Victoria’s Interview Feature

At times our journey to discover what is wrong with us can be a hard one, and it can go unnoticed for a time. Then we experience something that changes everything in our lives. That’s what it is was like for Victoria, a young woman from the Midwest— Indiana. Victoria’s journey begins with her official diagnosis— Vaginismus.

You can find more about the signs and symptoms of vaginismus in Victoria’s blog Girl With the Paw Print Tattoo.

A Struggle With Vaginismus, Anxiety, & Depression

The ride to discovery can me be a hard one, and it is never easy. It usually is a difficult one— and it was no different for Victoria’s journey. Victoria‘s official diagnosis is vaginismus. It occurred the first time her freshman year of College.

“After having sex for the first time. I discovered excruciating pain that went along with it,” she explains. “I did a Google search, and “vaginismus” came up.”

It was difficult for Victoria to understand, and for the months that followed, she hid it from the world. It wasn’t until a session with her therapist that she brought up the pain. It was Victoria‘s therapist that convinced her to seek real medical help.

”My first gynecologist knew I struggled with pain during examinations. Yet, they never addressed it. Now, when I say ‘struggled’ I mean I was held down on the table by two nurses as I cried. I shook uncontrollably whenever she examined me.”

It was a horrible experience for Victoria. At times her gynecologist couldn’t examine her because her PC muscles blocked her. It was still never addressed, and it continued to be a problem in her life. It finally took Victoria approaching her doctor and telling her that she had the condition.

Her response was, “Oh that makes sense! I always thought you never liked exams.”

When you receive a diagnosis such as vaginismus, it can be a daunting and an exhausting process. Over the years, Victoria has gone through so many doctors, gynecologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists.

“I was given a set of dilators and told yo use them daily. I was never given instructions on how to use them. This is typical.”

As with any diagnosis, it usually morphs into other issues in your life. Factors like problems in Victoria’s personal life helped fuel a new struggle with depression. In her freshman year in college, depression became a part of her diagnosis. Victoria was randomly selected to take a test in the Psychology Department in her college. It was the results of this test that the Professor, a therapist and the Head of Psychology Department, called Victoria into his office.

“It was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,“ she explains. “I knew I was a mess, but I had to pretend I was fine. I walked into the room full of sunshine, and played it cool.”

It worked as Victoria confused the room. The results of her test made it seem that it would be impossible to get out of bed most days. They were shocked that the individual that took that test was before them. Victoria, like so many of us who first experience depression, laughed her depression off.

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It was a futile thing to do, and on a break from school when Victoria went home, she went to a family doctor. Victoria got her official diagnosis of Depression. Victoria resisted her doctor’s recommendation to take medication and chose a route without anti-depressants.

“It wasn’t until recently that I began to see a psychiatrist. I now have been prescribed a variety of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It’s crazy to think that it’s officially been one full year on meds.”

Anxiety is another side effect of her diagnosis. Victoria contends that she has always lived with generalized anxiety disorder. She learned to adapt throughout her life. It was her therapist in her freshman that gave her the official diagnosis of anxiety.

“To be honest, I don‘t remember what it was like before these diagnoses,” Victoria recalls. “I remember one memory of being completely blissful, and that when I was very young. I was outside in the backyard; the grass was extremely green, and the sun was shining brighter than it ever had. I would twirl around, and swing on the swing set smiling as I breathed in the crisp air. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass and the air and the sunshine on my face. I was fearless. I was free. I was innocent. I was happy.”

What is the Hardest Part for Victoria?

In Victoria’s life living with vaginismus is the hardest thing she has to deal with each day. The depression is a side effect of vaginismus, and she has found ways to make the anxiety not a big part of her life.

“With vaginismus, and therefore depression, It is feeling worthless and abnormal,” she explains. I feel like everything is my fault, and I’m a huge failure when it comes to relationships.”

Victoria worries that she has set her fiancé back when it comes to relationships. It is often the feeling for Victoria that vaginismus holds her back from enjoying her life. For Victoria, it feels as if life is passing her by.

“It’s not living. This, of course, is my biggest fear.”

Triggers are what Victoria struggles the most each day. One of the hardest triggers for her is to be alone in her apartment. Trying to relax alone can be a hard thing for Victoria. The negative thoughts and emotional turmoil can be consuming. Victoria at times has good days, and she is able to move on with her day. It’s the nights that can be the most difficult.

“Every night is difficult for me because I so desperately want to be intimate with my fiancé but can’t,” she explains. “This only intensifies my depression.”

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It doesn’t help Victoria’s cause that depression and anxiety often set her back. She can remember a time before her anxiety medication where she was afraid to hang out with people. The fear of driving and being in large crowds frightened Victoria. It was fearful to even drive for her.

Luckily for Victoria, those days of fearing her anxiety have passed. Depression still haunts her every day. Those days where she wanted to stay in bed all day, she gets up and tries to go about her day.

”I find that tears sometimes swell in my eyes for no reason. I must wipe them away. I realize that I suck at communication with others because I’m not even thinking about anything other than my own thoughts. It makes me feel terrible and guilty. I worry that I am a terrible friend and partner.”

Victoria Wants to Share This With the Mental Illness Community

The one thing Victoria wants to share with the readers of this article is this. Not to judge individuals so quickly.

“You have no idea what they are going through in their life,” Victoria explains. “You have no idea what their daily struggles might be. Also, for those of you dealing with the same struggles, just know that you are never alone. Some days are harder than others, but you will get through this.”

Learning From the Blogging Experience

Within the confines of her blog, it has helped Victoria sort through her emotions. In a very constructive way. What helps is being able to sit down and talk about her mental illness and conditions. He blog is like writing a journal that you share with others. The people that follow her blog can empathize and relate to what Victoria is going through.

“I also love how blogging shares awareness. It makes me feel good inside to talk about vaginismus and shed light on this condition to the community. Hopefully, it will one day go further than just blogging about it.”

Ending on a Positive Note

There are things in our lives that make life worth living. For Victoria, it is her fiancé and the possibilities of beautiful adventures. Like traveling the world.

It has been a unique experience to share Victoria’s continuing journey with vaginismus, depression, and anxiety. I came across Victoria’s blog, and it was amazing to see how someone who has been through so much can be so open. She can still shed light on her illness and help others with her blog. It was my pleasure to write this feature article about Victoria.

I hope every person reading this article knows that each of us struggles in our own way. Victoria and The Bipolar Writer are of one mind when she says not to judge people for their struggles. When this happens, some battles stay hidden, and that is all bad. I wish nothing but positivity as Victoria continues her journey.

You can find Victoria’s blog Here.

Interviewee: Victoria

Author James Edgar Skye

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Photo Credit: Featured Image and other images of her are from Victoria’s collection.

Other Photos:unsplash-logoAlec Douglas

Taylor’s Interview Feature

Many of us in the mental illness community can trace our “story” from the very beginnings, and many stories start when we were teenagers. In my own experience when I was a teenager, I never wanted people to know, or to tell my story. I wonder all the time what would have happened if had gotten help as a teenager? That is what makes Taylor’s story— a young woman from Knoxville, Tennessee— all the more amazing. At age nineteen Taylor has already been through so much, and yet she was willing the be featured on the Bipolar Writer blog, this is Taylor’s story. One we can all learn a few things from her journey.

(Taylor’s blog) https://taysblog2017.com/

Taylor’s Interview Feature

When a journey begins, it is usually at the point where life and mental illness starts crashing into one another. Taylor’s journey begins four years ago in 2014, with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. In October 2014, Taylor attempted suicide for the first time by trying to overdose on 105 painkillers.

“I sent one of my best friends a suicide note, through text, expecting not to wake up the next morning,” Taylor explains. “To my disappointment, at the time, I did wake up.”

The next day Taylor’s friend, believing that her friend had committed suicide, was hysterical. Taylor’s other friends were clueless as to why her friend was crying hysterically, and it was at this moment that she told her friends what she had done.

“They ended up telling my guidance counselor because I told them I did plan on doing it again and no one was going to stop me. I was so sick mentally that I couldn’t see past the darkness.”

Taylor looks at her life before her illness with so much light. It was a time of happiness being surrounded by family and friends. Life was more natural when Taylor had the coping mechanisms to deal with life, it was a life where she found goodness in everything. Then, what seemed so sudden, life was changing. It reached a point where Taylor couldn’t take it anymore.

“By that, I mean, I couldn’t just smile every time I had a personal problem and acknowledge them,” Taylor talks about the experience. “My problems became more frequent, and I couldn’t handle all the negative changes in my life, all at once. I just had enough, and I didn’t know how to cope with it.”

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Taylor describes life before her mental illness like a sugar rush, and when it became too much, she crashed. It became a deterioration of her mental illness, and it led her to suicide.

To get through a single day, Taylor turns to her faith and talks to God. Taylor is very religious, and she grew up with her father as a preacher and now a pastor. It helps Taylor to connect with her parents daily because they serve as her closest confidants and best friends— especially her mother.

“I am so greatful for the constant pushes they give me everyday to be productive, eat, and take my medicine. The simple things.”

Every day is a constant battle for Taylor with herself. At a level, Taylor wants to get better, but the motivation to do anything on any given day can seem impossible at times. When she isn’t in class, you can often find Taylor sleeping in bed. It is physically hard most days for Taylor to put her feet on the ground. Just to get ready for school is exhausting because Taylor finds herself once again in the throes of not being mental well in the present.

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“I am nineteen-years-old and my parents still have to call me and remind me to take my medicine otherwise I won’t,” Taylor explains about taking her medication. “Not because I don’t want to get better, but because I don’t like the way it makes me physically feel when I take my medication. I feel sick and lethargic when I take my medicine, but I also feel happy and satisfied. It is a constant battle of wanting to feel good physically or mentally.”

At only nineteen, mental illness has already changed Taylor, and she has grown accustomed to being alone. It makes her less social and more of a hardcore introvert when the Taylor before was more extrovert. It is easier in her life to be extremely antisocial, and Taylor often finds herself doing things on her own.

The struggle to deal with life with a mental illness can be severe for a young woman still trying to find her place in this world. It has resulted in the loss of many of her friends because it is easier for Taylor to push people away because of the constant ups and downs of her struggles. Taylor understands that this is a part of her life now, but it is never easy.

There is one positive thing that Taylor wanted to share in this interview feature:

”I want the mental illness community to know that it is okay to not be okay. I have had to learn that myself. People with mental illnesses already see themselves as a burden, so they don’t press their issues on others causing a buildup within themselves until they just snap. We can only handle so much. I want this community to know if they or someone they know are not feeling like themselves lately please seek help and talk to someone. I am always here anyone and everyone— always,” Taylor explains.

Taylor has discovered the therapeutic feeling of writing her feelings and thoughts within the confines of her blog. It is fantastic for Taylor to share her thoughts and help others like herself being young in this mental illness life. In her own experiences, Taylor expresses the wish that she had someone in her darkest of hours.

“Whenever I am having a bad day, I focus on my blog, or ways I can advocate for mental health. I want to help someone who is possibly on the verge of ending their own life. My overall goal is to help people while also helping myself. I do that by acknowledging my own struggles, pain, and letting others know it is okay to do so.”

Taylor is thankful for the people in her life that make living worth it in the end, and her family and friends mean the world. It brings Taylor to tears thinking about the family and friends that stuck around helping her become a better version of herself. Taylor is forever thankful for those people.

“I am also a huge fan of Scandals lead actress Kerry Washington and singer Beyoncé,” Taylor explains about things that make life worth living. “I know it sounds silly, but Kerry’s advocacy and how she lights up a room every time she steps it has helped me so much in my recovery. Beyoncé’s music has soothed me and has made me feel empowered in more ways than one.”

It would not be the last time that Taylor has tried to take her life since 2014. On some occasions during the previous four years, Taylor has found herself in the hospital after a suicide attempt. On her, last suicide attempt, in particular, landed Taylor in intensive outpatient therapy which has been her start to the road to recovery. Taylor expresses that she is grateful for her last suicide attempt because she survived— its another chance at redemption and recovery.

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You can find more on Taylor on her blog:

I always take great care to share a story on one of my fellow mental illness bloggers and Taylor’s story is one that needs to be told. The fact that Taylor is so young and is finding her way in this mental illness life makes for a fantastic story. I know in my heart that we will hear great things from Taylor in the future.

