Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blogging Year-in-Review


This has  been quite the year!

When I was hospitalized in 2013 for mania I left the hospital wanting to write a memoir. The mania had me super excited to accomplish that feat. However, my mood had other plans. I became depressed shortly after the mania ended. And I spent the rest of 2013 and half of 2014 in a funk. The depression zapped my motivation and energy. And the memoir I was so excited about did not materialize.

Hospitalized yet again in 2014 for mania, I was re-determined to write a memoir. But this time I decided that starting a blog would be more manageable than a full-length book. Within days of being discharged I started Manic Monique's Meanderings. I was so manic in those early days that I managed to pump out 52 blog posts in the month of June!

However, the reach of my writing did not end with Manic Monique's Meanderings. Here's what else I've been up to:
  • I was published on The Root. Being published on a black publication was really important to me.
  • I was invited to blog for Huffington Post (sometimes I republish MMM posts, sometimes I write new material). My reading audience has grown exponentially. A UK mental health organization even referenced one of my Huff Post articles. I'm global, y'all!
  • I was interviewed by BP Magazine. The interview will be published spring 2015. I have a subscription to BP so I was really excited for this opportunity! 
  • I was interviewed by and featured on the Real Brown Girls blog.
  • For Mental Health Awareness Week, I guest blogged for Strut in Her Shoes.
  • I was interviewed by MyndTalk, an internet radio show.
  • I was interviewed by Black Women Empowerment, another internet radio show.
  • And social media has been such a godsend.
I have no idea what 2015 will have in store for me, but I'm looking forward to continuing to share my story.

Thank you for reading my blog. Make sure you come back :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

To Accept or Reject Mental Health Labels, That is the Question

What's in a mental health label? Schizophrenia. Bipolar. Anxiety. Depression. OCD. And so on.

Does a mental health label define you?

I've had numerous conversations with my therapist about the bipolar label. I've been diagnosed for seven years now. I went six years in between my first and second hospitalizations for mania. And in those six years I did not really claim the label. My therapist showed me the bipolar entry in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). There is an entry for single-episode mania. Mania is what determines a bipolar diagnosis; otherwise, one would just have unipolar depression. I thought I had that, the single-episode diagnosis, not the full-fledged diagnosis. I thought my one episode of depression and one episode of mania were one-time flukes. I didn't think I really had bipolar disorder. However, my psychiatrist disagreed. He told me "once a Heisman trophy winner, always a Heisman trophy winner." I hated this analogy.

The two medicines I was on for those six years in between hospitalizations kept me stable. Having a bipolar diagnosis didn't impact much for me except sleep. I had to be in bed by 11pm in order to avoid next-day grogginess. But that was the only inconvenience. I had a few side effects within the first few months of being hospitalized, but after I changed to a new medicine I was fine.

Until 2013.

Elevated liver enzymes were detected in my routine blood work. Elevated liver enzymes might mean liver damage. I was told to stop taking this medicine immediately. My psychiatrist didn't replace this medicine, leaving me only on one medicine to maintain my bipolar disorder. Within two months I was manic and hospitalized. This hospitalization removed all doubt that I was really bipolar. I was hospitalized for ten days as the doctors tried to find me a new medicine cocktail to control my mania. I had to also go on short-term disability for two months.

Needless to say my therapist and I renewed our conversations about my label. I could no longer act like I didn't have a mental health diagnosis. I didn't have any friends with mental health diagnoses, so I wanted to talk to other diagnosed folks. In search of a space to discuss my disorder, I sought out and attended a DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) meeting.

My therapist was concerned. He didn't want me to identify with a mental illness. He didn't want it to define me. But I disagreed with him. Just as I am black and a woman and an American, I too, also have bipolar disorder. It does have an impact on my life: my choices, my thoughts, my actions. To deny the label would be like denying a part of me. Now, I don't subscribe to the belief that to have a mental illness means I have to be consumed by instability. I am a highly-functioning professional.

For me, having a bipolar diagnosis does not signal dysfunction or disability.  I've learned to use the diagnosis to my advantage. I think it makes me special: I am creative, intelligent, and empathetic. When I look at my bipolar lineage (all the famous writers, artists, actors, and doctors), I feel proud.

And when I read the DSM entry for bipolar disorder, I see that I have had nearly every symptom of mania and depression. The diagnosis and label made my actions and thoughts make sense. I've actually found comfort in the label. But I do realize not everyone wants to be labelled.

What say you? If you are diagnosed, how do you interpret your label?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unlikely Sign of Depression

I was depressed last year from June/July 2013 until May 2014. The insomnia was perhaps the worst part. I couldn't fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, I couldn't stay asleep as I woke frequently throughout the night. And on top of that, I woke up early. Like 3am or 4am early. The other big problem was the empty feeling. I didn't feel sad. In fact, I didn't feel anything. I was really worried that I'd feel empty forever. I thought my newfound numbness was my new default emotion.

But beyond the insomnia and the empty feeling, I also noticed a change in my handwriting. I recently found this article, "Are You Depressed?", on a handwriting website. Just as you can tell a person's mood from their behavior (are they smiling? are they moping around? are they irritable?), handwriting also signals a person's mood.

When grading my students' essays last year, I could barely read the feedback I'd written on their papers. At the time, I noticed the change, but I did not attribute it to my depression. I tried to compensate. I started writing slower so I could concentrate more on writing out each word. I don't recall if this actually worked or not. But no student ever came to me to tell me that they couldn't make out my writing.

My depression ended in June 2014. Since then my handwriting has gone back to normal. I thought the above article was an interesting read. I would not have made the connection between my mood and my handwriting. It's interesting how our moods control so much of our thoughts and behaviors.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Manic Shopping Spree 2014

I sometimes think in terms of musical lyrics. When I think about my addiction to shopping, this Kanye West line comes to mind: "Single black female addicted to retail" ("All Falls Down").

There are a number of symptoms that come along with being manic. The following list comes from the WebMD website:
  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness, increased energy, and less need for sleep
  • Rapid talk, talkativeness
  • Distractibility
  • Racing thoughts
  • High sex drive
  • Tendency to make grand and unattainable plans
  • Tendency to show poor judgment, such as impulsively deciding to quit a job
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity -- unrealistic beliefs in one's ability, intelligence, and powers; may be delusional
  • Increased reckless behaviors (such as lavish spending sprees, impulsive sexual indiscretions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or ill-advised business decisions)
When I'm manic, I experience nearly every symptom. Yes, the mania feels good. And the mania has saved me from depression twice (2007 and 2014). By that, I mean, I was depressed and there was no sign that the depression was going to end. The depression only ended because I swung into a manic episode. This is why I love the mania.

A clinician once told me that mania is worse than depression in terms of life consequences. Manic people quit their jobs, have affairs, use high amounts of drugs and alcohol, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and spend lots of money. All choices that can wreak havoc on your life, finances, and relationships.

My mania manifests in me shopping a lot. In 2007 I charged $10,000 in two or three months. In 2013 I didn't charge anything. But in 2014 I charged $20,000 in three and a half months. That figure is just ridiculous. (I have really high credit card balances; this is not necessarily a good thing for a person suffering from bipolar disorder.) Note: my $20,000 isn't an unreasonable amount of money to have spent during a manic spree. I met a bipolar man who charged $150,000 in a week; he bought three new cars. His number made me feel a whole lot better about my damage!

But the truth remains, I am in such credit card debt.

I am not worried though. I have a plan to pay off the debt. And I bounced back from the 2007 spree. I know I will bounce back from this one too. My credit score was excellent the last time I checked it a few months ago. I know now that that is definitely no longer the case; I checked today. But I won't be making any big purchases (like a house or a car) anytime soon, so I'm not concerned with my credit score.

I know medicine isn't for everyone. But I couldn't imagine me manic and unmedicated. I spent this much money while medicated. I'd be totally out of control without the medicine.

In the future, to protect my finances from my manic self, I'm going to lower my credit card balances once I get the debt paid off. I might even give my credit and debit cards to my mother the next time I feel the mania coming on. Lack of impulse control and credit cards don't mix. I have certainly learned my lesson. Only took two spending sprees.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Professional, High-Functioning Bipolar Patient

I came across this very interesting article by Laura Yeager on the "professional, high-functioning bipolar patient." The article discusses the author's experiences with her bipolar disorder and her ability to maintain normalcy in her life (career, family, mental stability). She details about a dozen questions that bipolar sufferers have struggled with: religion, the decision to bear offspring, medication, hospitalization, and relapse among other topics.

When I've gone to DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) meetings I've been one of (if not the only) highest functioning person in the room. The other people I met were either out of work on disability or between hospital stays or in the midst of a depressive episode. Don't get me wrong, bipolar disorder is a chronic illness. I've personally found that relapse is pretty common. I've been depressed three times and manic three times. I've also been hospitalized three times. I understand what it feels like to be in the midst of an episode. I understand how debilitating it is.

When I went to my first DBSA meeting last year I found the meeting to be simultaneously therapeutic and damning. I had never been to a meeting before so I didn't know what to expect. Prior to this support meeting, I hadn't thought much about my bipolar diagnosis. It had been six years since my first and only hospitalization. Yes, I took medicine nightly and I couldn't stay awake past 11pm (if I did I was groggy the next day; the meds I was on were highly sedating), but other than that I didn't think much of my disorder. All that changed in April 2013. I started to feel high. Like manic high. And I was worried. I spoke to my therapist about my concerns, but I felt like I needed to talk to people living and coping with the disorder. My therapist didn't think it was a good idea. He didn't want me associating with people he said wallowed in the dysfunction of their disorder, people who made their illness their whole life.

I went to the support group despite his concerns.

