About Me

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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, and several other journals. I have essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. In December of 2016, The Mondegreen nominated my story "Santa Lucia" for a Pushcart Prize. I've written a novel entitled Purple Loosestrife and a novel entitled Hoping It Might Be So, both of which I am submitting to agents and publishers. I'm working on a novel called Dark and Bright as well as a book called Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

If There's One Goal I've Got...

...it's to finish painting our bedroom. It's a rosy colored pink right now, which I've come to hate. I intended it to be a deeper rose color, but it didn't work out that way. So I've started painting the bedroom dark brown. It's very rich and deep like chocolate or coffee. It's yummy. And the trim and doors will be white. I'm using Marquee paint, which is a brand that's supposed to cover anything in only one coat. But I've painted two little walls and need another coat. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong, but I don't know. I think I know how to paint fairly well yet it just seems that this brown won't cover the pink in one go. Oh, well. The important thing is that I get this room painted as soon as possible. I'm tired of having half of our bedroom in my study and half in the guest room.

So this is one big goal I have for 2016! I already listed a few other goals in my last blog post. They all have to do with writing of course. I suppose I do have one more goal and that's to stay as well as I've been in 2015. It's been a good year bipolar-wise. I've had my ups and downs, harder times and easier times, but overall, I've done well I think. I've stayed out of the hospital, and there haven't been that many late night (or otherwise) calls to my psychiatrist due to mental crises. I want to keep it this way.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Here Comes 2016!

I hope you all had a very happy holiday season! And Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 brings happiness, good health, and good fortune to you.

I plan to keep on writing as much as possible, as well as reading as much as possible in order to learn how to write better, learn about human nature and the world, and enjoy good books.

I plan to continue writing and hopefully finishing my novel Hoping It Might Be So. I will also continue work on my memoir Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. And I will continue to write short stories and essays and hope they find publication.

"Santa Lucia"

My odd little piece, "Santa Lucia" has been accepted for publication in Issue #5 of The Mondegreen. I'm excited about this; I like what this journal is all about, like their mission. "Santa Lucia" is about a contemporary young woman named Lucy, the actual St. Lucy (or Santa Lucia) from Sicily in 304 A.D., and a vain woman from 1890s Milan named Lucia. Lucy wants to gouge out her eyes for God; St. Lucy does gouge out her eyes and is martyred, and Lucia cheats on her husband with a man named Giuseppe. The three women play off each other in this tale told in six parts.

This will be my first publication of 2016, and I hope there will be more. I also hope that I might get good news about my novel Purple Loosestrife and finish my novel Hoping It Might Be So.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hope and Gratitude in 2015

For me, 2015 has been a good year, but parts of it are concerning. I'll start with that. Two people who are close to me are fighting cancer. I pray for B. and L. and hope so very much that their fights will be successful. I am very concerned for both of them. I can't even imagine the way it's shadowed their years, and my heart goes out to them.

I have much to be thankful for. I have been doing well mentally, and physically, I'm on the way to getting back in shape now that I have a new endocrinologist and my hypothyroidism seems to be under more control. I have a wonderful family and friends and feel very blessed. I hope those I love who are healthy and happy continue to be so, and those who are struggling find help, healing, and all the love they need.

As far as writing goes, I was the Featured Author in The Round Up Writer's Zine in the spring of
2015. This year also saw the publication of three of my short stories and three of my essays, all about mental illness. I am especially proud to have my essay "Jenga" in the book Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, edited by Ginny Levy and Matthew Bohn, and published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. An essay that you can read if you choose to is "Pity Party" in Amygdala Literary Magazine.

To continue with good news about writing, I'm now working on chapter 13 of my novel Hoping It Might Be So. It's going really well and I'm so glad. I'm still sending out my novel Purple Loosestrife and hope that I might get some good news about its future... maybe 2016 will be its year.

