Friday 27 December 2019

Connection and Challenge: Because Not Every Phone Call Is a Great Phone Call and That's Okay

I’m not trying to make a huge thing out of this but it struck me that sometimes there’s a value in connection, in reaching out to someone, that goes beyond whatever words might be exchanged in the course of the call or conversation or whatever it might be.

Audio version here (YouTube)

A friend messaged me today to ask if I’d like to have a call with her while she was traveling to meet up with somebody. And I was “Yeah cool, let’s do that!” Unfortunately, although we started off really well, by the time my friend got onto the bus we discovered it was actually quite hard to continue with the conversation. I’m not sure if it’s because she was on the bus and maybe traveling in and out of a decent signal area, or whether there was some other technological reason, but it became difficult to hear each other. So after a little while, before we got too frustrated with it or with each other, we decided to leave it there. We’ll pick up another time.

Afterwards, I messaged my friend to say thanks for the call. She replied, “What, even though we could hardly hear each other?” And I was like “Yeah, yeah, absolutely!” That got me thinking because on one level — as a phone call, in terms of being able to talk with each other — it wasn’t the best communication experience in the world. We did get to chat a bit initially before the signal started to go dodgy, but no it wasn’t great on that level. But for me — and I like to think the same goes for my friend — it was still a success.

It was lovely to hear her voice (while I could) and to just connect. The connection itself, the fact that she wanted to connect and to call me, and that I wanted to have a call too, that has meaning in itself, over and above the success or otherwise of the call. And I’m not trying to make a huge thing out of this but it struck me that sometimes there’s a value in connection, in reaching out to someone, that goes beyond whatever words might be exchanged in the course of the call or conversation or whatever it might be.

Right now towards the end of the year I’m looking back over the past twelve months and forward to the year ahead. My two key words this year — for the past few years actually — have been Connection and Challenge. And in microcosm that little experience with my friend today sort of summed it up. Connection, certainly. There was value there for me and hopefully for her too. Challenge? Well, when I think of challenge I’m usually thinking of bigger things, but there was a technical challenge for us both which we handled pretty well. We didn’t get upset, we didn’t get cross with each other like, “It must be your fault.” “No, I think it’s your fault!” We just accepted the situation. Hey, this isn’t working for us right now is it? Let’s do it another time. We ended cleanly and nicely and rounded everything out.

In a very small-scale way it just made me smile and if I can carry that forward into next year with the small things and the bigger things then I think I’m doing okay. Because that’s what matters to me. That’s what brings value to me. Connection – with my friends, with other people, and with myself too.

Maybe it’s that no man is an island thing? I don’t know. For a long time I had very few connections or friendships outside my immediate family. And now I do! It’s not the quantity of those that’s so important it’s the quality. I have people — I have connections — which mean the world to me. They are not always easy. They are not always smooth-running. They can be challenging. Not just on a technical level like today but the connections themselves, the relationships themselves, can be challenging. But that’s what brings value to my life, and I hope through those connections I bring value to other people’s lives too.

I think I’ll bring this to a close. I don’t want to make too much of a big deal about it but it just made me smile today. If my friend’s hearing/reading this she’ll know who she is and what it’s all about.

So, keep the connections strong, keep connecting, keep the communication flowing. Bye for now.


Thursday 26 December 2019

Practical Self-Care Tips to Help You Crush Life as an Introvert

By Melissa Howard

You’re easily drained from social gatherings. Working with people leaves you depleted, and by the afternoon you can’t wait to get home and curl up with a book. You love your kids to death but crave those few minutes that allow you to decompress once they go to bed. As an introvert, there’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact, you should plan on all that and more.

Keep reading for tips to help you to take better care of your mind, body, and soul so that you can live the life you’re meant to live.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Extroverts

First of all, as an introvert, it’s critical to avoid comparing yourself with other people, especially extroverts. It might not be in your nature to be the life of the party, to be super outgoing in public, or even to be the most ambitious person. And that’s OK!

Comparison will get you nowhere, other than eating up precious energy and making you feel miserable about yourself and the person you’re comparing yourself with. Besides, you would probably be comparing their best traits to your worst traits, so it wouldn’t be an accurate comparison anyway.

Get a Steady Exercise Routine

Yes, exercise is important for introverts, just like it is with anyone else! Find something you love to do, and try to do it four or five days per week. It could be running, cycling, yoga, high-intensity interval training, or any other kind of activity that gets you moving and the endorphins flowing. As Shape explains, consistent exercise will yield lots of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

If you plan on exercising solo, it’s essential that you consider your safety. This is when a smartwatch can come in handy. Along with helping you keep track of your health and fitness goals, a smartwatch can help keep you safe in the event of an emergency or injury.

For example, models from the Apple Watch Series have ideal perks for exercising alone, like fall detection and emergency SOS that will contact emergency services if necessary. If you’re looking for more of a budget-friendly model, look to the Tended Protect, which Wareable points out hits a lower price point but still offers fitness tracking and fall detection.

Eat Stuff That’s Good for You

Diet is paramount to self-care. Focus on eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts, and seeds. Eat clean when you can, and cut back on sugar, sodium, and processed foods. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Start and End the Day Strong

As an introvert, you have to make time for yourself. In fact, if you don’t get the time to yourself that you need, you won’t have the energy necessary to live a fulfilled life, and you won’t be able to be fully present for the people who need you most. Introversion is all about recharging through solitude — and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.

Consider waking up 15 or 30 minutes earlier in the morning to spend time in solitude, whether it’s reading, journaling, meditating or doing something else relaxing. Likewise, make time to wind down in the evenings before bed; a hot bath, listening to soothing music, and doing light stretches can go a long way in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Don’t feel guilty about practicing self-care as an introvert. You and everyone in your life will be better off for it! Remember to stop comparing yourself to more extroverted people, get a consistent exercise routine and healthy diet going, and bookend your day with relaxing activities in solitude. You might be surprised by how much making little changes like these can benefit your well-being.

Photo by Brodie Vissers

About the Author

Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create Stop Suicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information.


