It is difficult to return to the time when everything unraveled in my life in such a terrifying way after Marilla was born in 2007. I must re-visit my past, however, for the sake of my book and for the possibility that I may help other women by sharing my experience. Through some preliminary research on the internet I am discovering more mothers diagnosed with postpartum bipolar than I had previously thought. I’ve only cracked the surface of potential interviewees, it seems. I think that most of them will agree to speak with me (I hope so!) because they will be able to help others by recounting their postpartum journeys.
Just this past weekend I was reading a brand-new book called “Back from the Brink: True Stories and Practical Help for Overcoming Depression and Bipolar” by the Australian mental health advocate Graeme Cowan. Cowan, who survived several suicide attempts, profiles eight people who have suffered with either depression or bipolar disorder. One of those subjects is Jennifer Hentz Moyer, who experienced an agonizing postpartum psychosis and also had postpartum bipolar disorder. After reading the chapter about Jennifer, I immediately located her website. She is an active mental health advocate, speaker and writer, and she would be an ideal subject for my book. I hope she will agree to participate in my project when the time comes. (Her website is http://www.jennifermoyer.com)
So now I have one hundred pages I wrote for “Birth of a New Brain” just sitting on my MacBook’s desktop waiting for my review, and frankly I’m scared to open the file. Due to having memory loss from electroconvulsive therapy and just a plain-old poor memory to begin with, I can’t remember what I wrote about for the most part. I’m going to take baby steps in the meantime before taking the writerly plunge.
One way to be proactive in facing my fear of my past is to read what my postpartum doula/author Salle Webber wrote about me in her book “The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care – A Guide for Postpartum Doulas and Caregivers”. She discussed my case in just a couple pages, using the pseudonym “Elaine”. Salle did not mention that she was unable to be with us during the critical first four days postpartum as she had a contagious skin infection, which she notified me about when we were at the maternity hospital. We had no family members or friends who were able to help us. Moreover, we did not have a back-up postpartum doula. Now that I reflect upon that week I wonder: if we had a professional postpartum doula with us from day one, would the following two months have been less traumatic? Would I have escaped the mental hospital at six weeks postpartum? I highly doubt it, but if I could do it over again, I would arrange for a back-up doula if possible and advise other families to do so.
Here’s the opening section in “The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care” :
Elaine was a bright and talented writer and mother with bipolar disorder. The first day after the birth of her second baby girl, she became manic. She found herself flooded with images and thoughts, she couldn’t sleep, and felt no need to eat. By the third day, she had recognized herself as being in a manic state and decided she must write a book on postpartum mania! She stayed up all night writing (note from Dyane: the clinical term for my non-stop writing mentioned is known as hypergraphia.) feeling productive; she was providing a beacon for other moms. When I arrived to help the family on the fourth day she enthusiastically described this to me. Her body was beginning to crash from the extreme lack of rest and replenishment. This was the beginning of a challenging experience for me, and certainly for Elaine and her family.
There’s more to that story, of course, and Salle’s excellent writing captures her time with us so well. I’m tempted to add the rest of that section, but I’ll hold back! (Consider buying her book if it’s a topic that interests you or if you know a family considering investing in a doula. ) The book is very comprehensive and Salle’s passion for being a doula shines throughout every chapter.
Despite all the literal and figurative craziness that went on when Salle helped our family, I enjoyed our one-on-one time together very much. I loved how she was also a writer and that she was an avid hula dancer who adored Hawaiian culture. She had a great nickname: The Hula Doula! Salle gave me a beautiful gift: a gorgeously written book called “Aloha, Kauai – A Childhood” by Waimea Williams. Salle also connected me with her publisher at Praeclarus Press and I sent them my book proposal, which they accepted last year before I relapsed off medications.
I haven’t been in touch with Salle for a while except through Facebook updates, but I think of her with “aloha” and I always will. (The real kind of aloha, that is!) For more about aloha please see my past post: