Don’t Assume You Understand Neurodiversity. You Don’t.

I’m going to write another bitchy blog post, because I’m organizing my thoughts. I invite all people to read, and comment if you want, but this is really a conversation that needs to happen within the neurodiverse community, without paying a lot of attention outside input.

I love the term neurodiversity (or neurodivergence*). When I first heard it,  a light came on in my mind. I finally had a word for something I’d felt my whole life: that “mentally ill” isn’t the right word for who I am, because I’m not ill. This is just my personality, and you can’t (nor should you want to) cure me of it. (Yes, I want/need some symptoms treated, but that’s a different discussion.)

The problem is, the term “neurodiverse” is a catch-all term for A LOT of different sorts of people. This is one of those “duh” statements, but I think we need to meditate on it. I hear a lot of people say “I’m neurodiverse, too,” (or, worse yet, “my aunt is neurodiverse”) as a precursor to statements indicating they think they understand what life is like for ALL neurodiverse people.

Ugh. Amirite?

I don’t want to stop using the term “neruodiverse”. I lurves it, and don’t want to complicate the language by having more and more terms, or just labeling ourselves with our diagnoses. “Neurodiverse” expresses an idea about all of us, that we’re not ill and are okay the way we are, and thus is a good catch-all term.

But we all need to check ourselves when we start thinking we understand what it’s like for all people under the neurodiverse umbrella. There’s a huge spectrum not only of different diagnoses under that umbrella, but also of levels of marginalization. Some of us struggle daily with the problems our neurodiversity causes us. It’s affects everything we do, and every conversation we have with others. Other people’s neurodiversity has only a minor effect on their lives.

If you have minor clinical depression, for instance, you’re neurodiverse in my opinion (unless you choose to not identify that way, of course). Depression is something I experience, and is super shitty. It can make you miss work, sabotage relationships, hurt yourself. But, in the case of minor depression, most people won’t know you have it unless you tell them.

mentalOn the other end of the spectrum is my partner, Phoenix. He has schizophrenia and can’t even walk silently into a room without people reacting to his neurodiversity: his strangeness radiates from him like a glow—a beautiful glow, in my opinion, but not in the opinions of most others. He’s one of the very best, coolest, smartest, kindest people I’ve ever met, but most folks will never know that because their reactions to him are almost uniformly negative. They avoid him, or have a (misguided) “protective” anger reaction (for instance, they call the cops on him for yelling and pacing in his yard. They beat the shit out of him for talking to himself, because they think he’s “talking shit” about them). At best, they pity him and don’t take anything he says seriously.

You can imagine the effect this sort of marginalization could have on a person. Phoenix is positive and confident, but he’s told me on various occasions that before I came along, he thought he’d be alone for his whole life.

I, for the sake of you knowing my viewpoint, fall somewhere in between that. I struggle daily with my bipolar and PTSD on an internal level, and it’s been a defining force of my entire life path. It’s destroyed more than one relationship, and caused me to seek out abusive and toxic ones. It’s landed me in prison. It’s made it extremely hard for me to maintain employment for more than a few years at a time, and has cost me many promotions because of latent bias (and no, I’m not being paranoid. I have direct evidence). The list goes on. But in my daily interactions, at least at times I’m not in crisis, people generally just think I’m a little bit eccentric or “off”. It certainly colors their reactions toward me, but they might not even guess at first blush that I’m neurodiverse. Plus, I have the advantage of not being one of those people that comes off as creepy. At least it doesn’t seem like it, usually, based on how I’m treated (I mean, I’m not creepy, right? Tell me if I am). So my neurodiversity doesn’t isolate me in that way (though it will cause me to self-isolate at times).

So, what I’m saying is, someone with minor depression can’t know what it’s like for people like me, or people like Phoenix. And I can’t know what it’s like for someone with Autism, or schizoaffective disorder, etc. But I can probably identify with what other neurodiverse people go through better than most neurotypical people can, and I will endeavor to listen and be accepting—to be a “safe space” for other neurodiverse people to express their feelings and experiences. I will never say neurodiverse people are “doing it for attention” or any of those other horrible, marginalizing things neurotypical (or self-hating neurodiverse) people say.

The reason we label ourselves as neurodiverse is to try to seek out people who understand what it’s like for us, and will listen and accept us for who we are. Thus, it’s very, very important to be careful of behaviors in the community that can cause us to marginalize and isolate our peers even more. We need to be there for one another. Let us remember to listen and be good allies, as well as good peers.

* I don’t like that this term as much, for the silly reason that I don’t like the novel Divergent. We all have our quirks.

Left-Wing Survivalists: We Are the Majority

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, as my friends online and offline are probably aware/tired of. A lot of my struggle boils down to this: I feel like I have no voice in society.

I think a lot of people can relate to that.

I think that helpless feeling has become a “trigger” for me personally, since the end of my marriage was brought on largely by the fact my ex wouldn’t listen to me. No matter how much I tried to tell him how I felt, he dismissed it and told me how I really felt, according to him. I’ve experienced a lot more personal rejection, as well. For instance, a sheriff’s deputy told me yesterday my recent sexual assault was not really a crime and I was wasting his time by reporting it.

This sort of scenario plays out constantly in society at large. It always has, but some of us have been more aware of it than others. After the recent election, though, more people are coming to realize that a lot of people’s voices are being drowned out, dismissed and belittled in favor of the very loud voices of a certain class of almost entirely white people.

I’ve been railing against this phenomenon (what might be called an “inequality in the societal narrative”) since I first began to realize how much of an effect it had on my own life. This wasn’t until a few years ago. Before that, I’d blamed my personal failings for the fact that I seemed to struggle a lot harder than others. I’m not giving up all personal responsibility for my struggles, of course, but what those Loud-Talking Whiteys (or LTWs, as they will be called henceforth)* don’t understand is, when you’re talking about disadvantaged peoples, the notion of “personal responsibility” isn’t as cut-and-dry as they think.

When your voice is dismissed and belittled, it tends to affect your very identity. In society’s plotline, you are the villain; the pathetic hopeless creature who needs saving; or you just don’t appear in the story at all. You feel this fact in your very bones. You begin to believe there’s something “wrong” or “lesser” about you, because that’s what you hear and experience, day in and day out. This feeling can sometimes cause you to act in ways that, in turn, cause society to further ignore and/or heap scorn upon you.

It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. And this idea of “privilege”, white or otherwise, is very much outside of the dominant social narrative. People who do not experience this phenomenon are privileged. They usually do not understand that privilege, or have any idea what it is like to live without it. They are LTWs.

When you try to talk to a LTW about their privilege—be it white, male, socioeconomic, cis/hetero, Christian, neurotypical or other—they roll their eyes. They explain that “everyone has problems”. They tell you to “grow up”, “get over yourself”, and “take personal responsibility for your life.” “Stop pulling the race/gender etc. card, it’s getting really old,” they say, or “Why do you have to make this about race/gender etc.?” They often say that they’ve worked really hard to get where they are, and if we’d just stop complaining and work as hard as they do, we’d be in the same position of privilege that they are.

They’re wrong on so many levels. That’s not just my opinion, that’s fact. A lot of people work way harder than LTWs do, are much smarter and more qualified, and yet get passed over/ignored in favor of LTWs over and over and over again. No amount of affirmative action or reasonable accommodation will ever make up for racism and bigotry, because that racism and bigotry still controls the system the affirmative action exists in.

Most bias is latent—unconscious—and the perpetrators of it will never, ever admit they have it, and thus cannot work to change it. They don’t recognize their own prejudices because they think the only really prejudiced ones are the KKK-type people. But those sorts of blatantly horrible assholes are a tiny minority, and their voices are fairly easily dismissed (even though they’re embraced by our president elect, but I digress). The type of bias we have to worry about more, because it knits the fabric of our society, is the type expressed by the mainstream LTWs.

I will reiterate, for those new to my ranting, the ways I experience bias and understand the idea of “privilege” in my own life (for those tired of hearing it, skip down to the heading in bold). I have seen my own white and limited socioeconomic privilege in action, and will never deny it—I have plenty of very specific examples—but being white and not without financial resources doesn’t negate the prejudice I do experience. It just softens the burden.

Besides being just naturally strange, I’m bipolar and have what has proven to be serious PTSD. I experience subtle or not-so-subtle bias any time I walk out the door an interact with strangers. People who know me are used to me, and they usually don’t think I’m all that different, unless they’ve seen me in full-blown psychosis, depression, or mania. But when I meet people for the very first time, they often get wary—I’m not sure they always notice it, but they choose to end conversations with me as quickly as possible and move on. It has been said behind my back and to my face many times—I’m “annoying” or a “little bit off”. I’ve been told to “grow up” and “stop acting like that”.

Some people seem to like my weirdness, though, and I love y’all so much.

I didn’t recognize this bias against me for what it was until recently. Before, I thought there was something “wrong” with me, and I beat myself up for it. But when I tried to change my behavior, it just made me weirder and more annoying.

Then I met Phoenix, who is schizophrenic. People recognize his bizarreness as soon as he walks into a room. He has the same effect I have on people, but magnified by a hundred. Phoenix is ignored, treated with pity, bullied, beaten up, reviled; he’s regularly harassed by police, arrested, and has almost been shot for committing no crime at all. He’s kicked out of businesses, public buildings, and other people’s houses just for being “weird”.

When I realized how much I loved Phoenix precisely because of the reasons others feared and hated him, I realized that I, too, have nothing wrong with me, and I needed to discard society’s narrative in favor of my own.

It’s not just neurodiverse people who experience prejudice. It’s people of color, disabled people, LGBTQ people, and all others who are a cultural/religious/etc. “minority” in their society. If you haven’t experienced it, I’m not certain you can truly understand it. But if you at least recognize it exists and try to understand and empathize, you are automatically not an LTW. Give yourself a high five.

Let’s get to the point of this blog post.

Something has recently hit home for me lately: LTWs are NOT the majority in this country. Even though large numbers of ghoulish, inbred deplorables have recently crawled out of their dank dens into the light of day, and even more of our supposed friends have shown some seriously scary and racist opinions and behaviors we’d never seen before, I still hold tight to my belief that they aren’t the majority. After all, Hillary won the popular vote.

Since we, the non-LTWs, ARE the majority, we need to start acting like it. We need to dismiss hateful and ignorant voices the same way the LTWs do to us. So, I hereby declare that I’m creating a magical world where Trump isn’t president. We’re the privileged majority, and the LTWs are the pathetic, whiny minority who aren’t worth listening to.

We could all use a good escape from the real world right now. And my personal motto is: If you believe something hard enough, you can make it real.

Part of my job is creating fantasy worlds, so I’m somewhat of an expert on how therapeutic they can be. Think of it as a sort of creative visualization process. If we spend at least a few minutes each day living as the dominant majority, we will hopefully go out into the real world with more strength and confidence. We will stop letting others have any control of our narratives.

If you want to live in this world with me, I’ve created a Facebook group called the Left-Wing Survivalists. I like that name because it has a sort of subversive and cultish ring to it: we, the Left-Wing Survivalists, are rejecting your reality in favor of our own and creating our own society. We’re preparing for the Glorious Kingdom of Cultural Enlightenment, which is nigh.

I also like it because I’m living in a tiny house compound, growing my own food and weaving baskets out of dry reeds. I am, in fact, a left-wing survivalist.

On this page we can certainly discuss politics, but in the offhand, unworried way of privileged people sitting on the terrace of their manor house, having tea and discussing what those silly little people did today. I’d like to see a lot of (probably fictional) stories about how you wouldn’t go to a straight cousin’s wedding on principle, or refused to use the same drinking fountain as a Wall Street executive. But it could also be a place to discuss positive things we are doing in our real lives to forget/reject the LTWs’ narrative and make our world a beautiful place, be it volunteer work, recipes, gardening/farming tips, pictures of our crafts, or just good ol’ tales of how we were dismissive and disdainful of those pathetic little LTWs, and rousing yarns of how we stood up with good humor and assertiveness for ourselves and/or others who are disadvantaged.

