Where I’m At With My Writing

Where I’m At With My Writing

Five years ago I finished a novel currently titled The Glorious In-Between, which originally concentrated on what it meant to be asexual as a teen. Then it evolved from there because you can’t have only that defining a book. Sexuality itself isn’t a story. It’s a defining characteristic that can complicate a story, so I’ve built it in layers over the years. 2018 was the last time I touched the book, and then this pandemic hit, I got furloughed from work, and I found myself with plenty of time to sit down and get back to it. I said I was going to prioritize the third book in The Stars Trilogy, but the future of my current publisher is unknown thanks to COVID, so my books can only be purchased through Lulu or in print on Amazon.

Well, now I’m going to have plenty of time for the foreseeable future since my position as a personal trainer was eliminated entirely; I am without work. It’s honestly been gutting because I loved that job. It also doesn’t help to see “essentials” teasing “non-essentials” when, in reality, essentials aren’t any safer. After all, people in my husband’s industry (trucking) have been losing their jobs and having pay cuts. Physical therapists are also essential, but many have been furloughed, depending on where they work.

Since receiving that news, it’s been hard keeping a regular writing schedule. I am at a chicken-or-the-egg scenario right now. It’s hard to know if depression is stemming entirely from the loss of a job I was passionate about, or if my bipolar disorder is tipping downward (again), or if it’s a mixture of both and the job loss sped up the process. I’m also undergoing a dosage change with my Depakote and am currently waiting on confirmation about whether or not I have hypothyroidism, most likely caused by my Lithium.

There’s really no point in guessing. All I can do is accept that this is how I feel.

I am the type of person who experiences her emotions all at once when disappointment strikes, and so my heartbreak doesn’t last long because I’m not trying to push away the pain. Yet, anyone else would look in on and me and be convinced I’m taking the loss of my job extra hard. After all, I am in a much better place than others who have lost a job since I live at home with my parents. They’re not putting any pressure on me. All of my debt has also been paid off, so I owe nothing for the foreseeable future. I have PT school to look forward to, which could, for all I know, make holding any job impossible anyway, even though it is a flex program.

I was born anxious. It doesn’t take much to flare it, and it’s been my fuel lately.

While I am done with the first round of revisions of TGIB, I have been struggling with that hollowness common with depression, which has made doing further work on it difficult. But I added a new plot thread to up the stakes for my MC since my query letter on AbsoluteWrite was torn to shreds and revealed a rather glaring flaw in the storyline itself–at least in my opinion. Now my second pass will be checking to make sure the plot thread has been developed appropriately, along with adding a few other things to add some color to the story (McMansions, anyone?). Then another pass through to cut down on words and probably, hopefully, one more for proofreading. It has been beta read in the past, so I might seek out one more, unless having the synopsis looked over is a sufficient enough guide for any further edits the book itself might need.

A secret I don’t think I ever told anyone is When Stars Die only ever had one beta reader.

Hopefully all of that will take about a month or less.

Right now I am gaining distance from TGIB, but it’s been hard to do anything at all productive otherwise. I should be making notes of things to keep an eye out for in TGIB. I should also be coming up with another title because TGIB no longer accurately describes the book. I should also be preparing my query letter and synopsis for When Stars Die, just in case things do fall through with my current publisher. I’ll see what small presses are out there. Otherwise, self-publishing it is.

I also finished outlining a brand new novel, although now I’m going to have to edit the outline itself because I decided to change who my protagonist is going to be. So that’s another thing I should be working on but is hard to do.

I get it. It’s an uncertain time for everyone and rough for some. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. It’s just maddening, as usual, that you have things that can keep you productive, but you’re being held back by the voice of mental illness living in your mind.

At least I have made progress since this all started.


Turns Out My Bipolar Disorder Has Not Shut Up

Turns Out My Bipolar Disorder Has Not Shut Up

So prior to 2018, I believe I enjoyed three years of pure stability. Then 2018 came, and the one medication I was on just for bipolar, Lamictal, stopped working entirely. I wound up in the hospital, had my Seroquel upped (which then became for my bipolar AND still for my sleep) because I was manic. Of course I learned during that hospitalization that mania is much harder to treat, and even more so because I was rapid cycling and would wind up in mixed states (mania and depression at the SAME TIME!). So I got out, had my Lamictal upped, and it still wasn’t doing anything.

