guest author

When it Comes to Mental Illness and Depression, Stigma Kills

→ January 16, 2014 - 21 Comments

When it Comes to Mental Illness and Depression, Stigma Kills

The Bipolar Burble welcomes guest author Joshua R Beharry, a Vancouver, B.C., Canada-based mental health advocate.

I developed depression in silence.

I remember the months before I became severely depressed; it was the summer of 2009. Deadlines at work had me more stressed than usual and I was increasingly unhappy with my lack of social life. I noticed my thoughts becoming more erratic and desperate but I didn’t know what this meant or where it could lead. I was 22 years old.

When anyone asked how I was doing, I lied and said I was fine. I didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t sleeping well, that my appetite was down or that I felt weaker and more tired than normal.

I saw mental illness only as a label and I didn’t want to admit I may be having issues with my own mental health. I didn’t know enough about depression to see all the warning signs. I kept silent as my thoughts grew darker and I began to fantasize about ending my life.

Depression Overwhelmed Me

I remember the night I realized I could no longer hide my depressed thoughts. I lay in bed unable to fall asleep, my stomach cramped. I felt hot, sweaty and nauseous. It was one of the longest nights of my life.

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Loving a Paranoid Partner

→ October 3, 2013 - 16 Comments

Loving a Paranoid Partner

Today’s guest post on the Bipolar Burble blog is by Marion Gibson, author of “Unfaithful Mind “– a tale of what it’s like to love someone who has a paranoid disorder. To win a FREE copy of her book, leave a comment here.

I am married to a man with a mental illness.  High school sweethearts, we travelled the world and grew a family. We were just like any other couple. And then two years ago my husband woke up and believed I wanted him dead.

He thought I had no use for him anymore and I was going to poison him. He stopped eating food in the house and started drinking only store bought water from our emergency supply. He wrote a note and hid it in his chair explaining that I had poisoned him. He also believed I had been unfaithful in our marriage right from the beginning. He thought I had a way about me that I could convince men to sleep with me whenever and wherever I wanted.  He wanted paternity tests on all three of our children.

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Surviving Depression and Death of a Loved One

→ July 30, 2013 - 1 Comment

Surviving Depression and Death of a Loved One

Today the Bipolar Burble is pleased to welcome author and speaker Hyla Molander. Hyla talks today about how she survived the death of her husband while already dealing with depression. Hyla is currently working on a memoir about her experiences. Check out her Kickstarter campaign.

Taking Zoloft throughout my second pregnancy was a decision my husband, Erik, and I made together. We’d sat with the genetic counselor and had come to the conclusion that my mental stability far outweighed the risks for the baby.

Of course, this was ten years ago—long before there was research on how Zoloft affects the foetus.

I’d been on and off of antidepressants for almost a decade. During those off times, I’d snap at Erik.  “Quit touching me. Quit telling me how great you think I am.”

After I repeatedly tried to sabotage our relationship, we finally agreed that I should stay on my meds. Popping that pill meant choosing happiness.

Depression and Death

Then, on Easter Sunday, 2003—a day that had begun with Erik and I discussing how blessed we were—our 17 month old daughter and I watched as he slid down the kitchen counter and died.

At 29 years old, Erik’s heart flicked off like a switch.

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Suicide Survivor’s Story Aims to Save Others

→ May 13, 2013 - 5 Comments

Suicide Survivor’s Story Aims to Save Others

Today, the Bipolar Burble blog welcomes guest author Kevin Hines, a fellow mental health advocate. Kevin is one of only 33 people who have survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. I met Kevin recently at a conference and I can tell you, his story is incredible and he uses it to help others.  

I always try to remember that life is but a state of mind and if that state of mind can be altered by an imbalance of chemicals, it becomes extremely hard to function. After all, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 17 years old. Since that day, I’ve come to learn that life literally is a state of mind, and how, without the love and support of friends and family, life would be a lot more difficult.

I am so thankful for the support of family and friends who have helped me whether the hard times at are inevitable when one has– like I do – a mental illness. With all the years that have passed since I attempted to end my life by suicide, I have learned that we all make mistakes in life, but now it is time to put the past where it belongs, in the rear view mirror. We cannot control the future, but we can help one another – and ourselves – today and every “today” that follows.

After My Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis at 17

After my bipolar diagnosis I struggled, suffered, and attempted to understand the metamorphosis I was going through. I hoped that it was just a phase, maybe I was going to “grow out of it.” I was going through the motions of trying to find the right medications for my particular kind of manic depression. Some days the medication would feel like it was working, but on others, it would not.