Something I'm grateful for is my growth as an advocate for mental illness. This year, I've had a number of friends who are dealing with mental illness (in either themselves or someone close to them) come to me with questions and concerns and just the desire for understanding and support. I feel so good about this and I'm so happy to help. I would like to do more as far as advocacy goes. This is one of my goals for the coming year. I'm not sure what I'll do or how I'll do it, but I intend to find out.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Pity Party" Now Available

My essay "Pity Party" is now available to read in Amygdala Literary Magazine. This essay is about the official onset of my bipolar disorder. It's about when my son was born in 1995, which triggered my first major depressive episode, and then a little later, my first major manic episode, both of which led to my diagnosis.

This was as difficult an essay to write as any about my illness. I discuss what it was like to go through childbirth and then experience severe depression, which was at first misdiagnosed as postpartum depression. It wasn't until the depression didn't subside that I was sent to a psychiatrist. And then I spun into a manic episode, which clinched the diagnosis. I hope this essay will educate and enlighten as well as make others who are afflicted with mental illness feel less alone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Jenga" in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health

The book that contains my essay "Jenga" in now available for purchase. I'm excited! The essay means a lot to me. I hope that it communicates well one experience with mental illness; it's my wish to educate and enlighten readers, but also to entertain.

"Jenga" is about my first stay in the psychiatric ward. It was at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York and I was there for about four days because of a severe depressive episode. I met a young man in the ward whom I discuss in some depth in the essay. I met others, as well, and learned that people with mental illness in a psychiatric ward cannot be stereotyped or easily categorized. The people I met seemed so "normal", if such a thing even exists.

I talk about us, people with mental illness, as a tribe, because when it feels that way, I feel less alone. I hope that you might get a chance to read "Jenga" and learn a little more about the tribe.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Mental Health Essay

I just had an essay entitled "Pity Party" accepted for publication by Amygdala Literary Magazine. This essay is about my diagnosis of bipolar disorder in November of 1995 several months after my son was born in March of 1995. In this essay, I explain how, initially, my doctor believed that I had postpartum depression. But then my depression worsened, so he sent me to a psychiatrist. After a few months, I had a manic episode, and I was hence diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As you see, it can take a while to receive the correct diagnosis. In "Pity Party", I write about this process. I'm awaiting details about when the next issue of Amygdala will be published, but as soon as I know, I'll post about it here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Look Inside the Psychiatric Ward

I have a short essay in The Ram Boutique. It's entitled "A Look Inside: My First Stay in the Psychiatric Ward". This essay simply and directly tells what it was like the first time I had to go to the psychiatric ward at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, because of a severe depressive episode. My aim is to educate and enlighten with this essay. I hope I can reach people and let them know about this experience.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On to Part Two

I've finished "Part One: Missionary" of my novel Hoping It Might Be So and now I'm on to "Part Two: Man". Part one consisted of chapters one through three. Part two picks up with chapter four and will go on for a while. There will probably be a part three, but I haven't given it a title yet. I've just finished some edits on chapter five and will move on to chapter six.

When I first started writing, I fell into the trap of rewriting, editing, and tweaking every little thing and not just forging ahead and getting an entire draft of the novel written. Now I'm forcing myself to keep moving. I'm editing and working on stuff in chapters that I write, but I'm leaving them "drafty" so I can finish a draft of the novel and then work on it as a whole. It's difficult not to keep going back and working on every little thing, but you have to bake the whole cake before you can frost it (that's an analogy my dad likes to use).

In other news, my short story "The Adirondack Room" is going to appear in The Round Up Greatest Anthology, an anthology of "greatest hits", if you will, that have appeared in The Round Up Writer's Zine. I've had three stories published in The Round Up Writer's Zine, "A Good Boy's Tale", "The Adirondack Room", and "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn". I'm honored to be included in the anthology!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hoping It Might Be So

The title of this blog post is the title of the novel I'm working on. I've come up with a title for it! I'm working on chapter three (and still tweaking chapters one and two), so it's going along well. My main character, Matthew Holman, has become near and dear to my heart. Right now I'm in Part One: Missionary. The characters I'm writing are Matthew, John Pratt, Veronica McFadden, Mr. Grayson, and through flashbacks and back story, Matthew's family, especially his Grandpa Holman, his older brother Craig, and his girlfriend back in Provo, Ashley.