I stayed out of work for a little bit to deal with everything, with nothing improving, then went back to work. Lo and behold, I started experiencing symptoms of paranoia: impending feelings of doom, that something-bad-is-going-to-happen-but-I-don’t-know-what feeling; intrinsically knowing that no one is following me but still being freaked out by people; and just in general being terrified for reasons I could not explain.

That landed me in the hospital again when I told my therapist. 6 hospitalizations thus far in my life. Let’s hope no more. Then I got started on Lithium, got diagnosed with a non-specific personality disorder (which actually never became official because I really don’t have one), and threw a fit in my therapist’s office one day upon release because I was still rapid cycling and angry the Lithium wasn’t started out at a larger dose so I could get off the merry-go-round sooner.

Rapid cycling is honestly THE worst type of bipolar to have because you cannot predict your moods from day-to-day. One day you’re planning on getting a lot done, and the next hour or even day, you don’t care to do any of it and are planning your next suicide attempt–and when you’re mixed, you are so angry.

Rapid cycling is the Cthulhu of bipolar.

Eventually my Lithium was upped…and it seemed like something was trying to happen.

My highs weren’t as high, but my lows were crushing, plummeting into this black, disgusting sludge, a low I had never experienced in my time of having this disorder. I was so apathetic I couldn’t even be in my usual active suicidal state. I was passively suicidal, as my therapist said, which she said could be worse because it meant you had no survival instinct. I was also angry. Livid. Furious that I felt like I was being strung along, be made worse.

She was right about my passivity. A car could hit me, and I wouldn’t have moved. I got into a nasty mountain biking accident that could have been worse without a helmet and if my hip weren’t already jammed–it was un-jammed after striking the ground with an unquantifiable force–it likely would have been dislocated. My recklessness made me continue on with the ride. My deliberate recklessness made me get into the wreck! I was just reckless, okay? I remember once being so manic in 2018 that I was hauling 80 on a 45 mph road and started swerving. If someone had been in the other lane, I would have crashed. I am a goody-two-shoes lady, and I drank in public–and while driving. Thinking about this behavior in a more sane mind horrifies me; it’s bone chilling.

That’s what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder is no joke, which is why I don’t take kindly to “cutesie” jokes about women being bipolar.  It’s sexist for one, entirely dismissing a woman’s voice. In any case…

So Depakote was added and that brought me back to a little bit above baseline. It seemed like I was finally on an even keel. That happened December of 2018.

Then some time in the middle of last year I started having some problems again. The first time it happened, I thought it was my bipolar disorder, but once I hit my cycle, the depression went away. And it kept going this way. Roughly two weeks before my cycle, some minor depression, then normalcy.

I thought it was pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder and didn’t bother doing anything about it. The depression was mild enough that I could still function–and I wasn’t suicidal so that was a plus. I was also going to be seeing my primary in a couple of months, and I knew the only thing that could treat PMDD was birth control. So I was prescribed birth control December of last year and waited until I had my natural cycle before starting in January.

What I haven’t yet mentioned until now is that I was on a generic of Loryna at the beginning of last year, but it put me in a state of chronic depression and agitation, so I quit it, and those problems went away. But I was put back on Loryna last December since my primary told me sometimes you can have a different reaction to a generic.

It seemed the Loryna was working. I didn’t have any depression or aggression or anxiety or any of that. But then five weeks, I believe, into taking Loryna, the aggression started to occur, so I quit that thinking it was the Loryna, which I don’t even know now. It did not take long for me to feel like I was going on an even keel again.

Then things stopped making sense. My cycle is naturally irregular to begin with, so I don’t know if this was January or February. But I thought things were going to be okay, until the depression hit me in the MIDDLE of my cycle and lasted a total of three weeks–so it stretched two weeks beyond my cycle. PMDD has a very specific criteria that states the depression MUST occur prior to the cycle and end right before. So I figured it was my bipolar…until I got better again.

Then near the end of March, the depression was latching on to me again. But I decided to pay more attention to my mental states because it was starting to get very confusing. This depression, after all, hit me some time after my cycle and ended just this past weekend. These last two depressive cycles have also been markedly worse, but, again, with much confusion, not a typical depressive episode because being around people made me feel better, made me feel safe. Energized, even. I usually want to be alone.

So now I’m grasping on to all of the symptoms besides depression to make sense of the semi-head scratching revelation my psychiatrist told me yesterday over the phone: mixed episodes characterizing hypomania and depression with rapid cycling back to my baseline.

Take some Depakote in the morning now.

