Why I Save Dad’s Voicemails

Dyane Oct. 2014

 

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I kept putting it off.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about the topic, but more and more I found myself easily distracted.

(Thank you social media!  I’m blaming you!) 😉

I realized that the most inspiring time to reminisce would fall close to Halloween, my favorite day of the year.  I’ve loved Halloween ever since I was a little girl, and I’ve dressed up every year without fail – even during the bipolar depression years.

I’ve also been fascinated with books about the afterlife and near-death studies for decades.  I’ve read all of psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody’s works along with more contemporary authors such as Dr. Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”.  I’ve never had any problem discussing thanatology (the study of death, made famous by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) as well as paranormal issues with anyone.  My Dad, however, was the total opposite.  Despite our being very close, Dad couldn’t stand talking about death, especially as he grew older and more infirm.  (That was completely understandable!)  He made it clear that he was terrified to die, and there was no way I wanted to push the issue with him.

Despite Dad’s aversion to death, he did have fun at Halloween!  One year he bought dry ice, set up a spooky cauldron, and with my enthusiastic help we good-naturedly scared our many trick or treaters.   It was a wonderful evening that I’ll never forget. 

When I reached my mid-thirties, my father started having serious health problems aside from his bipolar disorder.  He and I spoke almost daily by phone since I lived several hundreds of miles away from him.  Of course I wasn’t always able to answer my cell phone, so Dad would leave long, often funny messages.  Instinct told me not to erase them all, and I saved a few of my favorite ones.  I knew someday I would be glad I saved them, and I was right.  

My Dad, who I considered one of my best friends, died six years ago at an assisted living facility without any family members at his side.  It is the biggest regret of my life that I was not there with him when he died.  Because of my reaction to his death, I had to be hospitalized and I missed his memorial service.  At the hospital, in utter desperation, I requested electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).  Ironically ECT never helped my Dad, but I credit it with saving my life.  

Perhaps he watched over me during the procedures.  

My mother thoughtfully videotaped Dad’s beautiful memorial service, complete with a string quartet of his colleagues and numerous eloquent, often humorous speakers.  Once I was strong enough, I was able to watch his service.  I’m still amazed by my mother’s strength during that time in particular, and I’ll always be grateful to her for recording his memorial.

Although it has been years since my father’s death, I still hold fast to his voicemail messages and I listen to them virtually anywhere.  The sounds are bittersweet.  I’d rather have Dad here in person so I could hear his resonant, loving voice once again call me “Little Dyane”, although I’m anything but little – I’m almost forty-five years old!  

I don’t listen to Dad as often as I used to, but when I do hear his messages they bring a smile to my face. I’m also lucky enough to have cassette tapes of his concerts that I can listen to on my old Suburu cassette player. (My father was a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years.)  While growing up, my bedroom was next to Dad’s practice room and I heard him practice for hours at a time almost every single day.  That’s what world-class violinists did and the discipline was ingrained into his soul.  The sound of his violin playing is almost as if he were speaking to me – it’s the next best thing to his messages.

It sounds macabre to save voicemails while a loved one is still alive. But knowing that someday life will change and these messages will become precious is worth any misgivings. The few years before Dad died I was depressed for the most part.  I was medicated, zombified and in constant despair, but at least I had the foresight to save Dad’s voicemails, and I always will be proud of myself for doing that.

 

2 R UMAX     PowerLook 2100XL V1.3 [3]

 

HAVE A WONDERFUL HALLOWEEN!!!

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How friends & humor saved the day

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It’s over, I realized last Friday morning with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I couldn’t blame anyone else but myself.  I hadn’t listened to my intuition which had implored me to distance myself from an unhealthy situation.  

What happened was this: I developed an internet friendship with “X”.  Some people think that internet friendships are bogus, but in many cases they aren’t.   I genuinely cared about X, and as the months passed and our live Facebook chats grew more frequent, I grew closer to X.  I exposed my not-so-pretty side.  X wrote that I could vent to her as much as I wanted to, so I did.  In return X vented to me, and we sought support and advice from one another, sometimes on a daily basis for weeks at a time.  As we both lived with bipolar disorder, we commiserated with one another about what it was like to live with medication side effects, parenting challenges, mood swings, and much more.  

