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.
(image: Fiona Thomas/ Trigger Publishing)
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
(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))
Trigger Warning: sexual assault, details of assault and severe mental illness
Its been a while but I thought I would put type to keyboard and write a blog for more mental health awareness.
Since my book was published, I haven’t written many follow up personal blogs, purely because the launch of my life story into the public domain felt overwhelming and scary. 6 months on, I am used to it being out there but I have been working hard in EMDR trauma therapy to help myself.
See, the truth is that right now the Bipolar Disorder for me is stable and under control on my medicines. I still get side effects- weight gain, dry mouth and thirst, but my mind is generally healthy in terms of the Bipolar- no mania or depression. Anxiety and panic yes but Bipolar, not really at the moment.
Yet, almost lurking unseen after I left hospital in 2014 and began my recovery was the fact I was traumatised by my experiences of going into psychosis (losing touch with reality via delusions, false beliefs) and my experiences when being sectioned. I will just give an overview as the rest is in my book- but this included- being restrained, being attacked by other patients and seeing them self harm, being injected with Haloperidol (an anti psychotic) in front of both male and female nurses in a part of the body I didn’t want, being chased round A and E by security men in genuine fear of my life, dealing with lawyers and going to tribunals while ill, thinking I had been abused by family and was locked up by a criminal gang and fearing my family were against me. My bipolar mind could not cope.
Just before this all happened, I was very vulnerable and was sexually assaulted by a man I knew through friends and all of this trauma stayed with me.
I did what most of us with severe mental illness and assault survivors do- I tried to rebuild my life. I tried to work in schools helping children with special educational needs. I tried to work for a mental health charity as a peer support worker for people like me. I began to blog and write and share as therapy- from charities to national newspapers. Bit by bit, as I wrote out what I has been through, I started to slowly heal. But, the symptoms of the extreme panic remained. I lost jobs because of it. I became depressed. I started dating but I often had to cancel dates- (before I met Rob, my husband who listened to me talk about it all and didn’t bat too much of an eyelid.)
I was in a state of flux, a state of transition. I knew I had trauma still living in my brain and body. I had been physically and sexually assaulted, I had been mentally violated- I had been sectioned twice in a few months and now I was sent home to try and rebuild my life as a 25 year old single woman.
I share this important blog, not to share that I am a victim- because I am not. I want to share that I believe for about 5 years, I have been suffering with some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My therapist believes the same.
The panic attacks that grip me with fear before work or the day ahead when I have to leave the house. The fear of going out or travelling at night alone. The fear of being taken advantage of and having to trust men again (thank you to my husband for helping ease this pain). The fear of exploitation, of losing my mind, of not trusting mental health professionals any more.
My panic attacks get triggered by certain events- it could be having to speak about my life or book, or seeing people I don’t feel comfortable with, of feeling exposed, of worrying about others judgement. I am still healing from all I have been through and experienced. The PTSD means that I have to take medication (Propranolol) to function sometimes. It means that I experience flashbacks in my body- I feel gripped with fear, I get chest pain and shallow breathing and I start to cry. I had one the other day at 4am….. thank the lord for meds so I could calm down and sleep.
My therapist is incredible and we have been working since October to process the roots of my trauma and panic disorder. We use a combination of rapid eye processing with talking therapy which helps to tackle each and every trauma- and we are still at the tip of the iceberg. It takes time to process the deep rooted experiences in my brain- we are getting there slowly.
For me, in many ways my future is uncertain. My medicines have long term physical side effects. Motherhood will be more of a challenge due to medication and my mental health- I am still processing the choices I will have to make, which I will write in another blog.
I want to end this blog by saying- if you know someone with anxiety, PTSD, another anxiety disorder or something like bipolar or schizophrenia- Be Kind. You never know what someone has gone through.
The NHS waiting lists for help are too long, services are too underfunded- all my treatment has been private provided by my family due to being stuck on a list for years. I am lucky, not everyone is.
I hope this blog gives some information about my experiences of PTSD since leaving hospital 6 years ago. It is by far the most personal thing I have posted since publishing my book but I hope it helps you feel less alone.