Driven to Suicide

This lasted until I was 19-years old when thoughts of suicide unfolded. I wrote a suicide letter and the next day, I prepared for another day of classes at City College in San Francisco. But that was a blatant lie, even to myself. This morning my plan was to go to the Golden Gate Bridge to end my life.

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Meet a Neuroscientist and Get a Second Healthcare Opinion

→ September 27, 2012 - 3 Comments

Meet a Neuroscientist and Get a Second Healthcare Opinion

The Bipolar Burble is honored to introduce to you Dr. Marie Rowland, a neuroscientist helping people with brain disorders like mental illness through a new service, EmpowermentAlly.

A Special Offer for Bipolar Burble Readers

Marie is offering subsidized services to people with a mental illness and she has a special offer for Bipolar Burble readers – a thorough review of your mental health concerns, history and a 30 minute coaching session all for $15. Read on to learn more about Marie and her offer.

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Myths that Increase Mental Health Stigma and Decrease Compassion

→ August 20, 2012 - 24 Comments

Myths that Increase Mental Health Stigma and Decrease Compassion

The Bipolar Burble blog is pleased to welcome guest author Jessica Gimeno from Flipswitch. Jessica is an online communications associate for The Balanced Mind Foundation and at only 28 is an amazing advocate for people with mental and physical illnesses.

Stigma and Compassion for Both Mental and Physical Illness

In our struggle to obtain mental health parity, I sometimes hear advocates claim or insinuate, “Everyone knows that emotional pain is worse than physical pain.” Really?  Believe it or not, this comparison does not help us win society’s empathy and compassion. Have you ever sat at the bedside of a relative who was dying of cancer?  It sucks. And if you’ve lived through physical pain but have no experience with mental illness, you’re less likely to have compassion for people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other stigmatized illnesses after hearing this claim.

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Guest Writing at the Bipolar Burble Blog

→ June 24, 2012 - 6 Comments

Guest Writing at the Bipolar Burble Blog

Hi all.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests to guest write at the Bipolar Burble. Well, it’s nice to know I’m so popular! I’m really happy to hear from you but there are guidelines if you want to be published here. These aren’t meant to scare anyone off, these are just to let you know what I’m expecting.

Here are some  guidelines for posting on the Bipolar Burble.

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Interview: Writing my Way to Bipolar Disorder Recovery

→ May 17, 2012 - 45 Comments

The Bipolar Burble welcomes guest Karen Tyrell. Karen is an Australian mental health advocate and author of the new mental health memoir Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness.

Writing for Bipolar Recovery

Today Karen shares a little about her life and the place writing has had in her bipolar disorder recovery.

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The Dance of Anger – A Memoir Excerpt

→ March 20, 2012 - 16 Comments

The Bipolar Burble welcomes author of Hopping Roller Coasters, Rachel Pappas for today’s guest post.

I wrote my memoir as an apology to my daughter, who I tore apart emotionally and verbally for years. But I also wrote the book to quiet some old ghosts. And I wanted to remind people fighting similar demons they are not alone.

My Ugly Dance

Probably like many of you, my “ugly dance” began ages ago – before I was old enough to know my own steps. I was following my very unhappy, sometimes untamably furious mother’s lead. I kept dancing once my daughter was born.

The red hot flashes would come on, the wires in my head would tighten, then pop, and I’d go at Marina. Later I’d kiss her tear-streaked cheek, tuck her in. Flip the light switch with the white kitty and sparkles, and hope my little girl would sleep soundly. Feel sick about what I’d just done, then do it again.

My sweet girl with the pixie cut and bangs accepted my apologies. Over and over.

Then Came Angry Adolescence

This was the start of the ground-rumbling, mother daughter meltdowns. Marina screaming with her fists clenched. The head banging and threats, because by now she was angrier than me.  We had a long, rough ride … five schools in five years, a blur of ambulance rides and overnights in the ER. And two years locked in a residential treatment center for sick, angry kids.

After a decade of pushing to find better meds, better psychiatrists, better therapists for both of us, Marina and I have started to heal.

Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Ready to Take On My Mother

I think I’m ready to tune it out, just take a hit of my Tension Tamer tea. A few back and forths to my therapist for a quick fix, and I’m so close.

Anger and Mental IllnessThen a call from my brother once Mom’s been on a marathon spiral, and I flash back … see him six years old, backed in a corner while she goes at him with his orange, plastic Hot Wheel tracks. I’m in my ugly dancing shoes again. I have a long, seething rant. Then I hate myself for hating her. Because this is who this woman is . . .

A mother who would tell her child she was going to read her obituary in the paper. Then come in her room the next night and pick her up because her child was sick. She held me, my long gangly legs dangling down her side while she cried herself, like she did every time one of her kids hurt.

