A Dose of Summer Fun After Bullsh*t-Induced Bingeing

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Avi and I chillin’ on the outdoor patio at Pono Hawaiian Grill

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The large patio was the perfect place to relax while Avi & Rilla enjoyed Da Lanikai Poke Stack. It has sashimi-grade ahi tuna, avocado, seaweed salad & more from “da poke bar”

Thanks and Mahalo to those of you who read my last novella post!

Special thanks to everyone who offered helpful insights. I’m extremely grateful for your support, wisdom, and humor.

I binged last Thursday and Friday night because I held my anger in for too many days in a row. I waited a week without expressing my rage until meeting with my counselor. (Um, that was not the greatest coping method!)

Before last Thursday, I had been binge-free during the past four months; it was a personal record, and one that was deeply meaningful.

After literally working my derrière off to lose 35 pounds, I was relieved I stopped bingeing after the second evening. I even told my family I binged – that was a first. (Previously, I was secretive about my compulsive overeating.) They encouraged me to go easy on myself, which I’ve tried my best to do since then.

What has helped my mood immensely is keeping busy and having fun with my two girls. 

I’ve been making up for all the summers I was unable to do a thing because my hospitalizations for bipolar depression. Those agonizing separations from my little ones will always haunt me. So you can understand how I can’t begin to explain how good it feels to get out and spend time with my daughters despite my social anxiety/generalized anxiety. (These natural lozenges help me when I’m really freaking out!)

I took Avi and her friend to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk while Rilla was petting snakes and tarantulas at Science Camp. (!) If you glance at these shots I took on their monitor (sorry for the blur), you’ll see that the girls had a bit more fun than I did on the Boardwalk’s famed, ninety-two-year old wooden rollercoaster, The Giant Dipper.

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What was more my style was driving an hour to gorgeous Pacific Grove to meet one of my best friends. (She plays a memorable role in my upcoming memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.) 

Just before we arrived at the beach, I drove by Monterey Bay Urgent Care. That was where I used to go for my required physicals so I could receive my ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). As the great 80’s band Naked Eyes sang, there’s always something there to remind me!

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We caught up on life while the girls enjoyed all the beach had to offer…

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 Rilla was only a few feet away from a harbor seal!

Yesterday we strolled around Santa Cruz’s outdoor Pacific Garden Mall which is full of tourists, college students, yuppies, street performers, and sadly, many homeless people. We visited the indie Bookshop Santa Cruz to pick up our Harry Potter Festival tickets. (Yes.)

This “Staff Pick” display cracked me up!

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Bookshop Santa Cruz holds many positive memories for me. I’ve been visiting it since I moved here to attend college in 1989. Yesterday I watched their staff set up chairs for Julie Barton, the evening’s featured author. She was there to promote her bestselling memoir about her depression experience: Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself. (Yes, I’m jealous of her!)

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This topic has been covered years ago by BP (Bipolar) Magazine blogger Bruce Goldstein in his book Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac: The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life.

Sometimes I wonder if my book’s cover should have a big picture of my photogenic Scotch collie Lucy – who cares if she’s not central to the theme – it would sell a helluva lot more copies than if it had my visage on it! 😉 A SocialMediaToday article, “Put A Dog On It”, proves my point! 

Julie Barton’s book cover reminded me of a book I bought last year at the Catamaran Writing Conference titled The Wrong Dog Dream. I heard an acclaimed author/writing instructor speak named Jane Vandenburgh – she was incredible. Check out her book cover:

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Recently our most famous local author Jonathan Franzen spoke at Bookshop Santa Cruz about his latest book Purity. (He does not have nor needs a dog on the cover – he wrote a little book you may have heard of called The Corrections.)

Franzen’s longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich was my college writing teacher, and get this – she actually liked my writing when I was nineteen and didn’t think I could ever write professionally! Chetkovich wrote Envy, a famous essay for Granta Magazine about how she reacted to her partner’s skyrocketing writerly fame – you should read it.

Now I wish I kept in touch with her. I admit I’m shameless when it comes to finding those who could help promote my book! Oh well.

I’ve seen quite a few amazing authors speak at Bookshop Santa Cruz over the decades. Who knows, maybe one day their picky staff will allow me to speak about my book. (I’ll bribe ’em!)

Apart from browsing bookstores, screaming on rollercoasters, and soaking up the sun at the beach, I have two items for the “Miracle of Miracles” category.

I took the girls roller skating (let me tell you….that’s a workout!)

The little, out-of-control skater kids who raced past me were the epitome of scary! And speaking of scary, I cleaned our decrepit fridge. (And no, I wasn’t manic. I was groggy as hell, LOL! I’m groggy every day!)

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It’s no lie! Hopefully it’ll stay clean for longer than two weeks!

Today I’m taking the girls to see a matinee (Ice Age: Collision Course in 3D – yikes! But they’re begging me to see it – I can’t resist their soft, little hugs – I’m a sucker!)

I also plan to catch up on your blogs and your comments sometime today and over the weekend – hurrah! Now you know why I haven’t had time to do much besides gallivant about town.

Sending you my love, & see you next week!

Dyane

I want to send a special shout-out to Bradley of the terrific blog Insights From a Bipolar Bear. We’ve been encouraging each other in our free online Lose It! group as we work on our weight loss/exercise goals. If you’re interested in joining us, mention it in the comments and I’ll send you an invite.

Thank you Bradley!!!

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

When Parents & Executive Directors Suck: A Mama Bear Speaks Out!

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I promised to write about what triggered me last week, and here it is.

I apologize if you find this post boring, especially since I quote email exchanges to explain what happened. But I wanted to keep my promise! 

Most importantly, I wanted to read your comments to see if you have any insights you wish to share. (Be gentle, dear readers – I’m still a bit sensitive from this bullmerde!) 

I know this is a minor problem compared to what many of us with bipolar suffer with, but even ridiculous, stupid crap has the power to cause a setback in my mental health.

Blogging about these kinds of things helps me.

However, please believe me – I never forget how lucky I am to be living in a different reality, warts and all.

Finally, I’m sorry this post is too long (although if you’re a regular reader you’re probably not that surprised!) My in-house editor Lucy went to the beach today.

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In any case, you have my blessing to skim it and/or skip this post! 😉 

The people involved:

My daughter

Yours truly

My daughter’s former friend

Former Friend’s Mom 

Former Friend’s Mom’s Buddy: The Theater Employee 

The Theatre’s Executive Director

Last week I emailed a message to the Executive Director at my daughter’s summer theater program.

My email was clearly marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and (this is also important to note) contained no specific names.

Dear Executive Director,

Unfortunately I have disappointing news.  My daughter will no longer be continuing with the play. We’ve given a tremendous amount of thought to this decision, and we’re sorry to let you down; my daughter most of all.

Her experience hasn’t been the one I hoped she’d have; this is
absolutely not your organization’s fault.  She hasn’t taken to singing and dancing the way we hoped she would. She isn’t enjoying the experience, which would be reason enough for her to discontinue.

However, she signed up for your program after being strongly encouraged by a (now former) school friend. This child was also her best friend who “dumped” my daughter from their friendship literally just before this production began. 

Over the past two years my husband and I found our daughter’s former friend to not only be verbally abusive to our child, but alarmingly destructive to our property whenever she visited our home.

DYANE’S NOTE: I want to give you just a little idea about my child’s former friend’s behvaior. I was home when the following things happened, but at first I wasn’t watching every moment of their playdates. In a flash this kid ripped off all the heads off my daughter’s dolls and she threw them over our deck into the forest. WEIRD! She used a white-out pen to mark up my husband’s work computer monitor and desk. (If she did that to my laptop, I  would have had her wealthy parents buy me a new computer.) She also damaged my daughter’s Santa Barbara Mission model that my child worked on for hours with her Dad – she did it when my daughter was briefly out of the room.

