These pictures are taken on the same day, indeed minutes from each other, but in the one I am smiling and in the other I am wearing a smile. Can anyone tell which is which?
Sometimes in life, we may be conscious we are merely wearing smiles. We so wear them until they become our signature smiles. That smile which gives nothing away, and which is always there 365 days a year.
I used to wear smiles a lot, not naturally one to smile in my teens and only wearing one when prodded. Now in my ‘old em middle age’, I have come to find myself and to love the free and love-full me, smiling is a lot easier. But for the sake of me, I can’t just fake it when not in the mood unless I see that not wearing a smile can lead to more debris than I can clean up. Am I the only who goes through such ‘cycles’?
In conclusion, in the above pictures, I am smiling in the picture on the left (to me that was the last picture I was ready to submit myself too and having decided I had had enough fun, I relaxed fully and it glowed from inside out even if the smile may not have been my broadest). In the picture on the right, taken like shortly after the other when I was cajoled to hang on for a few more pictures, I slumped and said whatever – there you go. I wore smiles thereafter for most shoots until I couldn’t stand it no more and left.
I share this post to inspire and motivate and hope it serves that purpose. Indeed, we have to dare authenticity, know our own selves and to the core; and try as much to smile instead of wearing a smile in life.
Hello World, during this month of May which is Mental Health Awareness month, I am as you must have noticed, doing interviews with authors who have written on mental health, especially about their personal experiences.
I have done a modest review of Molly’s memorable memoir on my blog, and it is my honour to interview her too.
1) The Profile
Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit about your Childhood:
Sure. Born in U.S., youngest of five kids, mom a nurse, dad (after 4 years in WWII) owned own insurance biz. Very athletic (probably saved me from having worse mental-physical health issues), soccer in college, diagnosed Manic Depression freshman year after a psychotic break and hospitaliztion. Normal middle class kid. Loved animals, loved nature, loved being active. Did well in school. Always in one sport or another. Had close friends, the first boyfriend, first kiss, pajama parties, dance parties, prom night… plus some other things I will refrain from mentioning. Lol.
About your Memoir, how did you come up with this audacious title?
I had a FB group for e-book authors, and I asked for feedback on my book title. One of the earlier ones was “A Brain Gone Awry”… everyone hated it. I of course, thought it was brilliant. Ha! More ideas for a title not that great according to my helpful ‘more experienced writer’ critics either.
Then someone told me I had to be more clear, and that folks want to ‘solve a problem’. So I realized my gift to share was to focus on BP-1 (the classic Manic Depression) and to talk about the alternative care that I did over the years that helped me. And helped me not be on psych meds – which is huge. Most folks want that. Hence the title about BP-1 and how to thrive.
2) The Soul Journey
Going from the assumption therefore that you are surviving and thriving, what is your take about mental health?
I am doing well. I’ve suffered – and still do – like anyone who has to deal with these issues but have had many wonderful things in my life as well, so am thankful.
My main issue is that the ‘Chemical Imbalance’ theory used to put folks on drugs has to end. Sure, these meds can help someone suffering with an epsiode of illness (bipolar is episodic in general – with normal periods of functioning) stabilize, get back in control, but are very harmful with long-term use. And no – there is no such thing as an identifiable imbalance they correct. They affect brain chemicals (like anything you ingest into your body) but are neurotoxins with many distressing side effects and create new ‘illness’ issues i.e. side effects.
Mental health is a huge term. It would take a long time to write my thoughts. But the main issue for me is to identify underlying causes of the symptoms someone is experiencing, if possible. And then search for ways to treat. I still deal with quite a bit of fatigue… but not severe, debilitating depression like I had in my younger years. God that was awful. And the improvement is from learning about and treating some of my unique health issues (thyroid, allergies, detox from toxic exposures, etc). Others can do this too.
Did your diagnosis help or hurt your mental wellbeing in the long term?
