This Is My Story
You’re here because you want to learn about me. You must be in the right place because I’m still trying to learn about me, too. Each day of this beautiful, sometimes painful, life is an opportunity for God to show me more about my weaknesses so he can work through them. And with me, that’s an extra challenge because I have bipolar disorder.
Before I even knew I had bipolar disorder, I wanted to be a writer. In order to make that dream a reality, I made two major decisions to push myself toward my goal. First, I moved to Montana where I could work at a ski resort. This enabled me to work a few months a year and write a few months a year. It gave me a way to build a habit of writing, while still having an income to pay the bills. Second, because I was living on six months of wages, I knew I would have to cut my expenses to the minimum. Choosing to live in poverty means deciding it isn’t necessary to have the latest technology or many other extras.
After six years working and writing in this fashion, I had published two books with Discovery House (Our Daily Bread). I would often write all night and work all day. I knew it wasn’t normal, but I wrote it off as creative enthusiasm because I loved writing. However, I also experienced long periods of depression, which seemed connected to the anxiety of an uneven income.
I didn’t realize at the time that severe swings in mood and sleep patterns are primary symptoms of bipolar disorder. Left untreated, the symptoms become progressively severe. I eventually lost my job at the ski resort because of a severe period of bipolar dysphoria, which is the high energy of mania but it’s negative energy. I think of it as my Incredible Hulk mood. Hey, it isn’t easy being green.
Living by Faith
Finding myself suddenly unemployed forced me to take the next step toward my writing goals. I decided it was time to support myself completely on my writing. My monthly expenses were minimal so there was a chance it would work.
God came through for me about three weeks later when a former contact asked if I would be interested in writing daily devotionals for their website. It was more than enough to pay the bills, but the assignments became irregular and eventually ended.
My anxiety was higher than ever and my faith in God was shaken by the lack of provision. My life began to feel dysfunctional so I began seeking a diagnosis. Coming to grips with having a mental illness is challenging—devastating, actually. I had to muster the courage to seek help and make several appointments until I finally got a diagnosis and treatment could begin.
Then I became a human guinea pig to figure out which medications would work best for me. I tried looking for a Christmas job, but I couldn’t even walk in a straight line because of incorrect meds or doses.
I struggled to come to grips with a mental illness, I was not feeling well from the medications, and I had no way to pay the bills. I applied for a few jobs and prayed for God’s provision once again. It never came. At least it didn’t come financially. I was out of money and stuck in a contract on my apartment—a contract I had renewed in September because I trusted God’s provision.
My landlord called in the middle of November and said the condo had sold. Because of that, I was able to convince the landlord and the new buyer to let me out of my contract. The new owner wanted to begin remodeling immediately, so he was agreeable. I had a week to be moved out—over Thanksgiving weekend. I remember on Thanksgiving Day, after having dinner with my mom and brother, we made a trip to move some of my stuff over to Mom’s house. It sticks in my mind because I moved my couch in my little Honda Fit.
I never dreamed I would be mentally ill, unemployed, and homeless. How did this happen?
But more importantly, I stopped trusting God, in a way. It’s not that I gave up on God, but I no longer believed he would provide for me. This scar has taken me years to recover from, and the healing is still happening.
Never Admit This in Public
I may be a Christian writer, and the author of more than 30 books, but my monthly income from book royalties had never even reached the $200 mark. Ouch. And guess what? Marketing folks have advised me never to admit that in public because “if you share your doubts and defeats in public, readers will lose confidence in you.” Well, I’m ready to break all the “rules” because I think this is a turning point for me. Let me admit it in public:
- I am a Christian.
- I have bipolar disorder (something else I’ve been told never to admit in public).
- I am a struggling author.
Hmm. That didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. How was it for you?
Because of my lack of faith that God would provide, I found myself clinging even tighter to what little I had. Whenever I felt God nudging me to give to the poor, I would remind God, “I AM the poor! Why aren’t people giving to me?”
I became very self-centered, seeking what I could get from people, not what I could give.
The only way I knew to sell books was to nag about it, over-selling to my contacts on my email list or social media. I became a broken record, playing the same annoying song repeatedly. People left my email list in droves.
I seem to have misplaced my author instruction book. Oh wait, there isn’t one.