Of course we alerted this child’s parents about her behavior. My husband spoke directly with the child and asked her to please stop the behavior, etc. Her parents gave us empty promises and put far more energy into attending Bay Area 60’s revival rock concerts than helping their kid get the psychological support she desperately needed. I’m leaving out MANY other details about this child’s behavior, but you get the gist of it….so, back to my email to the Executive Director:

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As you can imagine, it has become increasingly difficult for my daughter to be around this child at rehearsals, and between this situation and her
primary reason for leaving, I absolutely cannot in good conscience have her continue with the program.

Thank you,

Dyane Harwood

——–

Now, here’s what happened after I sent my confidential email to the Executive Director. I know this might be confusing, but please stay with me – it’ll make sense! 

Dear Executive Director,

I am so upset while writing this to you that I’m shaking.

Today after I emailed you, someone from your staff had the audacity to read my CONFIDENTIAL EMAIL and contact my daughter’s former friend’s mother – my email DID NOT EVEN NAME ANYONE. Your staffer communicated erroneous information to this woman as well.

After that breach took place, my husband and I received numerous texts
from the former friend’s distraught mother. As a result, my daughter and I have been extremely upset.

The person at your organization behaved unethically, to say the very least; for him to interfere in such a way and not pay me the courtesy of a simple phone call FIRST is beyond me.

I can’t wrap my head around this gross breach of confidentiality,
disrespect….and frankly disturbing, meddling behavior.

I am deeply sickened  over what happened today. I have a severe, chronic
medical condition for which I’ve been hospitalized seven times since my girl
was born. She has been through HELL because of this. She has been
through things that no child should endure. I’m so furious over this
bizarre incident that I can barely think straight.

I never in a million years would expect something so heinous and
slanderous from your organization.

Dyane

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My Response from the Executive Director

Executive Director here,

I am so sorry for what has transpired and I would like the opportunity to discuss it with you either in person or by telephone. Unfortunately the staff member who noticed your email to me guessed which child you were referring to and overreacted with well meaning intentions, though apparently the request for confidentiality was missed. We sincerely apologize for what followed. Please know that the impulse was not malicious, just impulsive.
OF THAT, DYANE MUTTERS, “YEAH, AND SERIAL KILLERS ARE JUST IMPULSIVE TOO. WHAT THE HELL, LADY???! PLUS HE NEVER APOLOGIZED TO ME!” 
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I would like to discuss this further if possible. I take this very seriously and am so sorry that this situation has escalated to this degree. Please let me know a good time to contact you or when we can meet.
Sincerely,
 
Executive Director
 ——-
I replied (please excuse the messed-up font!):
Thank you for your email...
After working at three nonprofits (Friends of 
Santa Cruz Libraries, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, 
College ofBotanical Healing Arts) I learned how 501(c)3 staff, both paid and volunteer, are not exempt from ethical business practices.

I would've been fired for doing what the person who read my email 
did.

At this point, while I thank you for the invitation to speak via phone or in person, email is the best way for me to communicate.

I'd like for our family to receive a full refund.

Too much damage has been done to myself; I've suffered a health setback because of the person's well-meaning intentions, and damage 
has been done to my sensitive girl as well.

From the Executive Director:

Thanks for responding, of course we will give you a refund…Again, I am so sorry for the pain this has caused you and and your family. I do regret not being able to reprimand our staff member accordingly, but I too want your family to be able to move on. This staff member has a personal relationship to your daughter’s former friend, and I can not promise the issue would end if I discuss the repercussions that occurred as a result of his unprofessionalism.
 
As you can see, this is a dilemma  for me.
(DYANE THINKS, “CRY ME A F*CKING RIVER! IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOUR KID, YOU’D GO BATSHIT TOO!)
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I believe that learning from this act of poor judgment and irresponsibility would be such a useful lesson.
(FROM DY: WE NEEDED A LESSON LIKE THIS LIKE WE NEEDED A HOLE IN OUR HEADS!)
As much as I love our small and close community, sometimes the closeness leads to unsafe, unclear boundaries. Again, I welcome further discussion, but understand your wish to put this behind you.
 
Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely, Executive Director
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Okay, so that’s the exchange. 

 

Here’s What I Might Have Done If I Was Manic When This Happened:

  1. Tracked the “well-meaning” person down in public so I could yell at him and make a real scene worthy of his production. I inherited a bit of my mom’s acting talent; she won awards for her acting and worked as a television & stage actress in Los Angeles! I starred in my sixth grade play which was produced by a professional L.A. theater company. I won my audition by having to get angry – it was a modern-day “Taming of the Shrew” and I was Kate. I won’t lie to you – I was VERY good at doing that, long before I was diagnosed! 😉

Suffice to say that I could put on a show and then some for our little, podunk town and our “well-intentioned” meddler!

2) Picketed the production performances and call the local papers and television stations!

3) Threaten legal action complete with a letter from my “mental health advocate”

4) Leave post-its with relevant sayings where he’ll find them, i.e. his car window:

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What I’d Still Like to Do

Unknown-1Write this person a letter and let him know the damage he caused, because I think he is clueless. I’d add that when I run into him at the market which we frequent, he best be ready to meet Dyane “Mama Bear” Harwood!

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The best news of all is that my daughter is doing well. She’s taking this in stride, and her father and I are supporting her 100%. She feels loved and reassured that we’ll be there for her when she returns to school and sees this former friend. We will be involved parents; we won’t care more about seeing freakin’ Bob Dylan than helping our kid navigate a bully – yes, a passive/aggressive bully!

My problem, which I’m discussing with my counselor today, is how I’ll feel when I run into the former friend’s parents and the kid.

I want nothing to do with them.

Yes, I realize that none of these people work for Satan (as far as I know – there ARE some weirdos up here!!!), but I consider them toxic to my mental health.

Lucky for them, I’m TERRIBLE with confrontation, unless I’m manic! They aren’t going to get a happy ending out of this from me – I don’t want to “hug it out” granola-style with them, or smoke a doobie together, or go to Dance Church ! (That’s how they allegedly roll….)

The mom (who texted me that she and I could discuss what happened while hiking together in my happy redwoods place – um, NO WAY!) is quite aware I need space from her.

I texted her I need space, and she wrote back she’d honor my request. So that’s good, yes? 

All I can say at the end of the day is this:

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Big, big thanks for reading if you made it this far…

See you next week!

love,

Dyane Mama Bear

 

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

 

The Heat Is On!

 

It has been a long time since I’ve skipped writing a weekly blog post, but I almost took a break from writing today. However, I couldn’t resist the blogosphere’s lure – it’s strong, and I always feel better after I write a post.

As you can guess, the reason I came close to skipping is that I’m struggling on several fronts – it’s nothing bipolar-relapse-related or tragic, thank God, but life has been extra-hard since I last wrote. That’s why you might’ve noticed I haven’t commented on your blogs yet, but I promise I’ll do my best to catch up.

Throughout the recent stress I’ve been able to remain binge-free, I’ve continued eating healthy food, and I’ve been taking my redwood walks with Lucy, and all of that is awesome. I know it sounds pompous, but that’s not just awesome – it’s truly miraculous. In the past, the ridiculous, unethical bullshit I’ve recently suffered would’ve led me right back to inhaling my Talenti double chocolate gelato. But dammit, I’m 130 pounds of strength, and I’m on a mission to keep those extra, unnecessary 40 pounds away for good!

Meanwhile, I’m almost to the finish line with my October 1st memoir deadline. I’m using every bit of my free time to work on the manuscript. To that end, I deactivated my Facebook account, I’m taking a “virtual leave of absence” with my email, and I’ve begun weaning myself off my beloved Twitter all so that I can focus my energy where it needs to go: my book.

It feels positive, healthy and empowering to do such things. (It makes it easier to take these breaks knowing that they’re temporary.) If you haven’t ever done so, I highly recommend it. Remember you don’t need any specific reason to do it! Or you can blame it on me! 😉

So yes, this week has been a particularly strange, disturbing and draining one. I definitely plan to write about it when I’m not so charged; most likely next week because I’d greatly value your take on what happened. 

As I leave you with that ‘lil cliffhanger, I hope you’ll return to read Birth of a New Brain next Thursday or Friday!

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

love,

Dyane

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

 

Returning to Redwood Therapy

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The magnificent redwoods, my therapists

When I started tapering off bipolar meds in 2012 (which I’ll never do again since I almost died) hypomania caused me to become an exercise fiend. I was experienced at working out because I worked as a certified personal trainer at a gym for a few years. But when given a choice, I definitely preferred exercising outdoors. Bypassing a gym was economical as well, so I felt good about my fitness plan.

The road in front of my home wasn’t pedestrian-friendly; it was “pedestrian-deadly”. Our steep, curvy mountain lane was devoid of sidewalks, and speeding cars barrelled down it every few minutes. I needed a safe walking option, so I headed for nearby Fall Creek State Park, home to a centuries-old redwood grove.

Fall Creek is a tree lover’s dream containing old-growth woods such as Douglas fir, madrone, oak and ponderosa pines. I know it sounds hippie-dippy, but the energy in this forest felt almost magical. A unique sort of quiet enveloped me as soon as I got on a trail. Thick rays of sunlight peeked through the tree branches so that I didn’t feel claustrophobic. I loved smelling the fresh, pure air.

The state park attracted many visitors, but it was so large that I seldom came across other hikers. An occasional horse or two startled me, but they seemed mellow. As much as I enjoyed the lack of people, it was cause for concern, especially as a woman hiking alone. (This was before my glorious, protective collie Lucy came into my life!)  

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A place I call “The Hobbit Hole”

I bought a pepper spray and reviewed how to use it properly.  I always told my husband when I’d go to the woods. He wasn’t thrilled about my hiking in such isolation, but the pepper spray made him feel a little better. Whenever I went to Fall Creek I held the spray in my hand, ready to use it at any moment. I always brought my fully charged cell phone, and I was lucky I had good cell reception in the forest.

There were other risks besides meeting an unsavory human.  Mountain lions have roamed these hills for ages. Sightings were very rare; at least there weren’t any bears!

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A baby puma/mountain lion

However, there have been a few times when I felt that my sanctuary had a sinister feel. I think the creepy sensation was more about my projecting my dark mood upon the innocent forest rather than there being an actual cause.  This gloominess usually happened when the sun disappeared from view.  Sunlight always has had a tremendous affect upon my psyche, and I’ve used a bright Sunbox light for over a decade now.

When my med-free attempt failed and I relapsed, I admitted myself to the mental hospital once again. I was in the unit three times that summer alone. Patients weren’t taken outside unless they had a doctor’s note. (I wasn’t informed of that ludicrous policy when I was there. I found out about it long after I was released. It was truly insane that patients who were able to handle being outside with supervision weren’t exposed to fresh air and sunlight.)

After I came home from the unit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the forest.  I felt like a caged animal who had finally been given her freedom. The day I was able to drive to Fall Creek and walk on the paths I tread so many times before was a momentous accomplishment.  

During my summer hospitalizations there were many times I thought I’d never be in a forest again. After being cooped up in what I can only describe as a horrible hell, it was incredible to use all my senses to savor Fall Creek once more. While I was still depressed, it helped to be around my “redwood therapists” for their very real comfort.

Being in a mental hospital does many things to you.  For some resilient souls, they stay at a unit, they get out, and they don’t look back too much or get stuck when they reflect.  On the other hand, and I don’t use the following term lightly, I know I have PTSD from being in these units multiple times.

The difference between a locked-down unit full of suffering and a spacious forest comprised of graceful trees and streams is enormous. It doesn’t get more “bipolar” than the difference between sterile civilization and majestic nature.

This summer not only did I return to my beloved Fall Creek forest trails, but I brought Lucy for the first time, and per their spirited request, my two girls! Now more than ever before, I’m grateful for the freedom of being able to visit such a stunning, peaceful place with the ones who I love with all my heart.

I hope that each of you enjoys your own special place in nature as often as possible this summer!

Love,

Dyane

Mom & Girls @ Felton

Enjoying a yummy lunch at the historic Cremer House before heading to explore Fall Creek State Park

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.