#LiterarySpoons: A New Twitter Hashtag Event for Spoonie Writers

Welcome to the Q & A for #LiterarySpoons, a brand new Twitter hashtag event hosted by me and @SpoonieCult. The purpose of #LiterarySpoons is for writers who identify as spoonies – which includes those who are chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, and/or neurodiverse – to share their writing with the community. Our first #LiterarySpoons event will take place Thursday, October 13th from 5-7PM PST / 8-10PM EST / 12AM-2AM GMT.

Question 1: How do I share my original writings?

Answer: Compose a new tweet and include a title, description, and link to each piece. They can be in the form of blog posts, articles, essays, poems, stories, screenshots, etc. They could be published on blog sites like WordPress or Tumblr, in literary magazines or journals, or in online magazines or news outlets. Make sure you include the hashtag #LiterarySpoons and specify any mature content or trigger warnings. The posts will be moderated and any offensive or copyright-infringing content will be reported.

If you need a free, fast, and safe place to post your work, I recommend creating an account on Medium and using that as a platform to host your content. With Medium, there’s no need for layout or website setup.

Question 2: Does the writing I share have to relate to being a spoonie?

Answer: Nope! Subject matter and genre is entirely open. The point of the event is for us to showcase our best work. If that involves being a spoonie, great! If it’s a story about a unicorn, that’s fine too! The material doesn’t need to be new or written specifically for this event. The only requirement is that it’s original.

Question 3: Is there a limit to how many pieces I can post?

Answer: There’s no official limit, but be mindful and considerate of the event. Don’t flood the stream with your work. I’d say five posts total would be around the maximum. That will allow others to share their work without getting lost in the feed.

Question 4: What exactly is a spoonie, anyway?

Answer: The term came from a blog post written by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory.” Those of us battling chronic illness, mental illness, and disability often have trouble keeping up with day-to-day life. Our energy has to be measured out, and Christine chose the metaphor of measuring that energy in spoons. How we feel can be unpredictable and vary from one moment to the next. That’s why many of us call ourselves “spoonies.”

The term has morphed into a wonderful and supportive online community and a shorthand way of identifying ourselves.

Question 5: What if I can’t attend the event during the date and time it’s scheduled? Can I still participate?

Answer: Absolutely! I recommend scheduling your posts in advance using a free service like HootSuite. You can hop on the thread whenever you’re able to and read other people’s posts.

Question 6: Is this just a one-time event?

Answer: We’re hoping to make #LiterarySpoons an ongoing monthly event. You can follow me, @alanasaltz, and @SpoonieCult to stay updated on future events.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. I hope to see you and your writing on the hashtag!

10 Must-Read Memoirs About Mental Illness, Addiction, and Disorders

Memoirs give us the unique ability to enter the mind and experiences of someone suffering from a mental illness, addiction, or disorder. To truly be immersed in someone’s story is invaluable and necessary in understanding what they’re going through. Here are my top 10, must-read memoirs that deal with these struggles.

loud51wzZR8o3hL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall

A captivating and unflinchingly honest memoir about one young woman’s struggle with borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder.


9780679746041_p0_v1_s260x4202. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, but the book is well-worth a read. It focuses on Kaysen’s time spent in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s.


51L90SoGhIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_3. Manic by Terri Cheney

Cheney spares no detail when sharing the exploits of her most manic moments.


51nRtjlO7jL4. Purge: Rehab Diaries by Nicole Johns

The memoir is told in a series of vignettes based on the three months that Johns spent in eating disorder rehabilitation treatment.


51LMIy4MEvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

A compelling and detailed  memoir about one man’s struggle with anxiety disorder.


51YHs+JVgqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_6. Love Sick by Sue William Silverman

An intimate recounting of the month Silverman spent in a rehab center for sexual addition.


Look_Me_in_the_Eye_(book_cover)7. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Asperger’s is much talked-about, yet little-understood. Robison encounters his own unique set of challenges resulting from this neurological disorder.


Jamison_-_anquite_mind8. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison

Jamison details her experiences with manic depression, as well as the insights she’s gained through her academic study of mental health.


61cctYHga9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_9. I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Kilmer-Purcell tackles the difficult, and often stigmatized, themes of alcohol abuse and addiction. He manages to address addiction in a way that is relatable without being sentimental or stereotypical.


9780439339056_p0_v1_s260x42010. My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel

This young adult memoir tackles the issue of learning disabilities, in addition to the resulting social and clinical anxiety that can manifest as a result.


Robin Williams and The Never-Ending Battle Against Depression

medium_3462043780Hearing the news of Robin William’s apparent suicide hit me the way I’m sure it hit many others who have suffered, or still suffer, from depression. It made me think about my own moments of darkness and hopelessness when I seriously considered taking the pills or slashing open my wrists to make it all end. I’ve spent the past five years writing a book about such moments, so I’m still glued into them like they happened to me yesterday.

What some people may not know about me is that I continue to fight off feelings of depression, as well as anxiety, on a daily basis. Although I identify as someone who has recovered from the worst of my mental illnesses, these things never truly go away. There’s the constant fear of a relapse, the fear that anything (or nothing) could pull me back in. There are the continued pains and fears and worries that haunt me even on the best of days.

Depression distorts your thoughts. It makes the world black and white. It sucks all the light and air out of you. Maybe there’s something that triggered it, something that brought you to that point. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s even worse somehow. You just want the pain to stop. People don’t understand what’s wrong with you. They tell you to just smile, to just be happy. You reach the point when you can’t think of any alternatives because it’s gone on for so long and you’ve already tried everything to make it better. It feels like it will never get better, like it will never end.

