I’m really pleased to introduce a visiting writer Kathy Brandt who gives a ‘heart rendering’ but also a ‘heart warming’ account of life’s journey with her son, a sufferer of bipolar disorder, and how writing their shared memories brought both unexpected joys. Kathy writes:
“After my son, Max, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was a junior at Grinnell
College, I struggled to help him and keep my family functioning. Eventually I became active in advocacy for those with mental illness. As a writer, my advocacy inevitably involved writing about the issues. And I wanted to tell Max’s story so that people would understand the difficulties of having mental illness and that recovery is possible. But I wouldn’t do it without Max. Though reliving the years of illness would be painful, Max agreed to write the book with me. The result is a memoir about our joint and separate struggles with bipolar disorder titled, Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness.
Writing the book brought us together in ways I never imagined and it helped us make sense of the years of chaos. We have succeeded in telling an honest though often painful story that ends with the understanding that mental illness is for life but that redemption and recovery are possible. We hope that others with mental illness and their families will find comfort in the book and will realize they aren’t as alone as they thought. We also hope that we have succeeded in breaking down the barriers of stigma and made human and understandable an illness that so many fear or even demonize.
This was a difficult book for both of us. We dredged up memories that we would have sooner left buried. We wrote things that we’d rather have left unsaid, concerned that our words would hurt one another and that we were revealing our most innermost fears and embarrassments. I worry about the risks, especially for Max as he tells his story to the world. But like me, he’s become an advocate.
Pete Earley, bestselling author of CRAZY: A Father’s Search Though America’s Mental Health Madness, was among the first to read our book. I met Pete when we worked together on an event for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). He is a former Washington Post journalist whose son has bipolar disorder.
“Novelist Kathy Brandt and her son, Max, take readers on a terrifying journey thr
ough our nation’s broken, overwhelmed, underfunded, and frustrating mental health care system. Walks on the Margins will make you angry. It will make you cry. It will also inspire you! Ultimately, it is testament to the unconditional love of a parent and a son’s determination to overcome a serious mental illness. Writing in tandem, they have not only told their personal story, but have told the story of thousands of other American families who are everyday heroes — and they have told it extremely well.
I hope others who read Walks on the Margins will feel the same. ”
Diana writes: I am certainly looking forward to reading this book. If you would like to find out more then visit Kathy’s website: