So That’s Why So Many Writers Are Alcoholics

This weekend I went to my very first writer’s conference.  You may be wondering what that means exactly and what it entails.  Allow me to explain…

This particular conference was hosted in Manhattan and provided an opportunity for writers of various genres to work on their book pitch and then recite that pitch to three different editors from different publishing houses.  There was also a panel with three agents from different publishing houses, which was both very educational and informative while also being incredibly depressing and disheartening at the same time because basically, it’s impossible to get someone to publish your novel.

The conference was three days, Friday through Sunday, and we spent our time with the groups we were broken into.  My group had nine people in it and each idea was incredibly creative, developed, and different from the next.  I feel like I really lucked out on my group because on day one I was the only New Yorker, people had traveled both near and very far, and everyone showed up ready to work.  It also seemed like we collectively did a good job of checking our baggage and bullshit at the door because having an ego will get you absolutely nowhere in the publishing world.

I pitched my novel to two editors on Saturday and one on Sunday and they all had the reaction I anticipated; it’s a really great story, but I don’t publish work like yours.  The words “brave”, “passionate”, and “intense” were thrown around which makes sense when you’re writing a modern day version of Girl Interrupted based on your own experiences in a loony bin while maintaining “fiction” status.

I have to say that overall this was a really incredible experience and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in something like this, but I learned a few things I wasn’t anticipating.  But I guess that’s kind of how learning goes so I’m definitely looking it as a positive experience.  So, things I learned:

The publishing industry is bleak.

Less than 1% of authors get published.  Those are not great odds.

Opinions are like assholes.

Aka everyone’s got one (in case you weren’t familiar with that joke).  The editors I met with didn’t have any interest in publishing my novel, but that doesn’t mean another one will feel the same way.  I always think about The Beatles and the fact that dozens of records labels rejected them, one going as far to say that they would never amount to anything.  I bet that guy feels like an asshole, and so will these editors when they see me on The Ellen Show sitting next to my book (come one universe, give me this one).

They still don’t get me.

Pitching a book about mental health is hard, especially when the word “suicide” is in your pitch.  I kind of felt like I didn’t get the same kind of feedback that others got because my topic is so sensitive and I state the story is based on my life experiences.  I mean it’s not like I’m used to be treated a little differently when people find out I have bipolar disorder, but I guess I didn’t expect that kind of “skating around” that I felt today.  The main reason I wrote this damn book is to avoid those situations.  When I say I have bipolar is should get the same reaction as I have diabetes or I have chronic migraines or insert whatever medical condition; I’m just a person who needs to take a  pill to be function.  Who doesn’t at this point?

I might ride solo.

In other words, I’m starting to seriously consider self-publishing.  From what I’ve heard it’s pretty easy and you get to do everything on your own terms.  The main reason I’m writing this book is to spread awareness and reach out to people who are suffering and let them know they’re not alone.  I have my job to make money, I just want people to read this because I think it can help them.  I mean, I would certainly love to make money and be able to quit my job and travel the world talking about mental health while simultaneously becoming BFF with Ellen since I keep appearing on her show so often.  But I’ll take what i can get.

Basically, this weekend taught me that I might need to be creative with my approach and I am so extremely grateful for my day job.  Because anyone who thinks they can pick up a pen (i.e., open a Google doc) and write a money-making best seller right off that bat is playing a fool’s game.

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The Game

It feels like the only time I can actually write is when I feel crummy.  Like now.  So I guess it’s good that I haven’t written in a while?

I don’t know the answer to that question and I’m not sure if I want to.

Anyway…

I’m in the midst of another round of “what’s the right combo of meds for Kate” and I wish I could tap out.  This is a game I’ve played with multiple doctors for almost 16 years.  Sometimes I think that it really is all a game, that it’s all bullshit and therapeutic meds just make everything worse.  But then I get on the right combination and I remember what it feels like to feel “normal” again.  Normal for me is being able to go to work, hold a conversation, take a shower, and leave my apartment without having a breakdown.  You forget how difficult the simplest things can be until you have a depressive episode.  Plus, meds tend to minimize these episodes, which is why I try to push out some of the hippie crap that’s always in my head about being “natural” and remember that meds are here to make me better.  If I had diabetes I would take insulin, so what’s the difference?

Another reason I go along with it and keep holding out that there is this “right combo” of meds for me is because I know it’s too risky to go without them.  I know what it’s like to actually feel crazy; to have a very skewed and limited sense of reality.  It can be both terrifying and exciting at the same time, until reality (the real one, the one you can’t see) starts to fall apart around you.  But you’re too delusional to care so you keep falling until you hit the bottom.  I’ve hit that bottom a few times in my life, and it’s not a place I ever dare to get near ever again.  

So I call my doctor when I feel crummy.

I trust him to make educated decisions about my mental health and he trusts me to tell him when something isn’t working.  I have to, I’m a human not a computer so no alert will go off if my mood destabilizes (unfortunately, that would make so much easier).  I have a similar agreement with my husband; as long I never give up on me, neither will he.  I can imagine being married to someone who has an illness that you can’t usually see can be quite frustrating and draining, but he makes it look easy.  

This gaming is getting harder to play because the stakes keep getting so much higher.  When I could withdraw from college, live at my parents house, and use their insurance things weren’t as complicated.  Now I have a (super amazing) marriage, a (legit) career, and a great life that I need to keep alive.  And some day I’ll (god willing) have a tiny human being to keep alive.  

So that’s why I keep playing this game.  

I don’t think bipolar disorder is a game I can ever “win”, but I think if I can keep the upper hand at least most of the time then I’m doing just fine.  And after 16 years of practice, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep me on top.

Anxiety Survival Tips: The Wedding Edition

I’ve always heard that planning a wedding is one of the most stressful and exhausting processes a human can go through.  I’m here to say that is absolutely, 100% accurate.  But does it really have to be?

I find it incredibly irritating that wedding planning is so stressful because getting married is supposed to be the “happiest day of your life” and “all about the bride and groom”.  Even though that’s the truth, it still feels inherently false.  It feels like it’s not about the bride and groom at all; somehow a wedding morphs into this monstrous, expensive, and soul-sucking life force for everyone but you.

I get so mad when I go to weddings and see that everyone is having a good time except the bride and groom.  They’re running around putting out fires (literally and figuratively), they’re playing therapist to drunk wedding guests and/or bridal party members, and they end their night exhausted and starving after missing out on all the food that they paid for.

So why the hell would anyone have a wedding?

That was my feeling after getting engaged.  I was happy to go to city hall, elope to an island, or even have a teeny tiny ceremony with no more than 15 people.  But when you marry into a big, tight-knit Italian family, that is not an option.  Since part of getting married and maintaining a healthy relationship is compromise, I gave up my vision of the two of us saying our “I do’s” in bathing suits and agreed to a reasonable 160 max guest list.

There are now 60 days until my wedding, and the months since my engagement back in October have been quite the roller coaster.  Overall, I have to say that wedding planning has been an overall positive experience.  But even with the help of friends and family, the stress of planning and coordinating has the tendency to mask all the good and highlight the stressful.  Couple that with have anxiety disorder and you become a ball of fun for everyone around you ::queue sarcasm::.

Knowing that I’m prone to anxiety attacks and thinking that the sky is falling, my future husband and I have taken some precautions that have really helped.  I wanted to share them because even the coolest of brides will find herself at one point crying over something that does not matter AT ALL, like my ‘font size on the placement cards’ meltdown.

Exercise, exercise, EXERCISE!  

This isn’t just a #sweatingforthewedding thing, this will help keep you sane.  So when you get the inevitable “we won’t have those flowers in stock until 4 weeks after your wedding” email, you body is already prepared for you to take out your anger on a bike at SoulCycle.  Plus your butt will nice.  Win/win.

Meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy are your friends.  

This isn’t just a plug since I’m a yoga teacher (but do email me for private lessons), these are your weapons against stress and sleeplessness.  If you’re unfamiliar with any of these things, check out a beginner yoga class and ask your teacher about essential oils.  Most teachers should be able to answer your questions and the studio may even sell them at discounted rates.  As for meditation, Spotify and YouTube are fantastic resources for endless Om-ing.

Remember that people will surprise you in both positive and negative ways.  

Something about weddings brings out a lot of baggage someone may not even be aware they have.  Don’t let them dump it on you – now is not the time for you to play therapist for them.  Focus on the people who surprise you in a good way, and remember to thank them every step of the way.

Ask for help.  

If finding ceremony music or choosing a table setting is stressing you out, ask someone else to do it for you.  That’s what your wedding party is for, or your family if they’re not stressing you out.

Be selfish!!!  

This is one of the very few times in life that something is all about you!  Enjoy the time with your partner when together you pick what you want to have for dinner, what type of music you want played at the reception, and which wedding traditions you want to want to include or skip (you will pry my bouquet from my cold dead hands).

People remember feelings.  

You won’t remember what your napkins or table numbers looked like because those things don’t really matter. But you will remember dancing with your partner as newly weds vs. fighting with the caterer that the dipping sauce is too sweet.   Just like everyone will remember that your friend from college break-danced (with no ability to do so whatsoever) after the father/daughter dance, rather than the chicken that may or may not have been overcooked.

Focus on both of YOU – no one else.  

This is YOUR day. When it comes down to it, every single person who attends your wedding is there to celebrate the love that you and your partner share.  I keep thinking about the line in Wedding Crashers about why people go weddings because it’s the only reason that matters – people want to be in the presence of true love. That’s what a wedding is; it’s celebrating two people committing their lives to each other.  It’s not about the music, the centerpieces, or even the food and booze – it’s about two people in love.

Over the next 60 days, I have more little, annoying details to take care of then I’d care to acknowledge. But knowing that no matter what happens, even if everyone hated what we chose and dubbed it ‘the worst wedding ever’, I’ll still be married to the person who means absolutely everything to me makes all of the stress and anxiety slowly fade away.  Well, at least most of it 😉

Anxiety Survival Tips: Step by Step

Anxiety is word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and tell you what “real” anxiety is because I can’t do that.  I know what my anxiety is but I don’t know your life, and I’m not going to stand here and tell you what it is vs. what it isn’t.  Instead, I’m here to tell you how I deal with it with the hope that my survival tips can help you too.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or your feel stress from time to time, we can all agree that anxiety is annoying and something that go from inconvenient to crippling very quickly.  Recently, my anxiety has been through the roof.  Starting a new job, trying to finish up my yoga certification, planning a wedding, and just existing in New York City have my nerves all sorts of screwed up.  It’s so out of control that I get anxious just trying to decide what to each for lunch, which can lead to me hiding in the bathroom contemplating if I can scale down my building to run down the street screaming.  

Needless to say, it sucks and I’m not about it.

I have a plethora of coping skills thanks you years of therapy, but when my anxiety reaches new levels it can become impossible to implement them into my life.  My beloved yoga mat goes unused, my essential oils never seem to make into my work bag, and crying in the bathroom gets really old really fast.  So what have I been doing to maintain any semblance of sanity?

I write down or think about every single step I’m going to take.

That might sound excruciatingly tedious and annoying by I swear to Mama Rupaul that it works.  So here’s what I do:

When I’m sitting at my desk, walking through my office, or even sitting on my couch I think about all the steps I need to take.  Not all the things I need to do – the physical steps I’m going to take.  For example, here’s what I’ve been writing down today:

  • At 5pm I’m going to close my laptop and put it in my purse.  Then I’ll put my headphones on and turn my music on.  
  • I’ll walk out of the office and go to stairwell because I don’t want to be near other people in an elevator or god forbid get stuck one.  I’ll walk down six flights of stairs and admire the old architecture of the building.  
  • Once I get to the bottom I’ll go through the door, not the revolving door because they make me anxious, and turn right.
  • Once I get to 6th Ave I’ll turn right and then right again at 19th St.  SoulCycle is half way down the block.

Today I needed more of a distraction from my thoughts so I got pretty specific.  Other days, it looks more like this:

  • I’ll leave my office at 5pm and walk towards 6th Ave.  I’ll turn right at 19th St. and walk to SoulCycle.
  • Once I get to SoulCycle I’ll get changed and go to my bike. After class I’ll walk to 23rd St. and take the subway from there.
  • After I get home, I’ll shower and order sushi as a reward for making it through the day.

Different approaches, similar results.  Sometimes I do a combination of these tactics and get really specific and include things I’ll see on the way to know I’m getting closer to my destination.  I vary it based on the way I feel because there is no right or wrong way to do it.

 

When even this is too much and feel too stressful, I’ll repeat a mantra over and over.  A mantra is a word, sound, or phrases repeated to aid concentration in meditation, but you can use them all the time.  Most of the times I use mantras in sanskrit that I learned through my yoga practice.  Other times I repeat simple phrases like “you’re ok”, “you’re safe”, or “I can”.  There’s something soothing and meditative about the repetition, even if you’re walking down 5th Avenue during rush hour.

 

Give it a try and post your favorite mantras in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Note to Self: Proofread

Today was hard.  Not just because I may somehow still be hungover after my bachelorette weekend and my body has forgotten how to sleep, but because of something I never ever thought would happen to me.

The short story is: I used a text generator at work that posted controversial text on a company site.  It’s a generator I’ve used many times without a problem, but this time it was filled with offensive language I thought I had removed.  In no way, shape, or form did I intend to upset anyone. Buuuuuuttttt that’s not what happened.

After it was brought to my attention that the text (a quote from an actor in Pulp Fiction) was offensive, I immediately took it down.  Once I was told that I had REALLY pissed someone off, I sent out an apology email.  I felt kind of like a celebrity who has to apologize on twitter when their boob pops out because it was an honest mistake.  But then I learned that it wasn’t clear that I had used a movie quote; I was accused of being culturally insensitive.

That’s a really serious accusation to throw at someone in such sensitive times, especially someone who bleeds rainbow and dreams of running a yoga studio/home for guinea pigs.  Does that sound like someone who uses offensive slurs in a technical document?  I certainly don’t think so.

It was one thing to have to send out an embarrassing apology email to an entire department, but to think that people considered that I could actually write something like that?  It was an honest mistake and it’s a known fact that I’m a terrible proofreader.  I was both bewildered and devastated.  I try to spread love, not hate.  I’m a freaking yoga teacher for pete’s sake!

It seemed like such a simple accident that blew up like an accidental fat-shaming Instagram comment.  I felt sad, humiliated, and misunderstood, like that time I didn’t realize the shirt I had worn to work was completely see-through.  Fortunately, I had plans to have lunch with my dad so I was able to remove myself from the situation (and pout in the stairwell).  I had packed my laptop in my bag, fully prepared to message my boss and tell him I needed to work from home the rest of the day, but after talking to my dad (a seasoned tech vet) I started to feel better.

I realized that just because someone accuses you of being something you’re not, doesn’t make it true.  I know in my heart that the offense I caused was an honest mistake, and hiding from it wouldn’t make me feel any better.  In these situations, the best thing we can do is admit we made a mistake and keep our head held high.  Sitting at home stewing in my shame would only make the situation bigger and worse than it ever needed to be.

After lunch, I walked back into my office with my head held high and smiled (as I always do) at the people I passed on my way to my desk.  When I open my laptop I found a message from my boss telling me not to worry and that everyone understood that it was an honest mistake.

When life throws you into awkward situations or you make mistakes – don’t hide from them, face them.  I often want to hide from my troubles but it never makes them go away.  Today I feel proud of myself for not running away from this because it showed my coworkers, and myself, that I’m human and I can handle making mistakes.

Self high-five!

Live Without Pretending

A lovely friend posted a quote on Facebook today that said “Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending.”

After I read it it, I sat with it for a few moments to let the words digest and sink in.  The line that keeps replaying in my mind over and over like a broken record is ‘live without pretending’.

We all pretend, well at least most of us do, in various aspects of our lives.  Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we pretend we like where we live or that we actually enjoy eating healthy.  We pretend we like getting up early to go to the gym or that we enjoy the conversation we have with our coworkers as we prepare our third cup of crappy coffee.  We pretend and pretend and pretend to the point where we forget we’re pretending.  We start accepting our boss who never listens to our suggestions or our partner who never listens to anything.  We accept these things that are less than ideal because that’s part of being an adult; accepting.

Or is it?

Every time I read an article about someone who opened their own yoga studio in Aruba, or is backpacking through Greece as they write their second novel, or eloped to escape the pressures and expectations of family, I always think to myself “how the f*ck did they do that and why haven’t I figured out how to?”

From what I’ve read, combined with my perception of human behavior and just a hint of my BA in sociology, I believe that there are certain people on this planet who have the ability to look at what everyone is doing and say “nah, not for me.”  I wish I could tell you what it is within them that gives them this ability to escape the monotony of all the crap the rest of us are able to accept and pretend is what we want, but I’m still trying to figure that out too.

