Bipolar Webinar September 28, 2016

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I was honored with the opportunity to present a webinar for The International Bipolar Foundation on September 28, 2016. 

Mental Illness Doesn’t Have to Win!

(But If It Does, I Won’t Stop Talking Until The Neighbors Send Casseroles)

https://youtu.be/V1https://youtu.be/V1goGPoEZQUgoGPoEZQU

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Moving into Present Tense

I’ve never been one for New Year resolutions.  Not that I don’t have a million and one issues that need to be worked on, but I’m basically lazy and quite frankly, honest enough with myself to know that any significant resolution isn’t happening.  I’ve grown attached to my bad habits and acquiring better ones is way too much work.  I love carbs, wine and more wine.  I’m disorganized by my husband’s standards.  But I truly believe that creating piles on the floor around my desk is a legitimate system.  No organization resolutions this year.  As for my procrastination issues, I’ll get to those later.

2016

I think there are two types of people.  People that live in the future and people, like me, who dwell in the past.  What are you?  My husband is a definite future dweller.  Most of his sentences begin with the words, “We should.”  My sentences tend to begin with “remember when.”  Unfortunately, I’m not a happy memory dweller.  The world inside my head tends to be pretty bleak.  Many of the people I love the most only exist in the past and to visit them, I have to travel back in time. In my mind’s eye, I can see them, hear them, and forget my real eyes will never see them.

This is my resolution; I’m going spend most of 2016 living in the present and thinking about the future.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not letting go of the people I loved, but it’s time for me to move into present tense.  I’m going to force myself to stop feeling guilty for being here and stop obsessing over death.   I’m, as the saying goes, going to play the hand I’ve been dealt—life.

So 2016, I’m here and plan on remaining present.  I pray you bring good things.

P.S.  There are a few exceptions, I’m not giving up 80’s music or indulging in oohing and aweing over my kid’s baby pictures.

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Music and Time Travel

“Most words evolved as a description of the outside world, hence their inadequacy to describe what is going on inside me.” Quote by Hugh Prather

On Friday evening, my husband and I were together, cooking Shabbat dinner.  He’s in charge of salad and fish.  I handle the rest.  When I wasn’t looking, he switched my usual Pandora Amy Winehouse station to a Motown station. (Don’t you just love Pandora?) Within seconds he grabbed my hands and we were dancing around the kitchen like a couple of clumsy goof balls as Diana & The Supremes crooned about falling in and out of love.  We were having a blast.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nlr9Pgne1c

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But, something else was also happening.  For the two and a half minutes the song played, my mind left my kitchen and travelled back to a warm July day in 1982.  I was nineteen again and riding in a big old blue bomb of a car with my Jersey shore summer roommates. We were cruising down the Garden State Parkway singing along with the Supremes. Thrilled that Diana “Got him back in my arms again.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSkHFc240nY

As a writer, I’m constantly searching for words to describe emotions, experiences and reactions, hoping I choose ones that resonate with the reader.  I envy the musician/song writer because through their art, they achieve something I never will as a writer—time travel.  When I hear the Supremes, I’m in that dumpy Ocean City apartment dancing with Diane, Stacey and Debbie.  A Flock of Seagulls returns me to my first week at Pitt, inside the dorm room I shared with Suzanne.  When anything by U2 plays, I’m with my brother, walking from the parking lot to Three Rivers Stadium to for the first, last and only U2 concert we saw together.

All of these are more than memories. I’m there. I see it. I feel it.  Pictures are nice, but they don’t come close to evoking the experience as a song does.  What do you think—Pictures or music?  What transports you?   Any special song/ memory you’d like to share?  Write it in the comments.

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Striving For A Happy Ending

Ironically, I don’t like books about mental illness.  They’re depressing.  You’re probably scratching your head right now thinking; she’s really nuts. Yeah, I am, but that’s not the point of this post.

A few weekends ago, I attended the Pennwriters Conference. The first question you get at a writer’s conference is “what do you write?”  I’ve got the explanation of Defective down to about thirty-five words.  I always expect to get an eye roll and a perfunctory “that’s nice.”  Again, mental illness is a real downer.  But, when people hear that it’s also a love story and a bit of a family saga, their interest perks up and within moments, they are telling me stories of how mental illness, either directly or indirectly, has affected their life.

I’ve developed a theory on why this happens.  We’ve all been diagnosed with a physical illness, whether it is the flu, a broken arm, or diabetes.  When this happens, we focus on the game plan to reach recovery—drink fluids, wear a cast of six weeks, change your diet and take your insulin.

Being diagnosed with a mental disorder is different. When you receive the diagnosis, your heart pounds against your chest, while you struggle to control the overwhelming desire to scream “no.” It’s at that moment all the mental illness movies you have ever seen—Girl, Interrupted, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hours, A Beautiful Mind, and so many more—become a montage playing out in front of your mind’s eye.

