Writer Fuel: The Radicalism of Our Time

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

This is the third installment in my latest Writer Fuel sequence. You can catch up on the previous posts about writing as service and responsibility via these links.

As always, newsletter subscribers get to read these essays before I post them here. Join the community to receive the WRITER FUEL newsletter and be part of our private Facebook group.

In a muggle world, we “word wizards” must stand together.

Dear word nerd,

Do you ever feel like your life is a Disney movie? When I first saw the movie Frozen, I thought “This is my story. They made this movie about me.” Since then, I have felt a strong kinship with the character of Elsa, but not in the way you would expect.

There are many parallels between us. Like Elsa, I’m the oldest daughter, the “sensible one” who for as long as I could remember, was tasked with keeping my spunkier, more spirited younger siblings out of trouble. Like Elsa, I have a strong bond with my parents; my father as my primary role model for work, and my mother as a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. And, like Elsa, I have long harbored a secret superpower.

At the age of thirteen, I started showing strange mood swings. I would go days at a time with no sleep, often doing homework for weeks or months in advance. (Sitting around at 4am all by yourself can get very boring.) Other times, I would crash so hard I could barely muscle the strength to pull myself out of bed.

Those rushes of energy were like magic. They allowed me to excel at almost anything I touched. Perfect grades? No problem. Concerto competitions? Bring it on. Volunteer work, martial arts, and dozens of after school clubs? I could crush those with my eyes closed.

Yet, beneath that shell of frenetic energy, I knew that at any moment my superpowers would spin out of control. Just like Elsa’s magic, which could create an ice palace one minute and strike her sister through the heart the next, so too could my own magic spiral to a dark place, and with devastating results.

It took me ten years—ten years of wondering “what on earth is wrong with me?”—until I was finally able to give this powerful (albeit dangerous) magic a name: Bipolar Disorder Type II, rapid cycling and with mixed states. It has taken me yet another decade after that to find the words and share my story.

Like Elsa, for a long time, I believed that the only way to protect those I love was to “conceal, don’t feel” and suppress a piece of myself. Elsa wears gloves and shuts herself away in an ice palace; I trained myself to wear a “happy mask” and shut all intruders out of my “circle of trust.” For as long as I can remember, I clamped down on my emotions and lived in constant fear that if I “let it go” the floodgates would open and I’d never be able to rein it all back in.

And yet I have also come to a realization that the only way to live with Bipolar is by replacing that fear with love. I’ll admit, my story doesn’t have a neat and tidy Disney ending. After all, Elsa learns to control her “love powers” really fast at the end of Frozen. Still, if I’ve learned anything from this Bipolar journey, it’s that the only way to ride out a storm is by extending and truly embracing love. And I don’t just mean love for my family, my friends, the world, or even myself. I’ve also had to learn to love my own worst enemy: the illness itself.

I have wanted to share my story with you for a long time, but have held back for a number of reasons. Some are personal reasons: It took me a long time to feel ready. More important, however, I wanted to share this story with integrity, and in a way that truly served my word nerds. I didn’t want the act of sharing to feel manipulative, like I was trying to throw myself a pity party.

There were also external factors, and these have had a bigger influence on me than I’d like to admit. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little bit afraid of what might happen after I share this. Will I be taken less seriously by my colleagues? Will this affect my career? Will my children or my family be judged by association?

But more deeply: going forward every time I get just a little bit happier (or angrier, or sadder) than usual, will people suddenly think I am “going Bipolar” on them? Will others write off my legitimate emotions as being symptoms of my illness? And more importantly: Will I?

These are all questions I’ve grappled with for a long time.

I share my story with you today, because in light of recent events I can’t not share it. These past few weeks, I’ve seen my own struggle between fear and love reflected in the actions of our leaders and the culture of our society.

There’s a lot of fear in the world right now. We might want to rage against it or bury our head in the sand, but like it or not we are all standing shoulder-to-shoulder on this fear-versus-love battleground. And as I’ve learned in my own personal battle, the only way to win this war and that is by opening our hearts.

In the next few weeks, I will bring you behind-the-scenes at DIY MFA and show you how this tug-of-war between fear and love has not only affected me on a personal level, but it has also shaped my author platform in wonderful, unexpected ways. For a long time I dreaded sales and marketing because I was afraid. For years I’d have a mini-panic every time I clicked “send” on a newsletter. While some of that emotion has decreased over time, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling some major anxiety when I sent this email out earlier today.

While building my platform continues to terrify me from time to time, I have learned to turn that source of fear into an act of love–love for you and all my word nerds. This shift in perspective has given me the strength to channel my creative energy–my magic–and use it as a positive force, rather than simply hide it away. I share my story today so that you too can find the strength to use your voice as a source of good. After all, the world could use some good right about now.

In my past two letters, I’ve spoken of service and responsibility, and I’ve hinted at how these values can shape your author platform. I’ve talked about how building your platform allows you to serve your audience, your readers. I’ve shared how writing and creativity are a superpower that you and I share, and how it is our duty to use that power responsibly. Finally, today, I’ve talked about how fear and love are closely intertwined, and that even when you’re afraid, you can use your words for the greater good through love.

There are a lot of extreme emotions and opinions right now, but through all this I hold on to love. As an instigator and troublemaker at heart, I found this quote from the Dalai Lama especially inspiring: “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” In a world filled with hatred and fear, love can be an act of resistance.

So, let’s be rebels. Let’s be radicals. Let’s start a revolution and change the world through our words.

Through love.

Are you with me?

One word nerd to another,


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