Invisible Illness Week: Book Recommendations

Invisible Illness Week

Invisible Illness Week

This week is National Chronic Invisible Illness Awareness Week – a week dedicated to raising the visibility for the countless people who suffer from illnesses that can’t be seen.   Chances are, you or someone you know is directly affected by an illness that can’t be seen; they shape our lives in ways that are hard to imagine for people that  can’t “see” the illness.  CNN shared a great article today, on how to talk to someone with a Chronic Illness – it is definitely worth a read!

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II in 2009.  Being a reader who is married to a fellow book-lover, my husband and I read everything we could get our hands on.  We also recommended a few books to family members, to help them understand what we were dealing with.  I wanted to share a few of those today.

One of my favorites is an older book, by Kay Redfield Jamison.  An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness details Dr. Jamison’s struggle with Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), and her climb out of it. William Safire, in a review for the New York Times, said. “The most emotionally moving book I’ve ever read about emotions.”, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Dr. Jamison speaks with firsthand knowledge as well as professional experience, in a language that is relatable and honest.  She has authored several other books, all equally readable, but for me personally this one stands out.

Madness by Marya Hornbacher

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher was a New York Times bestseller when it was published in 2008.  Ms. Hornbacher offered a no holds barred, intimate look at her battle with Bipolar Disorder.  Although she suffers from Type I, reading about her struggle still gave normalcy to mine, as I fought to regulate medications and regain a grip on my life.

She wrote a book before Madness – Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (P.S.), which details another Invisible Illness.  I have not read it, but based on my experience with Madness I am sure it is phenomenal.

Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie A. Fast & John D. Preston, MD


The book that my husband got the most out of was Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.  Described as  “… a first of its kind book—written specifically for the partner of a person with bipolar disorder. If you have a loved one with bipolar, you know how disruptive and straining this disorder can be to your relationship. You may experience feelings of fear, loss, and anxiety as well as a constant uncertainly about your loved one’s ever-changing moods.

This book is designed to help you overcome the unique challenges of loving someone with bipolar disorder. With the supportive and helpful information, strategies, and real-life examples contained here, you’ll have all the tools you need to create a loving, healthy, and close relationship.”

It is something both he and I refer back to on a regular basis.

There are other books I’d say are worth browsing, especially if the diagnosis affects you.  Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Racehl Reiland (I too found those words on a piece of paper upon discharge, with not much explanation) is one.  Manic: A Memoir by Teri Cheney is another that immediately comes to mind.

Whatever your Invisible Illness is, it is important to educate yourself about it, so you can educate others.  Read everything you can get your hands on, ask questions of your treatment team and caregivers, and talk to others who have been down the path you’re on.  YOU are your best advocate, and your best chance at conquering your illness.

Do you or someone you know suffer from an Invisible Illness?  Have you read any books that helped you through it, or that you’d recommend to others?  Feel free to share here!

Book Club Day: January First by Michael Schofield

January First by Michael Shofield Book Cover

As parents, we all have our difficult days with our children. My toddler’s hour-long tantrum in the car was a good reminder of this. Sometimes children are not being contrary to push our buttons, but rather they are just being themselves. In  January First, father Michael Schofield realizes that his daughter Jani isn’t being difficult or contrary. In fact, at the age of six, Jani was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

After reading this intense and gripping memoir, our From Left to write members had a lot to discuss:

Have we convinced you to read January First yet?

Learn more about Michael’s family and Jani on his blog, Jani’s Journey.

September Book Club Announcement: January First by

January First by Michael Shofield Book Cover

January First by Michael Shofield Book Cover

Can you believe it’s September already? We’re swinging right into fall with our next book club selection, January First by Michael Schofield. In this memoir, readers see firsthand Schofield’s frustration, hopes, and dreams for his daughter.

Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini.  Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want.  They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.

At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man.  What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.

The memoir is an intense and gripping read that you won’t be able to put down. Many of our book club members read it in a couple of days. So grab your copy of January First by Michael Schofield. Then come back this Thursday, September 6 and join us as we discuss the book.

Learn more about Michael’s family and Jani on his blog, Jani’s Journey.

See you Thursday!

