“Most productive week of my life”: A Self-Guided, At-Home Writer’s Retreat

A version of this article first appeared on the Nonfiction Authors Association’s blog on May 23 2019. Beyond my budget! Problem: As a member of various writers’ groups, I often receive notices about writers’ retreats, usually in exotic (and expensive!) locations. These retreats generally last between three and five days, many offer “yoga for all levels,” (they clearly haven’t seen me lately!), and all feature erudite experts who will lead participants in writing exercises to unblock our repressed creativity, and so on. There’s also plenty of free time to relax, explore, and enjoy local cuisine. Sounds dreamy! But by the time…

Happy Social Media Day!

Today is Social Media Day – a day to mark and celebrate the global impact that social media has had on the lives of all of us. What an incredible tool it has proven to be for all of us! Social media has hugely impacted the way we communicate: we’re able to instantly share photos with friends, stay up-to-date about the lives of our family members across the world, reconnect with long-lost classmates, receive up-to-the-second news, and share our thoughts with millions of people in the blink of an eye. It enables us to create and find communities of like-minded…

6 Tips to Write a Mesmerizing Memoir

This post originally appeared on the Nonfiction Authors Association’s blog on March 4 2019. We all have a story buried somewhere within the years of our tumultuous lives. Each story contains a lesson to share, a perspective to enlighten, or an anecdote to entertain. I encourage everyone to pull that story out from the corners of your memories and onto the page, so that others can learn from it. Reflecting on the process of writing Mad Like Me, I came up with these tips for you to write your own memoir. I am also running a free interactive workshop about…

Go to the Mental Health Gym Every Day!

The concept of a “mental health gym” I’m a big believer in going to the “brain gym”: taking steps to actively (and proactively) maintain my mental health. Mental fitness is vital for all of us, wherever we may fall on the mental health/mental illness continuum. We exercise or go to the gym every day (or we try to, at least!) to keep our bodies fit, but what do we do for our minds? We need to give just as much attention to our mental health as our physical health. There are many types of physical exercises that we can do…

Let’s celebrate Mental Health Week! But…

It’s Mental Health Week here in Canada! This year’s theme, chosen by the sponsor, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), is “#GetLoud about what mental health really is.” I am so pleased that my country marks this occasion and sees the worthiness in promoting this cause. I am passionate about breaking the stigma against mental illness and to do that, we all need to #GetLoud about our experiences. Count me in! But as I began to research the origins of Mental Health Week both in Canada and abroad, I noticed some immense gaps in the international level of involvement when…

Do your moods change with the seasons?

Seasonal change is a trigger When I was first diagnosed with bipolar, my psychiatrist warned that sleep deprivation, together with stress and a heavy workload in my case, is a major trigger for (hypo)mania. Several months later, when Spring blossomed, I discovered that seasonal change had a huge effect on my sleep patterns now that I had bipolar. I now consider seasonal change to be a major trigger for (hypo)mania in itself. Journal extracts during my first manic episode Here’s a brief extract from my journal during the first Spring after my diagnosis: Did good work till nearly 3:30 a.m., then…

The Power of Exercise

We’ve all heard it a thousand times: exercise regularly; exercise is good for both your physical and mental health; exercise every day… But it’s like recommendations about nutrition: we know what a healthy diet includes, but do we necessarily follow the guidelines? I’ve made a huge effort to include regular exercise in my day since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And I have felt much better as a result. I wish it hadn’t taken a mental health crisis to prompt me into action! Find an exercise buddy In the early days after my diagnosis, before I was stabilized, I…

World Bipolar Day: Sharing stories; shattering stigmas

Celebrating World Bipolar Day Last week, I facilitated an event to celebrate World Bipolar Day in Baie-D’Urfé. A group of people – some of us affected by bipolar in one way or another, and some who simply wanted to learn more – gathered at the library to share personal experiences about the impact of bipolar on our lives. The power of sharing stories What an eye-opening afternoon it was. As one participant emailed afterwards: “I attended because I read your Mad Like Me book and wanted to support you, and I found myself moved by the stories of those who have experienced,…

Happy World Bipolar Day!

Time to get educated March 30 is World Bipolar Day! Do you know someone struggling with bipolar disorder? Ever wondered what it must feel like to experience the wild mood swings of (hypo)mania and depression? Do you know the difference between bipolar Type 1 and Type 2? Now’s a perfect time to educate yourself. All around the world, mental health organizations are marking World Bipolar Day. Prevalence of bipolar Did you know: studies put the lifetime prevalence rate of bipolar in Canada at 2.2%. This means that about 500,000 Canadians experience bipolar at some point in their lives. That’s huge!…

What does International Women’s Day have to do with our mental health?

Chicken-and-egg? Recently, I MC’d a local event to mark International Women’s Day (8 March) in my hometown of Baie-D’Urfé, Quebec. The photo shows many of the 35 women who participated and shared ideas on the theme “A Balanced Life; A Fine Line.” It was great to learn from so many different women, at many different stages of life: from childless, single young women to at-home and working mothers, to mid-life professionals, to retirees contemplating exciting new ventures… As I said in my Instagram post at the time (see below), without true balance between the genders, humanity will never achieve its…