I suppose that makes sense. It has to make more sense than PMDD at this point because you can’t have PRE-menstrual dysphoric disorder without having depression BEFORE. Otherwise, it’d probably just be call Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, and I don’t think I’m some brand-new special case. It was likely just happenstance that it happened before initially, or fluctuating hormones could have been influencing the rapid cycling. What clued her to my possible state was when she asked me what my other symptoms were, and the first thing I told her was aggression.

Aggression can be part of depression, but it also turns out hypomania isn’t always fun, especially when you’re browsing Facebook, inhibitions lowered, and setting your vicious claws into people whose comments you perceived to be, well, dumb. It’s not always endless amounts of energy you want to use productively. Sometimes it’s being aggressive and blowing up when your tea kettle reaches past the boiling point, a thing only possible in those with mental illness. Sometimes it’s yelling at your boss at the fitness desk where there are members and suddenly realizing you’re not yourself without a Snickers bar. Sometimes it’s blowing up again with even nastier curses with members around. And, sometimes, it’s just ranting and ranting and blowing up and having anxiety.

But part of being in a mixed state also means the depression part takes away your desire to do anything productive with that energy–so that’s probably why you’re aggressive. You also want to self-harm. Why? Who knows? That’s the brain. That’s bipolar disorder in a nutshell! And of course you don’t look forward to much. Yet, you can be distracted, something that’s very hard for me with straight-up depression. I suppose that’s good; however, it has to be constant distraction.

This thing is confusing, so I wonder if if the generic birth control was ever a problem to begin with or if bipolar disorder just started practicing the art of masking once I got some decent meds in me. After all, without those meds, this problem would be so much worse.

I am in a stable spot, but that can change. Even so, I hope it’s under control by then.


Mental Health Update

Mental Health Update

I just want you all to know that it might be some time again before I do a serious blog post, mostly because I think I am becoming depressed again. I am not certain, but I feel it and have seen no signs of cessation. The diminishing of my appetite is often a serious sign that something is wrong, but until I get my head screwed on straight, the only writing I’ll be doing is outlining for an SNI (shiny new idea) and writing for When Stars Rise. Otherwise, it might be a few more days. I do know what I want to blog about, but I just don’t have it in me to blog about it. It’s too much for me right now. Heck, everything is too much for me right now, but I’ve got to keep coping and not succumb to this possible depressive episode.

I can tell you, however, that the next post will be about where I want to go with my writing–I want to take my writing to a more literary level. Less genre. My SNI will be included in the post.


Mental Illness Questionnaire, Critique, and Line Edits

Mental Illness Questionnaire, Critique, and Line Edits

*Note: Anyone who contributes will be going in the acknowledgements of this book.

I am nearing the end of His Vanity and very much want to rally my Stars on board to help me with the line edits of this thing once I get around to them. I don’t have an official blurb for the novel, but here’s one I threw together: Gene White is a suicidal teen rescued by a puppeteer and doll maker who wants to protect him from a man in a gold suit. But this proves difficult when this man in a gold suit torments Gene’s own mind in an attempt to make him his. Feel free to critique the blurb. It is something I just threw together but would love comments on. I did mention in one post what I wanted to accomplish with this novel, so I’ll list those again.

  1. To get across that mental illness is serious and real and should be treated as any other illness.
  2. Mental illness is chronic. For many, it’s forever, and sometimes medication and therapy aren’t enough, especially if the illnesses are resisting medication.
  3. Illnesses that aren’t being effectively treated are pretty much terminal. Especially those who suffer from suicidal ideation, mental illness can be a cancer of the mind.
  4. Some pain doesn’t get better, or it gets better, but only for a short amount of time. But that doesn’t mean one should just quit fighting.
  5. Let’s be honest: Mental Illness sucks. It really sucks. There is nothing heroic or beautiful about being mentally ill and being able to live IN SPITE of it. You’re simply living with a sucky illness that can make your mind turn on you at any moment. And then you’re left helpless, and even if you do overcome it, you’ve sustained some trauma just from your own mind betraying you.
  6. It doesn’t matter why someone is mentally ill. What matters is that they are ill at all and need help, whatever help can be given.

If there is anything profound you’d like to mention about mental illness, particularly suicide or depression, feel free to add to the above list because I would like to make HIS VANITY a contemporary fantasy with literary elements that says something about the universal human condition of coping with pain and why we fear pain so much. Okay, now that I’ve listed what I’d like to accomplish with the book, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. In list form, again.