Wednesday 18 December 2019

How I Unplugged the Christmas Machine and Created Stable Holidays

By Julie A. Fast

I love Christmas. I like the music and the colors. I’m listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack as I write this! I love the food and the snow and the lights on the houses. It is not a religious holiday for me, but one that I associate with really good childhood memories and a lot of family events.

And yet, there is also the bipolar disorder side of Christmas. Bipolar is an illness triggered by change, even if the change is positive. I write about triggers in my book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder. For all of my adult life I’ve loved Christmas, but once my bipolar started in my late teens, I kept getting sick at this time of year.

It took me years to figure out why. My bipolar diagnosis at age 31 helped, but I still wasn’t able to handle the up and down emotions during the holiday season here in the States. (Please feel free to substitute the holiday you choose to celebrate.)

Even after my diagnosis and creating my management system I lived with very serious depression and paranoia for many years. No matter how hard I tried I could not stay stable during the holidays. Each year I would promise myself that the time between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve — our biggest holiday celebrations in the United States — would not make me sick.

I usually failed.

Despite having plenty of people around me I had many lonely times. It was my own behavior and the illness itself that caused this. I knew I had to change if I wanted to have a positive time during the holidays. Here is what I’ve done over the past twenty years to make the holiday season a better experience. I won't lie to you and say that the holidays are easy. Nope! But they are SO much better than in the past and that creates happiness during an often stressful time.

1. Finances. I can’t keep myself stable and deal financially with supporting myself if I buy gifts during the holidays. I stopped giving gifts to adults over twenty years ago. I read a book called Unplug the Christmas Machine that changed my life. I give gifts to my nephew — and have done so for seventeen years — but adults and I have a different Christmas relationship now. It’s about being together, family, friends and good food. I simply can’t do the presents. No one has to do presents if they don’t want to! If presents are something you enjoy and if they are something you can afford, then go for it. But if you’re like me and the crowds and cost and pressure actually make you more ill and really affect your bank balance, you have permission to stop.

2. Say no if you need to. You can use the ideas in my previous post on saying no to explain to others that your choices are often far more about bipolar than what you as a person want to do. I want to say yes to most things, but there is no way I could stay stable if I said yes too much during the holidays. But (there is always this darn but with bipolar) I then feel lonely at having to say no in order to stay well. Finding that balance during the holidays is hard but I keep trying.

3. Take a moment right now to look back on holidays of the past. What worked? What didn’t work? Make a list. Be nice to yourself and change what you can and plan to make more changes in the future. The holidays show up every year! There is plenty of time for us to change. This is the year to start the process of creating holidays that work for you!

4. Plan now and do something small for this year. Keep a journal on what you go through so that you can make the BIG changes next year. This is how I progress. If you don't have plans yet and worry that you will be lonely, there is time to find a group who wants to meet YOU. There is always a place for us in the world. Sometimes, we just have to find it. I like the group for meeting new people. They do have holiday events that are open to all people!

Happy Holidays. Let’s Treat Bipolar First and have the best holidays possible.


About the Author

Julie A. Fast was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a separate psychotic disorder in 1995. She is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. Julie runs the award winning Bipolar Happens blog, is a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine, and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. She is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare.

Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric professionals, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She also educates the public on how cannabis marijuana affects people who have bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. She struggles a lot due to bipolar disorder. Friendships keep her going.

You can find more about her work at and Her Facebook pages include Julie A. Fast, The Stable Table for parents and health care professionals, and The Stable Bed for partners. You can watch her talk at the Oxford Union here.


Sunday 15 December 2019

Audio Recording on Android with the Parrot Voice Recorder

During December my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson has been recording a series of daily vlog (video blog) posts. (You can find them on her YouTube channel.) I was fascinated by the insight these gave into my friend’s life and was inspired me to try something similar. With that in mind I have been exploring how to record and share short audio posts. Hopefully these will be as interesting to our audience here at Gum on My Shoe as Aimee’s vlogs have been to me.

The Technology

I wanted to be able to complete the whole workflow on my Samsung S9 phone and to record using my VicTsing Bluetooth Headset. I spent a fair amount of time testing various voice recorder apps but none picked up the audio from my headset. I finally came across Parrot Voice Recorder. It works well and I haven’t had too many issues with it. You can hear how I got on testing this setup in the first two recordings listed below.

I initially considered posting my audio clips to Soundcloud but the free option only allows for a total of three hours’ recordings. Fran and I have a YouTube channel and I decided to upload my audio clips there so they would be available alongside our other content. YouTube will only accept video files so I looked for a convenient way to convert the WAV audio files I’d recorded into movie files.

After a few tests I settled on Avee Music Player (Pro) which I used for the first five clips listed below. I have had some issues with exporting the video files, however, and at the suggestion of a friend (thanks Karl!) I used PowerDirector video editor for the final clip listed here. It seems more stable and I may stick with it in future.

The Recordings

Here are direct links to the recordings I have posted to our YouTube channel so far.

  1. Walking home : testing the Parrot Voice Recorder, part 1
  2. Walking home : testing the Parrot Voice Recorder, part 2
  3. On my way into work - Dec 11, 2019
  4. On my way home - Dec 11, 2019
  5. Marty talks about his journaling
  6. A few thoughts on politics and pathological positivity

Scroll down to play these recordings within this post.

1. Walking home : testing the Parrot Voice Recorder, part 1

[5:12] In this first recording I discuss the Parrot Voice Recorder app which I have been using to record using my Bluetooth headset. I converted the WAV file to MP4 using Avee Music Player (Pro) then uploaded the video to YouTube.

Direct link

2. Walking home : testing the Parrot Voice Recorder, part 2

[5:46] Further testing with the Parrot Voice Recorder and Avee Music Player (Pro) apps.

Direct link

3. On my way into work - Dec 11, 2019

[2:58] In this recording I discuss audio blogs / podcasts and my day ahead attending a wellbeing / mental health workshop at work.

Direct link

4. On my way home - Dec 11, 2019

[11:57] Talking about the wellbeing / mental health workshop I had attended, with a shout out to my blogging bestie Aimee Wilson and her series of daily vlogs for Vlogmas 2019.

Direct link

5. Marty talks about his journaling

[14:26] In this recording I talk about my diary writing / journaling which I have been doing for the past 45 years.

