Thursday 20 March 2014

Happy International Realness Day

Today is the first day of spring, International Happiness Day, and my birthday, so I guess I should be happy. As a matter of fact, I am, but the expectation that we should be happy on any particular day (our birthday, Christmas, a friend’s wedding, International Happiness Day) denies our right to feel - and crucially to express - whatever we happen to be experiencing in the moment.

I tweeted earlier today that, for me, happiness isn't about being smiley and "happy happy" all the time. It's about being genuine, and connecting with people. Maybe what I’m thinking of isn’t “happiness” at all, because being genuine and connecting can and frequently does cover a wide gamut of emotions and experiences, not all of which are cosy or easy. Maybe it’s “real-ness”. It is what happens when we allow ourselves and each other to experience the moment (this moment, this today moment). Whatever you want to call it, it is what I find most valuable and rewarding in life.

Fran sometimes wonders why I’m always so pleased to see her, even when she is depressed or fatigued or otherwise “not good company”. I prefer when she is stable and able to enjoy life, but the value and reward I find in our time together isn’t dependent on her health or mood. It comes from us sharing whatever is happening in our lives openly and honestly as friends. And, of course, it cuts both ways. Occasionally (whisper it), it is me who is pissed off or angry or otherwise “not good company”.

So let’s allow ourselves and each other to experience and share whatever we are feeling. I think we will all be a lot happier as a result.

Now is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.

I was thinking today (it being my birthday and all) about the essence of giving and receiving, which is to share simply, open-handedly and open-heartedly, without expectation of gratitude or return. I was reminded of two poems, which I would like to share with you. Call it a gift.


A blade of grass

You ask for a poem.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You say it is not good enough.
You ask for a poem.

I say this blade of grass will do.
It has dressed itself in frost,
It is more immediate
Than any image of my making.

You say it is not a poem,
It is a blade of grass and grass
Is not quite good enough.
I offer you a blade of grass.

You are indignant.
You say it is too easy to offer grass.
It is absurd.
Anyone can offer a blade of grass.

You ask for a poem.
And so I write you a tragedy about
How a blade of grass
Becomes more and more difficult to offer,

And about how as you grow older
A blade of grass
Becomes more difficult to accept.

by Brian Patten

I never feel more given to
than when you take from me,
when you understand the joy I feel
giving to you.
And you know my giving isn't done
to put you in my debt,
but because I want to live the love
I feel for you.
To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There's no way I can separate
the two.
When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me. I feel so
given to.

by Ruth Bebermeyer

Monday 17 March 2014

Gum on My Shoe Concept Statement

“You’re stuck with me now, Frannie. I hope you realise that.”
“Like gum on my shoe...”

Best friends Marty and Fran live three thousand miles apart. Fran has lived with depression and bipolar disorder for over twenty years: Marty is her main support, carer and lifeline. In Gum on My Shoe: One Step at a Time with My Bipolar Best Friend, they share what they’ve learned about growing a close, mutually supportive relationship between a “well one” and an “ill one”.

This book is a companion guide for those walking a similar road. With one in four experiencing mental illness in any given year, you or someone you know may be one of them.

Using plain, non-technical language, real life conversations and examples from their own experience, Marty and Fran offer original approaches and practical tips for taking the good and the bad “One step at a time”. Uniquely, they show how technology and the internet mean no one is too far away to care, or to be cared for.

Written from the well one’s perspective, this book focuses on being there. Discover how to build a relationship strong and flexible enough to handle mania, depression, and suicidal thinking. Explore what illness means, learn strategies for wellness and how best to support your loved one and take care of yourself, whether you live on the same street or oceans apart.

Draft Concept Statement for Gum on My Shoe: One Step at a Time with My Bipolar Best Friend, by Martin Baker and Fran Houston, March 2014.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Beautiful Disaster: An autobiography, by Kim R. Robinson

I was very excited when my friend Martin Baker, co-author of Gum On My Shoe, asked me to write a piece for Gum’s blog site. His knowledge and constant encouragement have both been invaluable to me as I’m writing my autobiography.

I’m a 44yr old mother of three, and grandmother of one. Writing has always come naturally to me, and I’ve had the idea of my book in my “head” for years before actually starting it. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder for seventeen years, and spent fourteen of those years educating myself about the illness.

