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 died fr … [Read more...]

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CD launch time is almost here!

I’m getting more and more excited. We’re having a party to launch the CD of my son Paul’s music this coming Thursday. I just ordered refreshments, I’m thinking about the logistics of bringing CDs and books to the venue, and I’m in the process of making up the program – all the details that go beyond producing the actual CD. From the FB event and eVite invitations, we’ve received definite and maybe RSVPs from 45 people so far. It looks like the event will be well attended. Hopefully more people will tell us yes in the next couple of days – maybe some of you who read about it here, today. Here’s the details: Date: Thursday September 25, 2014 Time: 7 to 9 pm Place: Pages: a bookstore Address: 904 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach CA And here’s a photo of the actual CD. My husband Bob Sharples wrote: "This compact disc is an introduction to the jazz piano of our son, Paul Sharples. Listening to it brings to me memories of evenings when Paul simply played for himself in … [Read more...]

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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...]

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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 a … [Read more...]

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Paul’s CD is almost ready

Last December I wrote that I was intent on putting out a compact disc of my son Paul's music and have all proceeds go to charities that work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and/or preventing suicide.  And I am pleased to say that it is almost ready to go. My plan now is to launch it sometime in the week of September 23 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Paul's death. As the date gets closer, I'll let you know where and when the launch will take place. I must credit the three people who have helped make this project a reality: Martin Borsanyi, Paul's friend from their Crossroads high school jazz ensemble days, copied all of Paul's music from the original cassette tapes that Paul left us onto CDs Patrick von Wiegandt, a brilliant recording artist and singer and musician (he leads a band called Swanky), produced and engineered all the songs. He also helped me pick the songs for the CD and the order in which they will appear. Paul Blieden, photographer ex … [Read more...]

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What is stigma and how do we erase it?

In memory of our son Paul and his December 31st birthday, I like to share (again) another mental illness resource. The stigma of mental illness could turn deadly if we aren't educated.... A couple years ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material he made one request – leave out the part about his father’s bipolar disorder. In fact he didn’t want to see any discussion of any of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family. That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists. Although my husband did not mention our family’s mental illness in the history, I openly discussed my grandmother’s, uncle’s, and mother’s mental illness in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (now in paperback and eBook), and that I believe that their genes passed on bipolar disorder to my son. The most important way to erase stigma is to open the conversation about mental illness. T … [Read more...]

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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. Stanley and w … [Read more...]

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What is Stigma and How Do We Erase It?

Here's another mental illness resource. The stigma of mental illness could turn deadly if we aren't educated.... A few months ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material he made one request – leave out the part about his father’s bipolar disorder. In fact he didn’t want to see any discussion of any of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family. That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists. Although my husband did not mention our family’s mental illness in the history, I openly discussed my grandmother’s, uncle’s, and mother’s mental illness in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (now in paperback and eBook), and that I believe that their genes passed on bipolar disorder to my son. The most important way to erase stigma is to open the conversation about mental illness. This conversation could cover several aspects: What are the causes of menta … [Read more...]

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April challenges update

I took a break over the weekend and caught up today with my two April challenges. The Platform Challenge Days 5 through 8: Day 5. Create a blog – since you’re reading this you know I already have a blog. I also post at several other blog sites you might not know about: http://redroom.com/member/madeline-sharples/blog/ - Red Room blog http://www.naturallysavvy.com/savvy-over-60 - Naturally Savvy Over 60 blog http://www.psychalive.org/index.php?s=madeline+sharples&image.x=15&image.y=7 - PsychAlive blog http://tlswriters.wordpress.com/ - The Last Sunday Writer's group blog Day 6. Comment on a blog: Robert LeeBrewer posted a few possible ways to respond (and he suggested linking back to our own blogs). I think these are great suggestions. I just need to learn to follow them: Share your own experience. If you've experienced something similar to what's covered in the post, share your own story. You don't have to write a book or anything, but maybe a paragraph or two. Add … [Read more...]

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I’ve gotten involved

I joined the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Alive and Running 5K committee several months ago. It was in fulfillment of a promise I made to myself - to start volunteering again once my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, was published and on the market. I even wrote about my need to get involved in a charity again in my book. This committe is a great place to start. It gets me more acquainted with all the services Didi Hirsch provides to prevent suicide and erase the stigma of mental illness, and it's a finite assignment. The event takes place on September 25, and then the need to meet stops. Plus, I've participated in this event for the last several years since my son Paul died. I've attended several meetings so far - although I feel like I'm not making a significant difference yet. But there's still time. I've begun to ask others to enroll in the event via emails. and I'll ask several local businesses related to fitness and 5 and 10K walk/run events to display … [Read more...]

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Radio interview report

My first radio interview, on Smart Women Talk Radio, started at eight in the morning Pacific time last Tuesday, July 5. I called in and talked to the producer, and then the co-hosts, Katana Abbott and Vicky Trabosh came on for a little off-the-air chat. They explained they would talk amongst themselves for the first few minutes of the show, introduce me, and then we'd do the interview - like having a conversation, they said. Five minutes before the hour was up, they'd say goodbye to me and finish the show. So in all, I'd say I was on the air about forty-two minutes. They had asked for questions in advance, so I was very prepared with my answers to the ten I provided. In fact I had my notes up at the ready on my computer screen. However, the interview turned out to be pretty much off the cuff. And like the interview I had for the article in my local Beach Reporter newspaper, that was just fine with me since I know my material cold. I listened to the recording this morning. and it … [Read more...]

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WOW blog tour stop No. 9

Today I'm the guest of Cindy Hudson's MOTHER daughter BOOK CLUB READING TOGETHER FOR life CINDY HUDSON AND HER DAUGHTERS My topic today is: does the stigma of mental illness still exist. And since this is a site intended for discussions between mothers and daughters, I decided to provide simple facts about what mental illness looks like and what stigma looks like. Just like they talk about drugs and sex, kids need to know about depression and mental health issues. So please take a look at this great mother daughter blog site at: 




http://motherdaughterbookclub.com/ And yes, the stigma of mental illness still exists. … [Read more...]

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Putting a Face on Suicide

The Facebook Putting a Face on Suicide is a personal project of Mike Purcell done in collaboration with the American Association of Suicidology. Mike’s son 21 year old Christopher Lee Purcell, died by suicide in 2008. www.facebook.com/purcellmemorial As Mike states: every 15 minutes someone dies by suicide in the United States, that’s 96 or so people each day. Putting a Face on Suicide [PAFOS] is an ongoing project soliciting pictures of your loved ones who died by suicide. Each 96 pictures will be used in a poster and a video, representing one day’s loss. The posters and videos will be posted on the PAFOS facebook page and may be freely used by any person or organization to promote suicide awareness and prevention. The goal of PAFOS is to collect 35040 faces representing 365 days of loss, and then to visually send a very powerful 35040 faced message. Please go to http://www.facebook.com/puttingafaceonsuicide?sk=wall to see the faces gathered so far. So far four videos have bee … [Read more...]

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