The Jennie Garth, American Eskimo, & Bipolar Memoir Connection

imgresimgres-1imgres-2The adage “write what you know” has always made perfect sense to me, especially because I’ve never been a fanciful writer.  All my writing has been 99% non-fiction.  I’ve also been a self-help book fan for over twenty-five years.  I’ve had well-meaning relatives implore, “Write a book that has nothing to do with bipolar disorder!” but that feels all wrong to me.  I want to write something incorporating memoir, self-help and research with expert interviews.  I’m happy to say that I’m on my way – the introduction and chapter one are complete.  Now I probably have only about 180+ pages to go!

A few days ago I read an interesting quote in the new memoir Deep Thoughts from a Hollywood Blonde written by none other than Jennie Garth.  Yep, “Beverly Hills 90210” Jennie Garth.  I couldn’t resist buying her book even though I’ve never watched a single one of her T.V. shows.  (Not even one episode of 90210!)  I just wanted a pure escape read, and Deep Thoughts looked like it would fit the bill.

Another reason I bought the book was because of a road trip that Craig and I took years ago to Los Angeles to visit my parents.  We brought our dogs Tara, an adorable shaggy-haired Sheltie, and Shera, a white fluffball American Eskimo, with us.  Shera had an unusually piercing bark that would scare the pants off a hardened criminal.  The pups were both our “children before children” and in our eyes they could do no wrong.  (Well, almost.)

We stopped off at a tiny town off the main highway which we had visited before on previous road trips.  The main drag, all of two blocks long, had a yummy deli.  I noticed a film crew was at work along the road.  I usually found on-location shoots exciting, but I couldn’t care less because I was suffering a deep depression.  We exited our truck and opened the windows wide so that Tara and Shera would be comfortable.  I noticed a blonde woman walking towards us, and as she reached our truck, Shera started barking viciously at her.  Shera startled the hell out of her and literally caused this poor soul to jump up a foot up in the air and scream.  I felt sorry for the lady, but the scene was pretty hilarious and I laughed out loud – it was the first genuine laugh I had in along time.

The frightened woman was Jennie Garth on location to film her television movie.  Ever since that wacky incident, I’ve felt a connection to her.  Hence I splurged on her book, which I most likely wouldn’t have bought if it was Tori Spelling’s or Shannen Doherty’s autobiographies.

Jennie Garth remarked in her introduction how she had an absolutely terrible memory.  How the hell did she write this book?   I immediately thought.  She had a co-writer’s help, but still, I imagine that co-writers can only do so much.  She explained that in the process of writing her memoir,  “Once I got started, writing seemed to activate a dormant recollection part of my brain, and my life as I had forgotten it began to come back to me.  The more I wrote, the more I remembered.  And the more I remembered, the more I began to realize how good this process was for me.”

I believe what Jennie Garth wrote about memory stimulation was sincere and true.  Her words give me hope that the more I write my book, the more my memory will generate details about my life that I thought were gone.  Not to sound pompous or anything, but I am already impressed with my brain.  This beleaguered organ has been subjected to electroconvulsive treatments (ECT) up the wazoo, yet I don’t feel that I’ve had that much memory loss from ECT.  (At least that’s what I recall! 😉  I can remember complete lyrics to many 80’s pop songs and that pretty much says it all about the resiliency of the brain.

I hope that the writing phenomenon Jennie Garth describes happens for me because if it doesn’t, I’ll only have about twenty pages of Birth of a New Brain.  I can’t allow that to happen.  As BP (Bipolar) Magazine columnist and blogger Beth Mader asserts, “I have things to say.”  I also have things to say, and if I keep my nose to the grindstone I have a chance of completing Birth of a New Brain.

I know it sounds catty, but if books such as The Joy of UncircumcizingWhy Do Men Have Nipples – Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask A Doctor After Your Third Martini, and Be Bold With Bananas! can be published, there is room for my book to exist.  If written (preferably written well), Birth of a New Brain could actually help people.  I hope that someday I’ll announce in this blog that my labor of love has been born  When I get a publishing deal,  I’ll invite you to the book’s baby shower!

