Zoe the Hamster with Bipolar Foils Death Yet Again!

Okay, well Zoe doesn’t have a bona fide DSM-5 bipolar diagnosis, but I had to rope you in somehow! imgres

(She does seem to have rather mercurial states of mind.)   

To tell you the truth, I find it interesting that the first topic I wanted to write about today wasn’t bipolar-related. That’s a novelty. I think about bipolar disorder so constantly that it feels like a part-time job. While a hamster on the lam may not be quite as fascinating a subject as bipolar disorder, it feels good to focus on the critter and give my weary brain a break. 

Actually, I do bring up bipolar disorder at the close of this post, so please bear with me and don’t scamper off! 😉  Prepare yourself for some rodent-related high drama!

My brain is not feeling too fresh today because I awoke with a head cold. I become a big baby when I’m sick, even if it’s a mild bug. I felt the creeping crud coming on yesterday afternoon while I whizzed around doing too many errands. I think that hectic pace made me vulnerable to a germ which has been making the rounds. Sneezing, weakness, and the grumpies have been my only symptoms.  

Anyway, I noticed this morning it was very quiet. Preternaturally quiet. There were no sounds of Zoe frenetically running on her “Critter Trail” wheel. I walked over to her abode holding my breath.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! My worst suspicions were confirmed.

No Zoe!

During the night she bit through layers of duct tape used as a temporary measure to cover a hole in her cage. (Before you critique me, please know it wasn’t my idea to use duct tape!) Meanwhile, our dog Lucy ran excitedly from room to room. After checking the bathroom for signs of Zoe, I sequestered Lucy there. 

Next, Rilla and I went on a hamster hunt. All the while, I fervently prayed that Lucy didn’t have Zoe in her digestive system!  

I don’t want to sound like we’re negligent hamster owners, but these things do happen. We’ve had Zoe escape once before…

https://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/late-nights-with-zoe-the-syrian-hamster/

I worried that it was highly unlikely for us to have another happy ending.  

I ran around the house with Rilla, snot running down my face in the mayhem. I peered into every nook and cranny for the wily brown furball. I looked down over the edge of Marilla’s bunk bed that pressed up against the wall, where there were a few inches of space between bed and wall. To my shock, Zoe’s head popped out from underneath the lower bunk.  Hallelujah! After coaxing her out with hamster grub, Rilla grabbed her as gently as she could. Relief washed over me.  

I covered Zoe’s cage’s hole with a brick instead of duct tape. 

From now on, I’m calling her the Houdini Hamster. 

Now I’m tuckered out from all the commotion, so I’m off to be a banana slug. This hamster excitement took a lot out of me, but at least I don’t have a hysterical seven-year-old on my hands. Thank God I’m not making plans for a hamster funeral.

I’m also glad I had the energy to find Zoe. If this incident happened during my bipolar depression days, I would’ve hidden beneath my comforter, unable to deal with it. Finding Zoe was a small-yet-significant triumph.

Sending you all my sluggy love until late next week,

Dyane

 Fascinating Banana Slug Fact:

Banana slugs can be found hanging out in our front yard. Fortunately Lucy doesn’t try to eat them – that would be gross, as they love to slither along things such as dog excrement.imgres-1imgres

“I’m Not A Mess” Redux with my daughter Marilla

Last night I had just finished working out when my precocious daughter Rilla walked into the room.  As I stood there exhausted, she said “Mommy, I have something special I want to show you!” I dragged myself upstairs to see what she was talking about.  I thought it would be her latest Minecraft creations.

It turns out that she recorded herself on PhotoBooth singing a ditty that I wrote a few months ago. It’s called “I’m Not A Mess”, and in it I admonish the media for portraying women with mental illnesses as messes.  Rilla’s rendition was so cute, but the words were hard to make out, so we created a duet. It contains a potty sentence which might offend some people. (I explained to Rilla not to use it until she’s eighteen.)

 

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Love him!

Below are some classic examples of women doing the “head-clutch” move portrayed by the media.  The amazing Stephen Fry is working with the Time to Change * to  publicize this issue.

Hope you like the song, and I’ll see you next Friday. Have a great weekend everyone!

love,

Dyane

 

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images-1 My personal favorite, even though she’s not clutching her nogginimages

 

* Here’s the link to the article about Time to Change and its groundbreaking campaign “launched to stop depression being illustrated with head-in-hands pictures.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/campaign-launched-to-stop-depression-being-illustrated-with-headinhands-pictures-10116855.html

Cookie Monster Offers Private Sessions

 

 

 

imgresDear Cool Cats,

I want to apologize to each of you for my last post, a.k.a. the negative whinefest. Between that and the Linda Blair photo, I hope I didn’t scare anyone away.

Too late now, eh?

To make up for my whines and the gruesome Linda pic, I’d like to share this very sweet, uplifting video of the eminent Cookie Monster leading therapy sessions. I watched it with Avi last night and we were laughing. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!  A special thanks goes out to Plucky You, one of my favorite blogs, for sharing Cookie Monster’s therapy. Plucky You also brought light into my world with the magnificent, unforgettable Alpaca Dancing Cow video that changed my life.  Please check out her blog when you can!  

Have a super-fab weekend!

Love,
Dyane

p.s. When in doubt, don’t forget Cookie Monster’s divine wisdom:
“WHERE THE COOKIE? WHERE THE COOKIE???”

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PLUCKY YOU

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I Love Having My Writing Rejected…

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Trigger Warning: Potty talk and scary photo

Not! 😉

I don’t like having my writing rejected!

My skin is getting a little bit thicker; it is, I swear. The encouragement I received after publishing my last rejection-themed post really helped give me an attitude adjustment. However, I still have room for improvement.

Case in point: Rejection #1

Yesterday I had a ridiculous hissy fit and it wasn’t pretty!

Two months ago I submitted a poem to our conservative mountain town’s annual poetry contest/public reading. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  I used to work for another Friends of the Library organization, and I was also library clerk, so libraries hold a special place in my heart.  

Ellen Bass, one of our local big shot bestselling authors (The Courage to Heal), judged the entries. This year’s theme was “What Have You Lost?” My “Out in the Milkweed” entry delineates what I’ve lost due to bipolar disorder.  My poem reveals that I’m in recovery, so it’s optimistic. “Out in the Milkweed” doesn’t contain anything inappropriate (i.e. detailed accounts of suicide or cutting) for a public reading. It’s vanilla.

When I discovered last night that I was a big, ‘ol loser, I morphed into this:

linsda

 

I spewed vitriol right, left and upside down as Craig watched me with raised eyebrows.

I made sure our kids were out of range as I ranted, “Ellen Bass is a fucking bitch! A snob!  I bet this rejection is about stigma towards those with mental illness!!!  A lot of people liked my poem! She could’ve accepted it, even as a “mercy yes” if she thought it was shitty! This small-minded, closeted community needs mental illness discussed in public and I could’ve done that!  I bet no one else contributed a poem about bipolar! I’ve lost all respect for Ellen Bass and the Friends of the Library! Assholes”

Then I sat in front of my laptop and wrote a bitter email to the contest sponsor and cc’d it to Ellen Bass.  I reproached them for their obvious stigma towards bipolar. After I wrote a couple paragraphs, ten-year-old Avi walked in the room and asked me what I was doing. I gave her a quick summary, and that awesome kid said matter-of-factly,

“Mom, c’mon, don’t send it!”

That’s all I needed to hear to shake off my rage, and I immediately deleted the email.  I knew if I sent it, my message about stigma wouldn’t be heard; they’d see it as a sour grapes/sore loser syndrome and lest I forget to add: a “crazy bipolar freak-out”. I’ve burned enough bridges around this town as it is so it’s good Avi was a sweet voice of reason.  

After I calmed down I looked at “Out in the Milkweed” again. Right after I wrote it months ago, I thought the piece was truly good. Upon reviewing it yesterday I knew it wasn’t my best work.   I actually felt embarrassed, since it was waaaaaaay too long and waaaaaay too wordy.  It would have been hard to read “Out in the Milkweed” to an audience based on its clunky sentence structures alone.  

What was the lesson I learned here? (Did I learn anything?) 

That it’s okay to be upset upon learning one’s writing is rejected, but I must limit the sulking time, I can’t fire off any emails written in fury, and I need to move on.  

 Rejection #2

I am proud to say I didn’t flip out upon receiving this rejection last Monday, but I was still really disappointed since it was for the Huffington Post.  Okay, so it’s not the New York Times. However, I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, but if my submission had been published, I know the information would help some readers as the Huffington Post has a large readership.  

Before I pitched them, I received awesome editing help and feedback from a seasoned HuffPo blogger/mentor. After receiving her notes, I spent a considerable amount of time improving the piece. I trust her with all my heart, and she wrote that my piece was good and worthy of publication.  She’s not one to offer praise unless it’s warranted, so when I sent the final pitch and the article, I was feelin’ pretty damn spicy.  I thought I had a chance.

Then I heard nada.

Last October I was profiled in the Huffington Post.  Greg Archer, a regular contributor, included me as an “Inspiring Agent of Change”.*  Archer gave me a ginormous compliment  in noting that my writing had a “smooth creative style…by sharing her vulnerabilities and truths on living with bipolar disorder, she captures attention and wonderfully lures readers into wanting to know more about the illness…this is one to watch.”  As cool an honor as that is, the Huff editors just weren’t into my pitch/article.

Boo hooooooooo!  They are meeeeanannnn monsters!

At least I didn’t become Linda Blair, or eat all the chocolate gelato in the freezer.  I knew that the HuffPo editors probably thought my topic wasn’t broad enough and/or they thought my writing wasn’t that great.  Who knows?  

I remind myself that Madeleine L’Engle recceived 26 rejections for A Wrinkle In Time. While I’m sure as hell not Madeleine L’Engle-caliber, I know I have some worthwhile writing to share. Gotta just carry on and keep the f-bombs to a low roar.  Maybe next time I shoot for the stars and pitch The New York Times.  

I have nothing to lose except my temper.

 

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

Writing with Distractions Without Screaming Like a Banshee

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Name that banshee!

It’s pretty quiet in these parts, and I’m overjoyed to tell you there are no rodent adventures to report.  I haven’t spotted any errant hamsters in the middle of the night, nor have rats taken up residence in my new Schwinn elliptical…yet.  

The past week has been Spring Break for my daughters, which means I lost the luxury of quiet chunks of writing time. So I did my best to pretend that I was one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. (Ha!  I wish I had .01% of her talent, but that’s a subject for another post.)

Dy & Madeleine #1

Yep, here we are in 1997 – Madeleine L’Engle, me and my double chins!

 

No, what I mean by pretending to be Madeleine L’Engle is that during her many interviews she remarked that she could write almost anywhere, with any distractions.  As a child L’Engle was sent to boarding school in Switzerland where she barely had any privacy, even in the bathroom (!). She learned to ignore distractions while writing in her journals, and she further strengthened her concentration skills as a Broadway actress. L’Engle wrote prolifically backstage, on trains, in hotel lobbies…you name it!  

To write, I need quiet or mellow background music. I recently started listening to classical guitar and like it very much. I also tune into the Snatam Kaur channel on Pandora, but that’s risky as that style of music has the potential to put me to sleep. 

I’m also lucky that Lucy the Writing Muse often sits next to me and places her warm, furry flank on my right foot – it’s the sweetest thing. However, sometimes Lucy is viciously flatulent, but that’s the only downside to her company. 

lucy

We live in a very small house so when my girls are here, I can barely think straight.  They are lively.  Yes, I have some old, crappy headphones. I don’t like wearing them when the kids are around when an argument breaks out or God forbid someone gets hurt.

Right this moment I’m trying my best to drown out “The Littlest Pet Shop” television show that’s blaring ten feet away.  The uber-peppy, high-pitched theme song will surely haunt me the rest of the day.

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I’ve managed to write more of my book “Birth of a Brain” each day despite the distractions.  It’s trippy and difficult work, as I’m chronicling a few of my hospitalizations and that includes some suicide-related material.  I’m not going into a ton of gory details – there are plenty of books that have done that already.  Those books definitely have their place, and I commend any author who re-visits her darkest experiences and writes about it.   I just am not drawn to writing that kind of book.

The advantage to sifting through my thick folders of hospital records, doctor reports, medication notes, etc. is that I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have “made it”.  I don’t mean to sound smug – I can’t say with absolute certainty that I won’t ever relapse again and darken a unit door. Despite my working my ass off at clean livin’, the fact remains there’s no cure yet. I can work as hard as I can, but fate and my brain might have other plans in store for me.

After hours of reflection during this Spring Break, I still can’t believe that I was never taken outdoors by hospital staff even for a few minutes – yes, that was my experience.  After my last hospitalization, a year or two later I called the unit to ask them why I was kept inside all the time. The woman answered, “You had to get a doctor’s note to go outside.” I was never informed of that policy as an inpatient. I don’t know – it was just fucked up.  Don’t get me started about what the coffee situation was like.

So yeah, I have anxieties, aches and pains, I have “bipolar wrinkles” and white hair. I have belly fat that bugs me despite my working out every day.  But in the writing of my book and in sharing this post with you, I feel a lot better.  Writing can serve as an attitude adjustment, because I’ve been reminded that holy shit, my situation could be a LOT worse!  

On a related note (bear with me – please) aside from Madeleine L’Engle, one of my other favorite bestselling authors is SARK.  The San Francisco-based author and artist has over 2 million books in print, and she has a free “Inspiration Line”.  

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SARK has run this line for over 15 years and I’ve been calling it since it began.  (1-415-546-EPIC)  She changes the message every few months when she feels inspired.  SARK talks for a few minutes and then you can hang up or leave her a message.  Lately she has been VERY inspired as she’s getting married for the first time in her life and she turned 60 last year.  Never say never.

SARK has often closed her inspiration messages with the line “My gift to you is….” She’d come up with all kinds of creative, fanciful “gifts” of ways her callers could appreciate beautiful moments in life in a non-throw-uppy way.  (Yes, that’s a word.)

I explain all that because I want to give you a gift, too.  I can’t come up with anything truly SARK-like, as much as I wish I could. Moreover, I don’t have money I can throw your way, but I want to give you the gift of appreciating something today that you might be taking for granted.   

It doesn’t have to be deep – it can be the kind of soda you’re drinking.  It can be the warm socks you’re wearing.  The purring of your cat.  The CD you’re listening to, or the fact that your internet is working.  

It can be deep too. 

What am I appreciating today? The sunny weather. I love it.  When I suffered with bipolar depression for years at a time, I obsessed about the phrase “The tyranny of a beautiful day”.  I felt like such a failure for hating the gorgeous, sunny days because all I wanted to do was to hide in the darkness beneath my blankets – I wanted to fall asleep forever so I could escape the pain.

Now I want to get dressed and go out into that sunshine.  Today.

I don’t take today for granted, and I never will again.

Love to you all,

Dyane