CRANFORD, NJ — Bruce Goldstein took the big plunge last year, when he finally moved out of New York City and into Cranford with his family. For Goldstein, this was a big step.
“We moved in July of last year. It’s gone pretty quickly and we’re still adapting to New Jersey,” said Goldstein in an interview with LocalSource on Friday, Oct. 20. “I was born in Brooklyn and lived in several parts of New York City before living in Manhattan for 35 years.”
Making the jump from New York to New Jersey is not exactly unique, but Goldstein had a factor that a lot of transplants from the city don’t have to deal with: he’s bipolar. In fact, it was getting so bad that, as a twenty-something in the Big Apple some 30 years ago, he came dangerously close to losing his mind.
“My doctors said it was a miracle that I wasn’t committed,” he admitted.
His friends and his mother tried to help him, but it was getting increasingly difficult for him to manage.
Until he got a dog.
Now, for most people, a dog is a companion, someone to keep you company when you’re lonely, perhaps to teach your children responsibility. But for Goldstein, it was a game-changer, and it saved his life, literally.
“When you’re depressed, medication can only get you so far,” he said. “It doesn’t give you a reason to live. A dog is saving you.”
“People get depressed,” he continued, “because of different things they are going through in their life. I went the medication route. Medication can only get you a certain place, get you better. But a dog can take you out of your shell, out of your apartment. I had to take care of him. Basically, by taking care of him, I was taking care of myself.”
That dog’s name was Ozzy, and the journey, from deciding to get a dog and finding him to Goldstein’s gradual improvement to the point where he knew he wouldn’t hear the knives in the kitchen call him anymore became the best-selling memoir, “Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac.”
For Goldstein, that book took nine years to write and was a journey in and of itself.
Goldstein’s memoir was published in 2008 and became a best-seller.
“It was a bestseller on Amazon. Right now, it’s a bestseller in Italy.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults had bipolar disorder in the past year. Goldstein was just one of many, although he did have Ozzy to help him through the tough times.
“I haven’t had any kind of relapse,” Goldstein said. “Was I really crazy or bipolar, manic depressive? It was serious, but since my kids were born, I haven’t had anything. I still work in advertising, but I haven’t had anything like that.
“I talk to people and tell them, you’ve got to be strong, and they can read my story. Two years ago, I got an email from a parole officer who said a woman in prison did a book report and chose my book and wanted to thank me. She gave me a card.”
As his family grew, Ozzy did, too, but dogs age a lot faster than humans.
“Toward the end, when Ozzy was 12 and a half, I was pushing my daughter in a stroller and dragging Ozzy behind me,” Goldstein recalled wistfully.
“It was a bumpy time in my life. Ozzy passed away when he was 13. The book has lived on; it’s timeless. I was thinking it’s timeless because people will get depressed and dogs will be there.”
Goldstein admits, as much as he loved New York City, it was just getting too expensive, especially for a family. Someone had mentioned Cranford to him, and the next thing he knew, he was living there.
“We ended up in Cranford. We found an apartment.”
As for Goldstein, he’s still writing and he has aspirations.
“I’ve written for BP Hope for Bipolar,” he said. “It’s the only publication for bipolar. I had a blog. And I wrote for them for a couple of years.”
Books are still something he considers an option, even if not all of his ventures in the publishing world have been successful.
“You remember that craze, fidgets?” he asked. “It lasted about two or three months. I self-published a book about that, a work of fiction, and by the time I got it published, I missed the phase.”
“Escape From Planet Fidget” might not have made much of a mark, but Goldstein isn’t stopping anytime soon.
“I came up with a book about when I had the kids and I talked to my agents and they said there were too many kid books,” he laughed.
“Now I’m working on my new book. I have a courtroom thriller with a hook. It’s been around for 20 years. I wrote it as a screenplay, then shopped it around as a TV miniseries. My plan for my next couple of books is to self-publish them and get someone to promote it. The publisher gave me a publicist for ‘Puppy Chow’ in the beginning, but now I’ll do it myself.”
“If you don’t have a million dollars, they’re not going to come to you,” he says somewhat cynically, with more than a little knowledge from the school of hard knocks.
Goldstein still has strong feelings about his “Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac.”
“I guess it’s a really relatable story,” he said. “This book has a happy ending. I do take four kinds of medication, but would I get off the boat? No way.
“I’m now at the 15-year anniversary of my first book being published. It’s been reaching people around the world since 2008.”
He hasn’t gotten another dog since Ozzy died, but has he thought about it?
“I don’t know if there will be a dog in the future. But I can’t even imagine it right now, and with the kids in the apartment ….”
Meanwhile, he and his story are still reaching people.
“When I meet someone with a dog, I start telling my story, and then they open up with me and start telling me their story. People really relate.”
As for right now, he’s still learning about Cranford and loving every minute of it.
“It’s a nice safe place that we moved to. I like where I live,” Goldstein said.
“This place is huge, but I still can’t write at home. I write best around people. Coffee shops in the city.”
I’m a New Yorker and I love walking everywhere.”
If you’re looking for Goldstein, you might find him at Track 5 Coffee in Cranford.
“I’m at the coffee shop every day,” he said.
Check out his books, too, particularly “Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac.” Golstein is a man who can teach you a thing or two about himself, and about yourself as well.
Photos Courtesy of Bruce Goldstein