Interviewee: Taylor

Interviewer: James Edgar Skye

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Photo Credit:

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unsplash-logoJordan Bauer

unsplash-logoAlexander Lam

Interview Feature – Julia Cirignano

This another interview feature article that I have written as part of series you can find here. Interview Features – The Series

A Look at Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety

Imagine for a moment. Every second of your existence is a struggle. The struggle is with fear, rituals, anxiety, and depression. It has always been a part of your life. A part of your existence. You have no idea what or why things happen to you. This was the life that Julia Cirignano— from Boston, Massachusett has lived. It was the before her diagnosis life started Julia struggled, something that many in the mental illness community can relate.

“My diagosis with anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder came in high school. I have dealt with the symptoms my whole life.”

Like many in the community she struggled in high school,  and it was in this time that Julia received a diagnosis in high school. It has always been hard for Julia to remember a time of peace. A life without an illness. In a life of constant ups and downs it was in high school while seeing a therapist that Julia first found a diagnosis.

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The high school years of Julia Cirignano were the darkest of times in her life. It was also her lowest point. The daily struggle for Julia is to find balance in her self-care and in all aspects of her life.

“While I do use medication, one of the biggest things that helped me was focusing on the things I love,” Julia expains. “From a young age, I had a passion for horses, literature, music, animals in general, and more.”

Julia finds solace in her activities and it helps to keep balance in her mental health. Julia keeps her body fit, with boxing, working out, and staying productive. Along with eating well, Julia believes that keeping fit helps keep her mentally fit.

A single day with OCD and anxiety can be difficult for Julia. The key is to take each day as it is, and always stay busy.

“In my day-to-day, I try and keep myself busy because that keeps me happy,” she explains. “Accomplishing chores, no matter how big or small, gives me satisfaction. Nights are hard, like they are for almost everyone with mental illness. I drink tea and smoke weed to help with that.”

It hasn’t always been easy for Julia in the past. It was not uncommon for her dwell on the negative aspects of her mental illness. At the same time her illness has made her an empathetic person.

“Some people may call me sensitive. I like to think of myself as a person who sees and feels all that’s happenings around them,” Julia explains. “I am affected by the energy around me, which is hard in the negative world we live in. I try to put myself in the best situations possible.”

Julia has learned many positive things in her journey. She wanted to share some of that wisdom with the mental illness community. What Julia has learned is to channel the strengths that her mental disability has given her.

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“Yes. There are ways in which it has slowed you down,” Julia explains. “But, everyone (no matter if you struggle with mental illness or not) has to figure out their strengths as a human. I believe that with weakness comes great strength. I believe in opposites. I believe that when you hit rock bottom, you’re there to push off and bounce back to even better, richer highs.”

Julia has written a blog not so much for mental health but for writing. Julia recently self-published a book of poetry called White Wine and Medical Marijuana. It was an extremely personal book for her to write. Writing in Julia’s life is theraputic, and it comes as second nature in her life.

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“For me. It was more uncomfortable and anxiety provoking to publish my book for my loved ones to see. The process of writing comes easy. It’s easy for me to publish and promote my work to people I’ve never met,” she explains. My fellow writers, or people who can relate to my mental illness. It’s hard to hand my book to people who know me well – especially if they don’t deal with mental illness themselves.”

For Julia, most people didn’t know the internal struggle with her mental illness. It was hard to show the ones Julia loves most in this world her book. In the end it was a positive thing. It brought Julia closer to her family.

The things that make life worth living for Julia are the people and pets in her life.  “My family. My horse. My friends. Chocolate. Steak. Mashed potatoes. Ice cream. Books. My Bed.” In this mental illness life we have to find some peace. Julia has come a long way but she is right with her mental health.

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I always love to write these interview feature article about members of the community of bloggers that discuss mental illness. Julia has taught us in her journey and her story that with the right attitude you can find acceptance in your diagnosis. It was an honor to write another interview feature.

James Edgar Skye

If you want to learn more about Julia please visit her blog and social media sites.

https://juliasbookreviewss.wordpress.com
https://www.instagram.com/juliajulia100/
https://twitter.com/JuliaJulia1001
https://www.facebook.com/WhiteWineMedical/?ref=bookmarks
https://www.juliacirignano.com

Interviewee: Julia Cirignano

Author: James Edgar Skye

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Brittany Elise’s Feature Interview

Are we defined by our mental illness? Brittany Elise from Fort Worth, Texas believes that your illness shouldn’t define you.

“There are resources and support networks for you. Don’t think your diagnosis is the end of the world. It’s the start of getting the help you need, even if you don’t think you need it. Find what works for you. Mental illness is not a-one-size-fits-all.”

The Beginning and her Incredible Journey

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Some battles with a mental illness can go on silently for years, it was that way in Brittany Elise’s life. In 2014 while in high school, Brittany was first diagnosed with depression. It was the silent battles that came to a culmination that became her diagnosis. In the summer of 2012, Brittany began to have thoughts of wanting to self-harm. In the winter of that year, she opened up to her parents.

“I would spend an hour or more at the time in the shower. Sitting there with the water running. Thinking about how much I wished the pain would go away,” she explains.

It was always hard for Brittany and her family, and it was common for negative thoughts to go through her mind. She would think “things would get better if.” What if her parents didn’t have pay for things for her. What if they only had to buy food for themselves? It can be an overwhelming to feel a burden in the lives of others.

“I don’t remember what made me decide to tell my family, but I remember my mom’s reaction,” she recalls. Her dad killed himself by slitting his wrists right before her birthday.”

Brittany’s mother held her until she stopped crying. It was in this moment that her mother convinced her to go see the intervention counselor at her high school. The counselor was effective for Brittany, but the following year the counselor was gone. Brittany felt good, but it was only temporary.

“Gradually it started to come back. I would be angry all the time and lash out at the world. I was making myself sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school. I would stay home every day. It got to a point where I was close to not graduating,” she explains about her past.

It got so bad for Brittany that her parent’s frustration grew, and they made her see the family doctor. It here that Brittany got first got her diagnosis of depression and at it was the first time being on medication.

The medication helped at times for Brittany but it was still hard. The depression was still in full force by the time Brittany graduated high school. Stress was a major factor in her senior year and it would be the little things that got to her. Her doctor limited her medication to six months, and for a while after high school she normal.

