Recollections of the Macabre, the Furry and the Fat

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Alpine Meadows, home to the Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, is incredibly beautiful. We’ve been coming here for years to stay at the funky “Munchkin” cabin. Miraculously, the owner only charges us a third of what she could get, and Craig makes it a working vacation so we can afford it.

We trek up here in the winter and during other years we visit during the late summer. It has been amazing for this L.A. girl to observe terrain after it has transformed into the winter and summer.

Last time we went to the Munchkin it was wintertime. The owner and her friend were there to briefly greet us. I chatted with him and learned that he was veteran of the ski industry. He recounted several colorful stories about working at the various Tahoe ski resorts.

“I was here in 1982 when the Alpine Meadows avalanche happened,” he said somberly.

Uh, what avalanche?” I replied sheepishly. He suggested I read a book called A Wall of White by Jennifer Woodlief. I wrote the title down on a piece of paper, intending to download a sample on my Kindle when we returned to the world of WiFi, but I lost the paper and forgot all about it.

When we got to the Munchkin last weekend, I was excited to find a copy of A Wall of White: A True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche in the basement, of all places. I began reading it and so did Craig. (We took turns stealing it from one another.) Each of us finished it within two days! A Wall of White was a national bestseller, and I could see why it was a hit– the writing was top-notch, and it was a definite pageturner.

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Although I found the story fascinating (especially the explanations of different forms of snow, and how avalanches are created) I wish I never, ever read A Wall of White. It was such a morbid, vivid, disturbing account that literally happened just a few minutes from our cabin.

One of the avalanche victims was an eleven-year-old girl – my Avonlea’s age. She died because her self-centered, #$%^& father ignored not one, but two warnings not to hike up to Alpine Meadows during a ginormous snowstorm.

Last year before I read A Wall of White, I blithely drove up to the Alpine Meadow’s ski resort’s remodeled entrance area. I wanted to publish a blog post, and since the Munchkin doesn’t have internet, I could tap into Alpine’s free Wifi. While I sat there shivering in my car, skiers stomped and swarmed all around me. I bet most of them were completely oblivious about what had taken place there 33 years ago. 

Last Monday I needed to make an online bill payment, so I drove up to Alpine Meadows with a different mindset than I had last year. I couldn’t help but ponder about how people had hiked up the same road that I drove upon. They could never have imagined that they’d soon be smothered by tons of snow. Ugh. The thought creeped me out, but it also made me feel deeply grateful for being alive.

wp-1471306240991.jpgGrateful I have my furry muse Lucy

and grateful for my precious girls!

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Yesterday we took the gondola headed to the top of Squaw Valley; I was proudly Xanax-free! We didn’t know a thunderstorm was coming our way! This is a shot I took on the way back down, just before the staff closed the gondola for the day:

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I promised last week to write about some adventures. The truth is that this has been atame week. I guess I could make something up, since I can be devious, but to quote the great Annie Lennox, “Would I lie to you, honey?”

Since I don’t have a current adventure to share, I’d like to tell you about the bear sighting I had at the Munchkin four years ago.

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I had just gotten out of the shower and walked into the dining nook. I glanced at the picture window that had a beautiful view of a steep, woodsy hill behind the cabin. Craig was upstairs, and the girls were watching television in the living room next to the nook.

As usual, I was out of it I was extremely depressed, lethargic, and medicated with meds that weren’t working except to give me zombifying side effects. Despite the fact I was in such a gorgeous setting with my family, I couldn’t appreciate anything.

When I looked out that window, I realized it was a different view than what I was accustomed to.

There was a small bear looking at me.

Oh. My. God.

“BEEEEEAAAAAAAR!!!!” I screamed without thinking. (The little book titled Bear Aware has a bunch of information on what to do and not to do when you see a bear. Unfortunately I hadn’t read Bear Aware before I had that ursine moment, so I was clueless.)

The bear looked at me. He/she probably thought something along the lines of’

”You are such a silly human! I could take you out with one of my farts!”

The girls and Craig came running into the room just in the nick of time to catch the incredible sight. With the four of us watching, the bear scampered up the hill to its mom, who was our of sight. (Craig figured out it was definitely a cub due to its size.)

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I know that some of you might think, “So you saw a bear, no big deal!” But please take my word for it when I tell you those ten minutes were a big deal. The rest of that afternoon I felt less zombie-like. Looking into that cub’s eyes permeated the stupefying effects of my meds. I can understand why bears are sacred totem animals.

The most unbelievable part of this adventure was that the cub had not only been outside of the Munchkin cabin. The bold bear had climbed up three steep flights of outdoor wooden stairs, walked through our front door (which was accidentally cracked open…all I can say about that was it wasn’t me) and went into the basement to grab a bag of garbage. The bear headed back down the stairs with its spoils in tow. This happened while we were all in the house, oblivious to our guest! The cunning cub had been silent as the dead, and was only fifteen feet away from the girls while I showered and Craig was upstairs. The bear could have easily explored the rest of the house…

Lesson learned: lock your door in bear country!😉

 Lose It! Update 

The Lose It! quest continues with my blogging buddy Bradley, author of the excellent Insights of A Bipolar Bear. We encourage one other through Lose It!’s website. If you’d like to join us, leave a message in the comment section or sign up for free at www.loseit.com. Search for the “Wondrous Writers group”.

The two of us have struggled lately with overeating, but we remain committed to our goals! We know it’s normal to have setbacks – it’s recovering from them that matters. Speakng of Lose It!, I’d like to share my “before and after “shots taken at The Munchkin.

This is my favorite writing spot – the balcony overlooking the back of Squaw Valley:

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2013: 170#  

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Yesterday: 125# 

It has felt so goog to be able to walk up the Munchkin’s three flights of stairs without the extra adipose tissue. Hauling the extra weight used to make me huff and puff and almost hyperventilate. Plus my knees were not happy about it either, especially my knee which had ACL reconstruction after I had a basketball injury.   

Birth of a New Brain memoir update

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Almost every morning during this trip, Lucy has woken me up at 5:00 a.m. I’ve fed her & taken her outside to do her thing. (That hasn’t been so bad since I’ve gotten a great view of the stars, something I don’t get at home since the redwoods block the sky.)

Next I made fresh blood, I mean coffee. I headed out to the deck to work on editing the final chapters and appendices/resource section. The manuscript is due October 1st, and I’m nervous as hell, but excited. I feel like I’m at the end of a ten-year-long pregnancy, and a looooong labor looms ahead. (Yes, I’ve worked on this draft since 2007 after Rilla was born.) There are no epidurals for the publishing process – what a bummer! 

I’ll keep you posted on what happens this fall – the good and the bad! (Hopefully more of the former than the later.) I’ll be back next Friday, and I wish you a great week and perhaps a (positive, fun) adventure of your own!

love,

Dyane

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

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Wherever You Go, There You Are…

 

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Lucy & I chillin’ at Where We Met gelateria in Tahoma, California

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The girls got pomegranate, sweet cream and pink grapefruit gelati. Yum! Where We Met makes gelato daily using a base imported from Italy. It’s hard to believe this chocoholic mom gave birth to these two creatures, for they could’ve ordered milk chocolate! It pains me to write this, but they don’t like chocolate! (I try not to hold that against them.)

 

Tahoma, a town on the shores of Lake Tahoe, California, is beautiful.

While being surrounded by such beauty won’t erase my bipolar disorder and anxiety, it’s exhilarating to spend time in a place where I’m anonymous. I live in a small mountain community where I’ve burned many a friendship due to my bipolar disorder over the past decade.

Back home I’ve been profiled in the local paper a couple times about creating a DBSA chapter and leading free women’s bipolar support groups. My picture accompanied those articles, so I was “out”with bipolar. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to be out; I thought it was important to personalize the mood disorder. However, I knew some people, mainly other moms, would steer clear of me as a result. I don’t regret what I did, but it was a bittersweet choice. 

Anyway, during our Tahoma walks with Lucy, the girls and I noticed that most of the people we’ve encountered are very friendly compared to where we live. It’s refreshing to observe my daughters experiencing this rather archaic behavior. 

I apologize for sounding like Debbie Downer, but don’t you think that waving or saying hello to strangers has become a lost art in many places? (Since my Mom reads this, I’d like to add that the girls are well aware about being careful around strangers thanks, in part, to this neurotic, Jewish-born mother!)

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When I stood up to move my purse, Lucy climbed up on my chair, plonking herself down as if she was a regular planning to order an americano. 

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I’ve been taking Lucy out for long walks every day by myself. I never know what to expect when we head out the door. After having my very own bear encounter a few years ago in Tahoe, I’m fairly bear savvy. (Mom, please…don’t worry – I’m forty-six.)

I love how walks can foster brainstorming. During yesterday’s walk I was inspired when we passed by the Golden Retriever house, my moniker for it. The homeowners had a large flag of two goldens waving above their front door, and no less than three large Golden Retriever posters displayed in their windows. What an awesome example of canine love.

When I walked past two handmade “Thanks for Driving 25” signs across the street from their home, it was obvious the Golden Retriever homeowners made them. 

I began thinking about doing exactly what they did. Why not? I’m sooooo tired of drivers racing past our home at 40-60 M.P.H. I’m already anxious, as some of you know, and these wanna-be Evel Knievels do nothing to help ease my anxety. 

We live on a steep, narrow mountain road situated ten feet past a blind curve. Whenever I leave our driveway, I pray I won’t get hit.

I know what you’re thinking: 

Why did you buy such a place, Dyane? 

Well, the short story is that it was cheap and I was dumb about realty…I mean ignorant!

We have a long wooden fence in front of our house that Craig built on our property. So, I’m going to make and post my own neon signs – maybe throw some eye-catching nude pictures on them. Any suggestions of models? (I’m kidding, Mom. Maybe.) If those signs help some folks slow down even a little bit, it’s completely worth the effort.

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I snapped this pic while exploring a mountain trail with Lucy – there have been no bear sightings yet!😉

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Cabin Fever = when your girls turn into dogs and bark all afternoon!

Meanwhile my book deal with Post Hill Press looms ahead,causing many white nights. Luckily I’ve spent some afternoons in the cabin editing the MS. My husband, the published and acclaimed author Craig, has been helping me out by taking the girls to groovy state parks like Vikingsholm because I can’t write unless I’m alone with Lucy.

How I wish I could write anywhere just like Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favorite authors, was able to do. She wrote on trains, hotel lobbies, backstage when she acted on Broadway, you-name-it, but I simply can’t do it.

If you can write virtually anywhere without ear buds, consider yourself highly gifted!

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I’ll be up here a few more days, and I’ll share any adventure that comes my way in next week’s post.

In the meantime, I wish you a great week, as always!

Love,

Dyane

p.s. The Lose It! quest continues with my blog buddy Bradley, author of the excellent Insights of A Bipolar Bear. We encourage one other through Lose It!’s website. Pairing up with him helped me not just attain my weight loss goal but with maintenance. I’ve lost almost 40 pounds, almost the equivalent of a Lucy, and my knee pain has improved. Thank you Bradley!

If you’d like to join us, leave a message in the comment section or sign up for free at www.loseit.com. Search for the Wondrous Writers group. We’d love to have you join us.

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

Facing Social Anxiety Again & A Publishing Talk

 

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I promised my friend, the blogger Kitt O’Malley, that I’d write about a publishing talk I attended. Kitt, as you bravely navigate the BlogHer#16 conference today, this one’s for you!

I was fired up for the talk until my anxiety reared its hideous, soul-sucking head on the morning of the special event.

 

  I thought about bailing…

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My name is Anxiety and I love to freak you out!

 

The talk was only a ten minute drive from my house. I made sure to bring my Rescue Remedy Plus lozenges which help alleviate my anxiety in a subtle way. They’re much healthier than benzodiazepines, they are sugar-free and non-addictive. The lozenges aren’t cheap ($8 for 10) but they are worth every penny and I love the taste. 

I figured I could maintain a low profile at the event and my social anxiety could take a back seat. I’d soon learn I was wrong about that assumption.

Although I have a book deal with Post Hill Press and I know some basic publishing tenets, I was curious to find out if I’d learn something new. 

I was anxious from the moment I showed up; even so, it felt good to sit in a room with other writers. I was proud of myself for getting out in the world again. 

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I learned a few new facts and concepts that I found fascinating, such as the importance of gearing up for public speaking at book signing events. The presenter explained to us how much public speaking can make a significant difference in an author’s career.

I know how vital it is to have dynamic public speaking skills at book signings because of my husband Craig. He has given over 50 talks about his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West (University of Oklahoma Press).

Craig loves giving these talks, he’s a gifted speaker, he created an engaging PowerPoint presentation, and get this: he’s unafraid of audience members who like to argue with him about his book’s premise – even the obnoxious ones! The icing on the cake is that he has sold a lot of books at his talks.

Shameless Plug

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These days I feel faint at the thought of getting up in front of a crowd, but since my book isn’t out until fall 2017, I’m shoving my fears aside for now.

The talk was scheduled to last an hour, but (unsurprisingly) it went overtime. I wanted to bail after sixty minutes because I was growing more anxious, so I missed the Q&A. In the past I would’ve stuck it out and suffered; this time I gave myself permission to leave because when it comes to my anxiety and public gatherings, I’ve decided to take baby steps .

On my way out the door, two encounters challenged me within five minutes – one bad and one good. 

The Adorable Collie 

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As I rushed out the library entrance, I saw a gorgeous collie sitting ten feet away. The dog’s leash was tied to a post. I had to stop and gaze at the magnificent, mellow creature – this dog reminded me of my Scotch collie Lucy. I stayed for a few minutes and grew more and more livid that this collie’s DUMB owner left this beautiful dog by itself.

I was particularly sensitive because a month ago a dog was stolen in a nearby park with the owner only a few yards away from him! I still see flyers about his disappearance everywhere.

Anyone could have stolen this collie. I wanted to speak with the owner in a non-hostile way, explaining how this dog could be stolen in 10 seconds, or at least leave a note for the owner, but I’m ashamed to tell you I wanted to get going. I still regret leaving the collie without attaching a note to its fancy leash.

 

Meeting a Nice Writer with Bipolar

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As I admired the lonesome collie, a man walked by us who I recognized from the seminar. He stopped and began chatting with me.

This is where my social anxiety kicked in big-time. As you know, I was anxious from the get-go, I was upset about the collie’s situation, and I wanted to be invisible.

I told him that I needed to jet back home and he acknowledged that politely. Then, in typical Dyane fashion, I blurted that I was aghast that someone would leave the collie there. He agreed. I began walking to my car and he joined me. I was comfortable with our brief “hi, bye” sort of talk.

As we crossed the parking lot, the writer asked me about my writing. All the while I wanted to get the hell out of there. I babbled my book’s premise (“Uh, it’s a memoir about one of the least-known forms of bipolar, postpartum bipolar…”) and he said he had bipolar as well. Well, that wasn’t something I heard every day in the library parking lot!

He’s working on a book about bipolar that sounds inspiring, so I gave him my hideous business card (I’ll include a photo of it in an upcoming post) and we’re going to keep in touch.

My friends, I felt SO dumb and anxious after this harmless interaction! I think that if I met that writer under different circumstances (i.e. when I wasn’t hopped up from being in an overcrowded room of writers, and when I wasn’t upset about an abandoned collie) my anxiety would’ve been lower.

Lose It! Update

My friend Bradley, author of the excellent blog Insights of A Bipolar Bear, is my Lose It! buddy.  We encourage one other through the Lose It! website. Pairing up with him has helped me immensely, both in attaining my weight loss goal and with maintenance.

If you’d like to join us, leave a message in the comment section, or you can sign up for free at www.loseit.com and search for the “Wondrous Writers” group. We’d love to have more of you join us.


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Next week I’ll be writing from the spectacularly beautiful Alpine Valley. Hopefully I won’t have any close encounters with bears like I’ve had in the past.

There’s nothing like looking in the eyes of a young bear to make one’s anxiety skyrocket!

I prefer to lock big brown eyes with Lucy…

Lucy Soul

take care & lots of love,

Dyane

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

A Dose of Summer Fun After Bullsh*t-Induced Bingeing

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Avi and I chillin’ on the outdoor patio at Pono Hawaiian Grill

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The large patio was the perfect place to relax while Avi & Rilla enjoyed Da Lanikai Poke Stack. It has sashimi-grade ahi tuna, avocado, seaweed salad & more from “da poke bar”

Thanks and Mahalo to those of you who read my last novella post!

Special thanks to everyone who offered helpful insights. I’m extremely grateful for your support, wisdom, and humor.

I binged last Thursday and Friday night because I held my anger in for too many days in a row. I waited a week without expressing my rage until meeting with my counselor. (Um, that was not the greatest coping method!)

Before last Thursday, I had been binge-free during the past four months; it was a personal record, and one that was deeply meaningful.

After literally working my derrière off to lose 35 pounds, I was relieved I stopped bingeing after the second evening. I even told my family I binged – that was a first. (Previously, I was secretive about my compulsive overeating.) They encouraged me to go easy on myself, which I’ve tried my best to do since then.

What has helped my mood immensely is keeping busy and having fun with my two girls. 

I’ve been making up for all the summers I was unable to do a thing because my hospitalizations for bipolar depression. Those agonizing separations from my little ones will always haunt me. So you can understand how I can’t begin to explain how good it feels to get out and spend time with my daughters despite my social anxiety/generalized anxiety. (These natural lozenges help me when I’m really freaking out!)

I took Avi and her friend to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk while Rilla was petting snakes and tarantulas at Science Camp. (!) If you glance at these shots I took on their monitor (sorry for the blur), you’ll see that the girls had a bit more fun than I did on the Boardwalk’s famed, ninety-two-year old wooden rollercoaster, The Giant Dipper.

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What was more my style was driving an hour to gorgeous Pacific Grove to meet one of my best friends. (She plays a memorable role in my upcoming memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.) 

Just before we arrived at the beach, I drove by Monterey Bay Urgent Care. That was where I used to go for my required physicals so I could receive my ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). As the great 80’s band Naked Eyes sang, there’s always something there to remind me!

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We caught up on life while the girls enjoyed all the beach had to offer…

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 Rilla was only a few feet away from a harbor seal!

Yesterday we strolled around Santa Cruz’s outdoor Pacific Garden Mall which is full of tourists, college students, yuppies, street performers, and sadly, many homeless people. We visited the indie Bookshop Santa Cruz to pick up our Harry Potter Festival tickets. (Yes.)

This “Staff Pick” display cracked me up!

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Bookshop Santa Cruz holds many positive memories for me. I’ve been visiting it since I moved here to attend college in 1989. Yesterday I watched their staff set up chairs for Julie Barton, the evening’s featured author. She was there to promote her bestselling memoir about her depression experience: Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself. (Yes, I’m jealous of her!)

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This topic has been covered years ago by BP (Bipolar) Magazine blogger Bruce Goldstein in his book Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac: The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life.

Sometimes I wonder if my book’s cover should have a big picture of my photogenic Scotch collie Lucy – who cares if she’s not central to the theme – it would sell a helluva lot more copies than if it had my visage on it!😉 A SocialMediaToday article, “Put A Dog On It”, proves my point! 

Julie Barton’s book cover reminded me of a book I bought last year at the Catamaran Writing Conference titled The Wrong Dog Dream. I heard an acclaimed author/writing instructor speak named Jane Vandenburgh – she was incredible. Check out her book cover:

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Recently our most famous local author Jonathan Franzen spoke at Bookshop Santa Cruz about his latest book Purity. (He does not have nor needs a dog on the cover – he wrote a little book you may have heard of called The Corrections.)

Franzen’s longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich was my college writing teacher, and get this – she actually liked my writing when I was nineteen and didn’t think I could ever write professionally! Chetkovich wrote Envy, a famous essay for Granta Magazine about how she reacted to her partner’s skyrocketing writerly fame – you should read it.

Now I wish I kept in touch with her. I admit I’m shameless when it comes to finding those who could help promote my book! Oh well.

I’ve seen quite a few amazing authors speak at Bookshop Santa Cruz over the decades. Who knows, maybe one day their picky staff will allow me to speak about my book. (I’ll bribe ’em!)

Apart from browsing bookstores, screaming on rollercoasters, and soaking up the sun at the beach, I have two items for the “Miracle of Miracles” category.

I took the girls roller skating (let me tell you….that’s a workout!)

The little, out-of-control skater kids who raced past me were the epitome of scary! And speaking of scary, I cleaned our decrepit fridge. (And no, I wasn’t manic. I was groggy as hell, LOL! I’m groggy every day!)

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It’s no lie! Hopefully it’ll stay clean for longer than two weeks!

Today I’m taking the girls to see a matinee (Ice Age: Collision Course in 3D – yikes! But they’re begging me to see it – I can’t resist their soft, little hugs – I’m a sucker!)

I also plan to catch up on your blogs and your comments sometime today and over the weekend – hurrah! Now you know why I haven’t had time to do much besides gallivant about town.

Sending you my love, & see you next week!

Dyane

I want to send a special shout-out to Bradley of the terrific blog Insights From a Bipolar Bear. We’ve been encouraging each other in our free online Lose It! group as we work on our weight loss/exercise goals. If you’re interested in joining us, mention it in the comments and I’ll send you an invite.

Thank you Bradley!!!

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

When Parents & Executive Directors Suck: A Mama Bear Speaks Out!

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I promised to write about what triggered me last week, and here it is.

I apologize if you find this post boring, especially since I quote email exchanges to explain what happened. But I wanted to keep my promise! 

Most importantly, I wanted to read your comments to see if you have any insights you wish to share. (Be gentle, dear readers – I’m still a bit sensitive from this bullmerde!) 

I know this is a minor problem compared to what many of us with bipolar suffer with, but even ridiculous, stupid crap has the power to cause a setback in my mental health.

Blogging about these kinds of things helps me.

However, please believe me – I never forget how lucky I am to be living in a different reality, warts and all.

Finally, I’m sorry this post is too long (although if you’re a regular reader you’re probably not that surprised!) My in-house editor Lucy went to the beach today.

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In any case, you have my blessing to skim it and/or skip this post! ;) 

The people involved:

My daughter

Yours truly

My daughter’s former friend

Former Friend’s Mom 

Former Friend’s Mom’s Buddy: The Theater Employee 

The Theatre’s Executive Director

Last week I emailed a message to the Executive Director at my daughter’s summer theater program.

My email was clearly marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and (this is also important to note) contained no specific names.

Dear Executive Director,

Unfortunately I have disappointing news.  My daughter will no longer be continuing with the play. We’ve given a tremendous amount of thought to this decision, and we’re sorry to let you down; my daughter most of all.

Her experience hasn’t been the one I hoped she’d have; this is
absolutely not your organization’s fault.  She hasn’t taken to singing and dancing the way we hoped she would. She isn’t enjoying the experience, which would be reason enough for her to discontinue.

However, she signed up for your program after being strongly encouraged by a (now former) school friend. This child was also her best friend who “dumped” my daughter from their friendship literally just before this production began. 

Over the past two years my husband and I found our daughter’s former friend to not only be verbally abusive to our child, but alarmingly destructive to our property whenever she visited our home.

DYANE’S NOTE: I want to give you just a little idea about my child’s former friend’s behvaior. I was home when the following things happened, but at first I wasn’t watching every moment of their playdates. In a flash this kid ripped off all the heads off my daughter’s dolls and she threw them over our deck into the forest. WEIRD! She used a white-out pen to mark up my husband’s work computer monitor and desk. (If she did that to my laptop, I  would have had her wealthy parents buy me a new computer.) She also damaged my daughter’s Santa Barbara Mission model that my child worked on for hours with her Dad – she did it when my daughter was briefly out of the room.

Of course we alerted this child’s parents about her behavior. My husband spoke directly with the child and asked her to please stop the behavior, etc. Her parents gave us empty promises and put far more energy into attending Bay Area 60’s revival rock concerts than helping their kid get the psychological support she desperately needed. I’m leaving out MANY other details about this child’s behavior, but you get the gist of it….so, back to my email to the Executive Director:

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As you can imagine, it has become increasingly difficult for my daughter to be around this child at rehearsals, and between this situation and her
primary reason for leaving, I absolutely cannot in good conscience have her continue with the program.

Thank you,

Dyane Harwood

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Now, here’s what happened after I sent my confidential email to the Executive Director. I know this might be confusing, but please stay with me – it’ll make sense! 

Dear Executive Director,

I am so upset while writing this to you that I’m shaking.

Today after I emailed you, someone from your staff had the audacity to read my CONFIDENTIAL EMAIL and contact my daughter’s former friend’s mother – my email DID NOT EVEN NAME ANYONE. Your staffer communicated erroneous information to this woman as well.

After that breach took place, my husband and I received numerous texts
from the former friend’s distraught mother. As a result, my daughter and I have been extremely upset.

The person at your organization behaved unethically, to say the very least; for him to interfere in such a way and not pay me the courtesy of a simple phone call FIRST is beyond me.

I can’t wrap my head around this gross breach of confidentiality,
disrespect….and frankly disturbing, meddling behavior.

I am deeply sickened  over what happened today. I have a severe, chronic
medical condition for which I’ve been hospitalized seven times since my girl
was born. She has been through HELL because of this. She has been
through things that no child should endure. I’m so furious over this
bizarre incident that I can barely think straight.

I never in a million years would expect something so heinous and
slanderous from your organization.

Dyane

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My Response from the Executive Director

Executive Director here,

I am so sorry for what has transpired and I would like the opportunity to discuss it with you either in person or by telephone. Unfortunately the staff member who noticed your email to me guessed which child you were referring to and overreacted with well meaning intentions, though apparently the request for confidentiality was missed. We sincerely apologize for what followed. Please know that the impulse was not malicious, just impulsive.
OF THAT, DYANE MUTTERS, “YEAH, AND SERIAL KILLERS ARE JUST IMPULSIVE TOO. WHAT THE HELL, LADY???! PLUS HE NEVER APOLOGIZED TO ME!” 
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I would like to discuss this further if possible. I take this very seriously and am so sorry that this situation has escalated to this degree. Please let me know a good time to contact you or when we can meet.
Sincerely,
 
Executive Director
 ——-
I replied (please excuse the messed-up font!):
Thank you for your email...
After working at three nonprofits (Friends of 
Santa Cruz Libraries, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, 
College ofBotanical Healing Arts) I learned how 501(c)3 staff, both paid and volunteer, are not exempt from ethical business practices.

I would've been fired for doing what the person who read my email 
did.

At this point, while I thank you for the invitation to speak via phone or in person, email is the best way for me to communicate.

I'd like for our family to receive a full refund.

Too much damage has been done to myself; I've suffered a health setback because of the person's well-meaning intentions, and damage 
has been done to my sensitive girl as well.

From the Executive Director:

Thanks for responding, of course we will give you a refund…Again, I am so sorry for the pain this has caused you and and your family. I do regret not being able to reprimand our staff member accordingly, but I too want your family to be able to move on. This staff member has a personal relationship to your daughter’s former friend, and I can not promise the issue would end if I discuss the repercussions that occurred as a result of his unprofessionalism.
 
As you can see, this is a dilemma  for me.
(DYANE THINKS, “CRY ME A F*CKING RIVER! IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOUR KID, YOU’D GO BATSHIT TOO!)
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I believe that learning from this act of poor judgment and irresponsibility would be such a useful lesson.
(FROM DY: WE NEEDED A LESSON LIKE THIS LIKE WE NEEDED A HOLE IN OUR HEADS!)
As much as I love our small and close community, sometimes the closeness leads to unsafe, unclear boundaries. Again, I welcome further discussion, but understand your wish to put this behind you.
 
Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely, Executive Director
——–

Okay, so that’s the exchange. 

 

Here’s What I Might Have Done If I Was Manic When This Happened:

  1. Tracked the “well-meaning” person down in public so I could yell at him and make a real scene worthy of his production. I inherited a bit of my mom’s acting talent; she won awards for her acting and worked as a television & stage actress in Los Angeles! I starred in my sixth grade play which was produced by a professional L.A. theater company. I won my audition by having to get angry – it was a modern-day “Taming of the Shrew” and I was Kate. I won’t lie to you – I was VERY good at doing that, long before I was diagnosed!😉

Suffice to say that I could put on a show and then some for our little, podunk town and our “well-intentioned” meddler!

2) Picketed the production performances and call the local papers and television stations!

3) Threaten legal action complete with a letter from my “mental health advocate”

4) Leave post-its with relevant sayings where he’ll find them, i.e. his car window:

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What I’d Still Like to Do

Unknown-1Write this person a letter and let him know the damage he caused, because I think he is clueless. I’d add that when I run into him at the market which we frequent, he best be ready to meet Dyane “Mama Bear” Harwood!

———————

The best news of all is that my daughter is doing well. She’s taking this in stride, and her father and I are supporting her 100%. She feels loved and reassured that we’ll be there for her when she returns to school and sees this former friend. We will be involved parents; we won’t care more about seeing freakin’ Bob Dylan than helping our kid navigate a bully – yes, a passive/aggressive bully!

My problem, which I’m discussing with my counselor today, is how I’ll feel when I run into the former friend’s parents and the kid.

I want nothing to do with them.

Yes, I realize that none of these people work for Satan (as far as I know – there ARE some weirdos up here!!!), but I consider them toxic to my mental health.

Lucky for them, I’m TERRIBLE with confrontation, unless I’m manic! They aren’t going to get a happy ending out of this from me – I don’t want to “hug it out” granola-style with them, or smoke a doobie together, or go to Dance Church ! (That’s how they allegedly roll….)

The mom (who texted me that she and I could discuss what happened while hiking together in my happy redwoods place – um, NO WAY!) is quite aware I need space from her.

I texted her I need space, and she wrote back she’d honor my request. So that’s good, yes? 

All I can say at the end of the day is this:

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Big, big thanks for reading if you made it this far…

See you next week!

love,

Dyane Mama Bear

 

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

 

The Heat Is On!

 

It has been a long time since I’ve skipped writing a weekly blog post, but I almost took a break from writing today. However, I couldn’t resist the blogosphere’s lure – it’s strong, and I always feel better after I write a post.

As you can guess, the reason I came close to skipping is that I’m struggling on several fronts – it’s nothing bipolar-relapse-related or tragic, thank God, but life has been extra-hard since I last wrote. That’s why you might’ve noticed I haven’t commented on your blogs yet, but I promise I’ll do my best to catch up.

Throughout the recent stress I’ve been able to remain binge-free, I’ve continued eating healthy food, and I’ve been taking my redwood walks with Lucy, and all of that is awesome. I know it sounds pompous, but that’s not just awesome – it’s truly miraculous. In the past, the ridiculous, unethical bullshit I’ve recently suffered would’ve led me right back to inhaling my Talenti double chocolate gelato. But dammit, I’m 130 pounds of strength, and I’m on a mission to keep those extra, unnecessary 40 pounds away for good!

Meanwhile, I’m almost to the finish line with my October 1st memoir deadline. I’m using every bit of my free time to work on the manuscript. To that end, I deactivated my Facebook account, I’m taking a “virtual leave of absence” with my email, and I’ve begun weaning myself off my beloved Twitter all so that I can focus my energy where it needs to go: my book.

It feels positive, healthy and empowering to do such things. (It makes it easier to take these breaks knowing that they’re temporary.) If you haven’t ever done so, I highly recommend it. Remember you don’t need any specific reason to do it! Or you can blame it on me!😉

So yes, this week has been a particularly strange, disturbing and draining one. I definitely plan to write about it when I’m not so charged; most likely next week because I’d greatly value your take on what happened. 

As I leave you with that ‘lil cliffhanger, I hope you’ll return to read Birth of a New Brain next Thursday or Friday!

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

love,

Dyane

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

 

Returning to Redwood Therapy

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The magnificent redwoods, my therapists

When I started tapering off bipolar meds in 2012 (which I’ll never do again since I almost died) hypomania caused me to become an exercise fiend. I was experienced at working out because I worked as a certified personal trainer at a gym for a few years. But when given a choice, I definitely preferred exercising outdoors. Bypassing a gym was economical as well, so I felt good about my fitness plan.

The road in front of my home wasn’t pedestrian-friendly; it was “pedestrian-deadly”. Our steep, curvy mountain lane was devoid of sidewalks, and speeding cars barrelled down it every few minutes. I needed a safe walking option, so I headed for nearby Fall Creek State Park, home to a centuries-old redwood grove.

Fall Creek is a tree lover’s dream containing old-growth woods such as Douglas fir, madrone, oak and ponderosa pines. I know it sounds hippie-dippy, but the energy in this forest felt almost magical. A unique sort of quiet enveloped me as soon as I got on a trail. Thick rays of sunlight peeked through the tree branches so that I didn’t feel claustrophobic. I loved smelling the fresh, pure air.

The state park attracted many visitors, but it was so large that I seldom came across other hikers. An occasional horse or two startled me, but they seemed mellow. As much as I enjoyed the lack of people, it was cause for concern, especially as a woman hiking alone. (This was before my glorious, protective collie Lucy came into my life!)  

HobbitHole

A place I call “The Hobbit Hole”

I bought a pepper spray and reviewed how to use it properly.  I always told my husband when I’d go to the woods. He wasn’t thrilled about my hiking in such isolation, but the pepper spray made him feel a little better. Whenever I went to Fall Creek I held the spray in my hand, ready to use it at any moment. I always brought my fully charged cell phone, and I was lucky I had good cell reception in the forest.

There were other risks besides meeting an unsavory human.  Mountain lions have roamed these hills for ages. Sightings were very rare; at least there weren’t any bears!

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A baby puma/mountain lion

However, there have been a few times when I felt that my sanctuary had a sinister feel. I think the creepy sensation was more about my projecting my dark mood upon the innocent forest rather than there being an actual cause.  This gloominess usually happened when the sun disappeared from view.  Sunlight always has had a tremendous affect upon my psyche, and I’ve used a bright Sunbox light for over a decade now.

When my med-free attempt failed and I relapsed, I admitted myself to the mental hospital once again. I was in the unit three times that summer alone. Patients weren’t taken outside unless they had a doctor’s note. (I wasn’t informed of that ludicrous policy when I was there. I found out about it long after I was released. It was truly insane that patients who were able to handle being outside with supervision weren’t exposed to fresh air and sunlight.)

After I came home from the unit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the forest.  I felt like a caged animal who had finally been given her freedom. The day I was able to drive to Fall Creek and walk on the paths I tread so many times before was a momentous accomplishment.  

During my summer hospitalizations there were many times I thought I’d never be in a forest again. After being cooped up in what I can only describe as a horrible hell, it was incredible to use all my senses to savor Fall Creek once more. While I was still depressed, it helped to be around my “redwood therapists” for their very real comfort.

Being in a mental hospital does many things to you.  For some resilient souls, they stay at a unit, they get out, and they don’t look back too much or get stuck when they reflect.  On the other hand, and I don’t use the following term lightly, I know I have PTSD from being in these units multiple times.

The difference between a locked-down unit full of suffering and a spacious forest comprised of graceful trees and streams is enormous. It doesn’t get more “bipolar” than the difference between sterile civilization and majestic nature.

This summer not only did I return to my beloved Fall Creek forest trails, but I brought Lucy for the first time, and per their spirited request, my two girls! Now more than ever before, I’m grateful for the freedom of being able to visit such a stunning, peaceful place with the ones who I love with all my heart.

I hope that each of you enjoys your own special place in nature as often as possible this summer!

Love,

Dyane

Mom & Girls @ Felton

Enjoying a yummy lunch at the historic Cremer House before heading to explore Fall Creek State Park

Girls

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.