Born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, Kody Boye began his writing career with the publication of his story “[A] Prom Queen’s Revenge” at the age of fourteen. Published nearly three-dozen times before going independent at eighteen, Boye has authored numerous works—including the short story collection Amorous Things, the novella “The Diary of Dakota Hammell,” the zombie novel Sunrise and the epic fantasy series The Brotherhood Saga. He is represented by Hannah Brown Gordon of the Foundry Literary + Media Agency.
by Kody Boye
It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “all writers are crazy.” From the voices in our heads, to the long hours of isolation, the inner turmoil of perfection and the pressure of the industry, it’s some small wonder we’re not all locked up. We’re crazy, we may say, to expose ourselves to constant rejection. Nervous ticks are often seen as eccentricities and social anxieties coined as the result of long hours chained to a desk.
What many don’t know is that many of us suffer. Most just aren’t vocal about it.
My name is Kody Boye. Born and raised in the Mormon Bible Belt in Southeastern Idaho, I grew up in a way I often describe as ‘something you’d see on Oprah.’ Bullied from a young age, I matured amidst the scrutiny and name-calling of my peers until a vicious prank in high school left local police and FBI with the impression that I had plotted a death threat against the school. Though the issue was resolved and I was found to be the victim of another’s malice, the circumstance traumatized me so much I was not able to return to public school. Because of that, I was homeschooled until sixteen. About that time, my grandfather was diagnosed and I began to witness his degeneration to cancer. A twisted turn of events led me to visit a neurologist after a vertigo scare. There, I was falsely told that I, too, may have cancer (though I would have to wait two weeks in complete and utter horror to find out otherwise). At seventeen, I was so consumed by anxiety that I took myself to the doctor and was placed on Lexapro. The medication didn’t work, and left in the throes of its distressing side effects, I was left to its cruel mercy until I removed myself from it in a fit of frustration. It was only when I turned eighteen that I was able to free myself by moving cross-country to Texas, and it was only after a nervous breakdown after my first six months that I would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.,
It would take three years for me to receive an amended diagnosis of Bipolar 2 and a full diagnosis that included PTSD (Post-Traumatic Anxiety Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) from a psychiatrist.
In a word, I could be considered a basket case.
Most would assume my ticks the result of eccentricity. Many might not even guess I’m mentally ill when I’m stable and being properly treated. But what many aren’t aware of, or might even possibly consider, is how much the illness can affect my writing—which, due to severe anxieties, is my livelihood.
Since becoming a child of the mental health system in 2009, I have been on ten different medications. Symbyax, Zyprexa, Fluoxetine (also known as Prozac), Lamictal, Lithium—at points I was taking up to eight pills a day to manage my symptoms. While I am (as of now) on a comfortable cocktail, the tolls from each improper or faulty medication ultimately took a toll on my person. Benzotropine made me paranoid. I hallucinated and would become extremely confrontational. Too much Prozac gave me brainfog and kept me from thinking properly. Being pulled cold-turkey from Zyprexa after losing my health insurance left me in bed for three days with horrible veritgo and stomach pains. The list goes on, and on, and on. The frustration did as well. What’s worse if that many are of the false belief that once you get on a medication, it magically fixes your symptoms. It doesn’t. Some make it better. Others make it worse. Many take 4–6 weeks to start working. And getting off it? That can take weeks, and even then you still may have residual traces of it in your system for months to follow. To top it off, I’ve been in therapy for four years to correct instinctual, ingrained, taught and practiced behaviors, and while it’s true that many writers suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues, it’s astounding how many don’t talk about it.
But, really—it isn’t uncommon for people to remain quiet.
You’re crazy, some think if you have Schizophrenia.
You’re too emotional if you’re Bipolar.
You get told to look on the bright side if you have Clinical Depression.
Most of these conditions can’t be seen, so what point is there to talk about it? Not everyone has a big mouth like me. In that regard, I’m somewhat of a black sheep, and I am always touched and unnerved when people initiate contact to thank me for being so vocal—touched because I know that, in some small way, I have helped, but unnerved because it makes me wonder:
Am I really just that honest, or am I the only one talking?
Therapy teaches you to establish and become comfortable with communication. Because of that, you would think that others would be speaking out.
Sadly, that’s not the case. The stigma within the mental health community extends even into the medical profession. You talk, there’s something wrong. You stay quiet, it eats you up. You go for help, doctors second-guess your symptoms. How, exactly, can you win?
As someone who holds a public voice, I feel wrong to remain quiet. I’ve been told it will ruin my career, that I will alienate readers and damage professional relations with publishers and other organization. But when people reach out to me, asking questions or seeking encouragement, I realize why I do it.
Dialogue is the best medicine.
Discussion saves lives.
Silence, ultimately, kills.
Plath, Egolf, Woolf, Hemmingway—
Who’s to say they wouldn’t still be here if we had just listened?