Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shattering the Stigma

You don’t like to stand so close to me
You don’t want to see things the way I see
You’re afraid you’ll become just like what I’ll be

Ask yourself what it is you want to be
If you had a choice you would never be me
Your fear guides you too far away to see
You pretend you’ve got some other place to be

Do you know what hurts the most?
You don’t even know what I struggle with lately
You can’t be bothered with learning about how I feel

Are our lives so far apart?
Maybe you’ve got a broken heart
Perhaps you’ve watched it all fall apart
And when it does, where do you turn?

What if you had a friend like me?
Strong enough to conquer those fears daily
What if I could show you how to be strong
Or that surrounding me with stigma is wrong?

What if you felt it all for just one day?
Maybe you would have a lot more to say
If you could look through the eyes of mental illness
Would you really find so much of a difference?

I bet you’ve had good days and bad days
I bet you’ve felt lost and out of place
I think you’re scared of the way you feel
So you blame it on something that’s not even real

Stop for a second and take a look
Ask me a question, maybe share a look

Be nice to everyone you meet
You never know what pain they’ve beat
You don’t have to look sick to be sick
You don’t have to look ignorant to be ignorant

If you try it, you could gain something you’ve always longed for
If you carry your shield of stigma forever
What confusion you’ll endure

Maybe you don’t want to know me
What about him?
Standing there looking scared
Or her, with her nose in a book
So nobody truly sees her

There are many faces of pain and sorrow
And there are many faces of stigma
You don’t have to struggle with either

If you reach out and find the wrong person,
will you blame it on the disease? Probably.
But you’ll have learned
So that the next time you meet someone like me
Standing in a crowd, terrified of the judgment
and the stares, you’ll know to go slow.

Trust isn’t easy to give or receive

When you find an ally in a face in a crowd,
Couldn’t that be your proudest moment of all?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tips I Offer Other Authors - From a Recent Interview with Anne Moss Rogers

How long did it take you to build an audience? 

Quite frankly, I’m still building an audience. I don’t think you ever really stop. Every possible chance you have to make a new contact or find a new reader, you take it. You never know where it could lead you. It’s possible they know someone in the business or have connections that could be a benefit.

How much traffic do you average on your blog? 

Blog traffic depends on many things. Your topics are the big factor. There will be times when I will specifically post a mental health related topic that is in the news at that time, sometimes that helps drive more readers, sometimes it doesn’t. I started my blog in 2013, and a good portion of it became my book.  So, my current blog picks up where the book left off. It still has the same URL and title. Since August of 2015, I’ve had over 18,000 page views. Considering there was a time when I was begging folks to read it so I could get to 1000, that makes me very happy. There will be dry spells, I just go with it and maybe advertise a bit more the next time I post.

 Are you getting book sales?

Yes, I am getting book sales. This also depends on many factors. All I can say is promotion, promotion, promotion. Do whatever you can do to get your title in front of as many eyes as possible. Use Goodreads.com giveaways, use Amazon.com giveaways. Find charities or companies that have a similar theme to your book and send them free copies in exchange for a review. Don’t be surprised if you experience a lot of disappointment and never be afraid to give out a free book to the right person.

Where are you getting them from?

I think my social media presence is a huge part of my book sales. Every single day I am thinking of a new and creative way to post about it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, my website, my blog. The list is endless. I reach out to groups on social media that are dedicated to mental health (as is my book), I reach out to other authors, people that are struggling, anyone that uses a certain hashtag. Then, there are the people that find me through my ads, which yes I do pay for some like Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. I’ve been in several local newspapers, and that has helped. I get to know people, and when the time is right, I bring up my book. A lot of people ask me about Twitter followers and why I have so many. Simple. I follow others. 

Also, I don’t only post about my book. I post about things I enjoy like sports, movies, music, etc. You will meet people with similar interests, and you will follow each other. Post EVERY single day and make it creative. Use an app like Hootsuite if you don’t have the time. You can use it to schedule tweets for months in advance.  HASHTAGS, HASHTAGS, HASHTAGS. Consider them Twitter keywords. Say you use the word baseball.  Other people that are searching for baseball at that moment will also see your post related to baseball.

What are some realistic goals in terms of book sales for new authors right at first? 

As long as you’ve done the work like announcing that the book is COMING SOON! Done things like a cover reveal, sent out press releases to local papers, worked with your publisher to advertise (or by yourself if you don’t have one) all over social media, you should expect a pretty good first month. The thing is, I didn’t write my book to make money, I made it to help people, so if I make money, it’s a bonus for me. If you’re a first-time author, I would consider every step you take a learning experience. 

The single most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is do not respond to bad reviews! It gets very, very ugly and ends up making you look like the bad guy. There will always be ebbs and flows, get used to it. The harder you work to get your name out there, the more return on your investment you can expect.

Are you self-published or did you use a publisher? 

This question is tricky to answer. I am not specifically self-published, and I am not specifically with a publisher. I work with a company that was just starting out in the publishing arena. They believed in my book, and due to that, we agreed that they would publish the book and help with everything they could, and there would be no money exchanged. They published my book through Amazon, which is where most self-publishers go.  I’m happy with my experience. 

Peter, my publisher, has learned, I have learned, my husband has learned, and through all of the trials, we’ve become stronger people. We have a great working relationship, and I still send people his way. More than a year later, he is still sending me cases of books for promotions. Not everyone can expect to have such a positive experience at first. It wasn’t without pitfalls, but once you finally find someone that believes in your work, go with it and if you don’t, know that there are many, many self-published authors out there that are doing it and doing well!

What have you found to be the most valuable tip for writers with a new book? 
Whatever it is, don't take it personally! My book is a memoir about my life, and there have been a few bad reviews. That felt like a dagger through my heart. It felt like they were not only telling me that my writing sucked, but my life story did too. Try to separate yourself. I cannot stress enough DO NOT RESPOND TO NEGATIVE REVIEWS. Be prepared for disappointments. There will be quite a few. There is nothing easy about this journey, but the bad stuff makes the good stuff so much sweeter. If you’re in search of a publisher, DO NOT go with someone that makes you pay a fee up front. These are vanity publishers, and they are not good people. Learn anything and everything you can about creating websites, social media, Google Adwords, advertising, and promotion. Take a course if need be. There are free social media courses available online; you just have to find them. 

Watch who you pay to advertise for you. For example, there’s a company called Fiverr. It has good and bad qualities. Some people will advertise for you for $5, but did you read their reviews? How many orders have they done compared to reviews and how many jobs do they have waiting in their queue? Just be careful.

One other thing, there are two book clubs on Twitter that I strongly recommend. They aren’t book clubs in the sense where you go over to someone’s house and talk about a particular book. They are strictly online, and they will help you learn the ropes. The first used #RRBC and they are called Rave Reviews Book Club. You can join them for a nominal fee, and they will help you spread the word, offer advice, and assistance and have many great programs. 

The other book club I would recommend is called Rukia Publishing. They use #RPBP and when you're in the club, the members will also retweet for you. I know some of the folks that work for them, and they are good people. 

Most importantly, try as hard as you can not to get burned out. If you're feeling stressed and just can't handle it that day, TAKE A BREAK. You aren't going to do yourself any favors with sales if you're a frazzled mess, I know from experience. Reach out to me if you ever have any questions or concerns. I'll try to get back to you as soon as I can. You can do this!

Best of luck on your journey! I hope you'll have much success!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Confession

About two weeks ago, I got up in the morning and went into the bathroom to change. When I took off my shirt, I was shocked and terrified to find a very, very strange looking bruise on my left breast. It was nearly a perfect circle, and had a dark outer area and a lighter inner area. I had no idea where it would have come from. It wasn’t there the day before, and I know I didn’t injure myself in 24 hours.

So, I took a couple of pictures on my phone and messaged my husband. We were both very concerned, and knew I had to see my doctor as soon as I could. We made an appointment, but by the time we got there, most of the mark had faded. I still had the photos on my phone and I showed him. I thought I could feel something under the mark, and he checked and felt something as well.

The one thing you have to understand is that the last mammogram I had was in 1999 before I had breast reduction surgery. It took me a year to recover from the surgery. I had an infection on one side for a while, and I was in an excruciating amount of pain. I still go through pain frequently if my cats walk on my chest. Sometimes the area where the infection was will just throb for no reason. So, quite honestly I’ve avoided the idea of a mammogram for a very long time. I kept telling myself that I had until at least my 40’s. Even if I felt something strange, I told myself it was because of the surgery and it was nothing.

Well, I’ve been in my 40’s for three years now, and still haven’t made it to get tested. Now it seems like I have no other choice, and I’m having a really hard time with it. My mom died from cancer. Both of her sisters died from cancer. My dad had skin cancer. The chances of me getting cancer are pretty high. Yet, somehow I’ve avoided getting this test done and even avoided an OB/GYN for many years. The truth is, I’m ashamed.

I’m ashamed of my physical appearance. Nearly every single day when I get dressed in the bathroom, I over-analyze every single detail about myself. I secretly call it my eating disorder brain. Things were going pretty well while I was losing some weight this year, but for the last month or so, I’ve been dealing with so much stress and such horrible depression symptoms, I’m afraid I’m back to my bad habits.

I don’t sleep well at night, if I sleep at all. I’m working with my psychiatrist on this part at least, but we’ve yet to find something that will help me fall asleep or stay asleep. It doesn’t matter how late I sleep in the day, I never wake up feeling like I slept. I’m in a constant fog of exhaustion and depression.  So, most days it’s around 4:00 in the afternoon before I realize that I’ve forgotten to eat again. Most of the time, I still won’t eat anything until I’m to the point of vomiting, and then I still don’t feel like eating because I’m nauseated. A week or so ago, Joe and I were talking about what he wanted for dinner and he mentioned a cheeseburger, and I immediately had to get up and run to the bathroom to throw up. That has never happened to me before, and it’s baffling.

I’ll never truly know the effects of starving myself for so long have had on my body, but I know how it all makes me feel inside. I can’t stand my image in the mirror. I hate to have anyone look at me. I don’t like being in public and if I do go somewhere, I’m constantly in a defensive posture. Why is she staring at me? That guy probably thinks I’m disgusting…I think I’m disgusting, why wouldn’t he?  It’s a giant undertaking to get me up and ready to do anything. So, now I have to go to several appointments where people will be looking at me without my clothes on? It’s like hell on Earth.

Tomorrow I go to the doctor for a mammogram and an ultrasound. I’m terrified. I’m terrified of the test, I’m terrified of the results and I’m terrified of the other doctor appointments I have coming up over the next few weeks. I can’t settle down. I randomly cry over virtually nothing and have no explanation when my husband asks me why. So, every night before I finally turn off the TV and attempt another unsatisfying night of sleep, I promise myself the next day will be better. I’ll eat right, I’ll do what I need to do. When the next morning (afternoon?) comes, it’s all forgotten. I get up every single day to a raging headache that decides over the course of the day whether it’s going to become a migraine or not.

I feel like I’ve lost complete control over anything and everything. I’m embarrassed to even talk to anyone. Which is the real cruel irony here. People tell me all the time, you’re so strong and so brave! Look at everything you’ve accomplished! You’re an inspiration to me.

All I can do is say thank you. What am I supposed to say? Gee thanks, but you know, I never leave my house anymore, I hardly eat, I hardly sleep, I’m paralyzed by panic attacks, I’m lucky if I get a shower, and I cry at the drop of a hat. That hardly sounds like a strong and inspirational person.

