Marietta author documents struggle with mental illness

In "Where Are the Cocoa Puffs? A Family Journey Through Bipolar Disorder," two parents learn that their 18-year-old daughter Amanda is more than just a moody teenager when the father, a psychiatrist, diagnoses her with bipolar disorder.

Marietta resident Karen Winters Schwartz, an optometrist by profession, tried her hand at writing about mental illness 10 years ago using research alone, and without much success. She claims she knew nothing about mental illness at the time.

"But when mental illness assaulted my world in a very personal way, I was moved to write again," Winters Schwartz said. "But this time I wrote with a voice and an honesty that you really can't get without going through the effects of having a loved one with mental illness."

When their own daughter's behavior turned beyond normal teenage angst, Winters Schwartz and her husband, Paul, struggled. They needed community and family support, but Winters Schwartz realized it just wasn't there.

"What got to me the most was the very real, or perceived, lack of support from my friends and my family," she said. "There was no one."

Winters Schwartz stresses that empathy, not sympathy, is the key to breaking through the stigma, which "slows the vital process of moving out of despair and into acceptance." This is why her novel is told from the point of view of all the major characters.

"Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?" has received positive reviews from the professional community, including Alan Gettis, Ph.D., author of the award-winning "The Happiness Solution: Finding Joy & Meaning in an Upside Down World."

"Welcome to the world of mental illness," Gettis wrote. "This emotionally raw novel pulls you into the belly of the beast... "

Support can also be found in the pages of "Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?," which is on sale now at Creekside Books, Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble. Winters Schwartz will be at Downtown Books & Coffee in Auburn from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday Dec. 18 to sign copies of her book.

Visit the author online at karenwintersschwartz.com.

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