Mental Health

What bullying does to brilliance

There’s this teenager I know. She’s brilliant, way mature for her age. She reads books I read and discusses them with a level of intellect and understanding that never fails to amaze. Let’s call her Emily. Then, I received the news yesterday …

Due to suicide speak, cutting, and bulimia, Emily has been placed in a special care facility. She’s only thirteen. When asked what caused all this, Emily admits it was bullying.

Once upon a time, Emily dated the middle school star. He was an athlete and popular kid, whereas Emily was quiet, snarky, and smart. She only recently discovered her preference for girls. In fact, Emily broke up with Mr. Popularity to date a girl, but beware the delicate egos of teenage boys.

Emily’s ex-boyfriend built an Instagram account for the sole purpose of terrorizing her. Via that account, he sent message after message:

You’re ugly.

You’re fat.

You’re going to hell.

Sadly, Emily started to believe this boy’s vitriol, and although she probably had some simmering depression issues already (as do many girls going through puberty), this bullying pushed her into a deep, dark hole where suicide seemed the best recourse.

The eating disorder flourished, too. Emily began counting the amount of carrots she ate. She started watching her mother cook dinner, making sure she didn’t use too much butter. Even when she did eat, Emily soon disappeared to purge. She lost thirty pounds.

Eventually, the cruel Instagram account was discovered, and the middle school principal kindly asked Mr. Popularity to stop harassing Emily. The principal spoke to the boy’s parents but not Emily’s. Apparently, Emily wasn’t important enough to enter the discussion. I’m sure the principal assumed she would be fine. A little bit of bullying? No big deal.

Well, she’s not fine. Her parents can’t leave her alone for fear of what she might do. She spends her days at the care center on a strict diet, surrounded by 12-18-year-old kids like her. They attend support groups and talk through their problems. Emily hopes to return to normal school by the end of March.

But what awaits her then? More bullying? Will Mr. Popularity come back for more? Will the principal acknowledge the bullying? Will the principal care? Will anyone care?

A couple weeks ago, a local sixth grader committed suicide by slitting her wrists. This was not a passive attempt; this was violent dedication. I don’t know why she chose to end her life, but I do wonder how a sixth grader arrived in such a dark place.

It seems like a vague broad stroke to blame society or social media, but I don’t know where else to look. When I was in sixth grade, I didn’t know what suicide was. I was most concerned with my grades, not my mental health. Shit, I didn’t know what “mental health” was. Kids today do. They’ve become experts at being sad, confused, and sometimes cruel.

I’m scared for them. I want to hug all of them, especially Emily as they treat the sores in her throat from months of purging and keep her away from sharp objects. This little girl has so much promise—a truly amazing youth—and some dumb idiot bully robbed her joy and distorted her self-image.

I don’t have answers. I do think about that old CSNY song … “Teach your children well.” Mr. Popularity might have earned a little slap on the wrist, but I doubt he understands the full ramifications of his actions. I’m sure he doesn’t know the destruction he caused, but maybe if he did, he would stop bullying instead of moving on to the next victim.

Similarly, it appears discussing mental health needs to happen early. When I was in elementary school a hundred years ago, we never talked about depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. Maybe we should, just so kids can understand that there is help if they’re sad. However, flip that coin, and educating them early might impart the knowledge to hurt themselves. How much do we want our kids to know anyway? How early are we willing to lose that innocence?

It’s all just a mess. I wish I knew what to do. I wish I could help Emily—and I do try, as best as I can, but it’s not enough. Cutting can be perceived as an addiction, and we all know addicts won’t get well unless they make that choice; other people can’t make it for them. Maybe that’s what Emily is going through now. She must decide to put the razor down and eat again, and I hope she will. The world is a much brighter place with her in it.

Please listen to your kids. Keep an eye on them, but don’t hover because that will undoubtedly push them away. Love them. Just love them.

Mental Health

Holiday cheer?

On our descent into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago Friday night, we passed through a thick layer of fog/smog. Not sure which. This was after a week of Christmas celebrations and travel with two non-functional post-op feet. A week of very little alone time for a woman who loves alone time.

Anyway, we had to fly through fog, okay? But then, once the fog broke, there were all these little lights. If you’ve ever flown at night, you’re aware there are little lights. This was different. These were Christmas lights. Teeny tiny Christmas lights decorated little Monopoly-sized houses that got bigger and bigger as we descended into O’Hare.