Direct link

6. A few thoughts on politics and pathological positivity

[12:52] In this recording I discuss my political awakening and pathological positivity on the morning after the UK General Election. This video was created using PowerDirector video editor for Android.

Direct link

Check our Podcasts / Audio playlist on YouTube for these and other audio and video recordings.


Wednesday 11 December 2019

Helping Someone Else

By Janet Coburn

My husband used to work in a community correctional facility – essentially a jail. The residents were considered nonviolent offenders technically on parole for mostly drug crimes, but things could still get interesting. Mostly he didn’t talk about his work because he would try to dismiss it from his mind every day as he went by a certain overpass on his way home from work.

One day, though, I was bitching in disbelief about something that had happened at my work – another editor had put his table of contents in random order instead of numerical. I was appalled by the stupidity of that.

There I was ranting about it. Then my husband said, “Boy, that’s tough. All I did today was break up a fight and spot a guy who might have a septic wound. But you – the table of contents out of numerical order? Wow!” That put me in my place.

My husband was someone who helped other people. For years after he left the job, people would come up to him when he was out and about, and reminisce with him. They’d tell him about how well they were doing, how they were clean and sober, how they had jobs, how they had improved their lives. They always said thank you to my husband.

This morning when I woke up and checked my email, I found something I wasn’t expecting. There, nestled in amongst the spam, was a response to a post that I wrote back in January, about passive suicidal ideation.

In the reply, the person told of having thought about suicide but not acting on it. The response ended, “I’ll follow your advice and seek professional help.”

It’s difficult to describe what I felt then. Mostly, it was gratitude that my writing had helped someone, combined with not a little surprise at receiving a response at all. Sometimes writing is like shouting down a well. You never really know if anyone even hears you or if you’ve made a difference. Most of the time when I write this blog, I have no idea how the posts will affect my readers, if at all. But this time I knew – at least if the person followed through – that I had actually helped someone.

When I started Bipolar Me, it was to share my experiences with bipolar disorder and my thoughts on mental illness and mental health. If my writing resonated with someone, good. But I wasn’t writing with the intention of being inspiring, or helping people solve problems, or being a “good example.” I’m not a professional and the kind of advice I give (when I do) is largely commonsense – don’t stop taking your meds, seek professional help, thank your caregivers, and so on.

I’m not going to break my arm patting myself on the back here. There are lots of people who do the work of caring for the desperate and hurting every day. I am privileged to know some of them and to have even been helped by some. There are people like Sarah Fader and Gabe Howard who are advocates and activists for the mentally ill, who go out on a limb to do something to help the whole mental health community.

But today, for just a moment, I felt that I had really touched someone, really helped. It was a good feeling.

So there it is. I started this blog for self-centered reasons, to chronicle my own struggles and occasional victories. If it helped anyone, fine. If not, I still had stories to share. But now I find that having helped someone else has made a difference – in the other person, in me, in the world. Now I believe that my blog and my book could do more of that.

Originally published in April 2019 at Bipolar Me.


About the Author

Janet Coburn is a freelance writer/editor with bipolar disorder, type 2. She is the author of Bipolar Me, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, a through other outlets. Her second book, Bipolar Us, will be published later this year by Eliezer Tristan Publishing.

Janet writes about mental health issues including talk therapy, medication, books, bullying, social aspects, and public policy, but mostly her own experiences with bipolar 2. As she says, “I am not an expert and YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary.”


Wednesday 4 December 2019

Heartwarming Moments on the Jingle Bell Walk

I was proud to take part in this year’s Jingle Bell Walk in support of the Chris Lucas Trust which raises funds for and awareness of children’s cancer. I did the walk for the first time last year and was keen to do so again. I wasn’t alone! According to event organiser Lynn Lucas over four hundred people registered with more turning up on the night – all the more impressive given the rather damp weather we’d had all week!

The start coincided with the lighting ceremony for the huge Christmas tree outside Newcastle Civic Centre. I’d never witnessed this before and it made up for me missing the turning on of Newcastle’s main Christmas lights this year.

We set off from outside St Thomas’ church at Haymarket just after six pm. Four hundred walkers in Santa hats led by a marching band is quite something to see (and hear) and we drew plenty of attention!

The 2.5 mile route took us down Northumberland Street which looked very festive with the Christmas market in full swing and a mini fun fair complete with carousel and helter-skelter. The windows of Fenwick department store are something of a regional attraction at Christmas; this year’s theme is based on the Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

We continued past STACK and the Tyneside Cinema before joining Dean Street close to the Theatre Royal. From there we walked down to the Quayside, under the Tyne Bridge and along the riverside to finish by the Millennium Bridge. Santa was there with his reindeer. There was music and dancing, a bubble machine, and hot chocolate for all donated by the Pitcher & Piano.

After a drink in the Pitcher & Piano it was time to head home. I called a friend of mine in the States to wish her Happy Thanksgiving and she kept me company as I walked along the Quayside and back up into the centre of town to Haymarket where the walk had started. I smiled when I realised I’d done the walk again in reverse – so if you sponsored me you really ought to pay double!

Here are a few of my personal memories of the evening:

  • The brilliant family atmosphere at the start as everyone gathered for the off.
  • The rain!
  • The man watching us go by the entrance to Eldon Square, holding the cutest puppy ever!
  • Two women waving to us all from an upstairs window on Dean Street!
  • The marching band’s (ahem) interesting selection of anthems from the WW1 playbook!
  • Singing Let It Go! WAY too loud (and without the benefit of alcohol!)

I asked organiser Lynn Lucas for her thoughts of this year’s event:

It was a great night from start to finish. The rain didn’t stop the fun and everyone supporting our charity to raise funds for childhood cancer. We try to make it magical for all with a marching band and at the finish Santa, reindeer, hot chocolate etc. The feedback has been fantastic; already looking forward to the next one! Support from everyone involved was really appreciated.

The Chris Lucas Trust is a registered charity supporting research into childhood cancer. You can find out more about the work of the Trust on their website and follow them on Twitter (@chrislucastrust). To donate directly to the Trust visit their JustGiving page. The Jingle Bell Walk has its own website


Wednesday 27 November 2019

Managing My Dual Diagnosis on a Day to Day Basis

By Kailey Fitzgerald

Being in recovery from drug addiction and having a mental illness concurrently can be extremely mentally taxing. On my off days, when I am not keeping up with my daily routines and neglect my self-care mechanisms, my life can seem chaotic and unmanageable. I often say it feels like I am just constantly putting out one fire after another. On the other hand, when I do manage my dual diagnosis well, I am truly happy.

Finding coping mechanisms and a healthy daily routine that worked for me took a lot of time and effort through trial and error. What may work for one person, may not work for another. It wasn’t until I went to an addiction treatment center and began true, honest, and rigorous therapy that I finally found what worked for me.

Go to Therapy Regularly

Going to therapy and giving it a real, honest shot is what saved my life. For years I was repulsed by laying down on some brown over-sized couch and telling some stranger with a medical degree all of the reasons my life sucked. To my surprise, I learned that real therapy is not like what you see on TV. My therapist treated me like a human and really allowed me the time and pace I needed to begin to open up to him.

In therapy, I learned many valuable coping mechanisms that I incorporate into my day to day life. For example, I suffer from a couple of anxiety disorders. When I begin to have a PTSD flashback or an anxiety attack, my therapist recommended I ground myself through breathing techniques. I try to apply this and when I do, it typically helps in centering my body and mind enough to get through the flashbacks and anxiety attacks.

That being said, after a few therapy sessions I began to feel better. In my own naivety, I thought that meant I was recovered and could stop attending therapy. The first few weeks were great, I had more financial freedom and more free time on my hands. Quickly I realized I had made a mistake when I ran into one of my PTSD triggers and had a complete meltdown. Luckily, I was able to make the conscious decision to admit my wrongs and call my therapist to resume our biweekly appointments.

Maintain the Sobriety Aspect of My Recovery

It is extremely important for me to maintain my sobriety in concurrence with the treatment of my secondary mental illnesses. This means continuing to participate in the fellowship I chose, utilizing my meditation practices, keeping in contact with my sober support, and remaining diligent in monitoring whether I begin to romanticize drug use or old habits. The combination of all of these practices is what allows me to remain sober without becoming a “dry drunk”. Dry drunks are defined as people who are chemically sober but behave in the same manner that they did while they were using. For example, if I stopped maintaining my sobriety I would begin to become easily agitated and unable to control my emotions — causing me to resort to fantasizing about using a substance to numb my feelings.

For all intents and purposes, let’s just say I let the maintenance of my sobriety slip. I become discontented with my life, the people around me, and the fact that I have to abstain from using drugs. This would begin to affect my secondary mental illness because I am already slipping into a dark place. With the combination of my unmanaged sobriety and the symptoms of my anxiety disorders beginning to intensify, it would be extremely hard and maybe even impossible for me to remain sober. So, keeping that in mind, I do the best that I can in order to maintain my sobriety every day.

Remember That Recovery Is Not Linear

Recovery from any ailment takes time. Some days you will progress, while some days you may backslide. It is important to remember not to beat yourself up when you have an off day. When recovering from dual-diagnosis mental illnesses, these off days may happen more often than you’d like. I remember at the beginning of my recovery, everything was seemingly perfect. I had the desperation and time to do everything in my power to maintain my substance abuse recovery and my anxiety disorder recovery. As time went on, I regained responsibilities that left me with less time to pursue my recovery. This meant that life began to become increasingly difficult.

In order to balance my recovery, work, family and my social life I had to readjust my expectations. In addition, I needed to gain confidence in my recovery. I had built a strong foundation of life skills, coping mechanisms, and a support network that could carry me on my “off days”. When I had less time to make meetings or therapy sessions, I would call a sober friend to give me advice or just lend a listening ear. Initially, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing as much as I had been in early recovery. But, despite my guilt, the truth was that I was still doing everything in my power to maintain my recovery. We get sober and recover from our mental illnesses in order to build a life worth living. Once I realized that my guilt dissipated. All of these responsibilities that I thought were taking away from my recovery were, in fact, the gifts of recovery.

About the Author

Kailey Fitzgerald is a young writer in the recovery community. She has found passion in writing for websites like Discovery Transitions, who work to spread awareness and break stigmas in relation to recovery from addiction and mental illness. She has found this passion through recovering from her own dual-diagnosis and attempting to help others do the same.


Saturday 23 November 2019

How to Be Honest without Losing Your Friends

I’ve learned that the best relationships aren’t just about the good times; they’re also about the obstacles you go through together, the undying support, love, and the ways you help each other grow. — Sibyl Chavis

Fran and I believe openness and honesty are essential if you want your friendships and relationships to be successful. As we write in our book High Tide, Low Tide:

We believe it is healthier to be open about our thoughts and feelings than to dismiss, hide, or avoid them. .... We sometimes get upset or angry with each other, but we deal with discord promptly if it occurs, recognising there is no need to fear even powerful emotions when they can be explored safely.

It’s not always easy. Being honest requires mutual respect and trust, a commitment to work through whatever comes up, and the belief that your relationship is worth the effort. Here are three examples where I’ve worked through disagreements and issues honestly with friends. If I can do it, you can do it too!

“Over there — that’s where we had our first tiff!”

My friend Vikki and I were standing at the bar in Hadrian’s Tipi in Newcastle for the first time in about a year. I smiled. “Yeah. I was pretty grumpy that day!” She didn’t contradict me.

I remembered it well. Vikki sharing what was going on for her that day. People. Conversations. Frustrations. Whatever she needed to get off her chest in the safe space we’d learned to hold for each other as friends. I had things to talk about too; specifically the great response I was getting to my article about bipolar anger which had been published by Bipolar UK. I was feeling positive and proud and wanted to share that with my friend, not least because she had contributed to the article. But Vikki was in full flow. It was hard to get a word in and I began to get frustrated. Even when she paused long enough for me to speak I didn’t feel she was paying attention. I took myself off to the toilet but we both knew I was angry.

