June 18, 2017
I wrote this three years ago when I made the decision to get serious about publishing my work. At the time I think I had around 600 followers on Medium and now I have over 3,000. I’ve also authored a book, Instability in Six Colors, that shares more of my story living with bipolar disorder, trauma, and suicidality, which is gaining momentum as we speak. I still struggle with doubt, anxiety, and stigma but it hasn’t stopped me yet — and honestly, I don’t think it ever will. 2017 Rachel, you are going to be so proud of 2020 Rachel. And 15 year old Rachel, you have no idea how successful you’ll be — and you deserve it!
I started blogging a few years ago. I’ve always been a writer and after stockpiling pages and pages and pages of poems, stories, lyrical essays, and reflections ever since I was 15 years old, I finally decided to push them out into the universe. And it was really scary at first, to basically publish my vulnerability and circulate all of these secrets, but after a lifetime of stigma, shame, and silence every fiber of my being demanded the opportunity to be authentic. It was time to share my story and the parts of myself that I had kept so close for so long. To love myself meant to be myself. I started the blog for me but it’s been pretty successful. I’ve had a few features on Medium (where I house my blog), editors of various publications have requested and published my work, an Italian newspaper even re-posted one of my stories, people have reached out to share their own experiences, and I think my friends and family have grown to understand me a bit better too.
This process has also boosted my confidence not only as a writer but as someone who can manage her bipolar disorder. In the past two weeks I’ve gained 200 more followers on Medium which is a huge surge for me. It’s exciting but intimidating. People are reading what I have to say, I must be connecting with a larger audience, but I’m also really nervous that I’m going to start disappointing everyone. That every good thing I’ve ever had to say has been written already. I know that isn’t true but it is so easy to be bullied by anxiety and self doubt. I need to remind myself to keep writing, keep posting, and keep giving that 15 year old girl the chance to find hope in her own words.
Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman is an educator, advocate, and writer who has been shacking up with bipolar disorder since 2000. Rachel is an adjunct professor who teaches courses on unpacking ableism (disability oppression) and her speeches, interviews, and writings on the topic have garnered acclaim locally in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, across the United States, and internationally. Her debut book, “Instability in Six Colors,” paints a vivid picture of what it is like living with chronic mental illness, trauma, and a complicated relationship with sanity, safety, and suicide. Rachel’s mission and passion is to create a safe community to empower individuals to look beyond their illness to find themselves. You can buy this bipolar narrative through One Idea Press, a woman-owned independent press based out of Pittsburgh, PA, as a paper copy or ebook. For more of her work please be sure to check out Rachel’s website seebrightness.com and visit her Medium page.