By Kayla J. Marsh
MIDDLETOWN – What would you do if you were diagnosed with a mental illness?
That is the focus of the new memoir “I’m Not Crazy” by local resident Siren Sawyer.
Throughout the book, Sawyer talks candidly about her struggles with bipolar disorder and offers advice to those dealing with any type of mental illness.
“Of the adult population in the United States, 18.2 percent have some sort of mental illness,” Sawyer said. “How does one cope with it when he or she is diagnosed?”
Sawyer said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2005.
“Basically I went undermedicated until 2009,” she said. “I was unable to take care of myself once I got put on new medication, so I moved in with my parents and was also put on disability because I was totally unable to take care of myself.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health website, bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
“Today I am doing much better than I was before,” she said.
Sawyer said “I’m Not Crazy” offered her a way to get all her feelings and thoughts off her chest, while also providing a platform to help those struggling with mental illnesses find hope for the future.
“It was almost like writing a journal,” she said. “When I first started writing the book, I wasn’t writing it for anyone else, I was just writing it for myself and had to get it out of my system … and after I finished, I wanted to help others with disabilities learn that there is hope for the future.”
Sawyer said some inspiration also came from a Facebook page where members posted questions having to do with certain aspects of bipolar disorder.
“People on the page are bipolar themselves or know someone who is bipolar and they ask questions and are looking for answers from people in the community, and I usually answer a lot of those questions just form my experience because it does help other people,” she said.
“I’ve seen people on this page that have a parent, maybe a sibling, a child [diagnosed with bipolar disorder] and they want to know what they can do, how they can help, how to deal with different things regarding their family member.”
Sawyer was an action research fellow at Towson University in Maryland and has three university degrees for accounting, elementary education and instructional technology.
She is currently going for a fourth degree at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“I’m studying for Library Media because I want to work in a public library,” she said. “It is a little hard right now because it has been 10 years since I was in college so now I am trying to get back into the swing of things.”
So how does one cope when diagnosed with a mental illness?
“You have to have structure, you have to have a routine,” Sawyer said. “I have alarms on my phone to remind me to take my medicine and just knowing your triggers and avoiding stressful situations can really make a difference.”