I lob back and forth, between the orange Hot Wheel tracks, and my head on her shoulder while she rubbed my back. I volley between the mom screaming she’s going to drown the cat. And the one who hugged and kissed my dad, and danced with him in her bare feet–him in his slippers–in his last days.

She hasn’t changed in the 50 years I’ve known her; and probably never will. So guess who has to be the one to shift gears if she’s going to hang up her “ugly dance” shoes?

One of the hardest things in life is letting go. You fight to hold on, and you fight to let go.

The tricky part is figuring out what, or who, you can hold onto–or how to hold them at a distance that works. So at the same time, you can let go of what you need to leave behind.

Memoir Excerpt: Hopping Roller Coasters

“You used to tell me you probably had cancer,” Marina said. “Why did you say that to me, Mom. Why?!?”

A few tears spilled as she let herself go back in time, to when she was just five. Hearing her mother say she may be dying … leaving her alone and unprotected. Feeling her sad, angry eyes on me now, I want to kick myself in the ass. I’m speechless and ashamed–and touched. Touched that of all the things she had to get out in this family therapy session, it was the fear of losing me that came first.

Still, I couldn’t admit that I screwed up, though I could see it clearly now, and I started thinking again about other hideous things I’ve said to her. I squirmed in my seat, thinking about all the baggage she’s hauled over the years. And I remembered what her therapist, Ericka told me privately earlier: “She’s holding a lot inside. When it surfaces, she’s going to vomit it all out. It’s going to come gushing.”

I wasn’t sure if Marina could ever understand, even if I could admit my mistakes. I didn’t completely get it myself. But I remember growing up incensed about the make-believe games in our house. I hated the pretending.

“Rachel was angry, even as a child. It started way before there was tension in our home,” my Mom would tell relatives.

She didn’t remember her bad days, when she couldn’t bring the reins in.

“You’re going to wake up in a box!” she’d scream between clenched teeth, shaking her head agitatedly. You could practically visualize the internal wheels spinning as she paced with her dust cloth, thinking out loud under her breath …

“That’s a lie! I never said that!” she told me years later when I summoned up her demons and threw them in her face … I was furious. Why couldn’t’ she see I needed her to acknowledge it? I needed an apology, damn it.

Now it was my turn to dislodge my tail, the one I’d stuck between my legs just now, when my daughter exposed me in front of her father and therapist.

Instead I said, “I never said that to you, Marina.” I’d taken only a split second to process what I’d just heard.

“You DID!” she shrieked, her face burning red. “You used to tell me you had cancer.” The tears were flowing full force now.

I fell silent, but the memory was surfacing. I couldn’t fix it now. Still, my baby had to hear how very sorry I was.

For more excerpts or to order Hopping Roller Coasters at a discount:

Sleep and Bipolar Disorder – How I Cured My Insomnia – Guest Post

→ October 27, 2011 - 15 Comments

The Bipolar Burble welcomes Leslie Smile for today’s piece on how she recognized that sleep was affecting her bipolar disorder and how she worked to cure her insomnia.

I’ve lost many hours holding the wall up with my glazed stare. Unable to calm my mind yet unable to focus my thoughts clearly, I’ve been sleepless for days on end. I would go on through my days like a zombie. “Just keep going,” I’d tell myself. Some days I would come home from work and collapse on my bed until the next morning. I would wake grouchy, confused and still tired. Insomnia doesn’t keep you awake permanently… just until you crash.

Insomnia’s Effects on My Life

[push]I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. ~ David Benioff[/push]

The tired feeling morphed into a bone deep lethargy; an energy sucking, crippling fatigue drained me. I began to feel like I could barely survive. I had begun the dip into major depression and bipolar behaviors. I don’t blame my mental illness on my poor sleep nor do I blame my sleeplessness entirely on my mental illness but as I’ve come to learn bipolar disorder and insomnia affect each other in such a way both deserve the attention and respect of proper self-care and good sleep hygiene.

What Didn’t Help My Insomnia and Bipolar Disorder

I had no concept of proper sleep hygiene. First I tried over-the-counter sleep aids, then doctor prescribed sleep aids. Some worked briefly but didn’t give me any sense of being in control of my mental health as their reliability was sketchy at best. Band-Aid solutions were not enough. What could I do?

How I Changed to Help Cure My Insomnia

I rarely gave myself the time for all the things my morning contained. This meant I constantly woke feeling rushed (a very anxiety inducing way to start the day). Focused on getting past insomnia, I started by taking my medications at the same time every day. I made my mornings peaceful waking experiences without coffee. (No coffee?! This was initially a cruel form of torture advised by my doctor, naturopath, and various sleep information rich websites alike.)

