Thursday, May 22, 2008

TO READ: My Internet Radio Interview

Here's an email I sent out to friends, family, colleagues and students about my radio interview -- which is today! If you'd like to join my mailing list, please send your name to: Thanks!

Dear friends,

I'm thrilled to announce that thanks to the help and support of many of you, my book, Writing through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen, has been released and is now available!

If you've wanted to learn more about how writing can ease depression, I invite you to tune in to a live, nationally-syndicated Internet radio show today, Thursday, at 3:20pm PST. I will be interviewed on World Talk Radio, which is accessible through the Internet at If you are not available at that time but are interested in getting a podcast of the presentation, you will be able to do so following the show by clicking

Many of you have already witnessed the power of writing. If there are others who you feel would be interested in this message, please forward it to them so they can tune in to the show or visit my website at

Thank you and be well!

Monday, May 19, 2008

TO READ: My Book is Available!
I'm delighted to let you know that my book, Writing through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen, is now widely available, both online and in bookstores. (If your bookstore doesn't have it, ask for it!) The official publication date is not until June 1, but lots of folks are telling me that they're finding it at various locations -- one chain bookstore I visited this week told me they'd already sold out of it and were ordering more, which of course does a new author's heart lots of good. To order online, go to my website,, and click on the "order this book" button. Or, just go to

Writing through the Darkness is a practical guide to using creative writing to help heal depression. For over 20 years I've coped with severe depressions due to my bipolar disorder. I've tried at least 25 medications, years of psychotherapy, over 100 electroconvulsive (shock) therapy treatments, transcranial magnetic stimulation, as well as acupuncture, herbs, energy adjustments, meditation regimens and more. But I discovered that writing was my friend, companion and, at times, my savior, through it all.

I've been leading a creative writing group for people with depression, bipolar disorder and other conditions for ten years now. Along the way I've studied the research on how writing can help us emotionally and how other authors and poets have naturally been drawn to it to cope. Writing through the Darkness is my offering of this healing tool to you. I hope you will find it encouraging and informative as you learn new ways to ease the pain of depression. Please let me know what you think!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

TO WRITE: Your Gang
What organizations or informal groups do you belong to? If you're like me, you can name quite a few. I'm a member of NAMI and DBSA, several writing associations, a gym, charitable organizations, alumni associations, on and on.... Then there are the less formal groups: two writing groups, a group of church friends interested in multiculturalism, my old high school gang of four close friends, a book group, and, of course, my family and my neighbors.

It all looks a bit daunting as I start to list them here. But I think most groups I am a part of do offer some benefits. Some provide a sense of camaraderie, a sense of shared purpose, educational opportunities, or -- most critically -- friends and support.

Play with this. . .
Take about three minutes to quickly jot a list of groups or organizations to which you belong. Then take three more minutes to list those you've belonged to in the past -- remember, your fifth grade class counts, as do any religious or business affiliations you've had. Now write continuously on one to three of these items, considering what your emotional experiences are or were there. Did you feel uplifted and aided in a depression support group? Did your softball team provide friendship when you needed it? Did your high school graduation class offer enjoyment, or was it all a burden?

Finally, how could you improve your life in terms of the groups you belong to now? Could you audit a class or find a few folks who like museums? Personally, I'm feeling stretched way too thin right now, so I'm trying to take leave of a few volunteer activities and focus more on things like the writing group I lead and the one I write in. I'm also realizing there may be times in the future when I'll benefit from a mood disorders support group again -- one of my saviors in past times. Try to be creative and keep all your options open.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TO READ: Unipolar and Bipolar Depression -- Differences
Many of us, psychiatrists included, tend to assume that a depression is a depression -- whether it's a unipolar one (ie, "major depression") or due to the depressed phase of bipolar disorder. But a recent report says that's not so.

British researchers compared 593 people with major depression and 443 with bipolar disorder, looking at their depression symptoms and the course of their illness. The findings showed several distinctions. Bipolar depressions tended to more often have:

* the presence of psychosis (ie, delusions or hallucinations)

* daily mood variation

* hypersomnia (sleeping too much) during depressive episodes

* more shorter depressive episodes

These are all features you may want to keep an eye on and discuss with your mental health care provider because treatments for the two illnesses do differ.

For more information: The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 192:388-389.

Friday, May 09, 2008

TO WRITE: Coming Out the Other Side

Thank you to all the kind souls who offered sympathy and solace in response to my recent "What a Disappointment" posting. Today's news: It's getting better.

We're still waiting for a new adoption assignment, which could anytime. I'm still a bit sad and fatigued from it all. But -- I am not having a depression. Hurray! My fears that this situational depression would trigger a severe neurochemical one that would take me to a hell hard to escape from have not materialized. And now even the situational depression is gradually healing, and I'm slowly finding myself able to look forward more easily.

A very wise person pointed out that I may need to pay special attention to doing physical, sensory activities during this time, and that has paid off. Rather than letting myself stare into space or sleep too much, I've been pushing myself to journal about the situation, to read for pure pleasure, to shop, to prepare simple meals, to talk to friends. It's grounding.

Play with this. . .

Write continuously for 20 minutes on what "grounding" activities could help you through your next difficult period. Could you exercise or just walk, paint or take photos, visit a bookstore or cafe, go to a museum? And what about writing? Research indicates that writing about a tough situation can help us organize it in our mind, get it out emotionally, and even change our behavior -- and can boost immune system function. Why wouldn't you include it in your box of healing tricks? Let me know what works for you.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TO READ: My New York Times Online Letter
Last week's science and health page of the New York Times (It comes out on Tuesdays and often has great brain, psychology, and mental health articles -- and it's free online.) had a book review entitled "Quieting the Demons and Giving Art a Voice." It described two new books on aspects of creativity and mental illness. I'm sure I'll read both soon, and likely enjoy them, but one of the conclusions drawn from both is that depression silences people's creative voice.

But no! My new book, Writing through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen (available online now; in bookstores June 1), provides evidence that in fact creative writing can be used to help work through even a deep depression. So I wrote back, and my letter appeared in this morning's NYT online edition:

Check it out, and you can also link from the letter back to the original article. I'd love to hear what you think. I believe it's crucial that people with depression, bipolar, or other mental illnesses -- especially those newly-diagnosed -- understand that this does not spell the end of their creative life. Although it certainly will present new challenges, I believe our creative life can actually be fed by our mental difficulties if approached correctly. And I believe our creativity can help heal us too.