Mental Illness


In the past week, there was a mass shooting in Oregon, which drew the focus of the national media and the ire of President Obama who used it as another opportunity to push the gun control debate, as well as two shootings in Baltimore, which unsurprisingly have drawn less attention.

Apparently, it's National Mental Health Awareness Week, but there's not been much consciousness raising in my opinion, and we're hearing very little about mental illness in general, except in relation to this mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, which left 10 people dead, including the gunman, and nine people injured. One bright spot this week was when the host of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver, delivered this incisive segment on his show: 

Instead of focusing on gun control, talking mental illness, when the mentally ill are more likely to be victims-- not perpetrators-- of gun violence, is simply misdirection. 

This girl read "Fast Girl" really fast

Suzy Favor Hamilton's memoir "Fast Girl" just came out a week ago and I got my hands on it at the Brooklyn Public Library and flew through it. (Incidentally, I'm doing the library a lot these days because I'm currently sans money, and also-- did you know?-- libraries are awesome.) 

Favor Hamilton is a three-time Olympic middle-distance runner, and a bipolar. I have a theory about runners' personalities. In the season I ran track in high school, I was a short-distance runner. In my experience, sprinters are a different breed from the long-distance runners-- cut from a different cloth. We sprinters, running the 100-meter, 200-meter, are extroverts--impatient and maybe even intellectually lazy because things come, you got it, faster for us. When I was in high school, the long-distance runners, I noticed, were more introverted, less joining, and the cross-country kids in college were among the most intellectual of us all, going on to get Ph.D.'s and filling the ranks of top tier academia. It makes sense that the long-distance runners have the more cerebral ethos given the technique and strategy they have to deploy to win the long game. No doubt we sprinters have technique, strategy and work ethic, too, but let's be real; mostly it's just (a) push off the starting block as hard as you can, and (b) run as fast as you can for less than 10 seconds. Middle-distance runners, I suppose, have to bridge those two extremes.

Favor Hamilton's memoir traces the arc of her life from her first successes as a young runner to her astounding athletic achievements in college, to her disappointing showings at the Olympics, and finally to her explosively self-destructive mania when she became "Kelly," Las Vegas' Number 2 escort. She was ultimately outed and subsequently diagnosed with bipolar. The memoir, written in conjunction with Sarah Tomlinson, is an easy read and the story moves very quickly-- no boring stuff and thank God, no groan-inducing terrible writing. The book is very tightly structured, and it's clear she wrote partly as a way to educate her readers about mental illness (Her brother also suffered from bipolar and committed suicide when she was younger.)-- and she does this without being insufferable! A true achievement! I enjoyed most her times in college when she was kicking major ass as an athlete as well as of course the more prurient details of the double life she led as a Las Vegas escort. After all, I like to read about people (a) succeeding and (b) having sex, just as much as the next person. Favor Hamilton's memoir deserves to be a success. 

Working hard or hardly working, mate?

I am working hard, but I am hardly painting, because I'm in the throes of finishing my book, Head Study: A Life In Two Extremes.

For the first time in a while though, I'm also doing a lot of reading, which isn't always possible when you're in a medically-induced brain-fog. In a brain-fog, medically-induced or not, you get stupid. Very stupid. 

I'm reading a lot of bipolar memoirs. You'd think that this would be gun-to-the-head depressing, but it's only claw-your-eyes-out annoying. Juuuuuust kidding. There are a lot of meh memoirs out there, and there are a lot of overtly titillating ones, too (I say "overtly" because it's so obvious some editor went to the author and was like, you gotta sex this shit up.). 

One memoir that is on all the "Best" lists is Andy Behrman's Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, and it is freaking fantastic. Reading it reminds me of the time in high school when I was skiing in Aspen and coming down a hill too fast and couldn't stop and freaked out and closed my eyes and then slammed into a tree-- with my head. I had to be strapped down on a gurney, and skied down the mountain. I suffered a concussion worthy of a Texas football player and got about 14 stitches on the left side of my head behind my ear, which was hanging on by a thread (of skin). Things had been going so fast and careening out of control, and life could only stop once the earth had tasted blood.

That's what Andy Behrman's mania feels like. 

Dinner party at President Street

My best friend Amy and I used to live in Park Slope, on President Street. We've become really good friends with the two ladies who've taken over our old apartment, so it feels like the place has stayed "in the family." The four of us try to meet up periodically and have dinner over at The Hearth on President to catch up. 

The menu this time was tacos, and they were amazing, but I was on a big time cleanse so I held back for the most part (womp, womp). Nicole, Leni and Amy have been incredibly supportive since my divorce and my move back to Brooklyn after LA and Houston-- and there's been nothing but total awesomeness re: this cleanse I'm on, which is actually pretty simple: no drinking (because I was drinking heavily ALL the time, whenever I was alone and bored, too) and no eating anything but protein and vegetables. Turns out you feel better when you're not drinking like a fish and eating like a pig. 

I took about an hour to do a quick sketch of the three of them at the dinner table while they were drinking the fun juice and eating the tacos: 

Incidentally, I was getting a lot of flack about my weight for a while from my dad. (He's not a bad dude- it's just a cultural thing. Ahhh, Korea.) Over the past year, I gained about...wait for it...20 pounds! CRAZY! I'm 5'2", so anything more than two pounds is quite noticeable on my small frame. I think I was loving drinking like a fish and eating like a pig, but also I am on a VERY high dosage of Abilify, an anti-psychotic notorious for causing weight-gain. It's also notorious for being awesome for bipolar people, so you just go with the flow sometimes. Anyway, the cleanse helped. Here's a picture of me from that night at The Hearth, where I'm striking distance of striking distance of my normal weight: 

You gotta read this email exchange I had with my brother and my dad which ensued after I sent them the picture:  

I guess I have cheekbones again and I look skiny. 

Rebranding of this blog

I'm rebranding this blog. When I did blog before, from my old website, I usually only put up articles about realist painting, events I was participating in, and stuff I was doing in the studio. I migrated all those old posts here in case you're interested, but now I want to talk more broadly AND more specifically. I want to talk about the creative life as I live it: both as a writer and a painter, and as a person who used to use her professional work to medicate and manage bipolar illness. (Hint: Not a great idea.) 


I guess that means putting up pictures of Rumi quotes I've written in my diary. Not cheesy at all.