Radio Interview

Ela Simon was interviewed for station 3CR by Brainwaves Radio Show, which is sponsored by the Mental Illness Fellowship.

Ela discussed her two books ‘The Bi-Polar Express’ and ‘Panic Stations along The Bi-Polar Express’ which she co-wrote with her bipolar daughter Natasha.

Ela was interviewed by Chiara who asked about the family relationship between the bipolar carer and bipolar sufferer and between other members of the family.

The interview was broadcast on May 3, 2017 and the podcast can be heard at

Suicide – by Natasha

WARNING: This chapter may have some triggers.

13 Reasons Why‘ has brought up many conversations about bullying and suicide. There are many chapters in my books ‘The Bi-Polar Express‘ and ‘Panic Stations along The Bi-Polar Express‘ about bullying but not enough about suicide.

Writing this chapter about suicide brings up some painful memories and feelings. But maybe that’s the point.

It’s hard to talk about, but it should be hard to talk about, but it also should be talked about.

Everyone gets sad or questions the point of life but when you are so lost and filled with darkness, when all seems so hopeless and you feel worthless, when you are numb to it all and you just want it to stop – your mind may wonder down that dark and dangerous path of suicidal thoughts. A place you may feel is the point of no return. A lonely place that makes you feel like there is only one way out.

I have been to that place, more than once. I hit rock bottom and tried to bow out. I am grateful I was unsuccessful, most days. It’s hard and I get sad very often but I try not to spiral too far down and let the world get on top of me.

I am not Hannah Baker.

There is hope and if you can just hold on another day you will be one step closer to finding your way out of the darkness.

How have you found a way up and out?
What are your coping strategies?
What keeps you fighting?

If you are currently suicidal please talk to someone: a friend, family, doctor, anyone, …
Call Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24hrs a day in Australia)

Loving BiPolar – by Natasha

Loving someone with BiPolar can be a challenge just as someone with BiPolar can find it challenging to love.

From my experiences, there are several BiPolar traits that impact the way I love:

Self-Sabotage is the main one. When something feels too good to be true, I feel it must be. So, I must destroy it before it can destroy me. I push people away before they can push me away. Even if they were never going to – it was all my paranoia that they would leave because so many others have left.
Attachment is a big problem. As Pink said “Please, please don’t leave me”. When I find someone, I feel a connection and I hold on for dear life, I’m so scared of losing them; I squeeze so tight I suffocate them and they end up leaving anyway.
I love hard and fast. I love all or nothing. I love in black and white on down days and in hyper colour on up days. I love and I get broken. I feel unlovable most times but I’m just an acquired taste, a unique soul and one day someone will not just be able to handle me, but will love me the way I am; BiPolar and all.

My OCD – by Natasha

Technically OCD fits into the anxiety category but I felt it deserved its own chapter.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder comes in many forms.
• Excessive and repetitive cleaning
• Constantly checking things, like to see if doors are locked or oven is on (maybe check oven is off)
• Unrealistic negative reoccurring thoughts
• Everything having its place
• Counting
• Hoarding
• Having an irrational sense of disgust concerning sexual activity

I only have very mild OCD. The depression keeps me out of the shower most days, so cross off cleanliness. I’m not a hoarder or a counter.

I become very obsessed with an idea or a target I have to reach or even a person and will repeat the same actions or conversations over and over in my head or in life and I don’t listen to Einstein.

I have everything in its place and while my room may look messy, I know where every little thing is and which way it was facing. If one thing is moved I get freaked out and have to put everything back in its place.

I like to colour coordinate things and somethings alphabetically. DVDs are in genre and my clothes are summer to winter.

When I use a public toilet, I have to use the same cubicle I used the last time, like at the cinema it’s the first on the right; every time. The same cubicle at trivia and same at Coles. I get quite irate if someone is in there and if I can hold it, I wait, otherwise……..

I often have unrealistic negative thoughts, although the Zombie apocalypse is totally on the way.

I spend a while, but not an obsessive amount of time, thinking about if I locked the door and turned the oven off, not so much the iron because I don’t iron.

I didn’t realise my disgust towards sex was linked to my OCD but it makes sense cause it’s icky and messy and mostly unpleasant.

Thank you BeyondBlue for your insights.

My Anxiety – by Natasha

Anxiety comes in many forms for me.

Social anxiety – the thought of big crowds (more than 3 people) makes my heart race and my hands shake. I fear I’ll do something or say something stupid or I’ll get crushed by the crowd or I’ll have to make small talk. Oh, and phone calls. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. I am so anxious about what they may ask me that I feel like I may throw up.
General anxiety – little things can set me off; a mean comment, a name from my past, day to day living. I sweat a bit more and the heart rate again goes up. My head gets foggy and my eyes get watery.
Full blown Panic Attack – it starts like the first 2 but gets worse. My throat closes so it feels like I can’t breathe, hysterical tears flow from my puffy eyes, my heart feels like it will beat out of my chest, I can’t talk, I can’t move, I am crippled and broken and lost. I can’t see. I can’t think. I can’t catch my breath. It feels like a heart attack and you know you have to breathe but you can’t so you panic more. Panic attacks pass quicker than mania or depression but they are scarier.

It is odd that when in a panic attack I am so worried about dying that I get more worked up, but when I am depressed I want to die and when I am manic, I feel like nothing can kill me.

They say depression is about the past and anxiety is about the future. Leaving mania to be about the present?

But sometimes I get depressed about the future. And sometimes I get anxious about the past mistakes I’ve made. And now I don’t get manic because of my friend Lithium.

