Yes, I have to weigh in on the most recent celebrity suicides

I’ve been grappling with the two suicide deaths by famous people last week – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both successful and productive. Both seemingly having no reasons to end their lives. So what made them do it? I’ve heard that Spade was suffering from depression and was getting help. I've recently learned that Bourdain also had bouts of depression, and that in his early days he had drug and alcohol problems. Needless to say, they both had their demons. However, they say it isn’t only mental illness – it could be what’s going on in our world, including poverty, homelessness and unemployment or stress on the job – that trigger suicide. In a recent "New Yorker" article, Andrew Solomon states: "There is another factor that should not be underestimated. On a national stage, we’ve seen an embrace of prejudice and intolerance, and that affects the mood of all citizens. My psychoanalyst said that he had never before had every one of his patients discuss national politics repeatedly, … [Read more...]

May is mental health month

I've written extensively about mental health and my mission to erase its stigma in blog posts and essays for my own and other websites. I'm also written about my son's mental illness that ended in his suicide in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Today I'd like to leave you with a list of some agencies that provide mental health and suicide prevention services. I've also pulled a passage out of my memoir to share with you - a scene with our son at a restaurant in New York City where my husband and I observed his clearly irrational behavior. We were so distressed at what we saw we plotted to get him into the hospital to be diagnosed and treated for the first (of many) times. I urge anyone who has a similar experience to get help as fast as possible. Some Helpful Agencies American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services … [Read more...]

How I created my book and got it published

I belong to a writing organization called  Independent Writers of Southern California. We meet locally in a  small satellite group once a month, and this last month our leader asked me to speak about how I got my memoir published. Here are my notes from that talk. Even though writing is a lonely business, a village of resources helped and nurtured me from the time I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I started with journaling, at first sporadically and later, after reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Putnam’s Sons, 1992), I kept my fingers moving across the pages of my journal every day. I still do. After amassing about three years’ worth of journal entries I began to think about turning them into a book – a book very much different from the one that was eventually published. But, I was not a creative writer. My writing experience consisted of writing, editing, and training engineers to produce reports and proposals in the aeros … [Read more...]

My memoir still has legs

Three Things: My memoir got its 223rd review on Amazon today. On Saturday 10 am I'll be on a memoir-writing panel called Thanks for the Memories at the Genre-LA writers conference at the Los Angeles Valley College. Sunday I'll be online all day at We Love Memoirs Sunday Spotlight. I actually thought I'd be done with book marketing a year after the memoir was published. Was I wrong! It seems that this book keeps re-emerging and providing inspiration for would-be memoir writers or the right words of encouragement for those also affected by mental illness and suicide. I feel so grateful for that. Here is its latest five-star review from Lindsay De Felix: on Amazon for Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. This is a very hard book for me to write a review on. It is about a subject which I have no knowledge of – a bipolar son who commits suicide. I don’t know anyone well who suffers from bip … [Read more...]

A room of my own – revisited

This morning I talked to a man I recently met at my gym while we both worked out on the elliptical. That’s a new one for me. I usually plug in my ear buds, listen to music, read my New Yorker, and hardly say a word to anyone while I exercise. And he was very inquisitive – he asked about my back ground, my religion, my home town, my current home town, how long married, where I’ve traveled, and of course the dreaded question – number of children. That question always stops me in my tracks – even now, over 18 years since my son Paul left us. And I told him truthfully that Paul took his own life because he had bipolar disorder. As a result I resurrected a piece I wrote for the now defunct Red Room site in 2013 – about the room I’m in right now – my private writing space. Even my husband knows not to bother me in here when my door is closed. In rereading this piece today, I can honestly say, not a lot has changed. He’s still in my room with me. My Private Island - A Room of My Own … [Read more...]

Review number 220 is a true gift

Thank you, Janine Ward, for this sensitive and insightful review of Leaving the Hall Light On.  I won't say more. The review speaks for itself. Inspirational. For anyone who has known untouchable, unimaginable grief that no one deserves and on one survives without lifetime scars, Madeline Sharples' Leaving the Hall Light On is a must read. It is a book that will shine light into the broken crevices of the soul, and if you are healing, if you feel you are alone, Madeline's book is the perfect company. It is her transformative story about accepting the grief of unanswerable questions, parenting into the unknown territories of mental illness, losing everything and deciding to live anyway. Along the way she describes it in detail, the intersections she crossed and why she turned the way she turned, proving that anyone can survive anything if we put our minds into it and one foot forward, one day at a time. Joy can return, it will never be the same but the capacity to accept what it … [Read more...]

Still here – old memories and feelings of guilt

I received a surprise Facebook private message two mornings ago that brought up a lot of old memories of our deceased son Paul and many old feelings of guilt about what I could have done to save him. Even though he's been gone from our lives for almost eighteen years, those things can come up without warning any time of day or night. The note, I'm sure, didn't intend to promote those old feelings. It was a lovely compliment about my book and how my book will help the writer with her work as a therapist. However, when I read it at four in the morning, I was through sleeping for the rest of the night. Here's the message I received from a young woman who was in Paul's high school class at Crossroads in Santa Monica. I don't remember ever meeting her until she asked me to be her Facebook friend a few weeks ago. "For seven years Leaving the Hall Light On was on my Amazon wish list because I graduated from Crossroads with Paul. When we found out at our reunion that he had di … [Read more...]

Three things

First. This is the last day the Kindle edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, will be on sale for $.99. So please grab your copy before midnight. Here’s what a few reviewers had to say about it: ...Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart wrenching book; I could not put it down.  Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book. ...I could imagine that this book might be helpful for those dealing with bipolar disease or suicide in the family, but for those of us fortunate enough not to have yet experienced those problems, it also provides a very real look into how good but human people deal with the cruelty of fate. ...Suicide does not just end one life, it can destroy others. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide is the … [Read more...]

We celebrate in May

With Mother's Day and my birthday and our anniversary in the month of May, we had a lot of celebrating to do. We also celebrated the online release of our son's new movie, Gentlemen's Fury, now streaming on Vimeo On Demand. Believe me, in the old days when I first started going to movies I never would have dreamed we could see new releases from our television sets. So here are a few photos from this May and one from our wedding day, May 28, forty-seven years ago. And yes, they all said it would never last. May 28, 1970 May 28, 2017 May 23, 2017, release of Gentlemen's Fury on Vimeo On Demand One more thing. My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On was released on Mother's Day, 2011. It now has 218 reviews on Amazon and is ranked 4.3 out of five stars. Plus last month it was on a list compiled by Erin Burba of BookRiot of the 100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women. So I celebrate the anniversary of that event too. … [Read more...]

May is mental health month

With mental health care on the chopping block, it is important to keep in mind organizations that can help. Here's a list of groups I've compiled, which also include suicide prevention sites. Helpful Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Organizations American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Healthline NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Stop A Suicide Today Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Association, Inc. The Compassionate Friends The Jed Foundation My son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder soon after he turned twenty-one. And after struggling with it for almost seven years, he took is life at age twenty-seven. Suicide is a huge risk for those suffering with mental illness. We must continue to work hard for health care parity, i.e., that treats physical illness and mental illness equally. It didn't exist when Paul was suf … [Read more...]

A new review

My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, currently has 217 reviews over at Amazon. The last one is a gem that I'd like to share with you. Though I personally know the reviewer, I don't think that swayed her choice of words and her feelings about the book. She's a professional writer and reads voraciously. So thank you so much, Barbie, for this very thought-provoking review of my memoir. A Broken Heart Madeline Sharples' book is so much more than a memoir, in many ways it is as if you are reading her diary. A book of thoughts addressing memories while trying to understand, to sort through years of heartbreaking and stressful events, hoping to find an answer and to heal. I would bet a very similar emotional battle is felt by all those who have lost loved ones to suicide. So many parts of this book I can relate to but with a twist. My dad's abuse of his medication affected his personality and mood changes, and escalated his dementia. The guilt I felt not being able to get … [Read more...]

Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my hom … [Read more...]

Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologet … [Read more...]

To prevent suicides we must vote no on Proposition 64!

My son Paul's diagnosis of bipolar disorder was based on tests showing no drugs in his system even though his first psychotic break came upon him suddenly and disastrously. However, he used marijuana to self-medicate while he was struggling with the effects of bipolar, ignoring his psychiatrist's warning that using pot was as dangerous as walking a tightrope. After Paul's suicide death, my husband found marijuana and its paraphernalia hidden away in his closet. Dr. Christine L. Miller states that studies now show that marijuana use could bring on psychosis and suicide. Could marijuana have driven my son to his death? Of course we'll never know. However, I can help prevent more outcomes like my son's by sharing Dr. Miller's words here and being very much opposed to the passage of Proposition 64 and the legalization of recreational marijuana. The data about suicide rates in Colorado is astounding. Proposition 64 Means Nothing Good for California Suicide Rates by Christine L … [Read more...]

Seventeen years ago

Tomorrow it will be seventeen years since our son Paul died by suicide. Tomorrow my husband and I will visit his grave, leave a small stone, as we do every year on his birthday and death day. Today like all days is a time to reflect. I wrote the following poem a few years after he died. It is included in my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Yes, we have survived all these years, but the grief has never gone away. I’ll Always Remember I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear blue eyes I’ll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind if they were ripped I’ll always remember the way he s … [Read more...]

The suicide risk is high for ages 10 to 24

Since our son Paul's death by suicide as a result of his bipolar disease in 1999, I have made it my mission to help erase the stigma of mental illness and work hard toward preventing suicide. I applaud Jennifer McGregor's work to help teenagers who are suicidal.  I certainly wish I had had her advice when my son was struggling with his mania and depression. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for writing this piece for Choices. Your words are very helpful. How To Help A Teenager Who Is Suicidal by Jennifer McGregor   Photo via Pixabay by Giesje Death by suicide is a serious problem in America, and it doesn’t affect one particular age group. In fact, young people ages 10-24 are highly at risk, as suicide is the third leading cause of death. The reasons vary, as do the solutions, so it’s important to know what the warning signs are and how to address them. Because the teen years can be so full of emotion and distress – especially where school and friends are concerned … [Read more...]

Congratulations, Keith Alan Hamilton!

My poet and walking friend, Keith Alan Hamilton, has just released his new book of poems: Peace Out Poems about My Abnormalities Normality. The poems are about stigma, mental illness - including depression and bipolar disorder, and suicide. "I hope for those who read it, it will be of benefit to them.  There is a huge stigma overshadowing those who suffer from mental conditions like depression or being bipolar.  Even more so for those who have committed suicide.  That reality will not change until my type of story is told and understood.  To me, the stigma overshadowing a day-to-day survivor is even worse.  When you are a depressive with thoughts of suicide cycling in your head day in and day out..... it is far harder to survive and keep going than it is to submit.   It is easier to be considered mentally ill and medicated, or to have taken ones life than being someone who successfully copes day-to-day and is a productive contributor to life.  If we are going to show ot … [Read more...]

A wonderful 5-star review

Thank you so much for this great review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. That makes 206 reviews total, with 66 percent of them with five stars. This review made my day. "as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life ... Exploring the real life story of the unspeakable tragedy of losing a son to suicide, author Madeline Sharples has written an affecting and heart wrenching memoir entitled LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON. A deeply personal and first hand account of struggling with her son’s battle with bipolar disorder and the effect on the family, the memoir delves deeply within the author’s consciousness, as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life where little exists. She tells her story with courage and abiding honesty never shirking from the hard truths of a life filled with s … [Read more...]

I’m getting ready for a big long walk

  I’ve started training in earnest for the May 21 American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness overnight walk in San Francisco for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk in memory of my son Paul who took his life in 1999 at age 27. He was bipolar and severely depressed at the time of his death. The recent data, according to AFSP, about suicide is astounding: Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. General In 2014 (latest available data), there were 42,773 reported suicide deaths. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. Every day, approximately 117 Americans take their own life. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the t … [Read more...]

Book reviews – a roller-coaster ride

This week my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, received six new reviews for a grand total now of 198 reviews since its release in 2011. However, the reviews were not all good - three 2-stars and three 5-stars. Happily though, the week ended with two of the five-star reviews, leaving me with a huge sigh of relief. Even after all this time, my stomach turns over every time I see that a new review has been posted.  I don't suppose that feeling will go away as long as I put my writing out in public. Here are the two five-star reviews that came in, in the last two days. Thank you so much Sara and Joanne. Thank you for sharing your lives with my readers. Your words honor me and my book. A Must  Read: I found this book when I was still in the early stage of my son being diagnosed, fighting the struggle of his almost everyday behaviors, and at that point I was open to anything. Even with my son being substantially younger than Madeline's son, the book touched me and although I am … [Read more...]