I’ve been here so very many times before. I’m always thinking to myself why haven’t you learned how to deal with this yet?  The honest answer to that may sound like an excuse, but I swear it’s different every single time. There are different factors that lead up to it, different things that exacerbate it, different reasons it’s harder to manage the symptoms. I’ve tried nearly everything to get through it this time. I won’t lie, I do have good moments. When Joe comes home from work, and I’m finally able to talk to a human being, and we watch something funny on TV, I’m OK for a minute. Then he rolls over to go to sleep and my nightmare starts all over again. Recently, there have been some issues with family, and those issues have been a tremendous burden on my emotions. The nightmares alone are crippling.

So, how do you keep up the brave fa├žade when all you want to do is disappear? How do you encourage and uplift others when you’re terrified to even look in the mirror? How does this “Superwoman” keep flying when somebody is standing on her cape? I don’t know.  I just don’t have an answer, and that thought scares me more than all of the others. What I do know is that I’m still hanging on. I’ve come too far to let all of the stress and fears take me down. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, I really don’t. I can’t even let myself think that something might be physically wrong with me at this moment. It’s far too painful to even let it rent space in my head.

I guess I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be afraid of things that haven’t even happened yet, so I’ll keep telling myself that. Somehow, I’ll get through the rough patch the same way I always do. With all the grace and control of a bull elephant with a hernia. I don’t have a lot of choice. I’m not ready to let go of this tiny shred of hope. I’m not ready to let go of my husband and my life. It’s going to suck; I will not harbor any delusions that this will not suck. I guess I just needed to be honest about where I’m at. If it seems like there are times when I’m a wreck but 5 minutes later, I’m making a joke, well that’s my defense mechanism desperately making a last ditch effort to keep me sane. Thanks for listening. Wish me luck. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Michigan Author That Survived Suicide Attempt Joins Out of the Darkness Walk in Milford, Michigan

As you may or may not know, I am a suicide attempt survivor so this means a lot to me. This is a 5K walk, which due to my back issues, is longer than I have walked in probably 3 years. However, I am doing this walk for everyone like me that thought they had no way out. For everyone that has left us because they couldn't take the pain, and for everyone that has been left behind, scared and confused.

On Sunday October 9th The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is holding a community walk. I’ve created a Facebook event for anyone that would like to participate or donate.

Our team name is "Memory Makers". I am inviting anyone I know from Michigan. Please just ignore if you are not interested, and accept my apologies. No explanation is needed. If you are in fact interested, that's awesome!! Please join this event. I will keep you updated on everything.

Once you have registered, they will give you info on how to collect donations.
REMEMBER - the team is called Memory Makers

Our team has a $500 goal but we can always raise more!
So, do your best to get the word out. If you need any help at all with promotion or social media, drop me a line.

In addition, I have created team shirts, but they don't have to only be for the team. They're very cute and a great souvenir from the event. We need to sell 11 by September 3rd, or we won't get any of them, so check it out! They come in various sizes and styles.

My husband, Joe and I are your team captains, so reach out to us if you need to.

Here is the link to our team page so that you can donate if you can't participate:

Here is the link to the Facebook event:

Here is the link to the souvenir T-shirt:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post - The Hot Mess Really A Mess? By The Bipolar Hot Mess Christina Huff

Today I am proud to feature a fantastic writer, blogger, and advocate for mental health on my blog. We recently interview her for our podcast Voices for Change. The show will air at 11:00am EST this Saturday August 13th. For listening options, you can visit our website: www.voices-for-change.net  Thank you, Christina for taking the time to speak with us, and for guest posting on my blog! 

The Hot Mess Really A Mess?
"I'm a mess!"
When I first began talking to CJ, I warned him. I told him that I was a mess, a walking disaster, and if it wasn't for bad luck, I would have no luck at all.
He didn't believe me.
I picked him up from the airport for the first time. Between baggage claim at O'Hare and my car in the parking garage ready to head off, I think "we" (meaning me) lost the parking ticket twice, my phone at least 3 times, and my car keys at least once. I turned to him and said "See. I'm a mess"
He just chuckled.
The rest of that weekend, I "lost" the pizza place (I swear it had been at that location at LEAST a year ago, my dad claims it moved at least 5 years ago), broke a brand new huge 60ml bottle of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue on the ceramic tile bathroom floor in the hotel room (good thing we were packing up to check out because it REEKED!), and probably lost my keys and phone a few more times.  At the airport dropping him off for his return flight, I warned him again. I said, "I told you! I'm a mess"
He laughed again and said, "No, you are not."
About a month later, I arrive in San Diego. "We" (again meaning me) had a fall asleep on the couch while eating ice cream because the Seroquel kicked in faster than I thought and half a pint of melted ice cream on the couch event. I woke up covered in ice cream frantically trying to clean up the mess in the dark so I wouldn't wake him up, covered it up with a blanket and hoped he wouldn't see it before he left for work and I could finish cleaning while he was at work. He didn't notice but when he called to check on me mid day, I was in tears because the clean up was not going so well and I was so embarrassed. I confessed and he just laughed and said it was ok. I know there were a few more incidents during that trip, but I can't remember them. (He might though lol) I embarrassingly reminded him again, "I told you! I'm a disaster!"
That is when he turned to me and said, "You are not a disaster. You are not a complete mess like you say you are. In fact, you are far more put together than you give yourself credit for. There are A LOT of people who are COMPLETE AND TOTAL messes and disasters. You have had a lot of rough patches, and you may be a little clumsy, but you are more put together than a lot of other women I know."
I was stunned. I couldn't believe that
  1. I hadn't scared him completely off yet with my craziness and debacles
  2. While I thought my breakdown, my career loss, my back and chronic pain issues, and being on disability equaled complete and utter mess and failure, there were people who were a bigger, crazier mess than what I considered being a mess; and
  3. The things I thought were ways and reasons that I was a complete disaster and a mess were really not as big of a deal as I always made them out to be in my head and to him were the quirky things he liked about me.
While I was still in disbelief for a while that he didn't think I was the "mess" I kept telling myself that I was, I had learned that sometimes (ok, maybe really often) I was way too hard on myself and far to critical because of my "perfectionist" issue. Yes, I know my friends and family have, and still do, told me that I need to be a little easier on myself, and I really try to let that sink in, but hearing it from the man that I love was something that I wasn't used to. I had become very used to being the "crazy" girl, or the "mess," in relationships.
Several months later, CJ was at work and I was cleaning the apartment. The previous night he had just filled up his weekly pill container with all of his vitamins, and I had filled up mine with my meds. His has 4 compartments for each day (am, afternoon, evening, and pm) and I have two that are just one compartment per day (one is for my bipolar meds, the other for my back meds). CJ had left his freshly filled vitamin container on the counter and somehow, I had knocked it off the counter and when it hit the floor, almost all the little compartments opened and there was a rainbow of vitamins all over the floor.  I just froze and looked at all of them and then burst into tears. I could just imagine how upset CJ was going to be when he saw THIS. When he arrived home a few hours later, I very quietly, with my head down, approached him with a bowl of all the collected vitamins and his vitamin holder and whispered, all in one breath as fast as I could, "Ummmmm, so this kinda happened today I'm so so so sorry I was cleaning the kitchen and wiping the counter and then boom it was on the floor and I would have put them all back but I don't know what is what and.."
He shook his head, laughed, and said "Hot Mess Moment!"
I know he cringed a lot inside because it had taken a long time to put them all in there, but he knew how bad I felt and so he just laughed.
Because of him, and moments like those, I have been learning that not everything is a huge disaster. Just because things like that might have caused different reactions by people in my past, it doesn't mean that EVERYONE will react that way. My "Hot Mess Moments" do not always mean negative or disaster or time to freak out.
I decided to surprise him one night and make dinner. (He usually cooks and I do the cleaning) I was so proud that everything was turning out so well. I was just taking part of it out of the microwave and SPLAT! I cried out "Shiiiiiiittttt" and  sat down on the floor next to the dinner. CJ comes into the kitchen, sees me and dinner on the floor. I looked up at him with tears in my eyes and he just laughed. He said "Hot Mess Moment!" Then he kissed me on the top of my head, said "I love that you tried, thank you, I'll go out and get us some dinner and be right back" while shaking his head and laughing as he walked out the door.
We call them "Hot Mess Moments." They aren't disasters. They aren't earth shattering. They don't mean that I'm a complete mess and this enormous liability that I had led myself to believe. They are just quirky me. If not for those moments, I think life would be pretty boring. But, thanks to an amazing man, with an incredible sense of humor and extreme patience, I am coming to terms with my quirks.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to help you put things in a different perspective. Here I was, defeating myself at every little thing, and looking at every little thing gone wrong as this huge, giant bright red flag screaming "she's a disaster, do NOT come any closer" and then comes along someone, who despite your warnings, rips down that red flag and let's you know that the red flag didn't need to be there. The red flag was self imposed and wasn't scary to them, so it shouldn't be scary to you.
We can be our own worst enemy at times. I'm so grateful that I have an amazing man, an incredible family, and equally awesome friends to help me snap back into reality. So, if you ever need a reality check, I'm sure you have some friends and family who would do the same for you too! If not, I'm here! You all provide so much support for me and I'm so blessed and grateful to have all of you as part of the Bipolar Hot Mess family, so know that I will be here for you all too!

