Questions to an Author: Molly McHugh

bipolar-1-disorder-how-to-survive-and-thrive-by-mollyHello World, during this month of May which is Mental Health Awareness month, I am as you must have noticed, doing interviews with authors who have written on mental health, especially about their personal experiences.

I have done a modest review of Molly’s memorable memoir on my blog, and it is my honour to interview her too. 

1) The Profile

  1. Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit about your Childhood:

    Sure. Born in U.S., youngest of five kids, mom a nurse, dad (after 4 years in WWII) owned own insurance biz. Very athletic (probably saved me from having worse mental-physical health issues), soccer in college, diagnosed Manic Depression freshman year after a psychotic break and hospitaliztion. Normal middle class kid. Loved animals, loved nature, loved being active. Did well in school. Always in one sport or another. Had close friends, the first boyfriend, first kiss, pajama parties, dance parties, prom night… plus some other things I will refrain from mentioning. Lol.

  1. About your Memoir, how did you come up with this audacious title?

I had a FB group for e-book authors, and I asked for feedback on my book title. One of the earlier ones was “A Brain Gone Awry”… everyone hated it. I of course, thought it was brilliant. Ha! More ideas for a title not that great according to my helpful ‘more experienced writer’ critics either.

Then someone told me I had to be more clear, and that folks want to ‘solve a problem’. So I realized my gift to share was to focus on BP-1 (the classic Manic Depression) and to talk about the alternative care that I did over the years that helped me. And helped me not be on psych meds – which is huge. Most folks want that. Hence the title about BP-1 and how to thrive.

2) The Soul Journey

  1. Going from the assumption therefore that you are surviving and thriving, what is your take about mental health?

I am doing well. I’ve suffered – and still do – like anyone who has to deal with these issues but have had many wonderful things in my life as well, so am thankful.

My main issue is that the ‘Chemical Imbalance’ theory used to put folks on drugs has to end. Sure, these meds can help someone suffering with an epsiode of illness (bipolar is episodic in general – with normal periods of functioning) stabilize, get back in control, but are very harmful with long-term use. And no – there is no such thing as an identifiable imbalance they correct. They affect brain chemicals (like anything you ingest into your body) but are neurotoxins with many distressing side effects and create new ‘illness’ issues i.e. side effects.

Mental health is a huge term. It would take a long time to write my thoughts. But the main issue for me is to identify underlying causes of the symptoms someone is experiencing, if possible. And then search for ways to treat. I still deal with quite a bit of fatigue… but not severe, debilitating depression like I had in my younger years. God that was awful. And the improvement is from learning about and treating some of my unique health issues (thyroid, allergies, detox from toxic exposures, etc). Others can do this too.

  1. Did your diagnosis help or hurt your mental wellbeing in the long term?

What an excellent question. I’m not really sure how to answer this… as I had no ‘choice’ in being diagnosed. I didn’t read a book and think ‘oh, this is me’ or spend a bunch of time in therapy then get told I was bipolar. I had the classic onset with a manic episode in late teens and was hospitalized. And no, I was not doing cocaine or any recreational drug that caused it.

A diagnosis is just a label describing symptoms, is one way to look at it. I kept it pretty under-the-table from my outer life as much as I could when younger. But I had to have treatment – had severe depressive episodes and mania. So in that respect, it was needed I guess. Though I fought for other ways to be well and learned much, and healed much on my own with regular docs – what I share in my book.

I can say if I had bought into the ‘I have a chemical imbalance and have to take psych meds’ for life nonsense I would be dead by now. No question in my mind. And also I would not have had some of the amazing experiences I’ve been fortunte to have: college degree, healthy baby, well paid professional work, rasing my son as a single Mom, travel the world, etc. All of this while not on any psych med(s).

  1. Can you tell if there was a difference in the way you were treated and the way you perceived stigma before and after you got a diagnosis?

    I definitely have experienced stigma (personal relationships, being treated differently, fewer job opportunities) – was forced out of a four-year university program due to knowledge of my medical history. Stigma is real, and I am not sure how it can be changed.

    I had a fair amount of emotional cruelty too – the “tough love” approach is how some describe it. To deny what it really is. When I was severely ill, living on the street, wealthy family with multiple apartments unoccupied didn’t intervene. I spent Christmas in a homeless shelter miles from everyone else secure and safe in their home. Of course it was my fault I had become ill, my fault I was forced out of college then crippled with student loan payments, my fault I’d somehow not fit into the cultural norm everyone felt comfortable with, my fault I was raped, my fault I was mugged, my fault I somehow didn’t miraculously emerge a rock solid twenty-something making tons of cash.

    At it’s essence, stigma is really a form of emotional cruelty. And there’s plenty of cruel people in this world.

  1. If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell us about motherhood with a fragile mental health like yours?

Fragile is a bit offensive of a word… though I know you do not mean it that way. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Surviving what I’ve survived I look at as an inner strength, something in my makeup that no one will ever take away. It is a part of me and will be when I leave this earth. I’m vulnerable in ways some others are not, but not fragile. And never have been.

I loved being a mom and was like many other single moms. I was on no psych meds, never hospitalized, worked for many years, eventually went on disability but still worked to provide a better life and opportunities for my son. We lived and traveled abroad, he is bilingual, has had a ton of amazing experiences.

The only thing that is very different about me – that really would not be noticeable to others – is I have to keep stress down. Limit social time. Had to focus on my son, staying well. Most don’t have as much of those concerns. But most haven’t Manic Depression with a history of psychiatric hospitalization either.

It was always on the back of my mind that I had to stay focused and be careful not to trigger any severe episode. For the most part I was successful. No parent is perfect. My son was raised with more love and caring attention that many children are.

P2  – the conclusion of this lovely interview comes up tomorrow so stay subscribed lol & Thank you


8 thoughts on “Questions to an Author: Molly McHugh”

  1. This is an important interview ALL of us can learn from. Thank you for taking the time and please thank Molly for sharing the REALITY of health challenges and the road to restoring BALANCE.

    1. You are welcome doctor. I equally found Molly’s memoir interesting. Sadly. She is among the few ‘mentally I’ll who have found ways to combine alternative treatment, healthy choices and little or no reliance on psychotropic drugs. They are almost the rejected stones or sort of ‘sell outs’? It baffles me. I think you understand what I mean. Sometimes staying in the ‘Ill and attracting endless pity’ zone validates or even uplifts some unfortunately. I do all I do out of a passion I sometimes want to tame before it leads me into trouble lol. Part 2 of her interview tomorrow is equally enlightening. Thank you so much for all you do and the support you have been giving me through your health tips

      1. Marie there are many, many, many like me – whether their mental health issues dealt with bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc. – who have used alternative therapies to heal and move forward in their lives. And there are many who are dead from psych meds (caused worsening, suicides).

        And it is not even fair to use the term ‘alternative’ as these are MEDICAL therapies, scientifically sound treatments. So many more than I share in my book, I try to blog as much as I can about them. As the reality is… if you have a physical basis for your mental illness symptoms (I’d say most if not all do, even grief becomes a physical illness if moves into a severe depression with severe symptoms).

        Here’s a good one about autoimmune conditions and the possible connection to bipolar disorder: Fatigue, Depression & Brain Fog Can Be Symptoms of an Autoimmune Reaction.


        I loved this interview – you asked some excellent questions!

      2. Thanks so much Molly, alas maybe unfortunately we do not read as much about those who have survived and are thriving or well living their best. Is it for fear of being ‘bashed or shined or discredited’ maybe? I follow a blog called Beyond Meds written by someone who pained through two years to tapper off psychic meds and regain a more balanced health. She received so much backlash she changed the blog’s title and content. I also watched a you tube yesterday on the disaster of people dying from prescribed meds, I heard it was the 3rd national killer in the USA. Wow. I am learning so much and do agree with you a lot. My brother’s bipolar I believe stemmed from his epilepsy. But once that bipolar label was stamped, nothing mattered not even his life. He got various ailments and finally SUDEP claimed his life at just 33 years.

      3. A sentence got missed below… :

        “As the reality is… if you have a physical basis for your mental illness symptoms (I’d say most if not all do, even grief becomes a physical illness if moves into a severe depression with severe symptoms) you need medical care to heal and treat. Psych meds will WORSEN the condition.

    2. So kind of you Dr. Jonathan and it was an honor – Marie asked some excellent questions! I think my value is in sharing my story of actual Manic Depression (severe) and recovery without long term use of psych meds.

      There are many, many others like me… just not many are blogging about it or have written a book 🙂

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