It was a small group of people. About 10-12 people of various ages and races/ethnicities. But about 75-85% of the people present were in the throes of an episode: either one had just ended or they were currently symptomatic. There was no professional clinician. So it was the blind leading the blind. There were lots of tears. I even cried myself. I shared my story. A story I had not discussed with anyone other than my therapist. I heard other people's stories. I felt understood.

But the next day I wound up in the hospital for 10 days. The support group was a trigger. It was very emotional and draining.

It is hard to be around lower functioning bipolar people. I've only been to two DBSA meetings. The second meeting was better than the first. But I still was one of the highest functioning people present. Maybe people who have a good handle on their disorder don't need a support group?

You know what else I've noticed? I haven't seen manic people in any of my three hospitalizations or at the support groups. I did meet one in IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy) this year. My thoughts on mania is that a manic person probably doesn't consider themselves sick. They feel on top of the world. They are bursting with productivity and energy and creativity. Why change that? Medicine would lessen or deaden these feelings.

In this instance, I'm kind of an oddity. I've never been hospitalized for depression; I only go to the hospital when I'm manic. For me, the mania is a lot more destructive than the depression. I managed to go to work everyday last year while depressed. But when the mania started, I needed to admit myself immediately. The mania gets out of control.

But to bring it all back to the start of this post, I would love to meet large numbers of highly-functioning bipolar people. I know they exist. Just look at all of the famous artists, poets, writers, and actors who have used their bipolar disorder and the ensuing creativity to their advantage.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MyNDTalk Internet Radio Interview

I have three ventures in the works for Mental Health Awareness Week: two interviews (a blog and an internet radio) and guest blogging at Strut in Her Shoes.

My second internet radio, MyNDTalk with Dr. Pamela Brewer, aired today.

You can listen here. If you feel so moved, please leave a comment, either on my blog or on the internet radio site.

Thanks so much for listening :)

Mental Health Awareness Week




It's Mental Health Awareness Week (October 5th to 11th).

And I'm guest blogging at Strut in Her Shoes all week. My posts will be a combination of new stuff and recycled stuff.

Check the first two posts out here and here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

International Impact

I've made it across the pond!

A UK website referenced one of my Huffington Post articles!

I feel so honored.

Here's the article.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mental Health Stigma

Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma leads many people to suffer in silence. Or worse, to not seek help.

This week a friend called me Hester Prynne. You know, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter. For those of you who slept through American Literature in high school, Hester committed adultery and a few  months later she birthed a daughter out of wedlock. The novel is set in Puritanical New England. So the society was big on shame and punishment. Hester did some time in jail, and when the baby was born she had to stand on a pillory for a few hours. For the rest of her life she had to wear an A emblazoned on her chest. But Hester was a seamstress. And a strong woman. She was not to be shamed. She designed an elaborate A. And instead of wearing it as a badge of shame, she took this as a chance to own her sin while simultaneously showing off her craftsmanship.

So my friend called me a modern-day Hester. Instead of shrinking from the stigma of having bipolar disorder, I have embraced it. I don't know why I don't feel the stigma. But I just don't. But I want to be the voice for those who do feel the stigma and are silenced.

I am reminded of a quotation from Audre Lorde: "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak." Lorde, the self-defined "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Silence does not protect you.

My goal of becoming a bipolar spokesperson has been coming to fruition. By next month, I will have had three interviews (two Internet radio interviews and a blog interview) I blog here and at Huffington Post. And I'm in the midst of writing my bipolar memoir. This whole process has been incredibly therapeutic. And I hope that my life and story has been a blessing to others.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The. Best. Summer. Ever.

I was manic from April to May 2013. Then when the mania ended, I became depressed. I was depressed from June 2013 until May 2014. The depression mainly consisted of insomnia and an empty, numb feeling. It really sucked. I thought the empty feeling was my new normal. I didn't think it was depression because I didn't feel sad and I was on medicine. But it was depression. I've learned that all depression doesn't look or feel the same. And the medicine I was on were anti-psychotics not anti-depressants. So they didn't treat the depression.

I was not hospitalized for the depression. I never go to the hospital for my depression. I just suffer through it. I don't recommend this. The depression only ended because I became manic in June 2014. This is why I love the mania. The mania has saved me from depression twice (in 2007 and 2014).

I swore to myself that I would have an amazing summer given the awful year I had. I would spare no expense. Deny no whim.

At the beginning of the summer I shared all of my summer plans.

This is an update. Be warned: there are a lot of pictures!

 I attended a few concerts this summer. 
This picture is from a Joe Budden concert in Brooklyn.

 I spent a lot of time in New York City this summer.

 I attended the Dave Chapelle show at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. He was incredibly funny.

 I saw a few Broadway plays: Avenue Q, Once, Wicked, Heathers, and Book of Mormon.

 I took a few vacations. I visited Savannah, Georgia; Atlantic City and Ocean Grove, New Jersey; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

 
 I visited the Kara Walker exhibit.

 
 I bought a beautiful painting from an artist at the Harlem Book Fair.

 
 In Washington, DC at the Smithsonian museums.

At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. 

At a drawing class in Brooklyn at MOCADA (I drew on an apron and a tote bag). 
The class was led by artist Shantell Martin

 At the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 Had an adult game night for family and friends.

Hula-hooping in the park. We were having a family reunion. 

 
 I also ate amazing meals. This is flan, empanadas, and shredded chicken with white rice.

At the John Legend concert at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. 

Had a picnic on Governor's Island in New York. 
That's the Statue of Liberty in the background. 

Pretty much :-) 

 
At a Ferguson/Mike Brown rally in Durham, North Carolina.
"Hands up. Don't shoot." 

 Rihanna and Eminem concert at the Met Life Stadium.

 Amazing Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum
Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

The view from my hotel room in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. 
The hotel is on the Long Island Sound. 

 At the Cloisters in Manhattan.

All dolled up to see and be seen at the Essence Magazine Street Style Block Party in Brooklyn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Memoir Writing Workshop

This week was the 7th class for my memoir writing workshop. The class meets every Monday in NYC (from July to September) for 10 weeks from 7pm-10pm.

In the class we have been working on the components of memoir writing: description, characterization, setting and pacing, and dialogue. We do free writes and read model texts to see the concepts in action.

We also bring our own writing. Each week two people bring 5-15 pages of their writing to be work-shopped. We discuss what worked well and what didn't. We discuss what confused us or pulled us in.

I will have my work discussed three times. The first time I used excerpts from my blog. When I first started blogging I assumed I would turn the blog into my memoir. But after hearing the feedback from my classmates I have decided not to take this route.

In my first writing (the excerpts from the blog), my classmates said it sounded too WebMD. Ha! They said that it needed more storytelling. Their assessment is accurate. That is the tone I wish my blog to have: educational and informative. But I want my memoir to feel like a story.

In my second writing, I submitted ten pages about my first and second hospitalizations. I strove very hard to turn the tales into stories. Judging by the feedback from my classmates, I succeeded. They asked for more elaboration in parts. So I'll work on continuing to flesh out the action.

I have three classes left. And I have to submit 5-15 more pages. I'm hoping to incorporate the feedback I received.

If you are interested in writing, I would highly suggest you join a writer's circle. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of getting feedback on your work.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Instagram Memes

I am obsessed with Instagram. I mean, really obsessed. I love taking #ootd (outfit of the day) pictures. I love taking pictures of my food. I love making photo collages. I am no photographer, by any means. But I like to think of my Instagram as another creative bipolar outlet, like my writing.

Lately, I've posted a number of memes that have really resonated with me. Here are a few.

The following one speaks to my soul. I have worked my butt off for everything I have. I have degrees from Duke and Rutgers. I'm hoping to add a second masters to the list in a few years; I'll be in graduate school in a year. I've been manic three times, depressed three times, and hospitalized three times. It is a process to stay stable. I have made some bad decisions along the way. I have paid the cost for them. But I have (painfully) grown into the 30-year old that I am. And I love her, so dearly.



This is how I feel sometimes (in the picture below). I have been having such a great summer. But I fear that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Last year, I became depressed after the mania ended. I fear that the same thing will happen again. Although I think I'm better protected this time around; I'm on an anti-depressant.


This is a pet peeve of mine (see image below). I hate when people use mental disorders as put downs or as adjectives. Find a better, less offensive word. I blame the Katy Perry song for this.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams


I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams' death. Depression is a serious condition. You never know what another person is going through. His smile and laughter were hiding a tortured soul. I pray for his family, friends, and fans.

This is how I want to remember him.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-8255.

The warning signs of depression are: either sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, lingering feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in activities that used to interest them, feelings of despair or hopelessness. 

Suicide is never the answer. It will get better. With help, it will. Finding the right medicine takes time. It is trial and error. You can also supplement psychiatric medicine with acupuncture, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, and talk therapy. Please seek help.






Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Psychiatrist

I have been with my therapist and psychiatrist for seven years. I love my therapist! He is a walking contradiction. He's tatted up, has piercings, and wears combat boots. He curses freely. And is awesome at what he does.

My psychiatrist on the other hand is different. We didn't gel as easily. He's a little stoic. And over the past few months I have not been happy with his care. I was hospitalized twice in a year on his watch. In February 2013 the Tegretol made my liver sick, so I had to come off immediately. (I've had a number of side effects over the years from my psych meds). I had been stable for six years so he did not replace the Tegretol with any other meds. I was only on 100mg of Seroquel. I spoke to my friend/colleague/acupuncturist about my sick liver. She suggested I increase my water and fiber intake and start adding chia or flax to my food. I took her suggestions and within two months my liver healed itself. The liver can do that.

The second hospitalization occurred in June 2014. About two or three months prior my psychiatrist took me off of Lithium because it was subtherapeutic (meaning, there wasn't enough of the medicine in my system to be doing any good) and it was also exacerbating my psoriasis. Again, he did not replace the Lithium. And I was only on one medicine. Within two or three months I was manic again and hospitalized for five days. I don't last long on one medicine. I need to be on two medicines at all times.

When I was in IOP (intensive outpatient therapy) I got suggestions from the nurse on great psychiatrists. She gave me two women. This past week I had my initial visits with both of them. They were both great. However, one is in my insurance network and one isn't. The one that isn't in my network charges $450 for the initial visit and $200 for each subsequent visit. The one in my network takes my insurance and I don't have a copay. Of course I liked the more expensive one more! Thank god I make a great salary and can afford to pay so much for my healthcare.

The psychiatrist that I ultimately chose was amazing. She was very thorough. She spent an entire hour with me. She painstakingly went through my medical history: asking about mental and regular health, asking about my family history, asking about my six episodes (three manias and three depressions). She then made some suggestions. I was impressed with her care and look forward to working with her. 

The psychiatrist that takes my insurance suggested I take a third medicine. I informed her that the Latuda has given me anxiety and restlessness, she said she could give me a medicine for the restlessness. I declined. My original psychiatrist lowered the dose and the restlessness seems to have gone away. I am not trying to add any more psych meds to my regimen. 

I just want to encourage you all to actively self-advocate when it comes to self-care. You have to control your care. Know what questions to ask. Know your rights. And don't blindly take any medicine. Listen to your body. Know how you respond to different medicines and medicines at different doses. To be quite honest with you, the majority of psych meds come with side effects. But the side effects can be managed or minimized. The sucky thing is that it is trial and error. So please be patient. It takes time.

Here are the holistic suggestions from my new psychiatrist.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Radio Interview


I was interviewed tonight for the Black Women Empowerment Radio.

If you missed, it you can listen here.

I was very nervous. But it went well. And the three callers were all friends of mine. I am very happy with the support and love I get from my family and friends.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Black Women's Empowerment Radio Interview

I have an interview next week! It's Tuesday August 5th at 9pm with the Black Women's Empowerment Network.

You have two options to listen in: You can call (714) 583-6852. Or you can log onto http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bwewomenempowerementradio.

Please tune in!





Monday, July 21, 2014

Inspiring Words

I love this quotation. It's a great reminder when you might not be feeling your best. A year ago I could not have imagined all the success I am now experiencing with my blog. I feel that it is nothing but God.


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." ~Marianne Williamson

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Root Article

I'm published again!

This time in The Root, an online publication geared toward the black community. It was founded by Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I wanted to be published in a black publication. But I haven't heard back from Essence or Ebony magazines so I'm glad to have gotten The Root.

You can read my article here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Future Mental Health Plans

I'm at a very exciting point in my career. In fact, I already have a career. I've been an educator for seven years and have a Master's in Education. But inspired by my experiences with bipolar disorder, I've decided to go back to graduate school for Social Work. I don't want to be a social worker per se. There are a few careers that do interest me though: a mental health care advocate, a group clinician, or an emergency room crisis worker.

I'm also hoping to turn this whole bipolar thing into a part-time or full-time gig. I'd love to be a bipolar spokesperson. I'm young, energetic, educated, and lucid. I want to be the person the news interviews when they're discussing bipolar disorder.

A college classmate suggested I write a children's book for children of color on mental health. The funny thing is that when I was in high school I thought about writing children's books. The idea of writing for young people still holds some interest for me. But not right now. I need to plan my time wisely. My big goal that I wanna focus my energy on is going back to graduate school in a year. I know it's going to be hard, teaching full-time and going to school part-time. It'll take me four years to finish the degree part-time.

I'm also interested in mental health policy. When I was in the hospital last year, I had a severe skin reaction to one of the medicines they gave me. It burned like a sun burn and peeled like one too. It was on my face. Don't you know I couldn't get a dermatologist to see me? They limit the number of consults you can have on the behavioral health unit. Last year in the hospital I planned on going before Congress to argue that not all cosmetic procedures should be elective, meaning insurance doesn't cover it. If you have a mental illness (even if you don't), physical beauty can seriously hamper your self-esteem. I've now had two skin reactions from psychiatric medications. The cystic acne flare-up made me feel like a freak. I had to have cortisone injections directly into my face to shrink the cysts; the injections were painful.

NAMI's (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has an advocacy page that gives you options of how to become involved politically. When I have more time I'm going to check it out.

I'm so glad that I've found a second passion in mental health (my first passion is education and teaching).

Literature Workshop Summer Camp

For the past three years (this summer will make four), I've taught a 5-day literature workshop summer camp for elementary-aged campers. Grades 2nd to 5th. I teach high school English during the school year, but my master's is actually in elementary education.

I've worked at the following grade levels: Kindergarten, 2nd, 5th, 9th, 11th, and 12th. High school is definitely my favorite. The students can have adult conversations. And I find the curriculum more interesting and stimulating for me.

