“More Than Normal” 11.18.22

I woke up this morning with a different perspective on my psychiatric struggles. I am feeling excited, lucky, and special. I have two psychiatric disorders mixed together. Time, effort, and a great amount of juggling have caused stability in my life. It is difficult to rise above, so I am proud and happy with my work. Writing, drawing, coloring and producing books to my target audience has always been my dream, but I never imagined how therapeutic it would be for my wellbeing. Creativity brings peace. When I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, I reached out to receive all of the help and all of the knowledge I could summon. I have been studying this disorder over the course of several years. I was diagnosed at sixteen, and the medications I was administered not only kept my moods stable; they covered up the schizophrenic part of my illness. Schizophrenia laid dormant in my mind long before I was made aware. It fascinates me. In college, I wasn’t able to study psychology; at the time, I thought I knew everything there was to know, and that I would be bored. This was a delusion. I acknowledge now that I am still learning. I will continue to grow and change for the rest of my life.

Though I have been studying bipolar I disorder for more than half my life, I have just scratched the surface with my understanding of schizophrenia. I am quenching my thirst for comprehension; I read and research the work of others as I search deep within myself for answers. Frequently, I converse with my soul. Some might say this is far from “normal.” Sometimes my disorder is exciting, and cause for great happiness; other times it can be scary, a bit uncomfortable, difficult and frustrating. I have traveled a great distance to reach stability. I have a severe case of schizoaffective disorder, so this journey has not been easy. As I am living in this moment, I am grateful for the capability to share my story and to hide no more. I am not alone and neither are you. If you or someone you love is struggling, I hope to shine a light; giving you hope that every day is different. When patience is failing, remember the beautiful parts of yourself trying to break through. This is not the end, but we can take comfort in the good days, knowing that we are much more special than “normal.”


“Nests” 11.11.22

*Berman is the personification of my psychiatric disorder.

Since I was a toddler, I have created a safe space for myself in every setting. In my early days, you could find me high in the branches of a tree, pondering life and watching it unfold beneath me. You might have discovered me in the roots of a tree, taking a nap or playing by myself; the tree wrapping her arms around me. Everywhere, I built nests. When I was blessed with a little sister, I occupied the top bunk and she slept below. I created a makeshift canopy made of an old bed sheet attached to the ceiling with push pins, concealing my space. I inherited a fourposter bed from my mom when I acquired my own room, and I covered it in the same manner.

Through the years, I have discovered other forms of hiding. My room was my sanctuary. I have always loved having pockets, not only providing cover for my hands, but occupying them. It’s always difficult to figure out what to do with my hands in a social setting. Hence, pockets! In the sixth grade, I hid my body every day with a jacket three sizes too large. At the age of twelve, I felt a storm brewing under that jacket. Rain leaked from my eyes, leaving wet trails down my face each night. My little sister was outside my bedroom door, begging to help me. I turned her away, considering this a private struggle. I was confused, sad and angry. I was full of dread with no apparent reason. I hid from this illness under jackets, beneath ancient familiar blankets, and sweatshirts with hoods. I tried to block it all out, and unfortunately that included my sister.

I build nests when I feel uncomfortable. In the psychiatric hospital, I disappeared into the recesses of a special hooded sweatshirt. Even now, I sometimes do the same. I bury my face in the folds of an old family quilt, and curl up in my dad’s old sleeping bag. I require much space. When I am overwhelmed and anxious, I spend the night under a weighted blanket. Hiding in my nests comforts me. This is a key ingredient in my stability formula. We all cope differently with the tools we are provided. Building nests has been my specialty. I recognize that Berman will always find me, despite an excellent hiding spot; however, I enjoy a few moments of peaceful solitude.


“Bead Girl” 11.04.22

My family moved to Savannah, Georgia when I was halfway through eighth grade. My parents wanted to give me a high school education at one school, so that I would have the same friends for four years. I hoped to be acquainted with those kids in middle school. This plan failed miserably. I was remarkably behind in my studies when I reached the second half of my middle school experience. Many of the students in my classes were in the sixth grade. The friends I was supposed to meet had advanced classes together and had known each other for several years. There was no place for me. I was an outlander.

When I reached public high school, the lessons were difficult. I was still attempting to catch up. I attended Geometry and Algebra ll simultaneously while my middle school alum had finished Geometry in the eighth grade. I am terrible at math. I had three private tutors and remember nothing. I believe that was the result of “cramming.” Why did we fall subject to the torture of Algebra? It was certainly a waste of my time. Why was I forced to agonize over math homework while my sisters enjoyed a video in the next room over?

Aside from schoolwork and friends I was supposed to make, life became increasingly more challenging. I was manic for the entire first year of high school. I was hyper sexual, filled with energy and productivity, artistically inspired, and daring the Sandman to catch me. I made colossal mistakes, promises I couldn’t keep, and lost weight when I had little to lose. My handwriting was atrocious, but my grades were high. I was hyper focused. I behaved strangely in class, faking injuries and stretching on the floor. The guys I wanted relationships with had no interest in getting caught up in my mess, but others took advantage of my vulnerability. My illness began to expand, and turned in all the wrong directions. I carried a lunch box full of small toys, and handed out Mardis Gras beads to those in need of a smile; in that case, a laugh. I was known as “Bead Girl.”

There were other red flags, but encompassing all of this chaos, I was starved for creative control. The high school I was attending had one art class, and that would not quench my thirst. I was so embarrassed once I “came to,” even though it wasn’t my fault. I switched schools. The high school dream of making friends, staying in one school, and being happy there for four years was shattered. I transferred to a performing arts high school, where I studied and created visual art. I was happier, but not “manic happy.” The Bead Girl moved on.


“Conquerors” 10.27.22

I am referring to people with mental illness as Conquerors, because that is what we do every day. We fight valiantly against mental illness.

Signs of Mania:

*Losing sleep/believing it is a waste of time

*High energy and extreme productivity (cannot sit still to read or watch television)

*Unintentional weight loss

*Slurred/Mumbled speech (racing thoughts, not enough time to catch)

*Out of character messy handwriting

*Promises/Obligations not followed through (too much on plate)

*Overly talkative

*Hyper sexual

*Hyper focused

Recognizing and Handling Situation:

*Keep close watch for symptoms

*Monitor behavior over time

*As a loved one, seek advice personally to gain knowledge from a professional (not me) before confronting a conqueror.

*I recommend not forcing help upon the conqueror. The conqueror may need that eventually, but give time for individual to ask for help. No one likes to be bossed around, and that can backfire.

*Sometimes, a conqueror will recognize signs and will need space to do so, instead of dealing with suggestions or hinting that you are noticing symptoms. That is frustrating when conqueror is attempting to learn on own.


Please contact me if you have questions! I am not a professional but I have an extensive amount of experience. I am available by email and here to help!

“The Odyssey” 10.21.22

Mom huddled beside me at the bottom of the stairs. She treated my depression as if it were as serious as the flu. Now I know it’s more like invisible flu.

In my life, pockets are sanctuary for idle hands. In group settings, I do not know what to do with my hands; a dress with pockets or a sweatshirt with a hood give me comfort. When I was in the eighth grade, my family moved from a town with no secrets to a large world without pockets. I was immensely overwhelmed. I could feel the depression eating me alive, swallowing me whole. I thought it would pass, but it only got worse. The dreadful stomachaches began when I was twelve. I had no psychiatrist, only a pediatrician. He couldn’t put a finger on it. There wasn’t clear evidence of physical ailment, so he was out of his element.