Mental Health and Sleeping ProblemsI Had to Want to Cure My Insomnia

At bed time, calming a worrying mind takes practice and effort. Quieting a busy, synapse-firing brain is tricky and left me feeling hopeless at times. Staring at the wall, numb and dissociated from wakefulness and sleep alike is dangerous. I had to want to change before my sleep habits started to improve. Maybe out of desperation or out of new found knowledge I wanted to change.

Training my brain to shut down and wake up at the same time every day is hard. Setting an unwind time alarm and a bedtime alarm felt a little silly at first. I didn’t want to go to bed at 10:30 pm when House was only half over. But I do want to be able to sleep well most nights. My health is more important than House.

More Ways I Cured My Insomnia

I added more artillery to my sleep war chest over time building a stronger defense against insomnia:

  • I removed the clock and any direct light from my sleep area. So many gadgets to hide with their tempestuous glow. No more looking at the clock and being exasperated at the hour I find myself *still* awake.
  • I take my relaxation techniques to bed. Deep breathing, and deep muscle relaxation exercises help put me in the sleep zone.
  • I eat breakfast. It helps keep me from going back to bed and helps my mood too.
  • I start my day with a big glass of cool water instead of fake fuelling myself with sugar and caffeine (did I mention that really sucked at first?).
  • I get out of bed after nine hours. Many people operate fine on seven hours of sleep. Good for those people. If I get up before the ninth hour I’ll take a cursed nap. These are terrible things that I love.
  • I don’t nap. Or I try not to. If I’m tired I try to be aware of that as I continue through my day/evening but it’s good to finish the day tired. That’s an almost guaranteed good night’s sleep. I skip the nap when I can.

Insomnia, Sleep and Me Now

I fall asleep a little easier these days. With the addition of the help of a new medication I’m on for my other mental health issues, I find myself drowsy near the same time nightly.

I still have to force myself many days to get to the kitchen and drink that glass of water. It takes time to make habitual changes. For me, insomnia really is a result of the culmination of habits surrounding my sleep (known as sleep hygiene). I’m sleeping more often than not these past couple weeks and that is an accomplishment. I’m finding the will to start doing the things I love again. I’m learning to follow my bliss in life. It’s the simple things that make the difference, like a good night’s sleep.

Leslie is a mental health patient in Atlantic Canada. She voices her experience getting healthy on Twitter, @SaltySmile. She is passionate about social justice issues, reading, writing, learning and sharing. Contact her at


More Personal Experiences and Stories of Mental Health

→ October 24, 2011 - 4 Comments

Some of you may recall I did a reader survey a while back on the Bipolar Burble. The vast majority of the feedback was incredibly generous and positive. I appreciate all the feedback.

However, one of the things that came up multiple times was the desire to have more personal mental health stories represented here. People valued the in-depth information but wanted it balanced with life stories of real people with mental illness.

OK. I can do that.

Calling Guest Authors

To that end I’ve been soliciting guest authors and we’ll be seeing subjects like:

Writers Wanted for the Bipolar BlogPersonal Experiences of Mental Illness

I think it’s important people hear from others with mental illness because it puts a real face on the disease. And as much as people can relate to what I write, more people can relate to more kinds of stories.  After all, not everyone is me. And that’s a good thing.

Do You Have a Personal Mental Health Story You’d Like to Share?

Would you like to guest post here? Do you have a personal story of mental illness involving yourself or a loved one? I’d love to hear from friends, family members and significant others as well. They too have invaluable stories to share.

If you’d like to get in touch, leave a comment or find me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or contact me here.

Your piece can be anonymous if you choose. This is about what you want to talk about and in the way you want to talk about it.

Dealing with Grief with Mental Illness

The first personal experience story is about dealing with the grief of death while dealing with a mental illness coming up later this week.

Myths, Realities and Journey Through ECT – by BiPolar Badger

→ March 22, 2011 - 39 Comments

Myths, Realities and Journey Through ECT – by BiPolar Badger
This post was controversial even before posted; clearly underscoring how much people need to talk about ECT. The Bipolar Burble welcomes Steven Schwartz, the BiPolar Badger, and his experiences with electroconvulsive therapy.
[Note: I am running a survey on real patients’ experiences with, and perspectives on, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you’ve had ECT and want your voice heard, please take the survey here. More detailed information on the ECT survey can be found here.]

Myths, Realities and Journey Through ECT – by the BiPolar Badger

I was 9-years-old in 1975 when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest came out. I remember watching it on our floral, pleather sofa, late one night on TV. It scared the crap out of me; this was the first time in my life I saw E.C.T. (electroconvulsive therapy, previously electroshock therapy or shock therapy) and little could I imagine that one day I would find myself in McMurphy’s position.

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