Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Meaning and Purpose: Part Two

In Part I of Meaning and Purpose, we discussed turning our strengths and virtues into a calling. A number of years ago, I had pause to reflect on this back when I was on the board of a local mental health group and we were deciding on recipients for our annual Inspirational Awards Dinner. The evening before the event found me giving a talk to our organization. I talked a bit about our main awardee – Father Joe, known to everyone in San Diego - who had devoted his life to feeding and comforting the homeless. No doubt about it – Father Joe definitely had a calling.

We continue ..

How about you? I asked my audience. How many of you have a calling? A number of hands shot up. This was, after all, an audience of people involved in mental health, nearly all who lived with mental illness, whether as patients or family members. One man mentioned facilitating a support group. I pressed him on this. Can you describe a satisfying moment for you? I asked.

Yes, he said: When a new member of the group hears other people's stories and she realizes she is not alone. The look on that person's face.

I used to facilitate a support group. I could well relate. It kind of makes showing up early to turn on the lights and arrange the chairs in the room and lay out the brochures on the table worth it, I suggested.

There were a lot of nodding heads in the room.

Did Steve Jobs have a calling? His passing the day before was fresh on everyone's minds. I pulled out the script of a 1997 Apple ad. "Here's to the crazy ones," I began. "The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. ... They push the human race forward."

In the talk I gave, I included the other five individuals our local chapter would be honoring.

So, as I related to my audience, we had all these awardees, all very different. What, I wondered, did they all have have in common? What qualities did they possess that we here found so uplifting, so inspirational?

It turns out I didn’t have to think too hard. It came down to two things: Commitment and dedication to serving others. So as well as the six people we would be honoring, we would also be honoring a set of values.

Now let’s connect values to a life of meaning to happiness. I really don’t know too much about happiness. I haven’t experienced it much, and - I suspect - neither have you. We’re really not built to be happy. Happiness is not well-suited to survival. Depression is much better suited. I experience a lot of that, and - well here I am - a depressive realist, able to see the world as it is and adapt.

But yes, a bit more happiness in my life would not go unappreciated. So where can we find people who practice happiness?

As I recounted to my audience, funny thing - talk to almost any staff person or volunteer or board member in our local chapter and you will encounter an individual with personal experiences that would tear your heart out. That’s what living with mental illness does to us. Patient or family member or both, we have been through hell and through hell again.

So - by any standard, our chapter should have been the most miserable place on earth. But that was not the case. Far from it. What was going on? So, I decided to check out this thing called happiness. As it turned out, I had already written four articles on the topic, so I didn’t have far to look. My first article focused on a study that tracked the lives of a group of Harvard men over a period of six decades, the Grant Study. The man who kept this study going for four of those decades, George Vaillant, noticed that those he categorized as “happy-well” were those who adapted in healthy ways to their surroundings. One of these healthy adaptations included altruism - service. Service to others.

But wait, happiness is not as simple as all that. One of the things that Dr Vaillant also found out was that positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. We’re setting ourselves up for rejection and heartbreak. You might say this is the price we pay for being decent people.

In the “The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama essentially says that we're unhappy because we excel at all the stupid people tricks. We're attached to our own idiotic desires and fears and anxieties. We can't let go. The way to get over this - out of ourselves - is by paying attention to others. We signal a willingness to put their needs before ours. We cultivate loving kindness. Next thing we're establishing connections and intimacies. Next thing, we're not as absorbed in our own destructive thoughts and feelings. Next thing we're not alone. Next thing, maybe, there are periods in our life where we may be experiencing happiness.

Okay, I’m no expert on happiness, but I think you see where I’m going with this. Here I was, working on bios for our six awardees for our upcoming dinner. People we look up to. Achievements we find laudable:
  • Commitment and dedication to serving others.
  • Serving others - altruism, putting others first.
  • Commitment - the courage to change things, to take risks and pay the price, and not just settle for good enough.
Fold our strengths and virtues into it, and suddenly we are talking about a life with meaning. Maybe that is what happiness really is. Are the people we would be honoring the next day happy? I have no idea. Did they live lives with meaning? Maybe this is why I felt myself connecting with my audience. As I mentioned before, by rights those of us connected with our organization should be the most miserable people on earth. But you know, I related, when I talk to the staff and volunteers, I hear a lot of stories in common, namely:

People tend to first come to our local chapter in a state of need. They are often desperate. They feel alone and isolated. Soon, they may find themselves in a class or support group. They get something out of the experience. And something seems to happen - they want to give back. They volunteer. Suddenly, their life has meaning. They have a calling. It doesn’t stop there - most of our staff started out as volunteers. I'm not going to pretend we are all happy and that our lives are going great, but I can tell you this much - back then, when I walked into our local chapter, I found myself with people I wanted to be around

Commitment, service to others - funny how we’re drawn to people with meaning in their lives. A life of meaning and purpose. What a difference.

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Meaning and Purpose: Part One

It’s a story I’ve told a million times before, one dating from a full two decades ago, but only now can I add an extra layer of insight to it. What happened was this:

Soon after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in early 1999, I landed a small gig writing on depression for a long since defunct website. The site paid me the princely sum of $20 to write four articles a month. I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenge - I didn’t know a neuron from a neurotransmitter - but an angel in the form of Colleen Sullivan was most supportive. In no time, a gusher was flowing out of me. The website couldn’t contain me. Soon, with Colleen’s encouragement, I had my own weekly newsletter going, followed by my own website.

As I recounted, a half-year into it:

Writing is what helped bring me back from the dead. For me, it is a healing activity. If I were a basketball player I'd be shooting hoops, if I were a gardener I would be out with the petunias. Healing is about finding something that makes you feel alive and doing it. When I'm in full flight there is no time and space. The sun takes its leave, booming music falls mute, and the steaming hot cup of tea by my side is stone cold when I pick it up a minute later.

After six months in the land of the living dead, I was writing again, and really writing. I was still writing in the shadow of my illness, but I was writing. I was reclaiming my life, one article at a time. 

In one context, I had found my “flow,” a state of full satisfaction from being immersed in an activity. But any old activity wasn't going to cut it, not over the long term. I needed a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. My strengths and virtues needed to be recruited into my work and my work needed to be my calling. Thanks to Colleen, I found it. No more rolling rocks uphill. No more smashing my head on brick walls. My sense of a life inside death, of being trapped in my own present, had been replaced by an intangible glimmer, the prospect of deliverance, what some people call hope. What I had stumbled into was nothing short of a miracle - what I would later describe as a bedrock principle of recovery - a life of meaning and purpose.

If the name Viktor Frankl pops into your head, you may see where I’m going with this. The late Dr Frankl was a Viennese psychiatrist who wrote the classic Man’s Search for Meaning, based on his experiences in the Nazi death camps. I hesitate to draw life lessons from the extremities of his suffering, but I feel I’ve been granted a sort of license by my good friend and fellow mental health writer, Therese Borchard. 

Therese is one of the four women I profiled in my first book in the Bipolar Expert Series, NOT JUST UP AND DOWN. Depression has been a constant in her life. Soon after coming out of one particularly crushing and soul-destroying episode, Therese found both comfort and validation in Dr Frankl’s work. This gave her the strength to rededicate herself to her writing, not to mention her family. Trial and tribulation would later follow. Therese, fortunately, has a rare gift for incorporating the worst that life has to throw her way into her spiritual and life journey. At the time of writing, Therese was planning a 500-mile hike - a pilgrimage - on the Camino de San Diego - The Way of St James - in Spain.

 As Therese explained to me back when I was working on my first book, Dr Frankl believes that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. “If we devote our time and energy toward finding and pursuing the ultimate meaning of our life,” she recounted, “we are able to transcend our suffering. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it. However, the meaning holds our hurt in a context that gives us peace. We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation.”

A life of meaning, of purpose. Eleven years into my life writing about my illness, I was granted the opportunity to reflect on this. The occasion was a talk I gave to the local chapter of a well-known mental health organization. At the time, I was serving on the board. We would be holding our Annual Inspiration Awards Dinner the following evening, and I had been on the planning committee three years straight. Over that time, I had been involved in the selection of a total of 18 Awardees. I can assure you, this has been one of the most gratifying tasks I have ever been associated with.

Think of it - a bunch of us sitting around the table having discussions about people we all look up to, doing things we all admire. A few weeks prior, one of my fellow committee members and I worked on preparing bios of our six current awardees. The exercise got me thinking - what do all these people have in common?

Let’s focus on our main awardee that year, Father Joe, our Inspirational Person of the Year. Father Joe is the founder of Father Joe’s Villages, which feeds and shelters the homeless, and provides for them a range of social and medical services. In San Diego, Father Joe is a legend, but he recalls a time when he was just getting started, a newly minted young priest who had taken a sacred vow to devote his life to God. And the first assignment he draws? 

Making peanut butter sandwiches.

Trust me - with bipolar, it’s very easy for me to connect peanut butter to God. But for the chronically normal? Well, it turns out that Father Joe made that connection through a lifetime of service. To the forgotten, the down-trodden, the outcast, those we turn our backs on - Father Joe was there. Inspirational? Don’t get me started.

Father Joe definitely had a calling.

How about you? I asked my audience. How many of you have a calling?

For the purposes of this post, I will slightly rephrase the question: How about you out there? You reading this. Do you have a calling?r

Go to Part II ...

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Crossing the Threshold

From a chapter of the recovery book I am working on ...

February, 2017: I pull into a paid campground on the Colorado River, separating California from Arizona. I’ve spent a good deal of the day driving east from the Salton Sea in southern California, where I pitched a tent the night before, through agribusiness farmland and desert, much of it Lawrence of Arabia-quality, with pristine dunes cresting and falling like giant geological tsunamis. I can expect more desert when I get back on the road sometime around noon the next day, part of a great and diverse system that extends east from southern California and south from Mexico through Arizona and New Mexico and into Texas, and north through Nevada and Utah and Colorado and Wyoming and into central Oregon and Washington and Canada. The tonal palette ranges from the blinding white salt flats of Death Valley and fine gypsum granules of White Sands to the tinted canyons and red rock of northern Arizona and southern Utah to bleak black volcanic dirt in the middle of Oregon, not to mention incongruent green against rock as life - just about everywhere - somehow finds a way. Three days earlier I was scrambling around the megaliths of Joshua Tree and tomorrow I look forward to the signature saguaros and jagged peaks of southern Arizona. But now, on the Colorado, I unexpectedly encounter wetlands, tall grass and a variety of trees flanking both banks of the river. The sun is setting, the full moon rising. A formation of cranes flies past.

Next morning, up on my riverbank, sipping tea in my folding chair, a spectacular white bird (a small species of egret, perhaps?) swoops below me and alights near the reeds by the opposite bank. I’m on the phone with my daughter, who is now living in New York City, with her husband and four kids. I last saw her in San Diego, some eight months earlier. Three weeks following her visit, I experienced my moment of truth: Hospital tests revealed a totally blocked heart. They would operate on me first thing in the morning. Next thing, I was signing papers and contacting family and friends while nurses and technicians were prepping me for surgery.

Total surrender. It was all out of my hands, now.

That was then. Now here I am - refurbished heart - my whole life packed into my ‘99 Passat, with no home to go back to. I’ve been on the road for about two weeks. I have a vague plan that involves camping out in the southwest and sleeping on people’s couches as I head east to see my sister in central Florida, then up the eastern seaboard to visit my daughter in New York City. From there, I plan to drive up into New England, before heading west across the northern states and into the northwest. From there, perhaps down into California and back into San Diego where I started. Who knows?

I have no confidence in a successful outcome. I’m courting disaster, in questionable health, with a suspect car, zero finances, no knowledge of what I’m doing, plus a brain that should have been returned to the customer service counter of life ages ago. Nevertheless, I dare to give my journey a name: New Heart, New Start. If nothing else, I’m going to make it to my daughter across the continent, even if I have to hitch-hike. After that, let lightning strike. Just let me see my daughter one more time.

Eventually, all heroes on their journeys come to the end of the line. If they’re lucky, they get to die in bed, much loved and admired, as presumably happened to Abraham, father of his people, and George Washington, father of his country. Or they get their Viking funeral like Siegfried or are swept away to a mystic isle like Arthur. Heaven help that they meet an ironic end, as did Agamemnon, who returned from Troy only to be stabbed in his bath by his faithless wife, Clytemnestra. Or that they die forgotten and penniless, as do so many of our real life heroes, returning from distant battlefields.
Several years before: The narrative I had so successfully mapped out for myself way back in 1999 was drawing to a close. By now, my heart was no longer in my work. It was time to write a conclusion to my life as an expert patient. The website that I had been affiliated with for ten years obliged by firing me. I could no longer pay my rent. Then came my heart attack. To add insult to injury, a dear friend bailed out on me.

End of the road. On a near-stranger’s bed, with my life packed into boxes all around me, I drifted into the surrender of sleep-assisted extinction. My expectation was to awake into the type of depression I would never get over. Instead, I woke up to a crazy vision. Now here I was, seven months later, starting to live it.

I break camp and head off. In my mind, my journey begins for real once I cross the border into Arizona. Less than 30 minutes later finds me headed east on I-10. Won’t be long. I get out my phone and point it out my front window. Warning: don’t try this at home. A sign looms in the distance. When I begin to differentiate its features - yellow star and rays against a field of red and blue - I start clicking away. A few minutes later, I pull into a rest stop and step out of the car and onto Arizona. Pinch me, it’s real. I’ve crossed the threshold. I upload my Arizona sign pic to Facebook. GOODBYE, CALIFORNIA! I caption in capital letters. Ahead of me looms three million square miles of continental US.

I have no choice but to trust in the process. On a journey, trust is the feeling of the wind at one’s back. Its opposite, fear and uncertainty, is about facing a stiff headwind. The fear and uncertainty will always be there. Somehow, in my mind, I have to trust that I will somehow make it through the headwinds. Create, in effect, my own wind at my back. There are no guarantees. On any journey, there are many ways to fail. Lack of resolve need not be one them.

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Making Movies

In May, 2016, in one incredibly productive burst, I shot 26 videos in two sessions with my good friend, Maggie Reese. Maggie is the author of Runaway Mind and Runaway Mom, a devoted mother who runs several businesses from home.

The videos were all shot in one take, at Maggie's place, with no script and only minimal editing. One of us would suggest a topic, and we'd run with it: music, family, relationships, sleep, creativity, pets, nature, stress, on and on. Right off the bat, I assumed the persona of the nerd and Maggie the cool kid with practical wisdom. Between the two of us, we had a way of bringing out the best in each other.

Maggie came up with the title, Bipolar Stuff in the Shack with John and Maggie.

Prior to our second shooting, I suggested we do a set of videos, one featuring me as the nerd and the other showcasing Maggie's practical wisdom. These came out as three videos each, "Ask the Nerd," and "Ask Maggie." In "Ask the Nerd," (top video) I'm doing most of the talking while in "Ask Maggie," it's her turn to shine.

Soon after the shooting, Maggie and her family went on summer vacation. It was our intention to shoot many more videos together when she returned, but six weeks later, I had a heart attack and they were cracking me open like a lobster. Hard to believe, viewing myself in these videos.

In the aftermath, I never had the chance to promote these videos. Now is a good time to start ...

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Inside the Belly of the Whale

In 2009, at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, I heard behavior expert Robert Cloninger frame recovery in a thermodynamic context, with energy shifts between two stable states: A (where you don't want to be but where you feel most comfortable and where psychiatry tends to keep us) and B (where you need to be). The catch is getting from A to B involves a painful struggle, through a valley of tears. Speaking of which ...

The name, Israel, means “struggles with God.” You may recall that Jacob wrestled to a standoff a mysterious entity in the dark, who turned out to be none other than the Main Man, Himself. In recognition of his opponent's efforts, God bestowed on Jacob the new name, Israel. Lesson: You’re not going to win against God, but you’re perfectly within your rights to put up a fight. And the lessons you learn from that struggle will imbue you with the qualities you need to take stock in yourself and lead your people.