This part is important and doesn’t apply to everyone. I learned it the hard way. Those in dire need of help often do not receive it. I discovered-in my journey through school- that help was available to me and I was unaware. Therefore; I did not benefit from services provided. I suffered greatly through school, nearly failing college. I was not informed about Disability Resources. There is treatment, open doors; help was obtainable. I had to ask. For years I could have been learning at my own pace, taking space, decreasing the burden of stress in my body. Upon this discovery, I was permitted to leave in the middle of a school day to visit my psychiatrist and enjoy lunch before returning to class. I napped in a comfortable chair for hours waiting for my appointments. Sleep is so important when treating my case, and who doesn’t want an afternoon siesta? I did not technically skip school, but my life was much more comfortable than I imagined possible. I urge anyone dealing with these issues to explore this avenue. The illness did not define me, but I had no idea it was real. I thought I was alone.

When we moved to Savannah, Georgia, I was behind in all my classes and dreadful stomachaches occurred often. Reading Greek mythology was more than I could handle in the moment. My mom understood this, and she was a light in my darkness. We finished “The Odyssey” together. My odyssey had just begun.


“Dandelions” 10.14.22

There is no “bipolar.” People use this word to define a person with shifting moods. The word is not the sum of an individual. People are not “bipolar.” People may have Bipolar Disorder, but this is not their identity. The word is carried around, spread like the seeds of a milkweed, birthing dandelions all around the globe. It is a description, a label feeding a stigma. We must be gracious for the medical attention provided us, which in general is almost nothing. The mental health system lacks the appropriate knowledge to serve those most in need. Sometimes I feel we are teaching the doctors who are studying us. There are dandelions in this world who believe that mental illness can be overcome, a weakness to outgrow; believing that full recovery is possible. There is no cure.

Often, I wonder whether or not I would want to be “cured” if possible. How different my life could be. My path has been curvy with many forks, but I believe there is a reason I was born this way. I do not know how to be someone else, and I have accepted my truth long ago. This is not my definition, a label, a stamp across my forehead. I have become friends with my illness and I wouldn’t want that relationship to change. There is not a person who “was” bipolar. Gardens can be well kept, but weeds are consistent.

Perfecting the right cocktail of meds is a nightmare, which often causes side effects such as weight gain, loss of memory, instability and many other physical and mental ailments. I am a firm believer in medications, talk therapy, and psychiatric assistance, but many are not afforded these services. There are herbal remedies and other paths. Unfortunately, when people cannot gain access to these resources, they self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Suffering takes many forms, but we are not defined by our illness. We are not “bipolar,” “psycho,” “crazy,” “schizo,” or “weird.” We are different, and “normal” is boring. You are not alone in this battle. No matter how difficult, we can do this.


“Anticipation” 10.07.22

My Granmama was one of my favorite people in this world. She was lively, adventurous, and wild. She told outlandish tales. She taught her grandchildren the art of storytelling, and she was enrapturing. She was a bright light in my corner, and I never doubted her love for me. She wasn’t perfect, full of chaos, and for Granmama, “Normal” was the greatest insult. Those were some of her most wonderful defining characteristics. Granmama encouraged me to be myself, to let myself feel, to love and cherish my soul. She spoke of the “inner beloved.” Our souls are more important than our bodies. This is the truth we must hold fast, remembering who we are inside.

Granmama didn’t solely voice her feelings of love; her actions spoke louder than her words. She taught me to appreciate nature and practice environmental consciousness. She loved the earth, and taught me the importance of recycling. Sometimes, when I visited her home in Black Mountain, NC I waded in the pond collecting scattered debris. Granmama lived in a house near a small park where we would play, run, and feed ducks. I spent precious moments with my cousins on the bridge playing “Pooh Sticks.” In case that is an activity in which you have not partaken, the rules are simple: Each person chooses a twig and tosses it into the flowing creek on one side of the bridge. All competitors rush to the other side of the bridge, and the twig that takes the lead on its course under the bridge and passes all others wins the round. It may sound silly, because it is. Knowledge of an upcoming visit with Granmama filled me with anticipation. There are many events which trigger anticipation: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Birthdays, etc. Plans to see my Granmama flooded my senses with excitement.

When I was a small child staying overnight with my family at my Granmama’s house, I would wake up before everyone else, on a mission. There was an extremely creaky, swirling blue staircase leading from our downstairs accommodations to my Granmama’s bedroom upstairs. One foot after another, excruciatingly slow, avoiding the groans escaping the old wooden stairs, I emerged victoriously on the top floor. I quietly padded over to my Granmama’s bed. I think she pretended to sleep as I lifted the blankets and crawled in beside her. Now, I know she was expecting me, anticipating my arrival. Then, I thought I was sneaky.

I feel the same anticipation when my husband takes our dog, Logan, outside before bed. In the meantime, I hustle around preparing for bed, expecting him. Without fail, I hear tiny toenails clicking against the hardwood floors as Logan sprints to hop in bed with me every night. It reminds me of my early morning visits with Granmama. I think about her every time.


“In Memory of ‘Mama Cat'” 09.30.22

I have known many cats in my life. My family had one cat after another, keeping kittens and their kittens, and their kittens. They were all outdoor cats, but they called us home. “Father Cats” never lingered, and none of those mother cats collected alimony. At the time, it didn’t occur to us that the female cats were not willful participants in the act of reproduction. It just happened to them. You could say that “cats will be cats, and that’s what they do,” but now I have become aware of the process. In my neighborhood today, there are many feral cats. If they do not belong to you, you can take them to the veterinarian and have them spayed or neutered for $25. They are then able to spend their lives lying in the sun, napping with the knowledge that death will not come so quickly.

I have the best neighbors. They are making great efforts to change the lives of these cats; they are neutering and spaying, feeding, supplying water, and in some cases, providing shelter. These acts of kindness reflect the state of the community. If the cat population was able to verbalize its gratitude, the furry entities would be raining thanks upon our little corner of the world.

I had a favorite outdoor cat. My husband and I called her “Mama Cat,” because she was almost always pregnant. The opportunity to spay her was impossible due to this predicament. “Mama Cat” and I shared a special bond. We communicated through eye contact. When I took my dog outside, our eyes would meet, affording her a chance to escape unseen before we exited the house. She had big blue eyes, light gray fur, and a graceful saunter. “Mama Cat” had a hard life, but our relationship was built on love, trust, and respect. She didn’t bat an eye when I provided water and food for her little ones, knowing I meant no harm. I helped her raise more than three litters. When she was in trouble, I rushed to her aide. “Mama Cat” was always granted a head start as I chased away the “bad guys.”

“Mama Cat” lived for several years, and disappeared quietly when it was her time. I mourn her loss every day. Reality causes liquid trails, trickling down my face when I remember that she is no longer basking on the neighbor’s concrete steps. She made an impact in my life and I miss her terribly. There is no doubt that she was an emotional support animal. I will always remember “Mama Cat.”


“Moments” 09.23.22

In society today, many people have phones smarter than they are. Most of them have cameras. It is easy to get carried away and photograph everything in our lives-even what we had for dinner. Life happens all around us, yet we are glued to our phones and hardly look up, even to speak with another human being. As we fall farther into this world of endless possibilities and cyber relationships, we want to document everything. I have found that personal relationships lack the most photographs. When I am with friends, I can’t find my phone and don’t look for it. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Our lives flash by in a series of moments. We preserve the memories we hold dear, though time distorts the facts. I believe this must be the reason we create home videos, stage photographs, pose, smile, and “cheese.” When you upload a memory to your mind’s long-term hard drive, will you return to that moment after it is over? Will you remember that moment if you don’t take a picture? Does the person behind the camera save a precious moment, or lose it, as they watch the action from a different angle? Does our urge to snap a photograph prevent our first-hand experience? Watch behind a camera as your child takes their first steps. Do you treasure this moment forever, having caught it on tape, or do you miss it entirely? The videographer captures moments, trying to commemorate an occasion that won’t happen again. They are wasting beautiful pieces of life. Watching is not seeing.