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 others that … [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 so … [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 time of … [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 for … [Read more...]

Leaving the Hall Light On has legs!

This month has ended with the 124th five-star review of my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Published four years ago, this makes me  feel my memoir still has long legs, that there are many others who can relate to the story I tell about our son's bipolar disorder and suicide, and of how they affected the lives of my husband, our surviving son, and myself.  The book ends on a high note - the marriage of our surviving son, but don't get me wrong. The grief will never end, I still miss our son desperately, and my memories of him are alive and active, but I've been able to move on and live a full life without him. We all have. Here's what the latest reviewer on Amazon had to say: Amazing story of a mother and her family's journey through the wilderness of suicide grief. This painfully honest memoir, parallels the experience I recently have had with my son's 3 year battle with schizophrenia and hi … [Read more...]

Sales are down

Maybe reading a heartfelt and sensitive review will help get you over to Amazon to buy a copy of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. "A beautiful yet heartbreaking story..a must read! As parents, we do everything we can to help our children become strong, healthy, well adjusted and morally upright adults. Yet there are obstacles that we cannot foresee and cannot even begin to understand until we see all of our efforts unravel right before our eyes. This is what Madeline and her family experienced with Paul. He developed a severe mental disorder that caused him to become someone that his family could barely recognize. As hard as they tried to understand, encourage, and help Paul, his illness took over time and again. The ebbs and flows, the highs and lows, the abstract hope and then disillusionment became their norm. In the end, no amount of intervention helped Paul to overcome his disease … [Read more...]

Saying thank you to a reviewer pays off

After three years since its launch, my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is still getting some wonderful reviews on Amazon. I can't help sharing this latest one: Incredible Book! This memoir is simultaneously heart-wrenching and incredibly hopeful. Madeline's story is a true triumph of the human spirit's ability to endure even the most nightmarish of scenarios. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone - whether you live with mental illness, have a loved one who does, have lost someone to suicide, or just looking for a beautiful story illuminating the human condition, you should read this book. Exquisite. This review touched me so much that I was moved to thank the reviewer. In doing so I found out more about her and her family: Oh wow, it's an honor to have you read my review and reply back to me! Your book has had such an impact on my life, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder m … [Read more...]

How technical writing helped me write memoir and fiction

I fell in love with writing in grade school and took journalism and was on the newspaper staff in high school. I attended the University of Wisconsin as a journalism major, then transferred to UCLA my senior year to complete a degree in English. Because jobs for women journalists were few in the 1960s in Los Angeles, I began a long career as a technical writer and editor, proposal manager, web designer and content developer in the aerospace industry. And I must say that was a great choice because my job paid very well, and I'm still able to work from time to time as a consultant years after I officially retired (I'm just about to embark on a four-month job to help a group of engineers write a proposal to the U.S. Air Force). Plus, I've been able to transfer what I learned as a technical writer over to my memoir and fiction writing. Here are six things I learned: Plan before you write. I had an outline before I started my memoir and a list of scenes that guided my fiction b … [Read more...]

Saturday, November 22, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Throughout the  fifteen years since our son took his life, I've met many folks in person and through  groups on Facebook who like me are survivors of suicide loss. So, I thought I'd remind all of us that tomorrow, Saturday, November 22, is International Suicide Survivors Day, an event always falling on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I did a little research about how this day started and found out that Senator Harry Reid introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day in 1999. Senator Reid is a survivor of his father's suicide. Every year since the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. The AFSP website says: International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. On thi … [Read more...]

It is possible to have bipolar disorder and live a good life

Tom Wootton, a principle investigator of the Bipolar IN Order study discussed below, asked me to share about it and how people with bipolar disorder may participate in a full online course (a savings of $399.95) that will teach them how to thrive. Tom is also the founder of Bipolar Advantage. His website states: "There are many people talking about learning to thrive in spite of having bipolar disorder. For the most part they are talking about functioning during periods of remission and hoping that the periods of mania and depression won't destroy their lives when they return. Many others are choosing to pretend that they are in a permanent remission and are unprepared for the real possibility that mania and depression will happen again. If we are to truly thrive we have to accept that we will have periods of mania and depression and find a way to thrive during them instead of only thriving during remission. Bipolar IN Order is the only program designed specifically for that purpose. … [Read more...]

Meet my guest, Tara Meissner, author of Stress Fracture

My son, a talented jazz composer and musician, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age twenty-one. As I got more and more informed about the disorder I heard that studies linked creativity with bipolar disorder, and my son's behavior seemed to indicate the studies were true. He refused to take his medications because they evened him out too much and hindered his ability to create his music. He, and I imagine others with bipolar disorder, very much liked their manic highs. However, I, like my guest today, Tara Meissner, author of Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis, never believed that all people with bipolar disorder are creative. It is also not true that all people with mental illness are violent, as so many people believe. Thank you Tara Meissner for being at Choices while on your WOW! Women on Writing book tour. I'm so glad you are here to share your views and bipolar experience with us. Being open about this disorder will go a long way to help erase stigma. Bipolar and the … [Read more...]

Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop: share what ignites your creativity

  My friend Cate Russell-Cole has started the Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop, and I had to participate. I created the room in our house where I write six years after the suicide death of my son Paul. It was the last room he lived in. I've written  about this room and how meaningful and healing it is for me before  A version of the  following poem appears in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Making Room for Me   After six years I stacked Paul's books and records, once in alphabetical order on his closet shelves, in boxes out in the garage, and finally cleared away all the dust. I recreated his room and closet, with a new hardwood floor, a bay picture window, deep taupe walls, a white ceiling and crown molding, and file drawers and book shelves for storing my books and poems. I refurnished his room in shades of black and orange. The sofa is like a futon because he o … [Read more...]

