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!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Holidays

(Please note: I've written this mostly about Christmas, but I hope my information can apply to any holiday you may celebrate.)

The holidays can be difficult for many people with mental illness. The stress of it all--even the good stress--can be daunting. Fortunately, however, this is not the case with me. I love all the holidays. Now, at least. For a long while, I would get very depressed during holiday times. I felt that there was undue pressure on me in the circumstances of my life at those times. I felt joy in the holidays for my son, but for myself, I felt despair and dread.

Yet when I changed my life in the early '00s and then reconnected with my future husband in 2004, the holidays took on a whole new meaning and feeling. I'm now happy during them, and I jump in with both feet. I decorate excessively for both Christmas and Easter, and even Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. And I celebrate because for so many years, I felt I couldn't.

I wish I could pass these feelings along to people who do suffer at holiday times. I suppose I can at least explain what I did for these changes to occur. First, I changed the circumstances I was in and found a life partner in my future husband who understands me, makes me happy, and supports and brings me joy all the time. And I found a new psychiatrist with whom I have developed a wonderful relationship and because of whom I'm on a successful mixture of medications. Then I began to use skills I learned from my psychiatrist (dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT skills), which help keep me on track. (Just a side note: I believe that no one should stay with a therapist or doctor they're unhappy with. If you're not getting all that you want from a therapist or doctor, leave and find someone else. It can be difficult to find just the right fit with someone, but trust me, it's worth it.)

I also work hard to alleviate stress on holidays. I celebrate with family and close friends. I do my Christmas shopping early to avoid feeling rushed. And I try to have fun with it all, as you can see from the picture of my nativity scene. I also find that watching my favorite movies helps keep me balanced. I recommend Christmas StoryLove Actually, and A Christmas Carol (the British 1951 version with Alastair Sims). I have artificial Christmas trees because of my cats (then I don't have to worry about them). I no longer send out Christmas cards but rather rely on e-mail and Facebook to send cheer. And perhaps most importantly, I try to get as much sleep as always. I've worked hard over the years to develop a good sleep routine, and when you have a mental illness, it's so important to have this. In fact, it's important to stick as much to your daily routine as possible. Medicate at the same time(s) every day. Eat three meals a day at generally the same times if possible.

I know that if you're ill and you're suffering, some of what I've written may sound trite. I know that watching a certain movie isn't going to make the pain go away. So try to reach out to people you know will help you, support you, and listen. And please get help if you really feel desperate--the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. I send out good vibes and positive energy to you all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Loss of Time

With mental illness comes a loss of time. I have lost days, weeks, and months to my bipolar disorder. But I try to look at what I've gained through these losses. Strength. Determination. A fighting spirit. Wisdom. But nevertheless, it's difficult to think of the times when I couldn't get out of bed, or when I was manic and out of control, and I missed out on "normal life", for lack of a better phrase. I had about eleven years (1995 to 2006) during which I struggled and lost time. But I try to look back on the good things that occurred during that time. Even though there are black holes of loss, I had my son, and he kept me going and always brought me joy. I had family and friends who cared deeply about me. From 1995 to about 2001, I had a wonderful psychiatrist. I had the most trouble from 2001 to 2003 and landed in the psychiatric ward four times, including in 2003 with a severe manic episode. But then I broke free in a number of ways and changed my life. I would still struggle until I truly came to terms with my bipolar disorder and until I found the awesome psychiatrist I presently see.

I'm not saying that everything became magically better in 2006. I still have ups and downs and difficult times. But overall, I have learned a lot about coping with this illness and about what to do when episodes begin to come on. I've learned the skills of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and these have helped me tremendously. I've also become an advocate for mental illness and try to educate and enlighten others about these conditions. This helps with my own condition.

So while I've lost time, I've also gained. I guess you can't dwell on losses. We all have loss in our lives due to one thing or another. I just happen to have specific losses because of a mental illness. But it's taught me to value time and revel in good times. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nomination

The Mondegreen has nominated my short story "Santa Lucia" for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. I am so honored by this, and while this may sound like something you hear a lot around Academy Award nomination time, it feels great just to be nominated. It really does.

I enjoyed writing this story very much. My Italian Catholic grandmother used to tell me about St. Lucy. If I remember correctly, she had a statue of St. Lucy holding her eyeballs on a plate, or at least a holy card which portrayed this, so I feel the story has a connection to Grandma Mary. I don't know if she would have appreciated this story--it's a little gruesome--but she was always proud of me and her many other grandchildren. When I was a kid, she would ask me to play "Santa Lucia" on my cello, but because I didn't know the song, I'd play another favorite of hers, "You Are My Sunshine". Nevertheless, I can still hear her singing "Santa Lucia" in an attempt to teach it to me. So here's to you, Grandma Mary. And thank you so much to The Mondegreen.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Scariest "Horror" Movie for Generation X?

