My first book was a “bad-ass guide” to bipolar disorder for teens and twenty-somethings, and as a twenty-something with bipolar myself I was eager to talk about the issues and ideas surrounding mental health with anyone who would listen. However, I soon found out that radio interviews involved more than deep, intellectual conversations with charming and well-informed hosts. Little did I know I was going to do more than talk about mental health—I was about to have my basic sanity tested every time I went on the air.
The “I Hate My Life” Moment
I live on the West Coast, but many of the radio shows I appeared on were based in the East Coast—meaning lots of lovely bleary-eyed five AM interviews when I was (fittingly enough) so zonked from my bipolar meds I could hardly remember my own name.
One morning I dutifully slapped myself awake at the crack of dawn and dragged myself down the hall to my office. I glanced at my interview schedule to check the names of this morning’s hosts.
Big Mike and Bulldog in the Morning?! I thought with a start. This ain’t NPR!
The phone rang a moment later and my not-so-private audience with Big Mike and Bulldog began. Things started off OK—well, for about five seconds. After that, it rapidly became obvious that Big Mike and Bulldog didn’t interview their guests—they competed with each other to see who could be the biggest dick.
The most memorable question of the interview, courtesy of Bulldog: “So if I’m having sex with a bipolar girl, is she gonna, like, flip moods on me halfway through?”
Yeah, Bulldog, once she realizes HOW BIG AN ASSHOLE YOU ARE.
My boyfriend says I came back to bed crying, although by the time I really woke up that morning, I could hardly remember if the interview had really happened or if it was a bad dream.
The “I Am Confused By My Life” Moment
Shortly after my book came out, my boyfriend and I started living in our van. No, it wasn’t part of some crazy book tour—we were literally Dirty Van People for about six months (and probably will be again from time to time as the economy and/or our own aversion to working straight jobs dictates).
Living in a van presented several challenges to a young author trying to actively promote her book. For one thing, no more landline. Doing radio interviews by cell phone is already a no-no. Doing them by cell phone from the front seat of your psychedelic camper van while you’re parked not-so-inconspicuously on a city street it just…crazy.
In the minutes before one memorable early-morning interview, while my boyfriend snoozed in the back of the van, my window was tapped on by:
1. A very friendly but hard-to-get-rid-of Jehovah’s Witness (“I’m sorry, I can’t chat right now, I’ve got a radio interview in a minute.” “What’s it about?” “Mental illness.” “God can help you with mental illness. Let me show you a Bible verse…”)
2. A less friendly and equally hard-to-get-rid-of parking cop (“Ma’am, you’re going to have to move your vehicle.” “Can I have ten minutes for this radio interview?” “It’s a three hundred dollar ticket if you don’t move by 6 AM.” * cell phone starts ringing for the interview *)
The “I Love My Life” Moment
Every once in a while, there’s a moment that redeems all those other moments—one that reminds you why you wrote your book in the first place.
That moment came for me during a live studio interview at a Sirius radio show in New York City. It was the show from heaven—for two whole hours, I got to hang out with an insanely smart psychiatrist from the NYU medical school and chat all things psychology. When we were taking phone calls from listeners, a breathless young woman called to say that she kept Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar But Were Too Freaked Out To Ask in the glove compartment of her car and read her favorite lines every day for inspiration.
The feeling of connecting with just one reader in such a meaningful way really is everything it’s cracked up to be. Whenever I think about that woman, it makes me smile. It’s worth putting up with all the Big Mikes and Bulldogs in the world if it means getting through to her.