The Kickstarter for Hortensia and the Magical Brain is Live!

Hortensia and the Magical Brain introduces a therapeutic poetry technique that helps parents, caregivers and health care professionals lovingly talk with a child and create an open and healthy conversation around early onset mental health disorders.  The poems cover the mean and nasty, scary and suicidal, angry and elated, sad and over the top thoughts and behaviors children with mental health concerns regularly experience.

Let’s shine a light on these NORMAL mental health symptoms and teach kids that they are often a result of brain chemicals that can be fixed though lifestyle changes and if needed, medical help.

This is a beautifully crafted, hard back book that was created for kids whose brains aren’t always on track. Just like mine!

Please visit our Hortensia Kickstarter page to read more about this amazing book.  Pledges start at $1 and everyone receives a fun reward as a thank you!


Three Signs You are Manic

1. Heightened artistic ability. The only way to know if this is mania is to compare your artistic ability to when you are stable. I NEVER draw when stable. I can barely do stick figures. The picture below definitely shows the manic brain at work.
2. You have ideas for big projects that you would normally find impossible. Stable people clean their rooms. When we are manic, we design a new organizing system for our room, go to the store and buy all of the supplies and then stay up all night building something that gives us a lot of pleasure. Everyone who sees this thinks, “What the heck is going on here? I have never seen her build anything in her life!”
3. Everything is sexual. Songs sound sexy. Men AND women look attractive. We really notice how people look. “Here hair is so shiny, I have to touch it!” “Look at those lips, I wonder what it would be like to kiss them?” And of course, the story of one of my manic episodes where I saw a man in Starbucks who had obviously just played a football match (soccer game) and I had the thought: “I’m going to get down on my hands and knees and LICK HIS CALVES!”
In the past, I would have given in to all of this EUPHORIC mania and fueled it with sex, booze and rock and roll. Now, I just prevent it.
I am MUCH happier.
What about you? When was your first manic or hypomanic episode? What did you think say or do?



Seven Signs of Stable Kids

We often talk about signs of mental health disorders in children. I want to start a conversation by listing the habits of stable kids so that we can truly see the difference between a child who is going through the terrible twos, growing pains and finding independence vs. the kids who do need help for mental health symptoms.

Seven Signs of Stable Kids

1. When you say, “You need to put that away now,” the child grumbles a bit, but puts the item away.

2. When you say, “We need to stop what we are doing and get ready for bed,” the child complains minorly and then does what you ask.

3. The child tests, but ultimately respects parental authority and understands that there is a difference between questioning authority and refusing to do as you ask out of defiance to all rules.

4. The child does not destroy property that matters to another person in order to get back at the person.

5. If the kid steals something, he or she is able to see that stealing is probably not the best idea and there are consequences.

6. The child experiments on an average with kids of a similar age. When you explain that something is dangerous, the child listens and changes over time.

7. When you explain your feelings, the child is able to slightly see your side of the story. They grow into more empathy as they age.

Stable kids will definitely get overwhelmed and have temper tantrums… but they will never throw themselves on the ground in public, flailing their arms and legs, screaming and yelling that you abuse them and then refuse to get up. They will not call the police on YOU.

Stable kids experiment with everything, but they tend to understand when something is not in their best interest overall.

Stable kids can get very upset, but eventually they self sooth and come down to dinner.


Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar DisorderTake Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Get it Done When You’re Depressed. She writes for Bp Magazine for Bipolar, the Psychology Today blog and was the original consultant for the Claire Danes character on Homeland. Her next book, Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression and Psychosis is current on Kickstarter. The video is below.

Bipolar Strong

There is a self that is separate from bipolar disorder. When you find yours, it stays with you even in the darkest moments. We are strong.




Guest Blogger: Update from Martin Baker on Bipolar Disorder and Friendship

High Tide, Low Tide: A Very Human Condition

by Martin Baker

Click here to read Martin’s first guest post on his book High Tide Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. 

In my last post for Bipolar Happens,  I described how the book I wrote with my American best friend Fran Houston came about, and the four year journey that brought our dream to fruition. I’d like to thank Julie for inviting me back to talk about how our book is changing lives.

“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” was published last September. Four months on, it is doing well and attracting positive reviews. We believe it has the potential to appeal not only to friends, but also partners, parents, and adult children keen to help those they love. Julie has also highlighted its relevance to siblings. “There is a great need in my work for such a book,” she wrote recently. “There is nothing out there for them.”

