“Mental ‘Illness'” 09.01.23

My husband owned and managed an art gallery for many years. When my books were published, they were available in the shop.

“Remember Who You Are: Defining Yourself Despite Your Mental Illness”

Some people looked on with curiosity; others bought copies; many had ideas on how to publicize my books on a grander scale. A few customers made derogatory jokes to one another. “We should buy this for your mother,” a woman whispered to her husband, suppressing a laugh.

One customer surprised me.

I left the gallery to retrieve lunch one day, as per usual. Upon my return, my husband recounted a conversation he’d had with a woman in my absence. She was bothered by the title of my book, voicing her opinion that it may be insulting and should have been expressed in a different light. At the time I was offended and confused, but I was so greatly intrigued that I think of that encounter often, to this day. I have considered many possibilities for her reaction and settled on this explanation: Illness suggests frailty and weakness; something is wrong. In truth, this is not a communicable disease, but an invisible life-long struggle. This is neither frailty or weakness, but fortitude.

A “psychiatric disorder” is another way to phrase “mental illness.” This title leads society to rip these words apart and see only “psycho,” which is a whole different ball game. I cannot be certain, but I think “Remember Who You Are: Defining Yourself Despite Your Psychiatric Disorder” just doesn’t roll off the tongue so smoothly and could turn many away, judging a book by its cover. Separating “disorder” implies a constant state of chaos. “Mental” is often interchangeable with “crazy.” These adjectives are cast about casually, without thought of their weight.

The key inappropriate word in this title is “despite.” Remembering who you are includes your mental illness. You are not defined by your disorder, but it is a piece of your puzzle.

Though I will continue to wonder how this stranger would title my book, I think we can all agree that the point here is to embrace every part of yourself as you…

“Remember Who You Are.”


“Cure?” 06.23.23

Pain covers a lot of ground. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes pain has an obvious reason. I tripped and broke my hand. I fell out of a tree and blacked out on the way down. I lived.

We are told that we are broken on the inside. These words spill over breaking news. Many suffering souls are blamed for heinous crimes because that is the prettiest conclusion, the obvious answer, the first response. Quickly, painfully, this person is judged; a scapegoat.

The media feeds society the idea that mental illness is a crime in itself, a problem to be solved. Speaking from experience, some people in my life have passed judgement upon me, following the path of lies. They will not understand because they make no effort. Some believe that mental illness is “fixable.”

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of sixteen, my high school boyfriend thought this was something I could overcome. In a way, he was right; I have come a long way. On the other hand, he believed this would pass if I worked hard enough. He was not very supportive, but he was sixteen, so what could I expect of him?

Years later, in college, I met someone who truly believed he had been cured of mental illness, due to his devout relationship with God. I believed he was hiding from the truth. If he didn’t address the issue, it did not exist. In my experience, covering yourself with a blanket so that you cannot see anyone does not mean they cannot see you. There is no cure for mental illness, but there is effective treatment.

When my family lived in Savannah, my dad used to ride his motorcycle with a group of friends. They gathered once a week for breakfast. Sometimes I was Dad’s “biker babe” on the passenger seat. One day, I sat across the table from one of the guys, who had a very hard head. We had a conversation about mental illness. I tried to open his eyes, and realized that when some people spend their whole lives believing one idea, it follows them all the way to their grave. I made no progress.

Sometimes, I wonder if there will ever be a cure for mental illness. If this is possible someday, would I want it? I have spent most of my life dealing with this ghost. I have grown to love him. This is part of who I am.


“We Don’t Say That Word: Freedom of Speech” 05.19.23

When I was a toddler, my dad was the assistant director at a beloved summer camp. My family has history there. We have frequented this camp for generations; our ancestors spent weeks there during the warmest months of the year. My life began in a cabin in the woods.

The residence for the assistant director-filled with me, my dad, mom, and sister, Jessica-was located near the archery range. Each of the counselors taught a different lesson. They were high school and college kids working for the summer. One day, as I played and rested in the roots of a large tree, I heard the archery instructor yell at the campers in a loud, frustrated manner, “SHUT UP!!” My parents had taught me how to keep peace with words, and some words were forbidden. I vacated the tree roots and marched down the hill, wearing nothing but a diaper. I scolded that counselor in a loud voice, “We don’t say that word!!” He fell silent. Freedom of speech comes at a cost. You never know when a two-year-old is holding you accountable.

Children are hanging on our every word. They are listening intently to conversations rated far above PG. Using derogatory terms, such as: “Crazy,” “Psycho,” “Lunatic,” “Mental,” “Stupid,” and even, “Shut Up!” are feeding the stigma. These words float around us from all directions. The media is partially to blame, but dining with parents and friends who discuss these topics over the counter can separate a child from the truth. The effect is a future wrought with continued ignorance and intolerance, passed down for centuries.

Later in my childhood, my mom was game instructor for the “Kid’s Fellowship” Program at our church. She has always been an advocate for “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” She created a beautiful environment for the youth group and was very active in the church. I will never forget her authentic slogan:

“Build each other up.

Don’t tear each other down.

Don’t bully, boss, or push around.”

-Margaret Buice

My mom’s words are inspiring. If everyone took a page from her book, the world would be a much better place. Mom always understood that her speech was expensive. She has four daughters and manages never to forget who is listening.


“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!

“Life, Long, Loud Journey” 6.17.22

I suppose I have been dealing with mental illness in some form for the entirety of my life. I have been climbing the cliff for a long time. The path set before me has been challenging, to say the least. As a child, I was shy and quiet. I rarely smiled in public. Memories change and twist as years press on, but looking back I wonder if I had the energy to smile. Possibly I hid my battle deep inside, away from the eyes of those looking on. I had a happy childhood, no complaints and no regrets. I had no reason to frown, yet my face was frozen. Leading up to my first bout with depression, I cried myself to sleep every night. I didn’t recognize what I was up against.

I was usually a happy kid, though I was often sad and angry. My little sister, Jessica, had a bedroom next to mine. We fought a lot. After an evening fight, we would wake up the next day and forget the reason for our discord. The point was moot. We share a deep connection, and love each other unconditionally. She would come to my door at night, hearing me weep. She was concerned for me, as always. I turned her away, even though she only meant to help. I wanted to be alone in my grief over intangible issues. Years flew by like butterflies drifting in the wind, fighting for their lives. What happened? Who was I? Who am I now?

I am curious about how different my life may have been if only I were not born this way. When I ponder this topic, I realize that I was born this way for a reason. Without my experience, I could not help others. If there were a cure, I would not entertain the idea. My mental illness is not who I am, but it is certainly part of my identity.

I think about that shy and quiet little girl. She was sad. She was anxious. She was young. She was brave. I am no longer shy or quiet. I over-share. I ramble. I repeat myself more than often. That little girl travels within my heart and I will always protect her. I hope she would be proud of me now. I opened my mouth and let out her story. Now, I smile.


“Humans” 01.28.22

This is a day for pondering. What defines a human? The dictionary gives us no clues, and we are left with our own presumptions. Who is a person? What are we made of? Some would say we are made of 75% water. It cannot be purely physical. Is it the mask we wear in public that defines us; or is our foundation built around the person we become behind the scenes? Are we solely at the mercy of our parents’ example? Do we choose water over blood, or are we so strongly bonded to family that we are connected like roots to the people we were born to live, love, and tolerate?

Are we defined by our minds, our bodies, our spirits? Our actions and our reputations? Do we read nonfiction in order to learn, or are we entertaining ourselves in a form of denial called “fiction.” Do we learn what others force us to know, or do we learn because we are curious? Is it human nature to be curious? There are people who want to drown the world out in order to close the blinds on reality. No matter how dark our curtains can be, there are slivers of light reaching through to gather us and bring us to the sun, guiding us toward truth. What are we hiding from? Are we sexist? Are we racist? Are we judged by the color of our hair or the shade of our skin? I believe that life is better when you face it and stop burying yourself in the ideas of past and future. Some of us lead long healthy lives, while others strive to succeed and fail. All we have is now. This moment is real. This moment will pass. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are not invincible, as we hold fast to this idea. We will not live forever. We only have now.

What defines a human? Love? Acts? Flaws? In truth, I do not know. I speculate that the answer is simple, though some people try too hard to understand. I believe that humans have the capacity to love and to forgive. We can learn to break away from hate. We can become whole by helping those less fortunate. Humans have the chance to do what is right, as well as what is wrong. That is our free will. Our words and actions speak volumes about us. We do not all follow the path of light. I believe this makes us human, and it is never too late to change, grow, and prosper.


“Lost and Found” 12.31.21

My dad used to tell me to “Run like the wind!” He shouted that phrase during cross country races and during soccer games. He has always believed in me. So, I ran like the wind. Everywhere I went. Driving? Walking? No. Shoes or bare feet? Not even questionable. I hate wearing shoes. When I was younger, I climbed trees and ran through the woods pretending to be Pocahontas. A wild child, with a strong spirit and an active imagination.

Losing my capability to run was tragic, but it opened up doors I didn’t know existed. My creative mind took control. I acquired a few trophies for various events throughout my life. I kept only two. The first and last. While I am proud of landing my first-place trophy in a road race (my last race), I hold my very first trophy closer to my heart. When I was in the first grade, I won the first-place Young Georgia Authors Award. This trophy serves as a reminder of my beginning as a writer and illustrator. It expresses that every voice, especially the little ones carry weight.


“Happy Holidays” 12.24.21

The holidays are happy times for many people. However; they are also a terrible pain for others. Falling on hard times financially. Sickness. Loss of loved ones. It is one of the seasons that takes the most lives. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in case you or someone you love is even thinking about this idea. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has more information and aid. There is plenty of help when/if you need it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline