Write your way through it

journal giveaway bipolar mom life I've been writing in journals ever since I was a tween. Back then they were sparkly little diaries with the lock and key protecting all the secrets inside. I'd write about life and love, about boys I thought I'd fallen in love with but who didn't actually love me back. Or about arguments with my parents or my friends, trying to justify my side of the story.

I turned to journaling whenever the moment struck me, throughout high school and college, and even once I had graduated and started out on my own in the world. My husband and I traveled Europe for a week together after I completed a 2-week study abroad in Antwerp, Belgium, and I still love flipping back through that play-by-play notebook of our trip. I can almost transport myself back by reading those words.

I never realized how many ways the simple habit of putting pen to paper could actually help someone until it helped me.

When mania threatened to ruin my life with two psych hospitalizations in a month's time, everyone close to me was sent spinning. Psychiatrists, therapists, prescriptions. It was all so new to us.

My husband may have been scared, but he wasn't afraid to stand by my side through the hurricane of what was now our life. My parents, although heartbroken for the pain and uncertainty I was facing, were committed to helping me get well.

In the midst of doctor's visits and the flurry of medications I was put on, I felt out of control. Too much was going on. There were all these symptoms and I didn't know how to describe them. I couldn't pronounce the meds I was on. My mind felt weird.

A week after my second hospitalization, my dad came up with a brilliant idea. He bought me a plain pocket notebook at CVS, and told me to write down the same three things each day: what meds/doses I took each day, any side effects I was experiencing, and how I was feeling. That way, we could work with my doctor to figure out what was going on in my brain and how to get me well.

I kept those journals for four years straight, barely ever missing a day. Some days I'd only write those things my dad said to write, other days I'd write pages and pages. I used it to track my progress. It helped me to recognize my triggers. I learned a great deal about myself through taking the time to put my thoughts down on paper.

It was the start of my writing my way through my mental illness. Which has led me to where I am today. I haven't kept a journal since 2010, since that's when I starting to transition my words online to this blog. But I want to return to it because I recognize how I love looking back at the past, to see how it led to the present.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be absolutely terrifying in the beginning. But getting through it doesn't have to feel impossible. It takes time to get to the bottom of things, to figure out what meds work, to start feeling like your old self again once you do find one that works. Trust me, I know.

Also trust the process.

I saw these little journals in a drugstore this week. They reminded me so much of the small Vera Bradley notebooks I transitioned to after I filled up the one my dad bought for me. I bought two, one for me, and one to give away to one of my readers who could use it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Cop, Bad Daughter - Book Review & Giveaway


In November of 2012, I attended my first writer’s conference on Sanibel Island in Florida with a pen in hand and the nervous anticipation of a freshman on day one of English 101. I couldn’t wait to learn tips and technique from the master presenters and instructors, and was eager to practice my craft during the workshops and through the homework they assigned.

The conference was incredible and after meeting such inspiring, brilliant talent - in both the faculty and attendees alike - I left there with the confidence to finally call myself a writer. I came home with renewed drive and ambition, ignited by the tribe I had surrounded myself with all weekend.

The schedule was packed so there was little time to talk to other attendees in between classes, but I did have a chance to make a few strong connections and we’ve kept in touch over social media and email. One of the friends I met at Sanibel was Karen Lynch. She had just finished reading a piece aloud in class, and it was so vivid and stunning, I had to compliment her afterwards. As usually the case when you strike up a conversation with a fellow writer at a conference, we asked each other what we were working on. It just so happened we had the topic of mental illness as common subject matter.

We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch and I was thrilled to learn that her book was recently published - the same book from which she had read an excerpt in class at Sanibel. When her publisher contacted me via email to see if I’d like to review the book and do a giveaway, I jumped at the opportunity to read it before it was released.

Amazon Book Description

Publication Date: February 3, 2014

Karen Lynch was an unlikely person to become one of the first female cops in San Francisco. Raised by a counter-culture tribe in summer of love Haight-Ashbury, she was taught to despise “The Man.” But when the San Francisco Police Department was forced by court order to hire women, she found herself compelled to prove to the world that women could cut it as cops, a betrayal that caused her police-loathing mother to brand her a Nazi.

Good Cop, Bad Daughter is an often humorous, poignant adventure story of Karen’s journey from pot-smoking Cal student, to Renaissance bar serving wench, to street cop. Recounting the story of the first women cops, she reflects on life with her bi-polar mother, and comes to realize her chaotic past unwittingly provided the perfect foundation for her chosen career.

As she finds family and acceptance in a men’s club that never wanted her as a member, she fears she will one day face her mother, not as a daughter but as an arresting officer. When that day came, and it did, her private life and her career would collide dramatically.

As a mother living with bipolar disorder, the book’s description definitely intrigued me. Karen survived what can only be described as an unfathomable childhood at the hands of an unmedicated, mentally ill mother. I was sucked in from the first chapter and couldn’t stop reading.

Despite the lack of adult supervision and guidance throughout her upbringing, Karen found the fortitude within her to hold on and forge ahead. The spontaneous cross-country and international travel excursions at the hands of her mother were riveting and her determination to make it through the police academy had me cheering for her to cross the finish line.

Karen’s ability to relive her tumultuous early years on the page with honesty and without shame is what makes this such a compelling book. She provides the reader with an inside view into the life of someone struggling for survival because her mother is failing at fighting the internal demons of mental illness. Those years of struggle and the gut-wrenching resilience that got her through created the perfect prelude to her future career as a cop.

This is a story about how one woman channeled her pain and sense of abandonment and used the energy to create a better life for herself and her family. Good Cop, Bad Daughter is a book you won’t soon forget.

Enter to win a signed copy of Good Cop, Bad Daughter: Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officer! (Available NOW via Amazon on Kindle or in paperback!) US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway