Writing My Book and Speaking Out Loud

Writing My Book. Speaking Out Loud. Stock images of laptop with notepad and pens and auditorium with podium.

I’m Writing

This morning I had a productive and encouraging book coaching session with Aaron J. Smith of AaronJSmithWriter.com. With his help, I’m rewriting my previously self-published work, Blogging for Bipolar Mental Health.

The current working title of the revised memoir is Bipolar Thoughts (or My Bipolar Thoughts – which do you prefer?).

Today we worked on my introductory piece, “My Mental Health Journey,” which chronicles my story of living with depression and bipolar disorder from age eighteen to now. This 5300-word narrative combines and expands on my previously written long-form pieces.

Following the narrative, I’ve organized my writing into sections containing short form pieces which convey my thoughts. The section themes are: Bipolar Thoughts, Write with Purpose, Advocate, and Caretake.

Organizing my short form content into these sections overwhelmed me. But, I chipped away at it over time and got it done.

When I first published my book, I cut and pasted content from my blog. Though I knew it was duplicative and needed rewriting, I found the prospect of a major overhaul daunting, overwhelming, paralyzing.

Aaron has been a HUGE help in breaking down the tasks at hand.

My next step (my homework before our next session) is to write a compelling conclusion to “My Mental Health Journey” about why my story matters to me and how it matters to share it with you, my readers.

After that, we will edit the short pieces.

Public Speaking Gig

Writing the conclusion to my “My Mental Health Journey” will have to wait until next week, for this Friday I was invited to speak at a downtown Los Angeles high school mental health assembly.

My first public speaking gig as an individual independent of any major health non-profit!

The speech is scheduled to be 25-minutes long. That’s a LONG speech! I’ve spoken for NAMI Orange County (NAMIOC.org) and for the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF.org), but never by myself in front of an auditorium and never for 25-minutes straight.

Assuming the principal’s approval pending a background check, I’ll be hard at work this week on the speech. My plan is to repurpose “My Mental Health Journey” into speaking points.

Knowing that doing so will be stressful and overstimulating, likely triggering hypomanic symptoms, I made a reservation at a nearby hotel the night before the speech.

At first, I thought of asking a friend if I could stay with her the night before the event, then I realized that doing so would overstimulate and exhaust me even more.

Socializing gets me going in a bad way. I ramp up. I get overexcited, anxious, irritable. I speak faster, filling the air with more and more words. My thoughts race. I can’t concentrate. My mind stops, free falls, unable to find what it’s looking for. It’s exhausting.

The night and early morning before I speak, I need no distractions or stressors. Not only must I avoid social stressors, I must avoid the stress of driving in Los Angeles gridlock. I need peace and quiet.

Wish me luck! I welcome your prayers and positive energy as I prepare for the speech.

What I’ve Done Recently

Hypomania, Self-Care, Success!

Frustrated, Defeated and Hypomanic

The weekend before last, I was frustrated, overwhelmed, feeling defeated, and mildly hypomanic.

I felt like a failure as a mother, for I hadn’t been able to get my son to take his high school equivalency exams. Told that I make it too easy for him to stay in his bedroom compounded my feeling of guilt.

How could I balance compassion for my son’s severe migraine pain and social anxiety with consequences that forced him to take more responsibility?

Repeated what I’ve told him before (without a hard date): He had to move forward – with school, with helping around the house, with addressing his anxiety, or with work – or he would have to move out.

Now that he’s a legal adult, we’re no longer legally obligated to house and feed him. We don’t intend to kick him out. But, he must move forward and take responsibility as an adult member of the household.

Provider Education, Take Two

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Orange County (NAMI OC) chapter asked me to retrain for the new two-day Provider Education curriculum.

I had served on the Provider Education team that first structured the five-week course content into a two-day format, and we had done it in two days numerous times.

Turns out the “new” curriculum varied very little from what we were teaching. By lunch on that Saturday, I lost my temper. I was insulted.

Explaining that I had a lot going on in my life (mother’s stroke, dad’s death, son’s anxiety), I left with the “new” two-day curriculum binder in hand.

Self-Care

After losing my temper at NAMI OC, I knew I needed a break to pull myself together and bring myself down from irritable hypomania before the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) Women’s Mental Health panel discussion on the following Tuesday.

How did I recover? I left. Booked myself into a hotel in La Jolla Sunday through Wednesday and relaxed. Not everyone can do this. I realize that. But, it’s cheaper than psychiatric hospitalization.

Women in Mental Health

On the International Bipolar Foundation’s Women’s Mental Health Panel, I represented the mature woman living with bipolar. Mental health activist and actor, Claire Griffiths, represented the perspective of a teenager. Aubrey Good, the Social Media and Program Coordinator of IBPF, represented the young adult perspective.

I had a wonderful time meeting IBPF staff and volunteers and loved being a part of their panel discussion. I hope to do more public speaking events in the future.

Success!

When I returned home Wednesday, my son had showered, dressed, fed himself, and was ready to take his first high school equivalency test. He passed. I never doubted his ability to pass the test.

BIG DEAL: He overcame his anxiety and didn’t get a migraine. Two days later, he took the next test despite migraine symptoms. He took migraine and nausea medications and faced his fear. Again, he passed.

Two down. Two to go. Moving Forward.

Connecting with Online Friends in Real Life

This weekend, Sarah Fader came into town. She managed to connect with several mental health advocates and writers over the weekend.

Sunday, we met with:

I never would have tried to visit so many people in such a short time!

Mini-Family Reunion

Sunday night had the pleasure of meeting my uncle, two of my cousins, their spouses and kids in Anaheim. Family. Love. Great food. Fireworks in the sky. Thank you!

I CAN Do It

Lesson Learned: If I take care of myself, I can achieve more AND so can my son.

So Easily Broken

So Easily Broken text on broken glass image

Yesterday this “story” of mine was published on Stigmama.com at FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley | Stigmama. Clearly, it is fictionalized autobiography. I simply wrote what surrounded me in third person.

FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley | Stigmama

All around her books, binders, and training manuals piled. She had an article to finish and submit, blog posts to write, book reviews to complete once she finished reading the books, and multiple social media presences to maintain. “Shit,” she thought, “how the hell am I going to get out from under all this?” Why, oh, why had she made so many friends who wrote books and blogs she now felt obligated to read? Actually, she really wanted to read those books and blog posts. Really she did. But there were only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, so many week in the month, and she could not procrastinate indefinitely – actually, she could and she did.

Why now had she decided to volunteer in her community? Volunteer work that required her to study densely written manuals before her actual training even began. Volunteer work in which she would bare her soul, expose her vulnerabilities – her struggles living with mental illness, with bipolar disorder – in public, in person, in front of classrooms of high school students, in front of mental health professionals. Yes, she would share her triumphs, too, but she didn’t feel particularly triumphant in the midst of the chaos that surrounded her. Her anxiety grew. She neglected herself, her family, her dogs, her home, even her roses.

Like she didn’t have enough to do already. Everywhere she looked on every horizontal surface – every counter, table, desk, chest of drawers – she saw clutter. In the corners of the master bedroom, under the stairs, on the living room and dining room floors – clutter. Stuff and more stuff. The clutter needed sorting, needed decisions made. Keep or toss? Where would she put it anyway? The clutter overwhelmed her – buried her.

Then there were those unfinished walls – a patchwork of dreary earth tones the previous owner preferred, fresh new paint, and raw drywall texture covering up wounds from temper tantrums thrown. Turns out not only toddlers throw temper tantrums. Her child had no way of knowing that if he kicked the wall it would break. Lesson learned. Walls are only sheetrock, son. They are not strong. They are not invincible. They are not all that solid. She felt just as fragile. Maybe she looked rock solid, but she was so easily broken.

End the Silence

Yesterday morning I attended a NAMI Ending the Silence presentation at an Orange County high school. I hope to soon train to become an Ending the Silence presenter for my local NAMI Orange County chapter. Since I’m running on empty, here I simply quote verbatim (yes, once again, I just copied and pasted the content) NAMI’s Ending the Silence home page (www.nami.org/ets/):

NAMI Ending the Silence

Helping middle and high schoolers understand mental illness makes a big difference. We can teach them about the warning signs for themselves and their friends. NAMI Ending the Silence helps raise awareness and change perceptions around mental health conditions.

Through this free classroom presentation, students get to see the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and a family member tell their stories about mental health challenges, including what hurt and what helped.

Why Ending the Silence Matters

  • 1 in 5 kids experiences a mental health condition; only 20% of them actually get help
  • About 50% of students ages 14+ with a mental health condition will drop out of school
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds
  • The earlier the better: early identification and intervention provides better outcomes

What Your Students Get

Moving stories from positive role models have the power to change kids’ views. The discussion gives students the rare opportunity to ask questions about mental health challenges to people who have lived it. The presentation’s message of empathy and hope encourages students to actively care for themselves and their friends. It also teaches them it’s okay to talk about what they’re feeling. NAMI Ending the Silence covers:

  • Early warning signs
  • Facts and statistics about youth and mental health conditions
  • When, where and how to get help for themselves or their friends
  • When it’s not okay to keep a secret

What People are Saying

“I’m really grateful and glad that you talked to us. I often feel very alone or weird because many kids my age don’t understand. But, now I’m sure they would be more supportive of me.” -Student

“It is amazing what just one day, one talk can do. You never really know what’s going on in the brain of any particular student.” -Teacher

Schedule an Ending the Silence Presentation

If you would like to host a NAMI Ending the Silence presentation at your school, contact your local NAMI. If the presentation isn’t already available, ask to bring it to your community.