When you learn of friend or family member’s diagnosis, the reaction is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, because there’s no real path to recovery, only treatments that may or may not work.

(Spoiler alert)  My thirty- five word description of Defective is surprising because it offers hope to people hungry for a happy ending, to a story that feels doomed to be a tragedy.

I think that from this point on when people ask what Defective is about, I’m just going to say one word—hope.

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Goodreads Giveaway-Entry Closes in 2 Days

Only two days left to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a signed copy of Defective.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/134830-defective

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Mental Health & the Media or I Told You So!

This article was posted on Facebook by World Bipolar Day.  It conveys the message I have been preaching since I wrote Defective.  The media feeds the stereotyping of the mentally ill.  We are not just our diagnosis!

Kudos to Kristin Fawcett for writing it.

“Unless you majored in psychology or attended medical school, chances are the bulk of your knowledge about mental illness comes from the newspapers you read, the television shows you watch and the movies you see. Studies indicate that mass media is one of the public’s primary sources of information about disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia and depression.”   Continue reading…

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/04/16/how-mental-illness-is-misrepresented-in-the-media

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Passwords, Post-it-Notes & The Black Hole

Passwords—I hate them.  Every six months or so, Pini nags me about changing our passwords. This would be a reasonable request—if he bothered to memorize the ones I created after his last lecture on cyber security.  He claims I lack a system for password maintenance, which is so untrue.  Every single password I create is immediately scrawled onto a Post-It-Note and stuck to the wall beside my monitor. I never said it was a good system, but you can’t argue that it is, in fact, a system. istock-post-it-notes1 The squares of paper inevitably fall to the floor behind my desk—the Sofayov version of a black hole.  Once that tiny yellow square of paper hits the floor, it throws me into the cycle, create a new password, write it on a Post-It-Note, stick to the wall, fall into the black hole behind the desk—lather, rinse, repeat. Years ago, pre-major brain altering medication and pre-menopause, I could remember my passwords.  (Yes, I know the dark ages of the Internet. When only one password mattered.  The one the nice man asked for after telling me “You’ve got mail.”)
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Then the cyber criminals came along.  Forget identity theft, now I have to create passwords that contain numbers. I can barely remember my home phone number.  As for adding symbols, I’ve picked my favorite, and I’m sticking with it until they create a symbol representing a frustrated woman, thumbing her nose at the computer screen. Sorry, for the rant.  But I think I’ve found a solution.  Today I’m going on Ebay to search for a Rolodex.  A lot of you older folks will remember those—cards stuck into a thingy with a knob on the side.  Spin the knob…  (Forget it, just see below.)

rolodex2 I’m creating a special card for each website, just the basics, web address, title, log in ID and password.  It will sit next to my monitor, within easy reach.  Also, I’ve decided to ignore Pini, who insists that:  A. The computer replaced the Rolodex.   B. The problem isn’t passwords, just my inability to organize anything to his standards.  (He hates piles and loves folders.) I’m hoping this will work because, I’ve run out of letter, number, symbol combinations.  All those brains in Silicon Valley should be able to come up with a better way.  So, until then, any organizational suggestions would be appreciated.  -s

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Punctuation and Holidays

Last week, I spent four days in the Lehigh Valley attending a writer’s conference and hanging out with my old college roommate.  I arrived home late Tuesday afternoon and immediately went into Passover cleaning overdrive.

passover 2

As I scrubbed, vacuumed and dusted, I started thinking that holidays are a bit like a period at the end of the sentence.  A writer crafts a sentence by stringing together words to create flow, clarity, and hopefully meaning.  Once satisfied with the way the sentence reads the writer types in the period.  This small act provides a brief moment of satisfaction over the creation of the sentence—a moment when the writer sits back and enjoys the completion.

new-writer

 It seems to me that the holidays are the periods in our lives.  The days leading up to them are focused on planning, cleaning and cooking.   But these acts alone do not give the holiday meaning.  Like the writer crafting the sentence, the meaning is in the word choices.

My favorite holiday memory is of the year a huge storm blew out our electricity hours before the start of Sukkot.   The stove and oven were electric; it would have been rather rude to serve raw chicken and a side of uncooked rice.  I called all the guests and canceled.  My children whined with disappointment and so did my husband. Finally, an hour or so before candle lighting, my husband announced, “We have a gas grill!  Call everyone back.”  manischewitz

In the chaos of the evening, I felt pure joy watching my family pull together to create a meal for our guests.  When we finally piled into the sukkah, the food was just a trapping.  A sense of completeness emerged as I watched the results of the choices I made—choosing to convert to Judaism, choosing a wonderful husband (who could use a grill) and the children we created together.  With complete clarity, the meaning of my life surrounded me.

