How Hot Mess Really Became “The Bipolar Hot Mess”: The story of how I went from a paralegal with a bipolar diagnosis, to mental health advocate with a catchy name

I’ve never really told the whole story.  I mean, bits and pieces are told in passing, pieces are posted in my different bio pages for the different organizations and sites that I have written for, but I have never really sat down and publicly told the full story of how I became “The Bipolar Hot Mess.”  Those who know me, saw the transformation and witnessed all the baby steps that I took to get to where I am.  I wrote this, well, a variation of this, in an email to one of my very loyal Hot Mess followers when I received a card in the mail from her in response to the holiday cards I sent out this year.  When I received her card, I immediately ran to my computer to shoot off an email to her to let her know how much her card meant to me.  In that email, well, with my pDoc tweaking my med buffet, I was a bit hypomanic, so I babbled on, and on……. AND ON. However, in that message, I told the story of how I went from just a 20 something year old paralegal at a top Chicago law firm, to author at Ask A Bipolar, to blogger named “Pocket Christi” and blogger for International Bipolar Foundation, who then transformed from “Pocket Christi” into “The Bipolar Hot Mess” and VOILA! Here we are, March 2014 and we are celebrating the 2 year anniversary of Musings of The Bipolar Hot Mess.

I can’t think of a better time to actually tell this story either.  I didn’t just become “The Hot Mess” or “The Bipolar Hot Mess” overnight.  I have gone through and analyzed all the statistics for the lifetime of the Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess Facebook page trying to determine if there was one specific time period or event, some defining moment where I just exploded.  The only thing I could find was one week where I gained over 500 followers, and then it took off from there, BUT, that was not until MONTHS, almost 8 months, after I had started blogging as “The Bipolar Hot Mess” and had been doing my writing at Ask A Bipolar and International Bipolar Foundation under my real name that it took off.

So, for those who have bipolar and want a story of hope and success?  Well,  I may not be exactly where I want to be right now, or at my fullest potential, BUT, I AM at a place where I am reaching others and helping them through the times they need the help and inspiration.  I do have a large number of people who see my posts each day and I consider every one of them not just a “follower” of me or my page, but I consider them all a part of The Hot Mess Family!  We are all in this together and support each other.  The Bipolar Hot Mess website, Facebook page, etc. are not about me and my success, but about how those with mental illness can all come together and support each other to help EVERYONE achieve success through not only inspiration, but education about the illness and advocacy.  Another thing to note is that The Hot Mess Family is not just made up of people who have bipolar disorder, but friends, family and others who want to learn more about the illness and want to be able to be support systems to those who have this illness, as well as other Facebook pages of all types who have found that they fit right in to the Hot Mess Family.  It’s not about my own personal success, but about me being a voice to those who are unable to put things into words or do not have the strength right now to be their own advocates.

So, before I babble anymore, lets get right down to it.  Here is my story, as told to one of my fellow Hot Messers, not in its exact words (as this is a post and not an email, so I formatted and edited accordingly) but the basics.

Your card really boosted my mood and made me smile! It reminded me that even though I too have my bad days, like all of you, you guys are all still there for me as well, as part of the Hot Mess Family! Sister Hot Mess and I are always happy to hear from you and know that you are still hanging on for the ride with us! I am glad I have been able to lead you to other mental health sites as well. Some of the other page admins are wonderful people and are some of my best friends.

I don’t know if you follow Ask A Bipolar, but that is actually the page that gave me my start in the mental health field. It was founded by one of my now best friends, Marybeth Smith (the author of Fall Girl, and Stumble and Fall), and after the site was active for about 6 months or so, I stumbled upon it. They happened to be looking for new authors at that time, and I submitted a writing sample to them, just on a whim, not even thinking I would even remotely be considered since I had NO formal writing experience. All I had was a little tiny blog that was more like my diary, and it was called “Pocket Christi” and followed by only 20-30 of my friends that recanted stories of the ridiculous things that would happen in my life to either me or me and my husband etc. While the stories were so ridiculous, you couldn’t have even made up the scenarios, everyone else loved hearing the stories because they were so crazy. Regardless of my friends opinions, I never considered doing any professional writing. So, it was completely on a whim that I submitted a sample to Marybeth at Ask A Bipolar and a few days later, I had my first “guest post” up there. The Facebook page for Ask A Bipolar had less than 100 people when I first came aboard.  A few months after I started writing, I had been trying to market the site and gain more followers, we had a Twitter account with a huge set of followers, our FB page was gaining followers fast, we were scoring interviews with famous authors, and we decided to put out a book with some of our most viewed and most popular posts.   Marybeth even asked me to be her partner on the site!