What an excellent question. I’m not really sure how to answer this… as I had no ‘choice’ in being diagnosed. I didn’t read a book and think ‘oh, this is me’ or spend a bunch of time in therapy then get told I was bipolar. I had the classic onset with a manic episode in late teens and was hospitalized. And no, I was not doing cocaine or any recreational drug that caused it.
A diagnosis is just a label describing symptoms, is one way to look at it. I kept it pretty under-the-table from my outer life as much as I could when younger. But I had to have treatment – had severe depressive episodes and mania. So in that respect, it was needed I guess. Though I fought for other ways to be well and learned much, and healed much on my own with regular docs – what I share in my book.
I can say if I had bought into the ‘I have a chemical imbalance and have to take psych meds’ for life nonsense I would be dead by now. No question in my mind. And also I would not have had some of the amazing experiences I’ve been fortunte to have: college degree, healthy baby, well paid professional work, rasing my son as a single Mom, travel the world, etc. All of this while not on any psych med(s).
Can you tell if there was a difference in the way you were treated and the way you perceived stigma before and after you got a diagnosis?
I definitely have experienced stigma (personal relationships, being treated differently, fewer job opportunities) – was forced out of a four-year university program due to knowledge of my medical history. Stigma is real, and I am not sure how it can be changed.
I had a fair amount of emotional cruelty too – the “tough love” approach is how some describe it. To deny what it really is. When I was severely ill, living on the street, wealthy family with multiple apartments unoccupied didn’t intervene. I spent Christmas in a homeless shelter miles from everyone else secure and safe in their home. Of course it was my fault I had become ill, my fault I was forced out of college then crippled with student loan payments, my fault I’d somehow not fit into the cultural norm everyone felt comfortable with, my fault I was raped, my fault I was mugged, my fault I somehow didn’t miraculously emerge a rock solid twenty-something making tons of cash.
At it’s essence, stigma is really a form of emotional cruelty. And there’s plenty of cruel people in this world.
If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell us about motherhood with a fragile mental health like yours?
Fragile is a bit offensive of a word… though I know you do not mean it that way. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Surviving what I’ve survived I look at as an inner strength, something in my makeup that no one will ever take away. It is a part of me and will be when I leave this earth. I’m vulnerable in ways some others are not, but not fragile. And never have been.
I loved being a mom and was like many other single moms. I was on no psych meds, never hospitalized, worked for many years, eventually went on disability but still worked to provide a better life and opportunities for my son. We lived and traveled abroad, he is bilingual, has had a ton of amazing experiences.
The only thing that is very different about me – that really would not be noticeable to others – is I have to keep stress down. Limit social time. Had to focus on my son, staying well. Most don’t have as much of those concerns. But most haven’t Manic Depression with a history of psychiatric hospitalization either.
It was always on the back of my mind that I had to stay focused and be careful not to trigger any severe episode. For the most part I was successful. No parent is perfect. My son was raised with more love and caring attention that many children are.
P2 – the conclusion of this lovely interview comes up tomorrow so stay subscribed lol & Thank you
I am back from 5 days in Dakar, where I was attending the 3rd African Epilepsy Conference – I am so tired. I have equally been nominated to lead the national chapter of the IBE and so you can imagine.
This post was actually started while still in Dakar just so I don’t have much writing to do on my return.
Yes: I have Dared Dakar and I am more armoured to Dare Life or better put Dare the business of Living. Before I proceed, I want to say like all dynamic business men, I want to make a huge profit out of this business and invest in society starting with my family.
Daring Dakar Day 1 -3
I have to greatly summarize so as not to write this post in 3 parts.
Might as well
Going back to the beach each evening to watch the sunset
Day one (Thursday 4/05/17) was literraly spent flying over Africa and doing Airport hopping. There are no direct flights to Senegal from my country; so – I left my home at 6 am and finally checked into my hotel in Dakar at 10 pm thanks to the cab driver who knows no where and no French… The national language in Senegal is Wolof …
Day 2-3 (Fri&Sat 5&6/05/17)
I start off very tired, curiously still jet lagged although the sports I get to do from 4-5 am on Saturday morning boost me up plenty. Friday morning was really tough and some emotionally taxing situation nearly nailed me down. I am so grateful for my support network and coping strategies. I learn a lot though and yes I make so many contacts. Some area people (from the doorman via the receptionost to the room cleaner etc these are my best); a student and some VIPs.
With Falima whom I met at the university
With Couma my darling Fati’s sister
Sightseeing on the boat
The conference is at the famous Cheikh Anta Diop University by the Ocean and my my my… I meet Falima and we click. She is a 3rd year student and in love with Cameroon ha – some things we think are despicable are other peoples dream… And you could refresh about my heroine Fati here, Couma on the right is her kid sister now my friend too ofcourse
On that friday evening, we have the official opening ceremony followed by a cocktail. I am very pleased to make friends with Ella & Lola
Day 4&5 (Sun&Mon 7&8/05/17)
I sleep much better and I go for sports at 5 am. Baam I run into a Petit gang arguing over their booty but I refuse to let fear take me back. I walk right through them with a dare me stare like a commando. It tells them, am an area girl minding my business, mind yours. One of them whistles at me “yowa (yes in their dialect) mama” but I dont smile back. I instead make the ‘buddy fist gesture’ and continue my way.
I zoom through the morning and soon it is closing ceremony. There is a planned city excursion with a restaurant reserved for those who opt. It ain’t free and nope am done with those 3/4 star stuffed scenes. I also have to be economical so I chart my way to Fati their family home. Going to such areas makes you know life indeed has several shades. Talk of bumpy ride…
The bus ahead is a scarpie for passengers, people are parked inside like sardines
to go to my dear Fati’s family, you go until you can’t no more, even through the sea lol
To get there you just keep going right through the sea lol. The VIP friend who brought me here told me in all their life they’ve never been to this area nor where I am lodging…
It was already past 3 pm and I was scared lunch will be over; but nope just in time… See me enjoy famous Senegalese rice the Senegalese authentic way …
In typical Senegalese style, all men one way and all women the other way and then the whistle is blown: try your best while talking non stop lol
Gosh I was hungry
On my way back to the hotel I dare a scarpie and enjoy 2 hour plus of cheap sightseeing and listening to Wolof being rolled off from all angles. These people greet each other for at least 7 minutes. How romantic? Am loving it and today being a Sunday there aren’t that too many passengers… Wrong it pick as it goes, hop out as you wish… I sit, stand up for a grandma, sit again elsewhere when someone leaves, stand up again for a pregnant woman and when next I mange to squeeze somewhere I dare not look up again who comes in …and, I still treck for like 15 mins because the final bus stop is no where close to the hotel…
On Monday I quickly do sports and then check out of the idealistic hotel by the beach, to the area where I can drink chai by the road side. I can count on Coumba to go shopping for souvenir gifts. Here is the address Coumba gave me, sorry it is in French so use google translate maybe it’ll give you a more precise address:
“Bjr marie tu diras au chauffeur que tu vas au golf rond point marché jeudi terminus 38 à la cité des enseignants …”
Look my people, when a Senegalese tells you it ain’t far, hail a cab immediately. When they say they are just stopping by to greet, cancel other appointments! Simple
And I did it, dared dakar again one last time, dared to go to the infamous Goree Island. How could I come to Dakar and not visit that island? The emotions you leave that island with – am speechless
Weighing room, any slave less than 60 kg had 3 days to weigh up or …
Cell hole for delinquent slaves
What cheer can you have or keep walking up that street?
The slavery monument in Goreé
Flying until finally landing and getting back home in one Peace/Piece – Amen
I hope I have been able to visually take you to Dakar and back, inspiring and motivating you to Dare Life and Dare Yourself