Although I do miss elementary school sometimes. But not enough to do it full time. You have your students all day and can't even take a bathroom break!

This is where summer camp comes in; it gives me a nice dose of the little ones. I usually teach one or two sessions (5 or 10 days) during the summer. I'll be teaching summer camp soon: July 21 to August 1.


 My camp supplies: pencils, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, notebooks, construction paper, paint, yarn, post-it notes.

A list of all the topics I cover in my camp. I treat it like AP English! I've found that the campers rise to the occasion.


Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm Not A Doctor, Nor Do I Play One on TV

Last week the nurse told me that during the weekly meeting the providers have to discuss the patients I was brought up. Some of the therapists felt that I was trying to pawn myself off as a professional via my blog. She told me that she said that she didn't think that was what I was doing. She spoke on my behalf and I am grateful. She said that I am a consumer sharing my personal experience. I am glad that she defended me.

To say that I was upset and frustrated by these comments would be an understatement.

I have never misrepresented myself! The only degrees I have are in Political Science, African American Studies, English and Education.

But I do feel that I am more qualified than most psychiatrists and therapists.

  • I have lived intimately with bipolar disorder for seven years. 
  • I am an expert in me and how I respond and act when both depressed and manic. 
  • I know how I respond to medicine. 
  • I know about the side effects for the medicines I've had to take. 
  • I can list the symptoms of the disorder with my eyes closed. 
  • I didn't need to study the disorder in a book or take a class to learn about it. By the luck of the draw, I was born bipolar.

One of the patients said it sounded as if the therapists were territorial. I agree.

And for this exact reason, I will be going back to graduate school for Social Work. The credentials give you credibility and validity.

I will be both a consumer and a provider.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Huffington Post Article

My first blog post was published today to the Huffington Post!

You can read it here.

Please leave a comment and become a "fan." Also, please share it widely on your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

Thank you in advance!

You can check here for the archives of all my future articles. I plan on blogging once per week.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Writing Updates

I have great news!

Over the past few weeks I've contacted about a dozen publishers.  I've heard from three: Glamour Magazine, CNN, and the Huffington Post.

I submitted Op-Ed's to The New York Times, NPR, CNN, and the Huffington Post.

I wrote about the following: the need for bilingual mental health workers, the link between creativity and mental illness, the misconception that the mentally ill are violent, and how to recover from a hospitalization. They're all really good, if I must say so myself! I'll be sure to post them on my blog once they get published.

I should know in two weeks if the newspapers will be publishing my writing.

The last great news is that the Huffington Post has invited me to be a blogger for their website! I'm going to see if I can blog simultaneously on here and the Huff Post. If I can't, it'll be double the work to create two blogs.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Online Psychotherapy

Today NPR posted an article about online psychotherapy. It's an interesting read. I suggest you check it out.

Online psychotherapy has a few benefits. Like what if you move but loved your therapist. Through Skype you'd still be able to keep your same therapist and have continuity of care.

However, I don't think I'd like to Skype with my therapist. We have had phone conferences if I couldn't make it into the office or if I was having a crisis. But for the most part I prefer in-person sessions.

There's a lot your therapist can tell about you in person: have you gained weight from the medicine, what is your affect and disposition, are you making eye contact?

Ultimately, the decision rests with the patient. I say go with whatever type of therapy suits you best. At the end of the day what matters is that you are getting the help you need. I can't recommend therapy enough.

I'm Here

A few years ago I read Alice Walker's The Color Purple. I thought it was a good book. And a few years later I saw it on Broadway. I really liked the soundtrack. There's one song, "I'm Here," that particularly spoke to me. It is about courage, and strength, and resiliency, and self-love. I love it. I sometimes think of it as my anthem. Here it is.


I got my children
I can't hold them now
They may not be here
But they still mine
I hope they know I still love them
Got my house
It still keep the cold out
Got my chair when my body can't hold out
Got my hands doing good like they supposed to
Showing my heart to the folks that I'm close to
I got my eyes though they don't see as far now
They see more about how things really are now
I'm gonna take a deep breath
I'm gonna hold my head up
I'm gonna put my shoulders back
And look you straight in the eye
I'm gonna flirt with somebody when they walk by
I'm gonna sing up, sing up
I believe I have inside of me everything that I need to live a bountiful life
With all the love alive in me
I'll stand as tall as the tallest tree
Yes, I'm thankful for each day that I'm given
Both the easy and hard one's I'm living
But most of all I'm thankful for loving who I really am
I'm beautiful
Yes, I'm beautiful
And I'm here

Saturday, June 28, 2014

IOP Concerns

Yesterday (Friday, June 27th) in IOP the therapist had us share our weekend plans. I'm trying to make up for lost time, so I have a lot of plans. Friday I had IOP from 10:30am to 2pm, met up with a friend for dinner at 4:30pm, saw Dave Chappelle with another friend at 8pm, then met another friend for drinks at 11:45pm. Today I'm going to Spike Lee's block party at noon, a Broadway play at 2:30pm, a Match.com dating meet up at 7pm, and a club at 10pm. And tomorrow I'm going to another Broadway play at 3pm.

