NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is another organization I wish I knew about when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I’m posting this here, mostly in words directly from NAMI’s website, to honor Paul’s memory in the month of his birth. Hopefully, it will help others who are suffering with mental illness in their families. According to NAMI, it is “the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need. NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and volunteer leaders who work in local communities across the country to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs.” NAMI’s Histo … [Read more...]

Remembering Stanley Lelewer, chair of Didi Hirsch Board of Directors

My dear friend, Stanley Lelewer, died on Sunday, December 1. I’ve known Stan since eighth grade in Glencoe IL. He used to be the driver when his brother David and I went out on movie dates. He was in my brother’s class at high school, three years a head of me. After I moved to California I didn’t hear about him again until I saw him on the news talking about the suicide death of his son, who shot himself on the beach in Santa Monica. Six years later when our son Paul killed himself in our home in Manhattan Beach, a mutual friend said I had to meet Stan. Small world. I told her I knew him from our very distant past. This friend called Stan and told him about Paul. Within minutes he called and an hour later he was at our home. He was my savior. He knew what to do; he knew what to say. And since we had a personal relationship, he told me to call anytime day or night – and I did. We also met his wife and the four of us went out to dinner. He took me out to lunch as well. Stanl … [Read more...]

May – Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. Mental Health America has provided the following information, to raise awareness and provide education so that people with mental illness and those undergoing debilitating stress will know of ways to protect and take care of their own mental health and that of people they care about.   For more than 60 years, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. This year's theme is Pathways to Wellness. Key Messages Wellness - it's essential to living a full and productive life. It's about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy. Wellness involves a set of skills and strategies that prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and well-being. Wellness is more than just the absence of disease. Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete … [Read more...]

Thoughts about the horrific Sandy Hook massacre

Four days ago a 20-year old man took his mother’s assault weapons, killed her, and then went to a local school and killed twenty children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults before he killed himself. So much has come up for me since then – besides the tears. The senselessness of it, the grief of parents losing a child, the struggle of young children to get their arms around such a profound loss. Our whole country and probably the world are in mourning now, and we are all at a loss about what we can do. Right now all I can do is think and cry about it. However, as I watched Bob Schieffer’smorning talk show yesterday while I was working out, two things came up for me – aside from the enormity of the numbers of guns bought and sold in our country and the senseless numbers of gun murders – over 32,000 a year. It is totally clear that we have the right to bear arms. There is no way we’ll be able to remove guns from our country. That said, can’t there be a better way to control … [Read more...]

Farewell, Lucky Press! What’s next after a publisher quits?

Right in the midst of saying goodbye to friends from Tuscon on Saturday morning, I got the news that Lucky Press was going out of business – on April 30 – that's today! That announcement gave me a whole three day’s notice. What a shock and what a scramble. It took me the better part of that day, a sleepless night, and until the next morning to get over it and consider this event an opportunity, not a disaster. First, I decided my book is way too important to abandon now. Actually I should have seen the writing on the wall when Janice, the owner of Lucky Press, informed me about a month ago that she would not produce my e-book in May as promised. She had been in ill health and just moved. Plus creating graphic designs seems to be her passion and provides her real livelihood. However, I was fortunate that she resonated with my book and offered to publish it. Her attention to detail with my text, photos, and book design was flawless. I am very proud of the book she produced. An … [Read more...]

"Boy Interrupted"

Dana Perry produced a documentary called “Boy Interrupted” that appeared on HBO. I didn’t see it from the start last night, but I saw enough – over an hour—to get the gist. Her son, Evan, was depressed from the time he was a small child and actually talked about death and suicide from the age of five. He became so disruptive at school – he threatened to jump from the roof - that first he was hospitalized and then put into a special school for children with problems. There they finally diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on lithium, and he responded well to it. Eventually he returned to a mainstream school, made friends, and received top grades. He was well liked, very handsome, and had a lot of girlsfriends. However, by the time he was 15 he and his mother discussed his going off his medication, and with the advice of his doctor to go off gradually, he did. And as he did he became increasingly depressed again. His last night alive he was agitated, didn’t want to do his … [Read more...]

Some history

Paul had his first mental break in March of 1993 while he was in his senior year at the New School in NYC. After an unsuccessful attempt to get him home and hospitalized, we went to New York to get him in treatment there. We encountered a huge snow storm almost as soon as we got there, but that storm was small compared to what Paul's breakdown meant to him and our family. Blizzard in B It is mid March, 1993, and a bitter blizzard blows in. Some predict the century’s biggest. Flakes of snow swirl in gusts to the sidewalk. Cold slaps our cheeks pushes through our clothes as we cling to each other, walk through the cavern at the feet of New York's skyscrapers. The sirens set our teeth chattering as impatient cabbies honk, inch their way up the streets. Yet, we trudge forward uncertain of what we will discover when we arrive. A more foreboding blizzard, perhaps, blows through our boy’s broken brain. … [Read more...]

I knew nothing

I thought I understood what was going on in Paul's head during his manic breaks. But, really I knew nothing -- and neither did his doctors. The more I read about this terrible mental disease, the more I realize how little is really known about it -- even now. Even so, I tried to describe it in this poem. Mania Intoxicated, euphoric. exhilarated, with visions of power without bounds, Paul is like Superman. He climbs, he circles, he races, floats above reality. Then he sees demons lurking in alleyways, imaginary Mafiosi poisoning his drinks and cigarettes and the world’s water supply. He is left to wander, pace, click, re-click door latches as he goes in and out. He babbles unintelligibly, imperceptibly. The voices he hears echo like violins ever louder, faster, discordant until a cacophony of drumbeats and a tintinnabulation of scraping symbols pound his brain. There is no escape, no way out. He looks for an exit where only one exists. (For a more in … [Read more...]


Though it's absolutely beautiful outside, the Dow Jones went down almost 400 points, the price of oil rose $10 a barrel, and I still haven't heard from the agent about my book. It’s about seven weeks now since she's had it, and I’m getting more and more nervous by the minute – actually by the second. My cell phone rang early yesterday morning while I was in my room getting ready for work, and until I looked to see who had called, my first hope was that it was a call from her. That hope is not too farfetched, because it is just about time that I hear something from her. My friend, Ursula was very cute. She sent me a card with signatures of famous authors pasted on it saying they all want me to be published. And, then again, I can’t help the stinking thinking. There have been a lot of memoirs out lately on the subject of death of a child and madness. One by Isabel Allende, in particular, is definite competition. She wrote letters to her dead daughter, Paula, telling her about her … [Read more...]