I hope that by sharing my story (and my Dads too) that it helps you or someone you know going through mental illness. I hope that it shone a light on the dark, gritty parts of bipolar that many will never experience. And I hope that my book also shows the happy parts; recovery, that you can live and thrive again.
Bipolar is a complex and messy condition. It can ruin lives. There is no sugar coating. But you can be well too if you can find the right balance of medication and therapy…which is trial and error.
Thank you to every person who read it, reviewed it and got in touch to tell me their own journey.😍 Please continue to share and gift it to someone who needs it.
If you havnt read my story yet; the book is available in Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith; Blackwells and is available in the USA and Europe.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me – it means the world.
Sometimes, you receive amazing book reviews on the internet and don’t realise they are there!
Yesterday, I stumbled upon Deb Wilk’s blog Living Bipolar – Deb has lived with bipolar disorder for many years and very kindly reviewed my book last year. She lives in the USA and is a talented blogger, sharing about her life living with bipolar.
I don’t always know what to expect with reviews, but this was so positive so thank you Deb for reading, enjoying and recommending my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety. Heres some quotes from the review:
“Every word, paragraph and chapter of Bring Me to Light was utterly mesmerizing. Eleanor Segall’s account of her battle with bipolar 1, panic attacks, and crippling social anxiety is so vibrant that the reader feels as though they are experiencing it right alongside her.
I would love to describe the book in detail, but I am not going to give anything away because this book is an absolute must-read. Anyone who is bipolar or loves someone who is, should read this story. It is a moving narrative that anyone, even those who do not suffer with mental illness, should read. …
She is now an extremely forceful voice in the mental health community, and this accolade is incredibly well deserved. Please read this book. You will find it well worthwhile and, I am certain, as enthralling as I did.” (Deb Wilk, living bipolar blog)
Pushing Through The Cracks: In the Darkness of Her Family’s Mental Illness She Found Light by Emily J. Johnson is an incredible book. It is a story that I don’t believe has ever been written about before in such a way in the mental health space, I have certainly never come across it. Its a true memoir that occurred here in the UK during lockdown.
Emily wrote to me and kindly sent me a free copy of her book. I was hooked from the first page- this is a story of survival against the odds, of how mental illness can rip a family apart but how healing and hope are possible. Of strength through immense difficulty. Of light winning over darkness.
Four years ago, in the UK, Emily, a divorced mother of two, was living her best life with a new partner and blended family of six. But then addiction and mental illness entered her home uninvited, threatening to tear the whole family apart.
With an alcoholic husband and two teenage sons – one a depressed gambler and the other with chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)– Emily is left to cope alone. And when the Covid pandemic hits, Emily, a ‘serial people-pleaser, enabler and born rescuer’, almost breaks too.
This true story delves into the darkest sides of mental illness and addiction with raw, often harrowing honesty. It shines a light on taboo subjects including self-harm, suicidal feelings, gambling, alcoholism, depression, severe OCD and eating disorders, all exacerbated by an unprecedented global pandemic and dwindling support services.
This is a story of remarkable strength, self-realisation and reclamation of a lost identity. This is a story of finding hope, pushing through the cracks in the darkness. It is also a story that touches on the difficulties of accessing UK NHS mental health services at times, especially CAMHS.
I found Emily’s strength through such severe adversity – dealing with a husband and two sons with severe mental illness, whilst carrying on with her own life when mental illness permeated every part, to be so inspiring. Her marriage falls apart, her children are unable to attend work and education, the family embarks on several different recovery journeys- navigating NHS mental health care and all its difficulties. Her sons addictions and acute OCD worsen and add to the pressures for Emily. How does she as a mother fix it all? She realises.. she can’t fix anyone and its not her job too.
The front cover features a dandelion pushing through the cracks of the ground. Emily describes the moment she hits rock bottom but then saw a dandelion poking through- which symbolised hope and light for her,
‘(image: Emily J. Johnson)
‘I pick up my phone and call a crisis support line…I desperately want someone to listen to me, to ease my pain, to hear my stories…(of mental illness at home)
I throw my phone across the path in frustration… something catches my eye, a beautiful yellow dandelion is growing through a crack in the concrete. Its golden yellow petals cut through the greyness of the broken path and it overshadows the filth and discarded cigarette butts around it. Despite its surroundings, it has found ways to push up through that crack, to have life. it is. not complaining or giving up, it’s surviving and it will go on to finish flowering. One day soon, the wind will carry its dainty seeds somewhere else to carry on the cycle of its life.