Last Friday morning my nasty cold was at its tail end, but my coughing fits had kept me up most of the previous night.  I was exhausted, and as anyone with bipolar disorder knows, I was concerned about my sleep loss affecting me in serious ways.  I planned to get my girls off to school and have a calm morning, but it turned out to be anything but that.  

I hopped online to check my Facebook newsfeed for a few minutes.  X messaged me asking me to participate in a small online project, but I refused due to my feeling unwell.  This is the seemingly insignificant exchange that triggered X.

What happened next caught me totally off-guard.  X messaged me back and accused me of slandering her when I had done nothing of the sort.  X proceeded to call me a “fake friend”.  The fact that her bizarre accusations were completely groundless, they came out of the blue, and full of a strange hostility disturbed me at my core.  I knew had I been a very, very good friend to X – I certainly had not been a “fake” one.  When I brought these realities up with X, my concerns were ignored.

 I realized I couldn’t be friends, either virtual or in real life, with someone who threatened my recovery in any way.  It sounds selfish, but it’s self-preservation, and of course what I allow to enter my life affects my children and husband as well.  Some may think that I could have worked things out with X, but I’m leaving  out many details that further illustrate that to be friends with X would result in further toxic accusations.   I would never feel safe again with someone who called me a liar and a fake for absolutely no good reason.  A line had been crossed.  I’d rather be friendless than have a”friend” like this.

 I ended the friendship right away.  I selected the “block” function.  It took just thirty seconds.

I knew the fallout would be ugly and it was.  I received an email from X stating that she hoped I’d “get the help I needed.” After that occurred, I blocked X’s email address. I felt totally unnerved, upset, and angry the rest of Friday. 

Today my feelings about X are less intense, but I know it’ll take a while for them to fade.  

While this type of situation would be much harder if X lived in my town, it still has been awful.  Like many things in life, Facebook can be a blessing and a curse.  There’s no Facebook algorithm informing us that we need to end toxic friendships.  For a second I thought about closing my account.  However, Facebook has been much more of a blessing than a curse in my life, and I couldn’t let the X situation be the reason for leaving social media.

Ironically what helped me feel better was internet-related.  

After blocking X on Facebook, I posted a very brief status message about my ending a friendship and my anguished state of mind.  I then promptly deleted it, hesitant to air my dirty laundry.  On a whim I re-posted it, and I’m so glad that I did.  I received wonderful private messages from friends who had been through similar situations.  Friends also left kind comments that lifted my spirits.  An internet pal sent encouragement via Twitter direct messages.  

I was surprised at how much this virtual support helped me move through my pain.

While Facebook was the gateway to my friendship with X, I couldn’t blame Facebook for what happened.  It was me…me who ignored obvious signs X had repeatedly given me over the past year that one day I’d be the object of X’s wrath.

Apart from my friends, it was humor that helped alleviate some of my sorrow, guilt, and anger.   On Friday afternoon my daughter watched an episode of “The Pioneer Woman”, a television show starring Ree Drummond.  Drummond was initially a famous blogger who has developed a Martha Stewart-esque multimedia empire.  Out of curiosity, I did a Google image search for photos of the star before she got famous.  I spotted a weird-looking image connected with a blog titled “The Marlboro Woman”.  

Drummond always refers to her husband Ladd as the “Marlboro Man”.  “The Marlboro Woman” blog featured a picture of Drummond superimposed over  Ladd’s headshot that I found hilarious.  I started laughing and clicked my way over to the blog.  The blog pokes fun at Drummond’s cooking styles and elaborate lifestyle, to say the least.  (If you’re a huge Ree Drummond fan, I don’t advise you visit “The Marlboro Woman” as it might rub you the wrong way!  But it might not…)

The rest of the afternoon I treated myself to reading “The Marlboro Woman” blog.  Each post receives up to 500 hundred + comments!  The Marlboro Woman and her co-blogger Vera’s replies to some of the comments are just as funny as the blog itself.  Reading “The Marlboro Woman” kept me from ruminating non-stop over the horrible events of the day.  I still felt bad, but it helped to focus on something funny.