When I got back Vikki apologised for interrupting me. I explained that the news about the article was important to me, the way her stuff was to her. She acknowledged my point of view and pointed out I had told her my news — twice — but said we didn’t need to seek validation from each other all the time. That aggravated me all over again — because of course, she was right! The atmosphere was brittle for a while but we put it behind us and enjoyed the rest of our time out.

It wasn’t our last disagreement or the worst. For a while we weren’t friends at all but now we are, and our friendship is stronger for all we’ve gone through. We’ve certainly learned a lot about how to handle things that come up for us.

Maybe you only really start to get to know someone when you’ve had an argument or disagreement and come through it together. That’s certainly true of me and Fran. I’m not sure which was our very first but we’ve had many such moments in the eight years or more we’ve been friends. I’ve written elsewhere about some of them, including this example which I’m not proud of.

A couple of months ago we were talking together on webcam. Suddenly, I was more furious than I can ever recall being in my life. I was yelling at her, swearing at her, raging at her. I can still recall the fury. I can taste it. I have no recollection now of what triggered my outburst, but I know we stayed on our call. Fran waited for me to calm down. We talked it through. I could ask Fran to remind me what it was about. Perhaps I will. But the point is we can experience moments of even extreme anger, process them, and move on.

How do we do that? First and foremost we are honest and open with each other. We are not proud of our anger but neither are we ashamed. We do not take it as a personal affront or as a threat to our relationship. We talk as soon as possible, looking “under the bonnet” at what might actually have been going on. It can be a very cleansing experience, and allows us to move forward without feeling guilty or nursing bruised egos.

That article includes a situation similar to the one I’ve described with Vikki. I clearly have some issues around feeling not listened to when I’m sharing things with people, even people I feel safe with and trust.

I could tell Fran wasn’t paying attention, and as soon as I stopped speaking she took the conversation back to what she’d been talking about earlier. I let it go but I felt aggrieved. I’d have liked some acknowledgement of what I’d shared. I was also irritated by some of what Fran was saying about other people and events, as though everything and everyone was against her.

After talking for a few minutes Fran paused. She’d noticed my shift in mood. She acknowledged she was being unreasonable. She knew I was excited about my news, but couldn’t focus on that because she was so worried about what was going on for her. She was also concerned her bipolar might be kicking in again. I realised I’d not picked up on just how concerned she was about everything. Although “tired and grumpy” she had seemed to have things in hand.

It didn’t take long to talk it through. No more than a couple of minutes. Before we ended our call I told her: “I’m proud of how we do this stuff, Fran. You get to say how it is for you. I get to say how it is for me. And we get over ourselves and move on.”

My third example concerns my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson. It happened earlier this year when she was in hospital following an overdose. (You can read Aimee’s account of what she was going through at the time on her blog I’m NOT Disordered.) Aimee asked if I could go in to visit her and I was happy to do so. She was still in A&E at the time and said she’d tell me when she was moved onto one of the wards. I confirmed the ward visiting times and told her I’d be there.

I had to catch a train and a bus to get to the hospital and decided to travel in early. I arrived with a couple of hours to spare and asked at reception if she’d been moved onto a ward yet. She was still in A&E and I was allowed through to visit. I thought she’d be glad to see me, but she was cross because I’d not waited until she was on the ward. She asked me to wait outside and at first I said it was OK, I’d sit with her. She told me again and this time I did as she asked. I went back to reception and settled down to wait. I was sorry I’d upset her but it didn’t seem too big a deal. I passed the time working on a blog post. Ironically, it was an open letter about a previous occasion I’d visited Aimee in hospital.

Finally it was visiting time. I’d heard nothing so I went back to ask how she was. I was told Aimee had been moved onto a ward but didn’t want to see me. As I left the hospital it’s fair to say I felt hurt and angry — mostly at myself but also at Aimee for not letting me know what was happening. (In fact, she’d asked one of the nurses to find me in reception but I’d not got the message.) I messaged Aimee as I waited for my bus:

They’ve told me you don’t want any visitors after all so I guess I’ll go. I’m not cross, just sad.

Aimee replied later that day. I will always be grateful that she was completely honest about how deeply my actions had impacted her.

I did tell you that I’d let you know when I was on a ward and what the visiting times were and you just turned up and then I had to repeat myself for you to leave. Like I already don’t feel like I’m in control of anything and you did that... it was upsetting and hard.

In that moment I saw why it had hurt her so much. I replied more defensively than I wish I had, but I took responsibility and apologised. It was our first serious disagreement and I wasn’t sure how it would affect our friendship but Aimee accepted my apology and we moved on from there. When I told Aimee I’d like to include what happened in an article about arguments between friends, she said “Sure. It wasn’t an argument, though. It was a misunderstanding. And I think it made us stronger.”

I agree. We’ve not had any other big disagreements (so far!) but something came up recently which left me feeling hurt and less than valued. I considered keeping it to myself but figured Aimee would rather I brought it into the open. It was the right decision. Aimee acknowledged my feelings, apologised, and shared her perspective on what had happened. It’s good to know we can do the honesty thing.

I saw a meme on social media the other day which read:


I laughed. I get it. But the friends I value most are the ones who say yes.


Wednesday 20 November 2019

How Honest Friends Helped Me Find Stability

By Julie A. Fast

Do you have bipolar, schizoaffective disorder or a different mental health disorder that affects your friendships? I have bipolar and a psychotic disorder, now called schizoaffective disorder. As you can imagine, relationships were difficult when I was undiagnosed and didn’t know how to manage my own behavior! I’d like to share how I progressively righted my often out of control relationships and found more stability and happiness in my daily life.

Paranoia and Friendships

I lived with undiagnosed psychotic paranoia for many years and it greatly affected my ability to have stable interactions with friends and coworkers. My diagnosis helped me name what was going on in my brain and I finally knew that I wasn’t thinking and acting oddly out of obstinance. I was ill! Even though I now manage my psychosis with a plan that keeps most symptoms calm, I still had to teach myself to live with the symptoms that I can’t always control. I lost friends along the way, but after almost twenty years of regular practice, I can now live with my psychosis without acting on it. Yup. I still have psychotic paranoia in certain situations involving work and time with friends.

