Clickety Clack


Clickety Clack is Joy McDiarmid’s self- portrait of bipolar mental illness and one of the most ambiguous sexual identities imaginable for a woman coming of age in the 1950s. Amidst gender and sexuality confusion, this Winnipeg woman began to look for romantic love and sexual fulfillment: sometimes wanting to dress as a man, sometimes as a woman, sometimes attracted to men, sometimes to women.

In candid accounts of this paralysing complexity, which McDiarmid tried valiantly to understand and express despite oppressive social stigmas and parental strictures, her insights about human sexuality and "living the lie" are startling even in this age of open commentary about sex.

Along primitive frontiers of treatment for bipolar disorders and dramas of shock therapy in psychiatric wards, entire years of McDiarmid’s life would slip by even as earlier years were being erased from her memory. Yet there came triumphant accomplishments in her competitive and stimulating world of advertising, university work, private enterprise, photography, travel, touring in her MG sports car, skilful tennis, and love.

Such juxtaposed experiences of despair and defiant courage, supplemented at the end of each chapter with medical commentary by Joy’s psychiatrist Dr. Frances Edye, make Clickety Clack a rare road map to life.


"Clickety Clack is the story of an accomplished woman for whom life has not been easy. Her victory over her illnesses, mental and physical, makes for inspiring, informative reading. Wisdom comes from the shared experience."

Mary V. Seeman, O.C., M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry, University of Toronto

"There's incredible material in Clickety Clack.This telling of the 'ride' has perpetually disturbing undercurrents that evidence what every reader has to grudgingly admit: the very real and literal fear of mental illness. Through its chilling detail, the reader gets the sense of 'self-purging from purgatory' and the personal search for some sense of what has happened to succour life."

Cynthia P. Hubler, Manchester, Connecticut, patient advocate and mother of a bipolar disorder daughter

"I couldn't take Clickety Clack all in on the first read, so I read it again, this time with my seat belt fastened. It is a courageous act to take on a project and to write it all, especially to revisit and face up again to those fearfully painful times. I have learned about the author's evolved character and her life's trajectory and I understand, too, how she could not not write this book."

Cynthia A.M. Powell, Fairfield, Connecticut, childhood friend of Joy S. McDiarmid

"Clickety Clack has the virtue of making the reader see and feel what it is like to be mentally ill. So many people are born into suffering and terrible circumstances that are beyond their control. Joy's life reminds us of that fact. Her story presents, in some sense, as human suffering itself. Although the book is tough going at times due to the intensity of the writing, Joy's story is, in the end, inspirational. She always finds a way."

Michael I. Alexander, author of How to Inherit Money and Competing Against America

About the Author

Joy S. McDiarmid

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Joy S. McDiarmid

Joy S. McDiarmid trained as a research writer and successfully concealed her struggles with mental health issues while excelling in a career in public relations and communications in libraries, university, and private enterprise in Canada, the United States, and overseas. She lives in Manitoba.