Friday, May 20, 2016
Being a Bipolar Author
I’ve spent many, many years dealing with bipolar disorder. However, I’ve only spent a year as a bipolar author. All authors face challenges. Struggling to be published, meeting deadlines, promoting. I am now of the opinion that those of us dealing with bipolar disorder have a different battle to fight. On the heels of receiving my very first rude and threatening email about my book, I am facing an even greater challenge. I have to fight to even continue to put myself out there for this type of scrutiny. I’m constantly trying to tell myself that if I were to give up, the bullies would win. I can’t do that.
Take a book signing for example. I had one last year and going into it, I was terrified. I’ve never been good at public speaking to begin with. When you factor in my anxiety issues, I wasn’t sure I would even get through it. Thankfully, my husband was next to me the entire time. I think I pulled it off, but I’m not sure how I would have done had there been more people in attendance.
We all face issues with confidence. I’m not so naïve that I don’t understand that. I feel like authors or writers that are not dealing with mental illness may have a leg up in some areas. In my situation, I am at a stage where I am rarely leaving my house or even my bedroom. I don’t think someone like James Patterson has to contend with such obstacles.
In my book, I documented my enormous issues with body image and self-esteem. I’ve always been negative about my appearance. Over the years dealing with my depression, I’ve gained more weight than I ever would have imagined. Dealing with bipolar disorder, weight gain, and the possibility of appearing in photos or on television is incredibly daunting. I did one television interview early on, and I can’t even look at the video at this point. It sends me into a deep depression for days. Even now that I’m on the right path with my health, and I’m down 27 pounds, I still beat myself up for appearing in front of the camera the way I look.
For those of us that happen to feel things much deeper than most people, negative reviews are like a sharp knife to your heart. It’s been an arduous task trying to convince myself that just because not everyone likes it, doesn’t mean I’m a failure…or as one person called me, a selfish narcissist. I never in my wildest dreams thought that putting my story out there in an effort to raise awareness about suicide would be met with such comments. I’m simply trying to help people!
Granted, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I didn’t join this fight to make myself look good. Quite the contrary. I wanted to use this platform to tell a cautionary tale, so to speak. To let others know that I made many mistakes along the way, but I am certainly much stronger for learning from those mistakes. Most of all, people need to understand that having a bad day doesn’t mean you have a bad life.
So, I’ll take comfort in the fact that there are those that support me. The mental health community is amazing. I love feeling a sense of camaraderie. As if we’re all here, fighting the same battle and hopefully making a difference. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in the last year. As much as I struggle with social anxiety and agoraphobia, it’s such a comfort to know that despite those issues, I may still be able to affect change in the world around me.
Of course, there are days when it’s extremely difficult to keep focused on the positive. It’s hard to keep focus at all. That is one of the main reasons I’ve been rather terrified to sign on to any particular website to write a monthly column. When I’m depressed, all concentration goes out the window. It feels as if there’s a movie playing inside my brain on fast forward and I have no idea where the remote is. When writer’s block sets in, I can’t slow my brain down to come up with a sentence, let alone an entire article. I’m constantly afraid of letting people down or even letting myself down. The idea of being a failure still rests comfortably on my shoulder. Ever present and always reminding me of the mistakes I’ve made. I often make an effort to reach out and help others with whatever they’re working on. At times, it helps to put my situation into perspective. The next thing I know, I’m writing again.
I never know when an idea will hit me. Last night, it was around 1:30 in the morning. It’s both a curse and a blessing. While I’m grateful for the opportunity to put pen to paper, I’m sometimes a slave to my expanded consciousness.
I realize that I have traditionally been way too hard on myself. I need to give myself credit once in a while. If I see someone on TV that is an extremely talented artist, musician, or even a writer, that little voice inside my head is very vocal. I’m forever thinking, “I wish I was that good at anything!” I’ve beat myself up for so many years, I’m not sure I would know how to be kind.
I lack confidence on so many levels. Poor self-esteem is a symptom of depression, but when will I learn to cut myself some slack? I wrote a book and I got it published, and it’s helping people! I have an extremely successful blog and I feel as if I’ve earned the respect of many others in the mental health community, at least on social media! So, when do I stop and give myself a little pat on the back? I carry burdens that many people wouldn’t be able to shoulder for very long. I fight a battle inside my head (and my heart) from the minute I get up in the morning.
Perhaps now is the time to remember that despite the challenges of being an author and having bipolar disorder, it can be managed. I just have to be willing to use a little common sense. I’ve gotten this far. I think I’ve probably thrown in the towel once a week for nearly a year, and I’m still going. I didn’t die when it was all I could think about 3 years ago. I’m a fighter. I may not always be able to keep that in mind for myself, but I hope I can impart that wisdom onto others that are lacking in the confidence department. Sometimes it’s OK to just exist. If you’re facing a challenge due to your mental illness, let it be your moment to shine! No matter how scary it is, you have to face it head on. If you can’t be realistic about your situation on Tuesday, give yourself some time. Maybe on Friday you can knock it out of the park.