My Seroquel Spider Belly, Memoirstipation & Buh-Bye!

My Seroquel Spider Belly, Memoirstipation & Buh-Bye!

(TW – Seemingly superficial topics but please read this anyway!)

Happy Thursday, my friends!

It has been over a month since my last 25 mg Seroquel pill. I’ve been able to get to sleep without medication again, which is cause for celebration! I first started taking quetiapine, the generic version of Seroquel, in 2013 for for severe, agitated insomnia. It has been an enormous help, but it was time to taper off it because I wasn’t happy with my chronic daytime grogginess. I wanted to see if I could live and sleep comfortably without the med, and my pdoc gave me his blessing to go for it.

I think I’m getting the medication out of my system. Who knows for sure, but I don’t feel an icky withdrawal sensation anymore. I stopped belting out the Seroquel Blues song. The only Seroquel-related bummer that remains is this:
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Ever since I started taking Seroquel, my stomach took on a very high concentration of fat glorious adipose tissue. I’ve never had this style of weight gain happen before except when I was pregnant. There’s no way I’m growing a Frankenbaby, but I look about four months pregnant and that feels very disconcerting.

I’ve been ruminating about the villain Typhon Cutter from my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle’s book The Arm of the Starfish. L’Engle writes, “Typhon Cutter looked even more like a spider than Adam remembered. It seemed incredible that this obese mass with the stringy appendages could possibly be father to the beautiful girl at his side.”

While I’m not obese (at 5’6″, I’m 152 pounds of pure bipolar goodness) my metabolism has obviously been affected adversely by the powerful drug. 152 pounds would be perfectly acceptable except for this quadruple muffin top hanging out of my stretched-out jeans. Due to my twisted Los Angeles upbringing, I don’t breathe well because I have an awful habit of sucking in my stomach. 

The bottom line is that I feel gross and unhealthy despite my consistent Dr. Alsuwaidan-style * workouts. I’m a former A.C.E.-certified personal trainer and I know the most important thing I need to do aside from discuss this in therapy. I need to eat much healthier foods than what I’m currently inhaling. However, I haven’t hit that lovely rock-bottom point that motivates profound, lasting change.

My weight gain certainly hasn’t been all Seroquel’s fault. I have a fierce gelato addiction. There are so many damn delicious gelatos and a myriad of Willy Wonka-esque, enticing flavors available. (Bourbon caramel chocolate, anyone?Ahhh!) Check out https://ciaobellagelato.com)

bourboncaramelchocolate

It’s just not right. But I’m working on this issue because I want more energy.

I’ve lost bipolar med weight before. I did it in a healthy way, mind you! No starving for this foodie chick. 60 pounds worth! The equivalent of a five-year-old child was lost from my frame, which is pretty freaky. But my weight problem wasn’t connected with Seroquel and I think the 10-15 pounds I’d like to lose now will be tougher due to whatever Seroquel did to my metabolism. So we shall see, and I’ll keep you posted.

In book writing news, it’s sucking heavily, my dears.  My publisher doesn’t read this blog, and even if someone there did read it, I’m not worried. At least I have my book’s 200 page “skeleton” written. (Thanks, Natalie Goldberg, for planting your Writing Down the Bones idea into my brain twenty nine years ago!) However, a humongous amount of work is still in order. 

Due to our family’s summer schedule and my malaise, I haven’t written much. I’ve been constipated in terms of writing. I’ve coined the silly term “memoirstipation” because as far as I know, no one else has coined it, so I’m claiming it now. Gotta clear out the pipes! At least my manuscript deadline is motivating me to complete this project. The main reason why I sent out the proposal was actually to be given a deadline and pressure! It’s a mixed blessing, especially when I wake up at 4:00 a.m. freaking out about it.

I have the Catamaran Writers Conference coming up in August as another way that will require me to get my act together. The feedback will be invaluable – I know that I’m going to get 99.9% criticism and that’s okay. I’ll bring a extra-large box of tissues. 😉

Perhaps as I lose a bit of the Seroquel belly, I’ll feel more fired up to write. 

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This is not end-of-the-world stuff, and yes, it’s a first-world problem, but nevertheless I’d like to say buh-bye to my Seroquel belly!

And speaking of buh-bye’s, I found a clip on YouTube that made me laugh. You might not think it’s as hilarious as I do since I was raised in L.A., but it’s fun to watch such an awkward spectacle. Stay with it for the Betty White/Bradley Cooper moment if nothing else. Keep in mind lots of Angelenos like to explain in boring, ludicrous detail the tedious routes they drive. Here’s a summary:

The Californians (Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Laraine Newman, Kenan Thompson, Betty White, Taylor Swift) reunite and get some surprising news about their pool boy Craig (Bradley Cooper – I’m not quite sure what he was on in this skit). Plus, David Spade (reprising his role as the original Buh-Bye Man) and Cecily Strong bring the sketch to an abrupt end.

THE CALIFORNIANS – SNL 40th SPECIAL “BUH-BYE”

I grew up in West L.A., and this is how people really talk there…and it’s true, lots of them primp in the mirror every two minutes. See you next week, lovies!

Dyane

* This is what I do every day & it totally helps my mood, no matter how chunky my belly is! 

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

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Frances Nettie Messinger, My Inspiration

Frances Nettie Messinger, My Inspiration

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Our Future President Hillary Rodham Clinton with

Congressman Charles Rangel, my Granny’s student and friend

 

Today is my maternal grandmother Frances Nettie Messinger ‘s birthday. I witnessed my beloved Granny suffer an agonizing and prolonged death from lung cancer. I’ll never forget the last time I saw her at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She didn’t recognize me. This gentle, loving woman who had never even raised her voice at me started screaming. Without thinking about what I was doing, I sprinted out of her room and down the hall in terror. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew what I did was cowardly, but I was ignorant about death, and I wasn’t strong enough to face her decline. 

Hers was the first death to affect me significantly. I was twenty-seven when she died and I plummeted into a deep depression. As nightmarish as my depression was, it only gave me a hint of what would come after I’d be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder. To be honest, I’m glad Granny died before I was diagnosed so she didn’t see me suffer the horrors of bipolar. I know she would have been devastated.

While I’m lucky that my Granny and my Dad are the only deaths that have hit me so hard, I know more grief will arrive. For now, it helps me to remember my beloved family members when they were at their best.

Granny was an absolutely  amazing woman. Yes, I sound biased, but read on and I’m sure you’ll agree. She was an elementary school teacher in Harlem, New York. Granny was a single mother to my Mom and she took care of her own mother “Bubba” until Bubba died peacefully in her sleep at age 93.

I was only five-years-old when Bubba died, but I remember her having a lively sense of humor and a clear mind. My most vivid memory of Bubba is when she shook hard with laughter while telling me a joke about the F-word. (Hey, now I know where I get my potty mouth!) I loved her bouncy laugh. Although I didn’t know exactly what the F-word meant, I could tell by her expression that it was naughty and that she got a big kick out of saying it.

On the other hand, Granny had an impeccable vocabulary. You’d never hear her utter an unsavory word for she was used to being an exemplary role model. This extremely dedicated teacher mentored many students, but one student stood out in her life. His name was Charles Rangel, and he would eventually became a Democratic Congressman and the first African-American chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee.

Granny and Congressman Rangel had a truly beautiful friendship. I was so proud of Granny for inspiring this extraordinary man to achieve his dream of governmental service. He is currently the second longest serving member of the House of Representatives. 

I met Congressman Rangel when he gave the eulogy at Granny’s funeral in upstate New York. There were only six of us in attendance, and he took time out of his jam-packed schedule to make sure he was there. Despite my being in a fog of despair, I was comforted by my brief interaction with this warm and wonderful man who loved my Granny too.  

I write in depth about this remarkable woman and our relationship in my memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder slated for publication in 2016 by Post Hill Press.   

Yesterday I found a link that posted a speech given by Congressman Rangel. He honored my Granny in front of Congress, and as you can imagine, I was totally blown away by such a find. What a gift!

Thanks, Granny, for leading me to this link and for so much more…

I miss you.

your Dyanu

Here goes:

In Memory Of Sixth Grade Teacher Nettie Messinger On Teacher Appreciation Day by Congressman Charles Rangel

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Mr. Speaker, let me join with my colleagues. I did not come to speak on this subject, but just this Friday I attended the funeral of a sixth grade teacher that I had. She was more than an inspiration to one of the worst kids in the classroom, which was Charlie Rangel, but it was fantastic that the more success I received politically, the better she thought I was as a student.

How quickly they forget. I was so blessed to have had her, not only as a sixth grade teacher in Nettie Messinger but as someone who counseled me after I got out of the service, returned to high school and went on to college and law school.

There were so many, many students that she took this very, very personal relationship with. She did not just let you play hookey, she had to come by your house to let your parents know that you missed school.

On behalf of all of the students from old PS 89, some who get on TV and many others who do not, let me thank the teachers that follow the high tradition of real teaching as Mrs. Nettie Messinger did and join my colleagues in thanking all of our teachers, especially those in the public school system.

 

 

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

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Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

love, Dyane

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

Visit The Lithium Chronicles Facebook Community 

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

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

Post Hill

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

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

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

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Trust Redux

This morning I sifted through the blog posts I’ve written over the past year in order to piece together some sections for my book. I came across a post titled “Trust” which was written in the early days of my blog. I decided to re-post it today since so much has happened since I published it, and I think (and hope) some of my newer readers might relate to it.

See you Monday, thanks for reading, & have a great weekend!!!

Dyane

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TRUST

Today is the first day that writing a blog post feels like a “have to” instead of a “want to” activity, in part because I know that hardly anyone (and oftentimes no one) reads these posts. I must admit that the prospect of having a chunky blog audience is alluring. Having a large readership would provide me with a powerful incentive to write even if I didn’t feel gung-ho when first creating each post. (Like exercise, I find that once I start writing, no matter how resistant I feel beforehand, I always feel better once I tap the keyboard for a measly few minutes.)

I’m barely promoting this blog. Truth be told, I’m using blogging more for a daily writing practice rather than as a lofty platform to reach hundreds of followers. Blogging is more gratifying than journaling these days; I used to keep journals for years and I got burned-out.

My blog is also a very convenient way for me to procrastinate focusing on the project of my heart: my book. So today instead of taking an hour or two to write a post, I’ll use this time to open my “Birth of a New Brain” file and read some of what I wrote over the past few years. I’ve only been able to read up to page eight, believe it or not, for it’s daunting material and it’s an intimidating task.

Oh, how I need to trust the process of writing and I want more than most anything to trust my capability as a writer.

As a voracious reader, I’ve noticed the rise of mediocre books now available complete with typos, syntax errors, crappy content, and amateur covers. (Yes, I sound like a snob, and I suppose I am one!) Virtually anyone can write a book and sell it to the public via Amazon and other internet avenues. If those books make it, why can’t mine? I must trust that my concept is valid; it’s also original, and while I won’t win awards anytime soon, my writing quality is solid. I remind myself that I didn’t buy my degree in English from the University of California; I earned it with blood, sweat, angst and a ton of writing.

Again, it all comes down to trust…self-trust. We can’t take our book accolades to the grave with us. I’ll give “Birth of a New Brain” my best shot over the next year, and if it works out, great, and if it doesn’t, I’ll know that I tried with all my heart, I trusted myself at long last, and that is what truly matters.

“Where Were You?”

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Dearest Readers,

I hope with all my heart and soul you’ll never understand this poem from a firsthand point-of-view.

love,

Dyane

 

“Where Were You?”

Where were you
When I was in the mental hospital 
I don’t buy the excuses
And I will never forget it
Someday when you face death
Like I did
And you are trapped in a dismal hospital room
I think you will understand
Why I am so fucking furious
That no one came
Find another friend
I finally know
I am worth far more
Than being ignored and forgotten and feared

Handcuffed Mom

 

My girls

Fall, 2008

It seems long ago and far away

That I was handcuffed on a beautiful day

The sun shone as the officers stopped by

And because I was manic, I didn’t cry

“You’re so compliant!” one cop said with surprise

When I said bye to my girls, I had such brave, dry eyes

“5150” was sputtered in front of me

I couldn’t care less about terminology

To this day, I can’t believe it

Why a lactating mother of two would be such a threat

I needed treatment, but I complied; I was willing to leave 

My children for the hospital, near the street where I conceived

I didn’t need handcuffs – I had to laugh a bit 

I wasn’t armed with a gun…what a bunch of bullshit!

I hope no other mother who’s manic and admits it

Doesn’t go through the humiliation of being treated like a convict

 

 

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a poet by any means, but these lines came to me today.  

In fall of 2008, I had a bipolar manic episode.  My distraught husband contacted the 911 dispatch for a 5150 evaluation.  A whopping four police officers came to our house to assess me for treatment at our local hospital’s behavioral health unit.

I agreed to be brought to the hospital, yet I was still handcuffed.  It was so strange.  I didn’t resist as I didn’t want to make a scene with my baby and toddler in the house.  

Ideally instead of four officers, a trained mental health team could have come to help me and my husband.  Nowadays I’ve been reading about the emergence of crisis workers educated in mental illness emergencies, complete with home visits, and I’m so glad that progress is being made.  I only wish I could have been a beneficiary of such a program.    

Another Great Divide

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As I write this post today I’m feeling pretty out of it due to a summer cold that came on strong.  The yucky bug has lingered around our home for almost two weeks!  First it struck Marilla, and then it made mincemeat out of my husband Craig, who doesn’t even usually catch colds.  I stayed healthy while I first cared for Rilla, and then for Craig, but I knew deep down it was only a matter of time until I’d start sniffling.

So here I am, sore-throated, stuffy-nosed and sneezing in mid-eighty degree weather.  For once I am happy that our home is naturally quite cold…it strikes me as similar to a root cellar!  At least I’m able to function enough to take care of the girls even though I become a big baby when I get a cold.  Craig is working at a site with a ninety-minute-long commute each way, which is probably for the best since his bedside manner in regard to the common cold is not his strong point!  To top things off, due to the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) medication Parnate that I take for bipolar disorder, I can’t consume any over-the-counter cold medications or else I’ll get way sicker than the cold itself. 

As crappy and crabby as I feel, surprisingly I haven’t lost my craving to blog  – at least it gets my mind off my cold for the time being!

My last post covered my social anxiety and Meetup groups.  Ever since I wrote that piece I’ve pondered other subjects to write about, including how friendships are affected by mental illness.  This post only touches on the tip of the friendship/bipolar iceberg.  (Sorry for that sketchy metaphor – I’m going to blame my poor writing on my cold.)

Seriously, I’ve wondered about what I can realistically offer as a friend now.  To be honest, I don’t have that much to give this summer.  It has only been a year since my last hospitalization for bipolar depression.  I’ve had a whopping seven hospitalizations, and it feels much less than a year since my last stay at Chez Hellhole.  My therapist, who doesn’t like to throw out psychiatric labels, recently surprised me when she told me that she believes I suffer with PTSD from my hospital experiences.

In some ways I’m doing great, but in other ways I’m still very fucked-up.    

My friends who I feel most comfortable around are ones who have mood disorders.  One example is “S.”.  A few years ago she was diagnosed with bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified; i.e. symptoms of bipolar disorder exist but not fully for a bipolar I or II diagnosis.).  We met through the “Women with Mood Disorders” DBSA support group I created several years ago.  She is supportive, thoughtful, and funny as hell.  I can be my damaged self around S. without feeling ashamed.  S. is strong enough to be able to deal with my ups and downs, and if for some reason she couldn’t handle them at a given time, I know she would be honest with me and tell me her limits.

I have another friend, “D”, who suffered postpartum depression and she took antidepressant medication for it, which served as a godsend.  While D. doesn’t have a chronic illness like I do, I still feel deeply understood by her.  Unfortunately we don’t see each other in person very often, but she stays in touch with me through the internet.  I’m fortunate to have another friend “M”, a mom who I neglected during my years of hospitalizations.  M reconnected with me recently.  Ssuffers with depression and she’s incredibly compassionate.  I feel at ease in M’s presence – that’s no small thing in my book!  I’m thankful that she chose to reach out to me again.

I have a couple other mom friends who don’t have mood disorders and who I don’t see often.  However, I want to stay connected with them for several reasons, mainly because of our children’s longtime friendships and I also genuinely care about them.  This is not an exhaustive list of my friends, but I don’t have many friends, though.   Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I had twice as many friends as I do now; some of them very close, others more of the acquaintance variety.  

Friendships are precious and they’re also a slippery slope to navigate, especially when living with bipolar disorder.  I know I’m limiting myself by focusing on friends who live with mood disorders, but I really can’t help it!  I feel compelled to spend time with my “tribe” of people who can truly empathize with me, and who don’t harbor stigma.  

This post’s title “Another Great Divide” is the name of one of my favorite Split Enz songs.  The song lyrics brilliantly depict the breakup of a romantic relationship using simple mathematical terms, but for me the title “Another Great Divide” also evokes a rift between any two important subjects, i.e. the divide of a friendship between a “normal” person (if one exists, right?) and a person with serious mental illness.

I would love to know how any of you who live with mental illness regard and handle your friendships with those who aren’t living with bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc.  This is a subject so near and dear to my heart, so please comment away!  Take care and take your vitamins! 😉

Dyane

“Another Great Divide” by Split Enz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmWbVeu-vBM