Friday, March 30, 2018

Happy/Sad/Happy World Bipolar Day

I thought about appropriate ways to mark today, and considered the following:

Driving to DC and back within 8 hours (6 hours of travel, 2 frantic hours of sightseeing)
Crying inconsolably for 5 hours
Using enough curse words to win a Profanity Prize
Maxing out my credit card by buying 4 more pairs of (very) expensive heels
Picking fights with Steve, the kids, and any friend unlucky enough to be in my path

But then I remembered—my bipolar disorder is under control now, and has been for years. The behaviors described above were hallmarks of my long-past daily rollercoaster of wild mood swings: episodes of mania followed immediately by bottomless “blues.”

There are millions of us worldwide who live with bipolar disorder. The lucky ones (like me) get the help they need, good therapy, effective meds. The unlucky ones (including those who do not have health insurance or any other means to be treated) keep suffering. To add to the problems, many people refuse to admit they have a mental illness at all, because of fear. Fear of losing loved ones, losing jobs. Fear of the criticism and prejudice of a society that still stigmatizes and demonizes people with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, PTSD. No wonder they are afraid! Wouldn’t you be?

During the 12 years since my diagnosis, I have searched for a reason why I was afflicted. I’ve concluded that this was not a God-sent punishment for my sins; it just “happened,” as it does to so many. I couldn’t control getting sick. What I CAN control is how I live my life in recovery. And that is where I find the silver lining.

As much as possible, I am using my voice as a writer, speaker and church worker, to be a mental health advocate. I have written and spoken extensively about my experience, and encouraged others to do the same. And they have, which is such a good and healthy thing for them, and for the world at large. Mental illness should be treated like a physical ailment. We wouldn’t shame someone with heart disease or cancer; we shouldn’t shame someone whose struggles have to do with their brain chemistry.

I am thrilled to be co-producing the Philly premiere of This is My Brave, a show that shines a spotlight on mental illness. We have cast the show with 15 very brave individuals who are willing to share their powerful stories with an audience. I have high hopes that we will reach many people, and spread awareness and acceptance. Mental illness touches EVERY life. Treatment needs to be more available and affordable. And the stigma must be shattered.

Two of my favorite reasons for living!

So on this World Bipolar Day, I stand with my bipolar brothers and sisters. I pray for healing for them. I thank God every day to be in a better place, and remember that my job, now and for the rest of my life, is to reach out a hand of love and support to others.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

An Aurora Named Steve

Forces of Nature!
I always said I married a colorful guy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center space physicists have just named a newly discovered part of the Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights), and they are calling this phenomenon “Steve.” Steve can be seen further to the south than the rest of his eerily glowing counterpart. I don’t find my spouse to be “eerily” glowing, but otherwise I see a resemblance.

This is just the latest in an escalating series of natural events that are given human names. Remember when only hurricanes were called “Gloria” or “Hugo”? Now EVERY unusual happening boasts a different name. Superstorm Sandy! Winter Storm Skylar (Sky-lar. Get it? I like that one!) and so on. I suppose these monickers make them more “special” (think your local weathercaster writing Thunderstorm Gus!!! on the weather map—perhaps with a frowny face). It’s all about the branding these days, whereas back in the Mesozoic Era that was my childhood, rain was rain and snow was snow and that was the extent of it.

As I have a number of rather animated guys and gals in my immediate family, I thought I’d do the National Weather Service a favor, and go ahead and name upcoming disturbances in the field after my loved ones! Here goes:

Volcano Sheridan: Sher is placid on the surface, but bubbling with inspiration and creativity underneath. When he erupts at last, thousands of musical notes cascade down into the valley below. Beware of molten concerti, people!

Earthquake Evan: Ev is on the West Coast now, so this is extra-fitting. Amid the rumblings of national political unrest, all at once the earth is shaken with new possibilities. San Andreas? You are not at fault! It’s Evan’s Congressional candidate Gil Cisneros! Whoo hoo!

Tsunami Rose: She just missed a very big one before her arrival in Thailand in 2005. As the tide receded, unsuspecting folks ventured back into the water, then whammo! And our lovely Rose still likes to catch us all off guard!

Heatwave Patrick: He was baptized on the hottest day of 1991, and sweated through multiple sports over the years. He’s an executive chef now, enduring the restaurant kitchen’s sky-high temps. For Pat, every workday’s another scorcher!

Blizzard Julie: Gentle as a softly falling blanket of snow—until it hits you that this blanket is three feet deep. Julie’s effect is slow but steady. Note: Julie will also rescue you from the drifts, because Julie.

Tornado Ya-Jhu: NO one can power through a house cleaning, or a meal making, or a song cycle writing, like our Yaj! The trick is to batten down the hatches, enjoy the ride, and not get swept away.

Aiden and Peter are a little young to be meteorologically labeled yet, but I’m sure something significant will bear their names someday.

And me? Hailstorm (crazy, mixed up, ice pellets on a warm day) probably fits.

 This is fun! Monsoon? Cyclone? I can christen it! Bring on that weather event, Mother Nature!

Steve! (Photo from National Geographic)