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.