Tomorrow is Halloween, but I don't watch horror movies more than usual at this time of year. I watch horror movies year round. I love horror movies--the scarier the better.

However, the scariest movie I've ever seen because of when I saw it and what was going on in the world is 1983's The Day After. This isn't a movie about ghosts, zombies, vampires, an exorcism, or a haunted house, but rather nuclear war and its terrifying aftermath. It's not a "horror" movie exactly, but I've always thought of it as one because of how much it scared me.

In 1983 when it aired on television, I was in high school. It was at a very bad time during the Cold War (was there ever a good time?). Being young, I was truly afraid that nuclear bombs from the Soviet Union could drop at any moment. This movie showed what would happen if a nuclear war occurred. After watching it, I was left with a hopeless, despairing, frightened feeling that I recall vividly to this day.

I am a member of Generation X. I think this movie was especially scary for my generation because many of us came of age during the Cold War. I was in high school and college during the Reagan years. There were a lot of fears of nuclear war during this time. The possibility of it, especially for young and impressionable people, felt very real. It shows that reality, or events that could so easily become real, can be more frightening than any horror movie. In fact, for me, horror movies are very much about escapism and getting a thrill out of something that can't become real... or at least we hope.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Social Media and Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes I wonder if on Facebook, Twitter, and here on my blog, I come across as being well all the time. It may seem that way, but the reason for this is that I avoid social media when I'm not feeling well. I fear going on social media when I'm hypomanic or manic because I don't know what I might post. And when I'm depressed or down, I just don't feel like communicating much at all, or else what I communicate might be frighteningly dark and ominous.

I had a severe manic episode years ago during which I was sending e-mail to friends containing barely coherent rants and lengthy thoughts that I believed were important and profound. (This wasn't all I was doing, but I don't feel like getting into the rest.) This was before Facebook and Twitter, so now when I'm "up", I fear doing something like that on a much wider scale. I avoid the temptation by being ultra vigilant, staying away from the computer, and perhaps writing in my private journal instead.

This is my advice to anyone with bipolar disorder: Stay away from social media when you're having an episode. You might regret what you do later. Am I well all the time? No. But I work it out in private. Of course, when you're not thinking straight, it might be hard to remember to do this. One of my ways of keeping myself in check is thinking about my mom, my husband, and my twenty-one year old son. Would I want them to see whatever I'm about to post?

Best of luck to any of you out there with this or any other mental illness. You can live with an illness in this age of social media. You just have to take care to think before you post.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Partial Hospitalization Programs

When you're not well enough to be out of the hospital entirely, but you're well enough to be home at night and on the weekends, a person with mental illness may find themselves in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). I have been in a PHP twice. Both times were because of severe depressive episodes.

The PHP is something like day camp. You go early in the morning to the hospital, bring a lunch which you eat there, and go home in the late afternoon. You go on weekdays--you have weekends off--and it can last for varying amounts of time. As I recall, I was in both times for six weeks.

There's intensive and long group therapy with the full group of about two dozen people. There is also therapy in which the group is broken down into smaller groups. And there is one-on-one therapy with a psychiatrist. There are also discussions about how people are doing and talks from the therapists about mental illness and skills that people can use to deal with their illnesses.

I hated the PHP both times I was in it, but afterward, I found that I loved and missed it. I hated group therapy when I was there. I felt angry and annoyed by the other people and the therapists and didn't want to share my experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I did anyhow--I didn't have much of a choice since we were encouraged and even told by the therapists that we had to talk. But I got to know many of the other people and realized after the fact that I felt a kinship with them. I missed them and wondered how they were doing. The group therapy helped more than I realized while it was happening. I learned skills and used them. I felt less alone knowing there were people out there like me. And I appreciated the chance to work towards getting well without having to be fully hospitalized.

Monday, October 10, 2016

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. I'd like to send well wishes and positive energy to anyone whose life is touched by mental illness.

It was twenty-one years ago this month that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When my son was born twenty-one years ago in March, my doctor thought I had postpartum depression. But the depression wouldn't go away, so he sent me to a psychiatrist. And then I got manic, and the psychiatrist diagnosed me. I have had some terrible, harrowing times with this illness, including four hospitalizations and two times in a partial hospitalization program. But since about 2006, I have been doing well and feeling balanced much of the time. There are several reasons for this. A new psychiatrist whom I continue to see. A good mix of medication. Sobriety. A wonderful support system, including the man I married in 2008. And my beloved son who is a constant source of joy in my life. Even my two cats, Gretchen and William, have brought me peace and steadiness.

