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a (long overdue) update {12/2/15}

Kelley Clink

Holy smokes--I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted! Apologies. Marketing is hard work, and prevention month was a flurry of activity. I published two essays (one with To Write Love on Her Arms, and one with BrainChild Magazine); interviewed Ronnie Walker, the founder of Alliance of Hope; and I was interviewed by Deborah Kalb of Book Q&As and Annette Gendler of the Washington Independent Review of Books. I also participated in BookSparks #speakout campaign, where I donated a portion of proceeds from book sales to Alliance of Hope.  

Jesus, look at all those links. Don't click on all those links. You'll fall into an internet black hole, and when you come out the other side your kids will be old people and humanity will be living on Saturn.

It probably goes without saying that I needed to take a break in October. Not that I actually did, mind you. I just did a bunch of other stuff that wasn't book related. Then I took a break--for like a week. Then I caught some kind of mutant zombie apocalypse virus and stayed in bed for two days. And now, here I am. 

And holy shit, it's December.

 

Life will do that to you, if you let it. And it's hard not to let it. It's hard not to put your head down and dive straight into the current. It's hard to take a step back, look up, and breathe. It's even harder when Amazon has this stupid graph that shows your sales flatlining. Thankfully, I decided to stop looking at that graph. I remembered that I didn't write a book to become famous, or moderately successful, or break even. (Good thing). I remembered that I'm happiest when I'm slowing down, paying attention, and writing about life.

So yeah, I've been doing that, and it feels good.

I also accidentally started doing Susannah Conway's December Reflections. I didn't mean to. I just wanted to follow along and look at everyone else's pictures, but then I got inspired, and you know how that goes. If you want to see what I'm shooting, follow along on Instagram.

Happy December, everyone!


prevention month {9/2/15}

Kelley Clink

As you may (or may not) know, September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This year September 6-12 has been designated Prevention Week, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day.

This is obviously a cause that is important to me. I do believe suicide is preventable, and I think one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective things we can do to prevent suicide is to talk about it. This year I'm partnering with BookSparks and their #SPEAKOUT campaign to bring attention to suicide awareness. All month long I'll be posting about suicide prevention, postvention, mental health, and everything in between. I would be honored if you would join me. Here are five ways you can take part:

1) THIRTY PERCENT of all proceeds from A Different Kind of Same purchases made on September 10th will go directly to Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors, a non-profit organization that provides healing support for people coping with the shock, grief, and complex emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one to suicide. Buy the book on September 10th and then email us your receipt.

2) Help us spread the word on your own blog. Download this badge and use it in your posts, include it on your sidebar, and link it back to this blog.

3) Facebook it: Update your Facebook cover photo

4) Tweet it: Update your Twitter cover photo and profile pic and TWEET THIS: I'm helping @BookSparks & @Kelley_Clink to #SpeakOut for suicide prevention and suicide loss survivors! http://bit.ly/1hwmMME

5) Brand it: Download our #SpeakOut Graphics and share them on your social media platforms using the #SpeakOut hashtag and tagging @BookSparks and @kelley_clink

Keep checking back in here and on Facebook--we have lots planned for this month. And please share your stories, thoughts, and hopes. Together we can save lives.



something beautiful {8/7/15}

Kelley Clink

Today's assignment: write about something beautiful, like the way your baby's head smells after he's been in the sunshine. Like how you could see all your grandmother's fillings when she laughed. Like how August mornings are fresh and cool, and evenings are electric blue, and your windows frame the tops of trees so all you see is green.

Like how right now, this very second, there is silence--then a bird sings, and you breathe.


sorry about that, jacksonville {7/14/15}

Kelley Clink

Part of the publicity push for my book has been radio interviews. As a writer, I’m used to having days, weeks, months, even years to perfect my message. I think and fuss and think some more, until I’ve figured out exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. Like pretty much all the other writers I know, I got into this business because I don’t like talking, and I’m not that good at it. So yeah, radio? Terrifying.

My first interview was with Dr. Liz Holifield at 411 Teen on WFSU out of Jacksonville, Florida. It was a pre-recorded segment done via phone. I spoke to her ahead of time about what kinds of questions she would ask, and I asked other advocates about good resources for teens. Then I made myself some notes to ease my nerves. When the scheduled time for the interview arrived, I was at my desk in my office with the notes. I was ready.

But, for some ungodly reason, the reception was terrible. As Dr. Holifield began the introduction, the connection started breaking up and I only heard every third word. I got up from my desk and scurried around the room, hoping the problem was on my end and that the satellite gods would smile down on me with a stronger signal.

