Thursday, May 15, 2008

Filed under, "This cannot possibly be happening."

I had a hard day at my internship. I had to say goodbye to a number of clients, whom I'm really going to miss, and someone stole the present I ordered for one of them. (Good thing I had a backup present at my desk in case she didn't like the one I had planned to give her.) I was on the verge of tears all day, and really looking forward to seeing SB tonight. I thought basically nothing but snuggling with him could make me feel better.

Then I saw a Facebook status update from one of my Friends, Mary Downtown, whom I don't really know. (She Friended me randomly a few weeks back; we have one Friend in common, Craig of craigslist. And I don't know him all that well either. But she asked to be my Friend and I agreed.)

Mary thinks it would be fun to run a television network.

Mary's not just blowing steam. She's a television producer. So I wrote on her wall:

If you ever run a TV network, I definitely have a show to pitch you ;)

Which I didn't, but I thought it would be funny.

She thought I was serious:

Pitch it to me anyway...believe it or not I have a pitching meeting next Wednesday with NBC.

Don't be publicizing that or my already full in box will explode! You can trust me. If it's good... ok great... we'll tweak it in time to toss it in as I'm only presenting one.

I figure if that's a go... the spin-off I have in mind will be a breeze. Heck, maybe yours is even better. Shoot me your best pitch. I love to help people if I can. Your timing is lucky because I got the call this morning.

Wow. I have the ear of a TV producer! I cannot let this opportunity escape. What could I pitch?

One of the clients I said good-bye to today loves to write; we've composed and shared little writing exercises in our sessions. As a parting gift I gave her an old 3-subject notebook with tons of fresh paper that I bought to use in grad school but decided was too heavy to carry. And a pen with real ink, not ballpoint. I wrote a little note in the back, passing along two classic pieces of writing advice: "Write about what you know" and "Write something every day." She was thrilled.

Taking the first piece of advice...

Wow. I will definitely keep your secret, because I don't want any competition :)

I propose a reality show about people who live with mental illnesses, all of whom are at varying levels of functioning. Some work as professionals in the mental health care field, or "prosumers"; some are clients of mental health care services, or "consumers." There would be *plenty* of drama, especially if there are a lot of people with bipolar disorder included.

I know several "prosumers" who would love to be on the show. They are all very interesting people with fantastic stories of struggle and triumph. They're smart, they're funny, and they're very real.

I realize it would be difficult to get consent from all the potential clients to appear on the show, but I think it's important to get the message out that people with mental illnesses aren't so different from other people -- they work, go to school, get married, raise families, etc. Their lives just take a whole lot more effort.

You know the saying, "Everything Fred Astaire did, Ginger Rogers did -- backwards and in high heels"? Well, living successfully while coping with a mental disorder is like living life backwards in high heels. You have to work much harder to accomplish the same goals and live a good life. But with support, it's possible.

I guess that could be the working title: "Backwards in High Heels." (We could probably find some drag queens with DSM diagnoses who would be willing to be part of the show.)

Thanks for listening! :)

I used the line about Ginger Rogers today in the wellness/self-management group I've been co-facilitating, so it was top of mind. And I figured I might as well pitch something I know about, especially since there's so much disinformation about mental illness in the media.

I could not have asked for a more enthusiastic response:

You know what? Read it quickly & I love it. It's too good for folks I'm seeing Weds.

A few things came to mind. Let me noodle this in my brain a little... and I will be in touch with you.

It's good. I had something along these lines that I ran by one person who LOVED it and another did not get it at all.

That's how it is. Hit or miss. So, we need to get it to folks who GET IT. Perhaps someone with bipolar while they are in their manic phase!

I'm so politically incorrect. LoL. On a serious note, I have a tremendous respect for mental illness, and I like what you said about mainstream America realizing that society is FILLED with people with mental illness who are functioning... at high levels too.

The cardiothoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is dyslexic and he's the number one heart surgeon. He was recently promoted to the CEO. I interviewed him and was amazed when he told me that. There are countless other people too.

Something happened recently that also fits in with this. I was in a courtroom listening to cases. I could not believe that the judge said to one woman, "It says here that you were diagnosed with bipolar. It also says you are going to law school. How are you going to go to law school if you have bipolar?"

The judge was serious. The individual said she was taking medication. The judge said, "I really think you should rethink this plan. I don't think you can realistically become a lawyer if you have this condition."

I wanted to stand up and SCREAM. Jane Pauley has bipolar. How dare this judge say that! Many creative folks suffer from these things.

So, this is all interesting. As mentioned, let me think about the best way to approach this... and I'll be back in touch with you soon!

Glad we connected. M.

I think I'm in love.

I second every emotion you expressed. Can't wait to talk more about this. Thanks for taking it seriously! btw... loved the "manic phase" joke -- seriously; that's how those of us in the field joke about ourselves. You're talkin' the talk! Ayelet

I have prosumer friends who work at prosumer-run mental health care agencies. (Some of whom read this blog.) We could definitely cast this program in NYC alone. So who knows! I'm still looking forward to seeing SB tonight, but now I'm in a much better mood. Which is good. I don't want to appear too needy too soon.

Also, I told SB it bothered me that he cavalierly declined to let me educate him all about bipolar disorder. SB responded that I hadn't been ready to tell him about the disorder -- he discovered it by accident -- so he'd wait until I was ready to educate him about it. Good answer.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Did you see this article in the NY Times? I thought it was really interesting.