Friday, 31 July 2015

LIVING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

Nearly two decades ago, after a particular long stint of black depression, I was relieved to discover that I suffer from bipolar disorder. It was only then that I realised why I could be so up one week and so down another. It took a while but eventually I was medicated so that I can now function without any mood swings. 

Nowadays, if my husband Bill thinks I might be a bit over the top (symptoms are heightened creativity, speaking too loudly or too often, inability to focus and to sleep), he reminds me to take increased meds. Alternatively, if he suspects I’m slipping into a dark place, again he reminds me to increase my meds. Any time he’s particularly worried about me, we both visit my GP. I always obey Bill and my GP when it comes to my illness.

It’s rare, though, that the usual dose of meds needs to be increased. I am a high functioning, creative and productive person. 

So what’s this article go to do with writing for children?

Last week I had an ‘ah!’ moment. A fellow children’s writer told me that the convener of a national conference had ‘whispered’ to her that I have bipolar. For ten years this conference has been running and despite the fact I was one of its co-founders, and that I have over 30 years’ experience as an author, bookseller, national online magazine compiler (Buzz Words), bookseller, schools’ performer, manuscript assessor, editor and teacher, not once have I received an invitation to present at the conference. Now, it seems this reluctance to have me involved is because of my (very much in control) mental illness.

It could be that I’m being paranoid or perhaps the convener has simply overlooked me. But with the word ‘whispered’, I suspect the poor woman is afraid that asking me might create a scandal of some sort. The mentally 'ill' woman running amok! Imagine it!

The fact is that I let anyone know of my illness because I am not ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am. I have chronic physical illness conditions and a chronic mental illness condition. So what?

I really feel sorry that anyone, including this convener, is so misinformed that they miss out on the opportunity of really getting to know me and to make use of my considerable expertise and my talents.

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