My Mania – by Natasha

I’ve been thinking about the different elements that make up my mania and despite writing 3 books on the subject, I still have more to say.

My mania has many elements;

Fixating and obsessing – I become totally obsessed with one thing and must complete the task or finish the story. Just before being hospitalised for the second time I was on a holiday in the Central Coast with my then boyfriend. He was fed up with my nonsense and had left me to wonder the streets. Alone. My tongue ring had come undone and I was desperate to get it back where it belonged. It was 6am, so I sat outside a piercing and tattoo parlour until it opened at 9am. The first guy to arrive was only a tattoo artist and said I could wait out back with him until the piercer/owner arrived in an hour. When the owner arrived, he was furious that I was out the back hanging around and he kicked me out of the shop. I begged and pleaded to stay just long enough for him to fix my tongue ring but he said I needed an appointment and had to go. I tried to make an appointment but he wouldn’t let me. I sat out the front for another few hours and asked some tweens to help me, I asked them to get me an appointment in exchange for $20 each. Of course, they took the money and ran. After lunch time the owner took pity and put my tongue ring back in my mouth and sent me on my way. Job done. Onto next crazy.
Looking back there were so many alternatives. Leave tongue ring out, go to another tattoo/piercing place, etc, but no, I was determined and obsessed with finishing what I had started.

Shopping – So much money gone during manic phases. JB Hi-Fi knows my coffee order (well cyber address), I have spent hundreds of dollars on DVSs during my mania. Oh, and Ebay. So many shmonses (shit you don’t need). Thousands of dollars of rubbish.

Prepping for the worst – At the beginning of my manic episodes I would always make my way to a chemist and buy bandages, walking sticks, ointments and anything I felt I needed to survive. Maybe because I always hurt myself on manic adventures. Maybe my subconscious preparing for what lies ahead. I am grateful now though, I have an endless supply of medical dressings and such so I can play nurse when I or the parentals get hurt.

Feeling superior – not in the way that I feel like I’m better than everyone else, just that I feel I can cure the world. That I am a prophet here to save everyone. That I can do things to change everything. That I alone can help everyone else with any problem.

No need for sleep – who needs sleep when you are manic? No time for that shit. Too many things to do, too many adventures to have, too many stories to tell, too many chapters to write, too much fun to be had. Sleep is not necessary. Total waste of time.

Creativity peaks – the colours swirl and are so bright. I know every colour and every shade. I dream in colour and could paint my dreams. Vivid, amazing and colourful my paintings were. I could write chapters and chapters, and a kids book and a fairy-tale and a fantasy novelette for dad and letters to my future pen pals across the world. I would have ideas for movies and write scripts in one sitting. I would cook new dishes every meal. I would re-watch my favourite movies over and over again and pick up every detail in the background and the colours of people’s clothes and hair and eyes.

Sex is fun – BiPolarians and scorpions alike are meant to be over sexed beings. I am not. But when I’m manic it can seem like I might be. But I am not. The best thing I never did was unprotected sex. Can you imagine me with 10 kids and possibly AIDS?

I am free – no-one can stop me or tell me what to do. There are no laws or rules or “normal”. There is just me and the world is open and ready for the wild me to spread my wings and fly. There is no future, there was no past, there is just now, right now!

Time means nothing – because I don’t sleep. I have no idea what time it is, so sending a text at 4am to a friend is totally okay. Because what is time really?

Money is irrelevant – like with the shopping, money doesn’t occur to me. I book a holiday on a whim, shop til I drop (which I never do). I spend all the money in my account or give it away. The best thing I never did was get a credit card. I would be in so much debt.

No fear of death – I felt so alive, more than I ever have, when I was manic. The reason is I had no fear of death. Fear stops us from doing things that could be amazing but are too scary. Travel overseas alone, check. Skydiving, check. Dive into a dark creepy river at pitch black midnight, check. Climb a tall building in your PJ’s just to see the view, check. Hook up with random men that could be serial killers, check. Walked from the City to Bondi alone wearing a ‘come hither’ skirt, check. Climb into our bathroom window, check. Swim at Redleaf at 2am, check. Steal a car, no sorry I may have been crazy, but I was never stupid, no matter what my brain says, I’m not stupid.

Keep up – I talk so fast and jump from topic to topic. I don’t take a breath between topics and won’t let anyone interrupt and then can’t understand why people can’t keep up.

My Depression – by Natasha

The elements of my depression are more standard issue. I start to feel worthless and alone. Colours get dull. I sleep too much and eat less. I cry for no real reason unless it’s a circumstantial depression like when my grandma died and I was paralysed by darkness for 6 months, barely leaving my bed. Or when I had my heart broken by a boy I shouldn’t have fell for, who wasn’t ready for me and couldn’t handle my attachment to him. After that I had months of heart ache and tears.
But the worst is when there is no reason and it feels like no hope and those pills look very tempting.

Sometimes I feel heavy.
Sometimes I feel numb.
Sometimes I feel worthless.
Sometimes I feel my heart aching.
Sometimes I feel like “What’s the point?”
Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore.
Sometimes I feel like crying so much I flood the room.
Sometimes I feel I can’t hold on.
Sometimes I feel pain.
Sometimes I feel darkness.
Sometimes I feel just sadness.
But the hardest days are when I feel nothing at all.

Suicide often creeps into my thoughts but I am lucky to have people and things and plans that give me hope that maybe tomorrow will be better than today.