I can’t erase the past. I learned so much from it.

Sophie and Sheila

Sophie and Sheila

Our daughter celebrates her birthday each June. I can’t help but measure her birthdays with an equal sense of apprehension and elation. She’s a teenager now, and still no sign of the brooding, the polarity, the darkness that descended on David like Portland’s thick gray clouds in January, refusing to budge. Yes, she has his intellect but she also has my relatively sunny nature. She is physically stunning with long, muscular legs and a waist that defies her voracious appetite. She has David’s European cheekbones. The color of her skin is his. Her ears have the same shape. There are times I find myself staring at one of her features for too long. She bats me away, “Mom, enough.”

After David’s death, I’d read every book I could get my hands on about bipolar disorder. I’d measured the likelihood of a genetic inheritance against the things I could influence– her diet, her sleep, exercise, a sense of well-being and unconditional love. She is just fine, so far.  Becoming aware of our family’s genetic vulnerabilities was painful, but it provided a unique gateway to also focus on our genetic strengths, and Sophie has inherited a majority of the good stuff. She’s attending college now with the sensitivity, compassion and intellect of a person who will be better than “just fine.”

Mental illness, unlike breast cancer, isn’t celebrated with big marches or pink ribbons. The stigma is stifling and it prevents most people from seeking help. David refused to accept the label of bipolar disorder. He could not imagine a life of medications and therapy, which did so little to help. David’s path is not unique. Suicide is now the ninth most common cause of death for men and women in America. Every thirteen minutes, another American dies from suicide. What could we have done differently? What should we have known?

It is my belief that many people could benefit from hearing more about how psychiatric conditions unfold. In the years, months and days leading up to David’s death, I didn’t classify him as mentally ill. I missed many signs. I ignored others, believing it could get better. And I scrambled, as the world came crashing down around us, I scrambled to maintain my own sanity and the health of our daughter.

In the weeks and months ahead,  I’ll be using this blog to share what I’ve learned. I’ll be interviewing the world’s best researchers and scientists who are working to find a cure for mental illness. I’ll be sharing dispatches from mental health conferences and from my work at the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, a dedicated group of scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers who believe people with lived experience can recover. ”
My interest is in preventing another loss of life as exquisite as David’s. I welcome your emails, your stories, and hopefully, your support. If you so desire, you can order “All the Things We Never Knew” on Amazon.com and sign up for my newsletter. I’d be so grateful if you did both.

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123 replies
  1. Corie
    Corie says:

    What a great way to open this discussion. It has been in the dark for so many years. As someone who has lived with a person with bipolar disease I am anxious to read more.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Corie,
      Thank you for replying. Please be in touch if there is anything I seem to miss from your perspective?- Sheila

      Reply
      • Carole
        Carole says:

        This is great. I’ve listened to KINK since the beginning. I have and my son has suffered from mental illness. It is hard to explain. It is hard to be an advocate. I’ve tried to do both. I don’t understand “blogging,” so, is this the only way you’ll be communicating, or do you have a FB page, too?

        Reply
        • Sheila Hamilton
          Sheila Hamilton says:

          I do have a Facebook page, Carole. I’m at a friends limit of 5000, so I’ll be creating another page. I’ll let you know when it’s up. Okay? – Sheila

          Reply
  2. Ann Marie Lei
    Ann Marie Lei says:

    Beautiful, Sheila – and oh so important. Thank you for opening your heart and your notebook to share your stories and help others experiencing similar difficult journeys!

    Reply
  3. Kristine McClain
    Kristine McClain says:

    Sheila
    Thank you for this blog. I look forward to reading this. I continue to write on my blog regarding issues of being transgender.
    Again. thank you
    Kris

    Reply
      • Kris McClain
        Kris McClain says:

        Sheila,
        I sometimes wonder if the manic depression of my past was a indication of bI polar issues. Maybe I should ask my psychiatrist. It would explain why I cycle though episodes of depression.

        Reply
        • Sheila Hamilton
          Sheila Hamilton says:

          Hi Kris,

          It seems like that’s a logical question. I’m not a doctor, but I do know this- There’s a mood scale test you can take that is quite good at determining whether its bipolar depression or major depression.

          Reply
  4. Jane
    Jane says:

    Thanks for speaking out against the stigma mental illness has been given by society. My father suffers from bi-polar disorder and I suffer from Major Depression, so I understand the hardships people and families affected by mental illness go through. I look forward to reading more articles and hope to see this awful label finally removed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Jane,

      Thank you for writing. This is such a big step for me, for my daughter and Michael’s family. I appreciate your support.

      Sheila

      Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Tom,

      You’re my literary hero and my path to the heart. Thanks for all you’ve done for non-fiction narrative.

      Sheila

      Reply
  5. Susanne E
    Susanne E says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this. It’s beyond me why, with so much we know about the brain today, we still have trouble accepting this as a real health issue. Instead we judge people, or tell them to just snap out of it. We don’t tell people to just “get over” cancer, and we need to stop doing this to those who suffer mental illness. Thank you for starting the conversation, and sharing your story.

    Reply
  6. John Ross Barnes
    John Ross Barnes says:

    Thanks for this Sheila. I have long been a fan based on listening to you on kink, and more recently following you on Facebook, but had no idea that your were this familiar with mental health issues.

    As someone who deals with my own anxiety and major depression daily, and for whom it runs in the family, I appreciate your work. My niece suicided in 1997 at the age of nineteen and my brother, her dad, has been in treatment since years before that. As you mentioned, it does often run in families and those of us who are left find ourselves always watching for signs in our kids and siblings, much as we would for cancer.

    Having someone as publicly visible and as well respected as you are might be a big help in promoting awareness. Might even save a few lives down the road. It’s hard tackling this after losing someone so close, and I(and I’m sure others affected by mental illness) appreciate you doing the emotional heavy lifting it will take. I look forward to reading your book and to following your work on mental health stories.

    Thanks,
    John Ross Barnes

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Thanks, John. I hope you’ll be there with me. If you like, sign up for the newsletter. I’ll be covering lots of conferences, updates, scientific breakthroughs and personal thoughts as I journey onward…

      XOXO,
      S

      Reply
  7. Kelly Murphy
    Kelly Murphy says:

    Thank you, Sheila, for starting this blog. In 2003, at the age of 57, my mom passed away. She lived her life in a depressed state much of the time. I tried to get her help several times over the years but she refused and eventually kicked me and all those that cared for her out of her life. The last time I saw her was about two years before her death. It wasn’t a pleasant visit as she called me several vulgar names and shut her door in my face. I knew she was mentally ill but couldn’t get it diagnosed due to her stubbornness in seeking help. She killed herself slowly with alcohol and malnutrition. She lived like a recluse the last 10 years of her life. I had so much sympathy for her but my hands were tied. I look forward to reading your journey and hope I gain more insight into this illness.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Dear Kelly,

      Anosognosia. That’s the word they use to descirbe people with no insight into how sick they are. I promise I’ll try to tackle that topic, but nobody takes away the pain and isolation you felt watching your beloved mom fade away. I’m sorry for your loss. And I hate the diseases that claim the brain. But I love your note, and it’s compassion and loving. Thank you for writing it.

      Sheila

      Reply
  8. Cora
    Cora says:

    Thank you for sharing. I recently found out that someone I once loved, but had to let go of for my own safety was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If only I had known then. The repeated suicide attempts, physical abuse and drug use were far too much for me to handle. I look forward to following your blog. NAMI does a walk every year at Portland Waterfront to raise funds and awareness on mental health issues.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Cora,

      Yep, a relationship with someone who is battling a mental illness is next to impossible, especially when they deny being sick. It’s a big topic for caregivers, and one I hope to talk more about in the coming weeks. Thank you for reaching out. It’s clear from your letter that you are filled with compassion, even though you had to step away. “How far do we go to save our loved ones before we save ourselves.” That’s a sub-text of the book I’m writing. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

      Sheila

      Reply
  9. Jill
    Jill says:

    Sheila – thank you for sharing your personal story in this public forum. Mental illness is prevalent in my family and so many other families. And is so hidden from view, and stigmatized that most people don’t or won’t reach out for help. There are people who will help, therapies that work and people need to know it’s okay to say that they or a family member are struggling.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Jill,

      It’s one in four. One in four families are now affected by mental health disorders, and yet, we support, and toil, and plan and worry from the shadows. There’s no stigma when a loved one suffers heart disease. Why is there so much fear around another organ (the brain) becoming sick? I really want to end it, Jill. I hope you’ll help.

      Sheila

      Reply
  10. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    Beautifully written. I, too, sit and watch. My daughter’s father had Bipolar disorder, though the early signs were seen by my teenage self as so romantic. My daughter developed the illness much younger, in middle school, and it was a rough ride for a single mom. I knew more than most about the disease, as I have worked in mental health for nearly 25 years. Her father committed suicide in his early 30s, she turns 29 this year. Now I see my sweet, bubbly 8 year old granddaughter struggle in school and wonder if this disease will strike her too. She is my everything now, as my husband and I have been her parents for over 4 years now. Know you are not alone in watching and waiting.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Brenda,

      Wow. Three generations. Heavy stuff. And, yet. Here you are. Showing up. Being your daughter, and her daughter’s support. Thank you. There are so many tremendous breakthroughs in brain science and promising therapies. I hope you’ll explore my blog and share with me what you’re learning, Brenda.