To update things to the present day, this World Mental Health Day: I have continued to do a bit of running along with my walking. It's going to take time to get back to where I once was with running, but I'm still at it. I'm working on my second novel and continuing to send out the first. And I continue to write and publish short works.

Again, I wish anyone who lives with mental illness (by way of yourself or a loved one) good energy and peace. Hang in there. It's a bumpy ride, but life is worth it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Eyes

I could list many things that I try never to take for granted, and among those things would be my overall physical health, my mental health when I'm mentally healthy, and my eyes. I wear glasses all the time, from the moment I get up in the morning to the moment I'm ready to go to sleep, because of severe nearsightedness. Now, with age, I'm getting a bit farsighted, so I have a new lense prescription that I have to fill for progressives. It may sound funny, but I'm so grateful that there are such things as corrective lenses.

I got scared when about a year ago, I was diagnosed with mild glaucoma. In fact, I didn't just get scared--I kind of freaked out. My ophthalmologist reassured me that glaucoma is completely treatable and that I need not be so afraid. The first thing we tried was SLT, or selective laser trabeculoplasty. This is a laser procedure that helps to reduce pressure in the eyes. If it works, it can work for up to ten years. However, it doesn't necessarily work for everybody. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. In recent months, my eye pressure became elevated, so my ophthalmologist prescribed eye drops called Latanoprost that I use every night. My pressure has gone down since I started the drops.

So now I'm not only grateful for corrective lenses, but also for glaucoma treatments. I'm grateful for my eyes. I'm a very visual person and need a lot of visual stimulation. My study is full of stuff to look at--for that matter, my whole house is. Some may call it clutter, but if it stirs my imagination and makes me happy, I like it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bipolar Disorder and Traveling This Summer

I went on a week-long trip to Vermont this August and made it through without getting sick! I'm not implying that Vermont would have made me sick--not in the least--nor am I talking about a bipolar episode, but rather sick as in gastroenteritis.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've had a strong tendency to get sick while on vacation. In recent years, I've gotten sick both times I've gone to Hawaii. The first time, I was so sick with some sort of abdominal ailment that we thought I might have appendicitis. I ended up spending a night at a hospital in Waimea, getting hydrated and finding out that I had gastroenteritis. The second time, I got sick while on a snorkeling trip. It seemed to be motion sickness, but it continued for two days. Same symptoms as on my previous trip, hence another bout of gastroenteritis.

So it's a victory for me to get through a week of traveling without getting sick. But the question remains, why do I get sick in the first place? I think it's due to my bipolar disorder and the trouble dealing with stress and change that it can bring. Even good stress is still stress, and even fun change is still change--I don't think my body really knows the difference, and so illness sets in for a couple of days.

With bipolar disorder, routine is a very good thing. Regular sleeping, eating, and exercising are so important for staying balanced. And just the routine things one does from day to day are integral to maintaining wellness. When any of this gets disrupted, something might give, and for me while traveling, it's often been, well, my stomach!

I ask myself, what was different about this trip that kept me well? I believe part of it was sticking to my same sleep routine. Vermont itself is a lovely and relaxing kind of place. I didn't feel rushed to get a lot into a day and my eating schedule was pretty regular, too. Then there's going from New York to Vermont--no jet lag! I also managed to get in some writing and reading which felt so good mentally. I happened to bang up my toe really bad the day before we left for Vermont, so exercise wasn't all that possible, but I did manage a few little hikes. And as odd as it may sound, I think hydration--just being sure to drink a lot of water--is really important when you're on a trip. I drink a great deal of water every day at home, so I made sure to do this in Vermont, too.

I think that these tips are good for anyone who may have trouble traveling, not just someone with a mental illness. You've got to take care of yourself and not let even the good stress and the fun change get you down.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Round Up

I've been fortunate to have had three of my short stories published in The Round Up: "A Good Boy's Tale", "The Adirondack Room", and "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn". "The Adirondack Room" also appeared in The Round Up Greatest Anthology 2015. I love this publication's mission: "We are a space that supports writers and artists who consider boundaries, and then cross them anyway." To any of my writer friends, consider submitting to The Round Up!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Back to Running

I'm in the middle of the third week of doing a bit of running along with my walking. I'm not doing a lot of running. I'm working up very slowly to where I once was. I'm trying to go every day, or if not every day, then at least five days a week.

I love the running parts of my workouts. While these parts are very brief at this time, it feels great to run again. It clears my mind and gives me an awesome endorphin rush. I think that if you can and want to do it, running is an excellent activity for someone with bipolar disorder, or depression, or anxiety, or any number of mental illnesses. I know it really helps my bipolar brain.

I've run in five 5Ks in my life. This is a picture of me running in my third 5K--the East Rochester Karknocker 5K. I hope to run in 5Ks again, but I'm still a long way from that. Nevertheless, I think it's a worthwhile goal to have. So I'm posting my progress here in order to keep up with it. I feel like if I write it down, then I have to keep at it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bipolar Disorder and a Darker Side of Writing

As you may know, I'm working on a book called Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. This project is coming along extremely slowly and is very hard to write. There are many things about my depressive and manic episodes, hospitalizations, and just day-to-day struggles that I don't want to dwell on long enough to write about them. This endeavor has the potential to take me to some very dark places. Just the other night, I was thinking about my worst manic episode ever and subsequent hospitalization, and it really brought me down.

And then I began to wonder... is memoir just a fiction of what the writer is able to write? Is it a narrative that's easier to deal with than reality? I want to write what's true and honest and raw, but how can I do that when it takes me to places in my mind to which I don't want to go? Where I can't go for fear of triggering depression?

So this project remains up in the air. I'm taking a couple weeks of hiatus from it perhaps to come back to it with the strength to write about what truly happened. But I don't know if I can do that. There were some very dark times, both depressive and manic, that I don't want to revisit. But don't I have to if I want to educate and enlighten my readers? I don't have the answers to these questions at this time. It's just something I have to continue to ponder.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Little Running Can Go a Long Way

Yesterday, I ran a little bit for the first time in quite a while. I had stopped running for various reasons including problems with my hypothyroidism and exertional (exercise-induced) headaches. But I missed running and decided to try doing it again. I've been walking, and I walk really fast for the cardio benefits, so I interspersed into my walking a few little bursts of running for fifteen seconds at a time. It's only a very little bit of running at this point, but I've got to start somewhere.

The good part for me is that I went ahead and did it. I was scared that I'd get an exertional headache (they're as bad as migraines), but I'm taking it so slowly that I'm hoping those won't be a problem anymore. Also, I'm forty-nine years old but so what? If I work up to running again slowly, who's to say I can't do it? Now, if I don't like it anymore, then I'll go back to power walking, but at least I'm trying.

I love the runner's high, and while I do get an endorphin burst from power walking, I really get a great feeling when I run. I also used to enjoy running 5Ks. I've run in five of them and would love to do it again if I can. The picture here is of me at my first ever 5K. So we'll see what happens. Whatever happens, the boost to my confidence was great.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Seasons and Bipolar Disorder

According to articles I've read and talks I've had with my psychiatrist, it seems that many people with bipolar disorder are more prone to become manic or hypomanic in the spring and summer when the days get longer and brighter and the temperatures go up. On the other hand, people with bipolar disorder tend to get depressed more frequently in the winter when the days are short and darker and cold (if you live in a cold climate, that is). I live in central New York and our seasons vary widely. It can be like the tropics in the summer and like the arctic in the winter. The differences are radical, and they do affect me.

But strangely, I tend to experience the flip side of what many people with bipolar disorder experience. I usually feel pretty good in the winter. There's something about the cold and dark that make me feel cozy and comfortable inside my house. And I seem to have more time to write, which for me can trigger hypomania or even mania.

In spring and summer, on the other hand, I'm more apt to feel a little depressed. I can get excited and hyper, too, but the depression comes with the additional work that I have to do in the summer (gardening, yard and pool work). I feel overwhelmed, despite really liking gardening and yard and pool work. When I feel overwhelmed, I might also feel down and frozen--unable to figure out what to do first or next.

Of course, I have skills and a lot of help when these feelings come over me. I've got a great support system, good meds, and an excellent doctor. I just find it interesting that the seasons affect me differently than what seems to be the norm. That said, I love all the seasons here in upstate New York. I wouldn't trade them for any other seasonal pattern. Even though I may have some trouble, I love the change of seasons here and having all four seasons.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Importance of Animals

I have two cats, Gretchen (the grey tiger) and William (the black cat). William loves everyone. Gretchen loves all of us in the family, but she's very much my cat. She's with me most of the time.

I think that having an animal is a wonderful thing. Gretchen is my little love and she also functions as a therapy animal when it comes to my bipolar disorder. She calms and soothes and loves me and brings me such happiness, even when I'm feeling really depressed. I don't think I'd handle my disorder as well without her, and I just love cats so much and, for me, they make life so much richer.

