Mara McWilliams

Articles

Bipolar Interview

Bipolar Disorder -- over 3% of Americans suffer from it, but few know of the impact that this oft-times misdiagnosed illness can have on the lives of those who battle it. Education is vital to anyone in the role of offering support to someone suffering from bipolar disorder (or any illness for that matter). Whether it be those of us as professionals working with patients in our care, or a family member or friend offering support to a loved one, effective support will not be possible unless we educate ourselves, and that means more than simply picking up a few books and coming away with the "medical definition" of the illness. Speak to individuals who have this illness. Keep up-to-date with the latest treatments. Get involved in eradicating the stigma associated with any mental illness so that sufferers will seek help.

What were your feelings when you were "officially" diagnosed as having bipolar disorder? How did the "official" diagnosis change your life, good or bad?

Shie Rozow

When I was first diagnosed, my wife had just left me, I was in the midst of a mixed episode and suicidal. I was arrested following a suicide attempt in public, and a couple of days later, September 11 happened. My world was falling apart both personally and as with the rest of the world, due to September 11. The main thing I was experiencing was confusion.

It took a while for the diagnosis to sink in. Since I was dealing with the end of my marriage, surviving a suicide attempt, my arrest and what was going on in the world following an unprecedented terrorist attack, I didn't really think about it or really acknowledge the diagnosis for a while.

The diagnosis changed my life because once I got past some of these other issues (or at least got to a place where I was coping with them), I realized that this is a life-long diagnosis and something I have to contend with. For a long while I felt as if someone had branded my forehead with the words, "manic-depressive." I felt like anyone who saw me could immediately tell that I have this illness.

After a while, I realized that it is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it can be managed much like diabetes or any other chronic disease. By learning to manage the disease, I had to make several lifestyle changes, all of which have improved my life and made me a healthier and happier person. So, ironically, the diagnosis was a trigger for a lot of very positive changes in my life.


Andy Behrman

When the first doctor told me that I had bipolar disorder it meant nothing to me because I had never heard of the illness and didn't know anybody who had it. I automatically assumed that it was degenerative and that I would not make it to my next birthday. He calmed me down and explained that it was a "mental illness" and that I had no reason to worry. Hearing this made things worse because the stigma of knowing that I had a mental illness was horrible. I had been hoping that it was something neurological. I left his office frightened but determined to beat bipolar disorder.


Mara McWilliams 

I was 19-years-old when I was diagnosed with manic-depression, now called bipolar disorder, and I don't think I really grasped the seriousness of my illness and my diagnosis. I was relieved to know that there was a name for what I had, but I didn't understand what the diagnosis meant and I certainly didn't think I would ever consider being on medication for life because of it. My doctor told me that I should go on medication, but I was a member of a 12-step program and the 12-step community I was involved with was not accepting of any form of drug usage that changed your feelings. This included anti-depressants. So, because of that, I was closeted about taking my medications. That led to me feeling ashamed and guilty and after time, I stopped taking my meds so that I could fit in better with my 12-step support group.



Have you shared your diagnosis with family and/or friends and if so, what was their reaction, good or bad? Would you recommend sharing a diagnosis if you had the choice to make all over again?

Shie Rozow

I never hid my diagnosis from anyone. Right from the start I made it known, even early on, when I was feeling embarrassed and ashamed by it. My family was extremely supportive, especially my brother, whom I credit with saving my life. He's an extraordinary person.

I received mixed reactions from friends. The worst was someone who actually said to me, "We don't feel comfortable seeing you any more," speaking on behalf of herself and her husband. I lost some friends, but then again, what really happened is that I discovered they weren't true friends.

On the opposite end of the reaction spectrum, I was having dinner with a friend and we were talking about it. He asked, "You have had this illness for a while, even before it was diagnosed, right?" I answered, "Yes." He continued, "So, for as long as I've known you, you've had manic-depressive illness, right?" Again, I replied, "Yes." He pressed on. "So really, nothing has changed except now you know, right?"

I thought about it for a little bit and realized that he was right. Nothing has changed other than the knowledge of this illness -- a knowledge that gives me the power to deal with it. He really put things into perspective for me with those innocent couple of questions. I don't know if he realizes how much that dinner did towards helping me come to terms with my illness.