      Sheila

      Reply
  11. Heather Uhlig
    Heather Uhlig says:

    Thank you Sheila…mental illness has been a part of my life since I was a small girl and listened/watched my mom have a mental breakdown, it is something I fear that will happen to me and pray my children don’t have to struggle with it in their lives

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Heather,

      The people who say it’s all in your genes are wrong. There is so much more data now about the benefits of love, friendship, a healthy diet, stress reduction and sleep. We can work to end the suffering. I hope you’ll join me in learning more about how to prevent and recover from brain disorders.

      Sheila

      Reply
  12. Ashley Henry
    Ashley Henry says:

    Thank you so much for doing this work. I occasionally post about my own struggles with depression, and I’m consistently approached in private by people who are too afraid to share about their mental health challenges. I find that people are very grateful to know that there are others out there they can talk with. Helping to de-stigmatize mental illness is critical work. Thank you for your contribution.

    Reply
  13. Maria Eyerly
    Maria Eyerly says:

    I anxiously await your book. You have done so much to break down barriers by your willingness to talk about your own experience with a loved one with bipolar disorder, and you have been such a huge example to me and so many others for how to deal with this type of tragedy with strength and dignity. My husband had been diagnosed with bipolar, and hospitalized. He also had 2 suicide attempts. Unfortunately I didn’t handle it well and we are now divorced. I thought I was strong enough to deal with it, but unfortunately wasn’t. Sheila, your talent is never-ending. I look forward to following your blog! Best wishes and Congratulations!

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Maria,

      I’m so sorry to learn of your husband’s mental illness. I’ve written this book for caregivers as well–how far do we go to save another person’s life before we save our own? It’s such an important topic, and that’s so often overlooked. Thank you for writing. I’m hopeful for you. -Sheila

      Reply
  14. Deven
    Deven says:

    So many times in my life I have come very close to being a causality of mental illness, while taking my family down with me. I refuse to let it win. It is a battle every day but a battle I will not lose. 99% of the people in my life do not know that I fight disease everyday because of the stigma I face. Thank you for being a soldier in this never ending fight for understanding, acceptance and ultimately a cure. xo.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Damn, Deven.

      Really? You can’t come out of the shadows and share with the people you love? That’s heartbreaking. I’m encouraging you to embody the words of the Flawless Foundation, where I volunteer, “Seeing the perfection in every human being.” That means with ADHD, or not. That means with bipolar disorder or not. The world’s best scientists, poets, literary masters, artists and inventors suffer and suffered from brain disorders. Please do not give in. Soldier on, Deven.

      XO,
      Sheila

      Reply
  15. Sarah G
    Sarah G says:

    Sheila, This is so important to me. I’ve been not only navigating daily with depression and anxiety but also having it magnified by grieving for many family members whom have all passed very recently and very close together.

    Thank you for speaking out. Being brave. Most of all, thank you for sharing.

    Sarah

    Reply
    • Carole
      Carole says:

      This sounds like me… Depression & anxiety. Parents died within three months of each other. I can relate.
      My heart goes out to you.

      Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Sarah G,

      Oh, my. So much sadness, first hand. Soldier on, Sarah. Seriously, life is so good. Even for people living with brain disorders. I know so many scientists, artists, writers, painters and inventors who suffered, but are now doing really, really well. Hold on, Sarah.

      Sheila

      Reply
      • Sarah G
        Sarah G says:

        Thank you Sheila. Taking action to live healthy. All is good presently. I wish to help others in some way in the future.

        Thank you again for your voice.

        Sarah

        Reply
  16. Los Castro
    Los Castro says:

    It runs in my family. And it hides.Very well. I come from a family of HUGE personalities. We are performers in so many ways…and could it be that our cultural stereotypes can also stifle dialog? In my culture, “Machismo” doesn’t allow for tears or weakness. I almost lost two members of my family and am now stepping outside my comfort zone and asking, “…ARE you really, ok?! Do you feel comfortable talking to me? Can I be there to try to help YOU find help for YOU?!” For lack of better words, we may even need to have our cages rattled for our own good…

    Reply
  17. Julie
    Julie says:

    My father was diagnosed as a manic-depressant. He died from cancer when I was only eleven. My mother was always concerned that I too would suffer from the darkness that cloaked my father. I keep tabs on my own mental health and know my own triggers and signs.
    The further I move from his death, all those years ago, I can still remember the swing of the emotional pendulum with him. As I get older I see the effects if the illness so much more clearly and understand his behavior with a more compassionate view.
    I look forward to reading more.