Some people have suggested that Robin Williams should have just asked for help. I’m sure he did. I asked for help too when I was a teenager. I got all the help money and insurance could buy. Help got me medications that made me feel sick and worse, therapists who were incompetent and uncaring, and a month-long psych hospitalization that did little other than prevent me from going through with my plan to kill myself. Help also eventually got me a therapist who cared about me and saved my life, the right combination of medications that balanced what was imbalanced, and even an alternative high school that provided me the resources I needed to recover and graduate.

Help can be good, and it can be bad. It’s not fool-proof, and it’s not perfect.

The best thing we can do for people suffering from depression is to be empathetic and open-minded. We can offer help and hope it does what it’s supposed to. We can listen, care, and try to understand. Depression is an illness. It’s a disease. No one asks for it, and no one wants it. Overcoming it can be be the hardest thing you ever do. Not everyone is lucky enough to make it.

I was lucky, and I hope I continue to be lucky. I have more resources, more experience, and more love and support than I did at the worst of my depression. But Robin shows us that you can have so much – a family, friends, a meaningful career, an enduring sense of humor – and still lose it all to depression. That’s how powerful it is. That’s how real it is.

Let’s not allow this conversation about depression and suicide to pass as our attentions wander to new tragedies and events. Let’s make sure we’re there for people, that we advocate for better treatment and research, that we keep our eyes open to those who might be suffering and alone. Let’s be kind to ourselves, be patient with our pain, and remember that it is possible to survive and overcome even the worst moments of sadness and depression.

(photo credit: Frodrig via photopin cc)

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Photo credit: Alana SaltzIn previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’ve dealt with anxiety disorder for most of my life. Although I think mental illness is becoming less and less stigmatized with time, I’ve noticed that anxiety disorder is still very misunderstood.

Life is stressful and anxiety provoking. Everyone struggles with anxiety, often on a daily basis. So what’s the difference between being anxious about the realities of life and having an anxiety disorder?

Think of anxiety disorder as being similar to clinical depression. Everyone gets depressed at times depending on their life circumstances. Clinical depression, however, is when depressed thoughts and feelings occur constantly over an extended period of time, often without cause, and aren’t easily relieved. The same is true of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is when a high level of anxiety is consistently present and is easily triggered and heightened by circumstances that most people don’t think twice about.

For example, my anxiety often comes up in relation to social events. I get anxious when I’m going to an event or party where I don’t know a lot of people or when I’m planning a date with someone I don’t know very well. Sometimes the anxiety appears in the form of worries about feeling awkward or uncomfortable, having to deal with potential traffic or parking problems at the venue, and the possibility of getting physically ill during the event.

While everyone might feel nervous about things like this, sometimes these fears cause me to feel nauseous or trigger a migraine that makes me feel unable to go to the event at all. I’ve missed out on parties and have cancelled dates because of this on many occasions. When anxiety affects the quality of your life this way, it’s time to consider the possibility that it may be a disorder.

I’ve been coming across more and more people lately who have complained to me about being anxious a lot but feel they aren’t being taken seriously. I’ve come up against that problem many times in my life. People constantly tell me things like, “Don’t worry” and “Just don’t think about it” and “What is there to be anxious about? You’re being ridiculous.” Of course, comments like that only make me feel worse about being anxious, and feed into the endless cycle of anxiety.

The cycle goes like this: You feel anxious, then you feel bad about feeling anxious, which causes you to feel even more anxious than you did in the first place. You start to feel like there’s something wrong with you, that you aren’t normal, and you wonder why you can’t just make the anxiety stop like everyone says you should be able to. One of the best ways to stop this cycle is to feel understood by others and to be easy on yourself about these feelings as you work on them.

For me, the most difficult part of having anxiety disorder has been the physical symptoms that accompany it. I can’t tell you how many different doctors and specialists I’ve seen over the years. I’ve gone to doctors complaining of constant stomachaches, headaches, and migraines. On average, I missed about 20 days of class every year when I was in grade school. Doctors have done tests and prescribed medications despite never finding an actual medical cause or condition.

When it all comes down to it, I can see that these pains are caused by my anxiety. However, they are real pains and symptoms. Anxiety can cause an increased acid build-up in your stomach leading to nausea and cramping. It can also cause tension in your neck and shoulders that triggers migraines.

I believe there needs to be a better public understanding and awareness of anxiety disorder. So many people who suffer with it feel isolated and misunderstood. If you think you might be struggling with anxiety disorder, there are steps you can take to start feeling better. Consulting a professional is always first on the list of recommendations. I also suggest looking into alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation. And being open and honest about your feelings and concerns with your friends and family can make a world of difference. If they aren’t getting it, tell them that you really need them to understand that these feelings are real, and that this is a real condition.

To learn more about anxiety disorder, start with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website. Psychology Today’s website is a great resource for finding a certified therapist near you. There are also numerous guides and workbooks devoted to helping people overcome anxiety disorder.

Just remember, if you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety disorder, be gentle and understanding. It’s not a disorder that will go away overnight, and I’ve spent years in therapy working on making things better. I still go through phases, like over the past few months, where the anxiety is worse than usual. But I try to remember that there’s nothing wrong or broken about me, and that I will get through it. Having the right support system in place makes it that much easier.