I worry that X will be the one to slander me.  It’s entirely possible and so easy to do in a virtual world.  But I can’t control X – I can only control myself.  I’m thankful that I was able to extricate myself from a harmful situation….it’s better late than never, I guess.  I’ve learned a powerful lesson from this perturbing experience, and the next time my intuition presents me with a bright red flag, I won’t turn my head the other way.  I’ll pay attention and act on it.

pw                                             mmimgres

                     http://www.themarlborowoman.com

                                                                 

Waterfalls of the Freaky Kind

freaky

 

Last night as I readied myself for bed, all seemed calm in the Harwood household.  Craig & I tucked our daughter Avonlea into the top of our girls’ bunk bed.  It had been a long day, and I shuffled slowly away, zombie-like, while Craig & Lucy, our seven-month-old puppy, lingered behind.  

Craig leaned down to pick a shirt off the floor.

Suddenly I heard a retching sound.  I looked across the room at Avonlea and saw a waterfall emanating from her mouth onto Craig’s back AND all over Lucy’s luxuriant fur.

It was a Linda Blair-esque moment.  

After my initial shock and repulsion, I took my poor girl’s gush in stride.  I cleaned up the mess right away without even griping.  For the record, being around vomit makes me want to do the same, but I kept my dinner down where it belonged.  We all lucked out because there was no repeat hurling the rest of the night.

Lucy reeked, however.  Her thick fur is multi-layered, so she soaked up the fluid like a highly absorbent sponge.  Unfortunately I was far too tired to stick her in the tub for a quick wash.  (There is no “quick wash” with a super-energetic puppy!)

Between the lithium, the MAOI Parnate, and the Seroquel that I take nightly (topped off with the beginnings of a nasty cold) I was more than ready to collapse into bed.

Today I’m taking Avonlea to our pediatrician.  Apart from the waterfall incident, we suspect she could possibly have strep throat.  Poor stinky Lucy will require a thorough bath and since I’m sick, I’ll have to work extra-hard to summon the energy to just do it.

 

Dy & Avi

 Avonlea in healthier times and her exhausted Mom

Due to my hateful cough,I’m at the gruesome hour of 4:00 a.m. this morning.  I had a burst of coffee-induced energy, but now I’m fading fast, so this will not be a 1742 word post like the last one.  

Please believe me when I tell you that I knew in my heart that my last post was WAY too long.  I could have (and should have) cut it in half.  (Thanks, Mom, for pointing that out to me during our last phone conversation!)  My excuse for that egregious error is that while writing the post on the cusp of my cold, I ran out of writerly steam and I didn’t edit the way I normally would.  

I ask for your forgiveness and I’ll try not to do it again. 😉

THANKS, by the way, for your wonderful replies to my last post “The Queen of Mediocrity” – I appreciated your supportive & insightful comments more than you know!

have a great weekend,

Dyane

p.s. This weekend I’m getting my Halloween costume ready.  I’m going to be a RED PEN at Avonlea’s suggestion!  She astutely observed my overzealous nature when correcting her homework and she thought I’d be a great red pen!  What will you be?

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The Queen of Mediocrity

 

 

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007 at age 37, for most of my life I thought of myself as the “Queen of Mediocrity”.  I felt this way early on as I never accomplished anything of merit compared to my parents, who were both prodigies in their chosen fields.  I considered them to be truly extraordinary and so did many other people!  

Dad was a world-class violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years!  He was the youngest musician ever to be admitted into the super-competitive orchestra. Dad was a Juilliard-trained, Fulbright Scholar who lived an incredibly full life despite having bipolar one disorder.  My Mom was an award-winning actress-turned speech pathologist and a loving hands-on mother.  Mom taught speech therapy to special needs students in the public schools.  She developed a unique rapport with both her students and colleagues, and she did an outstanding job.

I considered my graduation from the University of California at Santa Cruz and my A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) personal training certification as hard-won achievements. However, I didn’t attend an Ivy League university like many of my classmates did.  My job as a personal trainer didn’t command great respect either.  

Aside from personal training I worked at the gym’s front desk to make ends meet.  At the counter I handed towels to members who usually treated me as the lowly “towel girl”.  Most of these members had no idea that I had a college degree.  When I handed a towel to the high-powered local newspaper editor-in-chief, or the future billionaire/founder of Netflix, I’d inwardly sigh and feel a bit of humiliation! 

At long last, I’m happy to report that my mediocre self-image is starting to change, slowly-but-surely.  In the space of just a couple weeks I’ve had two wonderful, totally unexpected things happen.  These serendipitous events have boosted my confidence even more than a makeover on “What Not To Wear”!  