Here are some very typical thoughts I have when interacting with friends. These thoughts are accompanied by a strong feeling that something is wrong and that I’m being ignored or used:

Why is she calling her other friends and not calling me!

Why does he only want to see me on a Monday and not a Friday? Am I not good enough for a Friday night out?

Is she upset with me? Is that why she didn’t answer my text?

To counteract these thoughts so that I won’t act out on them quickly, I first have to determine if my thoughts are attached to a real behavior by the other person — is someone trying to put me off? Or, am I simply paranoid and unreasonable? It’s not easy to live with this constant need to check my own thoughts. It affects my life in every way, but like any illness I have to get my thoughts and subsequent behaviors under control if I want strong friendships. I find that in 99% of situations where I have these thoughts, I am WRONG. It is paranoia and not real. Thank heavens I can see this now!

What a life! But it’s a much better life now that the paranoia isn’t controlling ME.

Euphoric Mania and Friendships

I think I’m so fun and lively and sexy and wonderful when I’m manic. That might be true to strangers who meet me in a bar, but for my friends? No way! I’m an annoying, loud, prideful, grandiose, narcissistic doofus!

Friends can get very upset and embarrassed by my mania. I talk so much! I have way too many boyfriends! I drink. I don’t slow down and then I crash. It’s ridiculous.

I stopped this behavior over ten years ago. I simply said no more mania in my life. I now manage it as diligently as I do my depression and psychosis. I had to choose between the wild times with strangers and healthy stability with friends.

Learning to manage paranoid thoughts and truly committing to ending mania in my life deeply affected my friendships with people who have bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders. I have lost a few friendships due to friends who like their mania more than they like stability. I ended friendships when their paranoia showed up in a text at 2 AM accusing me of something I truly had not done. It’s not my job to change anyone, but it is my job to keep myself stable, so these friendships are no longer in my life. It’s probably the same thing when a person stops drinking and friends continue to drink heavily! You have to make a choice.

Just like Marty and Fran, I work super hard on my friendships. I look inside myself before acting out of a mood swing or paranoia. I wasn’t born with this ability. I created the plan in my book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and I USED it.

Is it hard? Yes! Hard, so hard! But I did it anyway. You can do this as well. I believe in our ability to change.

We can be GREAT friends!


About the Author

Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. Julie is a board member of The International Bipolar Foundation, a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine, and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. She is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare.

Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. She struggles a lot due to bipolar disorder. Friendships keep her going. You can find more about her work at and


Wednesday 13 November 2019

Caregivers Need Care Too

By Janet Coburn

Originally published in May 2017 at Bipolar Me.

While there are professional caregivers, family members often provide care and support for those with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

My husband of 35 years is my caregiver. He does a spectacular job – making sure I have my meds, taking me to my appointments, running the errands that I have no spoons to do, keeping the house quiet when I need to sleep, making sure I eat at least one nutritious meal a day.

It’s a lot. And there are things I can give him in return. Things he needs.

Appreciation. When my father was dying of cancer, my mother was his primary caregiver. One day she came to me, wanting me to tell her that she was doing a good job. She knew that she was. She just needed to hear it from someone else, someone who could tell her that her excellent care had been noticed and appreciated.

Appreciation – validation – is the thing that caregivers need most, to replenish themselves, to allow them to keep doing the things that are so vital for their charges. And it’s the easiest to give. When you’re in the depths of depression, it may be difficult to remember to say “thank you,” but it means a lot to your caregiver.

Now I’m mostly out of my depression (usually), and I say “thank you” a dozen times a day. And he always responds, “You’re welcome, friend.”

Alone time. Primary caregiving can be a full-time job. I know that one thing I need in the process of healing is alone time. Dan needs it too. He needs time off, even if that’s just time to retreat to his study and watch a movie or go outside and dig in the garden. I can always reach him if I really need him – for example, if I have a panic attack – via cell phone if nothing else. But, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty vessel. That’s part of the reason that he’s able to give me so much of what I need.

Couples time. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex. It means time spent together, doing something other than dealing with mood swings and trauma. It’s a little gift we give each other. Sometimes I sit through a movie I don’t really care for, just to give him the gift of snuggling on the couch. He got me color-and-bake ceramic mugs that are great for creativity and distraction. One rainy afternoon we sat together and each colored one side of the mugs.

Life stuff. Dan does most of the chores and tasks of daily living, but I do what I’m able to. I earn money. I pay bills online and do most of the other computing, except what he does for leisure. I help with cooking to the extent I can – sous-chefing, finding recipes, breading or mixing or inventing dressings and sauces, making grocery lists. He can ask me for help too.

Sharing my spoons. When I do find myself with a few spare spoons – a little extra energy occasionally – I try not to be selfish with it. When I have spoons to spend, I like to shower and dress and go out for lunch. But the other day, I showered and dressed and went for a walk in the woods with Dan, something he’s been longing for. My spoons ran out pretty rapidly, but he appreciated that I made the effort and shared one of his delights. It was another gift that cost no money.

In other words, when you have a caregiver, don’t think it’s all one way. Your caregiver needs care too. Small or large, what you are able to give will be appreciated.

About the Author

Janet Coburn is a freelance writer/editor with bipolar disorder, type 2. She is the author of Bipolar Me, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, a through other outlets. Her second book, Bipolar Us, will be published later this year by Eliezer Tristan Publishing.

Janet writes about mental health issues including talk therapy, medication, books, bullying, social aspects, and public policy, but mostly her own experiences with bipolar 2. As she says, “I am not an expert and YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary.”


Friday 8 November 2019

A Few Thoughts on Friendship Whilst Waiting for a Friend

I’m sitting at a table in Newcastle’s City Library. At my side is the library copy of High Tide, Low Tide, the book I wrote with my best friend Fran. I never tire of seeing it on the shelf. It’s a proud moment for any author; second only to not seeing it because someone has taken it out on loan.