Bipolar Blogs & Memoirs & Creativity, Oh My! (Part One)

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The brilliant and radiant writer Beth Mader, featured columnist and blogger for BP (Bipolar) Magazine

Every Saturday morning I’m in the habit of reading Beth Mader’s blog at the BP (Bipolar) Magazine’s website.  I was drawn to Beth’s blog because of her raw, original and relevant writing.  She never attempted to hide the dirty laundry of her life, but she was adept at avoiding “T.M.I.”.  Her blog was definitely not ho-hum in style.  Eventually we became Facebook friends and I occasionally asked her for writing advice.

Last Saturday was no different in terms of my routine, but imagine my surprise to see that Beth had briefly mentioned me in her blog post du jour!  I got a kick out of the fact that she found me to be rather spunky.  In her post “On Bipolar Memoirs and Writing” she writes:

“I am currently writing a memoir, and I refuse to make having bipolar its primary theme.  My journey across this planet, this existence, is far more complex and rich than what the role of mental illness plays in it.  That said, of course my having bipolar is a part of my memoir as it is woven throughout the fabric of my life.

Writing a memoir is hard.  Having mental illness on top of it makes it even more challenging.  Bipolar blogger and forthcoming author Dyane Harwood writes in a recent piece about how difficult it is to stay focused when we have bipolar, saying “Many people with bipolar have attention challenges and/or struggle with sedation due to medication side effects.  I have both of those issues, but I won’t let them stop me.”  Even without the side effect of meds, bipolar symptoms get in the way, I’d add to her thoughts.  I like Dyane’s pluck; it’s the kind of spirit we need to keep in order to get anything done, let alone writing.

Someone who did get it done is our bphope.com blogger/BP Magazine Columnist colleague, Melody Moezzi, whose book I just finished. Her Haldol & Hyacinths, a memoir about her struggle with bipolar disorder, and also about being Iranian-American, an activist, and proudly intelligent, is brashly honest.  I like Melody’s story because she tells it in way that illuminates a full life — one with pain, struggle, and both mental and physical illness—and a life with goals, dreams and pursuit of the same.  And she doesn’t whine about it.  Along with Dyane, Melody, and numerous others, I am keeping my nose to the grindstone, and working on my story. I have things to say.

What do you continue to do despite your symptoms?”

I bought Melody Moezzi’s book Haldol and Hyacinths as soon as it was available.  The book made for riveting reading, to say the very least.  It was totally unique as Moezzi vividly depicted how her Iranian culture played such a significant role in her life.  The book is among my favorite bipolar memoirs, and it has earned rave reviews everywhere.

To view Beth’s original blog and meet some other BP contributors (including Melody Moezzi, & cartoonist Chato Stewart whose cartoon is in my 3/4/14 blog post) please visit:

http://www.bphope.com/bphopeblog/post/On-Bipolar-Memoirs-Writing.aspx

On a separate note, every few days I discover a new bipolar memoir on Amazon.  I kid you not.  I simply do a general book search with “bipolar” as the key word.  My latest find took place last Monday, when I spotted L.E. Henderson’s A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond.

Henderson released this relatively short book (88 pages) for only 99 cents on Kindle. In Trail of Crumbs she analyzes the creative writing process and how her bipolar disorder adversely affected her writing.  She ends the book on a high note in sharing how she was able to let her creative juices flow again. I just started reading it, and I’m finding it interesting and well-written, so it was quite a deal for less than a cup of coffee!

The Amazon.com description of A Trail of Crumbs reads,

“Writing is hard.  Toxic ideas about the need to summon a particular mindset or to force yourself to write cause pointless suffering.  A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom proposes a more playful approach.

Part narrative, part instruction, Trail chronicles the creative recovery of the author, a bipolar novelist.  After a manic episode, she swings toward depression and block.  She longs to re-experience the creative rush of writing her first novel and imagines a trail leading back to it. 

Henderson asserts, “More than anything, I wanted to go back. Back to the time before my episode when the ideas has flowed freely. I needed a road, a path, a map. Anything would have been welcome.

L.E. Henderson’s blog is http://www.passionatereason.com/

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Tomorrow I will post part two, in which I discuss how a brand-new memoirist (someone who I frankly never imagined could write anything worthwhile) influenced me to “keep my nose to the grindstone” with my own writing.

Until then, have a great day, and thanks for reading!