Hunkering Down

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HUNKER

Dictionary.com defines “hunker” as: to hide, hide out, or take shelter (usually followed by down):

“The escaped convicts hunkered down in a cave in the mountains.”

 

Now, I’m not an escaped convict, but on Tuesday I’ll be hunkering down in a cave-like office in the mountains to finish writing Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.  I have seventy pages written so far, and it has “only” taken me over two years to do that, ha ha ha!

I have some amazing mentors willing to help me, including the bestselling author Wendy K. Williamson (I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival), Lisa E. Henderson (author of A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom and Thief of Hades) and last but not least, my husband Craig, who wrote the multiple-award-winning Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.  

Despite having had the opportunity to “just do it”, I keep procrastinating.

Today my Facebook newsfeed reminded me of my dilemma.  A famous Maya Angelou quote appeared:

 

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While I’ve always admired Maya Angelou’s writing, I’d have to say there are greater agonies than bearing an untold story, such as drug-free childbirth and a little thing called bipolar disorder.  But I definitely feel like I was meant to write this book, I yearn to make it happen, and I won’t feel complete until it’s finito.

Anyway, last week I read a few chapters in Darien Gee’s book Writing the Hawai’i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story.  (I’m not from Hawai’i, but I love anything related to the Aloha State, especially Kona coffee and chocolate macadamia nuts!)  Gee states early on that it’s tantamount to set a deadline to complete one’s memoir.  She was so convincing about it that I felt inspired to set a deadline.  One of my favorite authors SARK prefers to call it a “completion date”, but I don’t mind the rather grim tone of “deadline” – it has a certain weight to it.

Deadline.  It’s a simple-sounding action, isn’t it?  Deceptively simple.  Perhaps setting a deadline will work some kind of magic into my subconscious and it’ll nudge me into accomplishing my dream.

Why not? 

I chose March 18th, 2015, my 45th birthday, to complete my first draft.  Coincidentally, March 18th the same day as my American Collie puppy Lucy’s birthday, so I consider it to be quite a powerful day.  If things go as planned, I’ll buy a vegan chocolate cake from Black China Bakery (they made our wedding cake) and invite you all to come enjoy a piece!

I originally meant to work on Birth of a New Brain during the summer, but my “best laid schemes” fell to the wayside.  At first I felt so discouraged, but after my initial disappointment, I let it go. (Don’t you dare start singing the song from “Frozen”!)  

In any case, I knew I’d be able to concentrate on my writing when my daughters’ school began.

Avonlea and Marilla  return to school Tuesday, which is also Rilla’s seventh birthday.  I like the fact that I’ll resume writing on Rilla’s birthday, and that I’ll end on the birthday that I share with Lucy!  The birthday bookends seems propitious to me – I’m into that kind of superstitious way of thinking.  

When the girls are in class, I’ll have the luxury of time and quiet.  Last year I was usually the only one in the house, and while it was wonderful to have a peaceful environment, it was a little creepy too.  This year I’ll have my canine muse Lucy to keep me company.  She likes to sit on my feet as I write at my desk – I love her soft warmth, and fortunately she isn’t so heavy that I lose the circulation in my toes.

Lucy Muse

I’ll take advantage of the school year to finish writing Birth of a New Brain, even if I’m the only one who reads it! If I can grow two humans, surely I can finish writing half a book.  Right?  (Uh oh…I hear crickets chirping in my mind.)  I’m going to try really hard.  

This leads me to the subject of my blog.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve never had aspirations to be a professional blogger.  I live half an hour away from Silicon Valley where BlogHer was created.  I knew from reading the San Jose Mercury News that blogging was hip, lucrative, and a creative outlet for writers, but I still didn’t feel drawn to it.  Then seven years ago I opened up my first WordPress blog, but my blogging didn’t “take” because I was still severely depressed.  

Last December, after trying over 20 medications, I finally started taking a medication combo. that worked to lift the bipolar depression.  I impulsively gave blogging a half-hearted second try and it took ahold of me in a profound, very cool way.  

I thank my lucky stars that blogging has been such a pleasure.  While writing has been stressful and frustrating at times (and I’ve written about feeling jealous of the mega-successful bloggers!) my participation in the blogging community has been overwhelmingly positive.  Blogging has helped me strengthen my writing discipline and introduced me to many gifted writers.  Another perk that I know you can relate to has been the “likes” and comments I’ve been fortunate enough to receive; they’ve made me feel heard, appreciated and understood.

 

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I used my blog as a way to prove to myself that I could write on a regular, even prolific basis.  I still don’t know how the hell I blogged every single day for several months straight.  I wasn’t hypomanic or manic.   It sure wasn’t hypergraphia (compulsive, extreme writing) which I actually experienced right after Rilla was born.  I wasn’t on illicit drugs of any kind.  Moreover, I was taking fairly high doses of three sedating medications: lithium, tranylcypromine (Parnate, an MAOI) and the infamous Seroquel.  

