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Stepping forward from tragedy to hope

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Sheila Hamilton's new book a shattering look at bipolar disorders


REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Sheila Hamilton reads about the worst moment of her life to an audience at Kyras Bake Shop; the day she had to tell her daughter that her father had committed suicide.Sheila Hamilton is one of the best reporters in Oregon. But she missed the biggest story of her life.

The longtime radio and television personality recently told about the story at Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, before an audience full of people who also have seen bipolar disorder destroy the lives of loved ones.

Hamilton’s new book “All The Things We Never Knew” tells about the suffering and eventual suicide of her husband David, and it has received nothing but rave reviews. Hamilton is totally unsparing in telling about how, first, she could not discover the reason for David’s troubling mood changes, and, second, discovering the reason far too late to do anything about it. But along the way she discovered how to give hope to others.

“Ten years ago, I would have stood before you and said, ‘There is no hope,’” Hamilton said. “Tonight, I can tell you there is hope. There have been huge breakthroughs in studies on mental health disorders. We’re seeing science that doesn’t come from Eli Lilly.”

Today, Hamilton has a new career as a mental health crusader, a new husband (Colin Maclean), a new stepdaughter, and a brilliant and beautiful 18-year-old daughter named Sophie, who is a student at Stanford University and has the kind of potential that can rock the world.

Hamilton has come a vast distance from the shattering day in 2006 she had to tell her 9-year-old daughter that her father had been found dead in a heavily wooded area not far from their home.

When Hamilton looked for help, she found nothing.

“I looked all over the country, and I couldn’t find a single book on caregivers for people with bipolar disorder,” Hamilton said. “The book didn’t exist, so I wrote it. My husband was an amazing man, and I couldn’t spot the signs of his mental illness.”

One of the worst things about David’s fight for mental health was that all the 13 medications he was taking for it were only making him worse.

“He was pushed into a manic state, and he never recovered from it,” Hamilton said. “The day after his release from the hospital, he died by suicide.”

David’s treatment regimen was chilling.

“They put him behind bulletproof glass,” Hamilton said. “They didn’t know him by name, only by number. They did have his pills numbered.”

REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Sheila Hamilton greets Kim Wrolstad at the authors event in Lake Oswego last week. Hamiltons new book is giving hope to caregivers of people with bipolar disorders.Somehow, Hamilton was able to gain strength for herself and is now giving strength to others with “All the Things We Never Knew.” She pushed through her agony — “I was sobbing and writing, sobbing and writing” — and got a lucky break through a connection with a major publisher. But the best thing she did was have the patience to not jump too early to publish and waiting until she could tell the whole story.

She knew her choice had paid off when Sophie was recently able to read the book.

“Sophie said, ‘Mom, I’m so proud of you,’” Hamilton said. “’This book is going to do so much to help people.’”

Hamilton’s crusade for mental health will only get stronger. As her father’s daughter, Sophie is in danger of acquiring a bipolar disorder herself in her late teens and early 20s.

Still, largely because of her mother, Sophie’s chances for fulfilling her immense promise are much greater.

The book is available at Powell’s Books and online through www.Amazon.com. Learn more online at www.sheilahamilton.com.