The Queen of Mediocrity

 

 

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007 at age 37, for most of my life I thought of myself as the “Queen of Mediocrity”.  I felt this way early on as I never accomplished anything of merit compared to my parents, who were both prodigies in their chosen fields.  I considered them to be truly extraordinary and so did many other people!  

Dad was a world-class violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years!  He was the youngest musician ever to be admitted into the super-competitive orchestra. Dad was a Juilliard-trained, Fulbright Scholar who lived an incredibly full life despite having bipolar one disorder.  My Mom was an award-winning actress-turned speech pathologist and a loving hands-on mother.  Mom taught speech therapy to special needs students in the public schools.  She developed a unique rapport with both her students and colleagues, and she did an outstanding job.

I considered my graduation from the University of California at Santa Cruz and my A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) personal training certification as hard-won achievements. However, I didn’t attend an Ivy League university like many of my classmates did.  My job as a personal trainer didn’t command great respect either.  

Aside from personal training I worked at the gym’s front desk to make ends meet.  At the counter I handed towels to members who usually treated me as the lowly “towel girl”.  Most of these members had no idea that I had a college degree.  When I handed a towel to the high-powered local newspaper editor-in-chief, or the future billionaire/founder of Netflix, I’d inwardly sigh and feel a bit of humiliation! 

At long last, I’m happy to report that my mediocre self-image is starting to change, slowly-but-surely.  In the space of just a couple weeks I’ve had two wonderful, totally unexpected things happen.  These serendipitous events have boosted my confidence even more than a makeover on “What Not To Wear”!  

Ted

I miss that show, especially stylist Ted Gibson who charges only $1200 for a haircut! 😉 

Two weeks ago I received an email informing me that I was nominated by the bestselling author/mental health advocate Wendy K. Williamson (“Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival” and “I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”) for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show Blog” award.

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I thought the email was a joke!  Then I read Wendy’s nomination blurb on WEGO’s website: 

Dyane’s site is the best out there.  I love that she tells it like it is and supports her fellow followers.  A gifted writer, she clearly conveys through humor and honesty what is happening in her world and the world around us. Dyane taps in to our feelings beautifully, saving us from emotional isolation. Activist, champion, Dyane is both and more.  — Wendy

As you can imagine, I was absolutely blown away by Wendy’s generous praise.  Out of curiosity I checked out the other nominees’ profiles in my category.  Every single one was impressive.  I automatically thought, 

There’s no way in hell I can compete with these people.  I’m not good enough.

I felt tempted to withdraw from the competition, but I didn’t want to let Wendy down.  It simply wouldn’t be cool to offend her, especially since she had become my incredible writing mentor.  I told myself I could be a “loser” and leave it at that.

I’m not sure what happened next, exactly, but I had a change of heart.  

I realized that seeing myself as a loser was not how I wanted to play this game!  I could at least stay in the running and promote myself, a necessary task in order to place as a WEGO finalist.

I’ve spent my life promoting other people’s causes and passions.  I’ve worked at four non-profits where at an average of $10/hour, I worked my ass off to publicize other people’s missions and events.  My first full-time job was at a Silicon Valley special event production company.  I promoted a myriad of events and I dealt with the media all the time.  I knew what I needed to do in terms of my own promotion.

My defeatist thinking changed to: 

I’m going to give this shot & try to win this WEGO, or at least place as a finalist!  

Then the second surprise happened.   But first, here’s the long-winded backstory…bear with me!

Long before I was diagnosed with bipolar after Rilla’s birth, I had a series of unfulfilling administrative  jobs.  I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old, but I wasn’t writing anything except for work-related projects.  In 1997, in addition to my day job, I finally began writing freelance magazine and newspaper articles.  

My first magazine article was for “Fit” which unfortunately no longer exists.  I loved “Fit” because its content was deeper and more interesting than other fitness magazines.  Although “Fit” had a air-brushed celebrity on its cover every month, I let that slide because the celebrities they chose seemed more circumspect than the stars featured on other magazine covers.

I pursued the editor to give me a shot at writing an article.  At that point I was twenty-seven and I had already experienced clinical depression.  Using “write what you know” as my motto, I wanted to write an article about women, depression and exercise.  After an enthusiastic phone pitch to the editor, she gave me the assignment!  Landing my first national magazine article was a major thrill, and I knew I needed to do my best to get off to the write right start as a freelancer.

I compiled a list of people who I wanted to interview for my piece.  My first interviewee was Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  I was astounded that I was able to get ahold of the bestselling writer of “An Unquiet Mind”.  Ironically when I called Dr. Jamison I had no idea I’d be diagnosed with bipolar myself a few years later.  I interviewed another doctor I admired: psychologist/author Dr. Martha Manning, whose profound book Undercurrents detailed her experience with depression and ECT.  I hadn’t a clue that one day I’d have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) just like Dr. Manning did.

Next I questioned several young women who suffered with depression, and I spoke with assorted exercise experts.  After submitting my article, my jaw dropped when I got a paycheck for doing something I loved to do.  

I wrote several more articles for “Fit” and was told I’d become a regular contributor.  I was over-the-moon about having a regular writing gig!  Unfortunately the New York media group that owned the magazine called it quits and my job opportunity vanished.  

My “Fit” experience was a propitious start to my freelance writing career.  With my confidence level high,  I approached my favorite local weekly paper “Good Times” helmed by editor-in-chief Greg Archer.

I had been a faithful “Good Times” reader for years.  I admired Greg’s vibrant, top-notch, often-hilarious writing – I was jealous of his talent!  I contacted Greg’s managing editor about some of my story ideas.  I suggested that I interview a writer who wrote books I picked up and couldn’t put down – the one and only Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain was slated for a book event in our town, and my timing was right.  I was given the job and I turned in a solid piece.  I wrote two more articles for “Good Times” about another favorite author of mine called SARK.  Once again it was awesome to have the chance to interact with one of my writing heroes and get paid for it.  

As you can imagine, my freelance writing career went down the drain after my bipolar diagnosis. I couldn’t do anything, let alone write.  But some of you know that I came back to life a little over a year ago thanks to my new medication combination of lithium and the MAOI drug Parnate, plus exercise, good quality sleep and finding a good psychiatrist.  

After I recovered from a bipolar depression relapse,  I invited Greg Archer to a delectable Italian lunch to learn more about his writing philosophy.  We became friends and I hid my jealousy of his talent well.  😉 I felt instantly comfortable with Greg as he reminded me of a close friend I grew up with in Los Angeles. It was a joy to be friends with another writer who I looked up to as a role model.

The longest backstory ever is now complete! 

Last week Greg emailed me to ask if I could send him a photo of myself for a future article that I assumed had something to do with bipolar.  I was out of it and didn’t ask him for details.  To my chagrin, I emailed him a blurry selfie but that’s all I had.  Then I got distracted by my girls and forgot all about it.  

An hour later I got a brief email from Greg simply saying to visit the link copied below.  

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html

I thought it was his recent Huffington Post article that profiled 5 inspiring men.  

After opening the link I spotted my photo I just sent him and I almost fell off my chair.  The photo was accompanied by Greg’s beautiful description of my writing and how I’m “one to watch” in the mental health advocacy movement!  I was part of a group of 5 “inspiring agents of change” including Kathleen Turner, for God’s sake!! (I loved her with Michael Douglas in “Romancing the Stone”!)

I thanked Greg profusely and then I emailed or called everyone I knew to tell them my happy news.  The fact that my Mom shared the Huffington Post article link with her friends, relatives and her Facebook network was especially moving.   It was such a lovely moment for me to hear pride in my mother’s voice when called to congratulate me.

I’m no longer feeling all that mediocre.  Don’t get me wrong – insecurity still lurks within my psyche each and every day.  I’ll keep plugging away to repair my damaged self-image with therapy – that’s all I can do right now.  

In the meantime I want to thank you so much for reading this lengthy post.  I’d like to send a special shout out to my writing gurus Greg Archer and Wendy K. Williamson!  

I encourage you to read their books.  Soon I’ll be sharing some information about Greg’s second book “Grace Revealed”, a fascinating memoir to be published in January, 2015.

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http://www.gregarcher.com


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http://www.wendykwilliamson.com/

p.s. I’d be grateful if you could endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist Award – it’s easy & takes 20 seconds!  

Visit:

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

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42 thoughts on “The Queen of Mediocrity

  1. This post struck me hard–in a good way, I promise! I, too, have often felt like I’m not living up to the potential/expectations laid out for me. It’s only in the last year where I’m coming to terms with the life I have, and the gifts I want to use. The two don’t always come together well–they knot as badly as my daughter’s hair after not being brushed for a few days (ooops). But like you said, the Defeatist, loud and confident as she is, only worsens everything in us and around us. The only way to quiet her is to tell her to piss off.
    Which is really, REALLY f’n hard some days. But the days we do, we realize just how much else is in us–the laughter, insight, and love we have for those who share in our struggle…and some love for ourselves, too. The days we listen to THAT, and not the Defeatist *%^&#, we step out into the light, and dazzle. xxx

    1. ***Loved*** this comment – it’s timing is perfect, for the Defeatist has reared her head yet again. Boo!

      I’m so, so glad you’re coming to terms with your life, & with your gifts that you want to “dream into action”. (That’s a Howard Jones album title – you can’t take the 80’s music outta me! 😉 I shall tell the Defeatist to piss off as you so wisely instruct.

      As far as stepping out into the light so we may dazzle, you inspired me to recall an excerpt from the poem “The Night” by the 17th centruy metaphysical poet Henry Vaughn. I found this bit by way of Madeleine L’Engle’s book “A Ring of Endless Light”, a book dear to my heart – here ’tis:

      There is in God, some say,
      A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
      Say it is late and dusky, because they
      See not all clear.
      O for that night! where I in Him
      Might live invisible and dim!

      *The entire poem can be found here:

      http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/50441

      Now you know I’m agnostic, but I’m okay with this writer using “God”. I substitute “Spirit” or an equivalent, if you know what I mean!

      Pity me, my friend. I’ve only imbibed 1/2 cup of coffee so far this a.m. 🙉 (which is nothing, right?) and hopefully I won’t feel another 3.6 earthquake while I reply to you like I did yesterday – that jolt felt way stronger than 3.6!:)))) I experienced the 1989 Loma Prieta quake and that was 6.9, so I have that for comparison. Ugh. On a brighter note…..

      Hope you have a ***great*** Sunday, lovely Jean! XOXO

      1. This poem is lovely! I’m honored my words inspired you to recall this. You WILL dazzle with your book, Dyane, I just know it!
        But ugh, this Monday will not see me dazzle, not with this headache…I’ll be happy if I can just function on a rainy day with three cabin-fever children. 🙂

  2. Congrats!!! I’m so happy for you. You work so hard and are always there supporting me in my writing. I’m glad that you are getting noticed for all you do for mental health. Keep writing girl!

    1. Thank you so much! To be honest, I currently don’t do much for mental health advocacy these days, but I did in the past, ironically when I was much more depressed!!! :0

      If I could get back into doing some helpful projects now that the horrible depression is gone, that would be truly wonderful. People like you and your blog inspire me and help me realize that I can push beyond my comfort zone & set new goals to achieve more than I thought I could! I always be impressed with your 30-challenge that you did!!! 😉

      thanks again for your kind words – they lifted up my spirits this afternoon….as a matter of fact, your comments always do that. Have a great weekend!!!!!!

    1. Thanks for not bringing “happy tears” to my eyes with your comment this time, Mihran! You are always so positive and kind to me! Read my new post today – it’s much shorter and it’s even kind of funny!!!!! A little gross, but not too bad. Sending big hugs your way and keep in touch!

  3. himy mom is here to take us to the airport for chi town.(god wish me luck!)i just posted a thank you comment on this post,you rock!i’m having trouble with internet so it was spinning and spinning.if it doesn’t show, please forgive.xoxoxloveme

  4. You my dear are the MOST deserving person I know for this award and I am so glad you didn’t drop out. It is hard to find confidence as writers but you have quite a history starting at Fit and working your way up to now. You have paid your dues as they say. You can tell you have a trememdous, full, loving, filled-to-the-brim with positivity heart for all who know you and then some. You are a true gift in my life.
    Okay, now I can go and get on the plane.
    I just couldn’t until I said this.
    Sorry for the delay.
    Love ya,
    wendy

    1. Hey Wendy, I thought of you last night, wondering if you were giving your Chicago talk!!!! I hope with all my heart that it was FABULOUS!

      Thanks for taking a moment when you were busily gearing up for your trip to read this post and to reassure me. I realize that I’ve written a lot about how insecure I am, and while I felt compelled to do it, I know it comes across as whiny and worse. I’m feeling better now and I’m just going to keep plugging away. That’s all I can do, right? And the fact that I have sunshine like you lighting up my bleak moments is something to be recognized and celebrated!!!

      I wish I could have been in the audience for your talk and started up a standing ovation! I’m looking forward to hearing how it went! I’m so proud of you!

      lots of love,
      Dy

  5. Hey Dyane, Love your blog! And by no means are you mediocre! How many things you are doing and have done with a nasty disease! Is that a picture of 50 Cent on your post? I love 50 Cent :))

    1. Hi!!! Thank you so much for your encouragement! I am so excited to read more of your blog!!! I am sharing i your blog with my Facebook network too. That is not 50 Cent though…he’s a wonderful hairstylist named Ted Gibson who became a star in “What Not to Wear” on tv. He has an incredible positive attitude and warmth and I loved watching him on that show. 🙂 I’m not familiar with 50 Cent except by name but if you like him I bet he’s really cool!

  6. Based on your writing on your blog I would never consider you to be mediocre. A late bloomer, maybe? Your posts are honest and impassioned and always a thoughtful and/or thought provoking read. That is an amazing achievement to be included in articles and nominated for awards. You should be extremely proud of yourself and your achievements as they are huge. What you have been though and come out the other end to make these achievements is nothing short of astounding and reflects the hard work you have put in. Hugs, Glenn

    1. Thank you so much, Glenn! What a lovely comment! It means a lot to me since it’s coming from you. I’m incredibly fortunate to have your support – it’s truly awesome. (I agree that I am a late bloomer, by the way, that’s exactly it! You hit the nail on the head!) I’m continuing to enjoy your blog very much. Keep those posts a comin’ – that stretch of time when you didn’t post sent me into “Glenn2point0withdrawal”, so we can’t have any of that again! 😉 (((hugs))) back at ya! Dy

    1. OMG, Bee – this comment of yours lifted my spirits sky high. I felt SO honored and moved when I read it. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express my gratitude to you.

      I know it must have been difficult to reveal having bipolar, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s helpful to get feedback & support. I admire you so much for being candid & vulnerable, and for many other reasons. All my best to you!!!

  7. I would NEVER consider you to be mediocre!!! That old adage about us being our own worst critics is really the truth, isn’t it? You are simply spectacular in your enthusiasm and emotional generosity, dear Dyane. I love you!!

    1. Dang – these comments are golden! Yours takes the uh, sugar-free cake!!!;)

      I love you too and I consider you such a special kindred spirit – if I had known there were people like you out there in the blogosphere, I would have started blogging a long time ago!

      I know how we both feel about sugar, but someday it’s my dream to share some Denali-style Moose Tracks ice cream with you in a beautiful land! We could make our own Moose-like flavor using stevia – I forgot if stevia has an evil affect upon the body?????

      In any case, thank you – thank you – for being utterly original, hilarious, and authentic. You’ve got a reader for life here!

      xoxoxoxoxoxxoxo
      Dy “Ex-Sugar Queen” Harwood

      p.s. Did I already mention to you on your blog that I thought about dressing up as a gory Sugar Industry Spokesman for Halloween???? Either that or spooky teen dream Ross Lynch!

      1. Someday, my friend, someday. We shall sugar-binge together 😉 I think you did mention that you wanted to dress up as the sugar industry! Maybe just two giant sugar cubes?

        Yes the blogosphere is a wonderful and supportive place, isn’t it? What a find. We can just be ourselves and let it all hang out. For realz!!

      2. How about a sugar cube with blood all over it and dollars bills scattered here and there – a few cut-out headshots of sugar industry execs/bigwigs – a print-out of the World Health Organization report -and maybe even a couple see-through plastic bags of pure lard pinned in various areas for good measure??? How bad am I? 😉 I’d do it though…..except my two kids would kill me.

    1. I loved the tweet you wrote (which is similar to your comment) so much that I saved it to print for a “inspiration bulletin board” I hope to create before the new year! I’ll need a pic of you and your dogs and some of your spectacular flower images to make the image complete.

      Your friendship is precious to me. My life got much better after you and your blog (and lest we forget – your tweets!!!) became such a vibrant, inspiring part of it!

      It’s rare to find friends who are the real deal – who understand, encourage and support each other. I struck gold with you. I’m honored at what you wrote here, and I thank God (in my wacky atheist way;) ) for connecting us through the blogosphere.

      Much love always you, my friend!

      1. Thanking God in a wacky atheist way is wonderful. When I was an atheist (at 10 years old), I still prayed at night and tried to kiss the souls of all the dead people. Eventually, I would just fall asleep. There are a lot of dead people.

      2. You’re making me laugh and boy, do I need it because I become a big ‘ol baby with a head cold! At least today I’m out of bed but still taking it easy. That is so sweet that when you were only 10 you wanted to kiss the souls of dead people. That moves me! And since you were an atheist you won’t judge me – yay! But back to the dead people – speaking of all those daed people, have you seen my favorite television show yet? 😉 I keep wanting to write a blog post about why I’m utterly obsessed with “Long Island Medium” – I have some good reasons!

      3. I have watched it once, I believe. Honestly, I think she is sensitive and good at cold reading. At the same time, we do not know everything. Who knows? I watched when she crashed an exercise class and most of the students appeared annoyed that she was interrupting the class and upstaging everybody.

      4. Yeah, that was weird when she crashed the exercise (It was yoga I think, or maybe cross fit) but the whole thing is so staged/scripted…you know the producers come in before and everyone knows what she’s going to do! You’re right – who knows!!!

        I joke with the others in my household that it’s better I watch the brash Long Island Medium rather than the cringefest Honey Boo Boo show or worse, “19 Kids and Counting” (that JimBob and his wife creep me out SO bad – I should be her for Halloween come to think of it) or perhaps even worse “My Five Wives”! And yep, it’s scary that I know all the names of the TLC shows currently on the air! They could do a new show called “Kitt and Dyane Take Their Reactive Dogs to a Dog Park!”

  8. Glad to hear you didn’t give up on the WEGO before you started 🙂 Wendy (and Greg) certainly wouldn’t be endorsing you if you were just mediocre!

    1. Well, I did pay them a sizable check (***just kidding!***) but you’re right, Joe – they wouldn’t believe in me if I was chopped liver. (I’m not a chopped liver fan – apologies to all you chopped liver freaks out there!!) And I know that the moral of the story is that I need to “endorse” myself first before looking to others for validation. I’m learning this lesson – I think everyone is, no matter what their age!

      take care & I’ll be in touch soon about sharing here about your
      AMAZING “MANIC EXPRESSION ” PROJECT that I contributed to, very proudly I may add!

    1. I now have a huge smile on my face after reading your comment, Grief Happens!
      :)))))))

      You too are an inspiration, and I want all good things for *YOU* to happen as soon as possible!

      I’m telling Grief to take a long holiday from you, and I’m inviting Joy to pay you an extended visit! 😉 (That sounds cheesy, and it might be the coffee talking, but I mean it!)

      have a wonderful day, you awesome blogger!

    1. Reading your comment has put a smile on my face and in my heart! 🙂 Thank you for reading and for inspiring me via your blog & Facebook! I’m so thankful that we connected!

    1. Lady L, compared to all the other bloggers and regular ‘ol writers on the planet, I’m not feelin’ like I’m the bee’s knees quite yet, but hearing this from you totally makes me feel good! You’ve always given me encouragement and wonderful praise and thanks from the bottom of my heart, you ***rising star**, you! 😉

    1. Thank you SO Much blahpolar dear – I’m still feeling so blah from my stupid cold & your comments never fail to lift me up – take good care of yourself & have a good day!!!

      p.s. (((hugs)))!!!

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