Born into a dysfunctional family as the youngest of four girls, I experienced a childhood that shaped my future.

One of the earliest signs that I was having difficulties mentally was when I was 10 years old and my dad dropped me off at a house to spend the night with other people. I remember being hyper and obsessively recording all the songs from Casey Kasem’s Top 100 of the year, writing down each one.

When I was 12, I swung on a tire swing for five and a half hours straight—no bathroom breaks—at home with Mom and my step dad.

At my worst, I was promiscuous in my 20s. I would also order items from catalogs that I didn’t remember ordering and write hot checks I didn’t remember writing. This was before I was diagnosed at 27 with bipolar disorder. Later, I found out through Mom in 2010 that I had been diagnosed at 14 but the doctors weren’t allowed to write that in a child’s chart.

What helped me move from where I was then to where I am now was medication, therapy, sobriety, and work. Although I’ve had over 75 jobs and have worked since I was 12, only in the past seven years have I been able to hold the same job. I always knew I wanted to be a writer ever since the third grade, when I got an A+ on a story I wrote. I loved it and wrote every chance I got.

When I was eight, I was devastated to learn that my parents were divorcing. My older sister became my hero. She also became the surrogate mother in our newly formed mini-family. She fluffed my pajamas in the dryer before bed, sewed my scout badges on my uniform, comforted me when kids made fun of me, and read me stories. I concocted a fantasy world to counteract my childhood.

I’ve learned I can withstand a lot of pain.  I have judged people only to find out they’re dealing with a lot more than me. I can have a horrible, suicidal day, then have a great day and, with my gift of writing, I can give my daughter many words of comfort.

I stay on the right path by staying sober, taking my meds regularly, exercising, working with rescue animals, writing, pursuing my dream of being a writer again, working, making amends, keeping comedy in my life (since humor has gotten me through so much), helping others, and staying close to my sister.