Gretchen and William are both twelve years old, and I know they're not going to be around forever, but while I have them, I will love, care for, and enjoy them. When they're gone, I will have more cats because I can't imagine life without a cat. No cat will ever replace the cats I have now, and these cats don't replace cats I've had prior to them, but I believe we all have enough love in our hearts to have many animals throughout our lives.

I know that many people must feel this way about their dogs. I've never had a dog--I'm very much a cat person--but I can imagine that a dog must be an excellent companion, too. I feel that animals are very good writing companions. I love having Gretchen sleeping next to me or near me while I'm writing. I can pet her and give her hugs and feel better about everything, including my writing. When I'm thinking about what to do next with a scene or story, I can pet Gretchen while I think. She's my little writing companion and she's very good at what she does!

Friday, May 13, 2016

First Draft!

Well, I have finished giving birth to the first draft of Hoping It Might Be So. It is now present in the world at twenty-eight chapters; 107,000 words; and 421 double-spaced pages. Welcome to the world, little one. Now I must raise it...or should I say, work on revisions. I really love the revision process because it's when you take the whole story and make it work well, flow well, read well. I know there are a few things I want to cut. Some things that need to be changed. Some necessary additions that might crop up. And I have to work on continuity; I have to make sure the whole thing goes along well without any hiccups.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cruising to the End...

...of the first draft of my novel, Hoping It Might Be So. I've got one chapter left to write, then I'll have a complete draft to revise. Because my main character Matthew is a Mormon, I'm currently doing more research on Mormons to be sure that I have everything right now that everything is written.

This picture of a road (which is public domain, as is the case with all my blog pictures to the best of my knowledge) is a good representation of finishing a draft of a novel. Because the road goes on. Once you have a draft, you have to revise. And not just proofread, but perhaps do some wide scale revision. I know there are a few scenes I want to remove, and some stuff that I've got to pare down, and there's some stuff I want to add. Now that I've almost written two novels, I've realized that it never feels as if they're done. I wonder if when I (hopefully) get a novel published, I'll still look at it and think, "Oh, I should have changed that!" or "Wow, I could have used a better word there." Probably.

I've tried working on my memoir a bit lately, Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. It's been hard to do. There are times that are simply difficult to write about, things I don't want to remember and, in a sense, relive. But I'm determined to write this book. I think I just need to keep working on it slowly and steadily.

Monday, May 2, 2016

In the Pouring Rain

It's pouring right now. I love rain. I love the smell of it, and the smell of ozone when a rainstorm is happening. I walked outside yesterday while it was drizzling and actually enjoyed it. There's something peaceful and yet wistful about rain. Something ineffable.

Today makes me feel like writing a story that takes place in the rain, but I have no firm ideas at this point. I'm so immersed in finishing up this draft of my novel that no short story ideas leap to mind. I do believe that it's good to write short stories while you're working on a novel. Just to take little breaks from novel writing to finish something smaller and to think about other places, characters, and themes. I think it's good for a writer and keeps you in good shape mentally.

I think it's especially good to write a short story after working on an intense scene or chapter. I just wrote an intense chapter which is why I must be finding this rain so wistful and why I'm thinking of writing a story. I don't know what it is--I guess it just gets your mind working in a different way, a different direction, which is refreshing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Poor Matthew

I'm putting the main character of my novel, Matthew Holman, through hell right now. A lot of tough things have happened to him, and he suffers from major depressive disorder and is in the midst of a terrible episode. I'm cruising into the end of this novel, and I'm tormenting Matthew all the while. Will things get better for him in the end? We shall see. I know what happens, but I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers of this novel (whether they be family and friends, or God willing, this book gets published and they're readers of the published novel).

I seem to put a lot of my characters through hell. My short stories tend to be dark, and there's been darkness in both my novels (in Purple Loosestrife, Spencer, one of my main characters, suffers from schizoaffective disorder and has an overall melancholy about him). It's not that I don't have happy or funny moments, but I tend to like darker pieces of work, both when I read and when I write.

By the way, Hoping It Might Be So and Purple Loosestrife happen in the same literary universe. Both take place in my fictional Finger Lakes town of Haversville, which is located on the shore of Seneca Lake. I love traveling to Haversville in my mind.

Monday, April 18, 2016

In Memory of Anne Purcell

Anne Purcell was in my second grade class and lived, for a time, in my neighborhood. We were good friends. I had so much fun when I would play with her. After second grade, Anne switched to Catholic school, and shortly thereafter, she moved out of the neighborhood. We didn't keep in touch, which would have been tough to do as a kid in the 1970s. Even if we'd had e-mail and cell phones, we would have been too young to use these things.

I found out the other day that Anne died of breast cancer. She was forty-nine years old, married, and the mother of two daughters. My heart is heavy and even though I haven't seen Anne is decades, I miss her.

This is the second young friend I've lost in the past few months. I lost Lori, my close friend and former college roommate, in January. And now Anne Purcell is gone.

Rest in peace, Anne.

"Seventy Years to the Day"

I have to this point not written about the last short story I wrote, "Seventy Years to the Day". It's about a man named Nathan, the secretary of the Chemistry Department at a college, who's in love with a woman named Tricia, a celebrated chemist who is on the faculty. Nathan also has an obsession with a gull he visits on the Erie Canal in Fairport, New York, where he lives (Fairport is my actual hometown). It's a 1,400 word story--just a short journey into the life of Nathan, but hopefully a journey that will resonate with the reader.

I've submitted it to a few journals for possible publication. I hope it finds a home. I'm fond of the story because it takes place in my hometown, and because I just love Nathan.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Progress

I'm making progress on my novel Hoping It Might Be So. I'm on chapter 24 of what I think will be 26 chapters total. It's at nearly 90,000 words--Purple Loosestrife is 68,000 words so, as you see, this is a longer novel than my first. I feel like I know more about how to construct a novel. Not that this is the reason it's longer, but I think it's a little more complex. I have one main character, Matthew Holman, and then four other major characters: Gil Egan, Sadie Egan, Veronica McFadden, and Danielle Porter. I don't have as many major characters in Purple Loosestrife.

I'm really enjoying writing this novel and look forward to working on revisions. Then, as with Purple Loosestrife, we'll see where it goes when I start sending it out. This probably won't happen for a while, though, since I have to do the revisions. I've included in this post a picture of my hard copy of the novel, which I keep in a huge pink binder. It's also in a big basket in which I also have the hard copy of Purple Loosestrife and my memoir so far.

I'm making progress in other areas of writing as well. I recently finished a 3,800 word short story entitled "A Good Priest". It's about Father Connall O'Riordan, a man who really is a good priest but has his own ideas about what being a priest is all about. So I keep taking breaks from novel writing to to write short fiction and memoir (memoir not as often since I find it hard to write).

I'm making progress in other areas of life, too. My Fleet Feet No Boundaries WalkFit program is going well. I'm doing a lot more walking on my own during the week than what we're given as homework. It's sunny and warmer this weekend, so it's ideal walking weather. The program would have us walking three times a week, but I'm doing five (or more if I can fit it in). And I'm walking longer distances. So all in all, everything is moving along well. I'm feeling good about April so far, even though it is "the cruellest month".

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Skeleton Dancing on World Bipolar Day

Today, March 30th, is World Bipolar Day. I've posted a picture of a skeleton dancing (a public domain image) because this is how I feel about being open about my bipolar disorder. The skeleton is me, deep down inside, everything revealed, and I'm dancing because I feel good about being open and compliant with my treatment and so well supported by my family, friends, and psychiatrist. I've had bipolar disorder for twenty-one years, and for about the past nine years, I've been doing really well. It's been a difficult journey, and it continues to be daily work, but I feel good about it all.

So why am I so open? It's my goal to advocate for others with mental illness; to help end the stigma and stereotypes of mental illness; and to educate and enlighten people about this chronic, incurable but treatable condition. I see my psychiatrist monthly; I take five medications, and I have an excellent support system. I'm a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and friend. I'm a writer. I am very much like anyone else, except that I have bipolar disorder. It's okay to talk about it, and I'm always willing to answer any questions anyone has. We, the community of people with mental illness, should all be able to feel this way, but unfortunately, many of us feel we can't talk about it or even let it be known. I'd like to see this change, and I try to do my part in bringing about that change.

If you want to know more about bipolar disorder, check out the information on the National Institutes of Mental Health website, the Depression and Bipolar Disorder Support Alliance website, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Another important resource for all people to know is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the phone number is 1-800-273-8255).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Walking in the No Boundaries Program

To keep myself honest and on track, I'll post here that I'm starting the Fleet Feet No Boundaries Program tonight. I'll be in the walking group because I haven't run in so long and, if I do run again, I've got to work up to it slowly. The program is ten weeks long, and at the end of it, we all do a 5k race. I'll be walking the 5k.

In the future, I don't know if I'll remain a walker or if I'll run again. I ran into problems with running. I have hypothyroidism, and there have been times when my thyroid wasn't right, which made it very hard to run. And then I started having exertional (exercise-induced) headaches that were the worst headaches I've ever had. I had to take a low dose of Metoprolol, a blood pressure medication, to keep those away (and I don't even have high blood pressure). Because of the headaches, I started walking and only walking, but I took the medication for fear that the headaches might happen with walking, too. I'm off of it now, and all is well with walking. But will the headaches happen if I run again?

I would like to be able to run again. I liked running and started doing it at age fourteen. I've run in a few 5k races and enjoyed them. But if I can't or decide not to run again, then I'd like to be a fast and powerful walker. This program will get me started and keep me going until it's a routine and not hit and miss the way it has been.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Point of View

Bare with me... I'm kind of just thinking out loud here. In my novel, Hoping It Might Be So, I'm trying to figure out whose points of view I should stick with. (By the way, my novel is not in first person point of view.) Right now, I have a few small sections that are in certain characters' points of view, and these characters don't have any other sections in their points of view. So I'm thinking I should stick with five major characters: Matthew Holman (of course--he's the main character), Gil Egan, Sadie Egan, Veronica McFadden, and Danielle Porter. Matthew, Gil, and Sadie are very
important throughout the whole novel; Veronica is important in Part Two; and Danielle is important in Part Three. I really need to show various things through these five characters' eyes. My points of view will change within chapters, but I have section breaks to help signify this.

Point of view can be a difficult thing. One could always use an omniscient point of view, but that wouldn't work well for this novel. One could also move from point of view to point of view right within a single section or scene, but I'm not fond of this (some would call it head hopping). So I'm going with limited third person point of view, and I've narrowed it down to these five major characters, which means I'll have to fix some earlier parts of the novel. But that's all part of the writing process! I keep notes about what I have to go back and fix. I'm most interested now in finished a working draft that I can then work on as a whole.

I'm getting close to being done with that working draft. I think I have about a quarter left of the novel to write. I'm excited to have this finished so that I can get to work on revision. I enjoy all of the writing process, even proofreading.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Spring Equinox!

One of the things I love about my native New York state is the change of seasons. Today is the first day of spring and I wish you all a Happy Equinox!

I've included here a picture of my front yard the way it will look in a few more weeks. We don't have leaves coming out yet, but we have buds, and I have tulips coming up and crocuses blooming. As is typical with New York, it's very cold today. Only 28 degrees as I write this.

I've been thinking of my friend Lori who passed away this January. I remember that it was about a year ago that she wrote to me how much she was looking forward to spring and all the renewal. She got to see spring a year ago, and I'm glad for that. I miss her very much, but there's one thing her death has made me even more adamant about: to appreciate the loveliness of the seasons and to always look for beauty.

In upstate New York, there is so much beauty. Every season has its own merits--yes, even winter, long as it may be--and we have so many beautiful places here, my favorite being the Finger Lakes. I also love Lake Ontario and Letchworth State Park and little Mendon Ponds Park and my own yard with all its plants, trees, bushes, and flowers. We're blessed that the people who lived here before us did some fantastic landscaping. I just have to keep it up. It can be work, but fortunately, I love to garden. Soon, I'll have a lot of it to do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Depression Not a Disease?!

I just read a Facebook ad that stated: "Depression is not a disease. It's a symptom. Inflammation is at the root of depression." I respectfully disagree and believe this is a dangerous way to look at a serious medical illness. While I realize that there are many factors involved in the development, diagnosis, and manifestation of depression, I firmly believe that it is a brain disorder--a biochemical disease.

Of course, I know I'm just reacting to a little Facebook ad, but it can be the little things that get inside a person's head. I just want to say here that I find this point of view to be reckless and a potential aid to the stigma that surrounds the disease of depression.



Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Novel's Progress

My novel, Hoping It Might Be So, is coming along well. It has three parts: Part One: Missionary, Part Two: Man, and Part Three: Matthew. I'm now working on Part Three and I'm on Chapter 20.

Of course, getting the whole thing written is only the beginning. Once I have a full working draft, I have to go through it and revise, rewrite, reorganize, add to it and subtract from it--all that good stuff that's part of the writing process. I've been keeping notes about certain things I know I want to or have to change. And I have to check for continuity, and make sure that dates and times are right, etc. There's so much fun yet to be had! But I really do think it's fun. I love the writing process and love revising and working on writing.

This is a picture of my novel so far. The post-it notes and page tags mark places where I know I have to do or change certain things. They also mark time for continuity. This is my hard copy of the novel. I also have it saved on my laptop's hard drive, a thumb drive, and an external hard drive. I think it's important to have multiple copies in multiple places. I love the hard copy because I can see it grow as I add pages and chapters, and I can flip through it easily.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grief and Bipolar Disorder

These first two months of 2016 have been difficult. In January, I lost a dear longtime friend to non-smokers lung cancer. And this month of February, I lost my uncle (he was also my godfather) to complications from bladder cancer. My heart is broken over these losses. I've included in this post a picture of my friend Lori from college, where we met, and a picture of my Uncle Bob at his beloved Honeoye Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes.

Depression is, of course, a part of bipolar disorder. It's been a big part of my bipolar disorder as I tend to experience depression more frequently than mania. I've had severe manic episodes and hypomania, but I've had more depressive episodes and, if not full-out episodes, less intense feelings of depression--the sadness, apathy, fatigue, anxiety.

Grief causes similar feelings--sadness indeed, but also, for me at least, anxiety. As I feel grief over the loss of my friend as well as a close, intense grief over the loss of my uncle, I have to ask myself, is this depression? Have I crossed over from grief into depression?

I think the answer is generally no, though I have to keep track of how I feel to make sure that I haven't become depressed. I think there have been times when I have. When Lori first died, I experienced about a week of what seemed to become depression more than grief. I obsessed about life after death and where Lori went. I thought about my own death and what will happen to me and where I'll go, if anywhere. Then I started to have deluded thinking about snakes getting into my house. I didn't experience hallucinations of snakes, but I felt that it was a very real possibility that one might get into the house. I called my psychiatrist, and for a few days, she had me increase the anti-psychotic I take. It helped, and talking to her helped as well.

Since talking to my doctor when my friend died, I feel I've stayed within the realm of grief over my uncle's death. I've had days here and there on which I feel depressed, but I haven't had deluded thinking, and I haven't experienced irrational fears or much obsessional thinking. I must emphasize much obsessional thinking, because I have had some. All my life, I've tended to get into ruts of thinking about life after death, or if there is life after death, or what the purpose of life is and fearing that there's no purpose at all in the end. I think of these thoughts as my "go to" anxiety and depression thoughts.

Through it all, I've realized that grief feels a lot like depression, but it's different because it has a reason for being. And I've realized that it's okay to feel grief and that, if I keep in touch with my doctor, use my skills, take my medication, and keep careful watch over myself, I can prevent grief from turning into depression. It's difficult--grief is difficult--but one can be a person with bipolar disorder who's grieving, and that's just what I am right now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Eyeballs and Their Consequences

My short story "Santa Lucia" is now available to read at The Mondegreen. This is a story about three women: Lucy, who lives in modern day America; Lucia, who lives in Sicily in 304 A.D.; and Lucia, who lives in Milan in 1898. This is also a story about eyeballs and their consequences.

I had a lot of fun researching and writing this story. I hope that everyone who reads it enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What I'm Currently Reading...

I'm reading a fun little horror novel I found on Amazon called The Haunting at Blackwood Hall. It's by Barrymore Tebbs. I love horror for the escapism. Horror can actually cheer me up when I'm feeling down.

I'm also still reading Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser. I love it. I'm still reading it, however, because it's a long read and I'm not that fast of a reader. And in keeping with my love of science, I recently started Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I'm surprised that I've never read this classic before.

I recently finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers and really enjoyed it. It's quite an indictment of our digital/electronic society and "transparency" and the abundance of information we now have. It's a good dsytopian novel that takes place in what appears, and what is considered by its characters, to be a utopia. Interesting.

I plan to start reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. It's waiting for me at the library. I discovered this one in a NAMI article about characters in literature who are dealing with mental illness. This of course is right up my alley. We'll see what I think of this novel.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Elbow and Other Stuff

I recently wrote that I had one major goal for early 2016, which was to paint my bedroom brown. Well, I was recently diagnosed with a very sore case of tennis elbow and this throws off my goal. It's my left arm, and I'm right handed, but I use my left hand and arm quite often, including while painting. So now I'm not sure what will happen with the painting. I guess I'll just have to wait until the elbow gets better.

Concerning other matters, 2016 has started off rough. I lost a close friend to cancer. Lori was one of my best friends in college at SUNY Buffalo, where we both got our bachelor's degrees, and she was my roommate for two years. She died of non-smokers lung cancer. I've felt very sad about it, which triggered about a week of depression. I'm feeling better now, though I'm still sad about this loss.

As far as writing goes, things are pretty good. I'm working on chapter 16 of Hoping It Might Be So and continuing to send out Purple Loosestrife. I feel a need to write a short story, but nothing has struck me as of yet.

Today we're in the midst of a typical Syracuse snowstorm. Snow days abound! The picture is of our cars in our driveway. They're covered, and the snow continues to fall.