Ssssetting My Sssights Lower for Ssssanity’s Sssake

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This post will sound like I’m getting worked up over something minor, but it’s not minor to me. While it’s another diatribe about an attitude I’ve been faced with by the bipolar & postpartum advocacy groups, there are a few new, juicy tidbits to explore. (I’ve written about this before here.)

This blog was created first and foremost to write about postpartum bipolar disorder (bipolar, peripartum onset) and it’s where I feel supported and understood by so many of you! Hence, this post.

I’ve been repeatedly burning myself out after contacting various bipolar & postpartum nonprofits to ask them to include PPBD on their websites, etc. They’ve made it clear they don’t give a damn about my form of bipolar/perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.

Sadly, if a celebrity comes out with PPBD or if PPBD appears in a soap opera storyline, I’ll get my queries returned…

 

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“Yes, I’ve been offered two roles in a feature film! I’ll be portraying a mother with postpartum bipolar disorder, as well as playing the role of her devoted husband!”

Here’s one example:

I asked a bipolar nonprofit to update its website by including a bit of information on bipolar, peripartum onset; in other words mention its existence. I was motivated to ask this group, in part, because I refer my blog followers to their website. I mentioned this fact.

No reply!

 

In general, after I reach out to bipolar/postpartum groups through an email, a tweet, a phone call, or Facebook message, I’m soundly ignored. I don’t even get the courtesy of a brief reply! What’s bizarre is that these organizations’ mission-  their raison d’être is to assist their followers, of which I am one!

Can you see how I have to cool it with my frustration?

Even my canine therapist Lucy told me that it’s not serving me anymore.

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The following situation happened a couple weeks ago. It finally convinced me to shift my reaction to being ignored.

I was rebuffed by an influential bipolar advocate who I’ve admired for a long time. I’ll call her “Dr. Disappointment”. She’s affiliated with a large bipolar organization.

Through a personal referral, my email was forwarded to her. That was truly great! My hopes were high!

In my email I asked that my HuffPost Women postpartum bipolar profile be shared via her organization’s social media. 

Things were looking good. Dr. Disappointment shared my email with her Communications Director, who then emailed me. She wrote that my story would be shared via their “social media”.

This high-visibility bipolar group tweeted once about my article and made no mention of my having postpartum bipolar. Here’s their tweet:

writes about balancing her career, family and mental health. Read her profile on “.

SNOOZEVILLE! Seriously, who gives a $&%&^% after reading that?

There was no accompanying image, which statistics show makes any tweet more inviting. But most significantly, there could have been the tweet I suggested:

“Did you know about an unusual form of postnatal bipolar?”

It’s no surprise that their tweet didn’t get a single retweet & two likes.

I figured,  Oh well…at least it’ll go on their Facebook feed.  But the HuffPost article wasn’t shared through their Facebook newsfeed or via any other outlets.

Why does this ridiculousness even matter?

Well, I noticed that their Facebook feed got a lot more attention than their Twitter feed did. I wanted to give it one last shot to see if my story could be posted on their Facebook page. I wasn’t asking for the moon. I wasn’t asking for money.

I just wanted to reach some other mothers who live with PPBD or who could be helped by knowing about its very existence…c’mon! 

 

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“I am a human being!”

My email from the Grand Poo Bah Communications Director stated that the article would be shared in their social media, not social medium. (Sidenote – I even called the Communications Director, who works in London. I think I’ve called London once before in my 45 years on this planet! It was a big, bloody deal for me to call overseas. That sounds silly, but it was. I left a message for the Communications Director with her charming assistant who sounded like she was racing off for high tea at Harrod’s. I was 100% professional, and I was even rather charming myself. Having worked in three successful nonprofits, I was used to behaving that way.)

 

The Communications Director totally blew me off.

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I wasn’t giving up just yet! (Can you believe this? In all honesty, I wanted to keep at pursuing my Grand Quest rather than sort piles of laundry, shelve clean dishes, and pick up dog poop…)

Back to Dr. Disappointment. She’s another mom with bipolar. Apart from holding a high office at the bipolar nonprofit, she’s studying mothers with bipolar disorder.  You think she’d be cool with my contacting her – not stalking her, but simply emailing her once. 

I emailed her directly explaining the importance of the article being shared through their Facebook feed, and I asked if she could help me see that through.

Now, I have no idea what is going on with Dr. Disappointment’s life.

That’s a very important point for me to keep in mind.

It’s not all me-me-me. (Or is it?) ;)

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But I was very surprised, given her personal and professional background and current research project, to be ignored. If she was overwhelmed, she could’ve delegated my email to someone else at her organization.

I had to let it go, of course. 

And in the “So what?” tradition of my English high school teacher Mrs. Mary Redclay:

What are the lessons to learn from having your cause, whatever that may be, get ignored, minimized, or disputed?

Do you hit the bottle?

No.

Do you binge on chocolate?

Yeah.

Do you talk to your dog, telling her how mean these people are?

Of course.

Do you set your sights lower and wait to promote this disorder until your book comes out next year? (My hopes are that my book about PPBD will give it a bit more credibility. It helps that highly respected perinatal psychiatrists, scholars and other movers & shakers have contributed to it.)

Yes.

So I’m going to try to hold back on the crusade for now…it won’t be a complete dissolution, but I’ll make a concerted effort.

I’ll follow up on this subject because it’s my personal nemesis…and writing about it always helps, as do your comments & likes.

I’m open to your advice too, as always! Can you please just charge me 5 cents?

 

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I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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My PMAD (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) Gets No Respect! Part Two

My PMAD (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) Gets No Respect! Part Two

 

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My favorite high school English teacher was Mrs. Redclay.

Mrs. Redclay was different than my other English teachers at Palisades High School. Instead of the Shakespearean canon, she taught us Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Dressed in her 70’s-era outfits, she stood out among the conservative, monied set of West Los Angeles; not quite a hippie, yet definitely eccentric. 

Mrs. Redclay wrote my college recommendation letter and noted, “Dyane has a fine value system that reflects deep respect for herself and others.” 

While I must admit that wasn’t exactly true back then,

I’m all about r-e-s-p-e-c-t now!

Especially when it comes to recognizing ALL eight perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. 

Sock it to me!

When we wrote our essay assignments, Mrs. Redclay implored us to answer the question “So what?” in each piece.

Sometimes students received their papers back with a “So what?” scrawled at the top instead of the highly anticipated “A+”. My English teacher’s “So what?” lesson has stayed with me for a whopping thirty years.

And in this post I’ll attempt to answer “So what?” (Please don’t grade me.) 

You may be wondering…

Dyane, with all the important things going on in our world, who cares if people don’t know about this obscure postpartum mood disorder/form of bipolar disorder. There are thousands of other rare illnesses. You don’t hear folks afflicted with those maladies whining; they’re just trying to survive, for Pete’s Sake!

Good point.

However, even though postpartum bipolar disorder isn’t as common as the other seven PMAD’s, I wouldn’t classify it as obscure. If postpartum bipolar disorder was an obscure condition, I’d still be writing this post because we all have issues close to our hearts, and this one is mine.

I know I’m not the only one who has suffered with PPBD, but I feel that way. I was diagnosed in 2007, and now I’m reaching out in the hopes I can connect with those who understand life with this type of mood disorder.

 

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Whenever I check my Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds I’m reminded that both the postpartum and bipolar communities ignore PPBD’s existence. Why? Ignorance or thinking that PPBD doesn’t count as a bona fide perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and form of bipolar.

I’ve found that the best way I can channel my frustration is to publicize PPBD’s existence, explain its exact definition, and to share anecdotal experiences through this blog.

I’m also contacting PMAD and bipolar organizations, doctors, researchers, and advocates. (And getting blown off by some that I can’t believe don’t give a damn-  more on that next week!)

I’m always on the lookout for other women diagnosed with PPBD.

While I have certain significant things in common with women diagnosed with some of the other postpartum mood disorders or have bipolar disorder, PPBD is unique. 

To visit most PMAD websites and never see anything mentioned about my specific mood disorder has made me feel that PPBD isn’t valid or worthy of support.  Pardon my potty mouth, but it feels like crap. Sounds ridiculous, but if you haven’t experienced it firsthand, I ask for your empathy. 

Whenever an opportunity arises I share my PPBD information.  An hour ago while surfing Twitter, @WmnMentalHealth (Women’s Mental Health, a perinatal & reproductive psychiatry information center at Massachusetts General Hospital) tweeted a link to the Washington Post article “8 Things You Didn’t Know About Perinatal Mood Disorders“. I read the article. 

Due to the title, I thought that PPBD might be mentioned, but that wasn’t the case. There was no mention of PPBD. I took time to write a detailed comment thanking the article’s author for addressing perinatal mental health. I provided some information about PPBD. I tweeted the link to my PPBD Part One post with the article’s author. She “liked it” it, but she chose not to retweet it. 

Whatever!

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In time, the postpartum and bipolar communities

will recognize the ignored PMAD: bipolar, peripartum onset/postpartum bipolar disorder.

PPBD counts too.

#NotJustPPD  #EveryPMADCounts

 

Thanks to the organizations and individuals that tweeted & reblogged Part One – this is not a complete list. I’ll always be grateful to each of you!

The International Marce Society for Perinatal Mental Health, Joel Sax, Postpartum Stress Center, Dr. Katayune Kaeni, Supporting Mamas, Bipolar Blogs, International Bipolar Foundation, Postpartum Support International, Kitt O’Malley, Two Bipolar Chicks, L.E. Henderson, Liza Brock, Alchemists Heart, NAMI Santa Clara, Ann Preston Roselle, A Mothers Sanctuary, The Sage Mum, Yvette Nicole Hess, The Lithium Chronicles, Jeanleesworld, The Perinatal Mental Health Project in South Africa, Jennifer Moyer, Sharon K. Gerdes, Olivia Rodriguez of The Bipolar Diary, Demonic Divas, Jessica McNeill Azar, Dr. Tams Van Rheenen, Dr. S. Melzter-Brody, Dr. Helen M. Farrell, OzoneparkPatti, Tidbitsofexperi, DBSA South Orange County, Pacific Post Partum, M1keM1n, CityPsych Wellness, The Maternal Health Task Force, and the flagship program of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health.   Please forgive me if I left anyone out, and please comment to remind me you helped out, so I can thank you in the next post! ;) 

I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

 

 

 

 

My PMAD (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) Gets No Respect! Part One

My PMAD (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) Gets No Respect! Part One

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Happy Thursday, my friends!

In the wake of the recent Marianne Williamson “just pray and meditate and love postpartum depression away” sh*tstorm, I’d like to share this post with you again. When I published it seven months ago, I tagged it incorrectly and it didn’t reach many people.

I want this information out there…more now than ever before. Yesterday I was rebuffed by a Very Important Bipolar Advocate who doesn’t think my (arguably) least-known form of bipolar disorder and least-known perinatal mood and anxiety disorder matters.

It matters. 

If you reblog this, you’ll get paid! (in good karma! ;)

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Since 2013 I’ve abstained from writing this post because I worried it wouldn’t apply or appeal to most of you, even if you have bipolar disorder.

I finally decided to spill the beans.

Why?

Because it feels good, it’s free, and most importantly, there’s the chance this information may be relevant to a reader, maybe even you!

Postpartum bipolar disorder is often ignored or misunderstood by the postpartum and bipolar communities. It helps to know what postpartum bipolar disorder is, exactly, as different definitions are floating around the world.

So here goes – PPBD 101, if you will! ;)

My mood disorder postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD) is also sometimes referred to as bipolar, peripartum onset in the DSM-5. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association and widely used by psychiatrists to classify mental disorders.) While I’m currently seeking a more recent statistic, in 2008 it was found in the United States that 29 out of 1000 women were affected by postpartum bipolar disorder.*

Here’s what PPBD is not:

PPBD is NOT postpartum depression (PPD or PND) or antenatal (during pregnancy) depression.

PPBD is NOT postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. 

PPBD is NOT postpartum anxiety, postpartum panic, or postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder/PTSD. 

PPBD is NOT postpartum psychosis (PPP).  

It’s important to note that postpartum psychosis and postpartum bipolar disorder often manifest together, but postpartum bipolar disorder is NOT always accompanied by postpartum psychosis. 

To reiterate, the two severe mental illnesses PPP and PPBD are NOT always one and the same!

 

Unfortunately medical professionals, websites, and articles are misinforming the public about the correct definitions of PPP and PPBD.  

Most of the time PPBD is omitted from lists of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’s).

This bums me out, especially when these omissions occur on high-traffic websites, which I’ll discuss in Part Two as there’s a twist involved.

Here’s an example of the kinds of errors I encounter:

In order for me to be notified of the latest perinatal mental health research, I created a Google alert for the phrase “postpartum bipolar”. Once in a blue moon I’m alerted about women with PPBD who are profiled in the media, such as this article that popped up last month about an awesome mom named Sarah Hutchison. 

Sarah Hutchinson is someone who fits the PPBD diagnosis bill, and it turns out I know her from my Facebook days.

As cool as journalist Karen Longwell’s “Sarah Hutchison Finds a New Path” article is, the piece contains subtle-yet-erroneous information. Sarah was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder in 2008. Longwell states, “On Mother’s Day, 2010, she was hospitalized and doctors determined she had bipolar disorder, but it was no longer a postpartum illness.”  

Gong!  

Longwell was off the mark. Once a mother is diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder, she has bipolar disorder. The “postpartum” qualifier simply explains when the bipolar disorder was triggered.  

