with her hunger, so she kept on eating. It didn’t help completely, as Kelly was still frantic for a soda, and later on, a meal.
On the last day when Kelly was discharged from the closed unit, her doctor visited and talked to her. He inquired about her eating ALL the Fudgsicles and said the nurses told him. It was as though he was trying to induce guilt in her but Kelly got angry instead. ALL the Fudgsicles hadn’t been available to her. Kelly spoke up but it sounded like excuses and her doctor paid little attention. Yes, she agreed, she ate a great many, but not ALL of them. She felt as though she was being duped or tricked: the staff puts them in the freezer with no stated warning or lock and then get mad and complain when someone gets hungry and eats them.
Back in the present, Kelly was mulling over her Arby’s meal and thinking there must be a better way, when she thought of the open unit of the hospital. They had vending machines with goodies inside. SODA! Why not do the same on the closed side?
Kelly then recalled a funny event she had participated in on the open side in relation to the vending machines. This was during a different time she’d been in the hospital. Deep within, Kelly nursed a little grudge toward the nurses. She had heard them gossiping about patients a few times, herself included.
At one point during that hospital stay, a girl was standing near one of the two windows of the nursing station and was being told this was a special exception and it couldn’t be done all the time. (She’d wanted her wallet for the vending machine.) Then another fellow had planted himself in the window too, and asked since they were getting the girl’s what-not, can you get my thus-and-so as well. Of course the nurse couldn’t say no; she’d just told the girl yes. And soon another individual was wanting his this-or-that, and then another person. The nurse was beginning to look quite harried. A little smile parked itself on Kelly’s face as the scene became quite humorous to watch. It was like a flash mob. The window was getting very full. Not wanting to be left out, Kelly quickly thought of something she could ask for. Not that she needed anything but she didn’t want to miss her chance at helping create chaos, confusion and trouble after being gossiped about.
In the end, perhaps Kelly caused about as many problems as she ones she had herself. She was not content with this, but in and out of the nut house is no way to live a life.
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