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.

 

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75 thoughts on “A Stigma of One’s Own

  1. So this is a bit late because I got caught up with reading your post and kit’s post/responses. Ha! Anyway, on an unrelated search I ran into an organization called Rebecca’s Dream. I thought the way her family described her death was pretty spectacular and relevant to this post. They said:
    “…in celebration of the life of Rebecca Lynn Cutler, a journalist who succumbed to depression and bipolar disorder…”
    I thought how eloquently stated! Yes, this is just a tiny bit of the bigger picture you are painting and not necessarily that important, it made me think of your post none the less. Always love your posts! Xoxo

    1. Hey, I love comments whenever they arrive!!! (As long as they aren’t from trolls!) I’ve checked out Rebecca’s Dream’s website in the past and it was very moving & impressive….I agree with you that the way she was described was eloquently done – I’m so glad it made you think of my posts too; wow! That makes my day, mental mommy. And here’s a big, ‘ol ((((hug)))) from one mental mommy to another! Hope this finds you well!
      XO
      Dyane

      1. You are most welcome! We (meaning me) had a battle with a stomach bug this past week, but I am finally on the up swing!
        I really loved how this one post seemed to ignite matches in many different places bringing out great topics of discussions! What a treat it has been to read such intellegent debates!
        Big hugs to you to my fellow Mental Mommy! Xoxo

      2. Thanks you lovely M.M. (M&M? 😉 Chocolate is always on my mind! I’m thrilled you got a kick out of the discussions like I did. I’m so glad you’re feeling better too. Big hugs!!!!

  2. Hey all, sorry I’ve had internet problems for a couple of weeks, they’re improved but not fixed. I have reblogged your post and explained why in the “add a comment” part of the reblog, because this is close to my heart.

    1. Sorry about the internet problems – that would IRK me!!!! Glad you can get through today! And thanks again for what you wrote – it really affected me….in a good way!

  3. Reblogged this on Invoke Delight and commented:
    I remember reading “a room of one’s own” in sixth form college when I was 18, and I remember thinking to myself (because I didn’t know anyone else who voluntarily read good literature and it wasn’t on the set texts so none of the Lit students read it at that point) “YES! FINALLY! SOMEONE WHO GETS IT!” (I think in capitals when I’m excited). It actually inspired me to leave home, because I realized that being controlled by my mother’s ideas of conformity was making me wilt like a plucked flower. Then when I told her, thinking she’d understand, she tried to kill me. Oh I should’ve seen it coming.
    But anyway, my point (for I ramble too, sure no-one’s noticed ) is that Virginia Woolf’s “A room of one’s own” changed my life. I would not have realized that the struggles I was experiencing had ever happened to anyone else, I wouldn’t have had the strength to assert my own sense of what I wanted out of life (in the face of being steamrollered) if I hadn’t read that book.
    I owe her my life, in many different ways. I had no idea she had bipolar. I knew she coined the term “Oxbridge” (which we use in the UK to mean ‘Oxford or Cambridge’ as in, “are you applying to Oxbridge?” or “she’s Oxbridge quality” because it’s shorter to say). She helped me to find my vocal voice (when I had my writing voice already) and she helped me feel less invalidated by society’s expectations.
    To think that a literary whatnot is raising money allegedly in her name and at the same time marginalizing people like her by perpetuating our social exclusion by pretending we’re invisible…
    Well I’m glad Dyane wrote to them and I’m glad Dyane wrote about them and I hope lots of people see her post. People should know what they’re like.

    1. Here’s what i replied over there:

      I am SO moved by what you wrote about Woolf’s book influencing you, and thanks from the bottom of my heart for reblogging this post!

      Can you believe there are two books about Virginia Woolf and how her manic depression affected her life in all sorts of ways??? One of the books got great reviews and thanks to Kitt O’Malley finding a source for me, it’s possible to get it for free. I’ll blog about the books etc. very soon.

      I’m hoping that AROHO does the right thing and simply replies to my email! Better yet, they reply and say they’ll use my suggestions! 😉

      However, If I don’t hear from them within a month, which I think is reasonable….then I’m going to think of a Plan B that Virginia Woolf would approve of, & it will involve publicity! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted my dear.
      Xo
      Dyane

      1. I’d love, with your permission, to use some of your blog’s beautiful wording about Woolf’s significance in your life in a bona fide, handwritten, registered letter to them! Scented with perfume, perhaps! 😉

      2. Lol, I would be honored that you wanted to repeat anything I wrote, although I don’t know that anything I could say would change their minds. Perhaps include a single poignant rose petal. I’m not sure why. Poeticness? Would a raven fit in the envelope? 😉

  4. I can’t think of anything more to say than what has been said in the comments. It’s a shame, and I can’t even swallow the injustice anymore. You are an inspiration.

    1. I *hope* Virginia would be down with it!
      I love her famous quotes that I’ve read. But she also could have been ashamed of her condition despite her striking me as someone not afraid to speak out against injustice. I’m curious to know more!
      Thanks so much for your encouragement because it truly helps me. :)))
      Hope you have a great Sunday; I want to scoot over to your blog & catch up! Xo

  5. You might have had the bad luck that someone that doesn’t care about their job read your email. Unrelated to the subject of your article, I work in the customer service field but all by email. It makes my blood boil when I come across a file that I know could have been handled so much better but the person that took care of it before simply didn’t care. Which is sad I find because if you are there to take care of people’s issue you should do your best or find another job. Where I wanted to go with this is that personally I would give it another try. Maybe I’m wrong and that was not the reason why you didn’t get a response but hey, you never know. 😊 Plus your email makes all the sense in the world so honestly they could have at least answered just to say that they appreciate your feedback and they would probably look into it. 😊 Don’t give up! You are so great at what you’re doing.

    1. Cristina, your comment was awesome….thank you for taking time to write! It was especially interesting because of your work experience. 🙂 Not to mention your encouragement!!!

      I did wind up sending it one last time. Before I diid that, I revised it (it amazes & also embarrasses me how, when I go back to almost any bit of writing, it can be improved at least 25-50%!!) and I sent it to two different email addresses on their site.

      I didn’t do that to be a pest. (Honest.) I double-checked their “contact us” page & noticed there were two emails listed; one is for award questions and the other one is for other questions, and since my email applied to both, I sent it to both! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted here if I get a reply, and once again, many thanks for your support!👍

      1. Thanks Kitt! I’ll be surprised if I hear back from them, but you never know. I felt strangely compelled to give it one more try. Perhaps my intuition knows something my conscious brain does not! (That’s the Santa Cruz in me talkin’!) I’ll let you know what happens.

        I hope that your Saturday is going MUCH better than the last one. Which reminds me…I’m off to drink a glass of water in your honor. XoXo

      2. I have no doubt that they carefully chose what they wrote in Woolf’s bio, for almost all her bios include her history of mental illness and early life history of sexual abuse. I just wrote a post based on my comment. Pinged you in it.

  6. You’re absolutely right on all counts, Laura and it’s fine to defend them! 🙂
    I love reading your perspective.

    You were ***awesome*** to contact those 40+ writers who submitted to the literary journal.
    please excuse typos as I’m rush rush rushing…

    For the heck of it, this morning I felt fired up and I improved the email. It amazes me how much any piece of writing gets better when you take time away from it!

    Then I re-sent the email to two different emails listed on their site. I thought they only had one contact email, but it’s dedicated solely for award inquiries. That’s the one I used before. Since I had an award question and a general question/concern I felt it was fine to send it to both. I got auto-relies from each email letting me know it arrived and I’ll get a reply. I don’t have my hopes up but I felt it was worth one more try. In my revised email I mentioned even adding a few words to her bio (not making a big deal out of bipolar, but just stating it) would be good and I explained why in my revision, which I posted here & for some reason it came out all weird! :0

    Anyway, I have to jet & pick the girls up; I’m glad you took time to comment!
    be well,
    Dyane

    p.s. I’m very proud of you for writing your 1-page synopsis today!!!!!

    p.p.s. have you seen the preview for the new “Anne of Green Gables” program with Martin Sheen as Matthew? I’d love your take on it!!!

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.breakthroughentertainment.com/show/anne-of-green-gables

    1. I haven’t seen the Martin Sheen version. Sounds good! I’m glad you emailed them again. Sometimes things get sent to the wrong place; I’ve had a number of “fiction” submissions that were actually poetry or creative non-fiction…they have to be recategorized by the editor, so that delays the response, of course.

  7. Wow. I am so inspired by you.

    And yes. This is so upsetting.

    I feel like this happens so often. The downplaying of the mental illness with these high profile people.

    Or they go with the least “stigmatizing” thing they can say….and nobody seems to be comfortable saying BIPOLAR.

    I find it so sad and off pissing that they would not even respond to your email….they didn’t even try to say something dismissive and disingenuous. Which we are totally used to of course. Blah

    I’m sorry man.

    1. Thanks so much – your support made me feel better & you truly understand the big picture. As I shared with my buddy Kitt, I might email them again for the hell of it and see if I get a reply. Then I can do a little update to y’all! I’m not asking them to write a whole page about Woolf’s bipolar on their site – just a few words would suffice! Hope this finds you well and thanks again for reaching out. It helped me! XO

      1. hey, Diane, when one of my antidepressants pooped out in 2004, I put on a heavy coat and walked out to the water and tried to drown, my only stab at a suicide attempt. That’s funny that you wrote them and there was no reply. Sometimes that happens.

      2. Hi there!

        The words “I’m sorry” sound so wimpy in a reply to you, but I truly am regarding your suicide attempt. I’m glad you made it through such a nightmare time. Yesterday after drinking too much real Italian espresso (bad habit – but I don’t do it too often as it’s $$$) I impulsively revised my email & sent it to them at a different email address they list on their site. You never know….and now I’m truly letting the whole thing go! I’ll let you guys know if I get a reply , but I don’t have my hopes up and that’s the best way to be in this kind of situation, I think. take care & thanks for writing!

      3. Hi Dyane, if that had happened to me, it would have gotten under my skin and I would have tried to connect with them with a variety of approaches and with repetition and tried to target individuals who might volunteer or work there. Hoooray! I’m glad you are doing it and I’m glad I’m not the only one out there who speaks for the marginalized. allison

      4. Thanks so much for this comment Allison! It was weird – I thought I was done with thinking about the AROHO stuff, and then one morning I was up at 3:00 AM (UGH!) when one of my girls had a nightmare and woke me up. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep & I found myself thinking about how I never heard back from them. Hmm. It was at that moment that I decided to blog about it, and make one last attempt to email them. The onus is now upon them to get back to me.

        I just found an interesting Woolf quote: “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” From that quote I would think that Virginia Woolf would be okay with this nonprofit mentioning in passing the truth that she had bipolar. She also apparently wrote, “Madness is terrific I can assure you, and not to be sniffed at; and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about. It shoots out of one everything shaped, final, not in mere driblets, as sanity does.” (Letters) Wow! Dang! I wish I had the writing talent found in one of Virginia Woolf’s toenails. The happy part of this hullabaloo (great word, eh?) is that I want to learn more about Virginia Woolf’s work! I can thank AROHO for that, so even if they blow me off it wasn’t a wasted effort.

      5. Yeah, another word for hullabaloo that I’m liking right now is ‘commotion.’ I just wrote a blog about a side effect that the drug companies cover up…now it’s getting better but it’s a subject that the commercial mental health publications won’t even touch. It’s a ‘hot potato,’ like that game. It’s Tardive Dyskinesia. And I’m hoping for as much commotion as I can get. I want all the TD sufferers (most are treated effectively with Cogentin but then there are the rest of us…) to come out of the woodwork and sound off.\

        I wrote a sneaky little letter to the editor of one of the biggest bipolar magazines and asked meekly, “I did a search and noticed that there have never been any articles or mention of Tardive Dyskinesia and wondered why?”

        Then when they asked for a submission to be considered for blogging for them…Dyane, I just couldn’t help myself. They got a ‘movement disorder’ story. And they sat on it for a week and replied, “Thanks, but no thanks. ” They want to just gloss bipolar disorder and side effects of the meds up, by glory be..why don’t they get a wind machine and a hot photographer while they are at it!!.
        It would be nice to be published by them but only if they know who I am first. That’s what is so great about YOU writing your book about a topic that people are just starting to mentally straddle. It’s got to get exposure for women to be helped. It’s critical. Code Black.

      6. That totally sucks that your article wasn’t accepted about TD because it’s sorely needed – I’ve read those mags for almost a decade, and I’ve never seen anything about TD addressed before in depth, yet they publish the same old dreck year after year: “10 tips to better sleep!” & “How to eat healthy foods!” & “How to spice up your bipolar-ravaged sex life in five sultry ways!!!” It’s like the 1980’s Glamour Magazines all over again!

        To me originality counts big-time!!!!

        I got rejected by the Fuckington Post for the 5th or 6th time a couple weeks ago, and while I know that the first 4 or 5 versions of my essay that I submitted to them needed work, the last version I sent was good enough for the Fluff Po. I don’t know why I want to be published in that rag so much! I mean, I should shoot for the New York Times. (I tried once – the OpEd column – and that didn’t, um, pan out. But maybe I’ll try again as I have nothing to lose but my pride.)

        I’m completely forgetting to appreciate the other good things in my life, and I need to stop the whiniest now. I just hate being rejected, (okay, I lied, I’m not stopping the whining yet) especially when my writing is just as good as the other stuff they publish and, most importantly, about something ORIGINAL like your topic!!!!!

        It’s a game of chance and luck isn’t it? If everything was fair in the world of publishing, that bipolar-themed magazine would publish your article in a heartbeat and Freakington Post would publish mine. Sorry to be negative, but it’s one of those days, you know? If I can vent here it makes me feel better! Hope your day is going better than mine, and thanks as always for your kindness & encouragement!

      7. Dear Dyane
        I was going through the same thing. I even made my topic palatable by calling it “Move Over, Movement Disorder.” and I followed all the rules. I spun it positive. I think that with bphope it’s politics. And as for the fluffington post, once you are published, you’ll see, things will change for you. That’s what I turn to when I am burning from a rejection. I am only publishing in one place and that’s IBPF. The fact that they don’t accept drug company money frees us up to speak the truth before an ‘A List’ movie star jumps on Oprah’s couch. BPhope came after me to be a ‘guest blogger.’ Apparently they have ‘levels’ of contributors. Anyway, running a search on /bphope for ‘guest blogger’ turned up nothing. I asked the person who rejected me how I could find people at the level I was being considered for and she shined me on. I think they decided that I’m all about side effects. And medication. And drug companies. That’s not exactly true although I have incurred two unpleasant side effects, metabolic disorder and TD, I still dodged a major bullet by not being treated with Lithium which leads to kidney failure and dialysis over a long period of time. So I’m ok with the poison I chose.

    1. You are too funny!

      I’ve been watching “Madam Secretary” on Netflix with Tea Leoni (who rocks the role!) about her being chosen as the Secretary of State by the President of the United States (played by a very old-but-wise looking Keith Carradine of all people!) because she’s “non-political” – it’s so good, even though I don’t understand half of the lingo! But I’d ever be able to do that kind of job. I am good at non-profits, though! 😉 Thanks so much, really.

      There are few things that annoy/anger me more than being ignored about something I’m passionate about. I know you understand! As I replied to Kitt, I might send the email one more time just for the helluva it. I replied to the amazing psychiatrist Dr. Manipod that maybe they’re afraid I’ll send them this:

      https://shipyourenemiesglitter.com

      or this:

      https://www.ipoopyou.com

      IF they don’t do my bidding & change their wicked ways!

      You know what I should really do, Nicole?
      Print out the email I sent them, and send them a copy of the “Stigma Fighters Anthology” with it!

      http://www.amazon.com/Stigma-Fighters-Anthology-Sarah-Fader-ebook/dp/B00YLC0MD8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444840559&sr=1-1&keywords=Stigma+Busters

  8. Good for you for bringing up the fact that Woolf had manic depression. Clearly the nonprofit does not want to be a “mental health” organization. Still, they could add a sentence about Woolf’s illness/condition in her bio to explain her suicide. As we know, many writers have mood disorders.

    1. Thank you Kitt!!! As I replied to my Mom in this post, this situation may seem like a “small potatoes” issue to sink my energy into, but I felt compelled to do it; moreover, if each of us chooses a small potato (or pumpkin!!!) to focus upon, a sea change can occur in terms of diminishing stigma.

      Check out what one of your biggest fans (my Mom) wrote – she’s a huge theatergoer, so please keep that in mind as far as her reference goes, ha ha

      I think what bugged me the most was AROHO not taking a few minutes to respond, either “thoughtfully” as they promised or thoughtlessly!

      I also thought you might appreciate my reply to Dr. Manipod – every time I write her name auto-correct puts “manhood” !!!

      There’s a very strong chance that one or more of the main staff at AROHO has bipolar disorder. (“1 in 4” and that statistic doesn’t even address the creative population, does it?) Or they were lazy or my email somehow got lost. I must say I’m tempted to re-send my email one more time without any kind of change or reference to this blog post, and see what happens!

      1. Maybe even send a letter, but here I will play devil’s advocate, for I’ve been debating this issue for myself. Is it stigma to not mention that she had mental illness? Is that Woolf’s legacy? Was she not far more than her illness, as are we?

        Here’s what I’ve been debating: removing my tagline, keeping references to bipolar in my bio and in my story, but not “limiting” my identity to someone living with bipolar or to being a mental health advocate.

        I want to just write, to create art, to have that room of my own. Perhaps we need that locked door. Perhaps that metaphor can include, for some, privacy. Perhaps our illness does not limit us creatively, even as we struggle at times. Perhaps privacy is not stigma. Perhaps, for some, it is respect, it is a lock on a door which only the author, the artist, can open.

      2. I’m blown away by this comment, Kitt forget about devils; you play an angel’s advocate; it’s that good! I want to savor your words. There is much to think about here. XOXOX p.s. damn, you’re a magnificent writer!

  9. How unfortunate of this organization not to respond to your very well-written email (very respectful and you stated your point well!). Using appropriate language is a key factor to decrease stigma in mental health and I’m actually learning a little about the language piece each day myself…even as a practicing psychiatrist (ie, had lunch with a grief specialist who told me not to use the words “committed” suicide; the preference of “manic-depressive” instead of “mood disorder” as told by one of my friends w/ bipolar in addition to one of your previous blogposts I read; etc). It took being informed by others (in addition to my own inquiries and desire to learn and use less stigmatizing language) for me to be more sensitive of language use, so hopefully your email was an eye-opener for them to change their ways as well, whether they reply to your email or not 🙂

    1. I didn’t realize that the term “mood disorder” was stigmatizing. Some also find the term “mental illness” stigmatizing, too. Oh, well. I guess I stigmatized in my comment. Sometimes, you go for intent, and don’t waste too much time on syntax.

      1.  As a retired Speech Pathologist I must agree with MS. O’Malley’s comments on semantics wholeheartedly!!! Semantics is indeed a tricky area and  that is why oral communication is so important when attempting to convey one’s ideas and thoughts and feelings.

      2. Thank you, Phyllis. So much gets lost when you can’t hear vocal intonations and can’t see body language or look into each other’s eyes. Often when we write, we lack dialogue, where we can clarify our meaning.

      3. Oops. Case in point, Ms Leshin. You addressed me formally, and I responded familiarly by using your first name. Forgive me if I did not show you proper respect.

      4. Hi, I am in reality Dyane’s mom. Please call me anything your heart desires Kitt.
        I admire your comments and suggestions on line . Best, Granny Phia

      5. I know you are Dyane’s mother. I think it’s wonderful that you read and comment on her blog. Very supportive. I’m on the phone and playing Words with Friends with my mom all the time.

      6. Hi Kitt, not sure if “mood disorder” is stigmatizing…i use it a lot in my chart notes esp when I’m not 100% certain of a patient’s diagnosis (major depressive disorder vs bipolar, etc), but I’ve been told by several people that manic-depressive is clinically preferred to use when someone identifies w/ having bipolar.

      7. It’s more accurate descriptively, but I guess you use whatever an individual prefers when speaking with that individual. Thank you for being a pdoc who cares how her use of language affects her patients (clients, for those who do not identify as patients, even though we are patients to all our other medical doctors). My pdoc does not label. He medicates and discusses symptoms, not diagnosis. Obviously, diagnoses are used on charting, billing and treatment. He frames mental illness as an illness like any other requiring treatment – not as an identity.

      8. gosh, i’ve made so many errors with use of language and am always humbled when my patients correct me…shows we have good rapport and that they trust me enough to do so. and if there’s ever any doubt about someone’s preference, as you mentioned, it never hurts to ask (it’s amazing how many docs are so afraid to do so!)! Sounds like u have a great pdoc, which is awesome 🙂

      9. There’s no better psychiatrist, in my opinion, than one who is not only willing to listen to her patients but also realize that he/she could learn from the patient sometimes!

    2. Thanks so much! You made me blush (“very well-written email” – it could have been MUCH, MUCH better but I was in a mood to get it done, get it out and not fuss with proofreading; I wish I waited a day to let the writing “steep”, but sometimes that’s how it goes as you know! 🙂

      I’m so happy that you’re open to learning about language even though you’re well-established; to me that speaks volumes about your development as an (even more) outstanding psychiatrist! Thanks for including some examples of language too – it helps to have concrete ones, especially from you.

      In the past I would’ve followed up with at least one email asking for a response. That usually works. I could still do it now. If I insert “I’m very disappointed with your organization” into the subject header, believe it or not, 9 times out of 10 I get a reply!

      I just felt the wind sucked out of my sails this time around.

      The fact that AROHO has Virginia Woolf woven into their logo and literally all over the website through her images and words seems ludicrous if they omit the whole person that Woolf was – not just the shiny, laudatory aspects. I wish I included that observation in my email, but I was trying to sound positive and all that.

      Maybe they thought that if they turned me down on both counts (which I knew was very likely) I’d “go crazy” on them and send them a glitter envelope ( https://shipyourenemiesglitter.com) or worse (https://www.ipoopyou.com) . That thought actually occurred to me! (NOT to send them glitter or worse, but that they thought I’d lower myself to do such a thing!)

      Another irony is that so many writers and other creative artists have bipolar disorder (Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison documents this in her classic “Touched With Fire”) and there’s a good chance that one or more of this nonprofit’s staff has mental illness and I touched a nerve. Who knows? It feels good to write about these things, as small as they may seem – it just does. And it feels great to receive such insightful replies from visionaries like you. That’s a primary reason I blog!

      1. Ha! I’ve never heard of those websites sending glitter or poo…too funny! Whether or not you feel motivated to send out a follow-up email, at least you know you did your part to raise awareness of something so important to u. And it’s true that we’re never going to be certain of the exact reason why an organization responds or doesn’t respond to an email (maybe they prioritize their twitter feed far more than emails…who knows?)…kind of reminds me of when i first moved back to so-cal after residency and sent emails to DBSA and the free clinics in LA saying i’d like to volunteer my services…2 emails sent to each and NO response! Go figure!

  10. Love the shout out to Virginia! Girl is always rattling around my mind somewhere; and good work trying to push through some common sense. (Although I still insist mental “condition” is preferable to “illness”.) To the Lighthouse my favorite, but damn if The Waves isn’t some kind of strange Bipolar Dream Song.

    “Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.”

    And the inevitable corrective haha…

    “Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body.”

    1. Hey Andrew, I love your comment – it made me grin and that was sorely needed after dealing with two meltdowns (not my own!) this morning from my tater tots, a.k.a. the girls.

      Come to think of it, I *totally* prefer “condition” to illness and I’ll give you 100% credit for that!!!

      I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not familiar with Virginia Woolf’s work but I’d like to get acquainted with her novels, etc. – just from seeing various quotes of hers (yours and elsewhere on the internet) I already have a good feeling I’d connect profoundly with her writing.

      After reading what you found:

      ““Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.”

      Guess what I thought?
      DAMN, I’d love to have coffee with her!!!!!! can you imagine? Although she’d find ME boring! I would have been a sycophantic patron if I was rich.

      Anyhoo – thanks heaps for swinging by – I appreciate it! Madame Dy

      p.s. sorry to be off the radar lately with comments, although I make sure you know I’m around with the “likes”. I get lazy & overwhelmed with commenting sometimes, which makes me a hypocrite according to a previous post I wrote about that….. in any case, please forgive me for my blogetary sin!

  11. Dyane,
    Just read your Blog on Virginia Wolf. To be facetious which may or may not be appropriate , I am not “afraid” of Virginia. But perhaps the organization did not reply not just because they lack class but because they do not have staff who have the background to research your work and requests thoroughly. Lots of lazy inept folks on our world. Hang in there.
    Granny Phia🎵

    1. Hi Mom – I loved your answer & reference to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”! 😉

      That did occur to me that they simply have a lazy/inept staff, but if you look closely at their site, their obviously healthy endowments, etc. it’s clear they have the staff to answer an email.

      It’s not really so much a class issue as I wrote, but more of the fact that I suspect they freaked out because I brought up mental illness. I know this is a “small potatoes” type of grievance, but if we all act on small things, they add up for a sea change. Love you!!!!

      1. Just a point and not to defend them (because I could be wrong), but even healthy endowments doesn’t mean their staff has time to answer EVERY email that comes in. If it’s a big organization, they may receive hundreds of emails every day and only answer certain ones. (Though the wording of the autoreply would seem to indicate that’s not true.)

        Or, alternately, they may be backlogged due to who-knows-what, and you just haven’t received the email yet. I once received a rejection letter from an agent I’d queried a YEAR before; they’d had a crisis of some kind at their agency and hadn’t gotten to reply before then. At my literary journal, we try to reply to all submissions within 2-3 months, but once, forty or so disappeared from my online submissions in-box and I didn’t realize it for an entire month. Those folks had to wait 6 months for a reply. Once I realized that they’d disappeared and the editor-in-chief had waved her cyber-wand and magically gotten them to reappear, I read all 40 over the next two days. I felt I owed it to those patient writers to get a reply to them! So maybe they will reply.

        On the bright side, maybe they’re considering your idea and taking time to come up with plans for executing it! (A far shot, but hey, it’s possible.)

        And then there’s the ever-present reality that some things get lost in cyberspace. Eaten by hackers, maybe, and living wherever lost socks live in their post-laundry lives. Okay, I’m a little blurry-eyed; I wrote a one-page novel synopsis today, so my brain is planning to vacation wherever those lost socks-and-emails live. Maybe it’ll send a postcard. 🙂

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