  1. Some of Gene’s idols, ironically, include people who have ended their lives by suicide. He doesn’t idolize their suicide but idolizes them for what they did in life. They include Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe, and Sylvia Plath. Would you be interested in Gene including some of their quotes at pertinent points in the book, quotes that relate to suicide or mental illness in some form?
  2. Just how much do you want Gene to delve into depression and suicide? In my current draft, he delves into the nitty gritty of it and is as real as a teen can be about it. A note: I don’t want to sugar coat these intense topics.
  3. Gene develops a crush on a girl who looks his age but is in fact a few decades older than him. Obviously no relationship is going to develop between them but Gene holds on to the crush because it feels good to him. Do you want it to stay just a cute little crush, or do you want me to really delve into Gene’s sexuality to show that in spite of his depression, he is still capable of feeling and feeling deeply? He doesn’t want to deny himself any good feeling he can latch on to because he doesn’t experience good feelings that often.
  4. Claude is the puppeteer and doll maker who rescued Gene. He is about tough love–mostly getting Gene to do what he should be doing, like taking care of himself. However, Claude does have some natural fatherly feelings toward Gene. Claude has his own POV chapters. How deep would you like me to delve into these fatherly feelings?
  5. Why do you think life is valuable?
  6. If you had to live the rest of your life in pain (serious pain), what reasons would you have to keep going?
  7. I want the title to be literary in nature. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars came from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Knowing what you know about Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Edgar Allen Poe (especially Poe) and applying the universal human condition of pain, throw some title ideas out there for me.

I would appreciate all answers in the comments below!

In Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

In Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

tumblr_mock2ovc4x1rivzjmo1_400May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I had no idea. I should have known, but I guess with being so busy with all this ballet and writing-related stuff, the world has passed me by. But I’ve been more mood swingy lately, and I’m not sure what’s going. Earlier today I broke down crying because I felt so bad, but now I feel fine–I think. Is all this busyness catching up to this fragile mind, or is Mother Nature about to send me her Gift, even though I don’t think I’m due for this said Gift for another month? I don’t know, but I have a psychiatrist’s appointment next month, so if it continues, I’m just going to try not to let it get to me. I might sleep in later tomorrow. That might help. I might slow down tomorrow too, take a walk on the treadmill–I get to see Man of Steel tomorrow night! Huzzah! But if my mood is about to take a turn for the worst, I don’t want to let it overpower me because I simply can’t because I have this life now, this career I want to develop, and a client who depends on me to whip his manuscript into shape. And I will do it.

But I wanted to write about the breakdown that landed me in my first psychiatric hospital in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve never talked about it for reasons I can’t even think of, so I might as well finally talk about it.

It probably started some time last summer. My body was giving me grief in ballet. I’d be in so much pain during barre exercises that I couldn’t move anymore. My sleep also became spotty. Some nights I’d fall asleep just fine, and other nights it would take hours. I struggled with unrefreshed sleep already because I’d wake up frequently throughout the night and then go back to sleep, but it happened maybe once or twice a week. Those times sucked because I’d have to pretty much take bed rest due to pain from unrefreshed sleep. Eventually I thought I had gotten my sleeping problem under control, until the fall came, and, out of nowhere, I just couldn’t fall asleep.

I’d lie in bed for hours, unable to get myself tired enough to fall asleep, so I’d sleep like maybe four hours a night, and even then they were four hours of unrefreshed sleep. I finally got fed up and got some Tylenol PM, which did help, but the damage was already beginning. In spite of sleeping well, or seemingly well, I was moody and couldn’t understand why. It was also flare season for my fibromyalgia, so I was in pain everyday, but I couldn’t fight it like I was able to when it first emerged, probably because I realized fibro is forever. About once every week or two weeks, hypomania would claim me, which didn’t make sense to me because I felt so euphoric but my sleep was crap.

I didn’t start becoming suicidal until the crashes from hypomania. I had felt so great then and kept wondering why I couldn’t re-claim that feeling, why I couldn’t simply get over the thick despair choking me. My fibro flares weren’t helping either. I just couldn’t believe that the illness was forever, that I was always going to be in pain, and it didn’t help that I was working a lot while going to school, so the stress just made me a ticking time bomb.

