Writers Residency @ the Vermont Studio Center, Pneumonia and Me

I couldn’t believe I was accepted in to the Vermont Studio Center for a one-month residency! If you ever want to get a lot of work done, just go to a residency and…oh yes…get sick. Sick enough to function, but sick enough to decline the evenings social happenings and that’s where you’ll find yourself, exactly like me, and my April 2015 writers residency at the VSC.

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I cannot believe how seemingly overnight, spring has peeked from beneath the sheets like a wide-eyed kid at 5:00 A.M. on Christmas morning and announced it is here!  While I was freezing my ass off one hour from Canada – with pneumonia I must add – the slush, mud and snow of the northeast had cleared completely down in New Jersey. I came home to birds in full chorus, flowers bloomed in zest, and even a slight fuzz of new grass from the tiny layer of seed my partner had thrown down haphazardly while I was away. I must say though, bad weather and all, I miss the Vermont Studio Center immensely.

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Gosh, it’s good to be back though too. My own bed, my girl, cannoli’s upon return. Mmm, there is no better place than home base. I just fished out my laptop after a solid week in an unreachable spot underneath my couch. I can’t remember the last time I took a week off; it had to be a year ago. That’s right, before we bought our house, just after the deadline for my second book, a perfect time. Ah, the blissful ten days off, that was. This experience has made evident one thing:  I am the WORST BOSS!

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being sick since I was living my dream; the utopia of being surrounded by only writers and artists, where the buzz at all meals was creative talk; where you were inspired by the person touching each elbow wherever you sat. Pure heaven, I tell you. And I would do it all again, yes, even in the winter, even close to freezing, in the split second of a heartbeat.

Ah, I miss it.

What I do not miss is the absolute insane pace and near-impossible goals I set for myself. It was near back-breaking. I may have taken a few afternoon hours off, once to have a meal in another town and once or twice where i took a cat nap at the studio, but I hadn’t taken a day off until the third week.(When my mom picked me up she said “great” to that news. Now I know where I get it from.)

Still, I’m grateful for this work ethic; you can’t complete books without it, much less be a success at anything you do. Thanks Mom and Dad. And, thank you for giving me a loan for the balance after the fundraising, the merit-based grant and work-based grant. After my dog sitting stint this week (and the longer one in August), I’ll be down to just under one thousand dollars. And that’s a loan I am glad to pay back. With pride. I am eternally grateful to the village who got me up there (thank you, Jayne!) and donated on Go Fund Me.

Ah, yes, Hillary, it does take a village, without which, I would be at least a book behind. Or two.

Final word counts.

zDiner Girl  Cover thumbnailDinerGirl = 105K; DinerGirl Too=28K; The New Writers Manual to Success Volume I: From Start to Self-Publishing (*working title)= 101k; The New Writers ”    ”    ”   Volume  II (*working title)= 64k;

Proposals:  Two Bipolar Chicks Proposal:ABCs of ECT, TMS, SAD and PPD=3,300. Writers book Volume I: 8,500.

Grand total = 309,800. This is not to say I wrote 309,800 words. Oh no no no. This total is not accurate because I came up with DinerGirl and the writers book already started.  I would say I wrote 180,000-200,000 words. DG TOO is all new, as is the 2nd writers book. The proposals are almost done, in time for my self-imposed, pre-camping, Memorial Day Weekend deadline, As I said, I am the toughest boss. Equally as tough is our agent, though not specifically to us. “This is a business” as Corinda our agent says. OH yes it is and our cupboards tell the story.

The VSC was a beautiful place to work…All the writers had a view of the river. The artists occupy many buildings (at least five),the largest, Wolf Khan, a stone’s throw across the river from us.

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Maverick Writing Studio       March 2015

DO you like my studio? This is a very neat day. Picture day! 🙂

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I was the paper recycling queen!

(This is code for a lot of mistakes, or lots of editing to be kind!)

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By my second week in, I could identify who my roommates were. I began attenting the artists open studio nights and the writers open speakers nights too.

One of the most valuable parts of a writers residency is the visiting writers who advise you. For the prose folks, ours was Ann Pancake and she was amazing. She read fiften pages of my introduction and first chapter, my very rough draft of DinerGirl and told me – along with many other writers and artists there – that it read more like a memoir. That’s a relief because it truly is. I think I was trying to make it in to a novel, but it itsn’t one. Dinergirl Too is, because all kinds of fictional plots have come to me.  There is a big difference, I realize now.

Another memoir, yep!

My neighbor, Wendi, from Vancouver was a very talented, vivacious artist who organized the easter egg hunt. Love her. She was one of the other three other women in my same residence,  Mason House. The other two women were Laurie, a very talented poet and photographer from Reno, NV, and Laura, also a gifted painter, working on a series of enormous ships from Florida. I wish them all continued success, but it is evident they don’t need any well wishings from little ‘ole me. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, except made more meals and gotten to know people more. The people made that residency, what an amazing bunch from all over the world! Wow! I doubt I could ever find such a special bunch again. Ever.

Even if I went to a couple of residencies a year, this type of cohesive, all-for-one artistic residency could not be duplicated. Sixty artists and writers had a unique blend, a special sauce, a dyacism, while compatable, each with thousand old artist souls. We collided amidst determination, frenetic pace and formed in to an unexpected, effful dance.

To all the writers out there, please do yourselves the greatest favor to your soul and apply for writers fellowships. I sugest you mark that you will accept financial aid if you don’t receive a fellowship becasuse the fellowships are very difficult to get. You can get a grant, work study (how hard is it to vacuum ?? and run a Kickstarter, etc.) Pretty son you’ll have it all together and you’re on your way!
Good luck and I hope you apply someday. The VSC was amazing and I highly, highly recommend it. (Yes, even in the winter! They have more money for fellowships, by the way from November to April!) If you go in the winter, remember to bring a down coat and down blanket. (Even if you have to ship it!) It was a life saver!

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Still, soft voices…

I normally don’t re-blog but this hit home. Haunting, brilliant and I can relate a little too much. Thank you David Stone @InkedDadBPD and thank you, my angels.

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The engine shuts off. You look in the mirror to see your faint reflection looking back at you through the soft glow of light rising up from the dashboard. You see those eyes. Dark. Empty. Emotionless.

You sit. You stare. A still, soft voice rises up from your heart. It enters your mind begging you to just start your truck and go home. you stop for a moment to acknowledge it. It brings with it photos in the form of memories trying to sway your decision and alter your outcome. It pleads, it begs. But it gets ushered out of your mind by the demons, leaving broken and rejected in the form of a tear.

The faint lights go dark. The music goes quiet. You, for the first time absorb in just how dark it really is. No moon. No stars. Complete silence. Your thoughts can speak clearly now… clearer…

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The Artistic Bend, Changing of Tides, Hair Salon (yes, really!) and YOU!

I wrote this while on a cruise… I can’t explain why, per se. But as I sat writing long-hand, my practice shall we call it, daily typically though while on vacation only when motivated, this is what came out. (Two hours later I was so mesmerized by the sea and my own b.s. that I had gotten in to a tif with my girl because I was, once again, lost in my world, my writer world, where the outer world moves and I stay put in mine.)  The trip ended quite badly actually as I was oblivious I was on a trip with anyone else buy my pen for a few hours.  Ah, we live and we learn.

So while seemingly harsh, and the start of one very unfortunate last-night-of-the-vacation fights, this is one of my most favorite little blips about writing in a while. Please don’t misread me or it, (I’m not really a hard ass!) And I don’t mean to rant, though that happens..and more in the spring when I bloom like the flowers. Only my bloom is lightening fast as i get manic and fly out of my seed. This is merely an echo of sentiment from the very first speech, from the very first author, who I heard; and how it resonated with me.

Only, this is my version. The Wendy one. I cut and pasted it from Good Reads which is where i origionally posted it. Then I took it down and thought ‘Oh my God, what ARE these people going to think of me, anyway?’  Well, I should be thinking more of ‘Oh my God, why couldn’t i SHUT-UP at the hair salon today?’ And it was a new one, one I liked. One I’m almost too embarassed to go back to. I think she mistook my depression for the wrong reaction of ‘I don’t like your work’….which is 100% the opposite. I lOVE what she did. And I think she took my manic babble as I am doing well, or cheery, and therefore should have been bubbly so I must not have liked the cut/highlights because I clearly wasn’t jumping up and down like the teen before me – with her mom no less.’  Geez. Or I could be way off and she got a text from her new hubby and had to run off. Or go to the bathroom. Either way, it DID NOT END WELL. I love my haircut though; it beats my frayed ends stabbing me from all angles.

Oh, right, my reason for this blog. (Sorry to bother….)

“The artistic bend is a sell-out. It’s all truth, or it’s no good. EIther write what’s in the heart, all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the uglier, the privat and even more private and it’s a book worth reading. Not willing to go there? Do yourself and the world a favor: Don’t write it until you’re ready to do so. Only then is it your truest artist being heard. And only then will the world want to hear what you have to say.”

I hope that you are nodding and not throwing food at the screen. Not ready to spill your guts? Wait, I say. At least until that person dies or you get over your pride. Screw the world anyway. WHo cares?

Rock it!  And let us read it. Warning: writing and producing a book is a Bitch! But if ink runs in your veins like blood, you’ll know it and have no other choice.  Wish me luck on sanity. I can already feel the changing of the tides. Gulp.

Go Ahead Writer

                                                          Dear Writer,

“Happiness for me, or I suspect any writer, is plenty of paper and plenty of pens. Isn’t that such a simple concept?

Yet, for a writer, anyone who measures their calling as a heartbeat, a desire, a burning or ringing, whose only way to turn it down, drown it out, is to pick up that pen, open up and power on their laptop and squelch the burn with the begin to the begin.

The paradox is wrapped up with passion is its ugly companion fear. This fear keeps us locked in between these two worlds, trapped in the invisible walls of one who can see, hear and feel this call, whose words echo and pulse shoots in our veins, and the mysterious fear that lives alongside our ideas, our need to tell the stories we’ve fabricated or poems we’ve written or stories we have lived or studied. It is living between these two worlds – of regret, fear, rejection, self-doubt – that we know what reliance on self can do. It can literally kill brilliant stories before they’ve begun.

And worse, reliance on those around us, if we listen to them, could stomp out the most brilliant in all of literature. For our modern day Shakespeare equivalents are being born as we speak, they are in school, or in retirement, considering writing that crucial story that will serve as a model in future English courses decades down the road. The truth is that we must not listen to the world around us and all their opinions and reasons for why we mustn’t write.

The absolute truth is we owe it to ourselves and those in our community and our generation and those beyond, to keep the story going; to tell the accounts of our soldiers, our mothers, our lovers, whatever is inside us; to preserve, pontificate, project, propel us forwards with that tiny voice inside that says do it, rather than cave and halt, conceding to the many more that say don’t.

Who am I to tell this story I have? Why me? I haven’t got an English degree. When I posed this question to my friend – with an MFA in painting – she said “so what, you think I have a degree in graphic design? And yet, here I am doing it!”

It doesn’t require a degree. You needn’t have read a thousand books. The worst read member of our writers group writes some of the best stories. If it’s in you, it’s in you. Pick up the pen and let the story unfold. Power on your laptop and show up to the adventure.

There will be hours, days of rough spots when doubt will creep in. ‘They were right, this is a horrible idea!’ Then you’ll have glorious sprints, spurts of six thousand word days where you’ll feel more alive than when you had your first kiss or felt your heart thump in love.

Welcome, writer. The world is waiting for you. You needn’t be rid of fear – I don’t think it goes away for any of us. Don’t let your fear sweep you out to sea forever. Plant your feet deeply in the sand and stake your claim.

Get going, tell us. Even if it takes you a decade, ten minutes a day. Everyone has ten minutes a day.”

-Wendy K. Williamson
12/31/14

NaNoWriMo Here She Comes!

It’s official, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. I’m already a few days behind as I’m finishing up typing pages for my other book; but wish me luck! Let’s see how far I can get with DinerGirl. I hate outlines but that’s my first order of the day.

Look out….here she comes. I have one month to bang out DinerGirl before I need to move on to our book about depression and treatments.  The last time I signed up for NaNoWriMo, a day later Sandy blew in to town and rendered us homeless for a few months. NO storm in sight, only my cat on my desk and her fur flying everywhere which is a far cry from the devastation of Sandy.  Let’s give this another go.  NaNoWriMoooooo.  Here we go now.

Thank you NNDC – What a great experience!

We just returned from the NNDC national convention in Chicago.

What an amazing organization! And what a gorgeous hotel! Wow! Our first national conference was thrilling, eye-opening and we will forever have a boatload of fond memories. I am still in awe of their fine organization, the gorgeous Palmer Hilton in Chicago and the doctors, clinicians and consumers.

Also, Kathleen Stevens, NNDC wonderwoman, and her daughter Heather are two new friends which is icing on the cake. We’ll be in Ann Arbor as soon as we can to hang-out with them. (There’s the little matter of finishing two books first, but they’re at the top of our “to do travel” list!)

Here we are in the program! Woop woop!

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The bottom reads: Reception Featuring Lived Exprience Guests Wendy K Williamson & Honora Rose Authors of “Two Bipolar Chicks Guide for Survival — Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder”

Here is the program cover. UIC was the host.

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Here is Nora speaking. She did a phenomenal job! I don’t have a picture of me, sorry to say. Will post if Kathleen has one. Nora was a superstar and hopefully I had something worthy to say too. It’s helpful to remember we are a team effort from consumer to doctor to families and all were represented here. It reminds me how critical this circle is.

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 We sat at a table, in awe, as we revised our speeches and ate lunch. Writers and editors, you know we couldn’t leave our prepared speeches alone! We arrived at the ballroom just in time to set-up our table (books) and get upstairs to change and charge my phone for the square. (You know those cute little white squares that accept credit cards. What clever little gizmos!)

Here is main floor of the hotel. Couldn’t you just live there? I wouldn’t mind all the people coming and going around me. Just send me water and let me plug-in my laptop please! 🙂

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And by the way, wouldn’t you know it that the ballroom was called the HONORE Ballroom! Tell me, what’re the odds it was close to Nora’s full name? Crazy I tell you, crazy. When we checked-in she laughed, pointing it out on the way to the elevators, not having any idea we’d be speaking there the following night. Spooky! (Sorry, I’m in to my Halloween vocabulary right about now.)

Thank you to my Heather. (See below.) We left from the hotel together, set up the table together and she helped keep my wits about me. The best part is it’s nice to know I made a friend, a sister and I have a child too all wrapped up into one. (I always wanted kids!!!!Ha ha! Now I officially feel old. And what a whiz she is with technology, working the Square like nobody’s business!)  We couldn’t decide which we were to each other so I’ll take all three; it’s three times as fun. And her real Mom, Kathleen. What a pair! Friends for life.

This was the day at UIC or UCI (please forgive my cognitively impaired brain….)  That was a lot of fun, to hear bits and pieces of the latest research from the brainiac doctors. They rolled them off like pros. Meanwhile I thought ‘tonight will be a lot different. I hope they are ready to hear ours!’  But I think they understand we are different beasts, doctors and patients. As Kathleen said, “they look forward to the ‘lived experience’ portion of the conference.”  GULP.

Thank you Heather. She was so helpful with sales...even on her phone! :)

I highly suggest if you’re an author, that you enlist the help of a “Heather” – ie: a very special person, preferably one who is tied to your cause and comes with a lint brush and a smile. (or if you both forget a link brush, a smile is all you really need!) He or she is someone you may know or one you may become friends with. The main requirement – if you are lucky enough – is that they have a smile to calm you, personality to cheer you and a way of taking over when you are overwhelmed.

 

Gratefully, we sold a lot of books using Kathleen’s idea to bundle them. Our “bipolar chicks” was the most popular one which consisted of my first book, the memoir and our Two Bipolar Chicks book. What a bahgain –yes, misspelled on purpose — at only $28.00. And boy, could Heather sell them! Meanwhile, I while sat there like a deer in headlights. Duh. What am I doing here? You hate to pimp out your books.

I have to say, it was handy to be near the dessert end of the buffet. Captive audience. I highly recommend it and will remember this for next time. It was an ideal placement!

What a whirl of two days! We made new friends, found a highly respectable new non-profit that are pioneers and traveled to the windy city again. We got to eat deep dish from Chicago’s best but don’t ask me the name. Again, I claim cognitive impairment. Whether it is from my meds or ECT, I’ll stop trying to guess which one of these days. Truth is, there is no difinitive answer.

By the way, on a side note, we came back to being highlighted in Huff Post’s Greg Archer’s blog. Thanks for the shout out, Greg! One of my favorite writers mentioned us on Huff Post.  Scroll down about halfway and poof: there we are!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/5-amazing-reasons-not-to_b_6028926.html

Thanks ever to the NNDC and Kathleen Stevens. I’m on board with whatever you want to do – and need – from the Two Bipolar Chicks in the future. Keep doing your fantastic work, research and plowing through to get us to a better tomorrow. Lord knows we need it!

Peace out Chi town.

Audio Cutting Into Me

What an odd feeling…

 

So today I’m having a strange experience. We’re producing the audiobook of my first book, my memoir I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar.  I’m having the worst flashbacks. I wish I could just approve it and not have to listen to it – which I suppose is an option – but the perfectionist in me says listen to the entire book.

And it’s rough.

Listening to your life is really odd. It’s far more powerful, in my opinion, than reading it; and having someone else speak it is kind of freaking me out.

I have always found audiobooks to be much more powerful than reading. Being an ADD kid, or ADD adult, audiobooks are more effective for me; I get through them easier. This is not to say I don’t read books, it is merely that hearing is “easier” on my brain than books. This is sad, I mean, I love literature, books, libraries. Sigh.

Back to the point here. I can’t wait until I’m done listening. I truly hope you like it if you buy the audiobook. I think it will be a good one.

 

Have a great weekend!  Peace. xo wendy

WordPressers Making a Splash

I’m thrilled Ben Huberman has mentioned a book called: Broken Light Collective. Danielle and a host of others coming to grips with their mental illnesses have worked on this project until its fruition. And a big shout out to the NYT for its mention. Slowly, slowly we are getting some press for the books we produce whether it be a memoir, collaborative photography collection or tips book on wellness.

Bravo and thanks Ben for the post.

The WordPress.com Blog

We might think of the end of summer as a slow news season. Not so for the authors and bloggers we feature today, who’ve been hard at work on some exciting projects recently.

Rebecca Hains

princess problemWriter, professor, and media scholar Rebecca Hains often shares thoughtful posts on her blog, especially on topics revolving around gender and discrimination. Earlier this month, she celebrated the release of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years (Sourcebooks), her most recent book. A critique of popular culture and the messages it sends to young girls, the book has already earned rave reviews, including from Brenda Chapman, writer and director of Disney’s Brave.

Broken Light: A Photography Collective

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Danielle Hark founded Broken Light Collective, a community for photographers coping with mental health issues, more than two years ago. We’ve been following that project for a while (and mentioned it in a mental health-focused roundup earlier…

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Happy World Suicide Prevention Day!

Happy world suicide prevention day!

Happy you ask? Yes happy. I’m happy we have one, and it’s worldwide.  That signals to me that we’re acknowledging the problem. We’re no longer in the dark ages and that’s huge!

But, on the downside, it also means we need one. That’s the downside.

We should rejoice, if not for a better word, for those that are still alive and for the education, awareness and efforts to save those in crisis.

Spreading the message is key, rounding up resources is also key, yet we can at least open up the dialogue, make known what help is out there and reach out to one another.

Our students are at risk, teens, veterans and countless others especially with mental illness. It is said that 90% of those who committ suicide have a mental illness. One out of five bipolars committ suicide and half of the suicides in the U.S. are committed by people with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are, on average, typically diagnosed at age 19-22. That’s when I was, I sure fit the bill. In this way, college aged students are ripe for diagnosis and, particularly, suicide.  Getting help, screening, staying connected and an aware and resourceful college community is key for survival. It saved my life.

On this day I think of my two friends who killed themselves. I should say one was a definite suicide, my friend drowned herself.  The other was using drugs and nobody knew, at least no one except the one person she was using with. We were new friends, only six months, but it didn’t make it any less painful. I believe it was a suicide due to surrounding evidence; but the truth is, we’ll never know. There was a breakup involved, the love of her life had turned his back on her for good. That’s all I will say about that. You can have a feeling, though the only person who truly knows is the person themselves. 

And I although I morn today, I also am grateful my attempts did not work. Lord knows I tried. Four times. I won’t go in to details but it was bad, hopeless and to this day I have no idea why I’m still here. (It’s all in my 1st book: I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar if you want to read it. It gives me shivers to even mention it here.)

So let’s shake those thoughts off….change of subject so I can.

I am sitting here with my kitty on my lap. Darn if she doesn’t make her way in to my office. She competes for my attention like a needy child. She is funny, lies on my arms while I’m typing. Gets in my face. If I put her down, she just jumps up again. If I put her down and close the door, she scratches and stares at the door (Nora says she does this) for twenty minutes. I’ve set a bad precedent. I’ve even tried putting a comfy towel or small blanket on a section of my desk and whisking her over there. Nope, she wants my arms. (Have you ever tried to type with a cat on your arms?)

Well, that worked a little. Some of the above is out of my head. Now I know why I shouldn’t write about my attempts. I’m surprised I could do it in my book. Some have accursed me of being shallow about it, not descriptive enough. I say ‘you try it.’ The worst was editing and reliving it over and over and over and over. Ugh.

So back to being happy I’m alive.

In the past 10 years since my first attempt – it is exactly 10 years and one week away – I am so blessed. I know it. I am sober, since the day of my first attempt. I have a roof – my own house as of this year – over my head. It’s my first house, at age 43 so I truly, truly appreciate it. We got our first book deal this time last year and I’m working on my third. I love having a lawn to take care of. (Even when I’m grumbling about mowing the lawn!) I have a loving partner and a loving family. Of course there’s friction with one person, but that’s life right? Hopefully it won’t always be this bad. We’ve grown apart due to my illness.

Sorry kitties, let’s throw you in there too. I don’t have kids, so I have cats. I’m a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. Thus, no kids. Love ’em, just can barely take care of myself.

Happy Suicide Prevention Day everyone! Let’s be grateful we’re alive and well. If we’ve lost love ones, let’s honor them by staying alive.

(*Caveat: If I’ve made any typos, please forgive, I’ve worn out my keyboard and keys can stick on occasion. I don’t have time to proofread.)

 

Robin Williams: R.I.P. Comrade

No, I did not know Robin Williams personally; however it’s fair to say I understood his brain very well.

We may have been in the same, virtual lifeboat, sinking at the same time at some point in the past few decades; the chances are likely.