A parallel tale exists in Norse myth. Here, in the Land of the Frost Giants, Thor thought he was wrestling with an old hag. After he got bested, the King of the Giants revealed the opponent’s true identity as Old Age. Old Age always wins, but there is absolutely no shame in taking up the challenge and losing. Thor and his two companion gods did a lot of losing that day, but it turns out that in their failures they learned an awful lot about their strengths.

My good friend Therese Borchard wrote a terrific blog post on failure. Literally every successful person, she wrote, has a string of failures to their name. Back in Kansas City, for instance, Walt Disney was fired from his local newspaper gig. Later, the first company he founded went belly up and he had to file for bankruptcy. Decades later, Steve Jobs faced the supreme humiliation of being booted out of the company he founded. Both Disney and Jobs asserted that without these personal disasters, they never would have achieved their later success. In 2005, Jobs told a Stanford graduating class that the most productive and instructive time in his life came after Apple fired him. The path to success, says Therese, is not linear. There will always be setbacks, indeed crushing ones. But success, it appears, is forged in failure.

You may have first heard of Disney’s and Jobs’ experiences from a motivational speaker or writer. If you draw inspiration from these sources, by all means keep doing so. But also consider viewing these stories as personifications of the hero’s journey. Motivating yourself to action is fine, but motivation is a nonstarter if you’re working with a brain where your operating system refuses to boot up. You may find yourself stuck in failure mode for a lot longer than you want to be. You’ve signed a long-term lease in a very bleak spot, and you may as well give it a name. Joseph Campbell did - the belly of the whale. You have been swallowed whole. You cease to exist. But this is precisely where you need to be, as extinction sets the scene for rebirth.

Back in 1999, when I was finding my way out of a suicidal depression, I drew great comfort in an internet post I came across by an unsung individual, Traute Klein. Ms Klein compared her emergence from the darkness of depression to an arisen Jesus emerging from the tomb. The Roman Catholic faith places tremendous emphasis on his suffering in the hands of his captors. Its churches and cathedrals, either outdoors or in, feature “Stations of the Cross,” where people off the street can pause at fourteen different waypoints to ponder and reflect. On Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion, the altar is draped in black, with the celebrants in black vestments. So powerful is the narrative that when the clock strikes three, the hour of his death, one almost expects to encounter a total eclipse of the sun.

Significantly, the Gospels are silent concerning the time Jesus lay in the tomb after it was sealed, but his entire mission to this point lends a sense of inevitability to what is about to occur. Earlier, Jesus had foretold he would enter the belly of the whale (or fish), just like Jonah, only with a far more spectacular result. The whale released Jonah when the time was right. Did the tomb, in a similar fashion, release Jesus?

We will never know, of course, but let’s run with the proposition that his release was conditional upon his finding a level of comfort in his current surroundings. There was no sense in him fighting his situation, in putting up a struggle. Joseph Campbell in his classic Hero of a Thousand Faces compares the belly of the whale to the womb, a place of nurture. Seen is this regard, there are no expectations, nothing more to prove We are free at long last to lay down our present burdens. In the process, we shed a layer or two of our old identity – various attitudes and beliefs that are no longer working for us – and free up our energies to take on whatever the next phase of our journey may bring. When time is right, we feel a sense of rebirth. The rock rolls away. The tomb opens up, letting in light.

But this is never the end of the story. On our own journeys, there are no true endings, only new beginnings. This new beginning of yours presents its own set of challenges, but what you have going for you now is that you are in a story that you belong in, with yourself as the hero.

Take heart, you are on the right path.

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Being the Hero in Your Own Narrative

A lot has happened since I last posted. If you followed this blog in the past, welcome back. By all means, feel free to post and get a dialogue going. Same with you newcomers.

Right now, I'm outside my tent watching the sun rise over the desert. Tonight will be a spectacular full moon. These days, I tend to think of the outdoors as my living room and heavenly objects as my chandeliers.

I've been on the road for two years, living out of my car, sleeping in a tent and, occasionally, on people's couches. My first year on the road, I did a complete circuit of the country, from rural San Diego to Florida, up through the Appalachians into New York and New England, across the plains states and into the Northwest, then down into California and back where I started. Eleven months, 30 states, 13,000 miles. Then back on the road.

My second year, I divided my time between the Southwest and the Northwest, adding two new states to my list, but staying put long enough to get off a draft book of my first-year road adventures and misadventures. I'm hoping to find a mainstream publisher in due course. In the meantime, I've just begun the final book to my self-published Bipolar Expert Series. The first two were on mood and behavior. This one is on recovery.

Funny thing when writing a book – themes pop up out of nowhere. A few days ago, a major one jumped out and hit my in the face. This has to do with the fact that we need to cast ourselves as heroes in our own stories. Otherwise, recovery is a nonstarter.

The model for the hero's journey, of course, is Joseph Campbell's classic Hero of a Thousand Faces. Breaking it down …

The hero gets called to action, often with great reluctance, leaving her safe and comfortable world behind. Along the way, she picks up a mentor and a helper or two, plus a magic object to aid her in her quest. Over time, the stakes grow exponentially higher, typically with the fate of the world riding on the outcome. She faces various challenges and temptations, caves into despair at least once, then with renewed purpose reaches her destination, defeats the enemy, and achieves the object of her quest.

In the process of the journey, she has acquired new wisdom and insight, with a new sense of self. She is no longer the same person she was back when she set out at the beginning. The trick now is to bring all she has gained back into her old world, a boon to herself, a boon to humankind.

The original Star Wars trilogy followed this template, as did Lord of the Rings.

In our own world, the hero’s journey tends to be far more prosaic but no less inspiring. Sometimes, these involve Hollywood actors in real life. Typical is the star who has fallen from grace due to an alcohol or drug addiction. After a long battle wrestling with his demons, he returns to good standing and makes movies again, infinitely wiser, an inspiration to those going through similar struggles.

We also see these stories played out in our everyday lives: The tradesman who has lost years of his life to drug abuse, then finds Jesus, and now, with a supportive faith community, is back on his feet, helping others. Or the single mom battling tooth and nail to keep her family together through all sorts of financial and other hardships, including a disabled child, and in the process discovers strengths she never knew she had. On and on ...

What we don’t see nearly enough of, though, are our own stories – from those of us contending with depression and bipolar and similar challenges – every bit as worthy, every bit as inspiring. One problem could be is that we don’t frame our struggles in terms of the hero’s journey. Perhaps we’re too ashamed to want to draw attention to ourselves. You might call this a form of self-stigma. It could also be that well-meaning clinicians and family members tend to take over our narratives.

I’ve seen this happen time and again. I finally gave up on one well-known national mental health organization after watching them trot out patients at a national conference like entries at a dog and pony show. Instead of heroism, the ideal of this organization proved to be compliance – of dependents doing what those who purported to know better told them to do. To rub salt into the wound, the conference in question devoted a gala evening to a doctor on their payroll, one who made his bones promoting the idea that patients lacked basic insight into their illness.

What I didn’t see at this conference were patients on an equal footing with doctors and family members, delivering keynotes or being otherwise featured, based on their considerable level of expertise and what they had to offer.

Nearly two years later, I received an email flier from this same organization, promoting their upcoming conference. Sure enough, no patients as the featured speakers. When I contacted the person responsible for the flier, she responded that not mentioning patients in their promotion was an oversight.

Okay, I thought, prove it. I replied asking her to name the patient speakers at the conference. I explicitly added that their usual dog-and-pony show patients don’t count (I worded it far more diplomatically but with no less emphasis). With tremendous satisfaction, she got back to me, citing the dog-and-pony show patients. That was the last straw.

I will have a lot more to say in upcoming posts about casting ourselves as the hero in our own narrative, on our own terms, shooting for the stars, with something to offer the world – not as meek betas, expected to submit, settling for miserable existences, a burden on those around us.

Don't let others steal your narrative. Much more to come. Your comments most welcome ...

John McManamy is the author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder and is the publisher of the Bipolar Expert Series, available on Amazon.

Follow John on Twitter at @johnmcman and on Facebook.