That’s the purpose of the holidays, a period of time to stop, enjoy and examine the flow of life, which was created through tough decisions, hard work, and often fate.  They are the period at the end of the sentence, giving us an opportunity to review what we created.  In that moment of review, we face another choice, rewrite it or declare it good and begin writing the next sentence.

simpsons460edit

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Social Media Apology

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I seriously believe people born after 1985 inherited a mutated gene that gives them an innate ability to understand the social rules of cyberspace society.  Our children may disappoint us when they text during dinner, but plenty of strangers in the cyberworld feel they have impeccable manners.  My daughter once informed me that if you don’t respond to a text immediately, it’s rude.  Better to ignore the real person than the cyberperson.

I was born in the sixties.  My generation’s first experience with technology involved a circle and spinning.  Yep, we mastered the rotary phone.   Then it was on to manually changing the buttons on the TV, which we learned only because our parents were too lazy to get off the couch and do it themselves.  By college, we mastered the cutting edge stuff—the typewriter, the stereo and burgeoning technology, the computer.  Some of our generation excelled and some of us got busy having babies and our greatest adventure in the world of technology consisted of the baby monitor and the awesome automatic baby swing.

All of our kids learned to poop in the potty, walk, talk (Unfortunately on some days.)  And then they learned to email, Tweet, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.  As we framed their elementary school portraits, they left us in cyberdust dust, pathetically puffing our chests over the fact that we figured out how to post pictures on Facebook.

In the olden days, we made fun of moms who tried to dress and act young.  Now my kids make fun of adults who think they can keep step with social media.  (I’ll let you in on a secret.  There’s a conspiracy organized by everyone born after 1985 to make sure no mom ever, ever, catches up.)  The trouble is some of us are forced to try.

I have a book contract that requires a “presence” on social media.

I spent the weekend in the Lehigh Valley, hanging out with my college roommate, Suzanne, at a writer’s conference.  We decided to attend a session given by social media guru Kristin Lamb.  We both walked into the session, feeling rather proud of ourselves for getting the hang of Twitter and Facebook.  Neither of us really understood blogging but wanted to learn.  I walked out of that room choking on my humble pie, embarrassed to even think about logging on to Twitter ever again.  My tweets, Facebook posts and blog entries violated every rule of the social media universe. Only luck kept the social media police from arresting me for obnoxious behavior.  (As I type, Suzanne is in deep blog repair mode also.  She’s sitting across the table, huffing over her WordPress theme than refuses to bend to her will.)

The sad part is I spent hours trying to do it the right way and still screwed up—big time, spending an entire year annoying the hell out of cyber space.  So here it is folks,

I apologize.  Sincerely and thoroughly apologize.

No more marketing, no more tweets saying “buy my book, buy my book.”  From now on I’m going to use this blog to do the one thing I’ve secretly wanted to use it for but felt foolish admitting to. I’d like to make some new friends.  (That sounds pathetic, but it’s true.)

You see, I work from home, not just writing, but also, for my day job, managing rental properties. Sometimes I don’t get out of the house for days and feel really out of touch with the planet. So, let’s talk.  Want to complain about technology?  Leave a comment.  Hot flashes annoying the shit out you—vent away.  Work from home and feel lonely?  Let’s have a virtual coffee break or a glass of wine.

So, don’t buy my book, just introduce yourself through the comment box and let me know you’re out there, trying to master cyberspace, too.

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An Unhappy Anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of the brother’s passing.  For the last couple of days, I’ve been contemplating what I want to write on this blog.  Of course, all the clichés and metaphors come to mind, which I guess is natural because many do a good job of conveying the ache you feel, in your heart, when you lose someone you love so much.

A year, a simple 365 days from the day we laid him to rest.  Here’s what I have to say:

It sucks.  Each and every day without my brother sucks.

When he was alive, we didn’t spend every moment together.  But every moment, consciously or unconsciously, I knew he was there.  I know. I know. He’s somewhere, watching down on me.  And I do talk to him pretty often.  The one sidedness of this air-to-alternate-realm communication leaves a lot to be desired.  I would prefer communicating through Verizon, text or talk.  Either would do.

For instance, an incident occurred when my mom and I drove to Philadelphia to pick up Emily from college.  If you don’t know my mom, let me explain.  If anything weird is going to happen—it happens to her.  While sitting at the rest stop table, she bit into a hotdog.  Suddenly, her eyes bulged and her face turned white.  As I did the Heimlich maneuver on her, only one thought filled my head.  I have to call Don.  He’s not going to believe this one.

That’s the thing about losing someone you love, whether it’s a spouse, parent or friend.  You are left behind still committed to what has become one-half of a relationship. A relationship that you most desperately don’t want to let go.    So, I will continue talking to my brother and imagine his smile when I tell him something good.  When Kerry and the kids walk into my house, I will always see him towing up the rear, wearing a baseball hat in the summer and a goofy knitted cap in the winter.

A year has passed.   Honestly, my heart hurts as much as it did on February 5, 2014.

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