Final exam anxiety, the B.A.D. gang, and Erika’s bipolar revelation

Have you ever had one of those “examination dreams” – the kind where you have to take a final exam in college and you’re woefully unprepared? In my dreams, sometimes I didn’t study at all. Other times it’s the wrong course, or it’s the right course but I hadn’t realized I was enrolled in it, so I’d never come to class or done any of the assignments.

Today feels like one of those dreams. Tomorrow’s the day my blog will be critiqued by the other members of the current Blog Book Tours class. In May, we participated in the Blog-A-Day challenge; hence the B.A.D. moniker. Rationally, I know there’s nothing to fear. We’ve already critiqued other members’ blogs, and the group has been uniformly kind and considerate. No one’s trashed anyone else’s site. No one’s said, “You’re a horrible writer; you might as well give up right now,” or “Yours is the ugliest blog I’ve ever seen.” (Of course, no one’s deserved comments like that, either.) It’s all about constructive critiquing and suggestions to help us improve our blogs.

Yes, I know all that. Even so, I’m planning to spend the day tweaking my site, with time out for a little gardening and a trip to the Y for Nia and weight-lifting. I know what’s good, what needs improvement. I won’t be more specific here, because I don’t want to influence my critics in advance. But this feels like putting the final touches on a term paper – proofreading it one more time, making sure the bibliography and footnotes are all in order. (Aside to folks of a certain age: how did we ever manage all this before the age of computers?)

Then there's the lingering anxiety about yesterday's post, wherein I proclaimed my bipolar diagnosis. So far, I've received a couple of positive comments, but nothing major. In fact, I'm reminded of  the scene in Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders where Erika comes out of the closet. Following a memorial service for a member of WellSpring who died mysteriously, Erika is confronted by a TV newswoman:

     Ariana’s dance segued into a final chant. As she extinguished the candles to signify the close of the service, I rose and moved quietly through the garden and out the wrought iron gates to confront the camera crews.

      Nancy Welcome was waiting front and center, wearing a suit of tangerine wool that showed an extravagant length of leg and looked far too warm for the season. Beads of sweat shone through her makeup, and she was dabbing at her forehead with a tissue. “Ready when you are, Erika,” she said. “But let’s get Stan Washington, the guy I interviewed before. He was great on camera. Maybe some of the other club members too.”

     “Unfortunately, that’s not such a good idea. People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness – ”

     “Hold it right there, Erika. That’s a good angle, but I’d like to get it on tape before we talk any more. It’ll sound fresher that way.”

     She signaled the cameraman, who aimed his lens at me and began filming. Nancy walked casually into the frame. “I’m speaking with Erika Norgren, Director of the WellSpring Club. The memorial service for Stephen Wright has just ended. Behind us, people are leaving, including many members of WellSpring, the social club for mentally ill adults. Ms. Norgren has requested that we not show these folks on camera. Why is that, Erika?”

     “People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential, Nancy. Some members hold jobs, and they may not have told their employers about their illness, for fear of repercussions. Even if they’re upfront about their own illness, their family and friends may be embarrassed and not want it discussed.”

     “So there’s a lot of secrecy involved with WellSpring Club, how it’s run and who comes here,” Nancy stated.

     “Unfortunately, some secrecy is necessary,” I replied. “But that’s because in our society there’s still a strong stigma associated with mental illness. For that to change, we need more honesty and open communication about the subject.” I took a deep breath, then a totally unpremeditated leap off the high dive. “For example, I’ve been the Director of WellSpring Club for almost six months, yet no one at the club knows that I’m officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s well controlled with medication, and not even my boss knows about it. I guess she’ll find out on the news tonight.”

     Her eyes took on a predatory gleam. “That’s very interesting, Erika. I appreciate your sharing it with News Channel 8. Any reason you decided to go public about your illness at this particular time?”

     “I’m an honest, upfront person in general, and I’ve been feeling more and more hypocritical about keeping this important part of myself under wraps, especially since I became Director of WellSpring Club and began working alongside a lot of wonderful people who face their illness bravely and openly every day. So I’m hereby making it official – I’m one of the crazies, and proud of it.”

     Closing ranks on either side of me, Stan and Gloria began to cheer and clap. Still filming, the cameraman pulled back for a long shot as other members arrived to check out the commotion.

     “I never knew coming out of the closet would be so exciting,” I said. Then everything turned soft and swimmy, and my knees went suddenly weak. But the sensation passed in short order. I didn’t fall swooning to the ground in the wake of my revelation. No fireworks exploded, no comets streaked across the sky. The handful of club members who had gathered around gave me a round of applause and a couple of thumbs up, but that was it. At last I had made the public confession I’d dreaded for so long, and nothing had changed at all. Not yet, anyway.

From Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, Copyright 2006 by Julie Lomoe

 

19 thoughts on “Final exam anxiety, the B.A.D. gang, and Erika’s bipolar revelation

  1. Hi, Julie,

    Well, not to worry, I’m on the Critique Committee, shamed into it, frankly, but, I’ve already told you I think your blog is great. So, here’s one advance thumbs up!

    Yeah, I think that smarty pants, Alexis is right…as usual. Block quotes in the composition tool bar in the Dashboard should work. You may have to have, “Show the Kitchen Sink” option selected to see it, not sure.

    Best Regards, Galen.
    GalenKindley.com

    • Hi Alexis and Galen – Thanks for the advice. I’ve been tinkering with the Mood Swing excerpt for the past hour, and I’ve finally got it the way I want it. I couldn’t find the block quotes option, though I do have the “kitchen sink” selected.

      For those who wonder where these comments are coming from, when I first posted this blog this morning, I asked for some formatting help in a post script, and I got it very quickly, thanks to my fellow B.A.D. folks. I’ve now deleted that final sentence. Still more questions, but I’ll ask them on our Yahoo group – they’re too boring for general consumption.

      It’s now 4:45, but as Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett sing, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Whew!

  2. Oh yeah. Horrible dreams. At my worst, there were 2 classes I hadn’t gone to. French and something else I didn’t even know the name of. Stress. stress. stress. BTW, I like your blog too.

  3. Oh yeah. Horrible dreams. At my worst, there were 2 classes I hadn’t gone to. French and something else I didn’t even know the name of. Stress. stress. stress. BTW, I like your blog too.

    • Hi Karen and Elizabeth –
      Yes those exam dreams are a bitch. But like Elizabeth, I also have lots of dreams of getting lost and wandering around strange cities. Most often I’m at some kind of conference or convention, I’m supposed to lead a workshop and I can’t find any clothes to wear – my suitcase is lost or I packed the wrong stuff.

      These conference dreams usually have a lot of positive details – rooms within rooms leading to other rooms, beautiful artwork, and mysterious passages. A lot like being lost at Bouchercon (except for the artwork, but then there are all those cover illustrations.)

    • Thanks so much, Karen! I’m starting to feel as if it’s time for the exam – if I don’t know it now, it’s too late! I’m not going to master Twitter tonight, and though I’m on Facebook, I don’t have the icon. Oh well . . .

    • Thanks, Jane, I hope you will read more of Mood Swing. Maybe we can review each other – I like your blog too. Onward and upward!

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I just visited your blog – it looks great! Are you an alumna of BBT? Would you like me to add to to my blogroll?

  4. I, of course, zeroed in on your question to “folks of a certain age,” which took me back to my clunky Olympia electric typewriter which was such an improvement over the manual machines. This is really dating me, isn’t it? And that thought led to the statistics class where I really did skip almost all of the lab sessions, which then, of course, triggered those nightmares.

    Patricia
    http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com

    • Hi Patricia,
      I used to love my red IBM Selectric. We should blog about typewriters some time.

      And I dropped out of a statistics class at a local community college – me with my Ivy League degrees. I did eventually complete statistics, though, with an A. I also dropped out a Dreamweaver computer course. Hey, there’s another blog!

  5. Your excerpt made me interested in reading the book. It was worth what was probably a bit overly long post. You wove your post and the excerpt in very well.

    As for the rest, I’ll save it for my critique.

    • Thanks, Linda. Yes, that’s exactly why I put the whole excerpt on the page – I wanted to be sure people read it, and hoped to pique their interest enough so that they’ll want to read more.

      I realize my posts have been getting rather verbose, and I’ll try to be more succinct. And yes, Alexis, I do remember how to use the “read more” tag to jump to another page! I’ll make more liberal use of it in the future if I get too wordy.

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