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, Masque & Spectacle, 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!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lobotomy and Rosemary Kennedy

I'm currently reading Kate Clifford Larson's Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter. Rosemary Kennedy, the intellectually disabled sister of President John F. Kennedy, was lobotomized in 1941 due to her disability and erratic moods and intractable behavior. She was twenty-three. She lived to be eighty-six.

I'm at the point in the book where the author is describing lobotomy, what it was like to have one performed, and whom the typical candidate for a lobotomy was. It was chilling to read that people with bipolar disorder were given lobotomies. At this point, I haven't read exactly what Rosemary's lobotomy did to her, and I'd have to research them more to learn what the general outcome was, but I know that it wasn't good. You just can't slice up the frontal lobe and expect a beneficial outcome. But I have to learn more to know the specifics.

At this point in my understanding, it scares me to know of a "could have been" as far as having bipolar disorder. Had I been alive in the early 1940s, this could have been my fate. I am grateful for being born when I was and getting diagnosed in 1995. I have received excellent care during the past twenty-two years, and I only see things improving as more research is done into the treatment of mental illnesses. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants) were still somewhat new when I was diagnosed, but they existed. And throughout the past twenty-two years, other medications have come onto the scene. some of which I take.

In all, I take an SSNRI (selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), an NDRI (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor), an atypical antipsychotic, an anticonvulsant (which works as a mood stabilizer), and a benzodiazepine (in order, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Abilify, Lamictal, and Klonopin). It's a lot, but the combination works for me and has kept me out of the hospital since 2003. Aside from medication, I do talk therapy with my psychiatrist. I've learned DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) and know a bit about CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

My treatment is involved and requires a lot of compliance and effort on my behalf, but to think that at one time, I could have been given a lobotomy makes me so grateful for what I have instead.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

An Acceptance and Books of the Summer

I recently had my story "A Good Priest" accepted by Masque & Spectacle. I'm glad to have found a home for the young, devastatingly handsome, morally ambiguous Father Connall O'Riordan.

I'm still working on chapter twenty of Dark and Bright. Because I garden and have to do yard and pool maintenance, I seem to write a bit slower in the summer, even though I write just about daily. In the winter here in central New York, I'm obviously inside a whole lot more.

As for books, I'm currently reading the last of Shirley Jackson's novels that I haven't yet read, Hangsaman. I'm also reading Kate Clifford Larson's Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, the story of Rosemary Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's sister, who had developmental disabilities and was lobotomized at the age of twenty-three. It's very interesting.

My to-be-read pile is huge, and I really want to soon take on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. I also want to start over and finally finish James Joyce's Ulysses.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Blog Post About Me

Excellus's Jan Caster wrote a blog post about me on Excellus's website A Healthier Upstate. It's about my battle with bipolar disorder, the ups and downs of it, and my fighting spirit in living with it. I'm honored that Excellus chose me for this article. It's called "Bipolar Diagnosis Frees Emily's Fighting Spirit".

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer Writing

I continue to work on the first draft of my novel Dark and Bright. I'm about to embark on chapter twenty. I'm thinking that it might have about twenty-seven chapters, but it's hard to say. I know what happens and how it ends of course; I just don't know if I can estimate how that will fit in terms of chapters.

I also just wrote a little memoir piece called "Always Summer". I intend to for it to go somewhere in Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. By the way, that's a working title. I'm not sure I love it and may come up with something different.

I feel an urge to write a short story but nothing leaps to mind yet. I've got a few pieces out in the world that I'm waiting to hear about, and I need to submit some more. As far as reading goes, I've got Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir going, and Haruki Murakami's story collection Men Without Women. Both books are excellent.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Decompressing... An Important Activity

It's so important with bipolar disorder to maintain a strict routine, or at least it is for me. I have to get eight hours of sleep, and I typically go to sleep at 9 or 9:30 p.m. and get up at 5 or 6 a.m. (I love mornings). I also try to eat and take medications at the same time each day. And exercising most days of the week is important.

If I deviate from this routine too much or for too long a period of time, I risk bringing on an episode of either depression or mania. This past Fourth of July holiday, I got a little bit off of my routine, and I'm working today to reestablish it. On July 2nd, I was up late due to fireworks; on July 3rd, I went to an evening party; and on July 4th, I went to my extended family's picnic, which required a long round trip drive. I was up late for three nights in a row, busy by day, and up early each day despite going to sleep late.

Therefore, I need to decompress today. This isn't anything all that specific. It just means taking the day at a slower pace than usual. It also means doing activities that I love and that typically calm me. I would advise anyone with bipolar disorder, or depression, anxiety, any mental disorder that you have to work with to stay well, to be sure to decompress after your days have been outside of the usual pattern.