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.

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!

What it All Comes Down to is Everything is Gonna be Just Fine

I saw my psychiatrist a few weeks ago so he could tweak my meds. I was feeling more depressed than “normal” and having the most fucked up dreams, so I figured I’d ask a professional. Vivid nightmares is a common side effect of my SSRI, so that with the extra 15 lbs that mysteriously added to my body convinced me it was time to get off and just stick with lithium. But my lithium levels were WAY too low so we had to up that dosage and now have to wait to see if it’s all good before we can wean me off.

I hate not having control over what goes into my body. Giggity.

Aside from the meds, I’ve been so consumed in my yoga teacher training program that sometimes I even forget I have a mental illness. That’s right — I’m on the path to becoming a REAL yoga teacher. It feels like I finally found my calling.

Yoga makes me feel so fucking good. It feels like my mind, body, and soul are being massaged by God, or the Divine, or whatever you want to call that energy force we can’t quite explain. It’s the ultimate mind/body experience and I’ve been devouring everything I’ve been learning about reiki, chanting, mantra, Sanskrit, the Hindu deities, and everything in between.

It’s brought a sense of purpose to my life that I’ve been hopelessly searching for. I can’t even describe the feeling of working with someone in a restorative pose; it’s magical. Being able to assist people in a “real” class while watching seasoned, dedicated instructors work makes me feel so happy, peaceful, and alive.

It makes me feel like I have a real ability to help people. You can feel when someone needs to be touched and when they need positive energy. It’s truly amazing.

You can think I’m a crazy hippie or whatever, but I believe in this and it gives me a sense of being and purpose that I’ve never felt before. It allows me to help others and it also allows me to help myself.

When I’m in the yoga studio, I’m not bipolar, I’m not someone who hates their job, I’m not someone with the insecurities that plague most of us; I’m just me. I’m me in my rawest form…and it’s amazing. When I sit on my mat during our closing meditation I feel like all of the labels that have been plastered on me by society and by myself slowly peel away. Every time I practice is a new start.

On Friday evenings we have a class where we discuss our readings and really anything else that comes to our minds. The other week mental illness came up and I felt like the wind got knocked out of me. It was like all the feelings and resentment I hold about having bipolar disorder came flooding back. Because as much I want to be free flowing, positive, and free spirited, I still have bipolar disorder and sometimes it gets in the way.

There are days when I want to get up and start the day with a sun salutation and meditation, but I end up spending the whole day in bed because I’m too depressed to get up. It makes me feel like like I’ve failed my yogi self and that I can’t truly be what and who I want because of bipolar disorder.

But that’s not true. Bipolar disorder is just a work around — sometimes I won’t feel like it’s there and other times it will make it’s presence very known. And that’s ok. It’s ok to have good days and bad days, you just have to remember that having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself or others down and that you’re still you.

As long as you have faith in yourself and keep trying, everything will be just fine.

Yoga Is Not Just For Pretty People

A few weeks ago I went to a free info session about becoming a yoga teacher.  Unfulfilled and frustrated with my current career (this statement is reason #234234 I’m not friends with my boss on Facebook), I decided to explore some other options.

I decided to look into becoming a yoga teacher because I thought it would be a good career for someone who tries to lead a life in a ball of positive energy…and is completely intolerant to any sort of stress or anxiety.  I found a few programs that cost about as much as a semester at my college, but I decided I should check it out anyway.  If it could help lead to a new career then it might be worth the enormous check they would have to pry from my hands, so off I went to a studio in SoHo.

I changed at work since I wasn’t sure what the bathroom situation would be like, which proved to be a horrendous mistake because the yoga pants I brought were now two sizes too small.  The entire train ride I had to keep pulling at my crotch and readjusting to ward of the back rolls that had magically appeared.  Safe to say I got a few awkward looks on the train.  Although that’s not really new since I usually keep my sunglasses on which makes me look like a drug addict or douche.  Or both.

As I walked up the the stairs to the studio I thought, “God I hope this class isn’t full of anorexic ballerinas,” and opened the door to find what? AN ANOREXIC BALLERINA.  Who also happened to be one of the instructors.  And French.

Super.

I wanted to sit in the front to show the instructors that I was very serious about my practice and becoming a teacher, but a very gay man doing a full split and a girl wearing just a sports bra and no body fat had already beat me there.  I awkwardly wedged my mat to the side while I tried to avoid getting kicked in the head by the elastic man practicing his splits.  All I could think of was, “where do the balls go?”

The instructors introduced themselves and then asked if anyone had any injuries.   I suffer from back problems, or ‘grandma back’ as I like to say (which the instructor did not find funny), so I raised my hand.  The french toothpick came over and instead of me just saying, “bad back” and smiling, she asked me more questions than my physical therapist does.  None of my answers seemed to please her and she avoided me for the rest of the class.

During the class I could feel her death stare on me when I struggled to get into a pose, which was caused by me fidgeting with my pants while trying to balance.  The glares combined with my newly formed FUPA was making me anxious, as was the fact that I was WAY to close to the wall and kept punching it, so when I tried to take a deep breath and relax my body decided this was an excellent time to fuck with me and…I farted.

Worst of all, I laughed at myself.  I was the only person who laughed.  Because clearly I was the only one who was not an adult.

The other instructor came over, humiliated for both of us, and asked me to move my mat back since I was too close to the wall.  Back of the room for me.

The rest of the class was basically me trying to relax and get the most of the experience with the instructors glaring at me or trying to adjust me. Normally I’m fine with they adjust me.  But this instructor was a ninja and would come out of no where, which scared the shit out of me and make me yelp and fall over.

This happened at least 6 times.  It was awkward for everyone.

So, that happened.  At first I thought I had made a huge mistake going and wasted my time, but then I realized that this experience made we want to be an instructor even more.

Yogis have this image of being skinny, beautiful, and inhumanly flexible – but that’s not real.  The reality is that some yogis are like that but most are not.  I’ve been too intimidated to go to classes before because the students and the instructor seemed insanely perfect.  But I want to teach people that it’s ok not to be perfect.  Yoga is an incredible way to get in touch with your spirit and your body – no matter what they look or feel like.  Yoga is about your individual practice and deepening your connection with the earth and the energy that surrounds it.

I want to be a yoga teacher because I want to give people the time, place, and guidance they need to do all of that.  That’s what yoga is to me.  Not some blonde barbie doll wearing Lululemon leggings and judging me for a having greasy hair (it was an off day bitch, leave me alone).

Yoga is a wonderful gift to give to yourself and to others, and I strongly encourage you all to try it.  Especially when I become an instructor.

So that yoga studio was not the one for me.  But that’s ok – I found another one.  An affordable one.  In Queens.

Suck it Manhattan.