AROHO’s No No/An Intriguing Book About Virginia Woolf’s Manic Depression

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Happy day before Halloween!

 

Several weeks have passed since I emailed A Room of Her Own Foundation for Women: Writers: Artists, a well-funded nonprofit also known as AROHO. 

The A Room of Her Own website features a profile of a young Virginia Woolf in its logo. Woolf is referenced throughout the AROHO website, i.e. the foundation’s mission and Woolf’s bio. There’s not a peep about her lifelong struggle with manic depression which had a massive influence upon her work.

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I wrote in gory detail about what happened after I contacted AROHO in my post A Stigma of Her Own. While the post received fantastic replies and generated a lively discussion, when it came to AROHO’s eagerly anticipated reply to my suggestions, I only heard crickets chirping. 

I’m not surprised they didn’t get back to me “thoughtfully”- that’s what their auto-generated email which I received from them promised me: “Thanks for your email and we’ll get back to you thoughtfully within a few days.”

However, I was disappointed all the same. I figure that whoever ignored my emails will have to face her stigma at some point. She won’t be able to run away from it, since mental illness affects one in four people in this country.

An interesting thing that came out of this experience was finding two books written solely about Virginia Woolf’s life with manic depression. (There very well may be more books, as I only did a quick Google search!)

The book by Thomas C. Caramagno titled Flight of the Mind got great reviews across the board and get this – it has an afterword by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of the bestseller An Uniquiet Mind and numerous other books.  (Dr. Jamison discusses Woolf and manic depression in her classic book Touched with Fire.) 

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The other book is titled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Manic Depression and the Life of Virginia Woolf by retired British psychiatrist Peter Dally. It only received one Amazon review (at least it was 5 stars), but Kirkus and Library Journal’s reviews were very lukewarm. 

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Before I continue, I promise each of you I will let this subject go, but here’s my last longwinded sentence to sum up everything:

I located these two Woolf & manic depression books after I contacted AROHO. I was frankly amazed to find two books written exclusively about how Woolf’s manic depression affected her writing. 

The fact that AROHO, a big, cushy nonprofit claiming to be dedicated to women writers and artists, has swept such a profound aspect of Woolf’s life under the carpet is ludicrous.

I wish I could get Woolf’s take on it! Who knows what she would say or write on the matter? I could have a seance tomorrow night and ask her myself…NOT! 😉

(For the record, I’m fascinated by the afterlife, but I wouldn’t be up for doing that. It would most likely annoy Woolf.)

So on that cheerful note I bid you adieu.

I wish you a wonderful Halloween, my favorite day of the year! What will you be? I’m going to be a mysterious dark vampirish lady sans fangs. 

take care & be careful on the streets while filling up those candy bags. (Hey! You’re never too old.)

Dyane

p.s. I would LOVE your take on any of this: Virginia Woolf, stigma, hypocritical nonprofits, seances, the afterlife, whatever.  

p.p.s. My friend the blogger extraordinaire Kitt O’Malley shared a very cool resource: UC Press E-books Collection to read Thomas C. Caramagno’s book The Flight of the Mind – Virginia Woolf’s Art and Manic-Depressive Illness.

Please visit the link here

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in early 2017.

How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace

How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace

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Hi my friends!

I’ll be publishing my weekly original post later this week, but I couldn’t help but reblog this post. I’ll let my comment at Freud and Fashion do the talking:

“How thrilling to see my amazing friend/blogger Ann Roselle here at one of my favorite blogs written by Dr.Vania Manipod, psychiatrist of Freud and Fashion! :)))

I discovered Ann during my internet quest to find women who have experienced bipolar, peripartum onset (postpartum bipolar disorder) for the purpose of interviewing for my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa. 

After getting to know Ann & having the great fortune of making a wonderful friend in her, I referred Ann to Joni Edelman, the editor of Ravishly.com. I knew Ann’s writing talent (along with the fact that her story was incredible) would speak to Joni, who lives with bipolar disorder. As I predicted, Joni found Ann’s articles about bipolar disorder to be top-notch and she published them on the popular site.

Lo and behold, you & Ann connected with one another via Ravishly.com. It’s a small world and it thrills me when this kind of networking takes place. It’s social media at its best!

Cheers to both of you remarkable visionaries who constantly inspire me – my world is better with you two in it.

XO, Dyane”

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

Freud & Fashion

I first came across Ann Roselle, an acute care nurse practitioner, via Twitter after reading the extremely personal and brave post that she wrote for the online magazine, Ravishly, which poignantly highlights the humiliation she experienced during one of her numerous psychiatric hospitalizations.  Given the stigma that surrounds mental illness, many may feel ashamed to disclose their diagnoses (especially as a professional in the medical field).  However, Ann writes so openly about living with postpartum onset bipolar disorder as a guest contributor on several websites and in her blog, Bipolar&Me.  She dispels the misconception that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder can’t live fulfilling lives, have a successful career, balance numerous roles and responsibilities (wife, mom of 3 boys, mental health advocate, blogger, to name a few), AND cope with the fluctuations in mood characteristic of bipolar disorder.  I am a huge fan of Ann’s writing and am honored to have her contribute to my blog as she discusses her commitment…

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How Shocking That I Got Shocked! & The Amazing Dr. Nuland

How Shocking That I Got Shocked! & The Amazing Dr. Nuland

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I’m still shocked that I had the guts to request ECT, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock. It was nothing other than pure desperation that drove me to try something so frightening and controversial.

It was January of 2009.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years earlier, and I was teetering on the edge of sanity.  Then my father died.  If you’ve read my post Stigma – Part Two you know that my relationship with my father (who also had bipolar disorder) was a close one, and I loved him unreservedly.  His health had been failing for several years before he passed away, but each time it seemed that when he reached his end, he’d make a miraculous recovery.  No matter how many remarkable recoveries Dad made, I knew that it was inevitable that I’d lose him forever.  I had been dreading his death every day since he became frail in his seventies.

Dad never liked to talk about death, unlike me. I was fascinated with discussing death with anyone up for it, and I was especially interested the afterlife.  I considered Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a pioneer in near-death studies (On Death and Dying) and Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life which has sold over 12 million copies to date) to be among my favorite authors.  Dad, an avid reader, wouldn’t allow me to discuss either of those books in his presence.

When I got the phone call that my Dad died exactly the way he feared: alone in a mediocre assisted living center, I became catatonic.  My depression plummeted to depths it never reached before.

A decade before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I witnessed the death of another very close relative, my Granny. I fell into a deep depression after she died of lung cancer, but I was able to function more or less.  Not so with my father’s death.  After I received the news that he passed away, I asked to go to C.H.O.M.P., the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. C.H.O.M.P. had a locked-down mental health unit euphemistically called the “Garden Pavilion”.  When I was hospitalized there, my depression was so severe that I experienced suicidal ideations – I had no specific plan, but I felt utterly devoid of hope.

Prior to this hospitalization, I demonstrated that I was medication-resistant, meaning I tried a plethora of mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and anti-depressants and none of those medications helped lift my depression.

At C.H.O.M.P. I was given the option which psychiatrists offer to their medication-resistant patients: electroconvulsive treatments in which seizures are electrically induced in patients who are given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant.

My first association with E.C.T., along with many in our society, was a photo of Jack Nicholson’s character receiving it in the Academy Award-winning film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.  I never read Ken Kesey’s book or saw Milos Forman’s movie, but I had a very negative impression from viewing that disturbing image of Nicholson’s grimace while undergoing E.C.T.

After my grandmother died, I found a beautifully written book titled Undercurrents in which the author, psychologist Dr. Martha Manning, fell into a depression so deep that she opted for E.C.T.  The treatments helped her enormously. While she struggled after the procedures with fatigue and short-term memory loss, she made it clear that it was the right, lifesaving choice for her.

I was affected profoundly by Undercurrents and when I began my freelance writing career, I contacted Dr. Manning for an interview.  I included her quote in a Fit magazine article “Shades of Gray” which examined the connection between depression, women and exercise.  It was an honor to interview Dr. Manning. I kept our topics to exercise and depression only, for at that point I never imagined I would need, let alone demand, E.C.T.

When E.C.T. was presented to me as a viable way to recover, I vaguely remembered Dr. Manning’s book. Without any hesitation I told the psychiatrist on duty, “Do it.”  

I didn’t care about its risks; I didn’t care about anything. To say I felt desperate was a massive understatement.  I was told by my psychiatrist Dr. C. that I would have unilateral rather than bilateral E.C.T., which meant that the electrodes used to stimulate my brain would be placed on one side of my head instead of both sides (bilateral).  This was the conservative approach (which is usually good when dealing with a brain!) and meant fewer side effects, most notably less memory loss.

The E.C.T. treatments started promptly at the grisly hour of 6:00 a.m. in the Short Stay Unit allocated for all outpatient procedures.  I was rolled up to the floor above the Garden Pavilion in a padded gurney by B., a compassionate longtime hospital aide.  If I had to be taken up to E.C.T. by anyone, B. had the perfect kind of personality for the job.

After B. dropped me off in a small, curtained room, I was prepped by a friendly nurse who immediately saw how down I was and she did her best to set me at ease.  She started the I.V. line that would be used to inject me with general anesthesia.  I’ve never had a problem with needles or injections, so that didn’t faze me one bit.  

I was looking forward to oblivion very much, thank you.

At 6:10 a.m. in walked Dr. C. holding a big coffee mug, accompanied by an extremely handsome anesthesiologist.  (Even though I was in a depression-induced stupor, I was able to notice physical beauty.)  Dr. C. gently placed several electrodes on my scalp and temple….it was no big deal.  A small, clear gas mask was placed over my nose and I remember finally being able to relax.

I wasn’t scared at that point; I felt like I was being taken care of and because I genuinely liked the staff surrounding me that went a long way in diminishing my anxiety.  

The anesthesiologist said “Okay, Dyane. I want you to count backwards from 10”, which I started to do and when I reached “5”, boom!  I was fast-asleep.  I didn’t feel a thing. There was no pain.  Not during, and not afterwards.

When I woke up within the hour, I was a little groggy, but then I was completely coherent within about ten minutes. That surprised me. I was fed a hot breakfast I had selected beforehand, and I had the appetite to eat most of it. My short-term memory loss was minimal. While I was still heartbroken over the loss of my father, I definitely felt better than I had before I went under, and with each treatment I felt a little better.  After my week at the hospital I had additional treatments as an outpatient.

I firmly believe that E.C.T. saved my life. I was lucky – I’ve heard the horror stories of those who had bad reactions, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I would also recommend it to others who feel suicidal, who have been medication-resistant, and who need to function as quickly as possible, i.e. a mother with young children or the breadwinner of the family.  My health insurance covered most of the procedures’ cost, and I was able to arrange an extended payment plan for the remaining balance.

Since I had the treatments in 2009, I learned about another procedure used to treat major depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. Wikipedia defines TMS as a “noninvasive method to cause depolarization in the neurons of the brain. TMS uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents” and no anesthesia is required.  I read an entire book about a woman named Martha Rhodes’ experience with TMS healing her depression. Rhodes made a suicide attempt and was hospitalized at the cushy Silver Hill, where Catherine Zeta Jones was hospitalized. Rhodes tried many medications to no avail and decided to pursue TMS. Her book is called 3000 Pulses Later and while I liked it very much, I disagreed with its one-sided depiction of E.C.T.

One important distinction between TMS and E.C.T. (which have comparable success rates) is that with TMS one must commit to almost daily procedures for up to six weeks.  The good news  is that the patient can drive back and forth to treatment unlike with E.C.T., in which a ride must be arranged due to the anesthesia  However, TMS doesn’t usually start working until midway through the four-to-six-week series.  E.C.T. can cause the depression to remit much sooner than that timeframe,  like it did with me.

Depending on one’s situation, it would be most worthwhile to closely examine both E.C.T. and TMS pros and cons before undertaking either treatment.  E.C.T. is an enormous commitment and it requires a major leap of faith.  It’s expensive, even with health insurance.  (TMS can be very costly as well.) Moreover, there are risks when undergoing any kind of anesthesia, or when subjecting oneself to potential memory loss.  

I can unequivocally state that doing E.C.T. was the best decision I ever made. 

October 21, 2015 Update: When I was undergoing E.C.T. treatments, I wish I saw the remarkable, inspiring TED talk given by the bestselling author/surgeon Dr. Sherwin Nuland about his E.C.T. experience. The following clip is brief and it’s considered by the TED content masterminds to be one of the best TED talks. It’s definitely worth the time to watch Dr. Nuland if you’re even remotely considering electroconvulsive treatment. He’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you think, and he’ll give you hope if you’re considering it.

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.

A Stigma of One’s Own

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Thanks to my 800th follower, new blogger Jess Melancholia of The Bipolar Compass!

Sometimes when I’m inspired and sufficiently caffeinated, I’ll climb onto my virtual soapbox and contact an organization that can help promote women’s mental health awareness and/or services.

When my efforts have been successful, I feel wonderful. I’ve gotten numerous “Letters to the Editor” published in local papers and several national magazines. I asked the founder of the acclaimed website Postpartum Progress to amend its informational pages to include the PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder) bipolar, peripartum onset (postpartum bipolar). I was invited to provide the pertinent information myself! It felt great to be heard and treated with respect by Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress

It takes energy, patience and time to follow-through with any “soapbox project”, big or small, so I must feel motivated when undertaking my missions!

My latest mission didn’t have a satisfying outcome – far from it.

Last month while surfing the internet, I came across an organization called “A Room of Her Own“. This nonprofit’s logo incorporates the beautiful profile of the brilliant author Virginia Woolf.

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I read the mission and thought it was awesome – check it out:

Founded in 2000, A Room of Her Own (AROHO) is the preeminent nonprofit organization working on behalf of women writers today.  AROHO’s mission is to inspire, fund, and champion works of art and literature by women. AROHO has channeled more than 1,000,000 publicly gifted dollars into new awards, fellowships, and life-changing opportunities for women and has inspired thousands of books and works of art by women.
While advancing Virginia Woolf’s belief that “women need money and a room of their own if they are to write,” AROHO also works to cultivate an environment of collective fellowship in which creative women bravely unearth, articulate, and contribute transformational literature and art.

I read AROHO’s Virginia Woolf bio page. It has been widely acknowledged that this English novelist had manic depression and died by suicide. The AROHO Virginia Woolf bio page (and the rest of the AROHO website) didn’t mention Woolf’s mental illness.

Of Woolf’s death the bio simply stated,

“Woolf took her own life on March 28, 1941 at the age of 59.”

I disagreed with AROHO’s wording “took her own life” and the implicit message behind that sentence. Suicide is not so much a choice; one’s death is not something you “take”, but a last-resort action to cease agony. Agony that one could never imagine unless she had experienced it. Agony caused by bipolar disorder.

If AROHO named what Woolf lived with and died from — bipolar disorder– website readers unaware of Woolf’s mental illness could be informed. Moreover, website readers who suffer with bipolar could take comfort in the fact that AROHO is doing its small part in acknowledging Woolf’s mental illness instead of burying their well-funded heads under the sand.

While I understand that AROHO is not a women’s mental health nonprofit, I felt compelled to email them about the bio page and present another idea. After reviewing their financial grants page I thought it would be incredible if they could provide a grant for talented women writers struggling with mental illness to realize their literary ambitions. I know that sounds off-the-hook, but why not.

Why not?

My email, in typical Birth of a New Brain fashion, rambled, but I knew that if my email could possibly help another writer achieve her dream, who cares how I came across! I also believed that Virginia Woolf would like my suggestion of how to help women writers living with the same mental illness that she had who, in her words, “need money” in order to write their own life-changing novels, poems and creative nonfiction work.

In any case, Woolf wouldn’t want other women to be affected by the stigma of mental illness. 

Here’s my email:

 

Dear AROHO Staff,

I was excited to come across your website!

I’m a writer living with bipolar disorder. I facilitate free support groups for women with bipolar disorder. These women are extraordinarily creative when they are not debilitated by bipolar depression. One of our members is a New York Times columnist, and other members are writers, artists and musicians.

I spotted Virginia Woolf’s profile in your beautiful logo and I was moved by your choice of the novelist, and by your unique vision.

I couldn’t help but notice there was no mention of this brilliant author’s manic depression/bipolar disorder in her bio nor elsewhere on the website.

I believe that through briefly noting this information about Virginia Woolf it would be a service to those who come across your website.

In adding just a few words, you’ll bring awareness to bipolar disorder and help de-stigmatize a mood disorder that’s still often swept under the proverbial carpet. As you know, Woolf didn’t simply take her life but she did so due to a brain disease beyond her control. Numerous female writers struggle with the same mental illness that Woolf did; so many female writers are survivors of suicide attempts/ideations.

These women would value AROHO acknowledging Woolf’s mood challenge. I’m sure that some of them unfamiliar with her writing would be profoundly inspired to explore Woolf’s entire body of work.

I also thought it would revolutionary if there was an AROHO award for female authors who live with bipolar disorder – this is definitely out-of-the-box in terms of literary awards, but don’t you think Woolf might have been in favor of such an opportunity for women who faced what she did?

Thanks for your consideration of my suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

warm regards,

Dyane Leshin-Harwood

Now my email may sound like I’m barking up the wrong tree. My whole premise may sound ridiculous to you; that’s okay because my skin is growing thicker ever since those Facebook rejections I wrote about. But I definitely thought I’d hear back from AROHO. I thought I’d have the courtesy of a short reply, especially since I immediately received an auto-reply email stating AROHO would get back to me within a few days with a “thoughtful answer”.  

I never heard back. And I knew they received my email and couldn’t, for whatever reason, handle writing me back. (However, I noticed that their staff had plenty of time to tweet ’til the cows come home. )

Wait a minute.

I think I know what the reason might be!

STIGMA.

Yes, stigma. My gut tells me that’s what’s behind my email being blown off. 

It’s a shame. I’ve worked for three nonprofits, all of which had much lower budgets/funding than AROHO, and despite their financial restraints and small staff, we never ignored an email or phone call.

There’s a word for this practice that I learned working at Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks and The College of the Botanical Healing Arts – it’s called CLASS.

Class is what Virginia Woolf had plenty of until the day she put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, walked into the River Ouse in England near her home, and drowned herself.

Class is what, sadly, AROHO lacks. 

I could contact them again, and again. Sometimes perseverance does pay off, but I have a feeling that AROHO is in need to extensive sensitivity training that I can’t give them. I’m saving my energy to support and promote nonprofits that don’t stigmatize women writers with bipolar disorder.

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.

 

Hell in Paradise – Part Two – Seeking The Real Aloha

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Our family in front of the Kona Inn Restaurant in Kailua-Kona at sunset, November 2013

To read the revised version of Part One please visit here

December, 2013

I know it sounds ridiculous to complain about being in Hawaii, but anyone who has experienced bipolar depression can empathize with this seemingly narcissistic attitude. No matter where you are, it doesn’t matter – being in such despair is a malady of the spirit that turns heaven into hell.

There were moments when I was able to acknowledge and appreciate my family’s joy during their various activities, but I was leaden and ashamed that I couldn’t be like them. 

We arrived at a gorgeous beach in Kua Bay that was perfect for boogie boarding. My girls and husband Craig made a beeline for the gentle aquamarine waves. I used to love to go boogie boarding when I was a teenager in the (much) colder waves in Santa Monica, California. In Hawaii I watched my family play in the waves from afar, unable to join them.  

I baked on the sand and people-watched instead, envious of the beach-goers glued to their books under umbrellas. I was so apathetic that I hadn’t even bothered to bring a good book with me. This was the complete opposite of how I behaved when I wasn’t depressed. Normally I’d never travel more than a couple feet without clutching a riveting book or my Kindle Fire.

Each day in Hawaii I desperately hoped for my unrelenting depression to lift so I would feel the Aloha spirit I heard so much about.  While the word “Aloha” is often used to mean “goodbye”, “hello” and “I love you”, there is a deeper meaning to the word.  The website http://www.huna.org explains:

Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian – this is Aloha!

I was full of anti-Aloha sentiment. That attitude felt all wrong in such a glorious setting.  In an attempt to feel better, I self-medicated with food and beverages.  On a humid, seventy-five degree day I inhaled a bag of “Donkey Balls”.  Yes, they were called Donkey Balls consisting of macadamia nuts covered with multiple layers of chocolate. The balls were a temporary sugar fix and they left me feeling nauseated and plumped up.

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My psychiatrist discouraged me from drinking caffeine due to the contraindications associated with the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor, a class) medication I recently starting taking with lithium. The  MAOI, called Parnate or tranylcypromine, was known to help treatment-resistant bipolar depression and like lithium, was old-school. MAOI’s were the first type of antidepressant developed, but Dr. D. didn’t think the Parnate would send me into mania as long as I took the mood stabilizer lithium.

My meds didn’t stop me from sucking down the famous Kona coffee of the region.  

High-quality Kona coffee often sells for at least $30.00 a pound.  Once I sipped some of it I understood why java addicts with cash to burn paid such an astronomical price for these beans. When we arrived at Al’s Kona Coffee Farm rental, Al left us a bag of his Kona blend.  I made a pot of it every day on his farm, and all that tasty coffee left me jittery and contributed to my insomnia.

Parnate’s dietary restrictions also prevented me from binging on certain comfort foods which I previously enjoyed such as aged cheeses and cured meats. MAOI’s require that patients relinquish eating anything high in the amino acid tyrine. I made up for that restriction by gobbling a large bowl of granola each night – it was a temporary sugar high.  Not to mention gross. Of course the sugary cereal also worsened my sleeplessness.

I was desperate to feel better, but since I felt so hopeless, I didn’t have much self-restraint.

To complicate matters, I obsessed about mortality.  We had brought my mother-in-law’s ashes and planned to scatter them in a spectacular location.  This type of ceremony was a fitting way to memorialize her because she loved the region. I knew she would have appreciated it.  But I was sickened by the macabre fact that her ashes were hidden a mere room away from where I slept every night.

We found the perfect place to disperse her ashes. It was a reef just off the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Park.  Also known as the Place of Refuge, this park was once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers.  Kapu, or sacred laws, were tantamount to Hawaiian culture.  (If you’re thinking of that Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii episode you’re not the only one!)

Seriously, the breaking of kapu could mean death. A kapu-breaker’s only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge. Once there, a ceremony of absolution would take place and the law-breaker would be able to return to society.

On the surface, this park was a gorgeous, peaceful spot. As I learned a bit about its intense historical background, that distracted me a little bit from my depression   

Near the visitor center I walked by a huge plumeria bush and I surreptitiously picked a handful of the lovely, fragrant blooms.  Upon my return to the beach once again I was a passive observer rather than a participant.  I gave a few white and yellow plumeria blossoms to my husband and daughters and then I plopped down on my towel.  They walked out onto the reef together and tossed the plumerias into the ocean in remembrance of my mother-in-law.  (Craig decided to scatter her ashes alone.)

Less than ten days after we returned home, once again my bipolar depression lifted.  How did that happen?

A few days after our return my insomnia grew even worse and I experienced two completely sleepless nights.  Even one sleepless night could trigger mania and I could end up in the hospital, so I called Dr. D.  He prescribed Seroquel (generic name: quetiapine), a heavy-duty atypical antipsychotic.  It nipped my insomnia in the bud. As controversial as Seroquel is, I’ll always be deeply grateful to this medication for helping me in a crisis.

I noticed that my depression subsided a few days after I started taking the quetiapine.  It seemed to me that there could be a connection between my depression vanishing and starting the quetiapine, so I remained on it  despite the side effects  I had of daytime grogginess and some weight gain/nighttime hunger.

I was able to laugh again – not fake laughs, but the real deal. I had fun with my girls and Craig, and I felt hope trickle back into my brain. To my utter relief, I could write again. I stopped waking up every day wishing I could escape back into an agitated sleep. I knew that life would continue to be difficult, but I hoped with every cell in my being that I wouldn’t return to the hell of bipolar depression ever again.

10/9/15 Meds Update: I’ve been taking 900 mg of lithium/night, 30 mg of tranylcypromine/Parante a day ever since Hawaii. I slowly tapered off Seroquel, but I resumed taking it last August when I became hypomanic at the Catamaran Writers Conference. Today marks the second week I’ve been off Seroquel. So far, so good, but if I find myself becoming hypomanic I’ll take it again in a heartbeat! 

Dyane is completing her memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth).

The Unfriending – October Update

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A couple days ago I had an experience that completely unnerved me.

Someone with whom I had an intense virtual friendship with, but had never met in person, unfriended me on Facebook with no warning.

I was surprised at my reaction.  The abruptness of her unfriending stirred up deep feelings of rejection and insecurity within me.  I was also angry…not just at her, but at myself for getting so upset over this situation.

If we had a “real life” friendship then it would make more sense that I’d feel so deeply hurt, but I’ve always been a very sensitive person and her decision cut me to the quick.

I was aware she had serious mental health challenges.  Despite knowing she was fragile, I let down my guard with her in our messages and live Facebook chats.  She gave me her phone number and invited me to call her anytime if I needed to talk.  I never took her up on the offer, but I was moved by her willingness to listen.

Recently, when I stated my opinion on Facebook about an issue I believed in passionately, I noticed her virtual demeanor changed.  She vehemently, irrationally lashed out at another Facebook friend of mine, and that was the beginning of the end.

I’ll back up a bit…last year I took a long Facebook hiatus.  Then I decided to try Facebook again and I made a new rule for myself: I would only be friends with people I knew personally and with whom I had active relationships with. I no longer wished to be  friends with people I hadn’t seen in years (excluding a few relatives and a couple exceptions).  I didn’t want “trophy friends” or to maintain friendships with total strangers.  I soon broke my rule, however, and this friend who I write of today was one of those exceptions.

God knows I’ve suffered broken friendships in real life that dissolved in much messier ways than a simple click of a button, and I got through those rejections intact.

Each day I will think less and less about this unfriending, but it’s still fresh in my mind and it hurts.

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Writing about this unfriending helps me; writing has always been a healthy catharsis.  But writing doesn’t serve as a panacea for malice as much as I wish it did.

It occurred to me that maybe this person is having a crisis, and she acted out from an unstable place.

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Being cut off in five seconds flat is the risk anyone takes with social media friendships.  I hope that this is the first and last unfriending I have on Facebook.

Update 10/1/15 – Unfortunately it wasn’t the last unfriending! 😦

Please see this link for a tale of the 2nd unfriending that was rather bizarre:

https://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/fck-this-sht-i-love-you-goodbye/

In attempt to feel better, since this unfriending occurred I’ve been mumbling affirmations such as “I am a great friend” and “I am kind”.  I don’t want this experience to sour my soul more than it already has.  I’ll pay more attention to my beautiful girls, my husband, and myself – my virtual friendships need to take a backseat for now.  I hope that my “unfriend” finds peace and healing, and that she can turn to a network of friends who won’t give up on her even when the going gets rough.

To quote the great Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live:

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

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And here’s an insightful quote by Jenn Talley:

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.