I’m waiting for a friend. We’ll meet for coffee and then go for a drink or two; maybe something to eat. We’ll catch up with what’s going on for us. We’ll laugh, share old memories and make new ones. It is at moments like this that I feel most blessed. There were times in the past when I had no one to meet up with. I shared a quote on Facebook yesterday:

I don’t chase after people anymore. If they like spending time with me they will do so. (Barry M. Sherbal)

I posted it as a reminder to myself. Over the past year or so I’ve realised that chasing after people is unhealthy — for them and for me. I’ve done a lot of it in the past and the results have rarely been pretty. Some friendships have survived. Some haven’t. With some the jury’s still out. Letting go of the neediness and insecurity hasn’t been easy for me. In fact it’s been really hard and I’ve put in a lot of work. I am not altogether “there” yet but it has brought peace, and the realisation that in fact yes, I am worthy of having people like me and want to be with me. I don’t have to chase or coerce them into doing so.

I appreciate those who want to be in my life and want me in theirs. These are the relationships I value above all and within which I feel the most valued.

My friend has just messaged to say she’s on her way. Time to return the book to its place on the shelf and head out to meet her.


Wednesday 6 November 2019

Chapter and Verse: A Few Thoughts on Poetry, Creativity, and Mental Health

I met up recently with fellow blogger Aimee Wilson and we got talking about poetry and mental health. She showed me the blackout poem she’d created at a writing class run by Northumberland Council.

Watch it
I would
tolerance was not to be tested
increasingly restricted
reality reliving   particularly happy distracting
not dared to return
approved of
given up hope

Poetry is a new avenue for Aimee but she writes prolifically for her blog I’m NOT Disordered. As she says, “I find writing so beneficial for my mental health.”

We agreed there can be a close relationship between mental health and creativity. I shared with her how Fran had never written or been interested in poetry until she met me in May 2011. At the time, she was highly manic. Our early emails and online chat conversations were full of wordplay and had a free-flowing stream of consciousness quality that I found intoxicating. Sparked by that, and my own poetry which I shared with her, Fran began to write.

She wrote prolifically. Her poems were long; sometimes rambling, often brilliant. She wrote blisteringly of her experiences as a woman living with serious mental and physical illness in a small island community that did not understand her or what she was going through. She posted most of her work on social media. She held a live book reading and went on the radio. We talked of finding her a publisher.

Fran’s mania was eventually reined in by a change of medication, precipitating a winter of crippling depression and suicidality. Her creativity ceased as suddenly as if a switch had been thrown. It took months but eventually she began to re-emerge. The following description is from our book High Tide, Low Tide.

The wild, personal, and passionate poetry which flowed during Fran’s major episode of mania ceased when she fell into depression. Her creative voice was silenced for months. When it returned it was completely transformed. The haiku forms that emerged as she began to climb out from depression were more than descriptions of the island scenery around her. They were Fran’s attempt to find a reason to go on living.

boat on the water
slicing the calm
foaming leftovers..

quiet day
loud heart

high tide
low tide

what else is there to do but live life..

These poems were written on Centennial Beach, a short walk from where Fran lived at the time. She would return home, show me her latest poems, and then share them on her social media page. It was her way of reaching outward again. As she said later, “I was trying to save my life, to get out of the house onto Centennial and wait for the haikus to come. That was all I had.”

As her mood stabilised Fran found less of an impulse to write poetry and it’s been a long time since she did so. This saddens me because I loved the insight and wisdom her poems expressed, but they are red flags for mania and her health is more important to me than poetry.

Aimee’s principal diagnosis is borderline personality disorder (BPD) but she could relate Fran’s story to her own mood instability. We agreed it will be interesting to see if she adds poetry to her options for self-expression and self-care.

I don’t have a mental health diagnosis but my writing interests and outputs have changed a lot over the years. A collection of my poetry was published in 2008, but I stopped writing poetry much earlier at the age of twenty-three. Since then I have written only two poems. Ironically, the first arose in response to a period of writer’s block. The second was inspired — triggered, really — by attending my mother’s funeral in 2018.


How do I feel
What do I feel


Re birth


Un known
Un homed

Un tethered


Centred (thank you

— Liverpool, March 26, 2018

Between 2001 and 2005 I wrote articles and short stories in the fantasy genre for Reunion: The Alternative Tolkien Society. Most are still available on the society’s website. In recent years my work has been in the mental health arena; our two books High Tide, Low Tide and No One Is Too Far Away, and our blog.

Do you write poetry or prose, or do you have a different creative outlet? Has your creativity changed over time? Does it follows your moods or aspects of your mental health? We’d love to hear your experiences.


Wednesday 30 October 2019

Fibromyalgia and Social Support

By Sarah Blackshaw

In this hectic world, maintaining friendships can be a tricky thing to do. When you have a chronic physical health condition such as fibromyalgia, it can be even harder. I spend a lot of time working with people who struggle with pain and fatigue, and I’ve written this blog post to explain the things that I think are important when accessing social support with a condition like fibromyalgia.

Communication Is Key

The thing I hear most often when talking to people who are struggling with pain and fatigue is that “other people don’t understand.” That’s likely to be due to a combination of factors. As a society, we don’t do a very good job of explaining conditions like fibromyalgia, as we tend to buy into a model of “have something wrong – go to doctor – get fixed – live happily ever after.” That model rarely works any more these days, and instead we have lots of people struggling with chronic physical and mental health conditions that cause distress. On top of that, if the healthcare system isn’t very good at explaining it, how do we expect people suffering with fibromyalgia to explain it – a lot of people barely understand it themselves! Over time, that can lead to feeling as though nobody around you understands, when in fact it’s more likely that it hasn’t been explained to them very well (maybe because it hasn’t been explained to you very well).

When communicating about fibromyalgia and what you might need in the way of social support, there are a couple of things that are particularly important. One is to explain what might be difficult, and one is to explain what you need. For example, “I’ve got fibromyalgia, so we need to change our plans” is a good start, but it doesn’t tell your friends what needs changing specifically or how to do that. Something more like, “because of my fibromyalgia I’m in a lot of pain, so I can’t really spend three hours walking round the shops today. Could we go for a coffee instead?” is specific, explains the symptom you’re struggling with that day, and gives an alternative option. Most people want to help, and will be happy to change a social plan to allow you to attend.

Plan, Prepare, Pace!

