Interview Series: Hilary T. Smith

Finally!  Here is the final interview from my Author Interview Series.  Hilary T. Smith, who wrote Welcome to the Jungle was kind enough to answer a few questions.  Please also check out her latest work, here.

Welcome to the Jungle Front Cover

1. I love what you say about the acceptance of meds. Here’s an excerpt that stands out to me;

“Ideally, the purpose of medication is to bring you back to a normal, familiar state of mind—back to your baseline mood. The purpose of medication isn’t to change your personality or turn you into someone you’re not, but allow you to be your fullest, happiest self without malfunctioning brain cells getting in the way. The perfect combination of meds should get you to a place where you sigh with relief and say, “I finally feel like myself again!”

In my opinion, the issue of medication is extremely controversial and is one of the many misunderstood aspects of bipolar disorder. In your experience, what is the most misunderstood aspect of bipolarity?

I’d like to start by saying that I wrote Welcome to the Jungle when I was twenty-three, and my understanding of mental illness and its treatment has shifted somewhat since then. Subjects like medication are much more complex than I presented them in WTTJ; although it would be nice to have a medication that eased your mania/depression while leaving every other aspect of yourself completely intact, that’s not how it tends to work.

With that in mind, I think the most widespread misunderstanding about mental illness in our culture right now is that it is a purely biological problem (those malfunctioning brain cells!) with little or no importance given to culture, family, lifestyle, environmental issues, and one’s own beliefs about oneself and the universe. In our rush to prescribe medication to make the bad feelings and behaviors go away, we leave the context unexamined and unquestioned.

For example, many people take sleeping pills because they can’t otherwise fall asleep at the “proper” time and are in danger of falling behind at their jobs. We have a (societally-produced) expectation that every person should sleep in a single eight hour block and get up for work at the same time each day. In a culture that valued working and resting at one’s own pace, would those people still need medication? Is the insomniac the one with a problem, or is it our industrialized society?

I won’t rant at you too long (oh wait, I already have!). Suffice to say, I think that context is crucial when discussing mental illness of any type.

2. I was diagnosed over eleven years ago, and have researched bipolar disorder extensively as well as am living it myself, and I find your book, Welcome to the Jungle, encouraging and enlightening. (Not to mention, I laughed out loud at your sarcasm and wit.) For example, “You didn’t get diagnosed with bipolar because you’re ugly or because the doctor doesn’t like you. Let’s face it— he’s uglier and his personality needs improving”

Baha!

If you knew then—at your own diagnosis, what you know now, what piece of advice would you give your newly-diagnosed-self?

To be easier on myself.

Even now, I sometimes feel guilty and stressed that I can’t keep the same pace of life as “normal” people. If I have trouble sleeping for a few nights and lose a day or two of productivity, I feel bad about that–holding myself to a modern, industrialized standard I don’t even believe in–when what I ought to do is accept myself and know that I’m okay.

You’re not “bad” if you can’t work at 9-5 job, or if you need more sleep than other people, or if you don’t live the fast-paced life that seems so normal in our culture. You’re just you. I still need to tell myself that all the time.

3. What is the most important thing you want readers to get from your book, Welcome to the Jungle?

I want readers to feel like they have permission to question things and arrive at their own understanding of what is happening to them–and frankly, to use their imaginations. A mental illness diagnosis can be a devastating and disempowering experience, and it takes a long time to unpack it and figure things out. I want readers to have the critical tools necessary to make good decisions about things like medication and lifestyle changes–to least start that conversation.

4. Tell me about what helps you gain a healthy perspective in your day-to-day life?

Nature is an incredible friend. A few hours in the forest is a great way to get perspective on life. When you’re walking in the woods, everyday concerns start to look really superficial.

5. Tell about a time when the stigma of mental illness affected you.

Recently I was house hunting on craigslist, and was shocked to see roommate posts with comments like “no dogs, couples, or anti-depressants” and “we are a vegetarian, pharmaceutical-free household.” This is insulting whether or not you are taking psychiatric medication. It implies that people who are living under the label of bipolar or depression are necessarily going to be troublesome roommates, or are somehow inferior to their “pharmaceutical-free” counterparts.

