Somewhere Over the Technicolor Rainbow

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Last Friday we headed for Alpine Valley, Lake Tahoe, a five-hour-long drive from our home. Minutes after this selfie was taken in our ancient Subaru Forester’s back seat, one of my daughters unloaded a “Technicolor rainbow” all over the place. I sat next to her. Suffice it to say, my smile wouldn’t be seen again for some time.

Suffice it to say, my smile wouldn’t be seen again for some time.

I was enormously relieved when she said she felt better, but during the rest of the trek, I was on the verge of doing the same thing. It was one of the most miserable journeys of my life, and when we pulled up to The Munchkin cabin, I nearly kissed the snowy ground in relief!

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We rent The Munchkin each year and if I won the lottery, I’d convince the owner to sell it to me. Seven years ago my husband Craig found this rental on Craigslist , appropriately enough. The cost was extremely reasonable for pricey Lake Tahoe, but we had no idea how nice this place was until we pulled up to the steep front staircase. Our mouths dropped at our good fortune.

Since then, Craig befriended the owner and she has dropped the rent for us, making this stay incredibly affordable, especially because Craig makes this a working vacation.   

The Munchkin is modest compared to the nouveau-riche McMansions that dot the street, the neighborhood…and virtually all of Lake Tahoe! Unfortunately, the older, quaint cabins are becoming a thing of the past. I prefer cozy to cavernous any day.

We’ve enjoyed The Munchkin during the summer and winter, and Lucy loves being here no matter what the season.

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 Don’t let Lucy’s pensive expression fool you – this dog has a complete blast romping around in the snow. 

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This is the view from the deck where I’ve written my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder almost every summer we’ve come here, except when my bipolar depression was so horrible I couldn’t do much of anything. 

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Right after I snapped this shot, the girls got into a vicious snowball fight – what else is snow good for?

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This giant Santa greeted me when I walked to the top of the street. This photo doesn’t do his size justice – trust me, he’s BIG!

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My older daughter loves to cook and bake on snowy days. Here she’s putting the finishing touches on lemon meringue cups. Unlike me, she isn’t a chocoholic, which is a blessing because if she made chocolate-anything, I’d eat the entire batch.

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I took these mountain shots during one of my daily late afternoon hikes. In the summer I must watch out for bears, which makes for a rather unsettling hiking experience.

I’ve even had a bear encounter in The Munchkin (to read more about that, check out the post “Bears, Shrinks, and Mindfulness”) and I take bears very seriously! But now that it’s cold and the bears are fast asleep, I can put that worry to rest, well, for the most part. Thanks to the guide Bear Aware, I know what to do in case I come across a bear.

As far as my book’s editing is concerned, I haven’t made much progress yet. Due to a glitch, I had to sit tight and wait for my publisher to fix the file filled with copyedits and assorted questions. I received the file last night and I’ll begin working on it today. We don’t have internet at the Munchkin, so it’s off to the Crest Café this morning where I’ll download the file, gulp hard, pass out (just kidding) and put my nose to the grindstone.

I can’t write this post without mentioning the loss of Carrie Fisher, her mother Debbie Reynolds, and George Michael – they have all been on my mind. I still can’t believe they’re gone, and I’m glad there have been so many insightful blog posts and articles written about their lives.

Only two weeks ago I sent a letter to Carrie Fisher’s staff about her participating in a World Bipolar Day project. I never thought in a zillion years that she wouldn’t be here to ring in the new year. My heart goes out to her daughter Billie, her brother Todd, and the rest of her family and fans.

I wish you a Happy New Year, my friends! Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

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Off to Tahoe to Ice Skate & Edit, Perhaps Simultanously…

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Squaw Valley, California

December 2012

In 2012, my family made our annual winter visit to Alpine Meadows located near Squaw Valley, California, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. When we visited Squaw Valley, I wore a Santa hat proclaiming I was “Nice,” but in all honesty, it should’ve read “Hopeless.”

Craig, the girls and I rode the Squaw Valley Aerial Tram up to High Camp. I was severely depressed, extremely anxious (especially in social situations) and thirty-five pounds overweight. Although we were in a spectacular setting, I couldn’t appreciate the beauty that surrounded us.

To top it off, I was terrified of being in a metal box a whopping 2000 feet above the snowy ground, suspended by a cable which I thought might snap apart any second. I forced myself to go on the tram because my daughters loved it. When we reached our destination at the top of the mountain, I felt flat and Scrooge-like.

I hadn’t yet found the two meds that would lift my treatment-resistant bipolar depression: lithium & the MAOI tranylcypromine (Parnate). It wouldn’t happen for another year. (I write about how these meds helped me here and here.)

We’re heading to Alpine Meadows today, and I’m excited about it! Our Scotch collie Lucy is coming with us, and we’ll take daily walks in the snow. I’ll be wearing spikes on the soles of my boots; they’re a miraculous device so I won’t slip on the icy roads. Lucy’s thick, furry coat will come in handy in the cold. She loves the snow, and it’s so much fun to watch her romp around.

In book news, yesterday I received the edited file of my Birth of a New Brain manuscript from my publisher! I’ll be bringing my laptop so I can review the editor’s feedback and make the necessary changes. Lucy will sit in her usual place while I write: on my foot.

Apart from that, I’ll go ice skating with the girls. Skating is something I would never would’ve contemplated doing in 2012. I skated last year, and I had a blast until it started snowing hard. The skating rink’s ice plow machine broke, so the powder snow grew thick upon on the ice, yet we were allowed to keep skating. Let me tell you, skating through more than an inch of snow is not the ideal way to do it!

I want to thank each of you for making the blogosphere such a supportive place. I see it as full of virtual kindred spirits! Back in 2012 before I blogged regularly, I didn’t imagine I’d discover amazing bloggers who would add so much joy, inspiration, and illumination to my life. I’m so glad that happened – I’m so glad you all are not only “out there” (along with the truth – sorry, that’s what happens when you watch too many X-Files episodes) but in my heart too. Have a good holiday and see you late next week.

Lots of love,

Dyane

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

My Old-School Meds Helped A Star’s Treatment-Resistant Depression!

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It’s another rainy Thursday, but I’m in a better state of mind. The past week I haven’t thought much about being rejected by Team Voldemort.

As Kermit and Fozzie sing, it’s time to be:

Movin’ Right Along!

 

Over the past few nights, I read country music superstar Naomi Judd’s new memoir River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope. The instant bestseller was co-written by Marcia Wilkie. Although I’m not a country music fan, I wanted to read about Judd’s experience with severe mental illness. 

I found the book absorbing and well-written. Like many gifted musicians, Judd had a very tough childhood. She was traumatized by sexual abuse, a profound lack of parental love, and much more. She became the young, single mom of Wynonna and Ashley, and put herself through nursing school. She endured more physical and emotional abuse. Her story is a remarkable one.

However, Naomi Judd differs from many of us in that she had the finances to spare almost no expense in her quest to get well. She attended rehabilitation centers such as Promises Malibu, which costs $75,000-$90,000 a month for a single room with a shared bathroom or private suite!

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She was treated by an acclaimed psychiatrist who made an exception to meet with her due to her fame. However, I brushed these inequities aside. I wanted to discover how, exactly, she got better from severe, treatment-depression.

Little did I know I’d be surprised in Chapter 17. At that point, Judd had taken all kinds of meds for her anxiety and depression. She had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which, as some of you know, saved my life. ECT helped her somewhat, but just like with my case, ECT didn’t eradicate her unremitting, soul-sucking depression.

Her psychiatrist Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, suggested she try the medication combination I’ve taken since 2013: lithium and the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) Parnate. Parnate’s generic name is tranylcypromine.

She wrote, “He explained (Parnate) is an old-school second-line treatment that works best for people with major depressive disorders combined with extreme anxiety.”

I do wish the authors included how Parnate can also help treatment-resistant bipolar depression. I’m sure many of Judd’s readers have bipolar or know someone who does. 

I have mixed feelings about the book. I was thrilled that the doctor suggested Parnate and lithium   — they are the only meds out of 30+ I tried that lifted my treatment-resistant bipolar depression. But I was disappointed about some misinformation. Judd wrote, “I was given an entire list of foods that the drug could react with and possibly kill me. This includes chocolate.”

That is utter hogwash. You CAN eat chocolate while taking a MAOI, as long as you don’t gobble gallons of it! While researching my book, I discovered that some people who suffer from terrible depression won’t take a MAOI if it means giving up chocolate. This, my friends, is a case of serious WTF-itis! I’m one of the biggest chocolate lovers you’ll ever meet, but I’d give up ANY food to feel better. Even (Jean Lee, you won’t believe this), gasp, coffee!!! 

Judd wrote about how much she loved to research the heck out of any medical topic. Apparently, she didn’t research two small, old, but profoundly convincing studies. These studies indicated that lithium and Parnate worked powerfully together to alleviate treatment-resistant bipolar depression. Although the subjects had bipolar depression, it would’ve been useful to cite that study or more recent Parnate/lithium studies in her book.

Most importantly, Judd downplayed how much lithium and Parnate helped her. She wrote,

“About seven days after beginning both prescriptions, I could feel a slight change, a peek at a new dawn on the horizon. It was more like a spark of stability that was within my sight. For the first time in two and a half years, I could sense the possibility of ascending from, instead of descending deeper into, a dark and lifeless hole.”

 “Though Parnate was the the first medication that proved to have an effect on my depression, it was not without a price,”

referring to hair loss she had, although it was possible it could’ve been a side effect from lithium.

During the previous two and a half years she was incredibly depressed and suicidal. This medication cocktail was the true turning point.

Then, she added, “I was also prescribed many other medications.” 

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I was flabbergasted that she didn’t name what those other meds were, or if they even had anything to do with depression. I hope she’s asked about these meds at her book talk Q&A session. 

Despite my misgivings, I’m glad I read the book, literary warts and all. If you want to read more about my take on MAOI’s and lithium, please see the following two posts: Now and Then: Thank You MAOI’S and Lithium and Misinforming the Public About MAOI’s Isn’t Cool.

