A Quick Thanksgiving Post …

November 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you have been reading my new book, NOT JUST UP AND DOWN, you may recall this passage:

Remember that proud moment at the Thanksgiving table when you told Uncle Shithead what you really think of him and his stupid politics and where he could stick it, along with the cranberry sauce and stuffing?

It was your finest hour, no doubt about it, but for some strange reason your partner didn’t congratulate you. No, on the drive back—pointedly and with great emphasis—she didn’t say a word. Tacit. Allegro con silentio. Then, at home, in your pajamas, just as you were dimming the lights, she let loose. She tore into you. She ripped you to shreds, lacerated, eviscerated—folded, stapled, mutilated—pulled out a Sharpie and wrote Mongolia on the one patch of contiguous skin remaining on your forehead, affixed a stamp, and tossed you in a snowbank in the general direction of the mailbox.

Hopefully, your holiday is going better than that, but always keep in mind that staying home and and watching CSI reruns in your pajamas may not be such a bad idea, either. You know best what is good for you. I happen to be home in my pajamas right now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet.

Till next time …

Looking at “Normal”

November 18, 2015 at 12:06 am

Writes Therese Borchard in her blog, Sanity Break, on Everyday Health::

Ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was working with a psychiatrist who wanted me to alert him at the first hint of a creative thought. Whether it was an article idea or, God forbid, a concept for a book — any scribbling into a notebook, because that was surely an indication that I was experiencing hypomania and needed a higher dose or a different kind of antipsychotic — he wanted for me to get in touch. He put the fear of God into me that any sign of life in my comatose brain or body meant that I was spiking before crashing into a debilitating depression.

She adds:

Even after I left him to work with a much more skilled physician, I had this paranoia about feeling good: “Am I hypomanic?” I would ask my psychiatrist. “I don’t want to die today, which clearly means I’m hypomanic, right?” Every emotion and response to life’s events became a symptom. I categorized all crying sessions as “depression,” and filed any type of excitement or energy under “mania.” The terrain between the two, or what we consider “normal,” was a thin thread of land that I visited as often as the Gaza Strip.

Here’s where I come in:

But we really should widen our concept of “normal” — challenge ourselves to see our responses, temperaments, and our very selves as more US than illness — explains mental health expert John McManamy in his new book, Not Just Up and Down: Understanding Mood in Bipolar Disorder, the first of a Bipolar Expert Series.

She goes on to cite a passage from my book:

I had no idea when I began this book of the emphasis I would give to “normal.” Once I got several chapters in, though, it became clear I needed to regard normal as a mood episode unto itself, as worthy of our respect as depression and mania and hypomania and anxiety. This was one of those Newton-under-the-apple tree moments for me. From there, “normal” literally took over the book.

If our “normal” fails us, our depressions and manias and anxieties are sure to follow suit. Or, looking at it from a slightly different perspective, if our normal is too fragile, depression and mania and anxiety are going to come crashing through the door. This is where the Socratic injunction to “know thyself” acquires a new sense of urgency.

Therese, who I regard as the one of the few people on a planet of seven billion that gets me, totally grasps where I’m coming from, namely:  We can’t come to terms with our bipolar until we come to terms with ourselves. Our ups and downs only have meaning in relations to our sense of “normal.” And normal has many ways of failing us. As Therese explains:

Throughout the book, he demands that his readers get to know themselves, to evaluate their history of symptoms and life circumstances, and to navel-gaze a bit and explore themselves as if they were a foreign country for which they desire a visa. That knowledge, he asserts, is going to help you expand the time you spend in the normal Gaza Strip of your life, and better manage your episodes in the seas of depression and mania that border. Normal is what we’ve striving for, and ironically, we might be there more often than we think we are.

Lots more on “normal” in blog posts to come. In the meantime, I urge you to read Therese’s post in full, and to check out my book on Amazon …

Purchase now.

Therese Borchard likes my new book …

November 7, 2015 at 10:55 am


Therese is the acclaimed author of Beyond Blue, founder ofProject Beyond Blue, and is my all-time favorite blogger. You can follow her Sanity Break blog on Everyday Health. Yesterday, she posted on Amazon, a customer review of my book. Here is her review in full:

I have known John personally and respected his work for ten years. We were among the first mental-health bloggers out there going public with our stories and possibly the only two people at the time that were interjecting a sense of humor into this often somber subject matter. In his past writings and with this book, he has done a masterful job of helping people become experts of their illness–educating them about the history of psychiatry, especially the development of diagnoses included in all versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–so that they can be a well-informed participant in their recovery and not be afraid to think for themselves. “My goal in this book is to help make you an expert patient,” he writes in the first chapter, because “patients who take the lead in learning about their illness and in managing their own recovery fare far better than those who simply wait for things to happen.”

John is a perfect guide to help persons navigate the messy terrain of bipolar disorder because not only does he suffer from the illness himself, but he has a wealth of knowledge tucked away in his noggin. He has studied virtually every classic text on psychiatry and mood disorders—quoting a variety of experts dating back to Hippocrates—and has attended (and sometimes presented at) practically every conference held by the American Psychiatric Association and other professional psychiatric organizations.

All of the chapters contain entertaining anecdotes, interesting studies, and sound advice, but I especially loved what he had to say about normal, because going there is brave—what we know is extremely muddled, unclear, confusing. As John rightly points out, our neat diagnoses confer on us a sense of absolution: It was my depression that kept me from remembering your birthday, it wasn’t me! My mania took over when I hit on your girlfriend, it’s not my fault! We see our depression and mania as entitles apart from ourselves, even giving them names like “black dog” (Winston Churchill). A sense of detachment benefits us. John writes:

“Normal” doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. It’s personal, it’s painful. We have to come to terms with ourselves. In the long run, though, our enquiry is the source of our salvation. Normal, as we have seen, can be an extremely frightening place. But it is also the repository of all that is good inside us, together with all our hopes and dreams.

I appreciate his insights right now because I’m starting to reevaluate some of the beliefs I’ve held about my illness for 25 years … like maybe several of those moments I categorized as “depressed” or “manic” were just me. I am a deep thinker that tends to reflect (okay, obsess) on the suffering of the world. Maybe that’s my “normal” and not all “illness.” My playfulness is also who I am, not necessarily hypomania.

This is such a valuable book. Not only for people who have the diagnosis of bipolar, but for those who want to understand a bit more about psychiatry, the complexity of mood disorders, or how to understand a loved one with interesting brain wiring. John is ahead of his time in presenting a balanced, well-researched information in a matter that is entertaining. A true writer, his words are easily comprehended — especially on such a sophisticated subject matter.

I applaud John for this amazing work of art!


Right now, I am offering the book to readers for $2.99. This is both a thank you for those who have stayed with me over the years, as well my effort to get the word out. In January the price will go up, but I am still committed to keeping it affordable – at $4.99. Anyway, you start reading it in few minutes by clicking the link, which will take you to the Amazon site.

Purchase now.

Now on Amazon!

November 6, 2015 at 11:43 am

cover copy_edited-1 copy

Purchase …

NOT JUST UP AND DOWN challenges the simplistic notion that bipolar disorder is an episodic illness characterized by extreme shifts in mood from depression to mania. Instead, John McManamy presents a far more nuanced picture of bipolar as a cycling illness with the brain in perpetual motion, extremely sensitive to nature’s slightest whims.

In this book, award-winning mental health journalist and author John McManamy seamlessly integrates expert scientific and patient wisdom, as seen through the eyes of someone who must face the daily challenge of his illness.

Among other things, you will learn how to distinguish your depressive and manic “traits” from your depressive and manic “states.” Not everything is as it seems.

You will also gain insights into:

*The bipolar spectrum, which overlaps with depression and anxiety and personality.
*The mysterious interplay between genes and environment and temperament.
*Your own true “normal,” which needs to be regarded as a mood episode in its own right.
*Your own anomalous behaviors, ranging from creativity to road rage to exuberance to thinking deep.
*The bipolar’s dilemma, namely: Do you take a chance on exerting yourself and thus risk triggering a mood episode, or do you play it safe, only succumb to isolation and despair?

In the process of learning to “know thyself,” you will grow to take stock in yourself and become your own expert patient, in a position to manage your own recovery and set your own goals in life.

“John McManamy has produced a brilliant book, north of normal, south of crazy. It’s as good an education about depression and manic states, and about psychiatry in general, as I’ve seen in one place, written from a first-person perspective of someone who’s experienced what he’s writing about. It’s well-informed, based on careful study, explaining complex concepts simply but not simplistically, citing all the right people, and the wrong ones too (on purpose). Read it, and it’ll cure you of your average-itis.” – Nassir Ghaemi, Professor of Psychiatry, Director, Mood Disorders Program, Tufts Medical Center.

Purchase …


Not Just Up and Down: Major Endorsement

November 5, 2015 at 1:10 am

By John McManamy


This endorsement, just in …

“John McManamy has produced a brilliant book, north of normal, south of crazy. It’s as good an education about depression and manic states, and about psychiatry in general, as I’ve seen in one place, written from a first-person perspective of someone who’s experienced what he’s writing about. It’s well-informed, based on careful study, explaining complex concepts simply but not simplistically, citing all the right people, and the wrong ones too (on purpose). Read it, and it’ll cure you of your average-itis.”

– Nassir Ghaemi, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Tufts Medical Center

Coming soon …

November 3, 2015 at 7:45 pm

cover copy_edited-1 copy

By John McManamy

I’m days away from uploading my new ebook to Amazon. NOT JUST UP AND DOWN is scheduled as the first book in The Bipolar Expert Series, a six-book publishing project. This first book is on moods, and busts a host of conventional psychiatry myths. The central theme is that by knowing ourselves, we become our own expert, in better shape to manage our own recovery. Recovery, in short, is a non-starter without “knowing thyself.”

Central to NOT JUST UP AND DOWN is the proposition that bipolar is a cycling illness, with our brains in perpetual motion. Depression and mania do not occur in isolation. Each exerts a gravitational pull on the other. In turn, we have our temperaments influencing our mood from one direction and our environment from another.

We also have “normal” to consider. Why don’t we let this excerpt do the talking …

Knowing our illness makes no sense without knowing ourselves. It’s not enough to assume that once we get our bipolar under control that we can simply navigate our way back to normal. Especially if we have no concept of our own true normal.

This is especially true, having regard for the fact that our condition is so embedded in our personality and subject to the whims of our environment. Over the years I have learned to accept the fact that I will be more depressed than I would like to be and more animated than those around me would like me to be.

There will also be those times I find myself alone and isolated, questioning my very existence and freaking out and falling to pieces over nothing. And when this happens there is nothing more I would rather do than remove my infinitely unreliable brain from its casing and return it to the customer service counter of life.

I wouldn’t even ask the clerk to replace it with a brain that works. Stuff anything into the empty space. Bubble-wrap, pie filling—I’m fine with that. Then, on reflection, I can’t help but think: You know, most people have already chosen those options. Do I really want to be like them? Pie filling for brains? Normal?

Do you?

Please sign up for this blog to stay posted. And welcome to The Bipolar Expert Series …