Ted

I miss that show, especially stylist Ted Gibson who charges only $1200 for a haircut! 😉 

Two weeks ago I received an email informing me that I was nominated by the bestselling author/mental health advocate Wendy K. Williamson (“Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival” and “I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”) for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show Blog” award.

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I thought the email was a joke!  Then I read Wendy’s nomination blurb on WEGO’s website: 

Dyane’s site is the best out there.  I love that she tells it like it is and supports her fellow followers.  A gifted writer, she clearly conveys through humor and honesty what is happening in her world and the world around us. Dyane taps in to our feelings beautifully, saving us from emotional isolation. Activist, champion, Dyane is both and more.  — Wendy

As you can imagine, I was absolutely blown away by Wendy’s generous praise.  Out of curiosity I checked out the other nominees’ profiles in my category.  Every single one was impressive.  I automatically thought, 

There’s no way in hell I can compete with these people.  I’m not good enough.

I felt tempted to withdraw from the competition, but I didn’t want to let Wendy down.  It simply wouldn’t be cool to offend her, especially since she had become my incredible writing mentor.  I told myself I could be a “loser” and leave it at that.

I’m not sure what happened next, exactly, but I had a change of heart.  

I realized that seeing myself as a loser was not how I wanted to play this game!  I could at least stay in the running and promote myself, a necessary task in order to place as a WEGO finalist.

I’ve spent my life promoting other people’s causes and passions.  I’ve worked at four non-profits where at an average of $10/hour, I worked my ass off to publicize other people’s missions and events.  My first full-time job was at a Silicon Valley special event production company.  I promoted a myriad of events and I dealt with the media all the time.  I knew what I needed to do in terms of my own promotion.

My defeatist thinking changed to: 

I’m going to give this shot & try to win this WEGO, or at least place as a finalist!  

Then the second surprise happened.   But first, here’s the long-winded backstory…bear with me!

Long before I was diagnosed with bipolar after Rilla’s birth, I had a series of unfulfilling administrative  jobs.  I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old, but I wasn’t writing anything except for work-related projects.  In 1997, in addition to my day job, I finally began writing freelance magazine and newspaper articles.  

My first magazine article was for “Fit” which unfortunately no longer exists.  I loved “Fit” because its content was deeper and more interesting than other fitness magazines.  Although “Fit” had a air-brushed celebrity on its cover every month, I let that slide because the celebrities they chose seemed more circumspect than the stars featured on other magazine covers.

I pursued the editor to give me a shot at writing an article.  At that point I was twenty-seven and I had already experienced clinical depression.  Using “write what you know” as my motto, I wanted to write an article about women, depression and exercise.  After an enthusiastic phone pitch to the editor, she gave me the assignment!  Landing my first national magazine article was a major thrill, and I knew I needed to do my best to get off to the write right start as a freelancer.

I compiled a list of people who I wanted to interview for my piece.  My first interviewee was Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  I was astounded that I was able to get ahold of the bestselling writer of “An Unquiet Mind”.  Ironically when I called Dr. Jamison I had no idea I’d be diagnosed with bipolar myself a few years later.  I interviewed another doctor I admired: psychologist/author Dr. Martha Manning, whose profound book Undercurrents detailed her experience with depression and ECT.  I hadn’t a clue that one day I’d have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) just like Dr. Manning did.

Next I questioned several young women who suffered with depression, and I spoke with assorted exercise experts.  After submitting my article, my jaw dropped when I got a paycheck for doing something I loved to do.  

I wrote several more articles for “Fit” and was told I’d become a regular contributor.  I was over-the-moon about having a regular writing gig!  Unfortunately the New York media group that owned the magazine called it quits and my job opportunity vanished.  

My “Fit” experience was a propitious start to my freelance writing career.  With my confidence level high,  I approached my favorite local weekly paper “Good Times” helmed by editor-in-chief Greg Archer.

I had been a faithful “Good Times” reader for years.  I admired Greg’s vibrant, top-notch, often-hilarious writing – I was jealous of his talent!  I contacted Greg’s managing editor about some of my story ideas.  I suggested that I interview a writer who wrote books I picked up and couldn’t put down – the one and only Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain was slated for a book event in our town, and my timing was right.  I was given the job and I turned in a solid piece.  I wrote two more articles for “Good Times” about another favorite author of mine called SARK.  Once again it was awesome to have the chance to interact with one of my writing heroes and get paid for it.  