Positivity and Hope are key. Meeting my husband and my therapist changed my life for the better as I slowly rebuild and find an equilibrium again.
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:
If you need me, I’ll be curled up with one of these in my book nook!
Eleanor Segall was gifted the pocket books to read, in return for an honest review here. All images are by Trigger Publishing.
(image: Trigger Publishing)
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.
Bring me to Light is out on 5th November 2019 in the UK and is available worldwide. It will be out in the USA in 2020. It can be purchased on Amazon, in book shops and at triggerpublishing.com
I will be sharing press articles and more about the book as it happens, but I hope this blog explains why I wrote my book. Thank you all for your ongoing love and see some of you at the book launch!
(image: Mark Simmonds and Lucy Streule)
What inspired you to write a book about yours and your daughter’s journey with mental health?
It was July 2017 and I was attending a summer party, hosted by the Marketing Society, the organisation that brings together business people working together in the areas of marketing and advertising. Gemma Greaves, the CEO, was delivering a speech, during which she announced that the Society was going to join the mental health crusade. This seemed odd, slightly incongruous. But then it dawned on me that times had changed. Mental health was no longer the taboo topic it was when I suffered my mental breakdown back in 2001.
Everyone was talking about it now. I also had another 16 years’ experience under my belt, including caring for Emily, my daughter, who suffered from anorexia from 2012 until 2018. So, I had no excuse but to come out of the mental health closet and leave a legacy of sorts to the world. And even if that book helped just one person, then it would have been worth the effort.
How did you manage to recover from your stress, anxiety and break down, what helped you?
It was the 19th July 2001. Extreme stress at work had brought on the panic attacks, which were soon followed by a mental breakdown and the onset of severe agitated depression. I was no longer communicating with my wife or my three young children, even though we were all living under the same roof. That morning, I went cycling down a country road. My brain felt like a jumble of spaghetti when I collided with a 10-ton truck. It appears I tried to take my own life.
That’s how I recovered from the breakdown, because when I woke up in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford a few hours later, the dense fog seems to have lifted. From that point onwards, I began to behave like a normal human being. No idea why. The physical impact caused by the accident to my brain? The awful realisation that I had come within a whisper of losing my life, my wife and my kids. There are far more conventional ways of recovering from breakdowns, but that was mine.
How did I recover from stress and anxiety? To be honest, I haven’t! I have simply learned to manage it over the years. I have put banisters in place that help keep me on the straight and narrow: I pick the right working environments, I manage my own expectations and set realistic goals. I satisfy my needs as an introvert. I take medication. I sleep well, eat well, exercise enough. But like all mental illnesses, be aware that it’s always lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce at moments you don’t expect.
(image: Mark Simmonds and Lucy Streule)
Did you find that Emily received good care and how did you help support her?
Yes, Emily received excellent help and support both from the NHS (Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the Highfield Unit and Cotswold House, Oxford) and from the Cardinal Clinic near Windsor. The dedication and professionalism of all the staff was outstanding and they did their absolute best to help Emily through the illness. But here is the thing. The quality of the support and the hours spent coaxing a patient back to health have little effect or impact until that patient wants to recover.
It took Emily 6 years to decide that she had had enough of anorexia. and it was only then she finally got better. Anorexia (or Ana as we ‘affectionately’ called her) was a brutal enemy, unforgiving and merciless. More than a match for even the most qualified, most experienced doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors.
As a father, what was it like to see Emily struggle with anorexia and to try and save her at the time?
I have suffered from depression at various stages in my life and have experienced living at the bottom of the dark pit where Emily found herself. So, it was painful to watch her suffer because I knew exactly what she was feeling. The upside was that I was able to empathise and sympathise with her. I got it. And the way in which I talked to my daughter and tried to support her was more in line with what she needed. People who are suffering from mental ill health don’t respond very well to rational or logical arguments because their brains are temporarily ‘broken’. The neurotransmitters are not connecting with one another. They need lots of hugging, hand holding, being listened to and loved. An irrational and emotional approach is more effective than a rational one.