Andy Behrman

My diagnosis was made more than fifteen years ago and most people who I told (family and friends) had no real knowledge of bipolar disorder. Curiously, they all assumed that it was horrible and that I was going to kill myself. But the support I received was tremendous and I can't imagine not having shared it with the people who were close to me. They brought me to doctors and clinics and provided for me when I became unable to work and take care of myself. I might add that there were quite a few friends who could NOT come to terms with my illness and just disappeared. I think sharing one's illness with friends and family is so important to getting well. It's almost impossible to do it on your own.


Mara McWilliams 

Again, I was not open about my need to take medication the first couple of years after my diagnosis. Now, however I am very open and honest about both my bipolar disorder and my need to take medication. I would recommend that others share their illness with others. It is difficult to receive support if the ones you love don't know what you are going through.



How do you think others perceive you and do you think this perception changed once they found out you had bipolar disorder?

Shie Rozow

As I mentioned above, some people I knew just disappeared. Others were supportive and continued to treat me as normal. The only difference with them is that they would inquire as to how I was doing on occasion. Over time, this diminished as we all got used to the fact that I'm manic-depressive and it became obvious that I was managing the disease quite well. Some people's perception changed. Some didn't.

When I meet new people, they have no idea I have manic-depressive illness. They perceive me as the person I present to them. Just like anyone would perceive you as the person you present yourself to be. Experience has taught me that despite the overwhelming feeling I initially had that the words, "manic-depressive" (as well as words like, "defective," "crazy," "unwell," etc.) were tattooed on my forehead, they were not.

Would you recognize someone as having diabetes just by meeting them? I don't think so. The same goes for someone like me (or anyone with any other type of chronic illness). We are who we present ourselves to be, and that's how people perceive us.


Andy Behrman

When people found out that I had bipolar disorder and came to understand what it was, I think that initially, they were frightened, and were shocked that they had a family member and friend who was not only "mentally ill," but a "lunatic," a "freak," and a "psycho." The stigma of the label "manic-depression" did not work in my favor. But, on the other hand, it "excused" and "explained" all of my behavior of the prior ten to fifteen years and all of a sudden it started making sense to people that I had not been well.


Mara McWilliams 

I believe most people perceive me as a caring and supportive person. I don't think people's opinion about me changed after they learned that I have bipolar disorder.



The families and friends of individuals with bipolar disorder often ask, "How can we help our loved one?" What is it that the people in your life can do to help you, especially during a depression?

Shie Rozow

I think the more the people around us can learn about this illness, the better equipped they will be to help us if we need it. I think this goes for anyone caring for someone with any type of illness (whether a simple cold or cancer). The main thing that I found to be supportive was the people that continued to treat me as they did before the diagnosis.

Remember, having manic-depressive illness isn't who we are; it's a disease we have to contend with. I also think that people's focus tends to be on the depressive aspect of this illness, which even your question indicates. But the manic part is much more dangerous, and often harder to detect.

Statistically, manic-depressive people are more likely to kill themselves (either by suicide or accidentally) during mania than during depression. When we're down, it's pretty obvious. But when we're manic, especially if we're not extremely manic, society tends to miss the symptoms and admire our ability to do so much, handle so many things at once, and have so much energy. We live in a workaholic society where the ability to do more than anyone else is admired, and rarely looked upon as a potential problem.

Some people are just more driven and more energetic than others, but if you have manic-depressive illness and all of a sudden you have boundless energy, that's something to be aware of. I think the most important thing is for family and friends to study as much as they can about the disease and learn to recognize symptoms of both depression and mania early.


Andy Behrman

My first response to this question is to say, "listen." Listen to what the person who is suffering from bipolar disorder tells you he or she needs. Don't just smother someone the way you would someone with the flu or a bad cold. For example, if I needed space and needed to be alone, I had to tell people to "stay away" for a bit. Or, sometimes I found people doing "too much" for me and I started feeling like an invalid. If families and friends can just "follow the lead" of the patient, it usually works out better.


Mara McWilliams 

Let them know that you love them. Remind them that since they have bipolar disorder that they cycle and they will cycle OUT of the depression. Assist them in taking their medications.



In books and articles describing bipolar disorder, many say that people with this illness experience "triggers," or things that will 'set off" a change in mood. Do you have these "triggers" and if so, how do you handle them and can you describe them?

Shie Rozow

I personally haven't identified any significant triggers. The breakup of my marriage is the only trigger I'm aware of that set off a near catastrophic spiral that led to my suicide attempt, etc. Since then, I've had extreme mood swings and I deal with the illness on a daily basis, but I haven't found any particular triggers.

However, this may be in part because I've changed my life style quite a bit. For example, I avoid caffeine and sugar (chocolate, etc.) since these are known to be stimulants for anyone. Well, in my case a stimulant could potentially lead to a manic episode. This isn't to say I don't have those at all. I still enjoy the occasional Coke or Kit-Kat bar, just not as often or as much as I used to.

Lack of food and low blood sugar can lead to both physical and emotional fatigue. I used to get busy and forget to eat, sometimes for a couple of days. I don't remember if this would lead to depression because I wasn't paying attention before being diagnosed. But I now make a point of eating at least two meals a day. For months I had to set an alarm clock to remind me to eat so now I'm so used to it that I miss it if I don't.


Andy Behrman

In my case (as I'm a rapid cycler), changes in mood came frequently, sometimes three or four times a day. I literally didn't know if I was coming or going. I honestly don't know where these triggers came from (I am positive that they were chemical), and I was always unprepared for them. Sometimes I'd be hopping on the next plane to Paris, "high as a kite," land at the airport and end up sleeping in my hotel for the weekend, only to return to New York (or continue on to another exotic locale like the Caribbean) without any reason.


Mara McWilliams 

Yes I do have triggers, however because of the work I have done with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) I have taught myself how to respond different to agitating stimuli. This is the area where I have utilized art therapy. I taught myself how to take out my feelings on canvas instead of on myself. Some of my paintings are dark or screaming with anger. Those feelings were inside of me. Prior to my recovery, I would have drank, cut, or burned myself in an attempt to express my "ugly" feelings to others.



Can you help those of us trying to understand this illness by describing what a "manic episode" is for you and what a "depressive episode" is for you? What are your feelings in each? How long do they last for you? What do you do to "deal" with them?

Shie Rozow

My tendency is to be a bit manic, or hypomanic, with occasional depressions. For me, during mania I hardly need any sleep (3 hours a night is plenty), I have energy and enthusiasm to take on multiple projects and I can get a lot done. I write music, and often when manic, I write. I can write for 3 or 4 days straight without taking a break, without eating, drinking, going to the bathroom -- just writing. When I'm done it feels like 5 minutes went by, when in actuality, anywhere from a few hours to a few days have gone by.

Since my diagnosis, I haven't allowed this to happen. I set alarm clocks to make sure I stop after a while and eat, walk the dog, and do other things to balance me out.

During a depression all I want to do is to stay in bed and never leave. Usually I have very little appetite, although there's more than when I'm manic. When I'm manic I just don't notice that I haven't eaten in a long while. When I'm depressed I notice that I'm hungry but can't be bothered to make food, or I'm just not that hungry. Perhaps I really am not as hungry because by staying in bed, I'm not really burning up too many calories so my body doesn't require as much? I don't know.

Again, since my diagnosis I haven't allowed this to happen. If I get down, I try to analyze why I'm feeling down, and rationalize the feeling. If I can't find a trigger or reason for feeling down, I tell myself it's the illness and tell myself to stop. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. Regardless, I also force myself to get out of bed and do things. Usually by forcing myself to do stuff, i.e. clean the dishes, do some work on The Bright Side, or take the dog for a walk. If I'm working, I go to work (before I'd call in sick). Whatever it is, I create a sense of regularity and balance that helps get rid of the depression. Sometimes I can do it in a day or two. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks.


Andy Behrman

A manic episode is a period of time when I'm feeling euphoric and "on top of the world." During these periods, I would work twenty hours a day, drink alcohol and use illegal drugs, experience hyper sexuality (usually engaging in sexual relationships with total strangers), spend tremendous amounts of money (sometimes u to $50,000.00 in a day between cash, credit cards and company credit cards), exercise obsessively and travel thousands of miles in a week. Sometimes these manic episodes lasted just a week; sometimes a few months without an interruption.

My depressive episodes were very "short lived," but different from those I've ever heard other individuals with manic depression describe. They were not periods of feeling "blue" or of "melancholy." They were hours of deep, tornado-like rage and sadness when all I wanted to do was hide.


Mara McWilliams 

My manic episodes can probably best be described as a whirlwind of ideas, activities, excess energy, insomnia and a flood of creativity and imaginative thoughts. My full manic episodes can least up to five days and typically average three days. Honestly, I enjoy the beginning of my manic phases. As an artist, it is one of my peak periods. During a manic episode, I will paint a minimum of four paintings. When nighttime comes and it's bedtime, I feel that I must stay up because there is so little time and so much left for me to do. I clean, organize, file, and later, after the episode, nothing can be found because I was in a frenzy and I actually misfiled everything.