My husband lived in Salt Lake City for many years and has been a valuable helper and reader. This is relevant and important because he got to know a lot about Mormons while living in Utah, and Matthew starts out as a Mormon missionary. What will happen beyond that? I may not tell, or I may just give bits and pieces. But I will be writing about the progress I'm making on this novel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Cognitive Part of Bipolar Disorder

I just read an article about myths that the media (most notably, television and film) have about bipolar disorder. I found the article to be lacking in some respects--just not quite there as far as a thorough explanation of bipolar disorder and its myths go.

Of course, entire books are written as thorough explanations of this disorder, and I wasn't looking for that much information in one article. But what this article lacked was some important information. Often what's not portrayed about the disorder are the cognitive problems it presents: the fuzzy thinking, the confusion, the indecisiveness, the lack of organization. For a television show or a movie, I guess it's just not romantic to show a person scribbling down lists of every aspect of his or her life, or sticking post-it notes around to remember what to do, or becoming confused and/or overwhelmed and/or afraid in stores or in public or in new situations. So because these aspects of the illness don't tend to be portrayed, the article left them out. But I don't think they should have been left out.

People who want to see an accurate depiction of bipolar disorder should see the messiness of it, too--not just the wild or devastating moods. And an article dispelling its myths should address the one big myth that mood is all there is to it. Day to day, when I'm medicated and doing well, I still suffer from problems thinking. I may have trouble organizing my day and getting even the most simple tasks done. I may be unable to make decisions about anything. I may have a great deal of trouble getting places in my car, even with MapQuest, because I have a terrible sense of direction which I believe is part of my disorder. Some days are harder than others, but every day I have to work to keep my brain on track--not just my mood, but my thoughts as well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Next Novel

I've started my next novel, a literary novel, and so far, though I haven't written much, it's going well. I have notes, outlines, lists, and research material, and now I have actual text. It has no title as of yet. It's the story of a young man named Matthew Holman, a Mormon who gives up his mission and his faith and moves across the country. It will be sort of a coming of age story, but more than that. Matthew will have all kinds of adventures and meet various people, some of whom will have their own stories as subplots. Some of these characters already have names and fleshed-out identities: Gil and Sadie Egan, Jessica Porter. In this novel, I'd like to explore love, relationships, identity, the questioning of faith, family, isolation, and depression since Matthew suffers from episodes of it.

In my first novel, Purple Loosestrife, Spencer MacGowan has schizoaffective disorder. Now in my next novel, I'm writing about a young man who suffers from depression. It must sound weird to say that I enjoy writing about mental illness, but I do. It's something I understand so intimately that it seems second-nature to give my characters mental illnesses. I know what it's like to have one, to take meds, to learn to accept and cope (or not), to be in the hospital, to suffer episodes that can feel like sheer madness, and to experience times of calm and balance amidst the storms.

So I've started this next novel, but I am continuing to write memoir essays and short stories (absolutely short stories... I can't not write them!). I've included with this blog post a picture of Honeoye Lake from my uncle's cottage. Honeoye is one of New York's Finger Lakes. Matthew doesn't move there, but he does move to a Finger Lake--Seneca Lake and the town of Haversville, which is the same fictional town in which Purple Loosestrife takes place.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

No Rage Here

I read and hear a lot about people with bipolar disorder experiencing severe anger and rage. They argue with loved ones or acquaintances or strangers and feel that they can't control the rage.

I have never felt rage in all my years with bipolar disorder. I know I've been irritable, and I've had minor irritability-fueled outbursts. But these never last long, and I've never felt the severe anger of which I'm aware can exist in people with bipolar disorder.

I think it's just not part of my make-up. I believe my personality has a lot to do with this. I dislike feeling anger and can't stay angry for long. I also never hold grudges. I don't like confrontation or arguing. The idea of feeling rage scares me. I'm grateful that this isn't one way in which my disorder manifests itself.

Perhaps I take whatever rage might be bubbling inside me in a given situation and channel it into my writing. I've certainly written enraged characters. I've written angry exchanges, explosive arguments, and even outright physical fighting. I write such scenes because they're part of whatever story I'm telling, but I do find them cathartic as well.

Some advice for all writers, not just those with a mental illness: perhaps channeling negative emotions such as rage into your writing will help you work through it. This is not to say that you'll never get angry and act on it; it's just one way of attempting to rein it in. If you feel that you're about to blow up at someone and they may not deserve it, then have one of your characters blow up at another, even if you don't use the scene in your story or novel. Now if there's good reason for blowing up at someone, then by all means, it may be what you have to do. Yet still I believe that writing can go a long way in dealing with negative emotions.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Theoretical Physics

I love theoretical physics and love reading books and articles on the topic. The problem is, sometimes I just go down the rabbit hole when I read about this stuff and end up feeling depressed, or perhaps hypomanic, or maybe a combination of the two. Although I love it, the topic is a trigger, and I have to be careful of how much and when I read about physics.

I love the way various theories make me think deeply and way outside of the box. But then this thinking often seems to bring me around to questions about life and death, and why we're here, and what's the point of all this, etc. These questions are what unhinge me. I think this kind of thing could happen to anyone, but when you're a person with bipolar disorder, I believe you're more likely to become off balance by such profound thinking that can lead to negative concepts such as, "There's nothing after this," or "There's no point," or "We're just little meaningless specks in this unfathomably huge universe."

So I just watch my mood when I feel inclined to read about physics. If I'm not very well balanced, I consider carefully whether or not I want to risk the negative thinking that I bring about (because I know I'm making it happen). If I'm feeling good, then it may be a perfect time to read. The bottom line is that it's important to know what might trigger episodes for you when you have bipolar disorder. The things that do this may be obvious or may be really weird, but recognizing them is important.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Tom Cruise" Is Here

My story "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn" is now available to read in The Round Up Writer's Zine. This was a fun story to write and I hope a fun story to read. What the hell is Tom Cruise doing at Target in Clay, New York?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Epic Tom Cruise Story (or So I Hope)...

The Round-Up Writer's Zine has accepted my story "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn" for publication in their next issue. This will be my third publication in The Round-Up, and I'm proud of this since I really like the journal.

This story is about Mr. Cruise and a visit he makes to Target in the town of Clay, New York. What on earth is Tom Cruise doing at Target? When the story comes out, I'll let you know so that you can find out.

(By the way, the rather unflattering picture I've used of Mr. Cruise is, as far as I was able to tell, a free public domain photograph.)

The Trouble with Abilify

One of the medications I take for my bipolar disorder is Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic. Abilfy has worked to keep my mood stable, to keep away paranoia, and to reduce obsessive thinking, especially about negative and scary things.

I'm having some trouble with Abilify, however--I think. There's a condition called tardive dyskinesia (t.d.) that the atypical antipsychotics can cause (the old school antipsychotics are even more likely to cause it).  According to MedlinePlus, a website of the NIMH U.S. National Library of Medicine, "Tardive dyskinesia is a disorder that involves involuntary movements. Most commonly, the movements affect the lower face. Tardive means delayed and dyskinesia means abnormal movement." The trouble I'm having is with my lower lip. At least several times a day, I feel it quiver on the inside (in other words, no one would notice this when looking at me). My doctor also noticed a very slight tremor on one side of my tongue.

I say that I think I'm having trouble with Abilify because my doctor isn't entirely certain that that's what this is. With t.d., a person is not aware of abnormal movements, and yet I'm very aware of the trembling of my lip. Therefore, this could be a side effect of something else, or perhaps just a harmless quirk of mine (this is one of my own theories).

In any event, my doctor has lowered my Abilify from what was once 30 mg a day to 25 mg a day to my current 20 mg a day. I'm also taking 1,200 iu of vitamin E a day, which may help the problem. And if this is indeed t.d., then I may have to go off the Abilify and avoid any other atypical antipsychotics. It's just a matter of waiting and seeing. I find it interesting, however, that people with t.d. aren't aware of it and yet I am. I hope that this might indicate that I can stay on the Abilify. It helps me so much that I'd hate to have to go off it.

