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!


Why Can’t I Just Take a Walk When I’m Depressed?

I was recently asked why it’s so hard for us to get out of bed and just take a darn walk around the block when we are depressed. We KNOW we will feel better. Why can’t we do this, darn it!?

Here is my answer.

If your goal is to get out of bed and take a walk to feel better and get on with the day- the depressed brain will be overwhelmed and will often shut you down. Here is why.

When we are stable, we have NO idea how many steps go in to getting things done. We just do them.

The depressed brain is different. It breaks tasks into micro steps and gets easily overwhelmed. How many steps do you think are in the task you set for yourself in the morning to just take a darn walk to feel better? Without reading below, pick a number.

Here is how the depressed brain sees it:

1. Turn of alarm
2. Sit up
3. Put feel on the floor
4. Get out of bed
5. Go to the bathroom
6. Brush teeth
7. Wash face
8. Fix hair
9. Choose walking clothes
10. Put on walking shoes
11. Tie shoes
12. Walk into kitchen
13. Decide what to eat and drink
14. Prepare food and drink
15. Deicide where to walk
16. Decide how long to walk
17. Decide if I actually want to walk
18. Walk
19. If sweaty, take a shower
20. Put on another set of clothes
21. Fix hair

Get on with my day.

That is ridiculous if you think about it.

When depressed, we are not able to do the things that come naturally when we are stable. We don’t think about that list when we are well. We simply wake up, get ready and go walk.

The solution is to focus on the list and not the walking. When you do the first three things that it takes to actually get out of bed, praise yourself.

Good job! Today is one of ‘those days’ and getting out of bed is a big accomplishment.

Next, the bathroom stuff. Good job!

Next the clothes and shoes.

You get the idea.

To be honest- the walk is not the goal when you are depressed. The goal is to get to out your door so that walk can happen.

Then the walk is icing on the cake.

We can do this!


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.

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