Just like that dandelion, I have pushed through adversity and survived. …I close my eyes and raise my face to the sunshine… Even in the midst of all this chaos, this darkness, there is warmth and light. There is hope.” (from chapter Dandelion) (Emily J. Johnson)
This is also a book which exposes the difficulties and realities of living with mental illness. I will add a trigger warning- it doesn’t hold back on the reality of mental illness including self harm, addiction, alcoholism, suicidal thoughts etc- so please read with care.
Thank you Emily for letting me read and follow the journey of your family. I hope your husband and sons are able to fully battle their demons and recover or stay in remission. Pushing Through the Cracks by Emily J. Johnson can be bought from Amazon and good book shops.
I am absolutely delighted to read and review this incredible childrens book from the Sophie Says series by author and award winning campaigner Esther Marshall (with illustrator Buzz Burry).
Esther’s story is close to my heart as not only is she from my own community but her late sister Rebecca z’l was a doctor who had bipolar disorder and sadly passed away a few years ago, while Esther was writing her second book. Esther has shared that it was her sister who encouraged and inspired her idea to write the childrens books that she couldn’t see for her own child (in terms of positive messages, inspiring rolemodels and diverse characters in terms of both race and gender). Through her sister’s struggles, Esther also began to include positive mental health messages on talking and sharing emotions, self belief and self esteem too.
Esther has said,
“I knew from the second my son was born I wanted to teach him that girls were just as strong and powerful as boys, that people from different backgrounds to him could teach him things and he should listen and be kind to everyone. The problem was, all the books I could find to read to him had:
Mostly male characters (even the animals)
Little to no diversity or representation
No female role models he could look up to
So I decided that if I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read to my son, I’d better write my own.
I want all children to know and believe that they can achieve their dreams regardless of gender, race, religion or class”,
Esther at Sophie Says has not only thought about what stories she wants to tell through the books, but what messages children reading them will take and absorb. She has partnered with illustrator Buzz Burry and comments, ‘we are helping children bypass harmful stereotypes before they set in by changing the face of children’s literature. Our mission is to enable all children to grow up feeling equipped and empowered to face their futures. To learn more about themselves, others and the world around them. We are helping parents to teach their children positive messages and providing a toolkit to navigate some of the trickier conversations.‘
Esther very kindly gifted me copies of her first two books- Sophie Says I Can I will– which is about a little girl Sophie with big dreams and no limits. and Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay which focuses on Sophie, Jordyn and Jamie on their journey as they learn that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and it’s okay not to be okay. The books are for children in the early years, ages 3-7 years and reading the books with either parents, carers or teachers is recommended. Esther told me she has ‘tried to create books which cater to both home and school so that it can be embedded in both parts of a child’s life and become the foundation of them building resilience at an early age.’
Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is a very special book- and one of the first I have seen to address children’s mental health in an age appropriate way, to teach children about their emotions and that it’s OK to feel sad, scared or worried. The book follows Jamie who is looking down and feeling sad but whose best friends Sophie and Jordyn help him through and Sophie tells him ‘its okay not to be okay’. They take him to the zoo to help him feel better and speak to Sophie’s older sister Meghan who is wise and will give good advice. Esther named the character after Meghan, Duchess of Sussex who she met with Prince Harry and other young leaders and was inspired by (she gave them a copy of the book too!)
Meghan (the character) says this important message,
”It’s okay to be sad and okay to feel down. Just make sure you have good friends around. There may be days when you feel you’re alone but around us, you’ll always be at home. Its Okay not to be okay”
The book also reinforces self belief and esteem , reiterating that ‘YOU are enough!’ and encourages children to talk about their feelings because it can help. Jamie then says he will speak about his feelings in a place he feels safe in the zoo,
‘I don’t really know how to describe how I feel As I can’t work out what’s in my head and what’s real.
He said ‘ a smile may be what you see, but that’s not what I feel inside me
There are times I feel quite alone because these feelings are unknown
Some days I’m happy and some days I’m sad and other days I just feel so bad’
His friends then show him support and love, take him to the funfair, all while reinforcing positive kindness and support- ‘Yes we can!” . The book talks positively about the kindness of friendships always being a safe space to talk. This is so important for children particularly in the early years who are learning to understand their feelings.
Esthers writing is beautiful- on one of the last pages of the book she says ‘Whatever you do, be kind, you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind’.