With a hypomanic episode, it is similar to the above but with less intensity. When I am hypomanic, I am able to get a little sleep every night. I just fall asleep around 3 or 4 a.m.

When I am depressed, I usually sleep a lot, not able to get out of bed. I no longer suffer from suicidal ideations.



Have you ever attempted suicide? What kept you from completing the act? What would you tell others who have thoughts of suicide or to the families of loved ones who have thoughts of suicide?

Shie Rozow

Yes I have when my wife left me. Luckily I'm not very good at it. I read this somewhere, and my experience has shown me that it's 100% true: Getting to a point of suicidal thoughts simply means I don't have enough tools and resources to cope with whatever is overwhelming me. I can learn new coping mechanisms and circumstances change with time, so I personally don't think suicide is the answer. I think the trick for loved ones is to try to get through to the person in any way possible to stop them from actually going through with it.

Saying things like, "Give it one more day. You can always do it tomorrow" could be helpful. This statement has been controversial and I've received plenty of criticism for it, but I personally stand by it. Keep in mind I'm not a doctor or a professional, just someone who's been there. But what this does is hopefully convince a suicidal person not to commit the act right now. Studies have shown that most of the time, if you can stop the person from committing the act when they're prepared to do it, they won't attempt it again.

In my particular case, my brother saved my life. It was the morning of September 11, and he came to visit me in jail just before everything was shut down due to the terrorist attacks. I was still under suicide watch and determined to end my life. He got through by telling me he would feel the same type of pain I was currently experiencing over losing my wife if I completed suicide. I love my brother and the thought of putting him through what I was going through was inconceivable. At that moment, I changed my mind from suicide to accepting to live a miserable, lonely life just for the sake of sparing him this kind of pain.

For a while, my life was pretty miserable and lonely, but now I have a great life. As you can see, it doesn't matter what the pretense, just as long as you find a way to stop the person from committing the act right there and then. Remember, and remind the person that things CAN get better.


Andy Behrman

I've tried to kill myself three times -- always the same method -- overdosing on prescription medication. Each time, I took myself to the emergency room of a local hospital. All three of these attempts were "spur of the moment" decisions because I was so despondent and really didn't want to live. When I attempted to do it for the fourth time, I called my psychiatrist and I was put in a hospital and received my first electroshock treatment. If you feel like your life is in danger (or if you feel like the life of a loved one is in danger), the safest place to be is in the hospital.


Mara McWilliams 

Yes, I attempted suicide 6 times when I relapsed on alcohol, stopped taking my medication and began self-medicating with street drugs. This was one of the most horrible periods of my life. I went to several drug rehabilitation centers and was put in the lockdown psychiatric ward for my own safety. That time period was probably one of the most difficult for my family as well. I can only hope that my continued recovery and advocacy work will help others see that suicide is not the answer.



Many people suffering from bipolar disorder have said that they have lost friends and/or family members as a result of their illness. Has this happened to you and if so, how do you deal with it? How do you "view" the friends and family that "stay by your side?"

Shie Rozow

As I mentioned above, this did happen to me. At first I felt I was defective and blamed myself. But that's really not the case. The people that left simply didn't have the ability to cope with my condition. Whether they were just closed-minded, or this was more than they could emotionally deal with at the time doesn't matter. What it comes down to is that they weren't really who I thought they were. True friends don't run away when things get hard. And my personal view is that I'd rather have one true friend than lots of acquaintances.

As for those who have stuck with me, they are true friends. I am very fortunate to have them in my life, and I hope they know I will be there for them should they ever need a shoulder to lean on in life.


Andy Behrman

Sure. I've lost lots of friends ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. People just didn't want to deal with the problems surrounding my illness and the attention that I needed. It was not only too much work for them, but it was also so frightening to be close to someone so ill. I simply let these people go and accepted the help and support of the friends who were willing to stay by my side.

As for the few friends who have stayed with me the past fifteen years, they're just resilient, compassionate and always believed that I would come through this one day. And I have.


Mara McWilliams 

Yes I have lost many people throughout the years either because of the bipolar disorder or because of the addiction and alcoholism I experienced in the past. There have also been people that I have had to choose to stay away from so that I could better focus on my recovery. The most difficult relationship I have walked away from is that with my parents.