    Reply
  18. Carole
    Carole says:

    Carole says:
    March 31, 2015 at 4:11 pm
    This is great. I’ve listened to KINK since the beginning. I have and my son has suffered from mental illness. It is hard to explain. It is hard to be an advocate. I’ve tried to do both. I don’t understand “blogging,” so, is this the only way you’ll be communicating, or do you have a FB page, too?

    Reply
  19. LIsa
    LIsa says:

    Sheila,
    I can’t express how much I appreciate your candor. It is all too infrequent. It is a cause near and dear to my heart to take the awful affliction of mental illness out of the closet. Unfortunately, more suffer than most will ever know. I walk every year in the Out of the Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and am always disappointed there is so little media coverage. I wait for the day it is viewed the same way as cancer awareness and other diseases. I look forward to your blog and hope I can get some much needed info to support my loved one struggling. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    Lisa

    Reply
  20. Liz Kay
    Liz Kay says:

    Sheila – this is amazing. Not only are you sharing your gift for writing, so perfectly penning emotion, visuals and realities – but you are also helping so many, through your own experience and pain. You are so BRAVE and will help Sophie stay brave, for her entire, wonderful life!

    Reply
  21. Joy
    Joy says:

    Shelia,
    I listen to you every day on Kink and adore you. Thank you for your amazing blog. I think it will help many people.

    Reply
  22. Michelle Lewellen
    Michelle Lewellen says:

    Sheila,
    Others had said it all very eloquently. I applaud your courage to speak publicly and share your story. I was married to a man with Bi Polar Disorder and have watched the struggles firsthand and up close. I too, worry for my children. Peace & blessings to you and your daughter.

    Reply
  23. Joe
    Joe says:

    Hi Sheila, Thank you for your insight. And I send my love for your struggles and apprehension. There are a lot of us I’m sure. I have two precious adult daughters. I adore them and would do anything for them. My oldest daughter has been personally affected by this illness her entire life. I don’t share much anymore. I’ve been to her treatments and family meetings and my own decades of research about bi polar disorder. My daughter…..A stunning beauty. The most kind and caring person in the world. Anyone would think ‘she has it made.’ Since her teen years, she felt unworthy. She felt less than beautiful. She felt different. We never knew this for so many years. She developed into a smart, hard working, mother, wife, …….and alcoholic, drug addict, un-employable woman. Six suicide attempts, several auto accidents, one major. The nightmare of my life was the thought that one day I would have to bury my daughter. They say ‘don’t enable.’ I could not stop loving her. They say ‘the parents die first.’ Stress. Finances. Time. Doubts. For over 13 years I have written our story. Not for anyone to read. But for me to release it. We find ourselves in a several year period of success in her treatment. But even though I am the most positive, happy person I know, I sort of live on the edge of worry. There is this lack of study, lack of understanding, lack of love from the world of medicine for my daughter. You can imagine how alone that makes her feel. And you can imagine what feeling alone does to her. Thanks again. All my love to you guys.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Joe,

      Of all the notes I’ve received today, yours slays me. Of course, you worry everyday. Of course, you’ve helped her. Every. Single. Day. I hope you understand in the layers of my blog that I get you. I get your struggle and I so wholly understand your infinite love for your daughter, regardless of her illness. My heart goes out to you, Joe. And I hope that together, we can find a way to love your daughter more, to welcome her, with her brain sensitivities, back into the fold. That’s my hope. Thank you for writing, and for sharing your enormous heart. Please don’t allow your daughter to feel alone. One person who loves makes such an incredible difference.

      Sheila

      Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Wow, Kathleen. I love this blog. In the future, I hope to link to other great bloggers who are talking openly about mental illness. Thank you for sharing this now!- Sheila

      Reply
  24. Paula Gunness
    Paula Gunness says:

    Sheila,
    Thanks for helping open the door for many who struggle with understanding bi-polar and other mental issues. I had a wonderful neighbor who was diagnosed with bi-polar and I wish I had understood it alittle more. She committed suicide and of course I was full of questions: what did I miss, what could I have done to help her, etc.
    Thanks for sharing your personal journey with everyone.

    Paula

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Paula,

      It is so good to hear from you again. I hope you’ll continue to ask questions, and to learn. The “Why” is so very difficult to ever understand, but I have learned a few things I can share in upcoming posts.
      Love you, and Norm, of course!!-Sheila

      Reply
  25. cindy johnson
    cindy johnson says:

    Sheila, this is a wonderful thing you are doing. When I was helping your mom, I read a few pages of the book you wrote. I thought it was wonderful and I am looking forward to reading all of it. My first husband was bipolor and it was very difficult to deal with as I knew nothing about it. I think this will help people understand it better and maybe deal with it better than I did. thank you for doing this. keep up the good work.

    cindy

    Reply
  26. Deasal
    Deasal says:

    I have spent a number of years battling manic depression, nutrition and exercise are my primary weapons. I had a near to complete breakdown 3 years ago. Besides seeking medical help, my salvation actually came from writing it out, splaying my inner demons across the screen in a public blog for the world to see. I think we need to understand that mental disorders should not be kept in the closet. I think we all need to embrace our inner crazy, learn the true names of our demons, share, converse, and not be ashamed.

    Thanks for being another venue to bring it out from the shadows and into the sun.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Thank you, Deasal. To you, my bravery award. For yours is this most difficult battle. Thank you for honoring your brilliance and your demons. We all need to do a version of that to be our truest, best self. Sheila

      Reply
  27. Claire Leedy
    Claire Leedy says:

    i met you through Dan Reed at the Hutchings home. This blog is invaluable. Mental illness runs in my family. I have anxiety as well as my kids. It has been my life’s work to educate anyone I can about mental illness. Thank you for this. I will be an avid reader. ❤️

    Reply
  28. Dana Sullivan
    Dana Sullivan says:

    Sheila, these are important issues and I appreciate you sharing your personal experience. I represent clients frequently who struggle with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues in the workplace. Many experience terrible discrimination because of the misconceptions and stigmas associated with these diseases. Others fail to seek the protections the law allows because of an understandable reluctance to notify their employer of their condition. I find these to be among my most compelling cases and I have developed a strong empathy for people afflicted with these illnesses. I look forward to your future posts

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Dana,

      The discrimination against people with mental illness is one of the areas I hope to tackle first. Would you be willing to be interviewed on the topic, Dana?

      Sheila

      Reply
  29. Shellie
    Shellie says:

    Sheila this was so well written. I am sorry for your loss. I work with children who struggle with mental illness and feel dedicated to improving the social injustices and stigma suffered by those dealing with this challenge. I feel we need to give the same care and compassion to children who have mental illness as is given to children with other chronic health conditions. ( Adults too) I look forward to following your blog and reading your book.

    Reply
  30. Rhonda
    Rhonda says:

    Thanks Sheila for putting this out there. I have had my our bouts with mental illness and have come out on the brighter side of life. My daughter is a mental health RN. So proud of the work she does. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      That’s the best work there is. In the field that needs so many more compassionate, caring people. Thanks for writing, Rhonda.

      Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Thank you, Margaret, I hope you’ll consider signing up for the newsletter and following more blog posts. Many thanks. Sheila

      Reply
  31. Amy Ware
    Amy Ware says:

    Thank you Sheila for being so brave to open your life up to us all to see (warts and all!) The only way people who suffer from mental illness can get better and move forward is to shine a light into darkness that is there. Depression is in my family and I suffer from PTSD. We talk openly and honestly with our daughters so they are aware of things in our own little world as well as being able to see into the shadows outside. The more open dialog there is, the more hope I have that the stigma can be reduced.

    Reply
  32. Susan Johnson
    Susan Johnson says:

    Thank for sharing. I listen to you in the mornings. My daughter is bi-polar and I have been involved with NAMI. Just finished teaching my second Family To Family class. Keep getting the word out then on mental illness.

    Reply
  33. Laura
    Laura says:

    As a fellow advocate and stigma fighter I applaud your speaking up and out! I hope you’ll follow the work of Trillium Family Services
    #KeepOregonWell

    Reply
  34. Randa
    Randa says:

    Sheila Thank you so much for sharing your personal pain!!! I have a daughter who is 15 but started showing signs of Bipolar when she was 13!!!! She was a very sweet, smart and agreeable child!!! But, she changed into someone I do not even know now!! At first I thought it was just puberty, but it certainly was not!!! She admitted to cutting! She will be hyper-happy over nothing, and then I speak in a normal tone to her and she answers in a very hateful tone which comes from nothing!! She even has a friend who suffers from depression and she kept her from committing suicide, but was tested for Bipolar. She now says to my daughter I think you are Bipolar!!!! And I agree!!!! Who do I take her to first to be officially diagnosed? Thank you so much! I will continue to follow your postings and God bless you!