My parents also think the Lyrica I was on at the time may have had something to do with the suicidal feelings, and that could have been it–at first. Lyrica can be used to treat bipolar disorder, so I suppose it’s a possibly it could have had an adverse effect on my mental health. tumblr_mifyjn5H7m1r1gj30o1_500 I was breaking down though. I probably broke down at least three times a week, where I’d cry alone in my room and sometimes cut to stop the pain that made no sense to me.

Eventually my friend found my Tumblr and contacted the guidance counselors, who contacted the dean because they can’t force me to see them since their appointments are scheduled. So I saw the dean of students who was genuinely concerned about my mental health as a person, not just a student. She encouraged me to see the school counselor, even though I was waiting on the referral to see a psychiatrist. She also became my ally, my advocate. So I decided to see a guidance counselor who, because of my suicidal feelings, thought it was best I not be alone for the weekend since my parents were going to visit my brother.

My fiancé stayed with me, and I felt horrible the entire weekend. I seriously considered swallowing a bottle of Unisom sleep gels because I couldn’t take the pain anymore and couldn’t stand waiting to see a psychiatrist. I skipped out on work Sunday not only because my stomach felt horrible but because the stress from this undiagnosed mental illness just debilitated me. It was then that I decided the best thing for me would be hospitalization because it would get me in to see a psychiatrist and would get me started on a proper course of treatment. Plus, it would keep me safe from myself, and I figured it’d be a good place to “detox” from the Lyrica.

But, of course, things were not so simple. The Remeron I was prescribed launched me into a severe manic episode. I should have known something was wrong when I felt immediately better THE NEXT DAY after taking it. So it was probably within a week I went manic, and I was manic for the next two weeks before finally being hospitalized again because the psych appt. the first hospital scheduled me was too far out. But I suppose the good thing about going manic on Remeron was that I received what I’m sure is the right diagnosis because antidepressants don’t make you manic unless you’re predisposed to bipolar disorder, or so it’s believed. Wellbutrin, a med I took a few months ago, also made me manic, but it took longer to do so.

But I’m in therapy now and on meds that I pray aren’t crapping out on me. I’ll just have to really gauge my mood now, which is what sucks about bipolar disorder. It’s often a life-long illness and any change in mood that happens for seemingly no reason makes you alarmed.

The Road to Resilience

The Road to Resilience

Cover of "The Power of Now: A Guide to Sp...
Cover via Amazon

Today’s guest blogger is Linda! You can find her here.

Thank you Amber for having me as a guest blogger today. I want to  share some thoughts I have about human resilience in the face of loss.  Life is a series of continuous losses. After you take your first breath,  you find your way on the path towards your final one. Our cells constantly  regenerate. In fact, it is known that our bodies completely change every  seven years. Typically people equate death with loss and sometimes use  those terms interchangeably. Yet, loss is pervasive and incredibly universal.  Here are some common losses to consider: loss of health, loss of youth,  loss of innocence, loss of a relationship, loss of teeth, loss of weight,  loss of physical strength, loss of vitality, loss of purpose, loss of   money.  Even if we live in the same home and work at the same building,  our atmosphere is constantly changing. Quantum physics has proven that  your favorite chair is really made up of energy particles that are not  solid matter. Change, loss, regeneration, motion……. change, loss,  regeneration, motion…… This theme is one of the few constants in  the human experience.

So how do we cope when the human ego craves the status quo and desperately  tries to hold on to what is familiar and safe? The first step is always  the same: acceptance. When one grieves a loss, it may take a while  to come to acceptance, but once there, the path to resilience is within  reach. Eckhart Tolle espouses that acceptance of what is will lead to  inner peace. In his book The Power of Now , Tolle  says,

“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what  is, surrender to the Now.

Let it teach you Being.

Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself,  to be real.

Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living  and dying into a problem.”

The idea of non-resistance has been embraced readily in the East,  but not as much in the Western world. However, the popularity of Tolle’s  work , along with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices, has made  this concept more palatable across the globe.

A receptive attitude towards life is also essential to the cultivation  of resilience. To be receptive means to be open to new ideas and possibilities,  even in the throes of pain and sadness.  It also includes the ability  to look at situations in a new light and the awareness of a larger worldview.  For example, deciding to move to a new city so that your partner can  accept a new position may leave one feeling conflicted about giving  up their current social connections and comfortable lifestyle. Yet,  with a receptive attitude, one can see how this decision to support  your partner may also bring them into alignment with a fulfilling new  career path, nurturing like-minded friends, and awaken a dormant sense  of adventure and vitality.