The book was informed by her sister Rebecca’s struggle with mental illness (bipolar disorder). Esther has said, ‘I had always planned to write another book all around mental health to help children understand their feelings and talk about them more openly, and I sadly lost my sister, Rebecca, to mental illness as I was writing it. So the second book Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is dedicated to her memory’.
Esther wanted to amplify the message and so it was released on World Mental Health Day. The book provides a toolkit for parents who want to help their children to express their own emotions.
She has been visiting schools and doing zoom readings of her book to share the messages for her. Esther told me, I would love that as a result of children reading the Sophie Says books that children understand these vitally important lessons through a fun way of learning and it helps them build resilience and confidence to go out and achieve their full potential whilst being able to understand and manage both their physical and mental health. .’.
Esther is a true force of nature and someone who inspires me so much. She has just released a third book in the series Sophie Says Be Proud of Who You Are which is about Sophie and the rest of the Sophie Says crew on their exciting seaside adventure as they help their friend Priya build her confidence, as they guide her through believing in herself and being proud of who she is. The perfect book to help your child build their confidence and self esteem!
I would recommend the Sophie Says books to all parents, teachers and carers of young children. I can’t wait to see how this brand grows and what Esther achieves (she has achieved so much already!). She should be rightly proud of her work and all she has created.
To learn more about Sophie Says and buy the books click here
Hi, I’m the founder of Sophie Says and the author of the books within the series. The idea for the first book (Sophie Says I Can, I Will) came to me after having my son, Asher (who is the first and most important reader of all the books!).
I knew I wanted him to grow up understanding that both girls and boys could achieve anything that they set their minds to, but I couldn’t find any books that featured a female lead character (a human one, not an animal one!) that really represented the message I wanted to teach him. So I thought, if I can’t find the story I want to tell, I’d better write it myself.
I was gifted two books in exchange for an honest review. Any links are unpaid. These books are incredible.
(image: Charlotte Greaves/Twitter and Book by Matt Haig)
Today here in England has felt chilly, windy and cooler than the heatwave of a few months back. Its only the 1st September but there is that back to work. and school feeling, but also a feeling of cosiness.
I love this time of year. I never used to, with it getting darker earlier, but now I love the cosiness of Autumn- reading a good book, watching a good movie and snuggling under blankets with hot chocolate.
I normally use this to give updates on my mental health and write about how I am getting on. The truth is, I have been anxious at times and dealing with panic from time to time, so I have restarted therapy. However, so much of life is appreciating the good things so heres what I am loving..
You all know i love to read! I found this book online- I loved Matt Haigs book Reasons to Stay Alive, where he discusses his own depression. Its a book that has complete honesty and I found the same for his novel The Midnight Library. The Midnight Library- a novel by Matt Haig
I had been a bit late to read this (it came out last year) but the book touched me so much! Its about Nora Seed, whose life unravels to the point where she begins to feel suicidal and wants to end her life. I won’t ruin the book but she ends up in a spiritual/ fictional library with her trusted school librarian Mrs Elm and she is able to try on parallel lives- What if she had married someone? Had children? had a different career? become famous? What if she had said or something different- what if her life choices led her to different events or people?
We follow Nora on her journey of self discovery and as she navigates her own life, mental health issues, and overcoming her challenges. She is guided by Mrs Elm and the whirring library of lives she finds herself in- which includes the ‘Book of Regrets.’
This book speaks to me on so many levels. My favourite quote is this,
‘The paradox of volcanoes is that they were symbols of destruction but also life. ..She wasn’t a black hole, she decided. She was a volcano. And like a volcano, she couldn’t run away from herself…she’d have to stay there and tend to that wasteland. She could plant a forest inside herself.‘- Matt Haig
Matt Haigs writing is so beautiful- and I think this book will be turned into a movie. I recommend it if you are feeling well (as it does talk about suicidal ideation, which could be triggering). Its a wonderful book and completely unique.
The library metaphor and parallel universe theory pervade throughout. Although I am useless at Physics, its an interesting theory that there could be parallel lives or universes.
I recommend this to those who wish to be inspired- its just a really exceptional piece of writing and it will touch many hearts.
Note: This is not a paid ad for the Midnight Library- I just read it and loved it so much!
I don’t really know where to start! I have been keeping this secret for almost two years.
Nearly 2 years ago, my friends, mental health campaigner/author Jonny Benjamin MBE and author and editor Britt Pfluger, approached me to be a part of their second book entitled ‘The Book of Hope: 101 Voices on Overcoming Adversity‘ (published with Bluebird/ Pan Macmillan in April 2021!).
They asked me to write a piece on how I found hope and recovery after being unwell and my (ongoing) journey with bipolar disorder that I wrote about in my own book Bring me to Light.
I won’t give too much away about the piece I wrote, but it does include my Dad’s story too and talks about life after being sectioned for a manic episode in 2014. It talks about hope, healing, recovery and living with mental illness. It talks about being afraid of the future, but finding light in the darkness.
Heres what Macmillan say about the book which is available for pre order on Bluebird Pan Macmillan website and Amazon. It also contains anecodotes from famous faces including Lemn Sissay, Zoella (Zoe Sugg), Joe Wicks and Dame Kelly Holmes.
There is always hope, even when we cannot seem to seek it within ourselves.
”The Book of Hope is an anthology of 101 key voices in the field of mental health, who share not only their experiences with anxiety, psychosis, panic attacks and more, but also what helps them when they are feeling low. Compiled by award-winning activist Jonny Benjamin and author Britt Pflüger, the inspirational contributors in this book range from the likes of Lemn Sissay, Frank Turner and Zoe Sugg, to Elizabeth Day, Hussain Manawer and Joe Wicks; from authors, poets and musicians to charity workers, activists and psychiatrists.
Jonny Benjamin is known for his book and documentary film, The Stranger on the Bridge, which fought to end stigma around talking about mental health, suicidal thoughts and schizoaffective disorder. When his campaign to find the man who prevented him from taking his own life went viral, Jonny was one of a wave of new figures lifting the lid on mental health struggles. In this book, he brings together a range of voices to speak to the spectrum of our experiences of mental health and the power of speaking up and seeking help.”
It is a real honour and privilege to be a part of this project. A dream come true and I am so thankful to be able to share my story on this platform with truly important voices! We all have mental health and our voices deserve to be amplified.
The Book of Hope is available to pre order now and published in 2021.
Yesterday, on 5th November, my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety (with Trigger Publishing) turned one!
Today, I got this lovely review from a Twitter follower Robin so I thought I would share it here:
‘It is an amazing book, really enjoyed reading it. An honest and open account of life with bipolar, your strength of character shone through. Thank you for being so open and writing it. – Robin Josephs
I wrote my book to help others and dispell the stigma about severe mental illness. Everyone is human and everyone has mental health. Whether you have never suffered or whether you have depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, BPD or EUPD, self harm, addictions, PTSD etc- I would love everyone to be more open if they feel able.
I hope my book explains what being in hospital can be like but that you can recover.
You can get your copy on Amazon and in all good book shops now 🙂
Happy bookversary to me! Thank you to YOU for supporting my blog, reading this and helping get my book deal. To everyone who has bought a copy and to my fab editors Stephanie and Katie.
Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss, by my friend and author Fiona Thomas is an incredible read! I have known Fiona for some time as our writing careers overlapped. We both became freelance journalists for publications including Metro.co.uk and Happiful magazine at the same time. We then got book deals around the same time with Trigger Publishing and released our first books within a year of one another. Fiona is one of the loveliest humans in the mental health writer world and so I eagerly anticipated reading her new book.
Ostensibly, the book is a guide to ditching the 9-5 traditional workplace and going freelance! This is something Fiona has great knowledge of, having left the 9-5 after a breakdown in her 20s and being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It took her a year to recover from this and as she had previously worked as a Manager, she knew she couldn’t go back to the pressure cooker. You can read more about this in her first book Depression in a Digital Age.
Instead, like me, she found solace in blogging online about mental health, then writing and becoming a freelance writer for many publications. Now, she is not only an author but a writing coach, journalist and in demand speaker!
Freelancing is booming for people who want a more flexible lifestyle or have found themselves out of work too. All you need is a laptop, phone and internet connection!
(image: Fiona Thomas)
Now, to the book Out of Office. The book is full of Fiona’s trademark wit- I felt like she was talking directly to me as I read it. She has so much knowledge to impart on how to navigate the freelance world, avoid its pitfalls and make a successful career (and what to do when things can go pear shaped too!).
Whether you are just thinking about going freelance, just starting out or a few years down the line, this guide addresses all the questions you might have about working for yourself and making the most of life. Designed to help you attain and enjoy a self employed career, the book challenges the misconceptions around freelancing and offers the pros and cons of taking the plunge.
Fiona covers topics such as how to raise an invoice and submit a tax return, how to sell yourself, coping with imposter syndrome (aka I’m just not good enough to be here), as well as why working from home is proven to have a positive impact on productivity and mental health.
Fiona is a mental health advocate and always strives to help others on their journeys. I loved how engaging the book was, how I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter and learn more. As a freelance writer/blogger/author myself, I knew this book would help me too (especially with the finances) and it is sitting in pride of place on my book shelf as I devoured it. I will definitely re read and use Out of Office as a reference point in the future too.
This is a must read and you can get a copy here and in all good bookshops.
Fiona Thomas is a freelance writer who was born in Glasgow but now lives in Birmingham. She has been published in Metro, Reader’s Digest, Happiful Magazine and Grazia. Her passion is working with female-led businesses and shining a light on the positive impact that freelancing can have on our wellbeing. This is her second book. She blogs at fionalikestoblog.com
Many of you will know Trigger Publishing, who publish my book and focus on books dedicated to promoting good mental health and wellbeing. At the moment, the world is in turmoil and everything feels uncertain. Sometimes we all need a pick me up and these lovely range of mini pocket books by Trigger do just that!
They are a beautifully designed range of little gift books filled with inspirational quotes to lift the spirits in challenging times. The quotes are from well known figures and so inspiring. The books make great gifts as they are small and visually appealing- the perfect present for yourself or to give to a good friend to cheer them up.
Trigger say that they have published them to coincide with Mother’s Day, Easter and of course International Women’s Day last week.
The range includes the Pocket Book of Love for when relationships are challenging- to provide much needed wisdom and advice to restore, reset and revive you.
There is also the Pocket Book of Hope, for when things seem bleak and you need to find hope in your life, which is also filled with wise quotes such as,
‘Hope is passion for what is possible’- Kierkegaard
I was gifted these two books and they are beautifully made and so lovely to read! There is a quote for almost any situation.
The books were published on the 5th March and can be bought on Amazon here:
This blog has been a long time coming. I have been so busy promoting my book on social media and in the press that I havn’t actually sat here and told you WHY I decided to write this book. So, here goes.
Firstly, can I just express so much gratitude to this here WordPress blog because without it, I would not have got commissioned at Metro.co.uk (thank you Yvette) or for other places online. This blog gave me the confidence to write and to expand my writing’s reach and for that I will be forever grateful.
In 2013/ early 2014, I sat on the couch, crying and living with a suicidal depression. My bipolar was unstable and all over the place- I felt so low and like there was no way out. However, as I sat and cried- a friend of mine’s face peered up from the newspaper. He was looking for the man that saved him from suicide and was launching a campaign called Find Mike to find him. That man was Jonny Benjamin (who now has an MBE). I had known Jonny for many years as a teenager through friends, but he became my inspiration and my hope that I too could do good things despite having mental illness. He very kindly has provided an endorsement too for my book- thank you Jonny!
With the help of my psychiatrist, I recovered temporarily from the depression but then spun very fast into mania and psychosis (possible due to a large dose of anti depressant). I was sectioned and in hospital for 4 months as an inpatient and a further 4 as an outpatient.
Throughout this time, I could not think about writing because my mind wasn’t stable enough. But as I pieced my life back together, started taking a new mood stabiliser to help control the bipolar episodes and started to recover slowly, I found the power of blogging about my social anxiety due to trauma of the bipolar, to be so helpful. I found that others would share their stories and would reach out to me about their mental health too.
Although life is not perfect and I am still living with an anxiety disorder, I have found a way to write and speak about mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar at 16 and there was a lot of shame for me about it back then in 2004. These days, I tell my story for other scared 16 year olds newly diagnosed but also to break down barriers and stigma against mental illness. To explain you can have bipolar or be sectioned or have psychosis but you can recover and you don’t need to spend life in hospital forever. To explain that while this cruel illness runs in families, that with the right healthcare, staying more stable is possible.
I started writing my book with Trigger Publishing because they believed in my story when I sent them my proposal. They are part of the mental health charity the Shaw Mind Foundation and royalties go towards the charity as well as some to me.
I hope that when you read my story, you won’t see it as a despairing ramble- but rather a story of hope, of life, of light triumphing over the darkness- but the darkness making the good times shine brighter. I also bring my bipolar to light, I share it with the world- as scary as this is, so that others can also tell theirs.
I wrote this book too provide a place to talk, start conversation and help heal myself through writing it but sharing that feeling of hope with others too. The book cannot change things that are so needed like urgent mental health funding of the NHS so we have parity of esteem. Yet, i hope it is a starting point about how important mental health treatment is for people to move forward in their lives.