“The Dr. Denise Show” Podcast (She’s an Awesome Holistic Psychiatrist!)

Dr. Denise and her beloved dog Boomer

Happy Friday, my friends!

When I received a confirmation email from psychiatrist Dr. Denise McDermott that I’d be a guest on her show, I was nervous. Then I freaked and considered canceling. You see, before I had contacted her to be a guest, I checked out her credentials and they were impressive and intimidating!

When I listened to her podcast archives I felt better. She was warm, personable, and nothing like 99% of the psychiatrists I’ve encountered. Dr. Denise believes in the mind-body-spirit connection. 

Dr. Denise believes in the mind-body-spirit connection. She’s traditionally trained—I’m not saying she’s a mega-granola-eating, patchouli-drenched physician-hippie (a “phippie”??!!), BUT she believes in combining allopathic and holistic approaches. She’s a proponent of using the least amount of meds necessary. That is very cool.

As soon as we began recording our podcast, Dr. Denise completely set me at ease. We just jumped right in and I felt like I was talking with a friend. There was none of that lofty “pdoc” attitude (i.e. “I’m an M.D. and I’m clearly better than you! You’re a M.D.-degree-less nothing!”)

We’re about the same age and we share some of the same cultural references, plus she’s based in Southern California and some of you know that’s where I grew up. 

Click here for the link to our podcast.

Dr. Denise’s E-Book

Dr. Denise shares how our thoughts, feelings, and actions coupled with our DNA determine our sense of happiness and wellbeing. We hope this ebook will inspire you to embrace your mental wellness and take a new stand for your mental health – feeling empowered and strong no matter what challenge you or your loved ones are faced with right now in your life.

My Amazon Review:

November 11, 2017: Verified Purchase

As a mom with postpartum bipolar disorder, I found Mental Health and How to Thrive such an uplifting, fascinating read. It was refreshing to read a psychiatrist’s perspective on spirit, mind, and body instead of taking of a purely clinical, boring approach. Dr. McDermott packs so much into this short book.
Learn about the word “neurostyle” Dr. McDermott prefers to use instead of other terms typically used for mental illness. She explains how it’s possible to thrive through crisis and go above and beyond surviving. She discusses a variety of mood disorders (a.k.a neurostyles) in children and adults, and she stresses the importance of incorporating mindfulness into one’s life. Other chapters examine how sleep affects mental health, a family peace plan (one of my favorites!) and essentials for mental health. I highly recommend this fantastic book to anyone seeking better mental health.

Visit Dr. Denise on Twitter

(She has lots of beautiful & inspiring tweets with stunning images & thought-provoking quotes!)

@DrDeniseMD

Click the links below to connect with:

Dr. Denise on Facebook 

Dr. Denise’s Website

As a famous bunny once said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend & see you next Friday!

Love,

Dyane

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Foreword by the perinatal psychiatrist and acclaimed author Dr. Carol Henshaw. Available on Amazon in paperback & Kindle versions!

 

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A Nerve-racking, but Ultimately Fulfilling Book Talk!


Park Hall Community Center, December 7th, 2017

Dear Friends,

Last night was my big book signing/educational presentation – it’s the last one I’m doing this year. I had done a ton of publicity in advance of my talk—I arranged and gave 3 local newspaper interviews, I posted flyers all over the valley, I used social media, and I was a guest on a popular Bay Area radio show.

Unfortunately, I spaced out about getting the talk recorded yet again. Drat!

I didn’t read my speech to the audience verbatim; in fact, my main mistake was going off-topic far too much, resulting in a presentation that was at least 15-20 minutes too long. I cringe thinking about it!!! The good news is that I learned my lesson and I won’t do that next time!

This talk was a benefit for NAMI/National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Valley Women’s Club and $300 was raised for them through my book & refreshment sales! 

Ten-year-old Marilla sold books again and did an amazing job. My husband took care of the PowerPoint projector side of things. I’m tuckered out and plan to wait at least a month before scheduling another local talk. 

Wonderful people from the Valley Women’s Club and the Friends of the Boulder Creek Library helped me with the event – they sold cookies & coffee, they helped set and clean up the room, and they provided moral support. There were also incredible friends and acquaintances who showed up such as my postpartum doula/author Salle Webber (The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care) and my virtual friend/social media genius/blogger Carol Stephen, who I met in person for the 1st time, and my fantastic friend Martha Graham-Waldon, author of the award-winning Nothing Like Normal – Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia. Martha helped Marilla sell books and they got an A+ – for doing an excellent job!

There were also strangers who moved me deeply during the Q & A session when they shared some of their own struggles. A few of them were near tears due to heartbreaking situations they were currently facing. I was able to put them in touch then and there with a perinatal therapist I knew well and she happened to be in the audience. I knew she’d be fine with the instant referral (she was) and they spoke after the talk.