It is often much easier to make these behavioral changes in community.  Community can mean biological family, family of creation, spiritual/  religious group, neighborhood circle, social media, or outside support  system. For those who need additional support with the grieving process  or making transitions, a support group or therapy group often can provide  the community and treatment/support necessary to face the crisis in  a healthy manner. I have worked many years as a therapist with people  dealing with acute and chronic mental health challenges. The amount  of loss and trauma many of these individuals carry is close to unimaginable.  Often a history of abuse and/ or trauma is present in those with certain  mental health issues, which can trigger substance abuse through self-medication.  This choice can create more loss and trauma, along with the traumas  inherent that many encounter in the mental health and criminal justice  systems. The Mental Health Recovery Movement that is emerging in the  US and Europe addresses these issues in a proactive, holistic, humane  fashion. My work in a Recovery program gave me the opportunity to create  and facilitate groups that embraces those values. I ran a Grief and  Loss group that  gave the members the space to develop trust, improve  communication, and begin the path to acceptance, forgiveness, and hope.  We often examined ways to re-frame a situation in order to encourage  attitudinal change and healing. We often discussed how we gained something  positive in the wake of a loss. When a commercial began airing with  the slogan ” What will you gain when you lose? ” I  began to wonder if the advertising firm was eavesdropping on our group!

I am not suggesting that resilience is inevitable, some people are  genetically wired to be naturally more resilient than others. So perhaps  there are those among us that experience less setbacks or regroup quicker  from a significant loss. We all can make a huge impact upon our own  destiny by increasing our awareness of when we need some form of treatment/intervention in the face of depression, anxiety, extended grief, trauma,  and difficult life transitions. Relief from suffering and recovery from  loss is possible and there are many wonderful resources available. We  all deserve the best possible life we can create for ourselves. Evidence  of resilience is abundant both in nature and bustling cities, and everywhere  in-between. Take a close look around you and you are bound to discover  it in action.













What should I do if my boyfriend is diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder?

What should I do if my boyfriend is diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder?

This is really cruel advice. Are we suddenly unlovable because of our illnesses? Are we suddenly not worthy of attention, affection, or love because of a chance of relapses? What are you trying to get at by telling people to abandon us?

This advice sickens me. If you really think you can’t handle a relationship with a mentally ill person, fine, but to tell everyone to leave us mentaly ill sufferers is cruel and damning. I wouldn’t have been able to survive my bipolar depression without my fiancé and he not once ever considered me a burden because he loves me. And I am the same with him when he finds himself depressed from time to time.

I am treated, I am stable, I have value, I am worthy of love and attention, and I deserve someone who is willing to love me no matter what, and I have found that with my fiancé.

So what this person should really do is assess whether or not he/she is strong enough to handle the difficulties. If you really love your boyfriend, you’ll stick around. If not, leave, you don’t deserve him anyway. Your boyfriend deserves someone who is willing to stick around in spite of the difficulties, and if you can’t do that, then leave. Bye-bye. You won’t be missed. Now unless your boyfriend is unwilling to seek help that is a different story, but if he is doing all he can and you’re not willing to help, he won’t be missing much.

Maniac Fire

By Anonymous

I as a person with bipolar disorder.  I would tell you to break up with your boyfriend, heartbreaking as that would be, if you are in a relationship that could potentially lead to marriage.

Bipolar and schizophrenia are such seriously disruptive disorders that it is absolutely certain that you will endure major difficulties and will watch your boyfriend suffer– it is a permanent illness and while managing the condition is very possible, a great many sufferers lapse in taking their (vital) medications.

Your relationship will be strained; life will not be very much fun over long-ish stretches of time.  Your boyfriend’s capacity to work may well be hampered.  I think most sufferers would agree that these are really, really tough chronic illnesses.  You are young, and free, and will have the opportunity for a straight-forward relationship with another man.  Get out now.

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Are There Not-Crazy People in Psychiatric Wards?

Are There Not-Crazy People in Psychiatric Wards?

tumblr_mnhv0nCdxl1qicr8oo1_500Yesterday I was going through my site stats and stumbled across something I find both funny and sad: “has people been admitted to psych wards who weren’t crazy.” I’m flattered such a question brought the user to my blog, but I’m also saddened that psych wards are synonymous with

I’m not sure what crazy is. I mean, I think crazy is doing stupid stuff when you have your wits about you, like getting smashed drunk when you know you have no one to take you home, not getting smashed drunk when you’re so manic you don’t care. But had you seen me in the emergency room the first time I went to a psychiatric unit, you would have never thought there was anything crazy about me.

I was suicidal, but incredibly aware that I was, and I was voluntary.

My second psych stay, I was manic, and so you would have thought I was high on something, but I was still incredibly aware, still able to articulate my feelings to you, and was able to take control of the insane amounts of energy pouring from me. So it’s not like I was bouncing off the walls, harassing the doctors, and letting my lack of inhibitions take control.

You feel like you’re crazy when your mental breakdown culminates in a psychiatric stay, but you’re not. Most of the people you meet are people you’d find on the streets, sitting in coffee shops reading books, taking their kids out shopping, going on vacations–your average, everyday person. The “crazy” people aren’t in psychiatric units. They’re generally in state-run institutions where being drugged up is the only way to keep them docile. But even then some aren’t crazy–just very, very sick.

I didn’t meet a single crazy person in my stay. Just sick people who might have done crazy things to land them in the hospital. But they themselves were not crazy. They’re the most self-aware people I’ve ever met, most compassionate, kind-hearted people who really understand the human condition, so every person who goes to a psych unit generally isn’t crazy.

The majority of people who land in psychiatric units are often depressed. They either attempt suicide or are afraid they’re going to attempt suicide. Sometimes they’re admitted voluntarily, and sometimes involuntarily. Maybe the involuntary ones will put up a fight, but you generally don’t meet dangerous people in psychiatric wards. Dangerous people are generally put elsewhere.

So, to answer the above question, just about every person admitted to a psych ward is not crazy. Just sick.



The Difficulties of Mental Illness in Young Adult Novels

The Difficulties of Mental Illness in Young Adult Novels


This is the longest post I will probably ever write, but bare with me.

I think a lot of people can understand that mental illness is real, but I think the misunderstanding of mental illness begins when we start searching for reasons why so-and-so is depressed or why so-and-so struggles with anxiety. We naturally want to seek out reasons for why people feel the way they do. We think that all mental illness has to be completely situational and that at its heart, mental illness must stem from some sort of trauma that would have anybody understanding why so-and-so is so ill.

I’ve just rid myself of that curiosity. Yes, I think it is important to find the root cause of mental illness so the healing can begin, but now I’ve shifted my mindset so that instead of asking mentally ill people why they feel the way they do, I now realize it is more important how they feel and not why they feel that way. It’s traumatizing in itself to feel so depressed you can’t get out of bed, or so suicidal you want to tear yourself apart so you don’t have to deal with yourself.

Yet, some people are not going to share this mindset. Some people are going to fish for reasons and compare one reason to another.

I bring this topic up because now that I am doing a book giveaway of 13 Reasons Why, I want to discuss mental illness in young adult novels and why it’s such a difficult topic to tackle. A lot of reviewers for Jay Asher’s book pointed out that Hannah was being a bit pathetic for committing suicide over the reasons that she did. They lament there are people so much worse off than Hannah and claimed her reasons for wanting to die were stupid. Even MC Clay wants to place the blame on Hannah, which is a natural thing to do. However, Jay Asher does his best to explain the snowball effect, whereby so much stuff just builds up, eventually snowballing and crushing the person under the weight of that snowball. If stress is not reconciled, it’s going to build up and break you. I thought Jay Asher did a marvelous job at explaining this, and when I read it in high school, I understood it. I don’t think there are any good reasons to commit suicide, but I understand why Hannah broke. And Hannah was probably depressed from all the stress, something Jay Asher did not explicitly state but rather implied. What is more tragic than Hannah’s death is that no one saw Hannah coming apart.

But the problem with 13 Reasons Why is that not every teen who reads it is going to understand that–and I am excluding adults from this equation because the book isn’t meant for them. No matter how much Jay Asher stresses the snowball effect, our society wants us to believe that tragic individuals are tragic because of severe trauma.

Mental illness has a root cause, but everyone’s breaking point is different. My breaking point occurred due to a bad time with my fibromyalgia. It is much better now, but it seems to freak out around the fall. I was working, doing ballet, and taking classes, and eventually all the stress piled up to the point where I found myself having to drop ballet in favor of naps because I would be so fatigued from fibro flares, and work wore on me because I’d get flares during work, and eventually I started feeling pathetic because all I did was sleep, sleep, sleep, and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything I loved. So it was work, work, work, and sleep, sleep, sleep, and ouch, ouch, ouch. That snowballed me to the point where I became depressed and suicidal because it didn’t feel like there was going to be an end to the pain. So there wasn’t just one cause, and it never is for mental illness.

Hannah’s breaking point occurred because it’s obvious she was a lonely girl in the first place who struggled with poor self-esteem. So all this stuff happened to her that never got reconciled, built up, and broke her. She likely became depressed and dwelled heavily on these things and blamed herself for everything that happened. Since she is a teenager, she has no wider perspective to realize that high school is not all there is to the world, and so she saw no way out. She never reached out to anyone, and so she felt trapped.

Rethink Mental Illness
Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not the fault of 13 Reasons Why but the fault of a society that believes tragic individuals are tragic because of severe trauma, not because of vulnerable personalities shaped by a society that believes hardening individuals to the “cruelties” of life is the best way for them to survive, rather than creating compassionate individuals who help one another out of love and not some desire for something in return. So a lot of criticism in young adult books is aimed at the mental illnesses themselves because people want a reason for why a character is depressed. Frankly, by the time one has reached the stage of depression the syndrome, it no longer matters why that person is depressed. It is the fact that that person is depressed in the first place that matters more than the reasons.

I am worried about how my WIP Stolentime will one day be received. It deals heavily with depression and suicidal ideation. Gene dwells on suicide a lot. It is my hope that my book will help people better understand these dark feelings, but I realize a lot of people won’t. They might perceive him as whiny, that he needs to get over it, but I am going to do my best not to convey him that way and just convey him the way people suffering from suicidal ideation actually are. Most are not whiny. I certainly wasn’t. I was quiet and withdrawn, left to my own thoughts. I want my book to reach out to the ones who are quiet and withdrawn, and I want my book to reach out to those who judge mental illness and help them better understand it. My book isn’t just about a depressed teen, but a depressed teen who understands depression all too well and even mentions that depression is a trauma unto itself, that the reasons for depression don’t matter as much as the illness itself.

Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

“As a writer, I believe depression is necessary. By going through these dark places, we are able to come back and illustrate just how beautiful the light really is.”

I found this post on Tumblr and almost wanted to scream. The poster and I got into a spat and she tried to explain what she actually meant, but anyone reading the above quote is going to get the exact same implication regardless: that depression is being romanticized and only those who are depressed and heal from it can become truly great writers.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Do you want to end up like Van Gogh?

I don’t care that the writer told me she meant depressed writers should seek solace in writing and should not take the good days for granted to better their writing because that is not at all what she said in her writing. This is a lesson in writing, that you need to write clearly so there is no miscommunication between you and reader. Granted, even the most obvious sentences can draw miscommunication, but it is not my job as a reader to read your mind in order to understand what you actually meant.

In any case, let’s backpedal to the original statement. I wanted to scream reading this. I will admit upfront my depression influenced the latest book I am working on, but it was not worth being depressed for. I would have traded my depression for anything. However, I might as well use my past experiences with depression to create a story about a treatment-resistant teen that will hopefully inspire teens struggling with depression to seek help. But, again, I neither need nor want depression to create stellar story ideas.

There is nothing romantic about sleeping more than half the day, no longer having the ability to enjoy what you do, being unable to eat because you have zero appetite and can barely eat because your stomach can’t hold much, having breakdowns several times a week, wishing you were dead because the pain feels unending, existing with an unquiet mind that wants to destroy you, and having to work 100x harder than the average person to get anything done. It is grueling, and I would have been happy to give my depression to anyone who feels the need to romanticize it.

You don’t need to go through dark places to understand the light–that cliché bullcrap. You simply need to be sensitive with an honest mind and an honest heart.

When Stars Die did not come out of any depression or even past experiences with depression. Yet, that is, thus far, the best book I have ever written because I used my sensitivity and the humanitarian aspects of myself to create Amelia and her story. I am a naturally sensitive person. Depression has made me more sensitive, but that isn’t a good thing. It’s because I’m still raw, still healing, from being depressed, and depression itself is honestly traumatizing, so I’m still trying to shake that off. The only thing depression has done was inspire a story. It does not influence my writing or my ability to create a troubled teen. It did not make me a better writer or storyteller. It just gave me an idea. That’s it. And I’m pretty sure for most writers struggling with depression or who have struggled, they can attest that it neither made them a good story teller nor a good writer. It might have just given them a story idea.

So the above quote enrages me because now vulnerable teens on Tumblr are going to read that and think depression is somehow romantic.