 

I too have attempted suicide, several times, and have battled addiction. While I did not have the privelage of being able to call him friend, I do have the unfortunate understanting and heavy heart of his struggles.

 

Oddly enough, one of the four movies that was at the top of my “to see next pile” was: “Man of the Year.”

My friend had given us a huge box of movies and I threw out all but a handful. “Man of the Year” made the cut and has been occupying the top of the pile for months. I knew that it would be worth the ninety or one hundred and twenty minutes of my time and that surely, Robin Williams would deliver laughs regardless of the movie’s plot, direction or script. He could make a worm funny. He made me laugh, as he did for millions upon millions for decades around the globe.

        That particular DVD was in my bedroom, on the top of my pile, as I mentioned.          
Today, when I opened my drawers to get dressed, looking up at me was his face.
It kind of freaked me out actually.

 

                There he was, greeting me, sporting a George Washington wig and petticoat.                                  His face pointed upwards, expression pensive and hopeful, forehead wrinkles in full view; a somber, hopeful image of the man the world loved and the mentally ill community understands.

 

He was one of us. I am just like him.

Man of the Year (2006) Poster

On the bottom right of the cover is the quote:
“Hilarious! Robin Williams gives a brilliant performance!”   

All actors know, as do people with mental illness,and anyone that follows theater, that along side comedy is tragedy; this is no more apparent that when we lose someone we love suddenly and tragically. The world is mourning.

For those of us in the mental health community – especially the “dual diagnosis” battling both addiction and mental illness – know too well how close death is to us. We bury our friends. We think about it when depressed and in the hospitals. We worry for our friends in crisis.


“I remember growing up to Mork & Mindy. I’ll never forget those rainbow suspenders, hair not far off my own and the absolute let-your-mind-think-anything-is-possible flavor of the show.”

-wendy k. williamson

Let’s face it, Mindy could be played by other actresses besides Pam Dawber (sorry Pam!) Without contest, everyone would agree Robin was Mork from Ork.  I may have been eight or nine, but it was that deviation from flashlight tag one needed; to fill your mind with the zaniness and unreachable. Mork from Ork and Star Wars were on the same horizon in the late seventies and it was a good time to be a kid. It was a great time to be a kid watching tv and going to the movies. (Wait, except Jaws. I don’t think any of us are over that one. Come to think of it, why am I watching SharkWeek?) Robin Williams filled our imaginations that needed filling.

“He brilliantly acted with sponaneity and wit,

trickling down to spark our imaginations,

whether we were conscious of it or not.”

-wendyk.williamson

And there wasn’t any role he could play from Mork to Patch Adams to a therapist who could crack the toughest of kids in Goodwill Hunting. When I saw that movie, several times, it occurred to me he could have – if he wanted to – retired as he had reached the pinnacle of his career. Before he won his Adademy Award (ironic that it was for a dramatic role), I think we all knew he was at the top of his game in Goodwill Hunting. Remember Mrs. Doubtfire? I ask, who else could portray Mrs. Doubtfire? I’ll still stop and watch it whenever I see it’s on. Can you imagine how many times Sally Field and the entire case and crew had to hold in bouts of laughter to save the take?

Yet, his light never darkened after those movies professionally. Inside was likely another story, one anyone with a mental illness knows well. Yet, he like any of us with one, kept pushing forwards. He kept waking up and working and fighting his battles. Williams kept getting better, honing his craft film after film like a fine wine, a deep soul, a talented yet tortured artist. Everyone knows he was brilliant, yet not everyone knows the dark mind he had to live with. As the decades progressed, we clung to his movies for a port in the storm of our crazy world.

“He fed our need for laughter in a world of absurdity and calamity. Simultaneously, he inspired many of us to see that silly was okay and comedy is just as genius as the dramatic. And, he could do it all.”

– wendy k. williamson

The best part of one’s life is not their career, but their family and friends. I’ll bet he was the first person people around him turned to with their problems; the best kind of friend to have, compassionate and loving. That’s how I imagine he would be.

This is the legacy I’d like to have and hope others would. Wouldn’t the world be a better place? I would like to have been thought a kind person; to have spread joy to those around me and those who love me – whom I knew and perhaps didn’t; above all: To love with all I had. That would be the ultimate meaning to my life. It may be my books, someday, that people will think of next to my name, (if I should be so lucky that anyone would remember me); however, what would matter most is that I was loving and kind to all. I suspect Robin Williams did that in spades in both his personal and his professional life. That is what makes a person a true success in my book. That is what I aspire to be always. I choose my friends that way, most of whom are mentally ill.

Some of the people I have lost in my life to suicide and/or addiction have embodied these exact qualities. I reflect on these similarities today. I must tell you a quick story that is far from tv.

My friend Sean was at a restaurant in San Francisco near Robin Williams and his family. Sean could hear Robin doing a skit to his family and Sean was cracking up. (Sean was the funniest guy I knew in college, by the way.) Even sitting there with his family for dinner. My friend said it was all he could do to keep the milk from flying out of his nose. (And that was Robin Williams with no stage.)

Brilliant in “Patch Adams”

We all know he was hilarious. We didn’t all know how much he suffered. However anyone who has depression, bipolar disorder or is plagued with addiction understands at least part of his pain. This is how his death touched me. I understood that he died trying, as did I. I understood that he was in the fight of his life, for a long time, as was I. And the only difference between the two of us is that I am still here. I cannot explain why. I don’t know why I got off the train tracks. There are certain things I cannot explain to you in my life. I can offer guesses but I don’t know why things happen. There are no answers to why so I stopped asking a long time ago.

Whether he was or wasn’t bipolar isn’t the issue. He was on “the list” that circulates around that he had this horrible disease. He was also quoted as saying he was never officially diagnosed with it, only depression. There are questions I would ask him if here alive and sitting next to me, none of it really matters at this moment. I know what it is like to be stuck in the muck and mire of day in day out feeling hopeless and lifeless and wanting out.

I also know what it’s like to not feel any better, despite trying every medication and quitting alcohol and drugs. I know what it’s like, while sober, waiting for years when no solution that any of the best doctors are presenting fail. I know desparation and suicide is a desparate act. I also know that it can be (as in my case) a thought out decision. I didn’t wake up one day and spontaneously do it. I make no, absolutely no parallel to Robin Williams. I did not have his life, or know his mind or situation. I can only speak for myself here. The only common denominator is depression. And it is a horrible, horrible, debilibating, life-taking illness.

Despite co-authoring my latest book: Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar Disorder, I live at the mercy of manic depression. I have help following tips, but no one is bulletproof; the seasons and events in our lives write the script.

I don’t doubt he struggled like many of us. I try to remember the lives my friends lived. Mr. Williams has quite a legacy for which his children, wife, family and friends can be proud.

I’ve recently read written articles that eloquently shed light on suicide. He didn’t commit suicide; depression killed him. Yes, we may want out, we may even do the action that takes us off this earth; however, I choose to believe today, personally, in my humble opinion, that the illness kills us. I am not dodging responsibility, it’s just how I choose to look at it today. And it kills one in five of us.

Yesterday it was Robin.

Five years & two months ago it was my friend Lisa.

Six years & three    ”        ”       ”       ”      ”   Heidi.

Seven & 1/2 years            ”      ”       ”      ”   Annie.

Ten years & 11 months ago it was almost me.

That is part of the reason why I felt it was important to write my memoir: People were dying.My friends were dying. We die, it’s a fact for many who have bipolar disorder.

Mr. Williams, if you could hear me I would say this:

“Maybe you will meet my bipolar and depressed friends and say hello. I miss them terribly. No need to worry about ‘my one spark of madness’ as I’ll keep trying to harness that one spark. I’ve got you covered on that.”

-R.I.P. comrade.

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