Previously featured at: http://bipolarhotmess.com/is-the-hot-mess-really-a-mess/

Christina Huff, aka The Bipolar Hot Mess, has been blogging about bipolar disorder and other mental health issues for several years now on her websites, Ask A Bipolar and Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess. While just starting her career as a paralegal, she was diagnosed with bipolar in 2007 and maintained her job as a paralegal until 2012, while also running her websites. She has blogged for International Bipolar Foundation and was a Psych Central Mental Health Hero 2013, as well as nominated several times for WEGO awards. She continues to blog on www.bipolarhotmess.com and tries to keep her 17,000+ Facebook followers inspired and supported and not feeling alone in their own journey with mental illness. She also is owner of www.AskaBipolar.com and tries her best to keep those submitted questions answered with her team of authors at her side. Christina also is part of the social media/marketing team for Yale Productions upcoming film discussing mental health issues called "Michigan". She currently spends her time going between Chicago and San Diego. For more info, you can find her at bipolarhotmess.com, on Twitter @BipolarHotMess, and also at AskaBipolar.com.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I've Been Nominated for 5 WEGO Health Activist Awards!


I have been nominated for two WEGO Health Activist Awards! 

WEGO Health is a different kind of social network, built for the community leaders, bloggers and tweeters who are actively involved in health online. WEGO Health is a platform for committed Health Activists to foster new relationships, gain access to helpful resources, and grow their communities. Our goal is to equip our network with opportunities designed for the active contributor, relevant content, powerful educational resources and shareable interactive media.  

A Health Activist is someone who uses online resources to raise awareness of health issues. A Health Activist advocates for others through blogging, being members of online health communities, and contributing to those communities with their knowledge, insight and story.  *Source: WEGO Health*

I've been nominated for:
Best Kept Secret
Best in Show on Twitter
Rookie of the Year
Best in Show Blog
Health Activist Hero

Here is the link: https://awards.wegohealth.com/

Right now, they are only accepting nominations. If you have a free moment and can nominate me, I would be grateful. (I also feel as if I could win in the blog category as well!)

The actual voting begins on September 12th, and I'm up against some stiff competition, so I'll need all the help I can get!

Here is some info you'll need:
My email: Paradoks1@aol.com
Blog - www.judgmentfreezone2013.blogspot.com
Twitter - www.twitter.com/bekalombardo
Facebook- www.facebook.com/notyourjourney
Website - www.rebeccalombardo.com

This is my actual profile on the site:

Thank you!