I know this is play pretend. We’re still struggling under the very real burdens of racism, sexism, and other discrimination in our society. We (apparently) have to live with the piss-poor reality that we have a fleshy pile of lying fuckface for president. But let’s do it with as much grace as we can. I think a little play pretend could help.

As this presidency progresses, it might get harder and harder to maintain this illusion. But that makes it all the more important to have a “happy place” to retreat to, in order to survive our troubles and recognize our strength. We need to keep our spirits up and foster true unity, so that our majority narrative of love, acceptance, and mutual respect will eventually be able to take its rightful place as the dominant one.

 

*I am perfectly aware that calling this sort of person (or group of people, if you will) “Loud-Talking Whiteys” is a gross generalization. Not all of them are white, no group is truly homogenous and coherent, this sort of stereotyping is what I’m supposedly fighting against, blah blah etc. But, however we may try to love and respect them for the true goodness that does exist somewhere in their souls, we all know the sorts of people I’m talking about. So I will use the term LTWs for the sake of expediency.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and the deepest thinker in the Universe. Find her on Amazon.

Pitch Wars #PimpMyBio: “Coming Out” About My #OwnVoices Book

I’m late to the Pitch Wars #Pimpmybio party, which is odd, because I usually have a bad habit of showing up way too early at most parties.

I just this morning resolved to enter the contest. This will be my third time entering Pitch Wars, and I’ve entered with a different manuscript each time. The first time, I entered the very first novel I’d ever completed, the first in a series of seven YA urban fantasy novels. I’ve since put that series on the back burner; it needs serious editing with my now-more-trained eye before I pitch it again.

The novel I entered last year, The Other Place, is an upper YA/NA contemporary magical realism novel. It’s about a young man with schizophrenia trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. This book was released by Limitless Publishing on 7/5/16.

Yes, I know. I’m a published author, and so I feel a little shy entering Pitch Wars. I know (from experience, unfortunately) that some other contestants are likely giving me the stink-eye, wishing I’d step aside to give the less fortunate a chance. But I don’t have an agent, and really want one; my books are getting great reviews, but I’m a marketing doofus and I think I could get wider exposure if I had an agent on my side, holding my hand and cheering me on.

This competition brings in some of the best aspiring authors in the English-speaking world, and I know I don’t have any more talent or chance of being selected than a lot of the unpublished entrants. The fact I’m published and others aren’t, isn’t a measure purely of talent, but also of hard work and persistence. In fact, no matter how awesome I think my manuscript is, I don’t have a ton of hope it will be chosen. That isn’t the real reason I’m entering this contest. I’m entering because, in past years, I’ve made so many great friends in the Pitch Wars feed, and I’d love to make some more. I’m also entering because I’ve had so much going on in my life lately, both good and bad, so I’ve not been doing much querying. Pitch Wars will make me focus on trying to find this book a home.

The book I’m entering this year is entitled True Story. It’s a diverse YA romance. The main character is a seventeen-year-old Native American foster girl with the unusual name of Mike Charley. She isn’t trans; she was named after her grandfather by her bipolar mother, who thought Mike was his reincarnation.
This is an #ownvoices book. I’m not Native (though I have family in the same tribe Mike’s mother was from), but Mike has bipolar disorder with episodes of psychosis, like her mother did…and like I do.
I’ve been hesitant about pitching True Story as an #ownvoices book, though I know it might make some people more curious about it. I only recently “came out” about my neurodiversity, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I’m lucky that my diversity isn’t visible; most days, I seem like a perfectly normal, if maybe somewhat eccentric, person, so not a lot of people knew about my neurodiversity. Since I opened up about it, I’ve gotten such a wonderful outpouring of support, but I’ve also suffered a lot of negative and hurtful comments.
Bipolar is a condition that comes with many misconceptions. People either think you’re a howling nutjob, or that you’re being attention-seeking: “I get mood swings, too, and you don’t see me crying about it.” I’m not a howling nutjob on most days, nor am I particularly attention-seeking. These stereotypes are hurtful.
When I wrote True Story, it wasn’t my intention to “educate” the world about bipolar disorder. I was just telling a cool story about a wonderful girl. But now that the book is written and edited, and steaming up the windows in its boisterous urge to get on the road, I really do want to find a wide audience for it, to show one insider’s perspective on living with bipolar.
I also think it’s important to have YA novels with bipolar and otherwise neurodiverse main characters. After my first episode of psychosis when I was 15, I was terrified. I thought my brain would completely desert me; that I might lose control of myself and hurt people. That’s what most people think “psychos” are, after all: homicidal maniacs. Most books reflect these misconceptions, and portray psychotic characters as killers or otherwise evil antagonists. At best, characters with psychosis are often complete wastes of space, objects of nothing more than pity and contempt, and are there only to be somehow “saved” by a neurotypical character.
Because I’d swallowed all those stereotypes, it was decades before I had the courage to admit even to a doctor that I’d suffered psychotic episodes. Instead, I got pretty good at managing them myself. I tried to avoid the situations that might trigger them, and I self-medicated. A lot. When I was in my late teens, I discovered that heroin made my brain chill out, and eased my crushing episodes of (sometimes suicidal) depression. It took me years and a trip to prison to kick that habit, but I eventually found healthier ways to deal with my symptoms.
But those ways don’t always work, especially when you’re like me and don’t even try to control your episodes of mania.
I love being manic. My last manic episode started in the summer of 2013. That’s when I first started writing in earnest: I finished seven novels in a year, and another five in the year after that. However, the episode coincided with a huge shift in my marriage dynamics and caused it even more strain. My husband became very insulting about my inability to “grow up and act right”. His behavior felt very abusive to me, which triggered both my bipolar disorder and my PTSD and made my behavior even more erratic. I ended up having a psychotic break last summer (my first one in more than a decade), and a few close brushes with suicide, before the relationship finally ended for good.
My dream with regard to True Story, and my other books (and other authors’ books) with neurodiverse characters, is that people will read them and be less afraid to talk about their own experiences with neurodiversity. I want people with mental illness to know that they aren’t “less” than neurotypical people; they’re not dangerous or creepy, or in any other way unfit to take their rightful place in society. Then maybe they won’t have to go through some of the stuff I’ve gone through.
So I’m standing up (with somewhat trembly knees) and proudly declaring that True Story is an #ownvoices book. I know my admission that I have a serious mental condition might make some agents leery of working with me, but I console myself that they might not be a good match for my work anyway. When I finally do get an agent, that person will see my value, and will believe in me and my writing. They won’t buy into the negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder or PTSD. They’ll know people like me can be productive, professional, intelligent, and easy to work with.
So, that’s why I’m entering Pitch Wars: because I deserve to; because I believe in my books; and because I believe in myself and others like me.
Thank you for reading this. I’d love to hear your comments and get links to your blogs, as well. Like I said, making new friends is one of my main goals in entering Pitch Wars.
Good luck to everyone!

Signing at Inklings Bookstore on September 10!

I’m happy to announce that I’m going to have a signing at Inklings Bookstore in Yakima, Washington on the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th. I also landed an interview on KIMA TV news. I’ll have more info soon, and hopefully more dates! I hope to see you all there.

Owning the Label of “Mentally Ill”

I wanted to talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: how we, and those around us, deal with mental health issues, along with the stigma and complications that label brings. It’s a subject I’ve been exploring in my own life, as well as in my book The Other Place (which has a schizophrenic main character, and came out TODAY!!)

Background on me, for those new to my blog: I’m a neurodiverse person. Every time I go into the psych doc, it seems like they diagnose me with a new letter of the alphabet. Pretty soon they’re going to have to make up new letters, just to diagnose me with them. My main diagnoses are PTSD and Bipolar I (or II, depending on whom you ask, but since I sometimes go totes whackadoodle, I’d probably say I).

It’s only recently I’ve discovered that I don’t have to call myself “mentally ill” (or “nutball” or “whackadoodle”)—I can call myself “neurodiverse”. I think that term fits a lot better, and feels better. Illness is bad, but diversity is something we should be proud of.

The problem is that we as a society don’t typically see neurodiversity in the same light as we see other types of diversity. Neurodiversity is something to be hidden or cured. It’s something to “rise above” and “be successful in spite of” (indeed, some people still see racial, cultural, religious and sexual diversity in the same light, but we should try our hardest to forget those sorts of people, at least for a few blissful moments before Trump opens his mouth again). And sure, there are certain symptoms that go along with being a neurodiverse person that most of us in that category do want some help dealing with or rising above. But, mostly, the impetus should be on society to realize that neurodiverse people aren’t going to change, and shouldn’t have to change.

I’ve spent a lot of my life denying and trying to escape my diagnoses, along with the stigma, danger, and (often) horrible and ineffective treatments that come with them. It’s only recently I’ve realized that there isn’t really something “wrong” with me, and that perhaps it’s society that needs to change in some ways, and not me.

Society has a long way to go with regard to understanding mental illness. Having certain diagnoses on your record can prevent you from getting certain jobs (or any jobs, if you’re open about it like I am online, because employers tend to stalk you before hiring). A record of mental illness can cause you trouble with the law, can affect the quality of your medical treatment even for conditions unrelated to mental health, and a bunch of other things.

Letting myself be diagnosed didn’t really seem worthwhile, because, let’s face it: a lot of treatments for mental health conditions aren’t very effective, and not much progress has been made in making them so in the last few decades. A lot of the treatments don’t make me feel better; sometimes they actually make me feel worse, at least in the short-term, and/or can have long-term negative health effects. It’s always a trade-off, and it sometimes doesn’t seem like a net benefit. So, every time a doctor has tried to slap a label on me, shower me with shitty pills, or put me in therapy, I’ve gone to another doctor or just quit treatment altogether.

I recently had a pretty big breakdown, though, so I’m back in treatment again. I’m struggling to make it work this time, for a couple big reasons. One is that I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see what effect my mental health was having on my life, and that perhaps I could do better if I took care of myself. Another reason is that I’m ready to accept my diagnoses, and deal with all the fallout that happens from owning the label of “mentally ill”.

What made me ready to own the label was meeting my friend Phoenix, who has schizophrenia. He is hands-down one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and interesting people I’ve ever met. If he can be so incredibly awesome, then I figured maybe I wasn’t so bad, either. Maybe it is society that has the problem, and not us.

I’m also ready to accept the label of “mentally ill” out of a sense of obligation. I can pass for reasonably sane on good days. I can speak fairly coherently about my experiences with psychosis and mental illness in general. But Phoenix, as awesome as he is, doesn’t have much of a voice in society at large. I understand the turn of his mind, but a lot of people just think he’s a ranting lunatic and don’t stick around to find out he’s not. They’re angered or frightened by his behavior. They think he’s on drugs. They abuse, exploit, and ignore him. He’s been beaten into a coma for trying to be friendly (seriously), and has been arrested for standing in his own yard yelling about cow-worshiping vegans (long story). He was almost shot by police during a psychotic break, even though he was unarmed. And he and I have gotten kicked out of so many places just for being unobtrusively weird.

So, I feel the need to speak up and be proud, not just for myself, but for him, and for people like us everywhere.

It’s not easy to be proud a lot of the time, though. Having a mental health diagnosis hits you in two ways: it changes how you look at yourself, and it changes how society sees you. Those two things can also affect each other, so it becomes sort of a feedback loop.

Getting the correct diagnosis can help you to understand yourself better, and why you feel and react in certain ways. That can lift some of your heavy burden of guilt, shame, and self-recrimination, so that you can go about changing or dealing with those behaviors in a more constructive way. Having a diagnosis can also help those close to you recognize your behaviors for what they are, and respond to them in a healthier and more appropriate manner.

However, a diagnosis can also bring a new level of shame, and cause a different kind of inappropriate and unhealthy backlash from society.

People are more open about their mental health problems now than they were in the past, so you can find some very supportive friends if you start talking about your experiences. You also get a lot of pity, though. Pity isn’t what most people are looking for when they talk about their mental problems: they’re looking for understanding, for a way that they can fit into society and be accepted.

Pity, however, is better than the fear, anger, or condescension a lot of people display if you talk about your diagnosis.

Like I said before, I usually pass for reasonably sane. Sometimes, though, I don’t. I don’t usually realize it when it’s happening, but I behave pretty oddly sometimes. I’ve lost friends and loved ones because of it. I’ve been told to “just stop acting that way”, to “get over myself”, and to “grow up.” I’ve been told I’m attention-seeking. I’ve had people say, “Everyone’s crazy, but most of us don’t have to put it on full display.”

Here’s my answer to that: everyone is an ignorant dickhole in some ways, but most of us try not to put it on full display.

Sanity is definitely a spectrum. I have a pretty wide view of sanity, because pretty much everyone has some pretty kooky habits, paranoias, anxieties and beliefs. But I have intimate experience with that ethereal border over which be mental dragons; the line which, once crossed, puts you in the territory of bona-fide insane. I’ve been there, and I’ve witnessed others in that place. It’s not a place most of us choose to go. It can be terrifying, frightening, embarrassing and dangerous, not just because psychotic people are sometimes apt to hurt themselves, but because others tend to misunderstand us, take us for dangerous, and hurt us because of it. I’m lucky I get to spend the majority of my time on the sane side of that line. Others aren’t so lucky.

Most of us probably can agree that the lunatic ranting on the street corner didn’t get that way by poor life choices, right? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see it that way. People really do say things like, “Get a job, you lousy bum!” Seriously. I’ve seen it.

But for people like me, who maybe are a little bit there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I with regard to becoming a ranting hobo on the street corner, but probably won’t go there because we’re more stable and functional, it’s more difficult to sort out what part of our behavior is intentional on some level and can be changed, and what part is just who we are. It’s even difficult for me to sort out, with regard to my own behavior. So when people get frustrated or angry with me for doing certain things, and give me the “straighten up and fly right/get a job you lousy bum”-type lecture, it really hits home.

I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with myself and beating up on myself for being certain ways. I end up walking this tightrope; on one side is things about myself that I can’t change, and just need to learn how to deal with; and on the other side is behavior that I could change, and would be copping out if I blamed it on my mental health issues. Everyone else has their own opinions about which side of that tightrope certain behaviors fall, which makes it even harder to sort out for myself.

And then there’s the added stigma that a lot of people think I’m being attention-seeking or trying to be a “special snowflake” for even talking about these issues publicly. Since I’ve seen even POC and other diverse individuals get that brand of bullshit, though, I try not to let it bug me too much. I’m talking about these issues for the same reasons any diverse person talks about the issues related to their diversity: to understand it myself and to garner more understanding from others, so that someday maybe people like me will have a comfortable place in society where we don’t suffer discrimination, abuse, violence, and misunderstanding.

I hope that by writing these blog posts and books like The Other Place, I make some headway in that regard.

RELEASE DAY FOR THE OTHER PLACE !

Today is release day for my magical realism novel, The Other Place! This is book two in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. It is the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia, who is trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. Basically, it’s a sort of coming-of-age story, but with a very unique character and more action than those sorts of books usually have. It’s not a dark book at all; it’s very different from The  Hustle, though you do get to read about the further adventures of Arty and Liria.

The Other Place is based on my own experiences with psychosis, as well as the things I’ve witnessed and experienced while hanging out with my friend Phoenix, who has schizophrenia.

People with psychosis can live beautiful lives, but they deal with a great deal of discrimination, misunderstanding, and outright abuse by police and the general public.

I hope you check it out and enjoy it!

The Other Place is Available for Preorder!

After a long and daunting struggle, release day for The Other Place is almost here. You can preorder the book in either Kindle or paperback format, and read the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia trying to find his place in the world.

It’s not easy being a person like Justin, but I think you’ll find a lot of beauty and wisdom in his life, and in the way his mind works.

I hope you read and enjoy this book.

Kindle Preorder

Paperback Preorder