Our current housing laws make it very hard for people living with serious mental illnesses to find safe, stable shelter. We’ve made it practically illegal to live on a low income; there is far too little affordable housing, and you can’t pitch a tent in the woods without getting harrassed. People who could otherwise find ways to cope and live with dignity are criminalized. If you can’t or won’t play by the rules of industrialization, there’s no place for you. That’s a tragedy.

6. Who inspires you (and why)?

I’m inspired by anyone who lives with compassion for all people.

7. What does STABILITY mean to you?

Stability means living in right relation to your values; knowing where you stand; not chasing after all the “shoulds” society pressures you to pursue; flowing with changes; feeling love for yourself and all others. For me, that has nothing to do with bipolar.

~

Thanks again to all of the authors who participated and worked with me!

Mrs Bipolarity

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Demi Lovato on GMA

So happy to see Demi Lovato on Good Morning America speaking about her experience with bipolar disorder AND she has a new book out called “Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year

I love to see this.  Click on the picture to check out the interview.  Blue hair and all.

demi lovatoThankful,

Mrs Bipolarity

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#crazystigmagreen

Remember NFL player Brandon Marshall who was fined for wearing green shoes in a game last year–in honor of mental health awareness week? 

Now look what he and his wife have done! His wife, Michi Marshall, has partnered with OPI (love me some OPI) to create a new lime green color for mental illness!

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 6.47.17 AM Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 6.47.25 AMFor his entire Instagram post click here: http://t.co/DfscxN4Xbk

Need some nail polish? Why yes, I believe I do!

Mrs Bipolarity

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Happy Birthday to MrsBipolarity.com

Today marks one year here at MrsBipolarity.com!

It’s been a great year and I genuinely thank you all for your support.

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And although it’s been a great year, today is a bittersweet day for me. I attended the memorial service for a beautiful woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend… And so many things to so many people.

In the words of her mother “Bipolar disorder didn’t get the best of her. Her family, friends and loved ones got her best!”

It is however a stark reminder of why we need to fight stigma and educate people about mental illness!

Join me in celebrating life, recovery and stability. But let’s also celebrate the storms in life for they also make us who we are.

Continuing to fight the fight!

Mrs Bipolarity

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How Are You Doing? Bipolar Edition

Some one just asked me how I’m doing.  How I’m doing…in life.  Like, in general.  How is my life going in relation to my bipolar disorder.  A fairly simple question;  “How are you doing?”

But in my head there was a BAZZILLION different angles to respond and ways to answer.

How am I?  What do you mean, HOW AM I?  Do I start at birth or from when I was diagnosed as bipolar?  Oh no, wait, should I start at when I started showing signs of bipolar disorder?

Either way, I’m still trying to answer the question.

“How are you?”

Well.  Um.  I’m good.

I’m genuinely happily married with three adorable kids.  I have a place to live that more than meets my needs.  I have a psychiatrist who is FAH-bulous.  Family and friends who are awesome. My prescriptions are currently working well for me.  God is awesome.  I’m good.

Good

I’m good.

 

But it hasn’t always been that way.  I was diagnosed in 2002.  Started to get a glimpse of stability in 2004ish and by 2005ish things really lined up.  My husband is my constant.  He keeps me grounded, together and reminds me of who I am.  He gets me.  He understands that even when I’m depressed it’s absolutely not an inadequacy on his part, but an inadequacy on the part of the chemicals in my brain, those little shits.

Pregnancies where hard.  Yah.  But that’s to be expected, I think, not taking the same medications I normally did.  That’s hard and a huge adjustment.  Not to mention hormones.  Oh the HORMONES.

But, I’m good.  I mean, I think I’m alright.

I always used to say “I’m stable” but what is stability? I mean REALLY. What is it?  I thought I knew.  I think I know… How long do you have to feel “good” to then be allowed to say you’re stable?  Now, I’m careful how I say that.  I’ve learned.  Sometimes it feels like life’s balance is teetering at the edge…maybe into stability…whoa whoa…and now BAM into a depression so deep you can’t see straight, or a mania so high you can’t stop soaring (in a bad way).

So when someone asks me how I am, referring to my bipolar, I guess the answer is… I’m still here?  I’m good.  I’m still fighting.  I’m good.  Each day is a new day.  I’m good.  I can still count my blessings. I’m good.  On the good days, it’s easy to say… I’m good.  And on rough days I can still remind myself that THIS. WILL. PASS.  I’m good.

Are you…good?

Able to say I’m good,

Mrs Bipolarity

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World Bipolar Day-March 30

Today is World Bipolar Day!

Y’all, this is what it’s all about!  Spreading the word of truth about bipolar disorder. I started mrsbipolarity.com to share my story and to talk about the reality of mental illness.

I want people to know what bipolar disorder REALLY is, and to fight the stigma that’s so heavily associated with mental illness. We’ve got to fight it!

Please feel free to share your story or tell me what World Bipolar Day means to you!

World Bipolar Day

Your Advocate,

Mrs Bipolarity

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A Fear of Being Well

It was my first psychiatrist, who told me I had a “fear of being well” and honestly, I thought that was absurd.  But to some extent, looking back I can see I was clinging to bipolar disorder as my identity. It was all I knew, and who was I with out it?

Unfortunately, I didn’t know who I was with it either.  It sounds kind of gross to me. And kind of ridiculous for me to cling to such mayhem and dysfunction!  However, it’s common (I know that, now) and it was definitely true for me, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

He was right. But, instead of clinging to the “fear of wellness,” how amazing it is to cling to the desire of stability?  To cling to the hard work of obtaining stability and to eventually cling to stability?

Easier said than done?  Yes.  Perhaps so.

Worth the work?  YES!

These are three of the top practical things to cling to:

1. Communicating with your doctor.  I cannot express this enough.  I say it all the time.  I feel very strongly about it.  Be you own advocate!

2. Healthy relationships. Out with the old, in with the healthy. It’s true that other people, negative, and abusive people will bring you down.  Don’t let them do it.  Change your phone number.  Do what it takes.

diagnosisquote

3. Taking your meds, and taking them as prescribed.  ‘Nuff said.  Ok, actually, I have more to say.  Take your meds as they’re intended to be taken.  If you don’t like something, tell your doctor immediately.  (See #1). If you’re not taking them properly they’re basically useless, so take ‘em right! Do it. And do it right.

Don’t let fear of anything, especially a fear of wellness, get a grip on you!

Hang in there friends, it’s worth it,

Mrs Bipolarity

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Blog For Mental Health 2014

It’s pretty simple really.  I’ve committed this blog towards mental health and by joining this project I’m publicly declaring it.  If you don’t know me yet, I’m a thirty-one year old wife and mom of three darling boys.  I was diagnosed in 2002 with Bipolar Disorder. It took me a couple of years, several medications, and two doctors to find a level of stability that I’ve managed most of the time since then.  This blog is about me.  It’s about bipolar disorder.  There’s some unsolicited advice thrown in.  I talk about God, and how great He is.  I try to be upbeat and encouraging without being fake.  Life is hard sometimes and sometimes you just gotta be real.  And that’s what you can expect from me.  (Maybe a little sarcasm too).

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

Blog for Mental Health 2014

Please click this link to participate in the Blog For Mental Health 2014 project and join a community of basically a gazillion amazing people (don’t quote me on that number) who are blogging to eradicate stigma and to educate people on mental illness.  Do it.

Sincerely,

Mrs Bipolarity

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It’s a Year End Recap

How does one recap an entire year?

To recap a year seems impossible.  This year was so good yet so rough.  For fear of sounding like a total sap I won’t tell you that no matter how crappy some life events may be, and how trying and tumultuous my moods might get, as long as I have my husband to live life with, it’s alright with me.  (It’s good I’m not sappy, much).  I’m thankful for my immediate and extended family and dear friends and never want to lose sight of the blessing that they are.

We had two deaths in the family only a few months apart.  And random series’ of events that were little…but big at the same time.   I believe no matter the scale of the event, stress and worry definitely affect my mood.  I had several triggers this year that threw my mood into a funk at best, and a tailspin at worst.  As always I communicated with my psychiatrist to keep my mental state healthy!  It’s a ongoing “battle.”  Some days it’s a walk in the park and some days it truly is a fight for survival.  But it’s worth it.  Worth the fight.  ALWAYS.

In January, my grandfather passed away.  I was able to see him shortly before he passed.  It was a beautiful last memory, as far as these things go.  I have peace.  Our twins turned two in February and in March our fourth baby niece was born– A MAJOR HIGHLIGHT of the year.  Sweet precious girl, we adore her so!  April was a big deal because Mrs Bipolarity was born! April was also the month my Grandmother passed away. Sad times. Hospice is hard and I struggled with my mood. May… what happened in May…?, and on to June when our oldest son turned four years old.  How did that happen?  I have no idea how time goes this fast!  July… I might have turned thirty-one but I’m not confirming anything.  Autumn rapidly approached and my annual cycle of depression started lurking.  Plenty of “mini-trauma” (as I call things some of the things that trigger my mood).  Finally, Christmas and New Years sneaked up on me and here I am.  Still standing up–neither strong nor week–but at least I’m standing up!

One of the highlights of 2013 was coming out of the bipolar closet.  One of the best things I’ve decided to do.  I know it’s helped a lot of people, and that’s why I do it.  I do this to help people and to fight stimga.  When I get discouraged, and think about stopping–someone comes to me with a story of encouragement and reminds me how worth while this journey is…and onward I march.

Thank you.  Each of you, reading this now.  I thank you.

mrs bipolarity head2013 was full of high-highs and low-lows of life, but I think everyone (bipolar or not) experiences that! I wish you contentment (because that’s better than happiness), stability (whatever that looks like to you), peace (because who doesn’t want peace?), self-awareness (you betta recognize!), the tools to fight this never ending fight, and above all I wish you to find what you’re looking for and that God blesses you richly in 2014.

Happy, Happy New Year,

All my best,

Mrs Bipolarity

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Stop Finishing My Sentences

Have you ever typed something into Google, only to have the auto-complete feature fill in the blank by finishing your sentence with absurdities?  Check this out.

google 1 google 2 google 3

Ouch.

I feel so attacked, so betrayed.

Each sentence shows a “reflection of the search activity of all web users” says Google’s Help page.  And just so you know, this is not an attack on Google whatsoever.  Google’s just stuck in the middle.

What I’m saying is each sentence reflects a majority of people who hold that belief.  Yikes.

So basically, Google’s auto-complete algorithm bases these sentence completions off of popular searches, so with that in mind…what the hell, people?

I’m pretty hurt (well, except for the “bipolar people are smarter” one).  I’m apparently taking this personally.  Bipolar people are not categorically mean or selfish… and annoying?

To the masses of people who think things like this…

Do those whiny-assed Cancer patients annoy you as well?  My God, people with diabetes shouldn’t be allowed to have children.  Oh! You’re physically sick with something you have absolutely no control over?  A new kidney you say? You’re isolated from the community.  Done.  If I don’t understand your illness, YOU’RE OUT!

supportjarsstigma

Does anyone else see how absurd this all is?  Stupid.

And to be clear, and to NOT be taken out of context…I don’t think that way about Cancer and Diabetes.  OBVIOUSLY.  Bipolar isn’t my fault, no more than Cancer is the fault of a person struggling to survive that.  I’m not comparing the two in the sense of competing for which is worse (because that’s irrelevant).  What I’m saying is this.  It doesn’t make me less of a person. For people to be blamed for something they can’t control is ludicrous.

I feel like this type of thing is a huge step backwards in fighting stigma, and a huge step backwards in the acceptance and understanding of mental illness.  However, being the kind of person that I am…the knowledge of this just makes me want to fight stigma harder!  Join me, won’t you?!

Not Surprised,

Still Offended,

Mrs Bipolarity

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