Bipolar lives in their own write

By Chris Steel

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Georgie Tutt with her book Caught Between Sunshine and Shadow, will be at the Katikati Health and Wellbeing Expo on Saturday.
Georgie Tutt with her book Caught Between Sunshine and Shadow, will be at the Katikati Health and Wellbeing Expo on Saturday.

Georgie Tutt first released her self-published book, Caught Between Sunshine and Shadow, a collection of poetry and prose contributed by people affected by bipolar, in 2010. A year later, interest had come from all over New Zealand, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia and now it is in the catalogues of more than 25 libraries.

Georgie has now collected 30 more stories for an e-book, Caught Between Sunshine and Shadow Part II, Untold Stories that can be emailed to readers free of charge.

She came up with the concept for the first book in 2008, almost two decades after her own diagnosis.

Bipolar affective disorder, or manic depession as it used to be called, is a serious mental illness that occurs in about 1 per cent of the population, usually before a person reaches 30, but can occur at any age. Getting an accurate diagnosis can sometimes take years, Georgie says.

She says the aim has always been to make the original book available to as many people as possible.

Her local library was one of the first places Georgie turned when wanting to know more about how people had learned to cope and live with bipolar.

More than 30 New Zealanders - a quarter of them from the Western Bay - from teenagers to octogenarians, males and females from all walks of life speak out in the books about their experiences in the hope that their stories will be a source of inspiration for others.

There is a lot to learn for both doctors and patients from this book
Dr William Ferguson

As well as her own account, Georgie has included one by her husband Frans Knottenbelt, who shares the perspective of supporting a loved one coming to terms with the disorder.

After Georgie took a year off from teaching at Matahui Rd School to compile the book, Frans was diagnosed with cancer and had time to help Georgie complete her project.

One contributor relates that her first suicide attempt was at age 14 with her first nervous breakdown at 20. She had a number of diagnoses from schizophrenia to hysteria to post-traumatic stress disorder to bipolar disorder.

"I've finally had the chance to tell my story safely and comfortably," she writes. "Music, books, friendships, the ocean and poetry are all things that support me and keep me going."

In a review in the NZ Doctor magazine, Auckland GP William Ferguson, who specialises in mental health, said: "There is a lot to learn for both doctors and patients from this book."

A recurring theme that struck the GP was the early age of onset of symptoms reported in many of the accounts - often decades before a diagnosis was formally established.

Another theme was the typically long and convoluted path most sufferers had to follow to eventually find effective treatment.

Dr Anne Templton, a child and adolescent pscyhiatrist and Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, who supported Georgie in the planning stages of the book, said "many books on bipolar disorder come from overseas and are written by health professionals.

"I find that most people want to read about the personal experiences of other people with the illness, particularly people that they can personally identify with, by way of culture, gender, geography and age. I think that this book fills an important gap."

Georgie is providing copies of her book free to people across the Bay of Plenty. She will be at the Katikati Heath and Wellbeing Expo today if anyone would like to discuss bipolar disorder or share their stories.

Copies of the book will be available from March 24 from Matahui Road School, Turning Point Trust (Historic Village, Tauranga), Katikati Resource Centre, Whaka Butcher, Whakamaramara General Store, Katikati Midwives, Liz Ward Hairdressing and Katikati Advertiser office.

Books are available to borrow from Katikati Medical Centre, Bethlehem Medical Centre and Katikati Library. For more information or to order the book online go to www.cbsas.co.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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