We’ve had interest from Mental Health First Aid instructors, and professional groups such as Online Events ( and The Counsellors Café ( A retired clinical psychologist with forty-five years’ experience wrote:

“All professional and pre-professional care-givers and those who suffer with illness can learn much from this collaborative memoir, and medical schools, graduate schools, hospitals, and other institutions that educate practitioners in the fields of health care would be wise to include it on reading lists.” (RZ)

One reader recommended it to his support worker, who bought it for his organisation’s resource library. Another is purchasing a copy for her therapist. Knowing our book is making a difference to people moves us profoundly.

“The vast range of emotions you will experience while reading this book might surprise you even if you have never experienced mental illness.” (MC)

“Anyone who has suffered from any form of depression, however minor, can relate to this book and will gain strength and reassurance that it is ok to feel the way they do.” (DB)

“The symptoms of mental illness can make it hard to maintain friendships; the stigma and shame around mental illness make it even harder. This book shows us that it’s okay to admit it’s hard, and it’s okay to struggle, but that it’s so worth it in the end.” (SL)

It might be surprising a book like ours has general appeal, but people find the strategies and approaches we describe directly relevant to their lives— even where no illness is involved.

(Hi, It’s Julie. I really believe this book can help siblings who grew up with a brother or sister who has bipolar disorder. Sibling relationships are often like friendships.) 

“Not only are they [the authors] helping us to understand invisible illness, they are helping us learn in this world of technology and instant gratification that we can use technology to enhance and deepen the relationships we have currently in our lives.” (L)

“But what surprised me most about this book was not the elegant writing, or the brutal honesty of the subject matter, but the fact that not only could I relate to it, but that I found so much in it that touched me at a personal level. Fran and Marty’s story, as unique as it is, could be anyone’s story. There will be moments as you read this book where you will recognise yourself. Thankfully, the strategies, and painful lessons they learned can be applied to our own lives and our own relationships.” (AG)

Such responses confirm our belief that “High Tide, Low Tide” is not really about me and Fran, or even mental illness. It is about being there for someone, and accepting each other for who you are. Ultimately, it is not about medical conditions, it is about the human condition.

“High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and selected booksellers.

Click here to view High Tide, Low Tide on Amazon in the US. 

Click here to view High Tide, Low Tide on Amazon in the UK. 

Click here to view the book on the Barnes and Noble website. 


About the Author

Living in the north-east of England, Martin Baker is an ASIST trained Mental Health First Aider and Time to Change Champion. A member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mind, and Bipolar UK, he is primary caregiver and lifeline to his best friend and coauthor Fran Houston. Passionate about making invisible illness visible, Fran lives in Portland, Maine.

Social Media

Martin’s Blog

Martin’s Facebook

Martin’s Twitter

How to Say THANK YOU, NO THANK YOU when You Have Bipolar Disorder


Julie, come to the concert with us! We have a box and I know you love the band! You will love it!

Thank you so much for thinking of me. I want to go and the stable me would LOVE to go. Unfortunately, the bipolar me, the one I dislike but have to live with every day simply can’t handle the big crowds. I get overstimulated and this can lead to so many symptoms I simply can’t have in my life right now. I am sad to miss this. I know you are going out to dinner first, and I can definitely join you for that part of the evening. Thank you very much for asking me!

Julie, I don’t see why it’s so hard for you to travel. You love it so much. We are just going for the weekend. It’s the coast and it will be fun. I will drive! Come with us! 

Thank you! I wish with all of my heart that the regular me you see in public is the me I have to sleep with at night. I can’t and don’t want you to have to understand what I go through to be honest- it sucks, but I can say that as much as I want to go with you, I want to be stable more. I have to give up so much so that I can be the friend and family member I want to be. Please send me a video. In fact, a video chat would be amazing. I feel sad I have to miss this. I feel that I miss out on a lot of things, but I can say that I’m healthier than I have ever been since I’ve been really watching my triggers. Travel at this time is too much for me. I hope you have fun!!!

It’s all about trigger management when you have bipolar disorder. 

It’s hard for people who don’t have bipolar disorder to understand that FUN things can make us sick. Triggers are ANYTHING that causes mood swings. There is no positive or negative to a trigger. It’s just a trigger!
Learning to say no in a way that also educates people about how you take care of yourself really makes a difference. People know to keep asking you- because maybe you can go in the future, but they also get to see that you are committed to staying stable so that you can maintain the relationship!
Woo! hoo!
OK. My Kickstarter for Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression is February 9th. I am writing this on all posts now so that I will have all of you to make sure I make this deadline. I am nervous. Announcements are coming soon. Please check my Julie A. Fast Facebook page for more details. 
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