I believe that writing regularly stimulated my brain and actually kept me from becoming depressed

If I didn’t feel such a deep-seated drive to write my book, a goal which I’ve had ever since I was nine-years-old, I’d blog all the time.  But I know that I need to hunker down and take the energy I’ve directed towards blogging and funnel it into….you-know-where! (It rhymes with “nook”!)

I don’t want to quit blogging cold-turkey because that would make me depressed!  I don’t need to write novella blog posts like I used to do, either. I plan to blog once a week and see how it goes.  Blogging weekly seems reasonable, and it’ll keep me connected to the blogosphere.  I’m telling you, it really lifts my spirits to stay in touch with my blogging friends on a regular basis.  

I’ll aim to post on Mondays so I can use the weekend to free-write and have fun with it!  I’ll keep you updated about my life and the progress of  Birth of a New Brain, and I’ll stay in touch with you via your blogs, without fail. 

Take care, friends, & I wish you a wonderful week!

Dyane

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Tahoe Ramblings

 

Avi on John Muir Trail w:Lucy

Avonlea and Lucy on the John Muir Trail

 

As we reach the end of our Tahoe vacation we’re celebrating Marilla’s seventh birthday. We just received a text from the girls’ Granny.  She told us to go out to dinner as a gift from her, so the family’s mood is upbeat.  The girls are discussing the kinds of cake they wish to order, which is obviously the priority when you’re about to turn seven. (And, I admit, my priority as well.)

It’s a lazy weekday afternoon and I’ve wasted the entire past hour trying to guess the password for the cabin’s internet connection.  Yes, it turns out there is internet access here in the Munchkin, but we don’t know the password. There’s no record of it to be found anywhere in the cabin. When Craig called the owner about it, she told us she wasn’t adept with computers, and she had no idea what the password was!  As we’ve had a good relationship with her for the past six years, he didn’t want to push the subject of the password.

I decided to create a “Guess the Password” game, trying out different Tahoe-themed phrases. (My personal favorite was “bear country”.) Surrounding homeowners’ wireless connections popped up on my Kindle screen, but they were all locked.  I knew that chances were one in a million that I’d guess the password, but stubborn me – I wanted to give it a shot nonetheless.  I’m sure the password is something I’d never imagine in a million years, so I’m done with my game!

As much as I miss my internet connection and cable television, I know in my heart that it continues to be in my best interest that I keep away from the net and other media during the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death.

Every few days we’ve stopped in front of a library to tap into a wireless connection so that my husband could do some work, but these pitstops have lasted for only a few minutes.   In that amount of time I hurriedly posted to my blog and checked my email.  I could have visited a coffee shop alone to catch up on emails, Facebook, blogs, etc.  I’ve been tempted to do that more than once, but it hasn’t felt like the right thing to do.  My intuition keeps telling impatient me to wait; we’ll be home soon enough.

I went for years not using Facebook, and I only began blogging regularly last December.  My life won’t fall apart from missing ten days of my online creature comforts.  

As I write this post, I’ve been glancing out the window to see if my bear “friend” has decided to swing by and give me another panic attack!  I’m sure Lucy would be less-than-thrilled to spot a live bear; I prefer to see bears via a nature documentary.

Craig and the girls headed out to their special swimming spot they’ve named “Icy Rock” on the Truckee River while Lucy and I hang out in the quiet Munchkin.  The inviting couch, which has a view of the stunning Alpine Valley mountainside pictured below, is the perfect place to stretch out and read a book.

Photo on 2011-07-28 at 09.00 #2 

Now that I’ve finished Jennifer Hentz Moyer’s sobering-yet-inspiring memoir “A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness – A Story about Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis” (and postpartum bipolar disorder) I’m going to read something a little lighter in tone: “Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970’s” by Tom Doyle.  That’s what I’m going to enjoy until the door swings open and two very exuberant, soaked little girls will come in to tell me about their encounters with crawdads and ducks on the shores of the Truckee.

Long before the internet entered my life, my first love was reading a book.  It feels so good and luxurious to sink into my book and to stay there for a while without interruptions.  I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend an afternoon…except, perhaps, for some chocolate gelato.  It just happens that there’s a pint of Double Chocolate Talenti in the freezer, and it has my name written all over it!  (The rest of the family has the sense to know that Mommy’s gelato is hers and hers alone.)

Have a good Friday & weekend, and I’ll catch you on Monday!

take care,

Dyane

Avi jump

 

Fatigued and Dehydrated in Paradise

Alpine girls

Avonlea and Rilla picking wildflowers in Bear Creek!

 

It’s a spectacular, sunny afternoon in Alpine Meadows. I’m alone in the “Munchkin Cabin” while Lucy naps on the cool kitchen floor. The rest of the family is swimming in the brisk Truckee River. Fortunately Craig and the girls understand that I need some down time. Moreover, if Lucy and I accompanied them, she’d drive everyone bonkers barking at the plethora of ducks floating peacefully down the river.

Meanwhile, this past week I assumed I’d avoid updates about Robin Williams since I’ve been unable to receive internet or television/radio in the cabin. I was wrong. It turns out that Robin Williams had strong ties to this area, which was relatively close to his San Francisco base, for over the past twenty years.

He loved taking his family skiing at the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, which is five minutes up the road from our cabin. He enjoyed Alpine so much that he became close friends with the ski director. When the ski director had his first child, a Fed Ex truck delivered a gorgeous rocking chair sent to him by Williams that has become a family heirloom.

How do I know these facts? Well, the other day in front of Truckee Safeway I grabbed the two local weeklies. In my hurry I didn’t see that Robin Williams was on the cover of each one. Since these feature stories were personal, heartfelt accounts that went beyond the gruesome headlines, I allowed myself to read them.

One article discussed Williams’ longtime patronage at an upscale Tahoe City restaurant called Wolfdales. He visited this waterfront locals’ favorite many times. Once he even brought some of his Monty Python friends and they evidently brought down the house.

Today, while Craig visited the Tahoe City Library with the girls to do some work, I walked by Wolfdales restaurant with Lucy. We paused for a moment just ten feet away from where my hero Robin Williams crossed its threshold numerous times. I imagined him having good evenings there despite his troubles, but the darkened doorway was an eerie sight.

I took in a deep breath and carried on with my stroll with sprightly Lucy by my side. Walking in the fresh, lakeside air with my adorable puppy helped me mentally, and I didn’t feel quite as sad as I’ve felt since Monday night.

Meanwhile, Craig and I noticed that we’ve been affected by the Tahoe altitude more than we have in the past. I know we’re both getting older, but…the entire time we’ve been here I’ve felt totally wiped out. Craig mentioned that he has woken up each day feeling as if he had a hangover. Neither of us drinks alcohol anymore, however, and today he told me he thinks we’re not drinking enough water.

“I bet you’re right!” I agreed.

During past visits to Alpine Meadows, I drank plenty of the delicious Tahoe tap water, but on this trip I’ve hardly had any. Duh! I should have known better. I’m hoping that I’ll get more energy as a result of drinking enough water from now on…

So please believe me, I know how lucky we are to be on this trip, but I’m not going to lie to you – in many ways it doesn’t feel like a vacation at all! My husband has been dealing with work-related crises every day. Our two daughters have been fighting up a storm, which is nothing new. However, before this trip I’ve had them occupied for several hours at a time with their friends on a regular bases, giving me an essential break. Up here for the most part we are around one another 24/7.

We’re in tight quarters in the aptly named Munchkin Cabin, so it feels claustrophobic at times. There are no four-star restaurants on our agenda – that’s for sure. We make most of our meals in the cabin. Due to our trip budget, our activities must be low-cost and they mostly consist of visiting state parks and beaches. Lake Tahoe has some of the most beautiful state parks in the world.

I can just hear some cheesy, woe-is-me, “wah wah wah” music playing in the background as I type this; I’m not sure how I’d take it if I read someone else complaining about a Tahoe vacation! I’m hoping to earn your empathy when I explain that I’m personally really struggling…mostly with the lack of structure on this loosely planned getaway as well as with the other points I brought up.  

Another big challenge is that since I’ve been so fatigued, I haven’t exercised the way I have at home, and obviously that brings down my mood. My sleep has been worse than usual, complete with 2:00 a.m. bouts of coughing. At least last night I finally slept without waking up to cough my lungs outs for twenty minutes – at last I’m on the mend.

 

Anyway, please…don’t be jealous of my vacation! 😉

 

At least I haven’t seen a bear through the window this time like I did during my previous visit! Yes, that happened a few years ago. I was taking a shower while my girls watched a video in the Munchkin’s living room. Craig was napping upstairs. When I came into the dining room, I looked out the large window. Five feet away from where I stood dripping in my towel, I saw a BIG bear cub staring right back at me.   I couldn’t believe my eyes!

 

Without thinking, I yelled out “Bear!!!” The cub ran up the steep hill away from the cabin (No mama bear was in sight!) and I ran to check the front door, which was wide open.

 

Our metal garbage can was inside the hallway and its metal lid was on the floor. There was some garbage strewn about. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the bear quietly climbed up the long, steep staircase into our cabin while the girls watched the video; it went through our garbage without a peep, and then it took off.

 

It turned out that Craig had made the egregious mistake of leaving our door cracked open in bear country. It amazed me that the bear was so quiet inside our cabin, and of course I thanked God that baby bear or Mama Bear didn’t explore the Munchkin further and spot our girls!

All is peaceful for now. No bears are meandering outside my window, no ostentatious multi-million dollar homes are being constructed next door (as is happening throughout this area), and I don’t have to hear my girls switching from sweet to screechy within ten seconds flat.

I better get my book and read while I can focus.   I brought up my copy of the recently published “A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness – A Story About Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis” by Jennifer Hentz Moyer. It’s not exactly light reading, I know, but very interesting and relevant to me nonetheless. Moyer was not only diagnosed with postpartum psychosis immediately after her son was born; she also received a postpartum bipolar disorder diagnosis a whopping six years after childbirth. Moyer has become an active mental health advocate and she’s featured in the book “Back from the Brink” which profiles people with depression and bipolar disorder.

Thanks for reading, and take good care of yourselves! I’ll return to reading your wonderful blogs next weekend – I miss them all!

Love,

Dyane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blessing In Disguise – Unexpectedly Cut Off from the Internet!

Evening at Squaw

 The above photo of me & my girls was taken a couple years ago here in Squaw Valley.

 

 

Note to my readers – I’ve been out of town the past week with only a smidgen of internet access.  I won’t be back online regularly until Friday, August 22nd.  I’ve missed reading your blogs, and I’ll be sure to catch up with them upon my return!  

 

This has been a strange, heartbreaking week for many people and the ripple effect of this sorrow began on Monday.

 Last Monday I scheduled an innocuous-sounding appointment that I dreaded attending. It was my one-on-one session with Lucy’s puppy instructor Belinda. Yes, the same instructor who asked me to leave her puppy class due to Lucy’s incessant barking and aggressive behavior.

 I had been anxious from the moment I woke up that morning. My general anxiety and social anxiety have been much greater since I recently lowered the amount of my Seroquel medication. I tapered from 100 mg to 50 mg, a significant drop, and while I was relieved that my grogginess had dissipated, I was bummed about my heightened anxiety. My psychiatrist suspected that my 100 mg nightly dose of Seroquel had most likely been tamping down my anxiety; therefore, when I reduced the medication, my “hidden” anxiety would emerge.

 I hate anxiety almost as much as I loathe depression, and I felt grateful that depression had not reared its hideous head as well. I hoped and prayed that over time as my body adjusted to the lowered Seroquel, my anxiety would drop.

 To my relief, my session with Belinda went a lot better than I expected. During our time together she spoke with me about Lucy’s specific behavior challenges and how best to approach them. Although I felt anxious going into our session and I felt anxious leaving it, I was proud I didn’t cancel it, which I had been tempted to do earlier that day.

 I headed home with Lucy, picked up my daughter at her friend’s house, and looked forward to chilling out. After I walked in the door and settled down, I checked my email. That’s when I read the news – the news I’m sure you know about by now. I read about the awful fact that Robin Williams’ had ended his life.

 I’ve been a huge Robin Williams fan since the late 1970’s, ever since I watched him on “Mork and Mindy”. I grew up in Los Angeles, and when I was in my early teens, I stopped off at Vicente Foods, an upscale market. As I stood by the registers, I spotted actress Pam Dawber, the actress who played Mindy opposite Williams’ unforgettable Mork. Despite my living in L.A. I hadn’t seen many famous people, so that moment was very surreal and exciting for me. Unfortunately, she gave me a dirty look because I kept staring at her from twenty feet away. I was in shock, I think – I didn’t realize that I was being rude.

 The evening of Williams’ death, my mother told me she stood next to Robin Williams on her way into a taping of the popular television show “This Is Your Life” featuring the actor/ musician Dudley Moore. My father, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was friends with Dudley Moore and he’d visit him at his Venice home to play music together. I assume that Robin Williams and Dudley Moore must have been friends, I imagine. (I don’t have internet as I write this, so I can’t verify it!). My mom noted that Williams was acting strange, most likely loaded on cocaine, alcohol, or both substances.

Last year when I was depressed, I went through a Robin William phase in which I watched him in a lot of different shows to take my mind off my depression. I took in my fourth or fifth viewing of one of my all-time favorite movies “What Dreams May Come”. It’s an amazing film directed by the brilliant New Zealander Vincent Ward in which one of the key characters takes her life, and has extremely heavy themes but has an uplifting ending. I rented some of Williams’ hysterical comedy DVD’s and I splurged and bought the entire season of his television show “The Crazy Ones”.

 During that phase, out of simple curiosity, I researched the internet to see if Williams had “come out” with having bipolar disorder. I couldn’t find anything official, but I didn’t do the greatest net search either!

 After learning of Robin Williams’ death, I cried and spent the rest of Monday evening in shock. Like millions of fans, I wrote on Facebook about my reaction. I received supportive, positive responses and I noticed many of my Facebook friends had written of their sorrow as well, especially bloggers in my Mental Health blogging community.

 Tuesday morning our family was out the door early, and headed on a long-awaited trip to Lake Tahoe. Driving through the Bay Area we listened to the radio only a little bit, as each news report began with the coroner’s report of Williams’ method of death, and we didn’t want the girls to hear it.  

 Williams’ suicide method hit too close to home for me, for I had considered using the same method as he did after I took the medication amitriptyline (Elavil). Hanging was a method I had never before considered in my life, even during other times in whch I had been acutely suicidal and had to go to the E.R. Without a doubt, I believe the amitriptyline made me want to hang myself. I’ve discussed this topic in more detail in my post “The Power of One Pill” and “The Green Bathrobe Belt” in this blog.

 So what to make out of all this? I don’t know. We thought we’d have internet access from our remote cabin. This is a special place that we’ve visited each year. Craig discovered it on Craigslist, appropriately enough, and we get a great, affordable rate. The owner likes us so much that she buys toys for the girls to play with. During past visits, we’ve been able to get online from this area, but the signal no longer works.   Despite my intense frustration, I know that my being cut off from the net has been my blessing in disguise.

 

Up to the first day of this trip, I’ve become dependent (well, addicted is more like it!) upon my daily habit of checking emails, reading blogs and being active on Facebook and Twitter. Being involved through these outlets has brought me some bona fide internet friends, some of whom I feel closer to than most of my “IRL” (in real life) friends.   Being unable to correspond with my internet friends unexpectedly and “cold-turkey” has been VERY frustrating and isolating.

However, if I did have the 24/7 internet access I’ve been accustomed to, I would be reading way too much about Robin Williams. Please believe me when I say I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I don’t think it would be healthy for me to do that right now, if ever.

 From just the few main facts I heard about Robin Williams on the radio last Tuesday, I’ve been deeply troubled and I have thought about his agony and the effect his suicide has had upon his family a great deal. There’s no need for me to read more details and read about others’ reactions to Williams’ suicide during this time in which I am more emotionally fragile than usual.

Last Wednesday, we drove to Squaw Valley. We hiked on a beautiful trail with Lucy, who loved being off-leash in an exotic, new location. Today we visited the gorgeous Sugar Pine State Park that sits along Lake Tahoe. This area is one of the most gorgeous ones in the world, and we are incredibly lucky to be here.

In some ways, it has felt healthy taking this “mandatory break” from my technology to focus upon nature.  Yesterday we stopped in front of Squaw Village with our laptop and my Kindle in tow, able to tap into a signal for a few minutes while the girls played together in the back seat without even one squabble.   (A true miracle!)

This is a working vacation for Craig and he needed to download some documents. While we sat there I hastily checked my email. I saw a plethora of Facebook notification messages about my friends and acquaintances’ reactions to Williams’ suicide. I didn’t read any of them as I would have done if I had unlimited internet at my disposal.

Each day I can’t help but think about the Williams’ family, and my heart goes out to them.   I know why he made his decision and I’d never judge him for one second for doing what he did. Since I’ve almost gone the same way I know it was not my fault nor was I “selfish” in wanting the worst pain I ever experienced to end. I only hope that he really is in a better place – that’s the only way that I can make sense of such heartbreak.

Two Reality Checks in One Day

 

 

 

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The morning started off with a text from a friend I adore.

“Just found out that a buddy of mine died last night of a massive heart attack.  He was forty-nine.  We’ve gotta stick together, kiddo.  Life is precious. XOXO!”

I’m forty-four, and my husband is a decade older.  I remember when I thought forty-nine-years-old was old, but now I know it’s way too young to die.

I moved on to check my email.  Every day I receive a news digest from my local parent’s network.  Usually the announcements are practical but pretty mundane.  

“Free crib.” 

“Giant yard sale next weekend!”  

Adopt my rooster…please!”

That sort of thing.  But one unusual listing caught my eye. 

It read: “John’s Cancer Diagnosis and Help Needed”

Underneath the headline, the three paragraphs began with “Hi, I’m Ellen.  My husband John has been diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer.”

My heart sank.  No one can deny the gravity of such a diagnosis.  I didn’t know who John was, although I recognized his last name vaguely from being a member of this list for eight years.  I read the rest of the information.  Ellen explained that they had bought a house literally just before they received John’s diagnosis.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to extricate themselves from the contract.  (Something that shows how screwed up our society is, but that’s another post topic.)  Therefore, she asked our community for help in moving, as well as with other tasks such as watching their children during John’s upcoming trips to doctors.

Ellen’s email touched me.  She wasn’t asking for sympathy but for simply for a little help from her friends and neighbors.  Most people wouldn’t be able to write an email the way she did in the face of such shocking news, and her strength totally astounded me.  

She wrote about two amazing-sounding websites to help her coordinate assistance and receive support as she and John as they fight this evil cancer.

One site is Caring Bridge.org, and the other site is My Cancer Circle (www.mycancer circle.lotsahelpinghands.com) designed to support caregivers of people coping with cancer.

I checked out Caring Bridge first.  Founder Sona Mehring explained, “In 1997, good friends of mine had a premature baby, and they asked me to let everyone know what was happening. Instead of making dozens of emotional and time-consuming phone calls, I decided to use my professional skills as an information technology specialist to create a website. The same night their baby Brighid was born, so was the idea that became CaringBridge.”  

Mehring added, “That inaugural CaringBridge site became an instant connection point in extremely personal and powerful ways.  Brighid’s parents could easily share information with family and friends around the world, regardless of time or place.  They could post daily updates in their CaringBridge Journal to tell everyone about Brighid’s status.  The CaringBridge Guestbook allowed visitors to the site to leave messages of love and encouragement for the family.”

That’s really cool – it’s technology at its absolute best.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know why this information struck me as particularly poignant.  The thought that sprinted across my mind was, “I wish that my family used these kinds of websites during all those fucking times I was in the hospital.” (For those of you unaware of my history with bipolar disorder, the grand total of my hospitalizations was seven.)   My husband Craig, who had essentially become a single parent of a newborn and toddler after my first hospital stay, would’ve been able to coordinate help so much more easily.  He could have kept everyone posted about what was going on with us without making many draining phone calls.

God forbid, Craig could have even written a message asking those who signed up to send me a cards or a book to read – anything to let me know they were thinking of me, even if they couldn’t visit me at the hellholes.

Back to John and Ellen.  

I’m going to see what Ellen needs done and help her, even if it’s in a small way.  She mentioned that she’ll need people to help unpack their belongings after they move into the new house.  That I can do.

I signed up for Ellen and John’s Caring Bridge and My Cancer Circle networks.  Soon Ellen will be posting specific tasks on a calendar so everyone can see what she needs during this harrowing time.

I know I’d want people to reach out to me and my family if a horrendous disease struck Craig, God forbid, whether it be mental or physical.  

A family that has been hit by cancer is still treated differently than a family that has been affected by a severe mental illness.  If Ellen’s husband had a mental breakdown and she needed logistical help, Ellen most likely wouldn’t get an outpouring of support that cancer attracts due to mental illness stigma.  I know the tide is slowly, slowly turning, but my guess is that people would look the other way if “bipolar” was mentioned.  I hope in the future, families in my valley who suffer with acute mental illness will be able to reach out for support the way that Ellen is doing and they won’t be stigmatized.

On an entirely separate note, over the past few days I’ve been ill with a dry cough that has made me irritable and not fun to be around.  

But I’m so grateful that

a) I’m alive and…

b) I’m not dealing with a potentially ravaging cancer.  

I hope that I’ve satisfied my quota for life-threatening illness until I reach my death bed, ideally when I’m fairly old! But believe me, I know there are no guarantees that I’m home-free from another severe mental or physical illness.  

Hearing about a death of someone relatively young and about a neighbor who is about to have the fight of his life has made me reflect that for now, I’m damn lucky.  

I’m a little scared to help a woman I’ve never met who is in such a terrifying scenario; however, as with mental illness, fear and sorrow aren’t contagious.  Something tells me that in the act of helping someone else when they need that help more than ever before, it’ll be a good, side-effect-free medicine for me.

 

CaringBridge.org

 

 

 

 

 

Booted out of Puppy Class! (Bipolar-Related)

4-up on 2014-06-06 at 17.50

 

 

Some of you already know about what happened to me and Lucy last weekend.  The Incident took place just before our third Petsmart puppy training class began.  

Indulge me in a little bit of backstory.  During our first two puppy classes, my American Collie pup Lucy, my two girls and I were asked to remain behind a blanketed fence during instruction for the duration of each sixty-minute-long session.  We were asked to do that so Lucy wouldn’t bark constantly and distract Belinda, our young instructor, or provoke the other three puppies in attendance.  I understood the need to be “in hiding”, and while I was less-than-thrilled about it, of course I acquiesced.  I was also advised to buy Lucy a harness; it was supposed to safer on her trachea area in her neck when she pulled forward relentlessly and control her much better than a standard leash would.  I bought one right away.  I’d do anything I possibly could do if it meant helping Lucy be healthy and happy.

After the first class I asked Belinda for her opinion about the doggie calming bites, calming gels and calming sprays I noticed for sale on the supplement aisle.  She told me using those products for Lucy would be like giving chamomile to someone with a full-blown anxiety disorder!  I understand exactly where she was coming from with that analogy, as I’ve suffered with anxiety for years, but I bought the stuff anyway, hoping for a miracle!  (Belinda was right – the calming bites and gel didn’t work, but  I was soon tempted to try them myself!)  

As we headed out of the store, Belinda walked beside us and told me, “Lucy will probably need additional training apart from what this class can provide, such as private lessons.  I’ll get you a flyer  -hang on a sec!”   As Belinda got us the information, I knew in my heart that Lucy was special and I wasn’t offended by her suggestion.  However, I was stressed out about our finances and the private fees were not cheap!  I put the private session topic on the back burner in my exhausted brain and we headed home…

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Last Saturday was a heatwave and our third Petsmart class took place at 3:00 p.m., the hottest time of the day.  I gathered Lucy and my daughter Marilla, grabbed the required bag of puppy treats and drove us to the store.  It was quite a workout for me to simply make the thirty-minute drive because my anxiety had skyrocketed due to a medication change.  I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of Lucy’s canine education, however.  We arrived at the store early so we could walk Lucy up and down the air-conditioned aisles to bring down her massive energy level – my fluffball could light up a city with the exuberance she has at almost five-months-old.  (In hindsight, this was not such a wise decision.)

Then a few things happened that got me even more anxious than I already was.  

Lucy decided that it was the perfect opportunity to relieve herself in the middle of an aisle.  It had to be #2, and it was a lot of #2 – she was saving it up for a special occasion, I guess!  

Now, when other dogs get near my beautiful beast, she pretty much goes batsh*t woo woo around them.  Barking, lunging, you-name-it.  All twenty-eight pounds of her.  Honestly, it’s as if she’s possessed or auditioning for the role of Cujo’s kid sis in “Cujo Two”! 

I’m a pretty strong mama, but when Lucy decides to act as if she’s channeling demons, it takes every bit of my strength to keep her leash tight in my hand and restrain her as much as possible.

So there I was, crouched low in the aisle using items needed to clean up the poop while simultaneously holding onto Lucy’s leash.  Petsmart has convenient cleaning stations scattered throughout the store, thank goodness.  

While I frantically cleaned up the mess, a hip couple came strolling towards us with their dog, and you can guess what happened – Lucy started flipping out.  Now these idiots didn’t do the kind, intelligent move, i.e. walk in the opposite direction so I could clean up the shit in peace and so my dog wouldn’t go after their dog.  No……they had to continue to mosey on by while birds chirped and violins played in their heads.  I wish I had a video clip to show you of this scenario as my words don’t do it justice  – it was one of those moments that pales in the writing.  

The good news is that I didn’t throw shit at the self-absorbed Wonder Twins and Lucy didn’t walk through her poop mountain either – at least I was quick enough with the clean-up.

It was time for class to start.  I was ready to get it over with.  I stood near the room’s entrance with Lucy andMarilla and lo and behold, a customer and his little dog walked near us.  Lucy went off in her inimitable “The sky is falling!!!!!” style in which she practically levitated.  If her pretty little head started circling around a la Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”, I wouldn’t have been surprised.  

The teacher strode up to us.  My first thought was, “Dammit!  I’m in trouble.”  Although Belinda is in her early twenties and I’m twice her age and I’ve been a junior high school substitute, I actually get intimidated by anyone in an “authority” position.  It’s ridiculous.  I’ve cried in front of police officers for the dumbest reasons you can imagine.  My authority fear factor is grist for another blog post, though.  Back to being booted out….

“I think that it would be best if we don’t have Lucy in this class,” she said.  “She’s barking so much and she’s aggressive – technically we’re not supposed to have aggressive dogs in class.”

My face turned red and I got even sweatier.  I could feel  rivers start to flow underneath my arms.  Marilla wasn’t aggrieved by our being singled out, as she’s a very confident six-year-old, but  I felt like a BAD PUPPY MOM!

“Why don’t I call you and see about transferring a credit for you to have private lessons?”  I nodded my head in assent.  “That sounds like a good idea,” I mumbled.  I just wanted to get the hell out of there and find some gourmet chocolate ice cream to soothe my humiliated soul.

How is this bipolar-related?  Well, it’s going to be a stretch, but I can do it.  When Marilla, Lucy and I reached the sweltering parking lot outside Petsmart, a handsome young man called out to me.  He sat on a sheltered bench with his enormous Malamute mix, a magnificent dog who had so much dark shaggy hair that I felt sorry for him. (He looked a little like a Wookie!)  

 

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He asked if Lucy would want to meet his dog!  

Well, while my jaw dropped as I took that in, a pretty girl walked towards us and when she passed me, she said in a rude, snarky tone, “That would be a train wreck!”  It was an innocent-enough sounding sentence given the situation, but  it was her tone I had the problem with.

At that point I was so physically and emotionally depleted, plus it was 85 degrees and I was sweating from every pore.  When that girl snarked past us in her flouncy dress that probably cost three times as much as my outfit, she pissed the shit out of me! 

Now, the unstable Dyane, i.e. the woman on wrong bipolar meds or no bipolar meds, would have called out to her in rage.  

“Fuck you!’ might have been one zinger I would have spat out at her.  Or “Why don’t you come and say that to my face, bitch?” would be another.  Oh, there are plenty more ribald sentences I could have hurled at her despite Marilla’s presence

But I held back.  Meds do that for me now. But they don’t totally squelch my vibrant personality!

This is what I decided to retort off the top of my head:

I love nice people!” I said, loud enough for her to hear.  This is progress, bipolar-wise, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m no longer easily triggered, looking for a fight.  While I was angry at the girl and wanted a target for my frustrations, I was able to move past it and focus on the matter at hand.  Without an F-bomb!

“Snarky” didn’t look back at me but she continued flouncing into the air-conditioned store.  I feel sorry for the cat, dog, fish or rodent that she must own.

Meanwhile, the young man left his dog sitting calmly behind him as he walked our way.  I swear that dog was the Dalai Lama of dogs, and he was fine about his owner walking the twenty feet over to us.  The young man had observed Lucy’s behavior in the store.  “I’m Matias,” he said.  “I used to be a dog trainer.”  He had a kind face and I didn’t feel judged or intimidated by him in the least.

“Hmmmm!” I thought.  “I wish he had been our teacher!”  While I wasn’t able to hire Matias on the spot, he seemed open to giving us a little free advice.  One example is that recommended offering Lucy a treat in the split second when a dog walked near her and she hadn’t yet barked as if it was an Olympic sport.       

I was upset from my store experience.  I asked Matias if he thought that Lucy was a hopeless case. “Far from it,” he assured me.  “It’s certainly not tragic.  She would need consistent training, but she’ll be fine.”  Matias gave me hope and made me feel better.  I figured he knew what he was talking about as his dog was incredibly well-behaved.  As we drove out of the lot, I saw Matias riding a bike with his dog trotting perfectly beside him.  Heads turned at the pair – they were quite a sweet sight.

As I drove back home, Marilla and I agreed that some locally made Polar Bear Ice Cream at our local coffee shop was in order.  I looked forward to getting my favorite flavor, the fittingly named “Dirty Paws”.  (SO GOOD!) Life would go on and I knew that I’d feel better after I blogged about my Petsmart afternoon.  And I was right about that! 😉

 

 

 

Random Acts of Kindness- Yes Please !

I couldn’t resist reblogging my friend Zephyr’s post “Random Acts of Kindness – Yes Please!”, not only because she pays me beautiful compliments, but I thought her sharing about her birthday will move you as it did with me.

I originally planned for my Monday post to examine my humiliating experiences which took place over the weekend.  It’s hard for me to type out the words, but here goes: my precious four-month-old American Farm Collie puppy Lucy got kicked out of her puppy training class at Petsmart.

The afternoon on which that fateful event occurred “brought up stuff” for me. It felt like a test of some kind; perhaps a test to see if I’d go freaky-deaky-ballistic in public or not!  (You’ll find out soon!)

Although the Petsmart incidents felt painful, I knew in the back of my bummed-out brain that I could blog about them and get feedback from my awesome blogger friends.  So stay tuned for that piece – it’ll hopefully show up in your WordPress Reader/email box this Friday.

In the meantime, please read on and feel welcome to comment – I’m a comment junkie and I will reply to every comment, although it takes me longer than I like to do so these days.

Have a good rest of your Monday!!!
Dyane 🙂

Struggles of a Bipolar Woman

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For all of those who read the bipolar blogs, they know the title is stolen. I stole it from my dear friend and one of the most accomplished writers I know, Dyane Harwood. Her blog provides us with an amazing experience.

On the 7th of July Dyane wrote an amazing piece called the random acts of kindness, in which she explains how people’s kindness had affected her. Here is a link to that amazing post “Random Acts of Kindness-Yes, Please!” (I don’t wanna explain more cz that would ruin her perfectly written posts)

While Dyane is looking at others act of kindness, she forgets how kind and awesome of a person she is. Recently she did a random act of kindness for me. I am new in the Michigan area and I do not have a lot of friends. Also I have a good degree of social anxiety…

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