Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

 Respect. I’ve seen people lamenting about the state of their careers and the seeming lack of it. I used to be quoted in my therapy sessions, group and solo times as saying ‘no one wants to be the imposter, yet everyone’s greatest fear is that they are the imposter’.

Honestly it used to be my greatest lesson I couldn’t learn, well maybe second only to I wasn’t my diagnosis, but that I had bipolar diagnosis not that I was bipolar diagnosis.

And in a way I believe the two were insidiously linked. Depression has a way of messing with your self-confidence level. Whispering in your ear that no one respects you and that you’re a joke for believing a career in the arts was within your grasp.

Now, while my career seems to be doing well, (and while I can’t complain I remain hungry for more mainstream success as I think many of us do) I want to take a moment here to say something. I recently saw a FB post that argued that without a mainstream blessing you aren’t legit.

For those with small presses or are braving a more independent road I believe you are just as legit as say you’re more traditional counterpart. Each path has their pros and cons and a simple, rash decision either way could damage your future just as easily as say believing NY is a panacea and that the independent world is a shortcut to success.

That being said getting to where I am now professionally has been a long and hard road, but the last three years have been sort of insane. And the success I’ve had professionally seems to have dovetailed with my recovery.

I no longer struggle with the issue of am I the imposter, or the I am bipolar. I am not an imposter as a writer, and in spite of what some people out there might believe even if you are holding down day job while you pursue your dream job either you are a writer or your not.

Now there are those who use their day job as an excuse as to why they can’t devote as much time as they’d prefer or have three million as excuses as to why they can’t do it at all. Now that group I have no patience for.

That doesn’t mean those who struggle with legitimate issues such as depression yet still find a way don’t have my full and utmost respect. Mysti Parker, Pamela Turner, Missy Goodman I’m talking to you all.

But everyone has that setback that threatens to undo them entirely. That breaks their hearts and threatens to break their spirit right before the long road back starts. For me that moment was September 2000. It very nearly broke my spirit and derailed my dream for awhile.

I worked at a place called Children’s World for a time. I worked with pre-schoolers aged 3-5. I did especially well with the special needs children. The very type this place were horrible with. The ‘teachers’ there were a joke. Their ‘director and assistant director’ even more so. I suspected a young girl there was being abused. I took my concerns to the director and was fired for the ‘fact I was not fit to work there’. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and they used that fact to get me out of there.

Myra Hutton was a joke of a director as was her assistant, Natalie. It very nearly destroyed me. It triggered a second breakdown. I could barely function. I was forced to move back to Kentucky.

It’s funny how things work out though. The road to recovery really took hold there. My mom and dad(John), Missy, (even Missy’s family), were there in the beginning as I took those first very difficult steps to wholeness.

I struggled a great deal with the imposter feelings and seeing myself as something more than my diagnosis. Still I took my medicine, I attended my appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and clawed my way back with my support network. Carla Bell Deal was crucial in the mix, but my greatest strength I drew upon was from my best friend Missy and my half evil friend Pam Turner. (And of course my mom, dad, aunt Debbie and uncle Frank). All of these people along with the parade of nurses and my girls from group helped put me back together.

I did not allow my heartbreaking moment to destroy me. For those struggling I too had a moment of truth. But I’ll blog about that another time.

So for those who wonder if their moment will ever come know that if you stay hungry, and you define for yourself what success should mean good things will come.

Mysti, you are not working in a vacuum. Pam, I still want to be you when I grow up. And Missy, one day we’ll be the female Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

And Daniel, it did my heart good to see you front and center on the PSA for the campus sexual assault awareness campaign. Another reason why you’re my hero.


Amy McCorkle

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

We’re coming up on the year anniversary of the start date of this blog and there’s a lot to reflect upon. This blog has literally saved my life, saved my sanity, and at the same time become so much more than I ever imagined that it would be. I think it has become bigger than me in some respects.

When I first created Letters to Daniel it was done with the notion to thank you and to tell you how much your work has affected my life (all for the better). But it quickly morphed into my memoirs. A place where I could tell my life story in an honest, open, and frank and direct manner.

You, in effect, became my silent witness. I mean, I knew you weren’t there. That perhaps no one was listening at all. But Letters became my voice when I felt like no one understood or that no one could understand the turmoil I had gone through or was going through. All the while I knew better things lay ahead. Better things had to lay ahead lol in some cases they couldn’t get much worse.

What I quickly saw was that there were others going through what I was going through. That I wasn’t alone and that there were lots of silent witnesses out there who were listening and understanding and going through pain of their own. They were finding solace in my words and that meant a great deal to me. It helped with my daily recovery and helped keep me on an even keel.

My blog quickly became more than that. I had a selection of the letters formatted as well as adding introductions by friends and a publisher to give it context. I self-published it as a memoir and it became an Amazon Bestseller hitting #2 on their list. It was a thrilling accomplishment and made for what at the time my third bestselling book.

I continued to write on the blog there was need in me to keep writing on it. It morphed again when I read that Imaginarium was having a film festival along with its writing convention. When I told Stephen Zimmer what I planned on doing things started to move very fast.

And while there were some unfortunate losses, and brutal attacks the documentary inspired by this blog got made. It was bigger, stronger, better for the re-edit and I feel like people are going to receive it well. I even got up the nerve to enter it in the prestigious Austin Film Festival and the Rendezvous w/Madness Film Festivals.

I worry that my dreams often exceed my grasp but I believe on some level for anything to work the dream has to be huge. When I was in my early twenties I was a shell, shattered, unable to even care for myself. The idea of creating this blog, of writing books, of seeing anything clearly was so far beyond anything I could’ve done at the time it isn’t even funny. Not even in the ironic sense.

But you see there were quotes that I lived by. And a quality I had in spades. Never, never, never quit- Winston Churchill. And If you are living on the downside of advantage, and are relying purely on courage, it can be done—Russell Crowe 2000 Oscar Speech. Perseverance, medication, and a hell of support network. My psychiatrist, my group therapy ladies, and therapist, and of course the usual suspects Missy Goodman and Pam Turner each, not only responsible in their own way for my healing, but each responsible for seeing to it that my film, Letters to Daniel: From Breakdown to Bestseller got made.

At this point special shoutouts to my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Frank and my mom and dad, without them, no film either. I know mom and dad take a beating from time to time on this blog but they, even as they run hot and cold I know always that they love me and that is essential in anyone’s healing process.

And of course your work and unbending ear as I talk to you, or at least how I imagine you as a silent witness would be.

I am forever grateful to you all and if I’ve missed a name please forgive me, as I’m very tired.


Amy McCorkle

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

The theatrical premiere of Letters to Daniel: From Breakdown to Bestseller will be IMAGINARIUM at the CROWN PLAZA HOTEL in LOUSIVILLE, KY in SEPTEMBER. A major league writer’s convention that will combine all the fun of a scifi and gaming con and film festival with that of a writer’s conference. Me and the team behind LETTERS TO DANIEL have the distinct honor of being the premiere event at Imaginarium.

Me, Missy Goodman, and Pamela Turner will be watching the film that without a great team effort would have never come into being. There are others who are just as responsible for its inception. My parents, Faye and John Keough, (who have, let’s face it, haven’t always been at their best in this blog), my aunt and uncle, Debbie and Frank Gray, who due to some technical errors on my part won’t get to see their contribution shine as much as I would have liked. Then there is Tim Druck and Missy’s beautiful letters which were really touching and added to the film. Again, technical difficulties. And the goddess that is Pamela Turner. She is an artist extraordinaire and deserves to be treated as such.

Letters to Daniel as anyone who reads this blog knows is my attempt to grapple with my bipolar diagnosis and move forward, conquering the world as I go. Hopefully helping those dealing with similar issues, and letting them know that even though the world can be a very dark and foreboding place that there is hope. And that there is a way out. There is light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and no, it’s not an oncoming train.

There can indeed even be triumph over an illness in which relapse can be a a very real part of a yearly cycle. But that therapy and medicine management can teach you how to cope and live and thrive with the disease.

That these tools can teach you that you can not only survive but move out of the pain and get joy out of life once again. That’s what the point of the documentary is for.

It is my grandest hope that everyone who watches it is moved and becomes away that those with mental illness are just the same as anyone else. That the stigma, so often unfairly attached to those who are diagnosed with any kind of mental illness, are seen as those struggling just like anyone else just to make it day to day. Only their issue is depression or bipolar disorder as opposed to diabetes or having lots of kids under foot.

I was once given great encouragement by the likes of Victoria Lamb and Michele Val Jean. People who may or may not know just how much their kind words meant to me. I also received words privately from those struggling with bipolar disorder about how much this blog meant to them.

While the documentary found on this blog will not premiere theatrically until September I’m of the strong belief it can help people today. Please, if you know or someone suffering from bipolar disorder seek help from NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill or a local mental health facility and know that there truly is hope.


Amy McCorkle

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

 I just saw a fellow author sharing his struggles with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Of how he didn’t mind the label but perhaps feared being ‘fixed’ or ‘medicated’. It’s been awhile since I’ve address this issue directly if I ever have.

When I was placed on medication my life was in such chaos that I craved a solution. My mind was such I couldn’t write. I was sleeping one hour a night. I heard my name being called and what sounded like fingertips tapping on glass.

My thoughts raced like on a race track. I could practically see them like streaks of neon light on an oval course. I couldn’t take care of myself. I may not have been quite bat crap crazy at the time but I sure as hell could see the road signs from there.

I was horrible, just wretched to my best friend and partner in crime Missy Goodman. I threw things, I threatened her. And yet, I begged her not to hospitalize me. I was a whore to her. A bitch. The worst of the worst. And yet when I reached out for help she didn’t reject me she helped me find the support I so desperately needed.

Texas wasn’t ideal for this breakdown but there was some help to be had and she drove me there, in the kind of neighborhood that perhaps you shouldn’t be in that kind of night all to help me.

They placed me on Lithium at first and while ultimately they took me off of it the medicine literally saved my life and my sanity. Over the course of the next year there were bumps along the way that would test both of these things.

I had to move back to Kentucky where, honestly I would get better mental health treatment. A better drug cocktail that would lead to my breakthrough in treatment. In the course of 15 years I’ve gone from someone who has not been to care for herself to a woman who tours the Con circuit with 12 books 28 publishing contracts, will be premiering a documentary based upon the memoir this blog inspired and is moving into self-publishing with friends.

So to the person nervously waiting in the doctor’s office, you aren’t alone. You are brave. You are courageous. This can be done.


Amy McCorkle