Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Thank You, Patty Duke by Susan Johnson

If you have been paying attention to the news, you have heard that Patty Duke passed away recently. For those who might not be familiar with her, Patty was a successful actress who did something many people did not do in 1982. She spoke out about mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. She is considered a pioneer because she was one of the first ladies who put her career and reputation on the line. Bipolar disorder was something that no one dared to talk about. If you had bipolar, you were thought to be crazy, according to society. It was a time when you did not hear about success stories of those who took their medicine and lived a fruitful life.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that I live with. It is a mood disorder, and a chemical imbalance in the brain. When untreated, it causes extreme highs and extreme lows. About 8 years ago, I had a calling from above to write my story. Yes, I assure you I was taking my medicine at the time. I am a success story when it comes to my illness. Still, I felt a sense of shame. I hid my mental illness from so many. I felt that if people did know about my illness, I would be judged. I work with elementary school kids. If I did speak out about my illness, perhaps people would question if I was capable of doing my job. I felt like having bipolar disorder was a dirty secret. But Patty was an example of someone who was not shunned for speaking out. If she could do it, I could follow in her footsteps. So, I did.

I wrote my story about the past 20 years of my experiences. At first, it was a healing process. It was an emotional 3 year roller coaster when it came to my writing process. I used my memories, journals, and medical records to put the pieces of my past together. There were times when it got too emotional, and I had to stop writing. It was doctor’s orders. But I felt that I had to press on. I never imagined anyone would read it, but I was encouraged to submit it to publishers. I did, and thanks to Indigo Sea Press, my book was published and released this past November.

My message of hope is starting to impact many. People are becoming more aware of bipolar disorder. It is a beautiful thing. I am also doing some public speaking. If Patty Duke was still alive today, and I had a chance to meet her, I would give her a big hug and thank her for inspiring me.


Susan Johnson is the author of “Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping” A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey published by Indigo Sea Press


Filed under books


Sometimes I worry that I’m spreading myself too thin. When I actually have time to worry, that is. My life is so full right now that I don’t have the time to get everything done – and yet I keep taking on more. Why? Is this some compulsion I have to see how far I can stretch myself before I finally snap? And how am I to balance it all?

Balance is an elusive concept that reappears in my life upon occasion. Usually when I am too busy to figure out how to incorporate it into my life. Or when it appears in the comment section of a blog post when a reader asks, “How do you balance your writing career with your life?” Good question. Does anyone know the answer?

Even in the best of circumstances, balance can be a tricky concept whether you’re a mother who’s just reentered the workforce, a father who must put in overtime in order to provide a decent living for your family, or a single parent who has to do it all for your family. But when you add health issues to the mix, the situation becomes even dicier.

This is the predicament I currently find myself in. A single parent trying to do everything for my children on my own waylaid by potentially devastating health issues for myself and one of my daughters. Dealing with either of these diagnoses separately would be difficult enough, but coupled together they are more challenging. Perhaps I should explain. In early Spring of 2002, after a maddening round of tests and doctors’ visits, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A couple of months later, my younger daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a chronic stomach problem; in May of 2008, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in addition to the bipolar disorder.

With these revelations came a new set of challenges, namely, how to balance my daughter’s medical needs with my own. For me, the first step in that process was acceptance – of the diagnoses, the limitations and restrictions entailed in them, and the acknowledgement that the life I’d dreamed of for my daughter was going to take a different course to fruition. The second step was understanding. To that end, being the research nut that I am, I began to read whatever I could on my condition and my daughter’s – books, magazine articles, testimonials. Information is the key to busting myths and understanding the changes that your life is about to take. What does this have to do with balance?

Everything. Information and understanding are the keys to learning how to balance responsibilities in your life. Sure, I still tend to push myself physically on days when I feel good and think I can still handle things the way I did before I became ill. And when I find myself flat on my back and staring up at the ceiling, I am reminded that I can’t do everything like I used to, that I have limitations and need to adhere to them. When I do, I achieve balance in my life. So how do I do it? I say “No.” This was a hard skill to learn for someone who is a people pleaser and likes to say “yes” to everything, but I had to do it. for my sake and my daughters’ – we are all bonded by blood and commitment, after all, and when I don’t take care of my own needs, I can’t take care of theirs. So I learned to say “no” and to respect my limitations as opposed to testing them. What do you do to maintain balance in your life?

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul. You can visit her at http://margayleahjustice.com


Filed under writing