It's not just a blog award.
The "I Choose To Live" Awards will be given to bloggers who have lived through a period of suicidality, due to a mental illness or an addiction or eating disorder (or combination of the above), or other reason, yet chose to fight to stay alive, and combat their thoughts of suicide. The purpose of this is to spread awareness that there is hope for people living with mental health problems and feeling like they have no reason to go on. There is hope, and it's important to hold onto hope. Things do get better with time, and especially with appropriate treatment. The award recipients listed here have chosen, and continue to choose, to deal with their problems, whatever they may be, without giving up. They are resilient and determined.
If you qualify for one of these awards, simply email me, Jennifer, and let me know that you write a blog where you discuss a history of feeling suicidal or having a mental illness, or currently experiencing a psychiatric illness that is ongoing, yet you have actively chosen to keep going. I will be happy to give you an "I Choose to Live" Award, and list your blog link on this page.
About the design of the award:
There is an iris on the right-hand side of the award badge, which is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's paintings of irises which he created while being confined to a psychiatric hospital during his short life as a prolific painter. I was recently the recipient of an Iris Award, given to me from my local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The local NAMI chapter gives out several iris awards each year to people who have advocated for more awareness about mental illness or done something to help a person with a psychiatric illness. For example, several police officers who assisted people in crisis situations and prevented them from committing suicide were recipients of Iris Awards from NAMI Pinellas this year. I was honored to be among the crowd of reward recipients, and I wanted to create a way for me to give out a similar award on the internet.
The small daisies on the award are because daisies are a flower that survives all kinds of damage and weather. Here is a quote to explain:
"It's Latin name may come from bellis, meaning beautiful, so Bellis Perennis can be translated to perennial beauty, as the daisy flowers for so long. Or bellis may come from bellum, Latin for war, because it grew in fields of battle, and can staunch bleeding and reduce bruising and shock. One of the daisy's old names is bruisewort. The cheerful little daisy is a symbol of innocence because of its association with children, and of survival. Daisies adapt to almost any landscape and soil type, and will survive being trodden underfoot and all the indignities of the hoe and the lawnmower."
-Anne McIntyre, Flower Power
And here is what Anne Sexton had to say about the cheerful, little flowers: "Daisies in water are the longest lasting flower you can give to someone. Fact. Buy daisies, not roses."
The graphic design was done by Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the recipients, so far of the "I Choose to Live" award:
Kate Kiernan is the first winner of this award for her blog Yin and Yang. A prolific artist, singer, and writer, Kate shares her creative ventures, as well as her interests in Buddhism, meditation, and spiritual pursuits, while describing her journey through recovering from Schizophrenia. Kate's blog offers proof that there is reason to have hope for improvement from a serious mental illness, and that if one actively works to improve one's life, her life will improve. You should definitely check out Kate's blog as well as her art work that she sometimes posts there.
Vic has two blogs: So It Goes a Bit Like This, where she discusses trials and triumphs related to an eating disorder, addiction to self-mutilation, and other issues, with raw honesty and humility, and the lovely Bow It Up, which is all about bows, and "dressing up in grannies' clothes" among other, fashion-related, happy tales. She has been through some rough spots, but continues to persevere. I was directed to Vic's blogs from Jessie.
Jessie's blog, Synecdoche (which has such a clever title) is another awesome one I found through my internet travels lately. She discusses life with an eating disorder and related problems, the realities of recovery and how difficult that can be, discoveries about herself, and her refusal to give up as she strives to live, get better, and face her difficulties with courage. I immediately liked the honesty in Jessie's posts and you will too. So head on over there.
Handsome B. Wonderful has an awesome, political and personal blog. He lives with Schizoaffective Disorder, and one of the great things about his blog is that he actively works to combat stigma and create awareness, as well as provide education about mental illnesses. His blog is called Letters from the Sanitarium and highly recommend it. His wit and humor will keep you laughing and his heartfelt descriptions of the hell of mental illness, will reach your heart. You will know, when you read this blog, that if you have Schizoaffective Disorder, you are NOT alone.
Marcella Chester lived through a date rape when she was fifteen years old, and transformed that experience into becoming an advocate for women and someone who spreads awareness about sexual assault. Her blog abyss2hope covers just what it says, travels from the abyss to a world of hope. She also runs a great website called Date Rape is Real Rape.
Update: July 14, 2010: congratulations to the new winners, listed below!
Yumers' blog is about ECT treatment for depression and is frequently updated with lots of useful information. It's called Jumpstarting a Life with a Little Spark to the Head. And thanks to a recommendation from Yumers, the next blog award goes to:
Amy K. who writes about life with Fibromyalgia, PTSD, and depression, but is always full of hope. It's called Una Vita Bella (A Beautiful Life).
Sairs writes about life with her eating disorder, coping with it, receiving treatment, and more at This Lunatic Express.
Lil writes about life with Borderline Personality Disorder, binge eating, depression, and always looking forward at Bowling with Borderline Lil. Lil lives with several physical and psychiatric challenges, but she meets them with humor, wisdom, grace, and perseverance, something that not everyone can do. Her blog is one that I keep up with more than most others, because she always has something interesting to say.
Deb/Bipolar Chick discusses life with Bipolar Disorder, combating stigma, living through suicidal urges, coping with physical health problems, and changing the way the world views mental illness on her blogs:
Between the Broken Places and La Bella Pazza (crazy beautiful), which you might want to check out.
Fighting the Darkness: My Secret Battle with Depression is an excellent blog because it talks not only about the illnesses the author deals with, but about triumphs as well.
Jax's Movie List is a blog by a person who lives with Bipolar Disorder and has survived suicidality. Her blog is about movies, but I think she deserves the award anyway.
Update, early 2011:
The Depressed Reader writes very well and describes his dealings with depression, coping with it, and overcoming many of it's effects. He has come a long way since I first read his blog in 2010 and he has a great deal of insight into the illness, and very succinct descriptions of the symptoms of depression and how it has affected him. I think he has a very positive outlook on life in general and definitely recommend his blog if you are dealing with depression, or any other mental illness, as it will let you know that you are not alone and remind you that it is possible to feel better and to go on with your life.
Update, February 2011, Many New Winners!:
Hilary writes a blog with the same title as her book: Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar But Were Too Afraid to Ask, where she writes eloquently with wit and humor about her life with Bipolar Disorder. Her book is geared towards younger adults with Bipolar who might need to find answers that fit their lives, which they can't find elsewhere, and it has received raving reviews. I plan to read it soon! Hilary is a talented writer, poet, and explorer of the world. Her travels and insights are interesting and informative.
Susan has been a steadfast writer at her excellent blog, If You're Going Through Hell Keep Going, for a very long time. She has met the challenges of recovery from substance abuse and Bipolar Disorder with intelligence, fortitude, humor, and humility. She is bright, insightful, and always doing research and reading into all possible modes of dealing with her illness, including alternative treatments. She shares great information on a wide variety of tactics for facing mental illness, and continuously meets the challenges the illness has brought her including severe side effects from medications. Susan never gives up, and her writing will remind you not to give up, too.
In The Pink writes the frequently updated, Nod If You Hear Me: A Bipolar Blog, where she takes you along with her on her travels through mental illness and recovery. She takes a very proactive stance on recovering from her illness, utilizing available treatments, and working hard at them. She looks at the bright side of things whenever possible, wisely analyzes situations in her life, and offers a good example of someone who has taken her difficulties into her own hands and dealt with them head-on. She offers a lot of wisdom she has learned through her journey, which might be useful to you.
Ten years after she was diagnosed with depression, Etta started her blog, Depression Marathon where she catalogues her valiant effort to take on her depressive illness and recover from it through running. Marathon, after marathon, her depression lessens and her sobriety seems to have helped her a great deal too. She is a testament to the power of exercise to help heal mental illness for some people. Her running is not something everyone can do, but it is inspiring to read about all that she takes on physically, and how much it has helped her mentally.
"J" started her blog, Erat Hora, named after an Ezra Pound poem she loves, recently. She talks about the various aspects of her "magical journey" through life, and while her blog does not discuss mental illness very much so far, she does say she lives with it, so her blog qualifies for this award, as she is a person living her life with mental illness, and not letting it define her. She chooses to live.
Karen May Sorenson writes very thoughtful, well-written posts about living with Schizoaffective Disorder, getting treatment, and her painting, on her blog, Dignify Me. When you first visit her blog, make sure to read her profile description about how God created her, asked her if she wanted a life with Schizoaffective Disorder and the challenges it would bring, and she said yes, she would. I love that little story, because it shows that she does not view herself as cursed by mental illness. She has a great attitude about having Schizoaffective Disorder, and is definitely dignified.
Update April, 2012
Maybe there are more pro-recovery mental health blogs in the blogosphere than there used to be, or maybe I'm just finding more. But I am happy to add many new recipients of the "I Choose to Live Award" for the beginning of 2012.
A Schizo in a Strange Land, formerly titled Dancing with Psychosis is Gemma's blog about life with Schizoaffective Disorder. Since I have this same disorder, and we have some of the same symptoms and take some of the same medications, I really relate to her blog well. She tells her triumphs, and her troubles, her recurring symptoms of hallucinations and delusions, and all the work that she is doing to treat those symptoms and continue to live a productive life. She is honest, forthright, and educated. This is a pro-treatment, pro-recovery blog!
Adventures in Anxiety Land: Fearsome and Funny Times Living With OCD, Complex PTSD, Depression, Panic Disorder, GAD, Phobias, Social Anxiety and SAD is Blue Morpho's impressive blog about all of the above mentioned disorders and how it is to live and thrive with them, despite close escapes.
Saeneen: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive is a blog on Bipolar Disorder and "the mentally interesting". It is written with humor, and intelligence, and focuses on recovery and improvements. Saeneen is soon to be married.
Daily Bipolar is Meredith's blog, where she talks about her life with the ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder, the difficulties, and struggles, but also the overcoming of it, the successes she achieves, and everyday things that make her happy. She is a great writer, and it is always an interesting read. Meredith is a professional writer and a librarian.
Stalled at Twelve is Mary's blog about late-onset Schizophrenia and life with it. She writes with incredible wit, hilarious humor, and a fascinating take on life. Brilliant.
Touched by an Alien: Life as I Know It is Laura's blog about life with Asperger's Syndrome and anxiety. Statistically, young people with Asperger's have a higher rate of suicide than other children. Laura is getting her Master's Degree.
Confessions of a Serial Insomniac is written Pandora who always calls it like she sees it. She writes about where reality begins and delusions end, what it's like to live with a serious mental illness, and her advocacy work to create awareness. She has a popular blog and I can see why. She is incredibly amusing and honest.
UII: Understanding Invisible Illnesses is Jen Pettit's blog where she writes about her own invisible disabilities, as well as all chronic illness. She is an admirable, avid health activist raising awareness about invisible illnesses. As mental illnesses are invisible illnesses, she is inclusive of those of us with these disorders on her blog and had me write a guest for it once.
My Wrenched Brain is Midnight Rainbow's blog where she writes about Bipolar Disorder and childhood abuse, as well as how these obstacles act together to cause difficulties for her which she faces on a regular basis.
Ben Behind His Voices is a parents' blog about their son's Schizophrenia. They are authors of the book, Ben Behind His Voices: One Family's Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope. They post timely, relevant articles, updates on their advocacy work, and how their son is doing.
Bipolar: Crazy Mermaid's Blog will give you Crazy Mermaid's insightful, and very lucid descriptions of what life is like when in the midst of delusions or hallucinations, because she has been through hell and back with psychosis and is here to tell you about it. She is a survivor.
Overcoming Schizophrenia is Ashley's blog, which I have been keeping up with for years. She is a peer activist, advocate and public speaker on mental illness, who lives with Schizophrenia. She created the organization Embracing My Mind, and you can find information about that on her blog. Ashley has gone through much difficulty with her illness and has come quite far in her recovery. Her efforts to help others are admirable.
Hope for the Flowers, named after the beautiful book by that name, is Stephi's blog about life with depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder in South Africa. She writes about her life, and her recovery.
Reactive Candy is Miss Candy's blog about dealing with chronic depression and caring for her inner child. I just came across this blog recently.
Obsessively Compulsively Yours is another blog I came across recently by Belsie, who lives with OCD and writes about dealing with that disorder, taking medications for it, research, and her life. As many of us with mental illnesses have more than one such illness, and I have a mild form of OCD myself, I recommend checking out this blog.
Once Around the Cuckoo's Nest: A Guided Tour Through Mental Illness is Janae's blog about life with Schizoaffective Disorder, in which she writes candidly about her symptoms and her treatment. She is a strong survivor.
Define Functioning is Backward E's brilliant project to create a community where people who are considered "higher functioning" can come and talk about what that means to them, and what life is like on this side of mental illness. It is a great topic for discussion and she posts many interesting threads that you should definitely check out if you are a person with a mental illness.
Lucid Intervals is an interesting blog about life with Bipolar Disorder. I just came across this blog recently but it is definitely worth checking out!
Life on the Domestic Front is Chelle's funny blog about life full of challenges: Bipolar Disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, having an Autistic child, and being a parent in general. She never loses hope, always finds something interesting to say, and is a great writer.
There will be more award recipients here in the future. Feel free to recommend someone (*including yourself), by emailing me.
The below poem by Anne Sexton, who suffered from a mental illness, is in her collection Live or Die (1966), and is here for inspiration:
Live or die, but don’t poison everything. . .
Well, death's been here
for a long time —
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart's doodle.
The chief ingredient
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody's mother,
the damn bitch!
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became a perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I played it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody's doll.
Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don't like to be told
that you're sick
and then be forced
down with the hammer.
Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize —
and you realize that she does this daily!
I'd known she was a purifier
but I hadn't thought
she was solid,
hadn't known she was an answer.
God! It's a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchins,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I'm on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I'm ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.