“I finished the six months right before starting my first semester of college. I was on top of the world. I had a boyfriend who I thought loved me. My family was in a slightly better place and I was starting a new chapter in my life.”

As most things do in life, Brittany’s world began to crumble. It didn’t help that a few weeks coming off her medication Brittany’s grandfather got sick. In hospice care, her grandfather was close to coming home. But after a few days of visiting they never saw him awake. After a week Brittany’s grandfather passed.

“His funeral was the day before my first class and the next day, my relationship ended,” she recalls. “After my grandpa’s death, I started to get panic attacks. I’ve been to funerals before, but my grandpa’s hit me hard. The panic attacks were constant, but I hid them like my depression, and since they came at night, it was easy.”

Brittany transferred to a four-year college and things started to look up in her life. The thing is with life, things like panic attacks never come at the right time. The worse panic attack in her life came for Brittany when she went to a concert with her church group.

“I’ve never been claustrophobic, but I had my first major panic attack there,” she recalls. “This was the first panic attack that made my dad see that I did have something wrong.”

What we often learn in a mental illness journey is that some people will doubt your illness. They believe it made up or not real. This comes from never experiencing the feelings associated with a mental illness. It was the same in Brittany’s life. She explains how her father, up until she had her major panic attack, he didn’t believe that she had a mental illness. When they picked Brittany up from the concert they could see it in her eyes.

When Brittany got back to school she was able to see an on-campus counselor. When she got back on medicine she could see changes. But, in the first semester of her junior year in college, her depression and anxiety got worse. It became impossible to get out bed to go to class.

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“After talking to my professors and my new counselor, I made the decision to take time for myself, and withdraw from classes. Moving back home helped some, but I haven’t been able to find a counselor to see.”

That is where we find Brittany in her journey with depression. It can be a hard place to be in when you have no outlet when you have no counselor to see. Dealing with her mental illness daily can be difficult for Brittany because of her anger. Her targets are often her boyfriend and family members.

“I’m moody all the time. I can go from “the best day ever,” Brittany explains. “To “I hate life and what’s my purpose” in a few seconds.

How Brittany Deals With her Mental Illness

In Brittany’s life, it can be difficult to be herself in a single day with her depression. It helps to have people in her life that understand the bad days. Brittany’s boyfriend suffers from depression and PTSD, so he understands.

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“If I’m having a panic attack, he held me until I quit crying. We adopted a dog, who we are training to be his service dog,” she explains. “He calms me instantly. He knows when our mental illnesses are affecting us before we do.”

Brittany explains that her dog is one of the best decisions she ever made in her life. It also helps Brittany get through a day by reading and writing. It helps her to spend as much time in nature as she can. It is her happy place. It can be a struggle like any mental illness for Brittany. But at the same time, she wouldn’t be who she is without her mental illness. Brittany has found her place within her diagnosis. A great feeling.

“It makes me a stronger person,” she explains. “Even if I am weak some days. I’ve learned how to live with it, and make it more of a back burner than having it affect me severely.”

How do we get back to the real person that we are inside? It takes the little things in your life that make it worth living. The Bipolar Writer often struggles with this. It is in the little things that Brittany finds her strength. With her boyfriend, friends, and family she has her biggest support system.

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“Even when they don’t completely understand my illness.”

Brittany has big dreams that she won’t let depression conquer. Instead, it will be Brittany doing the conquering. It is in her dreams that she also draws strength to move on. Brittany would like to finish her creative writing degree and become a fiction book editor. If possible she wants to write her own novel somewhere in the future.

“My pets. The dog my boyfriend and I adopted and the dog I grew up with is the biggest cuddle bugs. They are always doing something to make me laugh,” Brittany explains about the little things. “Especially when the big one farts all the time.”

Of course, there is Brittany’s tattoo.

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It is a constant reminder to fight and to keep the faith that she will make it through her depression.

Depression can be crippling in our lives. It has been in my own life. I can find strength in Brittany’s story because it is one that I know well. I hope in reading Brittany’s story, that you feel the same. A connection with another member of the mental illness community. It was a great pleasure to share the journey of Brittany Elise. I have a feeling one day we will see the amazing person that she will become in-spite of depression.

If you would like to read more from Brittany visit her blog.

www.brittanyeliseweb.wordpress.com

Interviewee: Brittany Elise

Author: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credits: Most of the photos are from Brittany’s personal collection

Other Credits:

unsplash-logoJamie Street

unsplash-logoAsdrubal luna

Taylor’s Interview Feature

Many of us in the mental illness community can trace our “story” from the very beginnings, and many stories start when we were teenagers. In my own experience when I was a teenager, I never wanted people to know, or to tell my story. I wonder all the time what would have happened if had gotten help as a teenager? That is what makes Taylor’s story— a young woman from Knoxville, Tennessee— all the more amazing. At age nineteen Taylor has already been through so much, and yet she was willing the be featured on the Bipolar Writer blog, this is Taylor’s story. One we can all learn a few things from her journey.

(Taylor’s blog) https://taysblog2017.com/

Taylor’s Interview Feature

When a journey begins, it is usually at the point where life and mental illness starts crashing into one another. Taylor’s journey begins four years ago in 2014, with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. In October 2014, Taylor attempted suicide for the first time by trying to overdose on 105 painkillers.

“I sent one of my best friends a suicide note, through text, expecting not to wake up the next morning,” Taylor explains. “To my disappointment, at the time, I did wake up.”

The next day Taylor’s friend, believing that her friend had committed suicide, was hysterical. Taylor’s other friends were clueless as to why her friend was crying hysterically, and it was at this moment that she told her friends what she had done.

“They ended up telling my guidance counselor because I told them I did plan on doing it again and no one was going to stop me. I was so sick mentally that I couldn’t see past the darkness.”

Taylor looks at her life before her illness with so much light. It was a time of happiness being surrounded by family and friends. Life was more natural when Taylor had the coping mechanisms to deal with life, it was a life where she found goodness in everything. Then, what seemed so sudden, life was changing. It reached a point where Taylor couldn’t take it anymore.

“By that, I mean, I couldn’t just smile every time I had a personal problem and acknowledge them,” Taylor talks about the experience. “My problems became more frequent, and I couldn’t handle all the negative changes in my life, all at once. I just had enough, and I didn’t know how to cope with it.”

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Taylor describes life before her mental illness like a sugar rush, and when it became too much, she crashed. It became a deterioration of her mental illness, and it led her to suicide.

To get through a single day, Taylor turns to her faith and talks to God. Taylor is very religious, and she grew up with her father as a preacher and now a pastor. It helps Taylor to connect with her parents daily because they serve as her closest confidants and best friends— especially her mother.

“I am so greatful for the constant pushes they give me everyday to be productive, eat, and take my medicine. The simple things.”

Every day is a constant battle for Taylor with herself. At a level, Taylor wants to get better, but the motivation to do anything on any given day can seem impossible at times. When she isn’t in class, you can often find Taylor sleeping in bed. It is physically hard most days for Taylor to put her feet on the ground. Just to get ready for school is exhausting because Taylor finds herself once again in the throes of not being mental well in the present.

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“I am nineteen-years-old and my parents still have to call me and remind me to take my medicine otherwise I won’t,” Taylor explains about taking her medication. “Not because I don’t want to get better, but because I don’t like the way it makes me physically feel when I take my medication. I feel sick and lethargic when I take my medicine, but I also feel happy and satisfied. It is a constant battle of wanting to feel good physically or mentally.”

At only nineteen, mental illness has already changed Taylor, and she has grown accustomed to being alone. It makes her less social and more of a hardcore introvert when the Taylor before was more extrovert. It is easier in her life to be extremely antisocial, and Taylor often finds herself doing things on her own.

The struggle to deal with life with a mental illness can be severe for a young woman still trying to find her place in this world. It has resulted in the loss of many of her friends because it is easier for Taylor to push people away because of the constant ups and downs of her struggles. Taylor understands that this is a part of her life now, but it is never easy.

There is one positive thing that Taylor wanted to share in this interview feature:

”I want the mental illness community to know that it is okay to not be okay. I have had to learn that myself. People with mental illnesses already see themselves as a burden, so they don’t press their issues on others causing a buildup within themselves until they just snap. We can only handle so much. I want this community to know if they or someone they know are not feeling like themselves lately please seek help and talk to someone. I am always here anyone and everyone— always,” Taylor explains.

Taylor has discovered the therapeutic feeling of writing her feelings and thoughts within the confines of her blog. It is fantastic for Taylor to share her thoughts and help others like herself being young in this mental illness life. In her own experiences, Taylor expresses the wish that she had someone in her darkest of hours.

“Whenever I am having a bad day, I focus on my blog, or ways I can advocate for mental health. I want to help someone who is possibly on the verge of ending their own life. My overall goal is to help people while also helping myself. I do that by acknowledging my own struggles, pain, and letting others know it is okay to do so.”

Taylor is thankful for the people in her life that make living worth it in the end, and her family and friends mean the world. It brings Taylor to tears thinking about the family and friends that stuck around helping her become a better version of herself. Taylor is forever thankful for those people.

“I am also a huge fan of Scandals lead actress Kerry Washington and singer Beyoncé,” Taylor explains about things that make life worth living. “I know it sounds silly, but Kerry’s advocacy and how she lights up a room every time she steps it has helped me so much in my recovery. Beyoncé’s music has soothed me and has made me feel empowered in more ways than one.”

It would not be the last time that Taylor has tried to take her life since 2014. On some occasions during the previous four years, Taylor has found herself in the hospital after a suicide attempt. On her, last suicide attempt, in particular, landed Taylor in intensive outpatient therapy which has been her start to the road to recovery. Taylor expresses that she is grateful for her last suicide attempt because she survived— its another chance at redemption and recovery.

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You can find more on Taylor on her blog:

https://taysblog2017.com/

I always take great care to share a story on one of my fellow mental illness bloggers and Taylor’s story is one that needs to be told. The fact that Taylor is so young and is finding her way in this mental illness life makes for a fantastic story. I know in my heart that we will hear great things from Taylor in the future.

Interviewee: Taylor

Interviewer: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoARTP

unsplash-logoJordan Bauer

unsplash-logoAlexander Lam

Victoria’s Interview Feature

At times our journey to discover what is wrong with us can be a hard one, and it can go unnoticed for a time. Then we experience something that changes everything in our lives. That’s what it is was like for Victoria, a young woman from the Midwest— Indiana. Victoria’s journey begins with her official diagnosis— Vaginismus.

You can find more about the signs and symptoms of vaginismus in Victoria’s blog Girl With the Paw Print Tattoo.

A Struggle With Vaginismus, Anxiety, & Depression

The ride to discovery can me be a hard one, and it is never easy. It usually is a difficult one— and it was no different for Victoria’s journey. Victoria‘s official diagnosis is vaginismus. It occurred the first time her freshman year of College.

“After having sex for the first time. I discovered excruciating pain that went along with it,” she explains. “I did a Google search, and “vaginismus” came up.”

It was difficult for Victoria to understand, and for the months that followed, she hid it from the world. It wasn’t until a session with her therapist that she brought up the pain. It was Victoria‘s therapist that convinced her to seek real medical help.

”My first gynecologist knew I struggled with pain during examinations. Yet, they never addressed it. Now, when I say ‘struggled’ I mean I was held down on the table by two nurses as I cried. I shook uncontrollably whenever she examined me.”

It was a horrible experience for Victoria. At times her gynecologist couldn’t examine her because her PC muscles blocked her. It was still never addressed, and it continued to be a problem in her life. It finally took Victoria approaching her doctor and telling her that she had the condition.

Her response was, “Oh that makes sense! I always thought you never liked exams.”

When you receive a diagnosis such as vaginismus, it can be a daunting and an exhausting process. Over the years, Victoria has gone through so many doctors, gynecologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists.

“I was given a set of dilators and told yo use them daily. I was never given instructions on how to use them. This is typical.”

As with any diagnosis, it usually morphs into other issues in your life. Factors like problems in Victoria’s personal life helped fuel a new struggle with depression. In her freshman year in college, depression became a part of her diagnosis. Victoria was randomly selected to take a test in the Psychology Department in her college. It was the results of this test that the Professor, a therapist and the Head of Psychology Department, called Victoria into his office.

“It was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,“ she explains. “I knew I was a mess, but I had to pretend I was fine. I walked into the room full of sunshine, and played it cool.”

