Bloggy Birthday

Today is my blog’s first birthday.

When I started out last year, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I wanted to talk about being bipolar and how managing a mental illness became a spiritual practice.  I also discovered it to be the perfect platform for sharing my art and fiction.  More people could see my art.  And I could put my stories in front of readers without going through the soul-breaking horrors of the publishing world.

What I didn’t expect were the revelations and gifts that came from simply showing up.  First, that so many people came to visit.  As of this writing, there are 99 people who read this blog regularly, and in the year that it’s been out in cyber space, folks have crossed the threshold over 15,000 times.  Once I Googled myself (aminddivided.com) and flipped out when several of my postings appeared at the head of the list.  That explains why “If You Meet Carrie Fisher on the Road, Kill Her” continues to be my most popular post.  Who knew so many people sought out Carrie Fisher?

The second revelation came through the process of writing about my illness.  The Bipolar Bad-Ass Training program took shape and was not only entertaining (so some have told me), but gave me a real, nuts-and-bolts method for shucking off the victim mentality that held me captive.  I’m proud to have figured out a way to stand tall and take no prisoners in my daily life.  It enabled me to discontinue psych meds and to pioneer a new form of self-management.  If ever a book ever comes out of all these posts, it will be The Bipolar Bad-Ass.  And you all will be a part of it.

The third revelation is that I’ve become something of a mental illness advocate.  That was not my intention when I started.  But, as I’ve explored my process and offered an ear to others who need to share theirs, I’m finding a population suffering in relative silence.  Stigma still exists for folks with mental illness.  The media image of the homicidal whack-a-doo needs to be countered by those of us who are articulate enough to speak.  I’ve started speaking at groups about mental illness and bipolar disorder, and the response there is the same as on this blog.  Relief.  Finally, people have a place to talk about themselves, their loved ones, their co-workers.  Someone understands.

The fourth revelation is that writing these posts has made me a better fiction writer.  And the more fiction I write, the better my posts are.  Writing of any kind primes the pump, and my well has become self-sustaining over the past year.  When I posted the first chapter of Callinda a few days after I launched this blog, I intended to just “clean it up and put it out there.”  Instead, I’ve completely rewritten a novel that came out of a long period of rapid cycling and deep depression.  It’s a much better story now (and almost done, I promise).  I’m already looking ahead at picking up October Roads again and crafting a compelling bipolar heroine.

This first year in the bloggy world stunned and amazed me.  This site has become an integral part of my spiritual work and a way for me to be in the world again.  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

If You Meet Carrie Fisher on the Road, Kill Her

I’ve always thought this would be a fabulous title for my book.

Carrie Fisher works triple duty for me as a metaphor-carrier.  She’s bipolar, obese and has that old Star Wars twinkle.  And if the Buddhist reference flies over some people’s heads, that’s okay, because the literal statement works for me, too.

When Carrie’s book Wishful Drinking came out, I rushed to get it.  Princess Leia was bipolar and telling the world!  I liked her other books and her humor, so I expected this book to be a winner.  But, alas, no.  At least not for me.

The pain behind her humor is clear and heart-wrenching.  I identified with her struggles and craziness.  But when she said electro-convulsive therapy saved her life, I threw the book away. ECT destroyed my brain and my life.  Reading about someone who swears by it, who gets zapped on a regular basis to control her symptoms, made me physically ill.

I find it interesting that while on tour with her one-woman show based on Wishful Drinking, Carrie’s weight ballooned.  It must have been difficult to dip into the horrors of her disease night after night, and I know as well as anyone that going unconscious with food is one way to deal with horror.  So, now she’s the new spokesperson for Jenny Craig.  And we all know how well that worked for Kirstie Alley.

Carrie, Carrie, Carrie.  We are sisters in so many ways.  I applaud your strength and your ability to pick yourself up and keep searching for the Answer.  I love that you never give up, even in the worst of times.  I love that you’ve kicked alcohol and drugs, temptations that most folks with bipolar disorder have to deal with.  Keep workin’ it, girlfriend.  If you ever need to come rub my belly, I’m here for you.

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