Social Media Blunders
The downside of having bipolar disorder is the rugged moods I find myself in sometimes. Consequently, I’ve taken social media blunders to an entirely new level. One time I got in an argument with someone over whether she was wasting money by throwing away her nearly empty toothpaste tube instead of squeezing every last bit out for an additional two weeks. Unfriended.
Although I normally avoid politics, my best friend (of many years) posted something political on social media. She was asking a question so I offered an answer. Apparently, it was the wrong answer. Unfriended.
I’ve often made the incorrect assumption that people who raise issues on social media actually want to discuss those issues. In fact, as I have painfully learned, they just want someone to agree with them and pat them on the back for holding such an enlightened view. Until I learned this distinction, I found myself at cross-purposes with other social media friends. Unfriended.
Not good. My people skills suck.
As an author, I’ve been told to “build a platform” of as many social media followers as possible. However, my platform is somewhere in the negative numbers. It’s more of a basement than a platform.
The good news is God’s grace covers all my shortcomings, even my social media blunders. God’s grace covers my brokenness so his power and love flow through me to reach others. (Oops. Did I spill God on you?)
I have bipolar disorder but I don’t have to struggle to change myself. God is changing me from the inside out. The Bible doesn’t say to “transform yourself,” it says to “be transformed.” We cannot change ourselves. Only God can.
God has been changing my attitudes to bring bipolar disorder more under control. He has also been changing my attitudes to make my failures as an author into something of a miracle. It’s something he’s doing, not something I’m striving to achieve.
Moved by Crisis
In early 2017, my mom had a heart attack. It rattled me. She pays a large portion of my bills. If she were to die, what would I do? My health isn’t good enough to work outside the home. But writing hasn’t been viable for me, either.
While becoming my mother’s caretaker, I also launched into a frenzied effort to develop a plan for selling books that would work for me. I really needed to find a way to support myself, before my mom dies, if possible. Plus, I didn’t really trust God to provide for me financially.
I spent 2017 reading more than 50 books on marketing. There were some okay ideas, but a lot of it was whitewash—things that look and sound good but lack the substance of proof that it works. Plus, I’ve always felt disheartened that so much book marketing advice, even among Christians, is contrary to what the Bible seems to say.
The best book I read on the subject, The Go-Giver, resonated with my heart because it was in line with what the Bible taught: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).
Because my sales had always been abysmal, I decided to put God’s principles to the test. Instead of trying to sell my books, I would give them away. In a small experiment for 100 days, I gave away as many books as possible.
Guess what happened?
Halfway through the experiment my book royalties exceeded $300 for a two-week period. That’s nearly twice my highest monthly sales. In two weeks!
Sales techniques never worked for me, but giving did.
Does the Bible Work?
The 100-day experiment yielded amazing results. Was it an unusual bump or will this really work for a longer period of time? There’s only one way to find out. I’m going to extend the experiment for an entire year.
I aim to give 10,000 books in 2018.
That number is unfathomable to me. After all, my annual income is less than $2,000.
Think about that for a moment. For the past five years or more, I have felt disappointed because I felt like God didn’t provide for me when I needed it. Now, without any real income of my own, I intend to give away 10,000 books.
Fortunately, I can do a lot with distributing free ebooks, which cost very little. Plus, I researched a list of charities where I can donate paperback books. And I feel motivated to do something amazing.
I’m determined to give away 10,000 books and the only way I can fail is if I stop giving. The principle of giving and receiving is biblical, but I can’t dictate how I want to receive. I may not receive in the form of increased sales. But I will definitely feel blessed for giving and blessing others. That alone may be healing for me after spending so many years trying to get instead of give.
This Is Your Story
This is my story, but I want it to be your story, as well. The Bible says we ought to “excel also in this gracious act of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
I encourage you to join me in the grace of giving this year. Giving doesn’t have to cost anything. You can give a smile, a hug, or your time, all at no cost. I’d like you to consider giving something every day in 2018. To encourage you to look for opportunities to give each day, I want to give you a free calendar chart you can use to make note of what you gave each day.
Join my friend list to stay apprised of my giving experiment this year and I’ll send you the PDF calendar chart for your own giving experiment. Let’s learn what God wants to teach us about giving this year.