Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Guest post from Amanda the lead singer of the band Saphyre Rain and a Fabulous Writer!

I think they want us to be silent.

It's amazing how silence is deadly. The longer you wait to speak up about something that is hurting you, the harder it becomes. At least, a lot of things have turned into regrets that way, for me. 

It's hard to be honest in a pretend world. It seems like people everywhere want you to be happy, even if that means faking it. How many memes have I seen go by, touting "a smile is better than a frown" or "just smile even if it doesn't mean anything". The "grin and bear it" mentality is dangerous. Why are we encouraged to deny what we feel? Why is it a societal abnormality to be sad or heartbroken? 

I remember a particular time when I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I remember thinking "this is how all those people feel - this is what it's like to have your heart broken." And in that moment so many things suddenly made sense to me. A flood of songs, lyrics, and stories suddenly rang true. This pain is what the whole of our race is feeling. If you are a human, you have experienced pain. It comes in various shapes and forms, yes, but we all have felt the sting. 

Why then, are we silent about it? As humans, we are all in this together. We are all living this beautiful life and each page of our story, one day at a time. So why should we force ourselves to look happy when we are dying inside? Why should we pretend for those that don't really care about us?

I feel that this fact keeps us alone, when we are hurting....when we need other humans the most desperately. We don't want to be "abnormal" or "weird" or labeled with one of those labels that society comes up with, like "crazy" or "screwed up". 

I have a message for you:

You are not crazy. You are not messed up. You are not ruined. You are not finished. This pain is not going to last forever and you will overcome. You are not alone in your fight. And we will sing together until this silence is broken. 

Because you deserve healing. And the beginning of healing is breaking the silence around the pain you are going through. 

You deserve to sing your song, even if it is a sad one. It doesn't matter if the chord at the end can't resolve into a blissful major note. It is still your song. This is still your story.

You deserve to say how you feel and still be loved and accepted. You deserve life and love and the realization that hope will never leave your side. 

Don't give up. I believe in you. Sing it out. Xo

"Sing it out, sing it out. 
Take what is left of me,
And make it a melody.
Sing it out, sing out loud.
I can't find the words to say, 
You'll be my remedy.
My soul, my soul.
I sing with what's left of me."

--Switchfoot's Jon Foreman

Monday, October 31, 2016

Making an Exit

Recognizing that you’re involved in something that might not be healthy for you can be difficult. Whether it’s a relationship with a spouse, a job, or even just dealing with family; many of us have a tendency to hold on for dear life for fear of looking like a failure.

Historically, that’s been one of my biggest fears. The “F” word. Now factor in all the work, time, energy, and heart you’ve put into whatever the situation may be, it’s incredibly hard to let go. Sometimes there are subtle signs as the situation deteriorates slowly. Other times, they may as well have bought themselves a billboard alongside the highway.

I know for me, I’ve had to put an end to a few relationships just in the last couple of weeks. It always hits me hard, no matter how badly I needed to pull myself out of the fire. At my age, I can’t afford to waste any more time on people who consistently belittle me, threaten me, yell at me, or disrespect me. In the case of my family, I’ve gone back for a second helping of abuse soup because I felt an obligation to my mom or my dad to make things work. I’ve always shouldered a great deal of the responsibility because I felt like I owed it to my parents, even though my mom isn’t even alive anymore.

If enough time passes and just the right things are said, my brain is suddenly capable of forgiving the past, and I let these people back in. Only to end up as I am now; with a cellphone full of nasty voicemails and text messages telling me what a horrible person I am. Despite what some people may choose to believe, I truly am a good person, and I suppose I have trouble coming to terms with the fact that not everyone else is. It’s like an expression I once heard says, ‘You’ll end up very disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.” I think that applies to this situation perfectly.

Something similar happened last week with a working relationship. Technically, it was not a job, and no money ever changed hands. It was supposed to be a fun Saturday morning hobby, but we still attempted to maintain a working relationship with all involved. It became clear fairly early on that being friends was out of the question. However, for the sake of the project, we tried. I don’t think anyone else knew the difference, but we sure did.

My husband and I worked very hard to make this project a success, but unfortunately we just couldn’t keep hanging on to a situation that wasn’t healthy for either of us. Once a fun little hobby becomes a full-time job, without pay or benefits, it’s time to reevaluate the situation. When you add miscommunication, verbal abuse, and a condescending, know-it-all attitude from the person you’re doing the work for, it’s time to get out.

I don’t care what it is, even if it’s a million dollar a year salary, if you’re left sobbing every day due to stress, it’s no longer worth it. In the midst of all of this, I experienced a breast cancer scare, to which I can happily report that I got the all clear for now. (I go back in six months.) I kept on working because I felt like I needed the distraction. However, when family members or close business associates respond to hearing the news by saying, “Yeah, I’ve got a lot going on over here too” as you express your fear of possibly having cancer, seems like a pretty good time to get out of there.

Let me reiterate that many of us with bipolar disorder are terrified of the “F” word. I know that nobody wants to fail, but when your brain isn’t quite firing on the right cylinders, in the right order, it’s a daily fear. I didn’t take a shower today?!?!?
I’m such a failure. It sounds ridiculous, and I recognize that, but it’s true!

So, how do you extricate yourself from an unhealthy relationship of any kind? Obviously, it’s different for every person and every situation. However, if you already know going in that it’s going to get ugly, I’m not against writing a script for yourself, so you stick to just what needs to be said and not even engage in any of the back and forth arguing. I wish I had thought of it before now so that in the past I would have remembered to stay in my lane, and not engage in the childish bullshit.  Unfortunately, in my case, both eruptions occurred without a hell of a lot of warning, so I didn’t have time to plead my case using common sense and intellect.

I would certainly advise that you not make the same mistakes I did and lose your cool. Conduct yourself in a calm manner, don’t let them drag you down there with them. None of this is your fault. You never asked for, nor do you deserve this type of treatment. Believe me, I know it’s hard; but if you wholeheartedly know that a situation is no longer healthy for you, you owe it to yourself to exit stage left. Let me also add that with the way social media has taken over, it’s not enough to just unfollow someone on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve got to block them and fast before they can do any further damage to you psychologically.

Try not to feel guilty or as if you’ve failed. You are not the reason that this relationship went bad. Have you probably made mistakes at times, just as I have? Of course, I’m sure all of us have. However, if you’ve come forward and admitted to those mistakes or even apologized for the times when you weren’t at your best, that’s all you can do. If the other person still treats you badly, you can’t allow that person or people to treat you like you don’t matter. You’re better than that. You do matter, and you are enough. Don’t ever forget that!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Four Little Words

*Ironically, this post was written before my most recent blow up with my family. Things are even worse now than when I wrote this, but I’m going to post this as a first step in forgiving myself for allowing them to hurt me again*

Were they ever proud of me?

As long as I can remember, I longed to hear one thing from my mom or dad.
“I’m proud of you.”
If it was ever said to me, I can’t remember it now.

I recall speaking to my dad about it after my mom passed away. I felt like it left a gap inside of me. It wanted to hear it so badly. He told me she was, but it’s not the same.

It’s something that I struggle with regularly. I try to surround myself with good, caring people but that doesn’t always work out. In fact, it almost never works out. There are people out there, even in my life, that are incapable of giving you the validation you feel you need and deserve.

I was watching Dr. Phil the other day, and he was talking about something that resonated with me. This young woman in her 20’s or so was coming face to face with her mother that abused her as a child. He said to the daughter, “You want an apology, you want the validation, but you don’t need it to move on with your life.” Some people just aren’t capable of giving us what we need, and boy have I ever learned that the hard way.

Those of us with big hearts know this all too well. What Dr. Phil said next just clicked for me. He said, “It’s like asking me for your car keys. I don’t have your keys, so I can’t give them back to you. Maybe your mom is the type of person that will never be able to give you your keys.”

It was like a light bulb went off over my head. I’ve wasted so damn much time trying to get people to like and understand me. Most of them don’t nor will they ever have the capacity to do so. All of the years spent desperately trying to keep our family together were a complete waste of time. They never had my keys, so I never got what I needed from them.

Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I have to figure out how to be proud of myself. I can only allow people into my life that truly do like, understand, and respect me. I know I say this a lot, but I’m so grateful for my husband. I can always rely on him, and I hope he knows he can always rely on me. We’ve both been hurt by many people in the last 15 years of our marriage, and I think we’re both at our breaking points.

I feel like I might be thinking more clearly than I have been in the last two weeks. I still have a lot on my plate and a great deal of stress and anxiety to deal with. However, I think I may have finally convinced myself that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. I can only be me, and if that is someone you don’t like, so be it. I don’t need you around.

I’m not going to struggle day after day to be a part of the lives of people that can’t be bothered with me, are rude to me, or just flat out ignore me. I won’t subject myself to family members that refuse to acknowledge that I have something very serious going on in my life, except to say, “Well, do you ever ask about us?” 

I’ve shared my struggles and my triumphs with family members, only to be brushed to the side so they can compare their life to mine. It’s what I like to call “the pissing contest.” Oh, you’re getting tested for breast cancer? Well, let me tell you all the ways that I have it harder than you do. It’s ridiculous, and I refuse to engage in it any longer.

I guess it’s time to let go of all of the favors I’ve done for people. It’s time to stop expecting that they have the same heart as I do, and they will return the favor, or in some cases even say thank you. I’ll be brokenhearted every time.

I am carrying around an epic amount of stress and fear, and I’m doing everything I can to keep my composure, but it’s getting harder with each passing day. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry before. Especially when there are people in my life that just keep on poking the bear to see how long it takes before the bear snaps its tether.

The entire time Joe and I have been married, people have always gravitated to him and ran screaming from me. I guess it’s time to accept it and move on. I am the common denominator, after all. I’m not Joe, nor will I ever be. Most people don’t even give me a chance, and that’s fine. They weren’t worth the effort.

Right now, I have to focus on holding it together for the next few weeks. I can’t be worried about whether a certain person cares or if anyone is proud of me. I have to hope for good news and forget about the stress. It would be nice to have my family by my side during all of this. However, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that they are just my “family.” They aren’t friends, and they never will be. 

I’ll never hear the “I’m proud of you” that I have so desperately wanted all of these years. The sooner I accept that, the better off I’ll be.  However, I can be proud of myself, and I hope that every day, I’ll get a little closer to being able to say that.

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 giveaways, use 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. 

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:  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:

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 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 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, on Twitter @BipolarHotMess, and also at

Monday, August 8, 2016

I've Been Nominated for 6 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:

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:
Blog -
Twitter -
Website -

This is my actual profile on the site:

Thank you!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Guest Post - The Question I Dread Answering About My Bipolar Disorder by Madelyn Heslet

When getting to know someone, you ask a series of questions:
What do you do?
Where are you from?
What are your hobbies?
As a person with bipolar disorder, I get asked the same questions. But when someone gets to know me well enough, they ask me a different set of questions:
Why do you feel that way?
Why did you do that?
Why did you say that to me?
The answer is complicated, which is the reason that “Why?” is my least favorite question. It’s difficult to explain my bipolar disorder to someone who isn’t also diagnosed, but usually, I find a way. The part of my illness that is the most difficult to explain is how I have very little control of myself, my emotions and my actions during a bipolar episode.
People assume since I’m on medication, I must be able to fully control my bipolar disorder, but that’s not true. My medication helps me manage my illness, not control it — at least that’s how I feel. Despite regularly taking my medication, I feel out of control more often than not.
People, even those closest to me, can’t comprehend what it means to have no control over your life. They don’t know how it feels to be controlled by this alien that is bipolar disorder. They don’t understand when they ask me why, I can’t say anything but, “I don’t know.”
I really don’t know. I know my illness controls my thoughts, feelings and actions, but I don’t know why I can’t gain control. Maybe it has something to do with my strength. Maybe I’m not strong enough to take back control of my life. Again, I don’t know. All I know is most of the time, I feel completely powerless, like I have no choice about how I want to feel.
It’s hard to explain how out of control I feel. It seems like no matter how I try to word my explanation, nobody understands anyway. I feel like I don’t even understand it myself, like I’m the one who needs the explanation. If I don’t understand this part of my illness, how can anyone else understand? I realize I need to find the answer, consult my doctor or therapist and finally take back power over my life.
I have no explanation, but I have come to the realization is is possible to regain control over my bipolar disorder. I’ve realized I am the one who needs the explanation, and that’s why this is the part of my bipolar disorder that is the most difficult to explain.
About the Author:
Madelyn Daphney is a 24 year old single mother, writer, mental health advocate and cat lover. She spends her time chasing her toddler and writing about her mental health journey to do her part in ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Social media:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Coping Skills

We hear a lot about learning coping skills when we’re dealing with mental illness. There has always been sort of an “industry standard” list that many doctors and therapists will give you to help get you through panic attacks, social anxiety, and depression. It has been my opinion for quite some time that you can’t expect something that would work for person A to work for person B.  Not to mention, you may have a go to coping skill that regularly works for you, but a day may come when it just isn’t working.

I think it’s important for all of us to keep a list nearby of what usually works for us, with a few back-ups included. I’m going to talk about a few of the things that work for me. Just in case I use something you’ve never tried. By no means am I trying to tell you what to do, but keep an open mind. You never know!

This one is pretty obvious. I’m an author and a blogger so of course writing is one of my coping skills. I wouldn’t be able to do it if it didn’t help me in some way. Keep in mind that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Right now, all you’re doing is attempting to get your thoughts together. Even if you just jot down a list of words that describe how you’re feeling or random sentences, it may help.

Music can be a double-edged sword when used as a coping skill, so tread lightly. The right music may put you in a better mood, but the wrong music can make you feel ten times worse. Be sure you’re using the best choice for you at the moment.

This is something relatively new for me. I re-discovered it earlier this year, and I can’t say enough about it. When you’re putting all of your energy into making the picture in front of you beautiful, it’s hard to think about anything negative. And when you’re done, the feeling of accomplishment sets in, so you’re feeling better on two levels. I use both coloring books and colored pencils and an app on my iPad. They’re both a lot of fun and help when I’m anxious.
I love taking pictures. If I was better at it, I might’ve made a go of it professionally. I have a good eye for detail, and I’m pretty creative, so even pictures I take with my phone are important to me. Nothing is better than a good camera and being able to put all of your focus into getting the perfect shot. Not to mention, when the weather is nice, it feels fantastic to get out of the house out into the fresh air to get some great shots.

I know this sounds a little strange to use as a coping skill, but I do have my reasons. My panic or anxiety attacks are often the result of feeling a loss of control. However, when I clean, I am in control. I can put all of my effort into making a room clean, and it gets my mind off the negative thoughts. Not to mention, this skill also lends itself to a feeling of accomplishment. When you struggle with the guilt of not accomplishing enough on any given day, this can be exactly what you need.

Cats have always been a huge part of my life. We had them the entire time I was growing up, and I got one as soon as I moved out on my own. We have five and they are a constant source of entertainment. Our oldest cat, Hayley seems to have a sense of when I’m feeling down and barely leaves my side. There have been many a lonely day that our cats were the only thing keeping me going.

Movies are a lot like music in that you need to be selective about what you watch when you’re feeling down. When I’m feeling sad, I have a few go to films.  I often find myself craving historical films like Memoirs of a Geisha. I also love 80’s movies like The Breakfast Club or action like The Avengers. I stay away from anything that will most likely make me cry. However, from time to time I will just turn on the Lifetime network and immerse myself in all of its cheesy and ridiculous splendor.

Punching bag
This is also new to me, and I haven’t been able to get as much use out of it as I would like. I’ve pictured many a face on that bag while I punch and kick it! It’s a workout and a half, but it is also a lot of fun.

On a side note, certain scents can also be helpful during sad times. I have a variety of wax warmers and scents that I find comforting. This usually goes hand in hand with the other tasks.

So, that’s my list currently. Did anything surprise you or give you an idea of your own? I hope so. I think it’s incredibly important for us to take time for ourselves, especially when we’re struggling. You may even learn something about yourself or develop a new skill.

I get it, these types of things can often seem annoying when you’re feeling bad. I know for me, there are times when I don’t want to do any of them. I want to stay in bed and hide under the covers, and that’s OK too! I’m just saying, think about it. Just try one out and see if it gives you any relief. If not, come back to your list another time and try something else. Isn’t it worth it to get you feeling better?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Post - PTSD - The Silent War of Non-Combat by Agyei Ekundayo

I'm thrilled to have a fantastic guest post from Agyei Ekundayo, a mental health advocate and very talented writer. Thank you, AJ for sharing your perspective on PTSD. I wish you all the luck in the world on your journey through mental illness. 

Write. That’s what the therapist told me to do—write. Journal. Get it all out. That when I’m all done with exposure therapy and I’ve practiced deep breathing for an infinite time, to leave a paper trail of how often I’ve been stricken. To count the episodes of when I’ve tearfully succumbed to flashbacks. To note the emotional abuse of a bipolar Caribbean mother. This is one black woman’s plight with trauma; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

                PTSD is one of those illnesses with an unfair reputation. It’s written off as “combat fatigue” to emphasize the battle-hardened scars of military personnel. It makes one sympathetic to the needs of those shell-shocked by events incomprehensible to the average psyche. It draws an outpouring of support to veteran sufferers who cannot fend for themselves. It also invalidates the stinging pain felt by people who haven’t served one day in anybody’s uniform. To say that PTSD is worse for service men and women than those who don’t share the same experiences is like telling a victim of sexual violence that he or she was simply fondled; not penetrated.

                I was diagnosed at the age of 32 after years of symptoms had crippled my life. I exhibited all of the classic behaviors including exaggerated startled response, avoidance, and numbness when experiencing certain triggers. I continue to stutter to this day at 38; I still sleep with the lights on. My family relationship is strained, to say the least. Mom and I don’t speak very often, no matter how relatives say we should. I haven’t seen her since 1998 and pictures of my hometown triggers crying spells. There have been times when I cut myself to numb the pain or sat in a restaurant with my back facing a wall. I don’t like anyone standing behind me because I feel unsafe.

                PTSD is a beast to deal with and medications do very little. Most medications for PTSD are prescribed to relax you. They may do the trick for the anxiety piece of it all, but often leaves you feeling like a zombie. Various forms of therapy are the only sure “cure”. Talking about traumatic experiences help to understand the scope of its effects. Gradual exposure to noise or other less paralyzing triggers in short duration is believed to re-acclimate a person to society without substantial fear. Creative outlets such as art therapy have been proven to be a safe method to recall flashbacks without significant emotional distress.

                I’ve tried a combination of therapies without much success. I recently wrote my memoir and suffered multiple months-long procrastination spells while writing, due to flashbacks. The rape I survived my sophomore year of undergrad makes me hate men some days; despise them on others. I can’t shake the migraines from getting hit by a car junior year has caused me, or the short term memory loss brought on by epileptic head trauma. My therapist told me to do deep breathing. I did that. She said switching medications would help. It didn’t.  I’ve been institutionalized 5 times and prescribed 13 medications by 10 doctors. My former therapist warned me about visiting family members without having panic attacks under control. Truer words have never been spoken. What am I getting at?

                Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is just that—traumatic. It affects every area of your life including interpersonal relationships and employment. It’s the reason why I am divorced. It’s the reason why I haven’t worked in five years; why I am also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s the reason why I am writing this article. The next time someone tells you that they suffer from PTSD, don’t ask them “What branch did you serve in?” Say instead, “Do you feel comfortable with sharing how you feel? I’m here to listen.”                                                               

Agyei Ekundayo is a mental health advocate and author. 
Follow her @AJWriteMental.  
Youtube--AJ Writer

Guest Post #14 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Dr. Jason Holland of Lifespark

About the Author: Jason M. Holland, Ph.D., currently serves as the CEO and Editor of Lifespark , an online well-being magazine focuse...