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'Beautifully Bipolar:' Arizona Author Helps Others Touched By Mental Illness

erin callinan
Paige Phelps/KJZZ
Erin Callinan, associate director of Mental Health America Arizona.

When Flagstaff native Erin Callinan was 17, she had her first “breakdown” — a manic episode that led to hospitalization — something that would happen twice in her young life.

In her autobiography, “ Beautifully Bipolar,” she tried to describe her mania. She wrote, it makes your mind race so fast, “it’s like reading a comic book backward while sitting next to a speaker at a KISS concert.”

At first, Callinan’s illness left her angry and feeling empty. But that was teenage Callinan. These days, as associate director of Mental Health America Arizona, she’s focused on recovery, acceptance and education. It’s a journey she wants people touched by bipolar illness to take with her.

The Show spoke with Callinan to talk about her efforts to shine light on an illness that sounds scary to many.

On Tuesday, she spoke at ASU’s Mental Health conference organized by undergraduates, and her message to students is personal.

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Paige Phelps began her journalism career in Dallas, working for print publications owned by the D Magazine brands before moving on to the Dallas Morning News. Later, while living in Marfa, Texas, she learned the nuts and bolts of radio through KRTS Marfa Public Radio, one of the smallest public radio stations in the country, before landing at Houston Public Media's "Houston Matters" daily talk show as a producer.