A 2013 CTVNews article that got PPBD right was titled “Baby Pinks? Postpartum Euphoria Can Be As Dangerous as Baby Blues“. It contains an interview with a Toronto-based psychotherapist specializing in postpartum mental health named Maya Hammer.

Regarding postpartum hypomania and mania Hammer remarked, “In many women, the condition eventually clears up. But for others, it’s the beginning of a long battle with postpartum bipolar disorder.” 

“Long battle” is an excellent way to put it. 

I’ve suffered with PPBD since 2007 and until there’s a cure, my battle shall continue. I was so glad to find this article, and I wish there were more mainstream articles published with such accurate information.

I was faced with a more significant error a few weeks ago.

I spoke with a local psychiatrist who told me that he considered postpartum bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis to be the same.  While postpartum psychosis often presents with manic symptoms, which is what makes this all confusing, it’s not always associated with postpartum bipolar.

In other words, I had postpartum mania, but I wasn’t psychotic. The stack of my hospital records delineating my diagnostic codes and symptoms and behaviors backs that up.

Make any sense? I know it’s confusing.

Despite my nine years of PPBD research, after my exchange with the physician, I grew paranoid about my knowledge, so I consulted a doctor and nurse who have studied perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in depth. I couldn’t believe my luck – within just an hour of my contacting these brilliant, busy women, they emailed me substantive, definitive research material supporting that PPP and PPBD can most definitely be two separate conditions.  

In the DSM-5 there is a peripartum onset specifier with bipolar disorder (pp. 152-153 DSM 5). I was emailed a scan of the DSM-5 pages so I could see it for myself. There is no mention of psychosis in the section which includes peripartum onset of bipolar disorder

After my friends came to my rescue, I felt confident enough to email the doctor. I haven’t received a reply yet.

The fact that even perinatal psychiatrists experts aren’t clear about what postpartum bipolar disorder entails is a major reason why I’m writing my book. Part Two of this blog post will further examine about why any of this really matters.

I’ll explain the Postpartum Progress conundrum and throw in an ode to my high school English teacher – it’s all connected. 

Part Two will be published next Thursday – thanks for reading!!

Have an awesome 4th of July!

take care,

Dyane

 

Thanks to my mentor Dr. Walker Karraa and the extraordinary mental health advocate/mom Ann Preston Roselle of Bipolar and Me  for medical research assistance. 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of  Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growthwill be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016. 

*Vesga-López O, Blanco C, Keyes K, Olfson M, Grant BF, Hasin DS

Stable, Manic & Depressed Letters to the Editor – My Greatest Hits!

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Suellene Petersen, Editor-in-Chief of the Press Banner

Suellene joined the Press Banner staff last year and I’ve become a fan. One obvious reason is because Suellene liked my recent Letter to the Editor I sent her last week. (My letter appears at the end of this post.) I also love seeing a woman in this job because female newspaper editors are rare.

I’m excited that Suellene will help me promote our mountain community’s only free support group for women with mood disorders. She’ll feature an article about the “Women with Mood Disorders” support group sometime during May, Mental Health Month. 

And now, on to the nitty gritty:

Over the years when I’ve become particularly defrosted about an issue, I’ve taken the opportunity to write a Letter to the Editor to a local paper. I don’t usually write these missives when I’m placid. (The exception is when I’m writing a thank-you letter; those are always fun and easy to write.)

My modus operandi is to write when I’m seething. My blood pressure soars as I pound away at my innocent keyboard, but writing serves as a beautiful catharsis. I always feel better after I’m done.

So is writing a Letter to the Editor free therapy?

Yes!

I’m sharing some of my favorite letters with you.  

One time when I was very peeved I wrote to the acclaimed editor-in-chief/author Greg Archer. Ironically, my hissy fit led to a fantastic friendship and writing mentorship that thrives to this day!

I encourage you to write your own Letter to the Editor. Who knows what might happen? If your letter gets published, I’ll share it in a future blog post!

I’ll start with a shiny, happy letter that was written when I was depressed:

Good Times, February 2011, “Nice ‘Peer’”

Thank you, Gretchen Wegrich, for your excellent articlePeer to Peerabout Mental Health Client Action Network’s incredible array of community services for those suffering with mood disorders (GT 2/11). At age 37, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Last year I founded the Santa Cruz County Chapter of the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Alliance) which offers free, confidential peer support groups for those living with bipolar disorder and/or depression. The way I see it, the more high-quality, safe peer support groups, the better! For more information about DBSA Santa Cruz please visit DBSA’s website, http://www.dbsalliance.org.
Dyane Leshin-Harwood, Santa Cruz

There’s the “I’m Trying to Gain Points with My Husband By Promoting His Book” category:

Good Times, June 2013, “Good Flight”

Thank you so much for writing this fine piece on Craig Harwood’s book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.  It’s cool to know that we had an aviation pioneer in our very own neck of the woods.

Dyane Leshin-Harwood | Santa Cruz

Backstory is needed for the next letter, which was written in 2013:

In 2013, I was in the process of tapering off my bipolar meds. I landed a book deal about living without medication, with a foreword by Dr. Liz Miller. This brilliant woman was featured in Stephen Fry’s documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and she was the first female neurosurgeon in the U.K. Dr. Miller had bipolar disorder, and she lived an entire decade without medications, remaining stable. She was working as a general physician when I connected with her, and doing well. My book deal was with a different publisher than my current one. When I relapsed, I had to back out of my contract with the publisher, and I was hospitalized three times within two months.  

There were only two positives to that experience. 1) I fully accepted medication into my life and stopped demonizing it, and 2) This letter led to my finding a kindred spirit friend.

The following letter was written during a fit of manic pique.

Good Times, February 2013,  There Are ‘Silver Linings’

For years I have enjoyed Greg Archer’s articles; moreover, I loved his book Shut Up, Skinny Bitches! but I respectfully disagree with his movie review of  Silver Linings Playbook. I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2007 just six weeks postpartum. I almost lost my life to this mental illness numerous times, but I am now in remission. (I’ll be explaining how I became well holistically in my book to be published in 2014.) My L.A. Philharmonic violinist father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so I witnessed firsthand how bipolar could destroy a family.

Mr. Archer states that actor Bradley Cooper “lacks believability” and is “grating on the nerves.” I felt that Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of a man with bipolar disorder was accurate and heartfelt. I loved this movie; and it made me become a Robert DeNiro fan as well. I hope it wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards! To cope with this stigmatizing mood disorder, I founded the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) of Santa Cruz County, which offers free, peer-run support groups for those suffering from bipolar and/or depression and DBSA also serves as a resource to family members and friends. For information email dyane@baymoon.com
Dyane Leshin-Harwood, Ben Lomond

Then there’s the Bermuda Triangle region of my brain that doesn’t remember reading the Malibu Times, nor writing a letter to them that follows the Malibu Times article excerpt below! 

“Fit to serve, Peak says,” by  Knowles Adkisson , Associate Editor of the Malibu Times, July 26, 2012

Last week, Malibu City Councilmember Skylar Peak confirmed that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a doctor at UCLA in early May. Peak attributed the diagnosis to stress caused by personal issues involving his family. Peak said he is currently taking lithium, a common medication used to treat bipolar disorder. Peak said he has no plans to step down or take a leave of absence from the City Council. 

When asked if he is currently mentally fit to serve on the City Council, Peak responded, “My answer is absolutely, 100 percent, there’s no question.”Currently, Peak said he is taking 1200 milligrams of lithium per day. Peak said he had never taken prescription medications before he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in early May. Since his diagnosis, he said he has had two separate voluntary one-week stays as part of his treatment at a treatment center in Sedona, Arizona, called the Alternative to Meds Center. In late May, Peak left for a two-week surfing trip to Indonesia, which caused him to miss the May 29 meeting of the City Council.

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Malibu Times Editor’s note: The following is a comment from malibutimes.com in response to the article “Fit to serve, Peak says,” July 26, 2012

Malibu Times, August 2012, “Stop the Stigma”

Bravo to Skylar Peak! I commend you so much for being “out” about having bipolar disorder and for asserting that you are mentally fit to serve on the council.

I grew up in Pacific Palisades, the daughter of a manic depressive first violinist who was lauded by Leonard Bernstein for his musical genius. Many people in my father’s orchestra have mood disorders as well as in all branches of the entertainment industry. This is a well-documented fact –  – see Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison’s book Touched With Fire.

I, too, have bipolar disorder. I am a University of California college graduate, and I’ve been married for over a decade with two remarkable little girls. I founded the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) Chapter of Santa Cruz County, which offers free, peer-run support groups to those with mood disorders.

I’m sure a good part of the Los Angeles population has bipolar disorder and they don’t have the ability to be open about their disorder for many compelling reasons, sadly, mainly due to the social stigma. Many people with bipolar are known to be unusually talented but they are shunned.

Like Skylar, I take lithium. I take 900 mg a day, and I fall within the therapeutic range as far as blood levels go (I used to take 1200). I just wanted to take a little less as long as my blood levels were safe.

If you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, and you need support, please contact NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and/or DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).

Be proud of who you are. People with bipolar disorder are no different than those with cancer or diabetes. Stop the stigma!

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, Santa Cruz

And continuing with the anti-stigma campaign in my hometown:

This Letter to the Editor addressed the use of the word “crazy” in response to another resident’s Letter to the Editor. I was very gung-ho when I wrote my two cents; I’ve softened my stance since then, but I stand by what I wrote:

Press Banner, May 10, 2012Avoid stigmatizing mental illness”

EDITOR,

I agreed with every word of Claudio Sebastian Nobile’s letter to the editor (“Reading stunt sets bad example,” Letters, May 4) until the last sentence, in which Nobile stated “…be more like an adult, not like a crazy person.” I take issue with the word “crazy,” as it perpetuates the stigma of mental illness. A better way to express himself might have been “not like a person with poor judgment.” As the mother of two young girls, I’m teaching them that it is not OK to use the word “crazy,” as it is derogatory. I hope Mr. Nobile, a fellow parent, will act as a good role model to his girls when it comes to using appropriate language and helping our world break the stigma of mood disorders.

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, Ben Lomond

I was happy that the Press Banner chose to publish my letter.  I received two comments on their website in response to my letter. One comment was positive, and the other one, submitted by “Crazy Guy” was ignorant and rude.  He wrote:

“So now were not supposed to use the word “crazy” too? Add that to the list of forbidden words along with midget, colored, negro, fat,..and all the rest.  I’m telling you, the politically correct need to publish a book on the correct words to use every year and which ones we’re not supposed to use.”

“Crazy Guy” indicated a lack of empathy (ya think???) and I felt he demonstrated that he was passive/aggressive by selecting his name to be “Crazy Guy” in the first place.  I wrote one final response:

“I know we can’t micromanage all our words – that would be ridiculous. But once mental illness affects you or your family, your life is different. Your viewpoints change. If you have kids – that makes a difference too.  I understand where you are coming from, but your anger ruins the effectiveness of your message.”

“Crazy Guy” never responded to me.  Quelle surprise!

I realize that the word “crazy” is deeply embedded in our vernacular, and each of us has only so much energy to devote to changing our language habits as well as others’ speech.  But if we all chip away a little bit here, and a little there, a sea change can occur.

I’ve taught my daughters that it’s not acceptable for them to use the word “crazy”.  I know I’m many things in this life, but crazy is not one of them.  It’s just the name of a catchy Seal song (and the classic Patsy Cline song) nothing more, nothing less.

Finally, here’s the slow-the-bleep-down-when-you drive section:

San Lorenzo Valley/Scotts Valley Press Banner, October, 2011 

Dyane Harwood, Ben Lomond
 
And last but not least, to be published this Friday:
 
Press Banner, January 29, 2016 “Highway 9 Is Not A Freeway”
I’ll admit it. I’ve sinned. I’ve driven faster than the 35 MPH speed limit on Highway 9’s curves. Once my two daughters were old enough to read the speed limit signs, they’ve acted as my personal California Highway Patrol officers, often saying, “Mommy, slow down!” When my kids aren’t in the car, I’m tempted to drive faster than what’s posted on the speed limit signs. In particular I feel pressure from aggressive tailgaters to speed up. We all know there are few places to pull aside safely on Highway 9.
This “rush-at-all-expenses, even your life mentality” is something I’m familiar with. I learned how to drive on Los Angeles freeways, the land of the ultimate unsafe driving. But San Lorenzo Valley is not Los Angeles, and trust me, we don’t want Highway 9 to become more like Los Angeles’ Harbor Freeway.  During Tuesday’s downpour I couldn’t believe how many drivers raced too quickly on Highway 9 given the puddles, small landslides, and challenge of trying to see through torrents on windshields. I realize that if you’re reading this letter, you’re most likely a safe driver. But if you were crossing the line of safety that day (or any other) please think twice the next time you want to speed in any kind of weather. As your fellow community member, I vow to also slow down when that temptation strikes. Please share this message with your loved ones and friends.
 
Dyane Leshin-Harwood, Ben Lomond
If you made it this far, you’ll get a brand-new blogging award:
“The Marathoner Award”. I’ll ask blahpolar to create a meme for it. Please notify me in the comments if I shall to bestow you with this illustrious award! ;)
Thanks for reading. Think about writing a Letter to the Editor…and see you next week!
love, Dyane

I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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Cashing In On Postpartum Depression, Hypomania, Star Wars’ Maz & More

 

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Maz

This has been an eventful week….in both good ways, bad ways and odd ways!

GOOD: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Connection

On Monday I took my girls to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I saw the first Star Wars long ago when I was seven-years-old. It was released in May, 1977. I watched it at one of the best theaters in the world in Westwood, California.

I remember standing in a very long line on Wilshire Boulevard and I loved everything about film. Specifically, Harrison Ford. Even at age seven – it was innocent, I tell you! I thought Carrie Fisher was beautiful and cool – I wanted to be her. (Huh! Little did I know that thirty years later we’d share the same diagnosis – you know what that is!). Mark Hamill wasn’t half bad either – those pretty blue eyes, you know.

The night before I took my eight-year-old and ten-year-old to see the seventh episode of Star Wars, my mom emailed me this link to an article about Mrs. Rose Gilbert.

Mrs. Gilbert was one of my Palisades High School English teachers and known by everyone as “Mama G”. She also happened to be an influential teacher upon one of her students named J.J. Abrams.

You might recognize his name. He co-created little television shows including Lost, Alias and Felicity among others. Abrams also directed and co-wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Abrams based the character of Maz on Mrs. Gilbert, which I found hilarious.

As I watched Maz’s scenes in Star Wars, I wouldn’t have guessed any major connection between her and Mama G. personality-wise; for me it was more in their facial expressions. 

I admired Mrs. Gilbert for her teaching style and reputation, but I didn’t have a special rapport with the her way I did with Mrs. Redclay, another English teacher at “Pali”.

Mrs. Gilbert announced her retirement at age 93, and she was the oldest full-time teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and the entire country at that time. At that ripe age she taught three AP English classes in the same room she taught in for 51 years! She didn’t live long enough to see herself as Maz in Star Wars, but perhaps she knows about it wherever she is now.

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Maz/Mrs. Rose Gilbert

 

BAD: Hypomania

I’ll start off by emphasizing that what happened could have been much worse, and it was triggered by something very good. Last Thursday, a wonderful profile was published about me and my work in HuffPost Women.

My head & ego grew ten sizes bigger, but I’ll be honest with you – I loved the positive attention. I’ve been considered a loser for a long time by certain people due to my bipolar disorder, and it felt good to be recognized for my advocacy, running a free women with mood disorders support group, mentioned how helpful Postpartum Support International  is as a resource for moms, etc.

The article was written by parenting expert Dr. Laurie Hollman, and she’s great writer so that was icing on the cake! I was thrilled to get the word out about postpartum bipolar/bipolar, peripartum onset since it’s one of the least-known forms of bipolar disorder!

In case you missed my 500 tweets and my last post mentioning the article link begging you all to look at it, like it and comment, here’s the link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-hollman-phd/a-successful-working-moth_b_8980628.html

Huffington Post is weird because as far as I can tell, one must use Facebook to “like”, share and comment about articles. Up to last weekend, I took a six-month-long Facebook break, and I was very proud about that. It was good for me because it felt healthy, and I got my social media fix from Twitter. 

Last weekend I borrowed my husband’s Facebook account to reply to a few comments. Understandably, he wanted me to quit using his account/identity, so I bit the bullet and reactivated my Facebook account. I returned to my wicked ways and reconnected with a bunch of Facebook friends.

I stayed in front of my screen far too long every day since I wanted to promote the HuffPost Women article while it was still relatively new. All the stimulation and excitement of having a wonderful article “out there” kicked my brain into hypomanic-overdrive. I wasn’t sleeping enough, and I was all over the place.

At least I recognized what was happening.

I had my PRN bottle of Seroquel/quetiapipne at the ready. Call it what you may – that stuff works to get you to sleep. For that, I’m grateful. But with any atypical antipsychotic, there are drawbacks. It’s not Mother Nature’s lavender, that’s for certain. For me it means that a relatively measly amount of 25mg/night causes next-day grogginess, which I can handle, and vivid, terrifying nightmares, which I can’t handle, especially when they involve my Scottish collie Lucy. I won’t go into it except to say that a sinkhole was involved and I still remember it and shudder. 

I was able to get enough sleep after using Seroquel two nights in a row and I’m cutting back on the internet time. The hypomania is going away. 

ODD: Postpartum Confessions

A few months ago I found out about a cool website called Postpartum Confession in which anyone could submit her postpartum story, with or without anonymity according to one’s preference.

I emailed an essay about my postpartum bipolar experience to them and it was posted. I was very happy about that, and the founder wrote me an email that made me feel great about sharing my particular experience. I didn’t read the website’s terms because it seemed very straightforward to me. I thought it was a public service in which women could read and share their postpartum secrets the way they felt most comfortable and respected.

Last night I did my nightly habit. I browsed two separate new book categories on my Kindle Fire: “bipolar” and “postpartum”. I do this because I like to know about upcoming new, interesting bipolar and postpartum-related books. I sorted “postpartum” using “publication date” and it showed me the most recent publication:  this. 

My Postpartum Confession story had been chosen to be included in a compilation of stories and sold for $7.99. Okay, I was flattered – don’t get me wrong – I was, but it was kind of weird.  I hadn’t been notified about this project. The website terms (see below for you wanna-be lawyers, or bona fide lawyers) didn’t state that our stories might possibly go into a book for sale.

I know that by submitting my story I was taking a chance no matter what the website terms said. What matters most is not money but sharing postpartum journeys and helping others women. Still, I find it sort of creepy. However, my husband Craig (an award-winning published author who is familiar with book contract-ese) agrees with me that it’s creepy!

That’s always a plus in this household.

Terms of Service:

You agree that the story you are submitting is true. If submitting photos, you have rights to the photos and are not violating any copyrights. You acknowledge that you are voluntarily submitting your story and/or photo, and grant Postpartum Confession permission to use your pictures and verbage without restriction. You expressly release Postpartum Confession or representatives or any institution transmitting, or exhibiting your picture from any claims arising from such use or distribution. You agree to be fully responsible for your own participation and hold Postpartum Confession or representatives harmless from any liability arising from the use of your materials. You grant Postpartum Confession permission to reuse and re-purpose your story and/or picture for promotional, publicity, or organizational purposes.

And on that gobbledy-gooky note, I bid you adieu. It’s time to pick up my kids at the elementary school parking lot, otherwise known as Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell. Please forgive my typos and other writing sins, as I’m obviously not editing this at all.

The horror, the horror!

Love you all, and see you next week!

Dyane

I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by   Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

I Made The News Today, Oh Boy! ;) Please Read!

Dy & Book

I’d like to ask each of you a BIG favor…and then I’ll owe you one!

Please visit this link at Huff Post Women and leave a comment, a Facebook like, a Facebook share, and whatever else the page allows you to do. If you read it, I’d be honored! ;)

I’d like to thank the author of the profile, Dr. Laurie Hollman. She’s a wonderful advocate for women’s perinatal mental health. Some of her previous articles contain interviews with women living with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Hollman’s new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, received rave reviews and it’s super-afffordable on Amazon. Her website is here, and on Twitter she’s at:

Thanks again for taking the time to support this article. It means A LOT to me, as my publisher Post Hill Press will be checking it out. Like I mentioned, I’ll owe you one!

Have a great weekend!

love, Dyane

I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by   Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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Becoming More Lizard-like (Another Ode to Writing Rejection)

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“Tell me about your childhood!”

 

Hello there!

It’s me, your epidermally abundant friend, sharing my latest literary brush-off with you from my neck of the (red)woods.

Yes, I’m developing a thicker skin, and it even grew a few millimeters more overnight!

At least in my most recent turndown, a different one than what I wrote about last week, I knew there was a strong chance my submission would be rejected. Even so, I felt stung upon receiving the news.  

The same-old thoughts paced frantically through my brain which included You’re not good enough!, Why even bother?, and of course the classic:

Your writing sucks! 

Then I switched gears.

I reminded myself that my writing reflects who I am, and no one else can create rambling prose quite the way I do! Simplistic as that may sound, it comforts me.

The editor who rejected my writing is just one person. With her own subjectivityIt’s not like a panel of twenty experts decided my writing wasn’t up to snuff.

I licked my ego wounds. I vented a bit around the house and sat down at my laptop. My writing muse/collie Lucy promptly sat gently and warmly in her special spot, which is upon my foot. I felt better than I thought I would.

I started writing again. It was the best antidote to literary rejection besides chocolate.

 

For fun, I grabbed my mental surfboard to go online surfing to review  famous author rejection letters. I came across these excerpts from Writer’s Relief. One excerpt falls in the WTF category – can you guess what # it is?

  1. Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
  2. Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
  3. J. G. Ballard: The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.
  4. Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
  5. Ernest Hemingway (regarding The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.

Writer’s Relief Inc.’s blog post “How to Interpret Rejection Letters from Literary Agents And Editors” is worth a visit. I especially like the opening paragraph:

Rejection letters from literary agents and editors of literary journals can be discouraging—especially impersonal, one-line form letters. But rejection is a necessary part of the writing process, and creative writers should know how to interpret the information in rejection letters and then use this knowledge to improve their submissions.

Sounds good to me.

As my loyal friend, hilarious visionary and former Good Times editor, the gifted author Greg Archer, often says:

ONWARD 

 

 

I’m now on Instagram! You can follow me here: birthofanewbrain

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by   Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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