What have been your experiences with psychiatrists, psychologists, support groups, etc., good or bad?

Shie Rozow

I see a psychologist on a regular basis and he's great. His approach is cognitive behavioral, which works for me. I saw someone before him (actually before I was diagnosed, but when my marriage was starting to fall apart) that I didn't like. I think it's important to find a psychologist you get along with. If you don't like your therapist, find another one. Not every approach is right for every person, and not every therapist is right for you. The same goes for psychiatrists, support groups, etc.

I had a psychiatrist for a while. I was on medication for about 7 or 8 months before coming off of it completely. I didn't really like the psychiatrist personally, but I felt he knew what he was doing and was willing to work with me. He was reluctantly supportive of me trying to get off the meds, and for that I appreciate him. Many psychiatrists wouldn't do that.


Andy Behrman

Eight doctors misdiagnosed my bipolar disorder as unipolar depression, so I don't have too many kind words for psychiatrists who were just listening to my symptoms, but instead, rushing to medicate me. I think doctors still need to be educated about bipolar disorder and need to learn quite a bit more about treatment, But listening to patients is the key to getting a patient well. All patients are not alike.


Mara McWilliams 

You name the experience and I have had it with a doctor. I started attending support groups for the addiction at 17 years old and I found the 12-steps to be a wonderful resource for any problem one might experience. I have frequented a few bipolar support groups and I was unable to focus during the meeting. Twenty-five bipolars in one room trying to hold a meeting was sensory overload for me. However, I am an active member in an online support group for bipolar sufferers and survivors and it has been a key part of my recovery.



What would you want to share with someone newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder?

Shie Rozow

First, you're not alone. Statistically, any time you go to a movie there are probably one or two other people in the theater who have this illness. Second, this is an illness that you have. It's not who you are. Don't confuse the two. People say things like, "I'm bipolar," or "He's manic-depressive." I think this is a terrible injustice. I have manic-depressive illness, but I am not manic-depressive. What's the difference? The difference is that I have a disease that I can cope with. I am not defined by my disease.

We don't say someone is cancerous, we say that they have cancer. The same goes for HIV/AIDS or any other disease. Remember, this is a medical condition that can be dealt with. You are still who you are, and you have control over your disease, not the other way around. Granted, some people have a harder time with it than others. Some rely on medication, while others, like myself, find ways to manage without. But ultimately, with support and good medical help, it is a condition that can be dealt with.


Andy Behrman

Bipolar disorder is going to be a lifetime battle and one that you will struggle with every day of your life. You're going to be seeing doctors on a regular basis and taking medication every day. This regimen is going to have a huge impact on your life at first. But, after a while, it's like brushing your teeth. And you're going to have to do it to survive. In addition, this illness is going to make you the strongest person you could ever imagine that you could be. You'll be able to do or conquer anything.


Mara McWilliams 

Take a deep breath. You are going to be okay. Recovery is possible and attainable! Support is out there like never before as the stigma associated with mental illness slowly starts to diminish. Be sure to follow your doctor's advice and take medication as prescribed. When needed, reach out for support and guidance.



What would you want the world to know about bipolar disorder that you don't think they're "getting?"

Shie Rozow

We're just people. We're no different than anyone else. Just like someone with cancer or diabetes or anything else is still him or herself, just coping with a chronic illness. The same applies here. We're still the same people, just coping with an illness.


Andy Behrman

A few things: that it's not a death sentence and with hard work, the illness can be controlled. And that it's an illness that touches so many Americans. Everyone knows someone who either has it or a friend or family member that has it and everybody should educate himself or herself on the illness.


Mara McWilliams 

We are not psychotic criminals or nut cases that just need to be locked up and forgotten about. Many bipolars are lovely, kind people who have been searching for the proper medication combination for years. We have finally reached a point in this country where we are able to see beyond color, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality. Isn't it time that we allow ourselves to see beyond the chemical imbalances that over 2% of the population suffers from?



How do you think we could best "de-stigmatize" this illness so that others won't be afraid to seek help?

Shie Rozow

This might sound counter-intuitive, but I think this is the answer to just about any type of stigma, or any kind of prejudice (racism, religious bias, whatever). My answer is basically ignoring it. Don't make it an issue. As soon as we make an issue of it, there is a stigma. The more people both with and without this illness learn to look at each other for who they are, ignoring the illness, the less of an issue it will be.

After all, stigma is the singling out of someone in a negative way due to a condition. If you ignore the condition and just look at the person, there's no more stigma. That would be the ideal as far as I'm concerned. Meanwhile, I think all anyone can do is to try to educate the public about this condition and show the public that it's nothing to be afraid of. I remember as a kid that nobody talked about breast cancer because of stigma. The same with AIDS. Today, we all know these are illnesses that people have. They do not define the individuals and the stigma is all but gone. That's the power of education.


Andy Behrman

Like I mentioned above, it's an illness that doesn't have to be feared because it's treatable. Granted, treatment can sometimes take a while to be effective, but the information and technology is out thee and getting better every day to beat this illness.


Mara McWilliams 

I think if people really understood that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, they would begin to understand that it is a treatable illness just like other illnesses such as diabetes and they would be less fearful.



If given the choice, would you "choose" to have bipolar illness and why?

Shie Rozow

I don't think so. I have found a lot of benefits because of this condition. When I'm manic, I can do so much more than when I'm not. I tend to be pretty ambitious and I like being able to do a lot (hey, when you're up 20 hours a day you can do more than when you're up just 16 hours). I think my creativity has changed ever since my diagnosis and my lifestyle changes.

I don't allow myself to write for days on end. I miss it and I think my writing is very different because of the new limitations -- not worse, or better, just different. But I know that it was not healthy working non-stop like I used to.

So, despite the positives, I can't imagine that if I were a "normal" person I would choose it. I wouldn't really understand the pluses, which are really false pluses, and it's the depressive side of the disease that most people can relate to, and why would anyone choose that?

However, with that being said, this is who I am and how I am, and given the choice to change it, I wouldn't. I've learned to manage my disease to a degree that will not adversely affect my life in a negative way. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I like being in a hypomanic state. And how could I appreciate the highs if I didn't have the contrasting lows? There's a great line in the Ron Howard movie, "Parenthood," the grandma's talking about riding a roller coaster. It goes:

"You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together. Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it."

I think life is like a roller coaster, and having manic-depressive illness simply means we're riding a more intense coaster. Would I choose it? I don't think so. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Andy Behrman

Absolutely not -- in the same way I wouldn't choose to have diabetes. I've lost so many years to this illness. I wish it would just go away.


Mara McWilliams 

That is a tough question because I really don't have any idea what it would be like to be different than who I am. I suppose if I had to choose between the two, I would choose to be bipolar. I believe that my creativity and imagination has a lot to do with the chemical imbalance in my brain and my imagination and creativity are a huge part of who I am today. I can't imagine my life without a paintbrush in my hand.



About the Authors:

Shie Rozow is the founder of Psyche Minded, Inc., a non-profit organization, which aims to provide support for anyone who is feeling emotionally overwhelmed with life. At this time, the organization consists entirely of volunteers who are contributing their time, money and expertise. Currently the main activity of the organization is an award-winning website called "The Bright Side" -- www.the-bright-side.org, an online community where anyone can find immediate solace, support and resources for coping with emotional and/or mental health issues.

Andy Behrman is the author of "Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania" published by Random House. It has also been translated into six other languages. "Electroboy" is a chronicle of his battle with manic-depression and his experience with medication and electroshock therapy. Behrman, a graduate of Wesleyan University, is a former fashion publicist, go-go boy, hustler, art dealer and public relations agent. In 1993, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud during a manic episode, counterfeiting the works of artist Mark Kostabi. He served five months in a minimum-security prison and five months under house arrest. In 1995, he received electroshock therapy. He currently lives mania-free in Los Angeles and is happily married. He has published a number of articles in The New York Times Magazine and New York Magazine, among other publications. In addition to being a spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squibb, he is also a public advocate on mental health issues. "Electroboy" is currently being produced into a major motion picture with Tobey Maguire. Behrman maintains a website at www.electroboy.com.

Mara McWilliams is a Bronx born, California raised artist and author of the book, "Outta My Head and In Your Face." She is also bipolar and for most of her life, she has fought the demons associated with mental illness, self-injury, addiction and eating disorders. Through treatment, medication, art therapy, reading, and cognitive behavioral therapy, Mara has found peace. Since beginning her journey of recovery, Mara has committed to becoming a mental health advocate and is willing to share her experiences with anyone who could possibly benefit from hearing it. McWilliams maintains a website at www.maramcwilliams.com.

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