They did not.

I rushed down the stairs, into the hallway. I ran from bedroom to bedroom, and finally ended up on my knees in my closet, where I convinced myself that the reception was somewhat better. I jammed the phone into my ear, closed my eyes, and prayed that I wouldn’t have to ask Dr. Holifield to repeat herself.

Then I realized: I DIDN’T HAVE MY NOTES.

The interview lasted an hour—some questions came through loud and clear, while others were a chopped mélange of words I had to piece together. Still, I remembered most of what I’d written down. By the end I was sweating, my knees aching, my head spinning. Then, Dr. Holifield asked me to give listeners a final thought.

My mind went blank. Nothing. There was nothing. I blurted out, “Don’t take it all so seriously!” and immediately smacked my palm against my forehead. Don’t take it all so seriously? Really? I’ve just spent an hour talking about suicide and mental health and my final advice to people is not to take it too seriously? I quickly followed up with “ask for help, there’s no shame,” but it was too late. My final thought had been recorded, would be broadcast, blasted out into the universe to echo on into infinity.

Don’t take it all so seriously.

My therapist later pointed out that I was probably giving that advice to myself, which makes sense, and made me laugh. There I was, kneeling in my closet, so afraid to make a mistake, so afraid to tell Dr. Holifield that I couldn’t hear her well that I’d worked myself into a frenzy. And really, in the grand scheme of life, it’s pretty good advice. A lot of my depression and anxiety come from taking things too seriously. But it’s not the way I wanted to end my interview. I thought about it a lot over the next few days. What would I say, if I could do it again? There are so many great (or better, at least) possibilities. What I landed on was this: Whatever is going on with you, whatever you’re feeling, say it out loud. It isn’t easy, believe me, I know. But it will help.

Sorry about that, Jacksonville. I hope you didn’t take it too seriously.

    Image from  The Design Sheppard

 

Image from The Design Sheppard



from oprah's couch to my bed: redefining success {6/5/15}

Kelley Clink

When my galley copies arrived a few months ago, friends and family asked me: “What’s it like to hold your book?” I got the feeling they imagined it was a transformative moment, something akin to holding your child for the first time. I’m a terrible liar, so I told them the truth. Meh. Shrug. “It’s okay.”

I was as surprised by my lack of reaction as they were. Hadn’t I been working for this moment for nearly ten years? I had, and there was a time during that decade when holding my book would have been as big of a deal as people expected. For the first six years that I worked on it, my book was my life. Unlike many writers I knew, I didn’t come home from a long, soul-sucking day in an office and try to squeeze in a few words before bed. My time was not siphoned by the chaos of family. There were no children to feed or clean up after, no soccer games or PTA meetings. I was married, but my husband worked. So all day, every day, it was just me, my grief, and my laptop. 

Because I’d quit working to write, I funneled all of my self worth into my manuscript. When it sucked, I sucked. When it was a mess, I was a mess. If it failed, I would be a failure. At the time publication was my validation, and because I was a masochist, and Oprah was still on the air, her couch was my benchmark. Anything less than Oprah’s couch, anything less than a New York Times Bestseller, would be worthless.

In some respects, my expectations were lowered organically. By which I mean I had no other choice. Offers of representation from agents did not come pouring in. I was not miraculously plucked from the slush pile. Oprah did her last show, and no one even told me what happened to her couch.

At the same time, I made a concerted effort to redefine success. I’d finished my second draft around the six-year mark, and my grief had resolved. In that pause before the editing process started again, I took a deep breath and looked, really looked, at where I was and what I was doing to myself. My expectations had made me miserable. My life felt tight and small. There was no room for anything, or anyone, else. I needed to loosen my grip.

That grip-loosening happened organically too, in the form of a life-threatening illness, an injury that required surgery, and several years of infertility treatments (another book, anyone?). As shitty as it was (and it was really, really shitty), it was bigger than the book. It was my health, my body, my son. The book was important, but it wasn’t my life anymore—and I didn’t need it to be. My life was my life, and it would be even if my book never made off my hard drive and into the world. I’d written the book, and that was huge. The book had shepherded me through my grief, and that was huger. The hugest thing of all was learning that my worth didn’t lie in my work. I have value even if no one reads a word I write. Moreover, I have value even if I never write another word.