It worked as Victoria confused the room. The results of her test made it seem that it would be impossible to get out of bed most days. They were shocked that the individual that took that test was before them. Victoria, like so many of us who first experience depression, laughed her depression off.

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It was a futile thing to do, and on a break from school when Victoria went home, she went to a family doctor. Victoria got her official diagnosis of Depression. Victoria resisted her doctor’s recommendation to take medication and chose a route without anti-depressants.

“It wasn’t until recently that I began to see a psychiatrist. I now have been prescribed a variety of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It’s crazy to think that it’s officially been one full year on meds.”

Anxiety is another side effect of her diagnosis. Victoria contends that she has always lived with generalized anxiety disorder. She learned to adapt throughout her life. It was her therapist in her freshman that gave her the official diagnosis of anxiety.

“To be honest, I don‘t remember what it was like before these diagnoses,” Victoria recalls. “I remember one memory of being completely blissful, and that when I was very young. I was outside in the backyard; the grass was extremely green, and the sun was shining brighter than it ever had. I would twirl around, and swing on the swing set smiling as I breathed in the crisp air. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass and the air and the sunshine on my face. I was fearless. I was free. I was innocent. I was happy.”

What is the Hardest Part for Victoria?

In Victoria’s life living with vaginismus is the hardest thing she has to deal with each day. The depression is a side effect of vaginismus, and she has found ways to make the anxiety not a big part of her life.

“With vaginismus, and therefore depression, It is feeling worthless and abnormal,” she explains. I feel like everything is my fault, and I’m a huge failure when it comes to relationships.”

Victoria worries that she has set her fiancé back when it comes to relationships. It is often the feeling for Victoria that vaginismus holds her back from enjoying her life. For Victoria, it feels as if life is passing her by.

“It’s not living. This, of course, is my biggest fear.”

Triggers are what Victoria struggles the most each day. One of the hardest triggers for her is to be alone in her apartment. Trying to relax alone can be a hard thing for Victoria. The negative thoughts and emotional turmoil can be consuming. Victoria at times has good days, and she is able to move on with her day. It’s the nights that can be the most difficult.

“Every night is difficult for me because I so desperately want to be intimate with my fiancé but can’t,” she explains. “This only intensifies my depression.”

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It doesn’t help Victoria’s cause that depression and anxiety often set her back. She can remember a time before her anxiety medication where she was afraid to hang out with people. The fear of driving and being in large crowds frightened Victoria. It was fearful to even drive for her.

Luckily for Victoria, those days of fearing her anxiety have passed. Depression still haunts her every day. Those days where she wanted to stay in bed all day, she gets up and tries to go about her day.

”I find that tears sometimes swell in my eyes for no reason. I must wipe them away. I realize that I suck at communication with others because I’m not even thinking about anything other than my own thoughts. It makes me feel terrible and guilty. I worry that I am a terrible friend and partner.”

Victoria Wants to Share This With the Mental Illness Community

The one thing Victoria wants to share with the readers of this article is this. Not to judge individuals so quickly.

“You have no idea what they are going through in their life,” Victoria explains. “You have no idea what their daily struggles might be. Also, for those of you dealing with the same struggles, just know that you are never alone. Some days are harder than others, but you will get through this.”

Learning From the Blogging Experience

Within the confines of her blog, it has helped Victoria sort through her emotions. In a very constructive way. What helps is being able to sit down and talk about her mental illness and conditions. He blog is like writing a journal that you share with others. The people that follow her blog can empathize and relate to what Victoria is going through.

“I also love how blogging shares awareness. It makes me feel good inside to talk about vaginismus and shed light on this condition to the community. Hopefully, it will one day go further than just blogging about it.”

Ending on a Positive Note

There are things in our lives that make life worth living. For Victoria, it is her fiancé and the possibilities of beautiful adventures. Like traveling the world.

It has been a unique experience to share Victoria’s continuing journey with vaginismus, depression, and anxiety. I came across Victoria’s blog, and it was amazing to see how someone who has been through so much can be so open. She can still shed light on her illness and help others with her blog. It was my pleasure to write this feature article about Victoria.

I hope every person reading this article knows that each of us struggles in our own way. Victoria and The Bipolar Writer are of one mind when she says not to judge people for their struggles. When this happens, some battles stay hidden, and that is all bad. I wish nothing but positivity as Victoria continues her journey.

You can find Victoria’s blog Here.

Interviewee: Victoria

Author James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: Featured Image and other images of her are from Victoria’s collection.

Other Photos:unsplash-logoAlec Douglas

Interview Feature Story: Liz S.

This is another addition my interview feature series on The Bipolar Writer. This is the story of Liz S.

A Story of Loss, Death, and Living with Bipolar Disorder

Loss and death. We all deal with it in different ways. When those of us with a mental illness lose someone it can be an instant relapse. The thing that you have been repressing for so long comes out stronger than ever before. Death is never easy to deal with, and for Liz S., her life went through a radical change with the death of her husband.

Liz’s husband was the rock in her mental illness and his sudden death in his sleep ripped apart her world. It would leave her lost in a house full of memories of her husband.

“I began finding “old friends” emerging from under my bed–OCD, anxiety, and insomnia. With these came the panic-attacks, agoraphobia, and PTSD. It was too much for my brain to handle and I lost myself in grief for many years,” Liz recalls.

When you mix grief and loss with a mental illness it is easy to turn to vices that are counterproductive. Liz began to use drinking as a coping mechanism and used shopping as a way to forget. Liz would shop until she maxed out her credit cards during manic episodes.

“I did anything I could to forget that what I had believed to be my Shangri-La was gone. Before me stood a future of nothingness.”

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No matter what medications prescribed to Liz, it was a lost cause because she had lost her whole world. It seemed to her that she would never find her way back.

Liz comes from a small farming town in Upstate, New York and an island in Michigan. She has been fortunate to be a world traveler and has lived in different cities and cultures. Liz considers herself a citizen of the world having met people from all corners of the globe.

Liz’s mental illness journey began at the age of twenty-five. It at this age that she received a diagnosis of Bipolar Two. For Liz even with the feeling of being different than the people around her, she was able to fit in. Liz looks at her early childhood as simple. It was a childhood where she would play outside, she had steady friends, and loved nature. But things changed when she moved to a larger city when she was twelve.

“I felt like a fish out of water and hated the town. I would spend every night fantasizing about leaving once I graduated,” she remembers. “My senior year I felt a slow numbness and distance hit me. An invisible wall separated me from my friends and activities I once held dear.”

Liz believed these feelings were a part of getting older. The need we each feel that we to leave our hometown, it is common for people. Liz believed life would be great once she left town. Life isn’t always so simple.

In her junior year of college, Liz studied abroad in what she describes as a manic swing year when looks back. It was still one of the best years of Liz’s life, where there was magic around every corner. There was real excitement each day, and it felt in that year that Liz’s wish for her life to be great had come true. She had left her home and was having a real life.

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When she returned home to the states for her senior year of college Liz found herself in a relapse. The fairy tale life that Liz was living came to an end. She hated her college, “I became depressed, isolated anxious, and couldn’t sleep. I would stay awake all night and paint. While my college acquaintances dreamt about grad school or Fortune 500 jobs.”

The voice to get out of this place was once again screaming inside her head.

Liz made the decision after college to move out West taking the usual jobs for college graduate jobs as a barista and in retail. Liz was at the beginning of her adult life, and trying to “find herself.” It was during this time that Liz began to date man who she decided to start a business with.

“Soon after we began to make a name for ourselves in the wares we sold, I discovered his true nature. He was very angry. It was simmering under the surface, with me in the middle. I was emotionally damaged by this man. It led to my disease finally rearing it’s ugly head and going full-blown nuclear,” Liz explains.

It was the situation and the stress. Liz found it contributed to her foray into deeper into her mental illness. Liz lived in chaos, and she would spend days at a time staring at the walls. It became terrifying to go outside or to hear the phone ring. When Liz would rapidly cycle she should get as much done as possible when she had the energy. Liz played Russian roulette most days as she no longer knew what her mind or body would do on a given day.

“All I understood was the pain. I remember telling one of my sisters on the phone that I wanted to peel all the skin off my bones. That was how raw I felt.”

Liz was sinking deeper into her depression and it was leading her down the path of suicide. It was common most days for Liz to think of ways to end her life. Liz would imagine driving into oncoming traffic or into a tree. She dreamed about overdosing on Advil hoping that it would be enough to never wake up again. It was time for Liz to get help.

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“I went to my first shrink and did all the tests,” Liz talks about the early parts of her diagnosis. “In some ways, when he told me the diagnosis, it was a relief. It was the wiring in my brain, and there were ways to cope with it.”

It would be the path of taking the correct medicine for Liz and ending her toxic relationship. Liz decided that she wanted to become a writer. Writing became her saving grace throughout the years and she began looking for a new home. Liz moved back to a town near her old college, where she met the man that would become her husband.

“I told him immediately about my diagnosis. I wouldn’t want anyone to be in my life without knowing what may be in store for them. But, he was my saving grace. Our environment was peaceful, serene, and surrounded nature. He told me he would always support me,” she recalls.

Liz’s husband also told her that she had to do the work and take ownership of her health. She understood when her husband told her that he could not do it for her. After one of the most draining depression cycles of her life, Liz pulled herself together. She found a great shrink and therapist. Liz began the journey of CBT training which helped her get better.

Liz found in her husband the support system that she needed. It became a relationship where Liz didn’t have to hide her flaws behind a facade. For the first time, she could be herself. But life, it can be cruel. When Liz lost her husband it sent her spiraling for many years.

In the years following the death of her husband, Liz did the things she thought she had to do. She went back to grad school. Liz made the right decision and went to rehab. It was imperative to Liz to begin to work on managing her Bipolar disease which had been spinning out of control.

Liz was able to find a “normal” job after grad school and did her best to fall in “with the rest of the normal people” in life. Liz recognizes that it was never easy for her. She always felt an invisible wall separated her from others.

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“The career I chose has changed so much since those halcyon days. I thought I could make a difference in this profession” she explains. “I no longer feel as if it is the right fit. Every day is a struggle to put on the facade and face the world.”

How does Liz get through a single day in her mental illness life? It takes sheer willpower the majority of the days. Liz considers herself a high-functioning Bipolar person. In her childhood, her parents had high expectations, and her training was to be perfect.

At the moment Liz has a new partner, though they are currently living in different states. Family obligations keep him away from Liz, so she feels very isolated most days. It can be a struggle to get out of bed with little sleep. It is harder on the day where her anxiety leads to panic-attacks at the worst times. Liz took her current job in hopes to escape the toxic environment she was in, but it’s more of the same.

“I have found myself in yet another cold “work till you die position.”

For Liz it’s about her meditation, focusing on exercising, and eating right. All these things are a struggle in her life but she manages. Some days Liz zones out and binges on Netflix. What helps the most is her writing and finding others who share the agony of daily life with being Bipolar.

“Then there are days when I want to go to the hospital and have a lobotomy or locked back in the ward. To keep the outside world at bay,” Liz explains.

Our mental illness affects each of us in different ways. For Liz, having a mental illness makes her impulsive and reckless. She does her best to keep it under control. The worst parts of Liz’s illness is getting lost in the deep abyss of her depression. Along with being Bipolar, Liz has developed other aspects of her illness. When her panic attacks, anxiety, and insomnia combine, they fight for the best parts of Liz’s soul.

“I feel that the freedom I once had, the courageousness, has flown away and my life has become very limited. Very confined. But because it is a disease in my brain and no one can see it. I find there is little tolerance in this country for people affected by mental illnesses.”

Liz wants to share with the community with this article this simple fact. Together the mental illness community can work to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. Liz finds comfort in celebrities who have come out and talk about their own struggles. It reaches a broader audience and helps lessen the stigma.

“Through my own writing and this amazing blog (The Bipolar Writer), I have found a wonderful community. It is a community of people who are struggling but not giving up,” Liz explains. “It has bee one of the most wonderful discoveries of the past year for me.”

Writing a mental health blog has helped Liz though a rough last sixteen month period in her life. If it wasn’t for her blog and journaling, Liz believes she wouldn’t be here today.

“It helps me to be honest with myself and I share my writings with my therapist. It is my therapist that encourages me to keep writing. That I am not playing a “victim role.” To find what will lessen the stress in my life so I can find a way to live my dreams.”

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One thing Liz would like me to add to this interview feature is that she loves life. Liz is a firm believer that things can get better. It is important in her mind to stay away from toxic situations. It’s important in Liz’s life to maintain a schedule. That means getting enough sleep and exercise. It means getting back to the CBT training that she received.

One of the most important things in Liz’s life is getting back to the tenants of Buddism. “Which allowed me to live in serenity when my husband was alive,” Liz explains.

Liz has been on a journey over the years since her diagnosis and even before everything. What we learn from these interview feature stories is that we all have a path we walk. The journey is never easy and it is always filled with triumphs and failures. When I share the story about Liz’s struggles with Bipolar disorder it’s another step in the right direction. We continue to shed the stigma of having a mental illness. Each story brings us real life because having a mental illness is real.

If you would like to see more from Liz please visit her blog:

www.sorrowandkindness.wordpress.com

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Interviewee: Liz S.

Author: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoKinga Cichewicz

unsplash-logoAnton Darius | @theSollers

unsplash-logoChristine Roy

unsplash-logoManic Quirk

unsplash-logoCharles Koh

unsplash-logoKaitlyn Baker

unsplash-logoMatt Artz

Interview Feature – Julia Cirignano

This another interview feature article that I have written as part of series you can find here. Interview Features – The Series

A Look at Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety

Imagine for a moment. Every second of your existence is a struggle. The struggle is with fear, rituals, anxiety, and depression. It has always been a part of your life. A part of your existence. You have no idea what or why things happen to you. This was the life that Julia Cirignano— from Boston, Massachusett has lived. It was the before her diagnosis life started Julia struggled, something that many in the mental illness community can relate.

“My diagosis with anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder came in high school. I have dealt with the symptoms my whole life.”

Like many in the community she struggled in high school,  and it was in this time that Julia received a diagnosis in high school. It has always been hard for Julia to remember a time of peace. A life without an illness. In a life of constant ups and downs it was in high school while seeing a therapist that Julia first found a diagnosis.

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The high school years of Julia Cirignano were the darkest of times in her life. It was also her lowest point. The daily struggle for Julia is to find balance in her self-care and in all aspects of her life.

“While I do use medication, one of the biggest things that helped me was focusing on the things I love,” Julia expains. “From a young age, I had a passion for horses, literature, music, animals in general, and more.”

Julia finds solace in her activities and it helps to keep balance in her mental health. Julia keeps her body fit, with boxing, working out, and staying productive. Along with eating well, Julia believes that keeping fit helps keep her mentally fit.

A single day with OCD and anxiety can be difficult for Julia. The key is to take each day as it is, and always stay busy.

“In my day-to-day, I try and keep myself busy because that keeps me happy,” she explains. “Accomplishing chores, no matter how big or small, gives me satisfaction. Nights are hard, like they are for almost everyone with mental illness. I drink tea and smoke weed to help with that.”

 

It hasn’t always been easy for Julia in the past. It was not uncommon for her dwell on the negative aspects of her mental illness. At the same time her illness has made her an empathetic person.

“Some people may call me sensitive. I like to think of myself as a person who sees and feels all that’s happenings around them,” Julia explains. “I am affected by the energy around me, which is hard in the negative world we live in. I try to put myself in the best situations possible.”

Julia has learned many positive things in her journey. She wanted to share some of that wisdom with the mental illness community. What Julia has learned is to channel the strengths that her mental disability has given her.

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“Yes. There are ways in which it has slowed you down,” Julia explains. “But, everyone (no matter if you struggle with mental illness or not) has to figure out their strengths as a human. I believe that with weakness comes great strength. I believe in opposites. I believe that when you hit rock bottom, you’re there to push off and bounce back to even better, richer highs.”

Julia has written a blog not so much for mental health but for writing. Julia recently self-published a book of poetry called White Wine and Medical Marijuana. It was an extremely personal book for her to write. Writing in Julia’s life is theraputic, and it comes as second nature in her life.

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“For me. It was more uncomfortable and anxiety provoking to publish my book for my loved ones to see. The process of writing comes easy. It’s easy for me to publish and promote my work to people I’ve never met,” she explains. My fellow writers, or people who can relate to my mental illness. It’s hard to hand my book to people who know me well – especially if they don’t deal with mental illness themselves.”

For Julia, most people didn’t know the internal struggle with her mental illness. It was hard to show the ones Julia loves most in this world her book. In the end it was a positive thing. It brought Julia closer to her family.

The things that make life worth living for Julia are the people and pets in her life.  “My family. My horse. My friends. Chocolate. Steak. Mashed potatoes. Ice cream. Books. My Bed.” In this mental illness life we have to find some peace. Julia has come a long way but she is right with her mental health.

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I always love to write these interview feature article about members of the community of bloggers that discuss mental illness. Julia has taught us in her journey and her story that with the right attitude you can find acceptance in your diagnosis. It was an honor to write another interview feature.

James Edgar Skye

If you want to learn more about Julia please visit her blog and social media sites.

https://juliasbookreviewss.wordpress.com
https://www.instagram.com/juliajulia100/
https://twitter.com/JuliaJulia1001
https://www.facebook.com/WhiteWineMedical/?ref=bookmarks
https://www.juliacirignano.com

Interviewee: Julia Cirignano

Author: James Edgar Skye

 

Bringing Back Interview Features

It has been a few weeks since I have written an interview feature. It has been the greatest thing to start sharing the stories of my fellow mental illness bloggers. I have enjoyed writing every single one of these feature articles. I thought I had everything organized but somehow I lost some of the people who wanted to be interviewed. I think I covered most of the interviews just fine but I am sure I missed some. I apologize for that, and to make it up I want to open up the opportunity again.

I want to share the stories of others much like I have shared my own experiences. I keep thinking that if I write enough of these stories down together we can make mental illnesses have a real human face, and at the same time start to change the narrative about the stigma surrounding mental illness. I talk about it a lot as it is the most important thing and it why I write.

I want to get back to that because I feel as if I have lost my way lately. I have been so lost in my own issues with social anxiety that it really feels as if I am losing parts of myself again. So, I will what I do best. Write.

If you are interested in being one of my interviewee’s let me know. Email me at jamesedgarskye24@gmail.com

If you want to see my past interviews please see what I have written so far.

Interview Features – The Series

Always Keep Fighting.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoNik MacMillan