It was … beautiful. All those houses lit with glimmering lights of green, blue, red, et cetera. Houses I will never see up close, decorated by people I will never meet. It didn’t matter. It was a sight that took my breath away.

Friday night, I was tired. I was grumpy. I was in pain. All of it went away when I saw all those twinkle lights beneath the fog.

I suppose the metaphor is obvious, but let’s reiterate: beneath all the shit is something beautiful. Beneath all the sadness and tough times you’re going through, something meaningful awaits. We don’t go through shit for no reason. We don’t float through the fogs of mental illness/death/worthlessness/name your poison for nothing.

Eventually, twinkle lights show up and remind us that life is beautiful. It’s easy to forget, especially during this difficult time of year when we’re supposed to be jolly and blah blah happy blah joy to the world blaaaaaaaaah. Most of us aren’t fucking jolly, okay? We’re sad and stressed and just want the parties to be over.

Then, there were those tiny lights decorating houses in Chicago, and BOOM.

Joy.

Happiness.

A wily giggle.

Sorry if you’re going through the fog right now. I know I have been. And no, the lights didn’t heal everything, but they made me remember that life is pretty damn good. Yeah, we pass through dark times, but there’s light eventually. We just gotta be strong and wait. Trust me; the light shows up when you least expect it.

We Still Live

WE STILL LIVE: This angsty MM romance will make you cry and sigh

“A very addictive read.”

“Make sure you have your box of tissues available.”

“So very emotional, yet so powerful.”

“Loved every freaking word.”

“This book just about killed me.”

“Stunning … Couldn’t put it down.”


To say I’ve been pleased with the We Still Live reviews would be a massive understatement. I knew this tragic story about the after-effects of a college shooting meant a lot to me; I had no idea it would mean so much to other people … and today, it’s available to all in both paperback and eBook.

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW:

About the book:

Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

***WE STILL LIVE is a standalone M/M friends-to-lovers romance featuring detailed adult content, graphic violence, hurt/comfort, and mental illness.***


Some things of note:

  • If you’ve ever been to Athens, Ohio, the home of my alma mater, Ohio University, you’re going to recognize this setting.
  • If you’re familiar with young actor Timothee Chalamet, you’ll know the inspiration for John Conlon.
  • If you like music, you’re welcome to listen to the We Still Live theme song, “I Found” by Amber Run.
  • A lot of the mental health issues in this book are autobiographical, especially the anxiety. My symptoms increase with every new shooting in America. Despite this, like John, I’m doing my best to thrive with the help of the people I love.
  • There’s a lot of heavy stuff in this book, but there’s sexy-sex time between John and Isaac, too, so please do enjoy those scorching moments. I know I do (wink).

A quick excerpt!!

“You look like I feel.”

“And how do you feel?” Isaac asked.

“Like I want to bury my head in a hole. Or get messy drunk.” John lifted his glass in an unreciprocated toast and drank.

“This is going to sound really insensitive, but can I ask you a question?”

John shrugged.

“The shooting.”

John coughed once, quickly. A loud laugh from the hallway made him startle and look over his shoulder.

Isaac could have backpedaled—should have, based on the way his coworker now resembled a spooked deer—but in for a penny. “Do you mind me asking what happened?”

John stared at him for a long moment before his mouth curved into something like a smile. The intelligent scrutiny of his gaze disappeared in a haze of what Isaac assumed was memory. Then he said, “You don’t know,” with an abundance of relief.

“I know it’s very ignorant of me, and possibly callous, but no.”

John traced his pale finger along the edge of the bookcase. “It was on College Green last June. The College of Arts and Sciences award ceremony. One of our students started shooting, and he eventually shot himself.”

“You were there?”

John laughed, which seemed sorely out of place. “Yeah, I was there. All of us were there.” He leaned closer, so close Isaac smelled bourbon on his breath. “A word of advice: don’t ask anyone else about it unless you’re really good with tears.”

Isaac shifted from one foot to the other. “You’re not crying.”

“No.” He finished his glass and spun around. “I need more alcohol.” It felt like a brush-off, an escape.

“John. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You didn’t.” He tapped his palm on the doorframe and looked back. “You know, you don’t have to stay here hiding. It’s painful watching introverts try to acclimate in social situations.”

Isaac smirked. “How do you know I’m an introvert?”

“We recognize our own kind, man. Every day of my life, my mantra is ‘Don’t be awkward.’”

“How’s that working for you?”

“Not well.” John smiled, rows of white teeth on display, and Isaac felt like the sun shined on his face. “Nice meeting you, Isaac. Now, go the fuck home.”


ORDER YOUR PAPERBACK OR EBOOK COPY NOW:

Mental Health · Uncategorized

Successfully Mad: My new mental health blog

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I’ve been riding the crazy train since I was fourteen, ebbing and flowing on tides of happiness, depression, and anxiety. Many writers can probably say the same. Hell, engineers can say the same. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

I didn’t talk openly about my mental health (or lack thereof) until Robin Williams committed suicide. I realized that if someone as “happy” as him could do such a thing, maybe there were other people struggling in silence, too. I first started writing about my personal demons; then, I gave a big speech at the University of Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Yeah, I was terrified, but since then, I’ve spoken a lot IN PUBLIC (arrrgggguhh) about mental illness: its causes and its treatments. Last November, I had a pretty nasty relapse. My mental health was the worst it had been in years. The depression, anxiety, and overwhelming fear wouldn’t stop, negatively affecting my work, my sleep, and my relationships

Sorta scared of medication, I sought therapy instead, and my therapist suggested I start a mental health blog … so I did.

Successfully Mad: Accepting Yourself and Your Mental Illness is now up and running. There, I do my best to write honestly about what I’m going through in an attempt to exorcise my own demons and maybe help other people, too.

Mental illness is a solitary disease, but it’s important to realize you are not alone. I’m just as messed up as you, I promise. There are plenty of us out there going through similar battles with body image, self confidence, paranoia, and severe melancholy. Let’s remove the stigma and talk about it.

If you’re up for a journey, come visit me HERE at Successfully Mad and subscribe in the sidebar. (You can learn more about my mental health speech there, too, and learn a bit about my background.) I’m going to try to be brave, so be brave with me.

Whatever you’re going through, have a hug through the internet. You’re not alone, and we’re gonna get through all this nasty shit together.

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Mental Health · Sara Dobie Bauer

I’m the featured speaker at Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week

For the past month, I’ve been weaning off my anxiety meds—little blue pills that have been my crutch for six years. Meanwhile, University of Arizona called and asked me to fly to Tucson to be their featured speaker at Mental Health Awareness Week. One of the reasons I started taking anxiety pills was due to my fear of being in public. The irony is not lost on me.

So why on Earth did I agree to speak in front of God knows how many complete strangers in the Arizona desert? Honestly, I was pleased as punch with the theme. My contact at the university informed me that they want my speech to be funny, happy, and cheerful. Instead of bemoaning my depression and PTSD, they want me to talk about not just surviving mental illness but thriving despite it.

treeApparently, I’m the poster child for this thriving thing, which is surprising to me as I currently battle drug withdrawal, insomnia, and depression. I don’t feel like I’m thriving right now. I feel like I’m drowning. Despite my head being underwater this week, however, I sort of see what Arizona means.

Despite my social anxiety, I attend book conferences and speak on panels. (People actually consider me charming and funny at these things. I find this shocking.)

Despite my depression, I continue to write and work. I go to the gym and beat up weight machines. I cook dinner for my husband even when my appetite is gone, and I laugh at ridiculous things even when my heart hurts.

Despite my PTSD triggers (never walk up behind me when I’m sitting at my desk), I create. One of my friends recently called me the most prolific writer she’s ever seen—probably because I write to combat my mental illness.

I now have a speech to write. I need to talk about what it feels like to have a mental illness. I need to discuss treatments and techniques to manage. I need to put a positive spin on all the bad stuff, and even though it’s hard to be positive when you’re not sleeping, it’s possible. Anything’s possible.

On March 30, I will stand at the high tide of University of Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week, completely terrified to be the center of attention. I will share my story, though, which is something I’ve never been scared of. I’ve always been open about my illnesses, because demystifying a taboo steals its power. I will be funny, I hope. I will be honest. I’ll also be free of anxiety pills for the first time in several years.

Part of thriving is acknowledging our problems. We can’t hide behind mental illness. We can admit to it and move on. As I told a friend recently, “Slay the day.” Even if you’re terribly sad. Even if you’re scared to leave the house (or fly to Tucson, for that matter). Even if you’re just too tired. Don’t just survive … but thrive.

(Photo of me by Bill Thornhill Photography.)