“Out in the Milkweed” & Stigmama

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Happy Friday My Blogging Friends!

I wrote this piece “Out in the Milkweed” for the cutting-edge, award-winning website/blog STIGMAMA.

STIGMAMA’s tagline is “Motherhood. Mental Illness. Out Loud.”  I loved it as soon as I read that.  I started writing for Stigmama just after its inception in March, 2014.  STIGMAMA was founded by Dr. Walker Karraa, a trailblazer whose new book “”Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth”, is an Amazon bestseller receiving rave reviews.  Last year I asked Dr. Karraa if she’d write the foreword to my upcoming (i.e. by the time I’m 90) book “Birth of a New Brain” – I was deeply honored when she said yes.

STIGMAMA has showcased the work of 70 talented contributors, giving writers a chance to shine (some for the first time) in a public arena writing about deeply personal experiences.  The STIGMAMA page has over 15,000 likes!  Not bad for a blog that’s less than a year old!

Perhaps you’d like to be a STIGMAMA contributor too – visit http://www.stigmama.com and check out the 2015 writing schedule for details.

This free verse (very free! 😉 piece “Out in the Milkweed” expresses how I’ve felt stigmatized by those who see me as mentally ill despite the fact that I’ve been stable for quite some time.  While it’s obvious that I’m very angry about this situation, I believe there’s hope for some healing.  It will take time.  For those of us who are adversely affected by stigma, we can practice vigilant self-care, stay current on research, and do all that we can to become and remain stable.

In turn, we can once again have conversations with our loved ones about stigma. Perhaps our family member or friend could attend a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) family member support group.  We can give them a handout or a book that includes how to be aware and sensitive about mental illness stigma.

Even if we can’t change the way others see us, we can focus on ourselves and work on our self-stigmatizing issues, either by ourselves or with a trusted friend or therapist. If you have any suggestions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for reading!

love,

Dyane


"Out in the Milkweed"

In some disturbing way that you would never openly admit
You want me to remain
Mentally ill, labeled by the seven-letter word bipolar
You prefer me to fit neatly in a suffocating cocoon
From which I can never fully emerge
As the soaring, vibrant Monarch butterfly that I once was

If I speak with “normal” cadence and joy
You scornfully say that I sound manic
Your words cut me deeper than you could ever imagine
And I shut down, hesitant to share myself with you again

I’m not manic, but you continue to see me in stifling ways
And no matter how high I soar within the realm of stability
You view me through shame-colored glasses

Why do you choose to see me as permanently damaged?
Could it be schadenfreude?
To make your own ravaged self esteem and depression not seem so bad?

I believe that you regard my brain as forever broken
due to ever-present stigma, insidiously affecting us all
I may even permeate your misconceptions by living fully
and throwing my own shame to the wind

Now that I’ve returned
To a life where I don’t stay in bed wanting to die
I can be a writer, a mother, a wife, a daughter
I can laugh, weep, and be present

I will research about what prevents relapse, and be proactive with 
self-care

After years of looking to others for biochemical salvation
It feels good taking care of myself

I don’t know what the future holds
But I’ll do everything I can to remain a butterfly
Hovering amongst milkweed drinking nectar
No longer in need of hermetic, protective coverings
It's time to fly, unencumbered, once again

Lack of A Writing Routine Messes Me Up!

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Yep, it’s true.

After two weeks out of town (during which I was sick with a hideous cold for most of it), I came home exhausted, overwhelmed, and negative.  I realized that my decision to suddenly free myself from the internet was too extreme.  A few days would have sufficed in order to give me the healthy ‘net break that I needed.  Moreover, it didn’t help that soon after our return it was the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  While fortunately that didn’t trigger a depression as it has in the past, I still felt bereft and like crap.  

I wanted to sink back into a solid writing routine to ground me and give me a sense of purpose apart from being a mother and wife.  As simple as that goal may seem, it hasn’t been the case.

I’ve been tempted to sit on my derriere and watch recorded reruns of “What Not to Wear“, “The Long Island Medium” and even, gasp, “Lotto Changed My Life“.  (I haven’t actually watched any of them yet, but the craving has surfaced.)

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I love you, Clinton & Stacy! 

This is not good.  

I am utterly constipated, literarily-speaking.  I keep telling myself “I’ll start writing again tomorrow” and then SHAZAM!  Something happens to prevent my writerly aspirations from becoming more than just lip service.  Last week it was one of my kids staying home sick.  This week? Well, nothing happened except for total laziness and writing blockage.  Yuck.

It occurred to me that I needed a dose of Greg Archer wisdom.  Greg Archer is one of the most prolific, gifted, real writers I know.  I met him while writing freelance articles for our local weekly, the Good Times.  Greg was Good Times’ uber-popular editor-in-chief for fourteen whopping years.  Not only did he write hundreds of excellent articles, but he was in charge of overseeing a staff of impressive writers – talk about pressure!  :0

Greg’s second book Grace Revealed: A Memoir was just published, and it’s getting fantastic reviews.  As you may have noticed, the cover alone is spellbinding.

Check out his book trailer video – it’s awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbxpaZiDod4

On Monday I emailed Greg for advice about about my writer’s block rearing its ugly, pus-filled head.  I confessed that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on the whole damn project, despite almost 80,000 words being written to date.  More importantly, despite feeling in my gut that I NEED to write this book.  It’s not an option!

He sent me back some words of wisdom that were from his heart and potent:

“I want to encourage you to

LET GO MORE

You can only do what you can do…truly…
Show up…give the book some time each day…and that’s THAT.

 OH___ ADVICE>>>> WRITE THREE PAGES OF WHATEVER…. every morning… and then go to the real WORK… get something out of your head.

And then… comes the sending it OFF…. and then comes to LETTING GO… and then comes the LETTING GO MORE… because we want a kind of validation … that what the hell we went through meant something/will touch people//but what I am seeing now… is that… yeah, that’s normal to focus on…but if we can direct our energy to something more creative… other work; other expressions… it’s probably much healthier…We’re so complex

And beautiful

KEEP GOING..."

So I'm going to do just what Greg suggests that I do, especially the
  
"Keep going!" part.

Do any of you have advice to share about your own writing blocks?  
I'd love to know the gory details!  As always, please comment to your 
heart's content.

And have a GOOD weekend!!!

love,
Dyane

p.s. for more information about my extraordinary friend, please visit 
www.gregarcher.com

 

 

The Nasty Bits of Envy

searchAs I write this today, I’m in a bit of a funk.  Nothing too alarming, mind you.  In my true “T.M.I.” fashion, despite turning forty-four on Tuesday, I’m not hitting menopause yet. Hence, my monthly “adventure” is on its way.  Apart from that, it was a rough morning dealing with our kids.  They clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  After dropping them off at school, I stepped in a small mountain of chicken poo and I tracked it all over our floors until I finally noticed it.  On the brighter side of things, it’s helpful for me to blog while crabby, as writing is such a great catharsis.  Plus I don’t have to cut a chunky check to either a psychiatrist or a therapist.

Anyway, these things I mentioned above are small matters.  Whenever I glance at the news, I am reminded that life could be much worse.  The fact that I’m keeping bipolar relapse at bay is enough of a cause for daily celebration.

So, what are the nasty bits, exactly?  Well, I must begin with mentioning author Anthony Bourdain. One of his many books is titled The Nasty Bits.  While his title refers to the edible parts of animals that most North Americans would never eat in their wildest dreams (tete de veau/calf’s head, anyone?), I thought of the title in relation to my pesky envy problem.

I have nasty bits of envy rising up frequently.

Over the past few months I’ve returned to writing regularly,both  as a hobby (this blog) and for work (my book).  While writing has been gratifying, I’ve become too caught up with author comparisons.  Comparisons can be odious indeed.  (I wish I could take credit for coining that phrase, but alas, it was created circa 1440 by John Lydgate.)

At least I’ve come to terms with the fact that my book, once published, will not become a bestseller.  The subject matter I’m writing about isn’t mass market material, and I can accept that.  I am writing the book that I wish I had when I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder, plain and simple.  If it helps only a handful of readers, I’ll be totally thrilled!

I had a junior high school friend who went on to become a bestselling writer, a highly respected professor, and a winner of numerous mega-prestigious writing awards.  Her fan base is massive and almost cult-like.  One of her books was even made into a feature film with a “big name” star.  While I’m happy for her, I’ll admit I’ve had pangs of green as well.  I’m not going to name her because after my botched-blogging (discussed in yesterday’s post), I’m sure she would find this comment and rake me over some coals.

I keep reminding myself, “You are writing first and foremost for yourself.  You are not writing to win a Pulitzer Prize.”  One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle In Time) comes to mind.  Wrinkle, which has had phenomenal success over the decades, was rejected by many a publisher until it found a home at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  L’Engle even had an entire decade of rejection and almost gave up writing when she hit forty.  That kind of brutal rejection has occurred with many other famous authors as well.

Meanwhile, my husband’s book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West has won many awards of its own!  In fact, this weekend he’s being honored  in Hollywood, Los Angeles.  Quest for Flight won the Great Southwest Book Festival’s Regional Literature Award.  I ‘m proud of him and also genuinely thrilled for him – and I only have a smidgen of envy regarding his accomplishments, which I joke about openly with him.  I called his book “the other woman” during his years of writing it, and he was able to take that in stride.

Fortunately my love for him overtakes my envy and smushes it.  He has always encouraged me to write during the fifteen years we’ve been together.  Craig even calls me the “real” writer in the family, as I was making money from my articles long before he received his first royalty check.  It has also been awfully convenient that he can give me advice culled from his seven-year-long experience writing his book and working with the University of Oklahoma Press.

While blogging has been a surprisingly fulfilling way to write, I’ve gotten way too caught up in the blogging popularity game. (blogularity?) WordPress makes it easy to spend all day analyzing  your blog statistics, which can be fun, but it can also be discouraging.  When I discover a brilliant blog with twenty thousand subscribers in comparison to my eighty-seven followers, it takes the wind out of my sails.  Let me re-phrase that: I allow the mega-blog to take the wind out of my sails.

Yesterday I was Facebook surfing and visited a page belonging to someone with a fulfilling-sounding life that many people would give their eyeteeth to enjoy.   She’s a beautiful person, inside and out.  She wrote a comment that gave me pause; however, writing to her friends that Facebook had a tendency to make her feel “less-than” rather than good enough or even great.  

I thought, “No way!  If Facebook affects her like that, then what can it do to the rest of us?”  

I’ve already won the only prize worth having as far as I’m concerned: my family & stability despite having my insidious bipolar disorder.  There is no need to get caught up with the “not being enough” syndrome.  I’m about to have a session with my counselor, and now I know what to bring up with her today.

She’s not a blogger, nor on Facebook.  (Ah!  The horror, the horror!)  But she does all kind of other cool things, plus she’s a wife, mom and therapist.  My counselor has been totally supportive of my writing and she believes that in sharing my experiences through a book, I’ll  definitely help others.  She’ll be able to shed light on my feelings of envy and insecurity – she knows me very well.   After our meeting, my face will turn from green to rosy pink, and I’ll keep you posted on how I handle my envy  in the months to come!

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