Chicken Soup for the Soul

I love how my friends look out for me! As I continue to tell people about my (as yet unpublished) memoir Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink and how running helped my mental health, several friends alerted me to Chicken Soup for the Soul possible book topics on which I could write. These include “Life Lessons from the Dog,” “Running for Good,” and let’s not forget “The Golden Years or Second Wind” among the nine listed.

The writing guidelines for their stories are deceptively simple. The bottom line? They are looking for stories that inspire.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a terribly high opinion of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Weren’t these just fluffy, feel-good stories with no literary merit? Book snob much? Sorry. So I ordered Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners. Just a few stories in, I dropped my superior attitude and began to thoroughly enjoy these tales of challenges overcome and lessons learned, stories similar to my own.

With my new and improved perspective, I’m going to submit a few essays and send them over. While the author biographies are compiled in the back of each book and not after each individual essay, if the series selects one of my essays, perhaps a reader will enjoy it enough to flip to the back and look me up. Ideally, I’ll have a published memoir to include in the bio by then, but even a “soon to be published” reference can’t hurt.

Take Your Meds

Recently, a friend asked for my best writing advice. Her question brought me back to all the suggestions I’ve heard since 1994 when I first began my journey away from the practice of law and into the dark unknown of wordsmithing. Like me, she is bipolar.

Perhaps she expected me to talk about craft or motivation. Maybe she thought I would suggest a book or a course or some external structure to help her learn to put words on the page in the proper order. I’ve asked for all that myself and received many fabulous tips.

Instead, I told her, “Take your meds.”

She stared blankly at me so I continued.

“Do not stop. Do not go off them even if you are worried about weight gain or dampened emotions. Do not stop even if you fear they jeopardize your creativity. Take your meds. You cannot write if you’re dead.”

Her eyes opened wide. Yes. I had surprised and perhaps confused her. But she nodded.

I was, of course, remembering the times I’d quit taking the antidepressants and mood stabilizers I’ve been prescribed since 1994, about the same time I left the practice of law. Each time, stopping the meds seemed like a great idea. Even going on meds to begin with was a huge struggle. Why didn’t meditation fix me? Or recovery? Couldn’t I exercise my way into mental health? [That one still creeps into my mind occasionally.]

I specifically recalled three years in Taos when I’d tried to do mental health “the natural way” whatever that means. I tried Sam-E and long walks on the mesa with our two dogs. It wasn’t long before I was suicidal and so filled with anxiety that I could not bear to be alone. I rode with my husband through the Rio Grande Gorge to his evening classes in Santa Fe because I was so afraid of the darkness, most of which was in my mind.

And during each of the times I’d gone off my meds, I could not write at all. And once I went back on meds, it took a very long time to regain what I’d had before. I truly have lost entire years to this folly.

So, I’m not a doctor (but I am a lawyer – CYA alert) and your mileage may vary so please, consult your mental health professionals. Maybe you don’t need meds at all.

But if they have been prescribed, please take them. Please.

As I told my friend. Simply continue and you will find your path, but only if you take your meds.