April Book Club: Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis Herr

Up A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis

Up A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis

Would you let your 5 year old climb to a top of a 4,000+ foot mountain? How about 48 of those mountains? That’s what Trish Herr helped her daughter Alex accomplish. In our April Book Club selection Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure, Patricia Ellis Herr and her daughter trekked New Hampshire’s mountains through rain, hail and snow. Alex persistence and her mother’s support enabled her to to bag all forty-eight peaks.

Here’s more about the book:


When Trish Herr became pregnant with her first daughter, Alex, she and her husband, Hugh, vowed to instill a bond with nature in their children. By the time Alex was five, her over-the-top energy levels led Trish to believe that her very young daughter might be capable of hiking adult-sized mountains.

In Up, Trish recounts their always exhilarating–and sometimes harrowing–adventures climbing all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s highest mountains.  Readers will delight in the expansive views and fresh air that only peakbaggers are afforded, and will laugh out loud as Trish urges herself to “mother up” when she and Alex meet an ornery–and alarmingly bold–spruce grouse on the trail. This is, at heart, a resonant, emotionally honest account of a mother’s determination to foster independence and fearlessness in her daughter, to teach her “that small doesn’t necessarily mean weak; that girls can be strong; and that big, bold things are possible.”


Join From Left to Write members on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure.

Pick up your copy and share your thoughts with us.  Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure (Broadway Books) by Patricia Ellis Herr is available for pre-order and will be released tomorrow, April 3.

Visit Trish’s blog as she continues to document her outdoor adventures with her two daughters.


March Book Club: Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

This month we’re diving into English teacher Natalie Taylor’s memoir Signs of Life. During the fifth month of her pregnancy of her first child she is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. In her book, readers will feel like they’re sneaking a peek inside her diary as she tries to deal with her emotions.

Here’s the official description from Broadway, the publisher:

Twenty-four-year-old Natalie Taylor was leading a charmed life. At the age of twenty four, she had a fulfilling job as a high school English teacher, a wonderful husband, a new house and a baby on the way.  Then, while visiting her sister, she gets the news that Josh has died in a freak accident.  Four months before the birth of her son, Natalie is leveled by loss.

What follows is an incredibly powerful emotional journey, as Natalie calls upon resources she didn’t even know she had in order to re-imagine and re-build a life for her and her son. In vivid and immediate detail, Natalie documents her life from the day of Josh’s death through the birth their son, Kai, as she struggles in her role as a new mother where everyone is watching her for signs of impending collapse.  With honesty, raw pain, and most surprising, a wicked sense of humor, Natalie recounts the agonies and unexpected joys of her new life.  There is the frustration of holidays, navigating the relationship with her in-laws, the comfort she finds and unlikely friendship she forges in support groups and the utterly breathtaking, but often overwhelming new motherhood.   When she returns to the classroom, she finds that little is more healing than the honesty and egocentricity of teenagers.

Drawing on lessons from beloved books like The Color Purple and The Catcher in the Rye and the talk shows she suddenly can’t get enough of, from the strength of her family and friends, and from a rich fantasy life—including a saucy fairy godmother who guides her grieving—Natalie embarks on the ultimate journey of self-discovery and realizes you can sometimes find the best in yourself during the worst life has to offer.

Join us on March 29 as From Left to Write members discuss Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor.  Signs of Life will be released on paperback tomorrow, so pick up a copy and share your thoughts on book club day!

October Book Club: Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson

Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson

Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson

What happens when a marriage falls apart? To an outside observer, a marriage’s issues may seem black and white but when it’s your own marriage it’s a different story. This month our book club members are reading Jamie Patterson’s Lost Edens.

For Jamie Patterson, the end of her marriage is signaled by betrayal and abandonment. When estranged husband Ben asks to live with Jamie again, she ignores her instincts, her family’s concern, and her friends’ doubts and sets about making a perfect home in a California beach town.

What follows in 33-year-old Patterson’s debut reads more like a mystery (or a horror story) than an account of a relationship ruptured by infidelity. As Jamie’s carefully titrated efforts walk a tightrope between wishful fantasy and cruel reality, we watch: enraptured, enraged, and endeared by this fearless yet fragile young woman who must end one way of life to forge a new one.

The decision to leave or repair a marriage is not easily made. Join us on October 27 as we discuss Jamie’s book and discover how Jamie finds herself again.

Lost Edens is published by Beaver Pond’s Press. Visit Jamie Patterson’s website and while you’re there, her blog.