June is Sasquatch Respect Awareness Month

June is Sasquatch Respect Awareness Month

 

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Yes, my friends, it’s that time of year to honor our furry neighbors.

Sasquatches endure so many challenges such as being demonized by the media and ostracized by their fellow habitat dwellers.  Even the banana slugs roaming our redwoods disdainfully slither away from the Sasquatches.

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I don’t know if these mysterious creatures also struggle with bipolar disorder, but hell, I wouldn’t be surprised given their allegedly high level of intelligence.

 

All in all, Sasquatches get no respect! People fear them more than they fear that Freaky Ronald McDonald & his wormy burgers.

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Sasquatches get unfriended on Facebook all the time

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So I beseech you to take a moment out of your busy day and think of the Sasquatches. By the way, they are real.

(I live near the world-famous Bigfoot Discovery Project and Museum http://bigfootdiscoveryproject.com/ and they have genuine proof of their existence.)

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The next time you suspect you see a Sasquatch or two wandering in the redwoods or wherever, send them a smile along with some love.

We all need love.

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See you next Friday!

xoxoxoxo

Dyane

Dyane is the author of the memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder to be published by Post Hill Press in 2016. She’s the founder of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) Chapter of Santa Cruz County and facilitates free support groups for women with mood disorders. She’s considering starting a support group for Sasquatches. Dyane has been both Facebook and Seroquel-free for a month and feels really good about it. 

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The Seroquel Withdrawal Blues

Let me tell you a little story

(da da da da dum)

About the Seroquel blues

(da da da da dum)

Those pills are mighty powerful stuff

and they’ll make you constantly snooze

(da da da da dum)

Seroquel was my blessing and my curse

And ever since I said bye bye

(da da da da dum)

I’ve been sufferin’ the Seroquel blues

The withdrawals been making me cry

(da da da da dum)

———————————————————————————————-

(We meant to practice this a lot more for your sake, but, uh, obviously we didn’t. I can’t believe Lucy didn’t howl in protest. My apologies.)

Out of all the bipolar meds I’ve taken, the effects of the controversial antipsychotic Seroquel have been twofold. This drug has been my true blessing and also a total pain in the ass.

(A pain in the brain is more like it!)

I could easily write a 2000-word post about quetiapine (the generic form of Seroquel), but I’ll spare you and write around 1000 words as I have my memoir Birth of a New Brain to write. 

In 2013 my psychiatrist prescribed quetiapine for my hideous, agitated insomnia that hit me out of nowhere.  I filled my prescription but I kept putting off taking my first pill because I was scared of the potential side effects. It wasn’t likely that my head would fall off after taking quetiapine, and I probably wouldn’t start speaking in tongues, but I was plain-old-spooked.

Well, I finally became so desperate that I took the quetiapine and it totally helped me, so much so that I will never tell anyone not to try this stuff if they’re seriously considering it.

Yes, I had major daytime grogginess and yes, that sucked, but suffering with that side effect was worth it since I finally got my all-important sleep. 

My other side effects were weight gain (15 pounds since Fall, 2013) and some late night hunger. Since I worked out every day the “Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way”* I wasn’t too worried about an extra fifteen pounds. As a former certified personal trainer, I knew I could lose the weight safely when I simply committed to improving my diet.

Extra adipose tissue a.k.a. blubber has been something I was able to live with for the time being. Quetiapine also caused me to have trippy, vivid and disturbing dreams – not nightmares, exactly, but not feel-good/warm fuzzy dreams either.

I also believe that Seroquel may have triggered a weird phenomenon that lasted about nine months. I felt totally inspired to write regularly, and I blogged almost every day. I fell in love with writing all over again.

I remained responsible. I took care of the girls, and I didn’t alarm my husband by writing at all hours of the night as I did when I was hypomanic/manic and hypergraphic. (My hypergraphia will be explained in my book!) 😉

Every morning I woke up, I got the kids dressed and fed, and I drove them to school. I returned home to write for a few hours without fail. I wasn’t manic, but it definitely seemed like my brain was firing unusually, that’s for sure. I can’t think of another explanation for why this sudden burst of writing happened because the only thing I did differently was add quetiapine.

My psychiatrist didn’t think the medication caused any kind of mania either.  I don’t know. Could this have been a seasonal affective disorder of some kind? Maybe. But when I reduced my quetiapine dosage, my daily writing compulsion and my highly creative juices dwindled.  I was still creative and I still wrote, but my need to write was nowhere nearly as intense as it was before.  My intuition was that I had to reduce the (relatively) high dosage of 100 mg/night of quetiapine and not stay at 100mg for the sake of my writing habit and drive. 

So with my psychiatrist’s blessing, over the past year I tapered down to 25 mg a night of Seroquel. Even though 25 mg sounds tiny, it’s not! I’ve still felt groggy during the day, and I wanted to see if I could sleep without relying upon Seroquel.  I don’t know how people can open an eye at 800/mg a day of this stuff – that just shows how different we all are.

It turns out that I can sleep on my own once more!  Hurrah! I’ve been off quetiapine for over three weeks.  However, if I need to take it again I won’t hesitate. I added a $9 magnesium supplement (manufactured by Source Naturals, a reputable company located in my town) and it seems to help me with sleep too. I’ve used lavender essential oil off and on, which is safe and it always helps me (a least a little bit) when it comes to insomnia.

I’ve read that it can take weeks or months for a quetiapine withdrawal period to run its course. I’m not allowing myself to surf endlessly on the internet about it because God knows I’ve done that before, and in this case I think it’s a total waste of time.

What matters most is that each day I feel a little better. I can sense the Seroquel withdrawal blues slowly dissipating.  I’m more alert and my freaky dreams are gone. My “Seroquel belly” is even shrinking a tiny bit.

I’ll have more to report on the withdrawal front next Thursday or Friday. If you’re tapering off a med or suffering some withdrawal blues of your own, good luck and feel free to vent your heart away here.

Until then, take care, and thanks for reading!  

XOXO

Dyane

* Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders webinar that (sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you ) totally changed my life!  Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobioloigcal Rational

http://isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief blog post. This article contains simple “exercise for mood” guidelines I follow religiously every day.

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

My husband was so convinced that my Alsuwaidan routine has helped my mood that when my exercise machine broke, he went out to Sears that same day (despite being swamped with work) and he got me a better machine. (I know I’m lucky!)

Yes, I could’ve gone walking or hiking or jumped rope or walked up and down the stairs, but he knew how much I loved using my elliptical. I believe my Schwinn is worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate.

Wish You Were Here

Dad with Leonard Bernsteind?

My Dad with the great composer Leonard Bernstein

After hearing my father audition, Bernstein told him that he had what it took to be a world-famous concert violinist

Today would’ve been my father’s 88th birthday.  

I wish my Dad was alive to celebrate his birthday for so many reasons – mainly so his two beautiful granddaughters could get to know him and enjoy his remarkable talents as a: Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist, oil/watercolor painter, sailor, model airplane builder, expert skier, woodworker, gourmet cook, book/poetry aficionado, gardener, college professor, violin teacher, backpacker, world traveler, Spanish speaker, and Irish Setter/Golden Retriever lover! 

I’m leaving out much, much more, but that list alone explains why time spent with my father was never dull – unless he was struck by a bout of severe bipolar depression. When that occurred he’d hide away in his bedroom with its thick curtains drawn shut as if it was a sepulcher. There he slept to escape his misery.

While growing up, I saw firsthand how manic depression affected my father, and I hoped to high heaven I’d never experience it. But that’s not how things worked out, and my father felt responsible and terribly guilty that I inherited bipolar disorder.  

I called him from the psychiatric ward’s single pay phone during my first hospitalization. I was six weeks postpartum and full-blown manic. (My suicidal depression wouldn’t arrive until weeks later.) Four hundred miles away, Dad answered the telephone. I told him I had just been diagnosed with bipolar one disorder. It was the first time I ever heard him weep.

Since I was manic, as soon as the psychiatrist looked me in the eyes and told me my diagnosis, I wasn’t fazed. During my conversation with my father I tried comforting him. I urged Dad several times not to worry about me, but he knew what lay in store for his beloved daughter. He knew that the shit would hit the fan in my brain, and it did. Again, and again, and again.  Six more hospitalizations would follow, I’d ask for unilateral ECT after he died, and for bilateral ECT after I made the disastrous decision to taper off bipolar meds.  All in all, I’d try over thirty-five medications to no avail.

Despite all my suffering, with the help of my immediate family, my doctor, my therapist, the medical establishment and (gasp!) even evil Big Pharma, I’ve come through “Dyane’s Inferno”.

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I wish that my father could’ve witnessed how my bipolar disorder didn’t destroy me. Wherever he is (for I don’t believe that when die, that’s it.), maybe Dad knows I’ve reached this hard-won, relative stability.

I wish I could’ve called my father after I was offered my book contract; Dad knew I wanted to be a published author from the time I was seven-years-old.  He was a voracious reader, and at bedtime he read me The Juniper Tree stories (a tad disturbing, but fascinating nonetheless) or Edgar Alan Poe’s haunting poem Annabel Lee, one of his favorites.

In the last couple years my father was alive, I’d search the Los Angeles Public Library’s online catalogue for books I thought he’d enjoy. Using his library card number, I’d request books about the violin, sailing, and history to name a few. This memory makes me happy because I know that the books served as bibliotherapy, despite the recurrence of his bipolar depression. He always thanked me profusely for finding books he couldn’t put down.

Dad would be so proud to see me achieve my dream of having my book published by Post Hill Press. (I still think he pulled some celestial strings so that I got the deal!)

I’m beyond grateful that Dad and I had our time together.  

I’ll be dedicating my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder to my girls, Craig, my Mom, Miss Lucy,

and of course…

Dad.

Dad unshaved

Dyane & Dad 002 (1)Eight-months-pregnant Dyane & Dad, 2004

Annabel Lee

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Update from the Boondocks of Bigfoot

 

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Hey there my Sasquatch lovin’ friends,

I’m in a goofy mood, which comes at a good time after my Facebook Fiasco. a.k.a. the unfriendings over the past week. After I published my last post, I received fantastic comments packed with insights and support, and I felt a bunch of warm fuzzies.  Thank you so much!

It has been five days since I deactivated my Facebook account and I don’t miss it at all! I remain on Twitter, and it helps me feel connected to the internet, but as one follower Jasminehoneyadams of Invoke Delight  https://invokedelight.wordpress.com/  wisely notes,

“I much prefer Twitter for social media, where it’s less personal and there’s no pretension of people being friends; they’re more acquaintances which is less confusing for me, and it’s less upsetting if someone unfollows because it’s just the way Twitter works.”

I agree!

So you may be wondering what’s the story about this Bigfoot title? Well, I live five minutes away from the world-famous Bigfoot Discovery Museum. (I’m sure you’ve heard of it.)  

I’m not proud that despite living in these mountains for close to a decade, I haven’t been inside the legendary exhibit. My time will come. Last year I met the Museum’s owner Mike at the post office and he was very charming. He even offered to watch my puppy Lucy outside the post office when I mailed a package. I promised Mike I’d pay the museum a visit because let’s face it, one’s life is not complete until a pilgrimage to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum is made.  

There isn’t really much of a connection between Bigfoot and last week’s virtual rejection. Today I gazed out the window at the beautiful redwoods, and thought, How lucky I am to have such a view! Bigfoot came to mind because the hirsute creature supposedly roams these woods. Then I began to laugh, because of all the places in the world for me to settle down, I had to pick Bigfoot’s ‘hood. (Well, at this point I’d trust Bigfoot more than a lot of “friends” on Facebook!)

I used to hike all the time at nearby state parks, and I never once spotted the wily beast, but who’s to say what’s the truth of Bigfoot’s existence? (There must be an X-Files episode about it, right?) In any case, I’d much rather be pondering the mysteries of Bigfoot than surfing Facebook and wasting time better spent on important projects, not to mention finding out that someone has unfriended me!

Speaking of important projects, I’ve been working each day on Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. I’ve made some progress, but I have a looooooong way to go. I’m slower than molasses when it comes to completing the draft, but I’m highly motivated due to the book deal with Post Hill Press. To help inspire me to do the best job I can, I bought Your Life is a Book by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann, which has 99% 4-5 star Amazon reviews:

 

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I don’t have a good track record when it comes to utilizing self-help books, but I’m hoping that reading this book (and doing some of the exercises) will be a positive experience. I figure it’s definitely worth a try!

Because of the huge surge of interest in reading and writing memoirs, there are numerous awesome-sounding memoir how-to books available. I considered buying Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk & Writing, but I was drawn to this book. Another book that caught my eye was written by a New Zealander (! yes !) named Lindsey Dawson. She wrote Crack Your Life: How to Write a Memoir That Rocks. Although it only got two reviews, reading the glowing, detailed praise made me download a sample on my Kindle. I haven’t read it yet, but I will.

I’ve also been enjoying the Twitter feed of @WomenWriters. It has frequent tweets, but the beauty of Twitter is that it’s easy to sift through tweets without becoming overwhelmed. @WomenWriters offers links to helpful articles on websites including Women Writers, Women’s Books. http://booksbywomen.org/  I highly recommend @WomenWriters and the site!

Be good to yourself, be good to your friends, and please protect yourself from negative, toxic people/headlines/whatever!

Thanks for reading…

XOXO

Dyane

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For more information about the Bigfoot Discovery Museum please visit: 

http://bigfootdiscoveryproject.com/

Dreams, Toxic “Friends” & Facebook Freedom!

What DreamsWhat Dreams May Come

I love this image so!

The first time I saw the 1998 film What Dreams May Come I didn’t connect with it although it starred some actors I adored including Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra and Cuba Gooding Jr. Then, many years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and my beloved father died.  Those two momentous events were responsible for my change of heart regarding this film. After I gave What Dreams May Come a second chance, I fell head-over-heels in love with the story (which concerns mental illness, death and the afterlife), the acting, and its magical, state-of-the-art “painterly” special effects which won an Academy Award.

It was directed by the acclaimed New Zealander Vincent Ward. Some of you know I have a New Zealand obsession, so I appreciated having him at the helm.

I’ve cried every time I’ve seen What Dreams May Come since my 2nd viewing, and despite its triggering subject matter (depression/mental hospitalization/suicide) the movie gives me hope!

I love the image of a joyful Annabella Sciorra shaking off a crimson cloth in Switzerland. The scene plays a special role in the film, and thinking of it evokes a sense of wild abandon in me…of freedom from life’s worries, i.e.

Freedom from stupid-ass Facebook rejections!

Last Friday I published my post about how I felt being unfriended on Facebook in a very unfriendly fashion. I felt SO good after receiving such great feedback from followers. (Thank you!!!) I let that Facebook incident go for the most part, and I only thought of it a little bit. I carried on. With two young girls, a husband, two hyper Houdini-hamsters, and Miss Lucy the Canine Wonder (and tapering off Seroquel – more on that in my next post) I had enough on my plate…

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It’s not my favorite day – it feels like a contrived holiday, unlike the best holiday of the year: Halloween. 😉 Through a serendiptous series of events I found out I had been unfriended on Facebook AGAIN!  But instead of the Unfriender living thousands of miles away from me, this time I was unfriended by a neighbor living one mile away. I had always been kind to her, just as I had behaved with the fellow I wrote about last week.  

Long story short: my unfriendly neighbor has clinical depression, trauma, and some deep-seated personality disorders. Her unfriending me had much more to do with her issues than to do with who I was as a person, or with anything I had done. Despite my knowing all that, something in me snapped harder than it did last week.

Once again I thought,

F*CK THIS SH*T!!!!

One can’t get through life without rejection. We all know that. As much as I’ve loved using Facebook, yesterday it was clear it had become a channel for weird, toxic rejection. Two unfriendings in one week, even if they were not bosom buddies, was too much for this ultra-sensitive soul. Plus I have a book I need to focus on completing, which is all the more reason for me take a Facebook vacation. 

Last night I knew what I needed to do. I took a paltry thirty seconds and deactivated my Facebook account. It was a bittersweet moment, but it felt very empowering as well. I’m not sure how long this break will be, but I already feel more free! I have more time to write. It just feels healthy all around.

At least now there’s one less way for me to be triggered by those who don’t want me in their lives. As my seven-year-old girl told me while we played SmashBall last night, “They’re missing out on a opportunity, Mommy! You’re wonderful! I love you!” 

I love that kid.

Here’s the trailer of  What Dreams May Come – I can’t resist including it here after my glowing plug!

I Love You Goodbye

Thomas Dolby singing “I Love You Goodbye” from Astronauts and Heretics,one of my all-time favorite albums.

Yesterday I woke up bright and perky only to find a bummer of a Facebook message in my in-box. It was from someone I had been virtual friends with for the past year. She lives with bipolar disorder, and for months I encouraged her from afar with tweets and Facebook messages, sometimes on a daily basis.  I took time to cheer her up by attaching photos of her favorite rock band U2 that I knew she’d enjoy.  

She messaged me, “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, you’re not on my FB or Twitter anymore. You have done nothing. I tend to take things too personally when I shouldn’t and just cut people off. I am struggling quite a bit right now. I’m just backing off of everything at the moment. I’m not expecting forgiveness or even friendship. I just felt the need to explain.”

First thought: F*ck this!  

Following thoughts: I knew all along she has been mentally unstable. I need to be compassionate and not take one bit of this personally!

I wrote her back a brief message and wished her well. I added that I’d be open for re-connecting in the future. (As I typed that line, a tiny red flag popped up in my people-pleasing brain and I thought, Whhhaaaat? You don’t want to be friends with this person! Ever! But I didn’t delete that line like I should’ve.)

I called a wonderful friend and she was willing to hash it out. She gave me tons of good advice, namely to let the whole thing go and it wasn’t about me. Because of that key conversation I was able to actually stop thinking about it the rest of the day. I thanked my lucky stars for this friend.

This morning half-awake, the aggravating Pisces/uber-sensitive part of me started ruminating about what happened the day before with the unfriending. I realized I DID take her actions personally – I wasn’t a robot, dammit! I had been kind to this person. 

The fact that I woke up upset by this crap is not good for me.  Sometimes we can’t predict another person’s toxic behavior and how it’ll affect us – I know I can’t. After mulling it over, I decided to block her on Facebook and Twitter so in the unlikely event she wants to be in touch again, I don’t get triggered down the line. It may sound selfish, but I would never feel safe with her after this, and let’s face it -s he’s “just” a virtual friend who lives thousands of miles away.  I’ve never even heard her voice.

There’s no happy way to end this post, so I won’t even try. But I’m going to go work out because I know it will make me feel better! 

Xo

Dyane

The Post of My Heart: “The Found Girl” on The Lithium Chronicles

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Dear Friends,

It has been a hell of a week.  Last Friday I was high (it was natural! No inhaling took place. 😉 from sharing my good news about my book deal with Post Hill Press.  I’ll be honest with you – despite hoping to get a few solid hours of writing done, I did diddly squat.

That same day, Nicole Lyons, the feisty founder of wildly popular The Lithium Chronicles Facebook community, kicked off her Mental Health Warrior month by publishing my post “The Found Girl” on her blog. I was honored, to say the least.

I selected “The Found Girl” because out of the 275 posts I’ve published, it’s one of my very favorites. I had problems trying to reblog it, so I’m posting the link:  

http://thelithiumchronicles.org/2015/04/30/mental-health-warrior-dyane-leshin-harwood/

I usually ramble for another 818 words, but today I’m giving you a break. I hope you’re all doing well, dear bloggers. 

love, Dyane

p.s. As some of you know, I enjoy promoting sites/resources I believe in, so I’m sharing some of my favorites here.  Please help me spread the word about ’em & I’ll be forever in your debt!!

Visit The Lithium Chronicles Facebook Community 

https://www.facebook.com/TheLithiumChronicles?fref=ts 

 To check out Post Hill Press visit www.posthillpress.com

Post Hill

Dr. Walker Karraa, who’s writing the foreword to Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, created a wonderful site called Stigmama. http://stigmama.com/ I’ve been a Regular Contributor to Stigmama for almost a year. I encourage you to visit Stigmama and consider contributing your own writing to this cutting-edge site – it has over 19,000 likes on Facebook!

Dr. Karraa’s new book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth has been the #1 Amazon bestseller in the Postpartum category! Please buy a copy for anyone you know who has been affected by postpartum depression – it’s a truly remarkable, unique, and most important, inspiring book.  To purchase a copy please go to:

 http://www.amazon.com/Transformed-Postpartum-Depression-Womens-Stories-ebook/dp/B00STTT334/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431040608&sr=1-1&keywords=Transformed+by+Postpartum

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