A lot of people are ok with pretending.  They don’t have a bad life and they don’t have a great life, they just have a life.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s pretty damn good to have a life.  Not everyone is so luck to be able to complain that the worst parts of their days are commuting, annoying coworkers, and humidity.  But what about those other people, the ones who broke the mold by not accepting or pretending?

I want to be one of those people.  I believe I am one of those people.

But I’m stuck because I keep pretending.

I’m very luck to work for the company that I do.  I know that.  But I also know that this, what I sit here day in and day out doing, is not what I want to spend my life doing.  I’ve changed jobs more often than most people change their water filters, and it’s because I can pretend that I’m content, but only for so long.  I’ve gotten quite good at pretending I want things that deep down I know I don’t.  I do this because it’s what I’ve taught myself to do.  Accept what people tell you to do.  Accept their definitions of “success” as your own.  Accept that maybe you’re not good enough to get what you really want.

That last one is the one I’m struggling with.  Because you see, as I sit here in a situation I’m sure others dream about, I’ve realized that the reason I change jobs and the reason I can’t accept my situation is because I’m pretending I’m pursuing my passion.  I left similar jobs because I kept thinking that I would find a different experience and feeling from another company.  I was doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting to get different results, and that my friends is the definition of insanity.

So, now that I’ve figured out the problem it’s time to figure out the solution.  Unfortunately I can’t share that with you now because I don’t know what it is.  But stay tuned, because I intend to figure it out and when I do I’ll be sure to share it with you.  Until then, expect a lot more writing coming from this blog because I’m sure as hell going to share everything I learn along the way.

xoxo TBC

Get On The Bus

I have my favorite quote by my favorite writer (Hunter S. Thompson) tattooed on the left side of my body.

It says “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Those familiar with his writing will most likely recognize it as this line appears fairly frequently in his work. He uses it whenever it’s time to take initiative and go for something, which is usually some highly illegal in his case.

I’m not a political journalist or an ether enthusiast, but I love this quote because to me it means take control. These words are close to my heart, both figuratively and literally, and serve as a reminder that I have the ability to take charge, take a chance, and take the ride.

As simple as this quote is, my darling mother could not remember it for the life of her. She would frequently ask me what my tattoo said and then quickly go back to forgetting. One day she said, “What’s your quote again? You know, your tattoo…Get on the bus?”

Yes mom, I have ‘get on the bus’ tattooed on me.  But I have to admit it was fairly close.  It gave both of us quite a laugh and it’s still something we’ll say to each other to lighten up a “what am I doing with my life?” crisis.

As my beloved yoga teacher training beings to come to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot on all of the different things I’ve learned about myself, yoga, and life, as well as all the questions that have come up during the past few months. I couldn’t have asked to do this training at a better with time with all that’s been going on in my life and, you know, the world falling apart.

I stopped reading and watching the news after it was named President, but it’s not just him. It’s the suffering in Syria, the corporate greed that caused physical violence on a domestic flight, the endless shootings, the crippling fear that we’re on the brink of WWIII…

Yikes.

Did your blood pressure just spike too? Sorry about that. My point is that I could go down that rabbit hole, I could only see the horror and feel completely hopeless because I know I can’t directly make an impact on any of these atrocities. I could choose to ignore everything going on around me and bury my head in the metaphorical sand like an ostrich (if you didn’t know that’s legit their defense mechanism — you’re welcome for the fun fact you can bring up at dinner parties). But that doesn’t seem like a great idea either. Plus I’d have to become a hermit to fully carry it out because people talk about just as much as we post about it online. But that’s not a bad thing, people definitely need to vent. What’s bad is getting so caught up in everything that it takes away from your ability to function or be around certain people, especially those who disagree with you. So now what?

There’s a third option — you can let it go.

I know, easier said than done, but it’s really the only option that gives you the only thing we really need to remember that we do have control; freedom. When you can accept something for what it is and without assigning it a judgement or label, you can let it go. And that’s really the only way we ever be really free. It’s something that I aspire do to as second nature because right now it’s pretty damn hard.  When people support things that make my skin crawl, I feel like my head it going to explode.  But then I realize that my head exploding only hurts me.

I’ve noticed that when I’m able to let go of hurt, anger, or frustration, it feels like one of the giant elephants sitting on my chest got up and wandered away. Then I can breathe a little better and work on getting the next elephant off me.

If you feel hopeless or powerless, remember that you can control how you feel – or least you can try your damn hardest.  So get on the bus, and live your life.