As you can imagine, my freelance writing career went down the drain after my bipolar diagnosis. I couldn’t do anything, let alone write.  But some of you know that I came back to life a little over a year ago thanks to my new medication combination of lithium and the MAOI drug Parnate, plus exercise, good quality sleep and finding a good psychiatrist.  

After I recovered from a bipolar depression relapse,  I invited Greg Archer to a delectable Italian lunch to learn more about his writing philosophy.  We became friends and I hid my jealousy of his talent well.  😉 I felt instantly comfortable with Greg as he reminded me of a close friend I grew up with in Los Angeles. It was a joy to be friends with another writer who I looked up to as a role model.

The longest backstory ever is now complete! 

Last week Greg emailed me to ask if I could send him a photo of myself for a future article that I assumed had something to do with bipolar.  I was out of it and didn’t ask him for details.  To my chagrin, I emailed him a blurry selfie but that’s all I had.  Then I got distracted by my girls and forgot all about it.  

An hour later I got a brief email from Greg simply saying to visit the link copied below.  

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html

I thought it was his recent Huffington Post article that profiled 5 inspiring men.  

After opening the link I spotted my photo I just sent him and I almost fell off my chair.  The photo was accompanied by Greg’s beautiful description of my writing and how I’m “one to watch” in the mental health advocacy movement!  I was part of a group of 5 “inspiring agents of change” including Kathleen Turner, for God’s sake!! (I loved her with Michael Douglas in “Romancing the Stone”!)

I thanked Greg profusely and then I emailed or called everyone I knew to tell them my happy news.  The fact that my Mom shared the Huffington Post article link with her friends, relatives and her Facebook network was especially moving.   It was such a lovely moment for me to hear pride in my mother’s voice when called to congratulate me.

I’m no longer feeling all that mediocre.  Don’t get me wrong – insecurity still lurks within my psyche each and every day.  I’ll keep plugging away to repair my damaged self-image with therapy – that’s all I can do right now.  

In the meantime I want to thank you so much for reading this lengthy post.  I’d like to send a special shout out to my writing gurus Greg Archer and Wendy K. Williamson!  

I encourage you to read their books.  Soon I’ll be sharing some information about Greg’s second book “Grace Revealed”, a fascinating memoir to be published in January, 2015.

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http://www.gregarcher.com


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http://www.wendykwilliamson.com/

p.s. I’d be grateful if you could endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist Award – it’s easy & takes 20 seconds!  

Visit:

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Hitting HUFFPO as an “Agent of Change”!

Mara hair

I’m in shock as I hurriedly write this, but I wanted to publish this post right away because I’m so thrilled!  There will probably be typos and syntax errors, but I’m so over-the-moon I don’t care!

I had no idea that a brilliant writer/editor friend of mine, Greg Archer, was planning to include me in his regular Huffington Post Blog column called “Agents of Change”.  

This afternoon Greg casually asked me via Facebook if I’d be interested in participating as an “Agent of Change” subject, to which I answered “YES!” in no uncertain terms.

Fast forward an hour later.

I found a link in my email in-box from Greg leading to the Huffington Post.  After opening it I scrolled down a bit, spotting a selfie I took after visiting my friend Mara at her awesome, certified-green The Green Room Salon.

Yep – there I was in the Huffington Post alongside four incredible, inspiring women!

I can’t tell you how moved I am to be profiled about my struggle with bipolar in any publication, let alone one like the Huffington Post!  As soon as I realized this article was live, I emailed my husband Craig and my mother with the link.  Craig is usually verrrry mellow, but he called me right away to congratulate me and I could hear pride in his voice.  Two minutes later my Mom called.  While we’ve had some differences when it comes to bipolar & stigma, she too was so proud of me that she wanted to share the article with her friends on Facebook!  

I was astounded.  

At the end of the day I’m grateful…grateful that someone who I respect immensely found my story relevant enough to share with an audience, and I’m thankful that the people I love are happy for me.

Here’s the link to the Huffington Post article: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-archer/agents-of-change-5-inspir_b_5992870.html#es_share_ended

Thank you for reading!!

Wishing you all happy surprises when you least expect them…

Dyane

P.S. I have favor to ask!   I was nominated by the bestselling author Wendy K. Williamson (“I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”, & “Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival”) for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show” Blog Award.  I need your endorsements to win!  Just visit the below link, select the purple tab that says “Endorse Dyane Leshin-Harwood” and go from there – it takes only 20 seconds to endorse me.  Thank you so much!

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Then and Now: Thank you MAOI’s & Lithium!

3 bunnies

 Sunday morning smiles

 

I’ve had a lazy, Indian Summer-soaked weekend.  As much as I love the springtime, this is my favorite season of the year, bar none. (Plus Halloween is my favorite day of the year!)  

This morning I reflected upon how different my “lazy weekend” was than my lazy weekends of a couple years ago…

In 2012 and part of 2013, “lazy” was my doing virtually nothing during the weekends.  I stayed in bed or on the couch much of the day, feeling depressed, lethargic and hopeless.  There were also my intermittent crying jags during which I unsuccessfully tried to hide from my children.

In contrast, my current “lazy weekend” included:  

Doing laundry, dishes, straightening up the uber-messy house, completing homework with Rilla, cleaning up poop (Lucy most likely ate chicken poo), working out twice, surfing the internet, & watching an illuminating documentary called “Fed Up”.  It’s a film that was suggested by the blogger Bipolar on Fire.  “Fed Up” is so freaky and mind-bending but I’m glad I watched it!

 

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There’s more: I read some of the works of two New Zealand authors: a memoir “All That Glitters” by the Auckland fashion designer/depression advocate Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, and the “The Nutters Club: Helping Nutters from the Inside Out” by Mike King, a comedian/host of the hit radio show “The Nutters Club” with psychiatrist David Codyre.

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At Avi’s request, we went on a family picnic at the park, and last but not least, I watched the season finale of the highly intellectual TLC reality show“Long Island Medium”!

I swear, each time I watch it I feel my I.Q. rise a few points! 😉

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So what, Dyane?, you may be thinking.  

You might also wonder,

Frankly, I don’t care about your laundry list of tasks – they are kind of boring.  And you are not the intellectual you claim to be when you reveal you’re a fan of TLC reality shows like “Long Island Medium” – aren’t you a college graduate, or so you say? 

This all may be true, although the books and documentary film I mention are worth checking out, as well as Bipolar On Fire’s blog, which is one of my favorites.  Before I forget to mention it, her blog is:

http://bipolaronfire.com

I must also state that “Long Island Medium” is worth a look if you’re interested in psychic mediums and if you want to be entertained and inspired. 

But back to ultimate point of this post – I wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING unless I had my medications at the ready, namely my MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) called Parnate, (generic name: tranylcypromine – say that ten times fast!) and lithium.  

I’ve written about these meds before, but I’m bringing them up again for any new readers and because I enjoy expressing how I continue to feel grateful for them.  

The combination of the MAOI & lithium made it possible for me to not merely get out of bed each day, but to function and experience joy again.

I had no idea that MAOI’s have been prescribed for treatment-resistant bipolar depression for literally decades (i.e. since the 1950’s I believe) until 2013, when my most recent psychiatrist brought them up.  I found it mind-boggling that no other doctor thought to even mention them as a possibility since I was a textbook case of being med-resistant (I tried well over 20 drugs ) plus two rounds of ECT.

Duh!

When my psychiatrist suggested I try an MAOI in the fall of 2013, I did a little research on my own. I located two studies done in the 1970’s that would make ANY person with treatment-resistant bipolar depression rob a pharmacy if she had to in order to give an MAOI combined with lithium a try. (If an MAOI is combined with lithium, the two study findings indicated that the lifting of the bipolar depression is much more likely to happen.)  

While I’m by no means “cured” of bipolar disorder, and I have a long way to go in terms of my recovery, you can see how I’m still light years ahead of where I used to be.  Anxiety, and depersonalization/derealization continue to haunt me on a regular basis.  I’m working on all of this stuff with my counselor and on my own, and this work (yes, it’s work) is a full-time job unto itself that unfortunately few people understand.

After an intense Mental Health/Bipolar Awareness week, I celebrate my pills, the teeny tablets I once demonized until I relapsed without their help.  I’m grateful to these remarkable medications for helping me get my life back, and giving me hope again.  I’m on a quest to inform others who have been medication-resistant like me about MAOI’s if they haven’t tried them yet. They don’t work for everyone by any means, but you never know unless you a) know about their existence in the first place and b) give them a try.

Have a good week, dear readers!

Dyane

 

 P.S. I have a small favor to ask each of you!   I’ve been honored with a nomination by the

bestselling author Wendy K. Williamson (“I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar”, & “Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival”)

for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show” Blog Award.  I need your endorsements to win!  

Just visit the below link, select the purple tab that says “Endorse Dyane Leshin-Harwood”

and go from there – it takes only 15 seconds to endorse me.  Thank you so much!

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

 

Sweating Buckets Over S/M/L Stuff

At the ripe age of forty-four, I thought I wouldn’t let petty things get to me quite as much as they did when I was younger.  Unfortunately I do let petty things  (and sometimes not-so-petty things – see items #2 & #5 below) bug me so much that I turn into Satan. 

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What kinds of petty/non-petty stuff raises my blood pressure?

1) People who don’t return my emails 

2) People who pull dangerous, rude moves while driving our curvy mountain highway

3) Gross spammers (I wish spammers would get a life! They should start doing volunteer work instead of sending me emails about increasing my damn penis size???  And here’s a newsflash to them all: I DON’T HAVE A PENIS!!!)

4) People who won’t pick up their dog’s poop, especially in well-travelled areas

5) People who make clueless remarks about mental illness 

6) People who I’ve helped on and off for years, but when I need their help, they become mysteriously unavailable

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.  Well, maybe.  

All this stuff drains me, to say the least.  How I wish I could become impervious to at least half of the items on my list, but realistically that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  

I could start meditating to help me deal better with life’s indignities; meditation has been suggested to me over and over again by well-meaning professionals.  But I’d rather have my teeth cleaned than meditate.  (I hate getting my teeth cleaned and hearing that squeaky sucking sound!)

I’ve been told by vibrant, semi-enlightened souls how much a yoga practice will transform my life.  I’m happy for their yoga love, but I’d rather scrub my (very dirty) toilet.  I’ve tried different forms of yoga, but I simply don’t feel called to it.  I’d rather sweat heavily on a run, a hike, or on my elliptical machine.  (I *love* to sweat!  The more drips the better!)  Speaking of sweat, yes, I tried a Bikram “hot yoga” class years ago, and while I liked it more than the other kinds of yoga I tried, it didn’t float my boat.

While yes, I’m venting and whining up a storm, please believe me when I say that I know how damn lucky I am.  All I have to do is read an update about my neighbor who’s battling Stage IV cancer.  I’m reminded of how good I have it while reading profiles of my fellow nominees for the WEGO Health Activist Award.  Most of these incredible folks live with serious chronic illness. Each of their stories helps me appreciate the fact that while yeah, I have bipolar, thank God I don’t have debilitating migraines forcing me to live on my couch, or exist without an entire upper intestine and rectum. (Yes.)  

Ever since I was a child, my beloved Granny would often tell me in her New York-inflected accent, “Dyanu, it could always be worse!”  (Dyanu was one of her nicknames for me.)

My wise Granny was right.  It can always be worse.  I was very close to Granny as a teenager and young adult.  Lung cancer caused her to die a ghastly death ten years before my diagnosis.  While I was devastated that I lost her, I’m glad that Granny didn’t live long enough to see how “worse” it became for me after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Although Granny was a valiant fighter throughout her life, I know that my struggles with mental illness would have torn her apart.

So here I am.  My sweat has evaporated both literally (I worked out an hour ago) and figuratively. (I’m not sweating over any of my pet peeves at the moment.) 

Tomorrow will inevitably bring its aggravations, but maybe I can sweat just a little bit less over them.  Who cares if that mean person doesn’t email me back? I can direct my attention upon more fulfilling things.  The rude, dangerous drivers will always pique my road rage, but maybe I can try using an essential oil spray to help me chill out in the car instead of flipping the bird or screaming out a very vile word.  

If I make a little progress with a few of my pet peeves, hopefully my feelings of accomplishment can make me a little less reactionary overall.  

And maybe I’ll get my first tattoo on a highly visible place (i.e. my hand, or perhaps my forehead, Maori-style) to remind me:  

“It could always be worse!”

 

*You can endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist Award (I was nominated by the bestselling writer Wendy K. Williamson!) until January 31st, 2015 at :

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Endorsing me takes just 15 seconds and I’d be very grateful to you!