Where are you both now in terms of recovery?
As far as my daughter was concerned, it was just 12 months ago when the full-blown Anorexia Wars came to an end. We are all fully aware that war could break out again sometime in the future. As a good friend described it, all we could hope was “that Ana will get incarcerated and gagged in small section deep in Emily’s brain, a high security area from which she can never escape.”
Thankfully, at the moment, our daughter is flying high. She is living and working in London for ITV, eating well, drinking alcohol in moderation (trust me that is a positive thing!), firmly back on track.
As far as I am concerned, life is great. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I don’t think that you ever escape fully from either stress or anxiety, but I am determined not to let it get in the way of doing great things, trying new stuff, taking risks, saying things that you might regret, taking on people with whom you don’t agree. I want to make sure I end up under the right tombstone.
How has reaction to the book been and how was the writing process?
The writing process was a joy! I loved more or less every minute of it. Working closely with Kasim, my editor at Trigger to agree the overall shape and structure of the book, researching stories and expert perspectives/points of view to add colour, collaborating with the wonderfully talented graphic designer, Lucy Streule, around the illustrations. And spending hour after hour with my wife and family editing, tweaking, improving the book. A wonderful experience.
The reaction has been great, both from friends and from people I have never met.
Alastair Campbell comes into the latter category and he kindly agreed to endorse my book. This is what he said: “I loved this book and devoured it in a single day. Whether on his own illness, his mother’s or his daughter’s struggles, Mark writes clearly and without sentimentality. He is brutally honest about the reality of mental illness across the generations with important insights about how to survive it. Though it is filled with sadness and heartbreak, ultimately his story is a testimony to the power of love and of the human spirit.”
Mark Simmonds published his first book, Breakdown and Repair, with Trigger Publishing, in March 2019 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Repair-Fathers-Success-Inspirational/dp/1912478994). It provides a full account of his daughter’s struggle against anorexia and is illustrated by Lucy Streule. It also talks candidly about his own experiences with mental ill health.
You can also follow Mark on Instagram (mentalhealthmark).
The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow is a story about sisterhood. It’s about being there for each other when everything feels like it is falling apart.
Gail and Kay used to swim every week, but everything had changed after their dad left. Now, Kay never left her room if she could help it. She hardly ate, and if she looked at Gail, it was like she was looking all the way through her, as if she was invisible.
When Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. So when Kay becomes tired, sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is furious with her sister.
But after Gail’s own shadow disappears on her twelfth birthday, Gail kicks at her sister’s shadow in frustration and it’s then that she begins to understand how Kay really feels.
Her feet prickled as Kay’s shadow gathered around them, silken between her toes. She gasped at the force of it. She felt emptied of everything she cared about, hollow like a clam shell cast up on a beach. Was this how Kay felt?
Kay’s shadow ripples under the bedroom door and out of the house, leaving Gail alone with this new understanding. And so Gail becomes determined to get her sister’s shadow back. She’s sure that if she brings it back, everything will go back to the way it was before Kay became depressed. But the journey she does go on turns out to be quite different.
As she follows Kay’s shadow across the island, she meets Mhirran, a girl who can do Morse code, a storm, and two bird shadows. With her new friends, Gail learns that she is stronger than she thought, and that even though Kay feels so far away, Gail can always find a way to reach her again.
This is a story about the impact of Kay’s depression on Gail, and how Gail finds the courage to be there for her sister, just as Kay has looked out for her so many times before. I think children’s stories about mental health are so important; at a time when everything can be painful and confusing, stories are a way of seeing ourselves and understanding how we can ask for support and give it to those we care about.
Kay said too many people try to do things by themselves – she couldn’t understand it. It’s a brave thing to ask for help, she said. The bravest thing.
When I was a child I struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and at the time I didn’t understand what was happening or that it was a shared experience. As an adult I recently read The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, a beautiful and sensitively written children’s book about a boy called Matthew who has OCD who solves a mystery in his local neighbourhood. It was such a poignant experience reading this book and I am so happy it exists for the next generation of young readers, so that they feel less alone and can find the words to put to their experience or the experience of friends or family.
I hope that The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow will help young people and families talk about depression and mental health, and this tale of magic and adventure provides companionship to young people and supports them to ask for, and give help, themselves.
In this extract, Gail is trapped inside a tree’s shadow and she is looking at a photograph of Kay in the hope that it will give her the strength to escape the shadow.
“Gail ran a forefinger down the photo, following the curve of Kay’s cheek. Kay had always been the strong one, not her. She remembered the time when she’d broken her arm and Kay had drawn
twenty-three octopi on her cast so that she had all the arms she needed, and when Kay had spent hours explaining the tides because Gail was afraid of not knowing when the ocean would shift or shrink. She remembered when her sister had taken the blame the day Gail had turned their mum’s umbrella into a jellyfish with pink tissue paper and superglue, and when she’d squeezed Gail’s hand and distracted her with stories of marine biologist Asha de Vos while Gail had her first terrifying injection.
And she remembered one day after Kay had started sinking, when she had turned to Gail in the sticky silence, and said softly, “Do you remember the time we went swimming last October? We stayed in for ages and when we came out our lips and fingers were blue. You squeezed my hand and I couldn’t feel anything at all.” Gail had nodded and Kay stared at her own hand, flexing her fingers. “I feel like that now, Gail. Everything is numb. It’s like I’ve been swimming for hours. But I don’t know how to get out. I can’t get out.”
Gail had stiffened at Kay’s words then. Kay was the strong one. She needed Kay to be the strong one. And so she had tightened her mouth and tapped at the window and shrugged and said nothing at all.
Twigs broke behind her. They crunched in a creature-like way. Gail held her breath; she slipped the photo back in her bag and tried once more to wrestle her feet from the tree’s shadow. It was beginning to convince her that there were leaves growing from her nostrils and in between her teeth: Gail had to touch her face to check that there weren’t. She tugged her hair behind her ears, and shifted her rucksack higher on her back.
Leaves crackled to her right, followed by the scuttling of insects disturbed.
“Hello?” Gail whispered. “Who’s there?””
(The Girl who Lost her Shadow)
This blog was written by author Emily Ilett. ‘The Girl Who Lost her Shadow’ is out now with Floris books and on Amazon.
My interview with Kat O’Connor at the wonderful Shemazing over in Ireland was published today. Thank you so much!
Here are some small extracts:
‘Eleanor Segall has penned a book about what it is really like to live with bipolar disorder. The inspirational author’s book Bring Me To Light is bound to open your eyes about a disorder that affects so many people across the globe.
Eleanor spoke to Shemazing about mental illness, becoming a published author and opening up about her personal struggles and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16.
Having dreamed of being a writer since she was a kid, seeing her book for sale is a true pinch me moment for Eleanor. “I couldn’t dream that I would write a book of my life story or its circumstances at 31. When I was ill in 2014, I knew I wanted to share my story to help people with bipolar disorder and mental health conditions. Helping others is the reason I have written the book and why I kept going with it. I want to break the stigma bipolar and particularly psychosis has. It is such an honour to be published and Trigger seemed like the perfect home for my book.”
Read the full interview here: https://www.shemazing.net/recovery-is-possible-i-have-bipolar-disorder-but-it-is-not-the-end/
“Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall is published on November 5. The eye-opening and beautifully honest read will become one of the most beloved books of Winter 2019.” – Kat O’Connor at Shemazing
Today, the lovely Kat O’Connor at Shemazing.ie, based in Ireland, wrote and published this early book review of my upcoming book ‘Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety’ (with Trigger Publishing). You can read her review here
Thanks so much Kat! Since coming home from our honeymoon in Italy, me and fab marketing manager Beth at Trigger have been promoting my book, which is out in November. Thank you to all who have preordered the book so far and helped it go up the bestseller lists for hot new releases and in depression biographies/ psychology categories on Amazon. It is all so exciting and I feel so grateful that people are getting behind the book. I can’t wait too to hold the paperback copy!
This is a short blog to say thank you to everyone who is supporting Bring me to Light and me as I embark on this new journey with my debut book.