This is big talk from someone who has been hiding under her covers for the last week. You know that dream where you’re naked in public? Turns out publishing a memoir is exactly like that dream. Only it’s real, and you have to walk around emotionally naked for the rest of your life. Guess I’m not as detached from my book as I thought I was. The good news is that whether it becomes a New York Times Bestseller or a basement bargain, whether Oprah resurrects her couch just for me or my only rave review comes from my mother, I know I’ll be okay.

As I write this, there is a copy of my book on the chair next to me. Maybe I was holding it back, just to be sure. To cushion my heart in case it wasn’t real. But it is. It’s real. I can pick it up and hold it in my hand. I’m finally starting to feel the glow, you guys.

I did it. I wrote it. It’s done.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be under the covers.


whirlwind {5/31/15}

Kelley Clink

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I'd planned on posting a lot more often. That didn't happen--but it wasn't because I wasn't busy spreading the gospel of mental health. I just happened to be spreading it elsewhere. First off, I wrote an article for Woman's Day. The response from the article sparked a panel discussion on HuffPost Live, which lead to a Huffington Post Blog. In the midst of all that, Amazon started shipping my book. Also: my kid started crawling.

Yowza.

Needless to say, I'm pretty exhausted. I've taken the last few days of May to tend to my own mental health, which means slowing down, getting enough sleep, and binge-watching Bloodline in my pajamas. (Why didn't they wrap it all up and make it a one season show??? There's nowhere to go but down.) The book is important, of course. The advocacy work is important, too. But I've learned over the years that the most important thing is my health. It's easy to work and obsess until we fall apart. It's a lot harder to put ourselves back together. 

So, here's to a quiet week before the whirlwind picks up again this weekend at the Printer's Row Lit Fest. Tables 327 and 329. Come say hi! 

a room of our own {5/4/15}

Kelley Clink

Back in March, Slate published an article on artist James Leadbitter's newest workMadlove: A Designer Asylum. According to the article, Leadbitter, a British artist and activist, has "endured stays in many public hospital psychiatric wards during his long struggle with mental illness." The bland, uncomfortable surroundings felt more like punishment than treatment to Leadbitter. He wondered what the ward would look like if it were designed by patients, and the inspiration for Madlove was born. 

For those who don't know, which is probably most of you, psychiatric wards are usually pretty grim. I was in one in the fall of 1995. There were grates on the dirty windows. Fluorescent lights buzzed. The book shelves held nothing but battered board games. We ate on plastic tables. We sat on pleather couches. Nurses watched us from a glass cube in the corner of the room.

And this was the children's ward. 

At a time when we were thoroughly broken and frightened, recovering from or on the verge of suicide attempts, when life was hard and sharp and everything hurt, we were locked in a place devoid of softness. 

Leadbitter is right: punishment is the perfect word. I spent a week feeling that by being depressed, by attempting suicide, I had committed a crime. I went home thinking that if I couldn't get rid of my depression I had better at least pretend I had, otherwise I'd end up in the hospital again. And I never, ever, wanted to go back.

What would the experience have been like if my fellow patients and I had designed the ward? What if there had been beanbag chairs and strings of colored lights? What if there had been concert posters on the walls and a bottomless bucket of art supplies? What if we'd each had our own room with a large window overlooking a forest, or a mountain, or a beach? What if there had been a small park for us to walk in? (Did I mention we weren't allowed outside?) What if there had been overstuffed armchairs and books by Kurt Vonnegut? 

Maybe we would have felt less hopeless. Maybe we would have felt less ashamed. Maybe we would have known that what we were experiencing was okay, and that if it happened again there was a place for us to go that was safe and comforting.  

Madlove is an abstract rendering of the feedback from hundreds of people: patients as well as architects, designers, and mental health professionals. The beta version looks like a cross between a kindergarten classroom and a Dr. Seuss illustration. It isn't practical, but I guess that's not the idea. The idea is to get people thinking, and talking, about how to change the way we care for those with mental illness. 

In the words of Leadbitter, "It ain't no bad thing to need a safe place to go mad." What would your safe place look like?

 

 

ten things, eleven years {5/1/15}

Kelley Clink

Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of my brother's death. It's hard to believe so many years have passed. It's even harder to believe that he has a nephew he will never meet. I want my son to know my brother. I want him to know about the childhood we shared, the way Matt made me laugh like no one else. I want him to know about my brother's political passions and love of music. I also want him to know about Matt's bipolar disorder. The years he struggled to find the right treatment. The years he suffered and hid his pain. The thoughts and feelings that lead him to die by suicide. 