During my time as author and prior to becoming partner,  International Bipolar Foundation introduced that they would be having monthly bloggers and I began blogging for them as well. (Actually many of the Ask A Bipolar authors have been, or still are, monthly bloggers for them.) International Bipolar Foundation published a book and initially, I was asked to write a research article for them about bipolar disorder in the workplace that was to be included in the book, but my career as a paralegal had me swamped at the office and due to the lack of extra time, I had to decline. I was disappointed, but a few weeks later, they came back and said they had looked at previous blogs I had written for them and one of them would be PERFECT for their chapter, in lieu of the research article. So, my blog post ended up being published in their book called “Healthy Living With Bipolar Disorder.”

I started my blog, “Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess” in March 2012.   Prior to that, it was called Pocket Christi and didn’t talk directly about mental health. Marybeth helped me transform my Pocket Christi blog into a website.  However, after I started blogging for International Bipolar Foundation, and with my writing for Ask A Bipolar, I decided that I wanted to do something with my writing that was targeted toward mental health, but wanted it to be more about my own journey with mental health and wanted to incorporate my Pocket Christi stories too. That was when I came up with the idea of “Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess.”  With Marybeth’s help, I learned how to use Word Press for my Pocket Christi blog and I was then able to create my own website (she did the back end work for me). I launched a Facebook  page and “The Bipolar Hot Mess” was born.

I didn’t work on Musings of A Bipolar Hot Mess very much because I was busy with Ask A Bipolar, my paralegal job, and writing for International Bipolar Foundation,  so I didn’t really do much marketing for it either. Just recently, I have gone back and looked at the statistics for  the Facebook page that began March 30, 2012. I did not reach 1,000 followers until November 23, 2012, Back on Sept 14, 2012, I had about 200 followers on my page and I have no idea what happened, someone, or some big page apparently, must have stumbled upon me and shared me because from Sept 14 when I had 225 likes, I had skyrocketed to 761 on October 14!  In one month, I had gained over 500 followers and had NO IDEA HOW! From that point on, the Bipolar Hot Mess just grew, almost 1,000 new followers every month or two. On November 23, 2012 I reached 1,000 and almost exactly one year later, on November 26, 2013, I reached 10,000!

To this day, I have no idea how I got that initial jumpstart of over 500 people in one month, but from that point on, it just kept growing and growing! It was growing faster than I could keep up with! I stopped writing for International Bipolar Foundation, I began to slack on my duties at Ask A Bipolar just trying to keep up with the Hot Mess empire that was growing! Now, back in March 2012 is when I went from short term disability to long-term disability with my job. I was using the  “Hot Mess” page as a way to cope with not being able to work and it was at that time that I decided I had to leave my husband and wanted a divorce so I really wanted Hot Mess to be my outlet and writing that I couldn’t do on Ask A Bipolar because Ask A Bipolar isn’t really a forum for me to write out everything I was feeling and what was happening in my life, like I had been doing with Pocket Christi.  It was to explore me being taken out of the workforce due to an illness that I had been writing about and had been living and working successfully with for about 6-7 years, and then suddenly crashing. Not only did my career (I am a workaholic. I got 2 bachelors degrees, graduated college with honors, and always worked 1-2-3 jobs during the summers to pay for my own college, then at all my jobs after college, always worked as many hours as I could, overtime, I would be at the office from 7am-10pm and even come in on weekends. My career and going to law school was everything to me. I did go to law school for a year, and ended up back doing paralegal work in 2008, but that is when I started working for the law firm I worked at when I went on disability in 2012.), which was EVERYTHING to me, wiped out from right under me, but so was my marriage and my relationship with my husband.

I had started dating my ex-husband in 2004, just one year after I graduated college. I had moved in with him about two years later, and we were married in July 2009. I was diagnosed with bipolar in August 2006, so he was with me right from the beginning. So, losing my career to my illness as well as my husband, all at the same time, I needed SOMETHING, and that’s what Hot Mess was. It was the place for me to fall apart and show others with bipolar disorder that they are not the only ones that fall apart and that it’s ok to fall apart because you will get the pieces back together. I didn’t care about how big or small my page was.   For me, all I wanted was a place to let it all out and hopefully help a few people along the way. Well, those few people have now turned into more than 11,500 people! n January, the decision was made that I was going to be running Ask A Bipolar as my own! So, now, in addition to the success that Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess, I have full control of the very site that gave me my beginning. The girl who took a chance on me. Ask A Bipolar has over 1,600 people on their Facebook page, and their website gets MUCH more traffic, but it’s a totally different concept than the Hot Mess empire. I will always have a place for Ask A Bipolar in my heart and will not let the website die. Not only did it give me MY start, but there are a few bloggers out there that also got their start blogging with Ask A Bipolar as well.

You are probably at this point thinking, “Why in the hell is the Hot Mess rambling on and on about all this nonsense to me?” And I’m sorry if my long-winded tale has bored you (I hope not), but I tell you this because people look at my page and look at all the other endeavors that I have going (the Crime page, the private groups, the Twitter, YouTube, other social media accounts etc.) and I sometimes feel that people can think that I am an expert, or that I have everything put together and everything runs smoothly in my life. Yes, I have a lot of great accomplishments and successes, but I am just like each and every one of you guys, my followers and Hot Mess Family members. I have my ups and downs. I have anxiety attacks. I have social anxiety. I have some PTSD. I struggle with my eating disorders sometimes. I am on disability. I take a buffet of medications and have to do all different kinds of coping mechanisms myself. I do still self harm on occassions. I have gone through a devestating break up in the last month. My med cocktail still is being tweaked. I may have a lot of people that have hit “like” on my page, and I may have a lot of people who “share” my graphics and read my posts, but out of it all, and at the end of the day, what is most important to me is knowing that no matter what I posted that day (if I posted anything at all), or what people have seen when they clicked on my page, has had an impact on at least ONE person. One person has seen something that has made them feel better in some way, shape or form. Whether it put a smile on their face, whether it made them feel like they weren’t alone in their journey, whether they finally felt like there was someone who understood them, those are the things that I appreciate the most. When I get an email from a Hot Mess family member giving me an update on their progress, or letting me know how something I posted, or said, or did, helped them in some way, or just getting messages from Hot Mess Family Members that just say “Thank you for having your page,” THOSE are the things that I appreciate the most. I especially appreciate those that visit the page and comment often. I like getting to know some of my avid followers. It also means sooooo incredibly much to me when I receive something from people who follow my page. The fact that you guys take the time out to send ME something, it just means the world to me. It shows me that I really am making a difference in people’s lives. There are many days that I just want to shut down the page because I get overwhelmed with the work that it does take to keep it going and I just physically feel like I have nothing left to give, and it ends up usually being one of those days that I get a message from someone, or something in the mail from someone, thanking me for my page or for something I said or just wishing ME well. And when I get that, I feel like a complete idiot for ever thinking about shutting the page down to begin with!

So today, when I saw a card sitting on the table at the top of my mail pile addressed to “The Bipolar Hot Mess”, I got a huge smile on my face, and then when I saw that it had come from you, I got even more excited and IMMEDIATELY got on my cell phone and started to call Sister Hot Mess to tell her what had arrived. As the call was ringing, she walked right in the front door!  I raced over to her and showed her the envelope and her eyes also lit up like a little kid on Christmas morning! Hot Mess Mom was trying to figure out why her two grown daughters were jumping up and down excited about a piece of “snail mail” (which is normally bills lol). We explained that it came from not just any follower, but one that is very interactive with us on our pages, and Hot Mess Mom was also very excited.

 The things that you guys, our followers, do, even just commenting on our posts, or sending us a message that just says hi, or anything, means so much to us as page admins, and as people. We really are just like all of you, and not just computers that push out automatic content. We appreciate our followers just as much, if not more, than I think they appreciate us! It really makes me happy to know that what occurs on my page really, truly, does make a difference in someone else’s life. None of us get paid to be page admins. We don’t make money off of our websites or pages or blogs etc. We find our rewards in people like you and with gestures like yours, sending us a simple card. That means more to me than any paycheck, that is for sure.

I have a special box that I have decorated that is specifically for things that “The Bipolar Hot Mess” receives. I save them all! So your card will be going in that box. Whenever I begin to feel bad or doubt the direction I am going in life, I open that box and it gives me a lot of perspective. So, your card is now part of the box that helps keep my perspective.

I appreciate it so much. Thank you. And please know, that I do notice when you come and go on the page. There are times that I don’t see any comments or you clicking “like” on graphics and such, and after a few days, if I haven’t seen anything from you, I do wonder if everything is ok, and I hope that things are, and I do keep you in my thoughts. There are a handful of people who have been avid followers that I keep track of because they do comment and interact with me so often. You are one of those. I also 

Thank you again for the card! I’m sure that Sister Hot Mess will be showing up in your inbox at some point today to thank you as well. You really put some smiles and life in the Hot Mess House today!

~christi~

And that is how it all began and continues to be.  It couldn’t happen without you all!  I appreciate each and every one of you!  Thank you!  Thank you for letting me know that IIIIII also am not alone!

*THROWS GLITTER*

hot mess thanks

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Christi

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One Comment

  1. I just read this. Your enthusiasm and appreciation of your readers is lovely. There are not enough people in the bipolar community with your qualities. I’m glad you are leading the way.

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