At the time I was diagnosed, the illness wasn’t as widespread and as easily diagnosed as it is these days. Patients that were diagnosed didn’t really talk about it. I’m quite positive that the term “crazy” wasn’t as accepted as it is now. I consider it a pet name, and am not offended by it at all. We didn’t have websites, facebook pages, etc to read about it in private. What we knew was what our doctors told us, normally in the form of 15 minute visits.

Having this illness has definitely changed my life drastically, as it does with everybody. I have had the same running psychiatrist for seventeen years, and for that I am grateful. I knew I needed help, and I got it. I have a long history of simply “taking meds”, hoping I would be cured. Medication is extremely necessary, but not alone. Medication, consistent medical care, and education about the illness and learning the tools for which to help yourself during whatever “episode” you are going through, is the key. Even with using these steps, Bipolar isn’t going away, but can be managed. You CAN live a functionable, normal life.

Beautiful Disaster begins with describing myself and my life, in my early teen years. Before I was even diagnosed. My life began with a more depressive side, rather than a manic side. One of the most informative ways a physician can diagnose bipolar, is through life-patterns. The book goes through different stages of my life, ie marrying five times, having three children, and the good and bad in between. As you near the end of the book, you will see the pattern of a bipolar life. Thankfully, the latter part of my life, is spent taking care of myself, writing my autobiography, and helping others through the Facebook community page, and website.

My passion is this book, because not only am I helping myself (greatest therapy of all!), I’m helping others, and most importantly, I’m able to show my children, family and friends how the illness affected my life and decisions I’ve made and why. In my mind, it’s leaving an explanation, if you will. The greatest feeling for me is helping others, and if I was born with this illness, for the reason of helping others through it, then I accept God’s plan for me. Something good can come out of something not-so-good.

Where am I now? I still see the same psychiatrist who diagnosed me seventeen years ago. Through him I have been on just about every med there is. Knowing now that I never needed antipsychotics, and antidepressants never did anything for me. I’d like to say to patients just starting out on medication, when a physician prescribes more than one new drug at a time, it’s very hard to tell which medicine is doing what. Ask your physician if he’s comfortable with introducing one at a time. After that you will more clearly be able to tell what interactions, symptoms or effects whether good or bad they have on you. After all the meds I’ve been on, I’m happy to say I’m only currently taking an anti-seizure/mood stabilizer Lamictal, 100 mg twice a day, and Ativan 2 mg four times a day.

This diagnosis is serious, as it changes every spectrum of your life. However, it does NOT have to be a life sentence. My opinion of the best you can do?

  1. Keep psychiatric care, whether clinical or private
  2. Never stop trying with meds

You can contact Kim at the following links:

Saturday 1 March 2014

A Life Without Walls

My name is Mariah A. Rackliff. Although I have been writing since I was thirteen years old, A Room Without Walls is my first published work. At the age of thirteen I began to write as a way to cope with feelings of extreme hyperactivity, extreme sadness, and a constant flight of ideas.

I wrote many poems from this time until I was in my early twenties. At that time I stopped writing so much because I became so addicted to alcohol and the idea that it was the only way I was able to cope.

After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, I began working as a special educational technician. During the summers I worked as an Employment Specialist for a local agency helping children with mental health diagnoses.

During this time, I worked on receiving my second Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science. Six years later I began working as a Children’s In-Home Program Manager, and a Residential Supervisor. After this time, I decided to make another change and apply for a Master’s Program in English Literature/Creative Writing. I am currently three quarters of the way through the Master’s Program and am looking forward to graduating.

I began writing A Room Without Walls over two years ago when I finally got sober, after binge drinking every weekend for nearly 25 years. It was a long, often traumatic writing experience; however, now that it is finished and I’ve published it, it has been extremely healing. The memoir details my life from childhood until the present time. The narrative is stream-of-consciousness and poetry. I begin each chapter with a poem that is related to the upcoming chapter.

A Room Without Walls contains adult content and possibly triggers for those that suffer from PTSD, bipolar disorder, and addiction. At times the memoir is graphic, vulgar, and raw. Please read with caution if any of these topics may offend or trigger you. It is my hope that the memoir will reach an audience of people with similar diagnoses and those that have lived through parallel experiences.

I hope that by reading the memoir people with these experiences will find reassurance that they are not alone, encouragement, and inspiration to tell their own stories.

A Room Without Walls is available in print and electronic (Kindle) editions:

You can contact Mariah at her Facebook page: