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!

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.