How to write a memoir of mental illness

If I remember correctly, my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, brought Sebastian and me together a year or so ago. He then began commenting on my blog, and I resonated with him because he is a young man struggling with his mental health demons. Unlike my son Paul, who succumbed to the pain he felt due to his bipolar disorder, Sebastian is a survivor. Sebastian's memoir Please Save Me From Myself was released at the end of July 2014. It is about his struggles with mental illness. In describing his book, he says, My upbringing was pretty good. There were a few fucked up moments and I didn't learn any helpful coping skills that would suit me as an adult, but I wasn't locked in a cage and fed baby birds to eat. The first part is about those few fucked up moments and my family dynamics taught me some messed up coping mechanisms such as lying about my emotions until they exploded in my face. I also talk briefly about how the genetics of my family attributed to my mental illness because … [Read more...]

How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn't always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son's bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institute in … [Read more...]

Stanley Family Foundation donates $650 million to psychiatric research

A donation of $650,000 for psychiatric research is so important to those with mental illness and their families and friends that I had to share this complete article from yesterday's "New York Times." My son Paul was struck with his first manic break when he was a senior in college in New York at age 21. He believed that people were poisoning his food, drinks, and cigarettes and were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. He also became freaked by the constant sirens going off in the city. He was prescribed lithium during his first hospital stay, but he didn't stay on it consistently - he felt it interfered with his creative abilities (he was a jazz musician) - and unfortunately that was his downfall. After seven years of alternating manic and depressive behavior and many hospitalizations, he killed himself. You can read his story in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His S … [Read more...]

A new milestone: 175 reader reviews

In the last 30 days my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has received three new reviews. As a result it has reached a milestone: 175 reviews total - 113 with five stars.  I'm always thrilled with the five-star reviews, of course; however, the last three have all been terrific. Twenty-seven days ago, Michael Knezic's five-star review said: Heartbreaking! I thought that the book was very well written and put you right there with the family. I don't know how difficult it was for them to write this book but I think it puts the reader right there with the family. It opens your eyes!! On July 7, Bridgette Carpenter's four-star review said: A sad story about parenting a severely mentally disturbed son. ¦The book is very sad¦. It is so terribly sad that the parents could not keep their son in an institution where he would have been required to take his medicines and he would not have been able to injure himself. Their son was an adult so he couldn't be forced to take his medicines as pr … [Read more...]

My Gutsy Story Anthology

I've been so proud to be a part of the group of sixty-four writers who participated in the 2013 edition of  the My Gutsy Story Anthology: True Stories of Love, Courage and Adventure from Around the World, conceived and edited by Sonia Marsh. The anthology has won three awards so far: 2014 ELIT Gold Award for Anthologies 2014 International Book Awards Finalist 2013 Benjamin Franklin Award Silver Honoree Winner at the Paris Book Festival Sonia is now taking submissions for the all-new 2015 anthology. I encourage you to submit your story now. Click here to find out how. Here's the piece I wrote for the 2013 edition. And if you like my piece, I promise you, you won't be disappointed in the sixty-three other stories in this wonderfully inspiring book. You can buy it here. My Gutsy Story When my older son Paul died by suicide in 1999 after a seven-year battle with bipolar disorder, I knew I had to find ways to keep myself busy and productive or else I would wallow away in my grief. At … [Read more...]

Can’t help showing this off

My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On recently received its 109th 5-star review. The reviewer said it's one of the greatest books he's ever read. How could I not brag about it and show it off? Here's the review You can take your love with you, by israel eichenstein: "Madeline Sharples is one courageous parent. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read. Paul her son was bi-polar and tragically took his own life. Madeline and her family have through their pain taught the world the dangers of bi-polar and its devastating effects. But as I read the book through tears and waves of emotion, the overwhelming love for Paul shines brightly on almost every page. A life lost , especially your own child can make you a bitter and broken person. Madeline would not allow herself and her family to wilt under such incredible pain and sadness...she put herself out there in front of the whole world, told her story with love for her Paul and offering guidance to others that are affected by t … [Read more...]

Some stuff about me

With a birthday coming up next month I've been doing a lot of reflecting and a lot of thinking about the future. However, since my suggestion of a book everyone should read is Ram Dass' Be Here Now, I thought I'd share a recent interview that tells about me right now. 1. What is one book everyone should read? Be Here Now by Ram Dass 2. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Peanut butter and blueberries 3. Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book, Leaving the Hall Light On. My book has much to share with anyone grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering any kind of loss. 4. Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?  I'm currently working on a historical fiction book based a bit on my family's history, yet with a twist. I also want to have a book of poetry published. And I'm almost through producing, with the help of an expert recording technician, a CD made of my son's jazz music. I hope to have it out in th … [Read more...]

Using memoir writing to deal with grief

On Sunday I'll co-lead a workshop called Telling Healing Stories at the Story Circle Network's writers conference in Austin TX. One of our goals for this workshop is provide the tools for our participants to address ways to transform a loss or crisis into readable and inspiring prose. It has been proven that writing is healing, and I happen to think that any creative outlet is beneficial to recovering from a traumatic event in our lives. My son Paul killed himself in September 1999 after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder, and I signed up for a writing class three months after his death. We sat in the instructor's living room on couches and big easy chairs in a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere. Each week the instructor told us to write a journal entry. He didn't specify a subject. This was a beginner's class. All he wanted us to do was learn to write like you talk, and to write in a voice that came from deep within our bellies. And then we'd come back the next week … [Read more...]