    Reply
  35. Diane Quitslund
    Diane Quitslund says:

    So beautifully written. Thoughtful, sincere insight will help remove the cloud/stigma associated with something that is SO prevalent in our society. We, as a community, are all better for your opening your heart and knowledge.

    Reply
  36. Chrisse
    Chrisse says:

    Love this brave share, Sheila. You and your family have my heartfelt sympathy at the loss of your beloved husband and father. I hope you’ve read Storm Large’s memoir, “Crazy Enough”. It’s the most wrenching, hope inspiring account of a mother’s mental illness and a daughter’s fear for and ultimate triumph of Herself. I will look foward to reading your blog.

    Reply
  37. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Michael was my builder and we bonded like sister and brother in the 6-8 months we worked together. We were both huge art and design people and also had many discussions about marriage and childrearing (Sophie and Eli are very close in age). Although I knew he was incredibly sensitive – I had no idea he suffered from mental illness. I still live in the house we remodeled together and enjoy his memory through the designs we came up with side by side. He really did right by my family and I’ll always carry a space in my heart for my friend. I hope you still have the portrait I took of Michael and Sophie. I sent it along after he passed away.
    How exciting about Stanford. WOW!!

    Bright love to your family. Thank you for sharing.
    XXOO Michelle and all the Rajottes

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Michelle,
      Sophie has that picture by her bedside. Michael spoke lovingly about many of his clients and I remember him talking about you. Thanks for taking the time to write.- Sheila

      Reply
  38. Amy D
    Amy D says:

    I have Bi-polar I & II! I also have been recently diagnosed with ADD. I have had to accept that this is MY FOREVER! I take my meds religiously as instructed. I see a counselor ever 2-4 weeks. I see a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner every month to adjust my meds. Every single day is WORK! But I am not embarrassed about my illness. It does not define me. Neither does my diabetes. It is something I live with. I have good days, great days and days from hell. I hope to be able to help the social stigma of mental illnesses by being open and talking about it and answering questions. I’d love to come and talk with you sometime on air or off! I have 3 kids and I also often think of their chances for developing this difficult disease. I truly would love to help. Please let me know what I can do. ❤️ Amy D
    (I did go to school with Jarod in Salem. Funny)

    Reply
  39. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Wow! Thank you for bringing this subject to light. My brother suffers from bipolar disorder. I am continually amazed at how he manages to live and work with these challenges!

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Thank you, Heidi. Your friendship has helped heal Sophie and me. Thank you for your warmth and huge heart.-S

      Reply
  40. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I had no idea of this part of your padt. On January 17, 2014 I came home to find the door from inside the house to the garage taped off. I heard the car running and found my husband in the car surrounded by some of his favorite things and CSN’S Daylight Again playing. I was supposed to be picking my sister up at the airport but decided to run by home first. Why? I have no idea but glad I listened to that little voice inside my head. It’s been a very long road and he’s doing better but every day I worry when I leave to go to work. Not only does he have depression but he is also an alcoholic which almost destroyed our marriage. For 14 months it’s been a daily struggle but he is slowly coming out of the cravass. He’s no longer paranoid and is even planning a solo trip to California to spend time with one of his sons and meet a grandson for the first time. I had no support from my co-workers. It was like they felt ashamed for me. So different from another co-worker whose husband is going thru chemo and the whole office pitched in for a goodie basket and $700 in gift cards to the local grocery store. I think that those who really get lost in the shuffle are those who are there to try and support. I know that I feel as if all the budens of the family are now my responsibility. There are times when I get in my car I just want to keep driving. One of our sons has inherited the depression gene and I’ve watched him struggle with his own demons and addictions and it terrifies me. Thank you for allowing me to say things I’ve never been able to say before.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Wow, did you ever sum up the stigma in one beautifully written, but painful note. Thank you for speaking up.

      Sheila

      Reply
  41. Tammy Richards
    Tammy Richards says:

    Dear Sheila,

    First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t pretend to know how tragic that has been for you and your daughter.

    I applaud you for your brave attempts to uncover the illnesses that so many of us face.

    After years of struggle, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (I was a cutter), and Major Depressive disorder in 1999. Over the next 4 years I spent a great deal of time, effort and money in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and trying 26 different types of medication trying to combat the illness that consumed my life and cost me my marriage.

    Finally, after much therapy, two hospitalizations, and ultimately 6 ECT (shock therapy) treatments, I made it into the light.

    Here we are 16 years since my original diagnosis and I am remarried (11 years) and have two beautiful children (6 and 8). I remain stable on 10 mg of antidepressants per day. That, in combination with consistent exercise allows me to keep fighting the good fight.

    That being said, it IS a fight, every day. Sometimes it is so tempting to give in. And then I look at my life and all that I would’ve missed out on had I killed myself, and I’m so grateful to be here.

    Thank you for your courage. Thank you for taking this on.

    Best,

    Tammy

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Tammy,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Your recovery is such a wonderful reminder for others struggling in the grips of psychosis or major depression. Best to you and thank you for your courage.

      Sheila

      Reply
  42. Kim Dahlquist
    Kim Dahlquist says:

    Thank you Sheila. My dad lived most of his life undiagnosed. It was only in his later years that we learned he had bipolar disorder. I was terrified when my beautiful, personable, very bright daughter was diagnosed at the age of 15. We were faced with a person that we didn’t recognize, who rebuffed every attempt to help her or love her. I am happy to report that she is now a happy, healthy 22 year old who has wrestled the worst of her demons and won. Will there still be bad days? Of course. Will there still be close calls? Certainly. But we are hopeful for the first time in a long time. I sometimes wished she had a physical disability, one that people could see and understand. I feel like running behind her with a sign that states, “Please be gentle. She is fragile and broken no matter how she acts”. Thank you for sharing your story. Only by talking about this and sharing can we smash the stigma and enlighten. I hope that your daughter never faces this illness, but if she does, I will be there in thought and prayer as one mother to another.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Kim,
      “I feel like running behind her.” Wow, you so beautifully summed up the feeling of a parent who worries about their child’s health. Thank you for writing.
      Sheila

      Reply
  43. Val Bauer
    Val Bauer says:

    Hey Sheila — I have personal experience with related issues and am passionate about also raising awareness and calling attention to/eradicating stigma toward mental health. If you can suggest other ways I can get involved, please shoot me a message! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Val,
      I’m looking for people who are living well with mental illness or people who have recovered fully and would like to be interviewed. Is that you?

      Sheila

      Reply
  44. Chris Farentinos
    Chris Farentinos says:

    sheila, congratulations on getting the book almost relased and on your beautiful and very relevant blog. We had a visioning session yesterday with architects and 40 people representing physicians, nurses, peer support specialist, family members of consumers, social workers, and many other staff who works with kids and adults and will eventualy work at Unity Center for Behavioral Health. We will have 6 other architecture planning and design sessions. Maybe you would like to participate in one of the sessions? I will send you back channel more information. You had first hand experience with a psychiatric crisis. We are working towards a new vision and new place to treat psychiatric crisis. Once again, congratulations! You rock.

    Reply
  45. Teresa Stedman
    Teresa Stedman says:

    Sheila, I have a 19 year old daughter that struggles with depression and has attempted suicide 3 times, fortunately unsuccessfully. We tried to get her some help through a highly rated program and I went in armed with several text messages confirming her planned suicide and a letter she had written about killing herself, and the results from the ER from the attempt about 2 weeks prior. We were there less than 5 minutes when they informed my husband and I that she was over 18 and therefore we could not force her into the program – that she had to make the choice to enter it herself, and she simply was not going to have anything to do with the program. We were stunned that the message they gave her was not one of help and hope but ‘hey, you are 18 so your parents have no rights so you don’t have to do this if you don’t want’. Extremely frustrating for us.

    She knows she battles depression but the stigma of going through counseling, being on medication and being considered a basket case (her interpretation) seems to overrule her making the choice to seek help. She struggles daily with low self esteem, anger, depression, and chronic physical pain. She has been a successful athlete in various sports, has done well academically and truly cares for others……..yet she simply cannot see the positive side of her that we, or others, see.

    As a parent, I often feel helpless and heart broken as I wish I could wave the magic wand to make it better. Your writing about this gives me continued strength to keep loving her, offer guidance and never let up on praying that she will not let this rule her, but that she instead, will rule her illness.

    Thank you for sharing something so personal with us. I know your journey will help so many others.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Teresa,

      I’m so moved by your story. The laws regarding involuntary commitment are beginning to change in some parts of the country. Sadly, so many patients suffer from a lack of clarity or awareness about how sick they really are. I wish you continued strength and patience with your daughter.
      Sheila

      Reply
    • Denise
      Denise says:

      My ex husband committed suicide about a year and half ago. We have a daughter who is so like him, and due to the suicide and some other issues, she struggles with social anxiety and depression. She has admitted to considering suicide, but so far, has not attempted it to my knowledge. She is in therapy at least once a week and more when she needs it. She is 16, almost 17, and so much like her father. I worry so much about her and her future.

      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s always good to know that we are not alone.

      Reply
  46. Holly
    Holly says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It will surely help others. I resonate with it in many ways. but must wait some years before I can share my story because it is not mine alone. One day I will. I am ordering your book and I would really like to be involved in mental health advocacy.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Holly,
      Thank you for reading the blog and for getting in touch. I wish you the best in opening up about your journey.

      Sheila

      Reply
  47. Patti
    Patti says:

    hi Shelia!! I thought I heard something about you and nami! That is a great organization. They have helped me thru my anxiety . My first husband I was married to i think now many years later is bipolar . We were young and I was pregnant so we got married. He was very violent couldn’t stay faithful and he didn’t even like his own children. His father committed suicied and 2 brothers and another brother attempted suicide . Now my 2 daughters are in there 30s and one just turned 40. My oldest has the temper like her father and the other one has the addictive behavior like her father. It’s been a long road but things are getting better. My oldest just got married to a very nice man that treats her like gold. She so needs that after her father abandoned her and my other daughter is clean from all drugs for a year and a half. That mental illness is like a long chain that takes a long time to break. But with support and love and family things do get better. And with medication . Your daughter has you and I don’t think you would ever give up on her if someday she should get sick. Love goes along ways and understanding. Thanks for talking about this subject. It all needs to come out.

    Reply
  48. Laurie Barton
    Laurie Barton says:

    Thank you for your story and for bringing attention to this issue. My now deceased ex-husband fought the same demons and also lost his battle. I had to divorce him to protect myself and our young son. In the case of my ex-husband his mental illness also became addiction as he turned to prescription medications (pain meds, sleep meds, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants) in an attempt to “feel normal.” He was in and out of rehab, the hospital and jail. In the end he died of an “accidental overdose” in a homeless shelter in Vancouver. He left his family ripped apart. My son and I survived and wrote our own path for happiness. Hopefully by telling your story you’ll be able to help others find their own path for survival and happiness.

    Thank you for your strength!
    Laurie

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Hi Laurie,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your husband and relieved to know that you are there for your son. Thank you for writing and for advocating for other families dealing with a mental illness.- Sheila

      Reply
  49. Arturo
    Arturo says:

    Hi Sheila, I look forward to reading your book when it becomes available and insights you’ll share. Though it was brief, I went against my more reserved, skeptical nature and fell intensely in love with someone with mental illness, what I strongly believe to be covert narcissistic personality disorder (a condition difficult to study or diagnose, and — from what I’ve read — dim chances of recovering to the point of functioning in a mutually loving relationship). I drew conclusions based on a series of academic readings and, more importantly, other abuse victims have shared online. After three months of seeing the beauty of his creativity, humor, wit and his appreciation for qualities in me no one ever noticed — paired with a detached, menacing, barely communicative and a settle detectable joy in withholding — I decided to close down communication entirely. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — to mourn that such feelings of intense connection came with equal intense feelings of isolation, feeling belittled and casting myself in a role as performing monkey to restore his better nature. That a person can feel completely familiar and completely strange can still put my mind on a hamster wheel. Six months later and I grapple with feelings of letting him down, of abandoning someone deeply hurt to cause such turmoil to their life and others, of what abuse or emotional neglect he may have experienced growing up to cause emotional numbness. Ultimately, I had to put my own health first and give my naturally high anxiety levels a break. I walked away exhausted. Though I chose to grab a life raft, I still wonder about him every day. I wish I had the tools and resources to be a friend to him. I teared up writing this. His long-term ex eventually confirmed what I suspected was true: the crazy-making cycle is never-ending until intense therapy is sought. And there’s no convincing him unless the idea is his, and the circumstances desperate enough. Thank you for bringing more light to a topic we as a perfection-bound, achievement-obsessed society don’t feel truly comfortable discussing.

    Reply
    • Sheila Hamilton
      Sheila Hamilton says:

      Arturo,

      Your message is so beautifully written and your obvious love for this person comes through. Here’s hoping he gets the help he needs to find his way back to someone as loving as yourself.

      Sheila

      Reply

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  1. […] struggled with mental illness, and tragically lost his life to his disease. Recently, Hamilton started a blog to discuss how she has dealt with the issue. It is heartfelt and has not been an easy subject for […]

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