I'm writing about this in order to help anyone else who's having any kind of odd side effect, including a potential sign of t.d. I'm neither a doctor nor an expert, so my advice would be to talk to your doctor, but at least knowing that there's someone else out here going through some stuff may help give you the confidence needed to talk about this. I also want to educate any reader, whether he or she has a mental illness or not, about one of the things we go through. In my opinion, having an open dialogue about issues surrounding mental illness helps to erase the stigma. I like to give glimpses into the life of a person with a mental illness to show that it's nothing that should be kept secret, nothing scary, and nothing that can't be understood with compassion and thoughtfulness.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"The Tiger Earring" Now Available

My short story "The Tiger Earring" is now available in Sliver of Stone Magazine. I'm particularly fond of this story and like its structure... it's all told in reverse. We start with the main character Elsa in 2067 and end with her in 1985. It's a love story, but what happens in it? You'll have to read it to find out!

Even though the story starts in the future, it's not science fiction. It's very much a story about people, relationships, choices, and consequences. It has what I think is a wistful, reflective tone. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Edge in the Spring

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I feel on edge, bipolar-wise, in the spring--at the beginning in the spring--and then at the beginning of the summer. There seems to be too much light, too much brightness; the days are longer, which puts me in a quandary. I usually go up to bed to read and write there at about 8 p.m. (I need a lot of sleep--nine hours is my ideal). But when it's still light out then, I feel as though I have to do something different. And yet I really like my routine (I sleep from about 9 or 10 p.m. to 5 or 6 a.m.). So it just makes things feel difficult.

A lot of people with bipolar disorder have trouble in the winter and with the coming of the early darkness and the cold and the shorter days. But not me. I get edgy and sometimes hypomanic (a lesser form of mania) or manic in the spring and summer. I have to really watch how I feel so that I don't run into trouble. I use my dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills to keep myself as balanced as possible.

Don't misunderstand me--I love spring and summer just as much as I love fall and winter. I just have a harder time navigating them.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Trouble with Memoir

I have a few projects going currently. Just yesterday, I wrote a flash fiction piece called "The Other Side of the Wall". It's about a man dealing with some noisy, angry neighbors in his brick apartment building.

I've also been working on the same chapter of my memoir, which I'm calling (at this point) "Bouquet". I'm getting frustrated with the memoir, however, because of the things I don't want to write about. I'm still seriously thinking about calling it "Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life". Then I could write what would be stand-alone essays about my experiences and about various aspects of living with bipolar disorder. I realize that with memoir, the idea is to dig deep and write about all sorts of things, including painful or unpleasant things, and I definitely do that when I write about severe episodes I've had, and hospitalizations, group therapy, things I did during bad episodes, etc. What I don't want to write about is my first marriage. Many of the events I'll cover (and have covered) happened during those fifteen years, but I don't want to write about the marriage itself or my ex-husband. I don't want to give these things my time and effort.

This reasoning is probably a violation of the whole concept of memoir, but I don't care. I've reached a point with it where I feel indifferent, and I see this as a good and positive development. So writing a series of essays instead of a linear memoir would give me the ability to pick and choose what I feel is relevant from the time of my first marriage. For example, I've written a chapter/essay called "Manic Summer". It's about the summer leading up to the day when I told my ex-husband that I wanted a divorce. This is relevant. But my wedding day in 1989? Not relevant, at least not in my vision for what this book might be.

I don't know. I don't have all the answers about this. I'm just going on gut feelings as I write and when deciding what to write about. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 30th: World Bipolar Day

March 30th is World Bipolar Day. I look at this as a day for people to "come out" about having bipolar disorder (if they're ready to), or to talk about loved ones with bipolar, or to engage in dialogue about bipolar and what society needs to know in order for the stigma to be erased and misunderstandings about this disease to be eradicated.

There's a stigma surrounding all mental illness, and with bipolar disorder, I think that, in part, the  stigma manifests in sentiments such as "Snap out of it!" if you're depressed, or "Get a grip!" if you're manic. There's also the (supposedly humorous) question, "Did you forget to take your medication today?" This makes bipolar into a joke--something to poke fun at. And then there are people who toss around the term "bipolar" lightly. They have a change in mood and suddenly, "I'm so bipolar!" Or someone has trouble making a decision and waffles and so, "You're so bipolar!" Of course, let's not forget bipolar disorder as a fad, as the disease of the day, as an excuse for bad behavior. A celebrity or public figure behaves erratically, and suddenly he or she has bipolar disorder. The sad part is that some celebrities and public figures may indeed have it. But we may not always see it in their behavior. Others who behave badly may also have it, but isn't it awful that these people become jokes, or the butt of jokes, or just dismissed as "crazy"?

What people need to know is that bipolar is not a joke, it's not funny, it's not a fad, and it's not simply a matter of being up or down. There are ups and downs, but there's a spectrum filled with many shades of color in between. For example, a person with bipolar may have a mixed episode in which he or she is accelerated and manic, but also filled with sadness and the terrible ache of depression. And there's hypomania, a lesser form of mania, and dysthymia, a lesser form of depression (but not necessarily less painful).

And then there are the other troubles that come along with bipolar. Fatigue, fogginess, cognitive difficulties, trouble with decision making, trouble accomplishing day-to-day tasks, difficulties with school and/or jobs, substance and/or alcohol abuse, insomnia or sleeping too much, overspending, overeating or not eating enough, anxiety (sometimes very severe), gambling, sexual promiscuity... the list could go on. But I'll leave it to my readers to do some research--I would love it if you would do some reading as a way to recognize World Bipolar Day. There's excellent information on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health and on WebMD. Please take some time to read this information if you'd like to know more about this illness.

I'm very open about my bipolar because I feel I put a "normal" face to this illness. Those who know me, or have gotten to know me through this blog, know that I'm not scary or dangerous. They may know that I struggle, but they also know that I work very hard to maintain balance. They know I want to be well, and that I'm not just "doing this for attention" (another gem I've heard and read). So please, on March 30th, think of us, the millions of us globally who have bipolar, and fight with us to treat this like any other medical illness.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Acceptance of "The Tiger Earring"

My short story "The Tiger Earring" has been accepted for publication by Sliver of Stone Magazine. I'm really excited about this because of my fondness for the story. It's a love story told in reverse. It starts in the year 2067 and ends in the year 1985.

The tone of "The Tiger Earring" is wistful and reflective. I very much enjoyed writing it in reverse and having the story unfold in this way. I will post when it's available!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Squirrels

Again I find myself with no fiction in the works. After finishing "Such a Lovely Girl" for the time being, I wrote a flash fiction piece (693 words) called "The Problem with Squirrels".
 
It's a piece taken from life and a time when my son and I were first on our own after my divorce. We were living in a townhouse complex in the woods, and the management felt there was a problem with all the squirrels. So I've written about this and intend to have it critiqued by my writers group (along with the other story).

As far as writing from life, I continue to work on my memoir, or at least essays about my bipolar experiences. Right now I'm working on an essay about a tough time in college when I was very depressed. I had the belief that a bouquet of flowers would make everything better, and so I made my boyfriend at the time drive all over the rural areas surrounding Buffalo (this is where he was from) looking for a florist. Of course, there were no florists, nor were there any farm markets open since this happened in February. A few days after driving around, instead of flowers, my boyfriend brought me a cactus.This seemed a fitting symbol for how I felt at that time right down to my bones.

I'll continue to work on my memoir/essays, and I need to start working on a new fiction project, or perhaps pick up an older one and see what I can do with it. I'm thinking of revisiting "The Infant of Prague". Perhaps that's what I'll do.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Aging... Being Scared, Becoming Wiser

The song "100 Years" by Five for Fighting always makes me feel sad. In a single song, it goes through a person's life and emphasizes how fast time goes by. I'm 48 years old, so I most identify with the line, "I'm 45 for a moment / The sea is high and I'm headed into a crisis / Chasing the years of my life." I don't feel that I'm heading into a crisis, or that I've already had a midlife crisis. I've had enough other crises in my life that I never needed a midlife one. But the idea of getting older does scare me at times. I don't like it when people say that time keeps going faster and faster the older you get. I don't want time to go faster. I want to see my son start a career and perhaps get married, and I'd love to be a grandmother, but I don't want to be old.

My father has always said that age is just a state of mind, and my parents are a testament to this. The two of them are respectively on either side of seventy, and they're as fit and youthful and vibrant as can be. They're my role models for aging gracefully, healthfully, and with vitality. They tell me they're happier than they've ever been, that retirement is great and life is fuller and richer than ever.

I hope I'll feel that way when I'm seventy. I hope I'll be like my parents. I strive for this, even at the age of 48. But I still feel afraid. I fear death, for one thing. I love the Woody Allen quote, "It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens." The fear of the unknown and my shaky and tenuous belief in something more than this life make me wonder what will happen to me, this person whom I call me, after I die. I believe in God as some entity or force, and I think I believe in an afterlife, but I want to be certain. Unfortunately, that's one thing that (as I believe it) we humans don't get to be.

But I take solace in the wisdom I've gained, and continue to gain, as I age. I would not go back to a single time in my life in exchange for where I am now. I love right now. I continue to learn, see, experience, and add to all that's come before this moment in time, and it's exciting and enlightening and heartening in the face of the unknown. I answer questions my son asks me and surprise myself with the answers. Where did they come from? How do I know what I know? By living life. By having experienced a great many things, both good and bad. I honestly wouldn't trade this for anything.

By the way, the picture above is of me at the age of 14. I love the memories, but I love now more.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March!

I actually like the month of March. Here in central New York, it's still very much winter, but spring is coming, however slowly the process may seem. March is important to me for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it's the month of my son's birthday, my only child. He turns twenty this March. Twenty years ago this month, I was handed a tiny human swaddled in a blanket and wearing a small cap. I gave him the nickname Pickle because that's what his shape reminded me of. Now that little baby is a young man, and I'm very proud of him.

March 8th is the "spring ahead" part of daylight savings time, which means we get an extra hour of light in the evening.

March 17th is St. Patrick's Day, and while I'm not very Irish (just a little), my son is a little bit more. My husband isn't Irish at all. Nevertheless, I like to celebrate the day by cooking something somewhat Celtic (if not corned beef, then shepherd's pie) and eating some sort of green dessert--most likely cookies with green frosting.

March 20th is the spring equinox. And while there will likely still be snow on the ground, the warmer spring weather is on its way.

I've written two stories in recent days that will likely be critiqued by my writers group this March, "Such a Lovely Girl" and "The Problem with Squirrels". I like both of these stories a lot. I had fun writing them. But now I'm left with no fiction in the works. I'm working on my memoir, but I like to have some fiction going, too. I'll have to either come up with something new or revisit something I've written and perhaps get it ready to submit to literary journals.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Featured Author Interview in The Round Up Writer's Zine

I got to be the featured author in the latest issue of The Round Up Writer's Zine. Thanks to Ed Jessup, the editor-in-chief, for asking me to do the interview!

It was a lot of fun to do. I answered questions about the two stories I've had published in The Round Up, "A Good Boy's Tale" and "The Adirondack Room". I talked about what inspires me, other works I'm proud of, when I knew I wanted to be a writer, my blog and my advocacy for mental illness in it, etc. Please take a look if you have a chance, and please support this great publication by reading it. It's an online journal with past issues archived.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Release of "Cure"

My short story "Cure" is now appearing in The Literari Quarterly, Winter 2014, Issue No. 3. This is a post-apocalyptic story; a nuclear war has occurred and the nearest city to a northwestern New York town was destroyed. Everyone in town is dying of radiation sickness. But then a mysterious man named Richie Parker comes to town with a supposed cure. Richie Parker happens to share his name with a long-dead boy from the town. Who exactly is Richie Parker, why is he not suffering the effects of the radiation, and will his cure work?

Please stop by The Literati Quartely and have a read! The journal will also be coming out for purchase in hard copy.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Writing a Memoir?

As you may know from reading this blog, I've been at work on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. I've even given it a tentative title: Violets Are Blue: A Memoir of My Bipolar Life. I've written about seven "chapters", which have really come out more as individual essays. I've jumped around when writing these--I have a chapter about my childhood, a couple about college, a few about my adult life--however, nothing is in order. And there's a lot I've skipped, saying to myself, "I'll get to it later."

But the truth is, I don't know that I want to "get to it later". There are experiences and periods of time that I want to write about--that I yearn, burn, and ache to write about. But there are other experiences I would like to put in the background of my life and not revisit in my writing.

These experiences center around my first marriage. I don't want to write about my ex-husband and that relationship. I mean, I emphatically don't want to write about these things. Is it because it's painful to revisit this time? Yes. But it's more than that. I don't want to give him and that relationship my time and effort. Now one may say that it might be cathartic to write about these things. But I don't agree with that in this instance. I've had the catharsis, and that was leaving my ex-husband and striking out on my own with my son. One may also say that it might be therapeutic, but I get plenty of therapy with my doctor. I don't necessarily need to seek it in my writing when it comes to these topics.

I had a therapist before the doctor I have now who insisted that there would be a void in my life that my ex-husband used to fill. I said, "No, there won't be." She also insisted that I was sad about the ending of the marriage. I said, "No, I'm not." And it was all true. I couldn't have been happier to get out of the marriage and away from my ex-husband. Perhaps this explains a bit about why I don't want to give him and the relationship my time and effort. There are more important and relevant things to write about.

So what I'm thinking is that perhaps this won't be a memoir at all, but rather a collection of essays. Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. I'd have more freedom to write about what I want to write about and not worry about telling my whole entire story from childhood to now. I could skip parts and perhaps only refer to them when necessary. I'd like to see how this might work.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Troubling Side Effect

The medication I take for my bipolar disorder works wonders for me. After many years, my doctor and I have found a good mix. However, the downside of medication is side effects. I've been fortunate to not suffer from many side effects from the meds I take. But one side effect has emerged with one medication and I'm not sure what's going to happen because of it.

The medication is Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic, and the side effect is a slight trembling in my lower lip at random moments throughout the day. I feel the trembling on the inside of my mouth--I don't believe anyone would be able to detect it from the outside. It isn't painful or even irritating. It's just what it is--a trembling.

This is a cause for concern because of a disorder called tardive dyskinesia. According to the website MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, "Tardive dyskinesia is a disorder that involves involuntary movements. Most commonly, the movements affect the lower face. Tardive means delayed and dyskinesia means abnormal movement... Tardive dyskinesia is a serious side effect that occurs when you take medications called neuroleptics. Most often, it occurs when you take the medication for many months or years." The site continues to list symptoms of tardive dyskinesia:
  • Facial grimacing
  • Finger movement
  • Jaw swinging
  • Repetitive chewing
  • Tongue thrusting
The prognosis for the disorder is as follows: "If diagnosed early, the condition may be reversed by stopping the drug that caused the symptoms. Even if the drug is stopped, the involuntary movements may become permanent, and in some cases, may become worse."

The concern is that this lip trembling I'm experiencing is the beginning of tardive dyskinesia. My doctor checked for other signs of it and found that I have an ever so slight tremor on one side of my tongue and muscle rigidity. The problem is that the drug that's the culprit in this situation, Abilify, works extremely well for me in all other respects.

So what should we do? To begin with, my doctor has lowered my Abilify dosage from 30 mg a day to 25 mg a day. So far, so good. She also has me taking 400 iu of vitamin E twice a day, which is a way to boost antioxidants in my body that can help with this side effect. The vitamin E, for the most part, seems to be working.

There is a possibility, however, that I may have to go off of Abilify. And I don't know if I'll be able to take a different aytpical antipsychotic. This medication helps with obsessional thinking, paranoia, dark thoughts, and delusional thinking. Without it, I fear that these things will rise up and potentially become problematic. My doctor is excellent, though, and I feel confident that she'll be able to come up with alternatives so that I don't experience these negative emotions and ways of thinking.