These are three things that should be familiar to people with fibromyalgia. Planning and preparing for social events can make it a little bit easier to manage the pain and fatigue that can come with doing social activities. It might be that you need to ease off on some things for a day or two before, or not plan anything too strenuous in the days after a social event. If you’re an introvert like me, that’s also something that you need to take into account – the “social tiredness” that comes with being around people can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse, so make sure you’re aware of how much being around people can take from you as well as give back to you. Above all else, pacing is really important. Changing plans at the last minute is exciting, spontaneous, fun – and probably not a great idea until you’re relatively confident that you can manage the flare-up that might come with it. I’m not saying that you have to stick rigidly to a plan (you can go to a different restaurant if you want to!) but a cinema trip that becomes a night out clubbing probably isn’t going to do your symptoms any favours, and might make you feel like you can’t do “anything” social when in fact that’s not the case. As the old saying goes: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

There are lots of things that you might not have considered doing when you didn’t have fibromyalgia, that might be really good to get social connection now. Someone I know likes to invite their friends round and asks them to bring a book that they’re reading – then they make a cup of tea and read together in silence. There’s some conversation, but there’s also a sense of “being together,” which is more important than anything else. Changes like these take some getting used to, but most people are willing to do things differently because they care about you.

Don’t Forget Social Media – but Beware of the Pitfalls

Social media can be an incredible tool when you’re struggling with fibromyalgia and still want to be sociable. There are loads of people out there who are also struggling too, and you can chat to someone halfway around the world to provide and receive support (as Martin and Fran have proven time and again). On Twitter, hashtags like #spoonielife and #chronicillness can connect you with like-minded people who have similar physical health conditions, and we know that however much people like to bemoan social media, it’s great for finding friends.

That comes with a caveat though – beware of social media groups keeping you “stuck.” What I mean by that is that even though it can be great to complain when you’re having a bad day, if that’s all you’re seeing on social media it can start to colour your view of the world. You can start to believe that every single person with fibromyalgia experiences it in the same way, and that nobody with pain or fatigue can ever have a social network outside of a computer. Whilst social media is so useful to meet people who understand how you feel, you should all want the best for each other and want to help each other manage your fibromyalgia for the better – that’s true friendship. If there’s a lot of complaining and nothing positive there, maybe it’s not the best place to be.

Learn When to Let Go

This is linked to my last point, but also to “real-life” situations. Most people are kind, loving people who want to help you because they value your friendship. But not all of them. If you’re holding on to friendships with people who don’t understand why you might need to change your plans, or who try to push you past your pain and fatigue tolerance because they want to do something different, they’re not really your friends. Friendships grow and evolve, that’s the joy of them, and if your friends won’t grow and evolve with you then you might have to think about letting them go. That’s not to say that as soon as they do something that feels wrong you need to cut them out of your life! But if you explain why things need to be different and yet you keep having flare-ups after hanging out with them, or you’re left feeling guilty about not being able to “keep up,” maybe they’re not the right friends for you at this point in time. Try dialling back your interaction with them, or even just sticking to messaging them for a while rather than meeting up – then, if you feel ready to, you can see if they’ve changed their understanding.

Hopefully this blog post has helped you to see that you can have a full and active social life with fibromyalgia – it just might need to look a little different to how it looked before. Thanks very much to Martin and Fran for letting me write this post, please let them or me know if you’ve got any other tips for getting social support when you have fibromyalgia.

About the Author

Sarah Blackshaw is a clinical psychologist working with people who have chronic physical health conditions, particularly chronic pain.

She blogs over at, and can also be found on Twitter @academiablues.


Wednesday 23 October 2019

Friends in Deed: An Interview with Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes and Martin Baker

I want to tell stories that convey personality and place. I like writing about artists, writers and performers who take risks with their work and are persistent in their passions. I’m curious about their motivations, inspirations and dreams.

— Bob Keyes

Fran and I recently had the pleasure to meet with award-winning arts writer and storyteller Bob Keyes when he interviewed us for the Maine Sunday Telegram. Given the distances involved we held the interview online using Skype. Bob and Fran were in Portland, Maine; I was three thousand miles away in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The set-up was perfectly in keeping with the international nature of my friendship with Fran and our key message that no one is too far away to be cared for or to care. It was a novelty for Bob, though; he said it was the first time he had interviewed anyone this way.

We talked about how Fran and I first met, how we “do” our international, mutually supportive friendship, and our work in the mental health community including our two books High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder and No One is Too Far Away: Notes from a Transatlantic Friendship.

A couple of weeks later we had a photo shoot with photojournalist Derek Davis. I was visiting our friend Aimee Wilson at the time. Aimee has been interviewed many times here in the UK about her lived experience and her hugely successful mental health blog I’m NOT Disordered. She was delighted for us and fascinated to be involved behind the scenes.

It was a lot of fun pretending to have a regular Skype call with Fran, with Aimee off camera at my end with her cat Emmy and rabbit Pixie (which wasn’t at all distracting, honest!) and Derek moving around Fran’s room to capture her talking to me on her laptop.

It’s fair to say Fran and I were both excited — and a little nervous — as publication day drew nearer. How would the photos come out? What would the title be? Did we cover everything we wanted to? We needn’t have worried!

The article was published in both print and online editions of the Maine Sunday Telegram on October 20, 2019, as “Friends in Deed: Overseas confidants co-write books about being a supportive friend.”

You can read the article in full here.

Among many generous comments, this by Tl Adams stands out for us:

What an excellent article! I think you both are extraordinary. An amazing example of what a true friendship is and should be. As others have commented, you both deserve a lot of attention for how you have helped others, like me, in learning about having a good relationship/friendship with someone who struggles with mental illness. You guys are awesome! I hope this article will be seen all over the world. SO many people need to read it and read your books.

We are grateful to Bob, Derek, and the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram for the opportunity to share something of our lives, our friendship, and our message of hope to a new audience. We hope everyone who reads it feels Bob met his aim to write about people “who take risks with their work and are persistent in their passions.”


You can find Bob Keyes on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Derek Davis is showcased at the Portland Press Herald. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.

Aimee Wilson blogs at I’m NOT Disordered. You can also find her on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.