Yes, it's a lot!

But after the year I had, I want to have fun. I have no responsibilities at the moment other than focusing on my recovery.

After I relayed my weekend plans, the therapist asked the group if anyone was concerned about me. Four out of twelve people raised their hands. The first person said they weren't really concerned, that they had more of an observation. She said that if she was new to the group she'd think that I was the therapist. This made me happy since I want to become a social worker. The next person said that it sounded like I was biting off more than I could chew and to be careful not to get overwhelmed. The group also had concerns about my shopping. I've charged about $3500 in three weeks.

I told them that I have no concerns. I told them that this is my 3rd depression, 3rd mania, 3rd hospitalization, 3rd IOP. I got this. I know how I behave when manic and depressed. I know my triggers. My warning signs. I know when to be concerned. I was concerned June 2nd, a few days before I went to the hospital. I'm not concerned anymore. Yes, I am still manic. But I'm coming down. I know that I'm coming down because the shopping has slowed down, I'm not posting as much to Facebook/Instagram/my blog. And I'm sleeping normally. I no longer take sleeping pills. Sleep is a huge marker! If I'm sleeping well on my own; I'm okay.

Two friends also relayed their concerns to me yesterday. One says that I shouldn't be dating right now. Says that I'll scare guys away since I'm still manic. And my other friend is worried about my shopping. I'm not worried about the shopping because I recently reworked my budget.  I'll be out of debt in 13 months. Moving back home with my mom was the best thing I could've done. Instead of paying $1375 in rent, I'm now putting $1000 per month on my credit card debt. I'm also saving a little over $400 per month.

I really do have this under control. I'm in IOP, I'm taking my medicine, I'm sleeping.

No need to worry.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Summer Plans

After the year I've had, I decided to spare no expense to have a great summer vacation. I have scrapped my budget for the summer.

I'll be taking three vacations (Raleigh, NC; Washington, DC; and Ocean Grove, NJ).

I'll be going to see three Broadway plays: Once, Avenue Q, and Book of Mormon. I'm also going to see Fuerza Bruta Wayra.

Tonight I'm going to see Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.

Tomorrow I'm going to Spike Lee's block party in Brooklyn. Last weekend I met Spike Lee at a pop up shop for the 25th anniversary of Do The Right Thing. I bought a book and two t-shirts. He signed the book and I took a picture with him.


Last weekend I had a dinner party for about 30 friends and family. Everyone had a good time. The food was good. The kids played in the park across the street. And the adults sat around and talked. We also played Taboo. I'll be having a game night next month.

 Aren't the plates, cups and napkins so cute!

I cut and dyed my hair last week. This is the first time I've colored my hair (other than black rinses I used to always do in high school). I really like how it came out! What do you think?


I haven't watched much TV lately. But I want to catch the second season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. What shows will you be watching?


This week I went to the Montclair Museum with a coworker and her daughter. We had a great time. I loved the museum exhibits.

 Me and a bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He's one of my favorite historical figures.

I'm hoping to go see Amma in NY in July. She's called the Hugging Saint. She stands in line for hours and hugs everyone that comes.


I've already mentioned in other posts about the 10-week memoir writing workshop I'll be taking through Gotham Writer's Workshop. I'll also be taking a workshop through them on how to get published.

I'll also be going out to brunch with former students. Here are the restaurants we'll be going to: Max Brenner, Sarabeth's, and B Bar & Grill.

I'm also hoping to do a lot of reading. I have 20 books that I want to read. I've read two already.

What are your summer plans?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Writing

I've always been a writer.

In high school I wrote poetry. During my senior year I even thought about publishing a book of poems. I spent weeks typing up my poems. When all was said and done I had about 200 pages.

I even contacted publishers. One sent me a mailing to send back my manuscript. Then just as fast I lost my interest in publishing my poems and never contacted the publisher. I know now that this was mania. When the mania passed so too did the interest in publishing.

Fast forward more than ten years, and here I am contemplating publishing again. This time I will follow through on it. I will be turning this blog into a memoir. Hopefully in a year or two.

Starting July 8th I'll be taking a 10-week memoir writing workshop through Gotham Writer's Workshop. I'm looking forward to it. Last summer I took a one-day memoir writing workshop through Gotham. It was a nice taste test. I'm looking forward to delving deeper than a one-day workshop allows. The 10-week workshop meets every Tuesday from 10am to 1pm. I'm looking forward to getting feedback on my work.

What do you think of my writing?

Clothes Really Do Make the Person

I've been doing a lot of shopping lately (this could be a manic shopping spree, although the mania is starting to come down). With my 17 pound weight loss, I've decided to buy clothes that I feel great in. I've missed getting dressed. I really miss my wardrobe. All last year I felt frumpy and fat. A number of people (family, coworkers, strangers) asked me if I was pregnant. My response was, "No, I'm just fat." It is beyond me why people think it is appropriate to ask a woman if she is pregnant. I found their question highly offensive and invasive.

Psychology Today recently published an article on the link between mood and clothing. Caring about your appearance is not frivolous or narcissistic:

"When a University professor asked students to put on Superman t-shirts, there was a scientific reason behind the request. Professor Karen Pine wanted to know whether the heroic clothing could really have an unconscious effect on the students’ thought processes. Her suspicions were confirmed. She found it boosted their impression of themselves and made them believe they were physically stronger than control groups. This, and other discoveries of how clothing can change our minds, is the topic of her new book called Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion.

When wearing a Superman t-shirt, Professor Pine’s students rated themselves as more likeable and superior to other students. When asked to estimate how much they could physically lift, those in a Superman t-shirt thought they were stronger than students in a similar t-shirt without the Superman logo, or in their own clothing. Through the book Pine reveals how people’s mental processes and perceptions can be primed by clothing, as they internalise the symbolic meaning of their outer layers."

Last year my friends suggested I buy clothes that I felt good in. I didn't heed their advice right away. I wish I would have. But I did not like how my body looked in clothes. My stomach was huge (I really did look pregnant). The one good thing about the weight gain was that it was evenly distributed throughout my entire body. I finally had a big butt! I've always wanted a stereotypically black body.

The article furthers the link between mood and confidence and clothing by saying:

"She describes the link between women’s moods and their clothing choices. Having found that women are more likely to wear jeans when feeling low or depressed, Pine explores how clothing can reinforce negative mood states. She also uncovers recent research into the link between mood and clothing, showing that when women are stressed their world narrows down and this results in them wearing less of their wardrobe, neglecting as much as 90 percent of it."

So choose your clothing carefully!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weight Loss

As I've written before, I gained 52 pounds in about a three or four month window last year. I normally weigh between 125 and 128 pounds. I've never been heavier than 128. At my heaviest last year I weighed 171.

I can proudly report that I have lost a total of 17 pounds! I now weigh 154. I exercise two to four days per week. And since I got out of the hospital two weeks ago, I've been making a conscious effort to eat less. The IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy) nurse also told me that the new medicines I'm on (Latuda and Lithium) respond better to exercise, so I'll have an easier time losing weight.

I'm hoping to lose another 14 to 19 pounds. So my new ideal weight is 135 to 140. I don't know if I'll ever see 128 again. My primary care doctor told me that I was too thin before. But it's the only weight I've known. I'm naturally thin. I didn't hit 125 until my mid-20s; I'm only 30 now. And I'd like to fit into my old clothes. I can't fit about 75% of my wardrobe. And I love clothes!

I hope I lose another five pounds this summer. I joined the YMCA for the summer. My goal is to take three fitness classes per week for the summer: spinning, cardio, yoga, water aerobics, and zumba. During the school year my job subsidizes a personal trainer to work out with the faculty and staff. We only have to pay $5 per class! (Side note: I teach at a great school.)

What are your fitness goals? What do you do to stay motivated? Do you have any tips or suggestions for me to lose the last 14 to 19 pounds? Thanks in advance!

Lee Thompson Young

Actor Lee Thompson Young committed suicide last year. He was just 29 years old. He suffered from Bipolar Disorder too. He is best known for the Disney series The Famous Jett Jackson and the TNT series Rizzoli and Isles.

His family has broken their silence and are talking about his death. Read about it here. His family has started a foundation in honor of Young called the Lee Thompson Young Foundation. According to the website, the foundation's mission is to "promote mental health literacy through the Foundation's mission and vision. We envision a world in which mental illness is recognized by all as a treatable, biological disorder and the stigma associated with it no longer exists; a world that supports and encourages wholeness and wellbeing at every stage of life."

What a great mission and vision! I hope that my blog is reaching the same goals. I am not stigmatized by my disorder and have no problem sharing my story. I hope that by reading my blog it demystifies mental illness for you. I hope that by reading my blog you become more empathetic. I hope that by reading my blog you are able to look out for your friends and loved ones who might be battling their own mental illnesses.

Thank you for reading :)

Mental Illness on TV

There are three TV shows (that I know of) dealing with mental illness: United States of Tara deals with multiple personality disorder and Black Box and Homeland both deal with bipolar disorder. I've watched all three.

United States of Tara is a great show. Toni Collette does a great job transitioning between her "alters." She is a wild child teenage girl, a redneck man, and a peppy housewife.

Black Box is a new series. I watched the first three episodes. But I've since stopped watching. I thought the show did a good job of showing what mania looks like: the noncompliance with taking medicine, the rush, the energy, the creativity, the intelligence.

And Homeland stars Claire Danes. This show is fantastic! Danes works as a CIA analyst who is great at her job but doesn't always know how to manage her disorder.

You should check out the shows!