What a night!
I had more than 50 guests of my book launch at the iconic and historic Dymocks store in Sydney's George St. Held on level 2 amid sections such as biographies (how apt) and self help (even more apt!) it felt like I truly "made it" into the world of authors and published. I will never forget the moment when I took my place to address my guests, and I just felt the momentous occasion dawn on me.
I have always wanted to be a writer. I journalled compulsively from an early age, wrote poems, short stories, both fiction and non-fiction. When travelling, I always took a notebook and pen, rather than a camera, to document my thoughts and feelings. I self-published a slim tome called "Trek Through Tasmania" when I was 22, based on a trip with my best friend from school. It described 9 days trekking Tasmania's beautiful Overland Track, and gave me a taste for what joy a personal memoir can give to you and loved ones (it had a very exclusive print run, only 10 ever printed and given to my extended family as Christmas gifts!)
I still have my travel diary from a trip to the UK and France that I made with my husband and his family back in the summer (winter in England) of 1998/99. That following year, my husband proposed to me. Having that diary, and others, to refer to when writing my memoir was invaluable. Our memories can play tricks on us, particularly when something quite traumatic happens. My diaries prevented me from reinventing history and kept me authentic to how things really were.
I recall a time when I was 18, between school and university, when I thought "I want to be a writer, but nothing really interesting has happened to me yet."
Be careful what you wish for...
Anyway, back to the moment that was the pinnacle of my author's soul, the memory that I flash forwarded to from childhood and will go back to whenever I doubt I can write.
This is what it looked like from my perpsective...
It was a wonderful evening. Friends and family commented later how uplifting it was, despite the subject matter. That same best friend from school remarked as I signed her copy "there was a lot of healing tonight."
She was right.
For me, putting this book out there, in public, was terrifying. The "what ifs" piled up in my brain. I won't give them light here, but there was significant trauma to overcome in allowing my voice and experience to be heard and accepted. My beautiful sister-in-law (my husband's sister) later came up to me and said "this is your story, no-one else's. It is your perspective, and no-one can take that away from you." What a beautiful soul, she understands me perfectly.
You can view the photos of the night on the event's page, and the videos are also available to view.
Part 1 of the night was the introduction by Tony Hughes. Tony was my managing director and mentor from the time I went through my "annus horribilis" and was one of those "earth angels" for me. His warmth, compassion and wisdom helped me return to the workforce where it became a sanctuary from the horrors of my life and a way to maintain dignity through my grief.
Tony was kind enough to emcee the book launch, and did so with his characteristic warmth and honesty. With a family of mental illness, specifically with Bipolar and Schizophrenia, Tony shared a short yet moving introduction to the evening.
Part 2 of the evening featured my special guest, and now friend Lucy Brogden, who is one of the six National Mental Health Commissioner; Patron of Partners in Depression and Patron Lifeline Northern Beaches. Lucy opened the event with both a personal and professional perspective on the state of mental health in Australia. She acknowledges that while we have come far with openness and transparency, there is still more work to be done.
Lucy also spoke of the parallels between her experience and mine which are truly remarkable. Both our husbands attempted suicide on the same winter day. While my husband would not survive his attempt, Lucy’s husband (at the time NSW Opposition Leader) has since opened up a national discussion around mental health and suicide.
Notably, her husband’s opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on 31 August 2015 called suicide the “national emergency we can no longer ignore”. The column appeared on the 10-year anniversary of his suicide attempt and in that time, at least 23,500 Australians have committed suicide. The number of people suiciding in Australia is increasing – in 10 years the number has increased by 20 per cent.
Thanks to their profile, the Brogdens have successfully campaigned to create a turning point in the understanding of mental illness and have reframed the discussion around depression.
Finally came my turn to speak. I was nervous, but also felt calm. My kinesiologist Anikiko, had helped me overcome my nerves before the event kicked off by setting some intentions with me and offering a little prayer/mantra that the highest good would be served that night. Her boost helped make that night unforgettable.
It had taken me a couple of attempts to write this speech; no single approach seemed to work for me until I decided to simply write a letter to my late husband, telling him about my journey to the book over the last 10.5 years. It seemed to flow quite easily then, and I really got the sense that I have finally bookended my experience.
From the relationship, to marriage, to breakdown, to suicide, to my darkest hour, to acceptance, to grief, to healing and coming back to life again, to writing the book, to finally deciding to publish and NOW to launching the book... I feel like I circled back to the other person in this story.
And if you have made it this far down this very long blog, please leave a comment below to tell me what you thought of the videos, the speeches, and perhaps share your own personal experience with mental illness and/or suicide.
If you want to learn more about me, and the book, visit the About the Author page, or About the Book. You can buy a copy of Marrying Bipolar here, each copy sold through this website is signed with a personal message to each reader from me.
Love Natasha x
Welcome to my book website, Marrying Bipolar. As you made it to the blog, you may be interested in learning a little more about me. I was born and bred in Sydney since 1973 to a very tight knit and loving family. We all have our issues, though, and my life's ambition was to become the best person I could be through education, hard yakka (that's work for non-Australians reading this!) and trying to learn as much about myself and others as possible.