BLACKBURN poet Melissa Lee-Houghton celebrated her 30th birthday with a party.

Nothing unusual about that, except at many times in her life she never thought she would reach that milestone.

Diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder at 15, Melissa’s life has been a traumatic battle against mental illness whilst trying to be a good mum to her children Elizabeth, 14, and Luke, seven.

Now at 31, she has published her second book “Beautiful Girls” which has earned a coveted recommendation from The Poetry Society.

“It’s taken me about three years to write and it’s something I never set out to do but I felt compelled to write it all down.”

The ‘beautiful girls’ of Melissa’s book are those she met in an adolescent psychiatric unit in Yorkshire. Her writing about their lives and suffering are not for the faint-hearted.

“A lot of them were diagnosed bipolar, but no one really knew what it was about then or really how to treat it. It was extremely traumatic for the girls and their families.

“A lot of them were self-harming and one even ate glass and was curled up in a ball. It’s very hard to talk about even now.”

Melissa, from Great Harwood, who attended Norden High School until the illness prevented her from doing so, fell pregnant with Elizabeth at just 17 and struggled massively to cope.

“My eldest child has been through a great deal with me,” she says.

“When she was born I was very ill, depression mainly, and agitation. I also had racing thoughts and I self-harmed. I was suicidal. I fed her, cared for her in every way I could, but inside I felt so bad. Then finally I was hospitalized and properly medicated, though I couldn’t say I had ever ‘recovered.’”

She eventually met Steven, a support worker, whom she married five years ago. But when their child Luke was born in 2006, Melissa took a turn for the worse. By 2010 she had made a decision to commit suicide.

“I felt I was being tortured. I wasn’t rational, and I couldn’t think clearly. I felt defeated. I wanted to give medication one last try, for my children, and thankfully, Depixol injections worked.

"They flattened my mania, my hallucinations, my agitation. Lithium has helped me to stop self harming, very effectively, and has stabilized my mood alongside Lamotrigine which I believe has helped with depressive symptoms.

“I tell people I’m ‘stable’ but in reality it is a daily challenge and I have had to limit myself in so many ways to stay well enough to be a good parent.

“This past three years has been about building on all our strengths as a family, supporting each other and for me, keeping a routine and being focused on writing as my work and therapy. My psychiatrist asked me recently, do you think you’re a good mother, doing everything you can for your children? I could categorically say yes.”

Although Steven - who Melissa describes as “very patient” - has had to take a lot of time off work to support his wife, the children are fine.

According to her proud mum, Elizabeth is a bright, feisty girl with lots of friends who has coped well with the illness.

“Having my books published have been the best years of my life. It feels so good to have something creative to focus on.”

The cover for Beautiful Girls is Blackburn artist Alexandra Gallagher whose work has appeared in the Saatchi Gallery in London.

The book will be launched on December 5 at the Anthony Burgess Institute in Manchester.

Copies of Beautiful Girls (£8.99) and launch tickets can be bought from http://www.pennedinthe