Meanwhile, back at the (Judd) Ranch…

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Naomi’s Ranch

It just so happens that Naomi Judd lives in the small town where my publisher’s main office is located: Franklin, near Nashville. Dangnabbit, it’s a small world!

 

I hope you have a good Friday, and I’ll see you next week!

Love,

Dyane

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

Sour Grapes, Rejection, and Perspective

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As I write today’s post, it’s a rainy, cold, and dreary day. The gloom depicts how I felt after I learned I wasn’t selected to be in a documentary called Be Vocal. The fifteen-minute film features people who live with bipolar disorder. It’s affiliated with singer Demi Lovato (who has bipolar), five national mental health agencies, and Sunovion.

I had been nominated by a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) staffer to be a candidate. She read my Life Unlimited profile on the DBSA website in which I wrote about my postpartum bipolar diagnosis. I was honored; nothing like that had ever happened to me. Despite my anxiety at the prospect of the required  interview, I immediately scheduled it with the production team.

My hopes were high before my phone interview with the six-person panel. I bared my soul to those strangers (I eventually dubbed them “Team Voldemort”) during a nerve-wracking forty-five minutes. After I hung up the phone, my gut told me I wouldn’t make the cut. It was a sucky feeling that I couldn’t shake, and to be honest, I wish I hadn’t been nominated in the first place. As I wrote in last week’s post, this wasn’t a mere job interview but something much more personal; people were judging my personality, my way of speaking, and my life “story” instead of my typing speed.

While this post is basically “word vom,” I’m sharing it because this experience has tested me and triggered my ever-present insecurities. (By the way, I never heard of “word vom” until I read Raeyn’s The Scarlet B post “Death to Concern Trolls.” Thanks, Raeyn, for bringing a smile to my face. I needed it!)

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2017 will be a significant year for me. My memoir Birth of a New Brain, nine years in the making, will be published in October. With that in mind, you can see why I was tempted to interview for the documentary after I read the following email sent to me by a Voldemort:

“One of the key projects for Be Vocal this year is to create a documentary that will include the stories of three individuals living with a mental health condition who are vocal in unique and powerful ways. The Emmy-nominated documentary film director working on this project is Shaul Schwarz.

The documentary will be placed on Demi Lovato’s Be Vocal website and shared widely with news outlets, online, on social media, through advocacy organizations/support groups, etc.”

You might already be familiar with Be Vocal. Recently the campaign announced ten portraits of people living with mental illness that was blasted all over social media.

Mental health awareness is such a worthwhile cause, in part, because stigma is still pervasive in our society. However, I was put off by this mental health awareness-themed photo collection for a few reasons. For example, one of the subjects with bipolar disorder has gotten a TON of media attention to date. Please believe me when I tell you she didn’t need yet another photo session. It’s time for her to move over and let someone else take a turn in the spotlight.

SPLAT!!!!!

That was an imaginary sour grape I just flung at my innocent computer screen! 

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Here’s an excerpt of my rejection email:

“Hi Dyane,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. As you know, we want to ensure that the Be Vocal documentary features a mix of individuals with different stories, experiences, backgrounds, ages, etc. For this reason, unfortunately, we need to move forward with other candidates to ensure we have this diversity. 

We think your story is incredibly inspiring and hope you will continue to share it with others… 

Sincerely,

Team Voldemort”

Yuck! How I hate rejection letters! 

I’m going to have a hard time in February when Be Vocal is heavily promoted and released. I know the film will be all over the internet due to the Demi Lovato Factor. Did you know she has 30 million fans called Lovatics? Yes.

To that end, I’m planning on dialing down my bipolar social media subscriptions so I won’t see press releases everywhere. I don’t want Twitter and Facebook to remind on an hourly basis that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t interesting enough and my story wasn’t relevant to the Voldemorts.

After my blogging friend Vic read my last post he decided to write a post called Promotion? Perhaps about what helps him through rejection. He explains how it’s all about perspective. I encourage you to take a look. As you can see, I need to improve my perspective, and I’m glad Vic shared his positive, helpful insights.

Apart from developing a healthy perspective, something that helps me to lessen rejection’s sting is getting immersed in a new project. (And I’m not talking about “making a batch of brownies and eating all the batter” project!) 

I’m currently contacting authors and other notable movers and shakers about endorsing my book with a few lines known as “blurbs.” (How I love that word.) While this endeavor is guaranteed to involve plenty of rejection, I’m better-prepared thanks to the Voldemorts and Vic’s post.

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Finally, I’d like to send out a big, ‘ol thanks to those of you who wrote such supportive, kind posts last week. Every one of your comments helped me.

I apologize for this post being whiny and, at the end of the day, superficial compared to the problems we face in living with bipolar depression and mania, etc. I hope you’re still reading! If so, I’d like to create a blogging award & cute meme just for you, but I’m not sure what to call it. Hmmm.

Do you have any ideas for an award bestowed upon faithful readers who read your blog posts no matter what topic you ramble about???

Let me know!

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Love,

Dyane

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.