I can't control my son's thoughts and feelings any more than I could control my brother's. I don't want to. But I do want him to be aware of the ways he can take care of himself. I want him to know that there are many avenues for help if he has suicidal thoughts. Really, the things I want him to know are too vast to list, but in an article I wrote for Woman's Day, I gave it a shot. Click here and let me know what you think


april love {4/1/15}

Kelley Clink

I'm sitting outside in the sunshine--without a coat--and I'm finding it impossible to concentrate. The trees are budding. The crocuses have bloomed. The birds are chirping their tiny, feathered heads off. I look up. A sparrow is building a nest in my gutter. SPRING-SPRING! she peeps, at the top of her pipes. 

Indeed.

To celebrate the thaw, I'm joining Susannah Conway's April Love. There are daily photo prompts and daily emails. The emails are focused on self love and self care; topics I consider particularly important, especially from a mental health standpoint. Far too many of us show far too little compassion for ourselves. When you are depressed or anxious, it's easy to slide into self loathing. Hell, even those who don't have mood disorders struggle with this. 

I've been trying to be mindful of my attitude toward myself over the past couple of months. Motherhood can really screw with your confidence. I've beat myself up over my son's inability to take long naps. I've chastised myself for my inability to get more done. I've excoriated the work I have produced, giving it, and me, about as much love as a dead mackerel. 

This does no one any good. Time to ease up.

My goal for this month is to practice imperfection. To give myself big, metaphorical bear hugs. To take naps. To slow down. Listen. And breathe. 

Hope you show yourself some love this month, too.

Today's prompt: My Morning View


the pit {3/12/15}

Kelley Clink

My wonderful and talented friend Gillian Marchenko is working on a book about depression. The other day she posted this on Facebook:

“Oh dear, this weekend I did all sorts of 'real people' things; friends threw me a surprise birthday outing, I helped with a baby shower, I traveled with my older girls to visit family... Now, I'm home. I'm exhausted. And I have to work on the revisions of my depression book due Friday. You know when you are standing on the edge of the pit, looking in? For some of us with depression, we get to that point in our journey when we know we are close, and we need to handle ourselves with care and drink hot drinks, take baths, breathe, and pray, and ask God for help. Well, I'm there today. And I really want to focus and write. If you are the praying type, will you pray for me? I also want to thank God... b/c I know not all of us are there yet when we see the pit and can take a couple steps back. If that's you, let us know. We'll pray for you too.”

Sometimes, even though I have been living with depression for 20 years, I fall right into the pit and I don’t even notice until I land on my face.

I don’t have bipolar disorder, but my moods and energy have always cycled between high and low. I think this is normal for most people, but the fluctuation is a bit more frequent and intense for those of us with mood disorders. I don’t remember when I began to recognize my rhythm, but at some point I realized there were times when I felt more capable and productive. Knowing these episodes would be followed by a down cycle, I would ride those waves of energy until they fizzled, washing me up on hard ground in a heap. Even then I would drag myself a few more meters for good measure, until I was too tapped out to tackle even the smallest tasks. Say, going to the grocery store or washing the dishes. I would retreat and recover, sequestering myself for days, weeks, or even months, doing little more than watching daytime television.

There’s an addictive component to this crash and burn pattern. The wave is intoxicating. The wave builds on a myth of self-worth. We live in a society that values accomplishments—and has very specific ideas about what constitutes an accomplishment. Long hours, large paychecks, corporate titles, and advanced degrees? Yes. Hot drinks, warm baths, deep breaths, and prayers? Not so much.

I think the great fear of people with a mood disorder (well, my great fear anyway) is that if we aren’t accomplishing as much, as quickly, as the people around us, we are considered failures. I’m always sure I’m being judged. So I try to work more, work harder, work until I burn out, forgetting that my brightest and most helpful offerings come when I slow down.

I know now that self-care is a necessity, not a luxury, and that there is no greater achievement than taking good care of yourself. Because if you aren’t being kind and gentle with yourself, if you aren’t respecting your boundaries, you won’t be able to fully participate in this thing called life. Oh, and you will be completely miserable. This applies to anyone and everyone—whether or not you have a mood disorder.

I still fall victim to the siren call of the wave, sometimes. Sometimes I still fall into the pit. And I’m going to try not to feel guilty about doing what I have to do to climb out. Even if it doesn’t look like much to the rest of the world, I know those baths and warm drinks are a huge accomplishment. And that day, that day after I climb out of the pit and remember to take a deep breath in the sunshine? That, my friends, is a major award. 


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