——————

I created a handout I gave to everyone last night that’s chock full of useful info. I’ve copied it for you below.

I’m going to go get a bite to eat and watch one of my favorite Netflix or Acorn TV shows. These include Australia’s The Heart Guy, Glitch—Season 2 (which has Rodger Corser the star from The Heart Guy; he’s such a brilliant actor), New Zealand’s The Brokenwood Mysteries, and the U.K.’s Love, Lies & Records. 

I wish you all a good weekend in which you take care of yourself and do some things that make you happy!

Lots of love,

Dyane

 

Park Hall Community Center Author Talk, December 7th, 2017

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

General Information and Resources

Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (“PMADS”)

1)Antenatal (during pregnancy) and postpartum depression

2) postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

3) postpartum psychosis

4) postpartum bipolar disorder (bipolar, peripartum onset in the DSM-5)

5) postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

5) postpartum panic disorder

6) postpartum anxiety disorder

Symptoms of Mania:

Elevated mood, irritability, pursuing goal-directed activities more than usual, heightened energy, a decreased need for sleep, excessive talkativeness, pressurized speech, racing thoughts, spending sprees, hypersexuality, and grandiosity.

Symptoms of Depression:

Feelings of anger or irritability, {postpartum-related: lack of interest in the baby, possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself}, feelings of sadness, tearfulness, crying, emptiness or hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports, sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much, tiredness and lack of energy, even small tasks take extra effort, reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain, anxiety, agitation or restlessness, slowed thinking, slowed speaking or body movements, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame, trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide, unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.

Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis (not a complete list)

Delusions or strange beliefs

Paranoia and suspiciousness

Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)

Rapid mood swings

Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s Suggestions: Exercise for Mood Stability

1) Get your doctor’s blessing to exercise, then find an exercise you enjoy doing such as walking, hiking, yoga, swimming, running, treadmill, etc.

2) Exercise 30 minutes a day, six days a week. Research shows that this is what’s needed to affect the brain.

3) Make sure your activity is intense enough so you break a sweat and can’t maintain an ongoing conversation. (If you can’t exercise 6 days/week, shoot for a minimum of 5 days.)

(For more information please visit: medium.com/@MoAlsuwaidan)

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Santa Cruz County Chapter

http://www.namiscc.org          Help Line: 831-427-8020

NAMI Santa Cruz Support Groups link: http://www.namiscc.org/groups.html

NAMI offers a variety of educational classes for consumers and caregivers

 

DBSA (Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance), Los Gatos/San Jose Chapter

Join DBSA San Jose/Los Gatos’ Meetup Support Group, Organizer: Mike Pearl

Depression/Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA San Jose)

San Jose, CA
82 Members

Find comfort and direction in a confidential and supportive setting, and where you can make a difference in the lives of others.  DBSA San Jose support groups are volunteer ru…

Next Meetup

Depression/Bipolar Peer Support Group (San Jose)

Sunday, Dec 10, 2017, 1:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

CaringBridge Website

Use this wonderful free resource to help organize community support, give updates during a health crisis, receive donations for medical costs and much more.

https://www.caringbridge.org/how-it-works

 Postpartum Support International Warmline

www.postpartum.net

PSI Warmline: (Toll-free) 1-800-944-4PPD (4773) You’re welcome to leave a confidential message anytime, and one of the Warmline volunteers will return your call as soon as possible, providing you with basic information, support, and resources in your area. If you’re not able to talk when the volunteer calls you, you can arrange another time to connect.

 International Bipolar Foundation

http://www.ibpf.org
(858) 764-2496, comprehensive information & resources about bipolar disorder

BP/Bipolar Magazine

http://www.bphope.com

 Suicide Hotline Numbers

If you’re in the U.S. and thinking about suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800- 273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org—they are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.If you’re outside the U.S., please visit this link for a list of international suicide hotlines: suicide.org/international-suicide- hotlines.html

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has a database of international crisis centers at iasp.info/resources/ Crisis_Centres/

Postpartum Psychosis Resources

 “What is Postpartum Psychosis? Teresa Twomey, TEDxBushnellPark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7gyRpTkSP0

Author of Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness

Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP)
The APP website offers a link to a private forum for mothers with postpartum psychosis and/or bipolar disorder.

https://www.app-network.org

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability. This may include improving at least one symptom of the disability. Emotional support animals, typically dogs, but sometimes cats or other animals, may be used by people with a range of physicalpsychiatric, or intellectual disabilities. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability. To be afforded protection under United States federal law, a person must meet the federal definition of disability and must have a note from a physician or other medical professional stating that the person has that disability and that the emotional support animal provides a benefit for the individual with the disability. An animal does not need specific training to become an emotional support animal.[1] Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation, such as a waiver of a “no pets policy”, for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, under both the FHAA and Section 504.[3]

 Mom & Mind Podcast with Dr. Kaeni & Dyane Harwood

Episode 70, Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

http://www.momandmind.com

Dyane Harwood’s Website

Sign up for Dyane’s newsletter—just scroll down to the bottom of the page for occasional e-updates about events.

www.dyaneharwood.com

Recommended Blog

 Kitt O’Malley www.kittomalley.blog

 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Foreword by the perinatal psychiatrist and acclaimed author Dr. Carol Henshaw.

Now available on Amazon in paperback & Kindle versions!

My Q & A with Postpartum Psychosis Advocate/Author Jennifer Moyer

 

Dear Friends,

Recently I was honored to be asked by Jennifer Moyer to do a Q & A for her blog.

Several years ago I found Jennifer’s book A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story About Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis in which she not only suffered from postpartum psychosis but was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I urge you to get a copy and read it.

I wrote the following 5-star review on Amazon:

I found A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness to be a clear and very compelling memoir. I commend Jennifer Hentz Moyer for her longtime dedication for writing about her suffering as well as her triumphs after being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

As a mother who was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD), I took a particular interest in Jennifer’s story. She was not only was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis but ultimately bipolar disorder, postpartum onset. I felt so inspired after reading her book and it will help many women who face the agony of a postpartum mental illness as well as stigma. I discovered Jennifer while reading her profile in the acclaimed book Back from the Brink: True Stories and Practical Help for Overcoming Depression and Bipolar Disorder by Graeme Cowan.”

 

Jennifer and her loving family

Please go to this link to read the Q & A on Jennifer’s blog, and if you could leave a comment so Jennifer & I know you stopped by, that would be awesome!

Have a good weekend, 

Love,

Dyane

p.s. On Wednesday our local paper Good Times published Wendy Mayer-Lochtefeld’s article about my book Birth of a New Brain. I took a hideous picture; I’m not photogenic like Miss Lucy, but the article is great!

http://goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-news/dyane-harwood-postpartum-bipolar/#respond

 

Miss Lucy “I Can’t Take A Bad Picture” Harwood 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon.

My “Psych Byte” Webinar for the International Bipolar Foundation

 

It’s the day after Thanksgiving at dawn. I’m watching a beautiful orange-gold sunrise while Lucy is chomping her dog food and everyone else is asleep. I hope your Thanksgiving went as well as possible. For those of you in other countries, I hope your week has been a good one.

This will be a short post, but you have the option of watching a “Psych Byte” YouTube video I recorded last month.

What’s a Psych Byte?

It’s a mini-webinar series produced by the International Bipolar Foundation. I was asked to participate last year and I nervously accepted because I was told my discussion could be as short as 15-20 minutes.

Pre-recorded webinars can be heavily edited or recorded in one take with minimal or no editing. Once I started recording the Psych Byte, I had to keep going—there was a little editing done, I believe, but not much. There are mistakes galore, but I like to think that makes the talk more interesting and authentic! At least I don’t think I used any potty language!

If you give it a listen, I hope you learn something new. If you could please “like” and share the YouTube link that would be awesome. The more positive response, the more likely the International Bipolar Foundation will note the need to share more information about postpartum bipolar disorder & how it relates to postpartum psychosis.

Also, if you’ve read my book and found it to be a worthy read, please review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I’ll be very grateful to you!

Take care & have a good weekend!!

Love,

Dyane

 

 

 

 

 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon.

I Get By With A Little Help From My (Famous) Friends

My most famous friend of all, Lucy with her new hedgehog “baby”

 

Happy Friday!

I’m sitting at a table at La Placa Bakery. La Placa is an amazing pastry/gelato wonderland recently purchased by a family from Sicily. It’s responsible for my gaining at least ten (maybe 12 15) pounds. Yes, it’s all La Placa’s fault I gained a muffin top, certainly not mine.

Anyway, last week I was having a blah day. I jumped online for a teeny, tiny hit of serotonin that supposedly activates when one checks Twitter. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Imagine my astonishment when I noticed the comic/actor/author Jay Mohr had tweeted this gem to his 333 thousand followers!!!

 

 

While Jay’s generous, wonderful tweet didn’t result in an immediate explosion of my book sales, it didn’t matter. His belief in my book and his contribution of the preface are two of the best gifts I’ve ever received, bar none. 

Jay’s at the helm of a couple dynamic podcasts on Podcast One—America’s Lakers and the acclaimed Mohr Stories 

Speaking of podcasts, I want to promote my friends Rebecca Lombardo and the holistic psychiatrist Dr. Denise McDermott.

Rebecca, who has bipolar disorder is an author, podcast host, and a mental health advocate, plus she has a social media promotion business. I’m sure I’m leaving something important out about her, but please trust me when I say she’s super cool! She’s a big Twitter fan; follow her at: @BekaLombardo. Rebecca will be a guest on the Dr. Denise Show podcast, which premieres tonight, and I encourage you to listen! Dr. Denise is also a Twitter fan and tweets many positive and beautiful messages—follow her at: @DrDeniseMD

Rebecca Lombardo, co-host of Voices for Change 2.0 with her husband Joe

Twitter: @Voices4ChangeRJ 

The vivacious, progressive Dr. Denise and her magnificent dog Boomer

Here’s the link to the Dr. Denise podcast.

I apologize for this post being rushed. I’m sure there are typos galore, but at least it will be much shorter than my usual novella.

In twenty minutes I’m meeting with the facility coordinator who manages the venue where I’ll speak in December. My next talk will be slightly different than my October library presentation. I need to jazz it up a bit! (But I draw the line at pole dancing or hula hooping.) I’m not sure what I’ll be doing just yet, but I’ll do my best to get it recorded so you can see what I wind up doing.

 

Okay, it’s WordPress publication time, but before I press that little blue “Publish” button I have a little more to write. I know the start of the holiday season is rough for most of us and most likely that’s putting it mildly.

Ever since my father died in 2009, Thanksgiving has not been the same. He loved that holiday so much, so I miss him more during Thanksgiving than the other days of the year.

If you’re going through a similar struggle, I send you an extra big hug, and no matter what you’re facing, I implore you to take care of yourself. Thanks so much for reading and for taking time to “like” and comment.

Lots of love,

Dyane “Typo Sinner” Harwood

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon.

My Lunch with Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray

June 5, 1941 – January 11, 2004

 

In my last post, I wrote about a memoir by Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review. When I read Ms. Paul’s memoir My Life with Bob, I discovered we both were fans of the acclaimed actor/author Spalding Gray.

Ms. Paul wrote of her fervent desire to have lunch with Spalding Gray, but that never came to pass. However, I did have lunch with him, but my time with the brilliant raconteur did not go well.

I wrote about my miserable lunch with Spalding Gray. It’s preceded by an account of my first “grown-up” job and my chronic dysthymia, now known as persistent depressive disorder. How I wish we could do our lunch over again in 2017. He’d still be with us, a grandfather perhaps. I’d be 100% more confident compared to how I felt in 1992.

While it’s not exactly an uplifting read, I hope you find it interesting.

 

 

I drank my first cup of coffee at age twenty-two.

The momentous event occurred on day one of my entry-level, full-time job. I had been hired to be the office manager of Silicon Events, a special event production company. After years of part-time jobs, it was a shock to suddenly work a long stretch of tense, busy hours five days a week. I was slow to get going at the 8:30 a.m. starting time, but once I drank that first cup of coffee, I became much peppier thanks to the zip of caffeine. Moreover, I was surprised to discover how much I enjoyed the taste of French roast. My love affair with java had begun, and I took full advantage of the Mr. Coffee machine located five feet from my desk. 

Because Silicon Events had a skeleton crew of four employees, each of us did a myriad of duties. The lion’s share of my job included standard office tasks such as accounting, filing, and answering phones. As time went on, my responsibilities became more diverse, challenging and interesting, especially when I began working at our summer events.

I assisted Colin, the dark-haired, slightly stocky director, and his wife Sheryl, the company’s creative director. She was a beautiful olive-skinned blonde with expressive brown eyes. I worked alongside the development coordinator named Blake, a tall surfer who was atypically driven compared to the other laid-back Santa Cruz surfers I knew.

Our office was a three-hundred-square-foot room, and since we didn’t have cubicles, we could overhear one another’s phone conversations. While sound barriers would’ve helped, they also would’ve made the small room even more cramped. We eventually got used to blocking out the others’ voices, and Colin was often out of the office, resulting in one less distraction.

My job kept me on my toes, literally and figuratively. Silicon Events produced weekend musical events in Silicon Valley that attracted thousands of attendees. These festivals featured world-famous musicians such as Etta James and Crosby & Nash. Due to his former career in the concert industry, Colin was well connected in the music business and he had an outstanding reputation.

This was my first experience working closely with a perfectionist. One of my primary duties was answering the phone. Our callers ranged from big-time talent agents who represented Ray Charles and Willie Nelson to mellow Santa Cruz shaved ice vendors hoping to rent a booth at our next festival. None of them knew we worked out of an office not much bigger than a closet.

Colin wanted his staff to be professional and give callers the impression we worked in a sophisticated agency. If I made a mistake during a conversation, he’d usually overhear me and brusquely correct me the moment I hung up the phone. At least he didn’t yell, but I felt humiliated and stupid for making errors. I was young and new to office procedures—it was to be expected I’d need time to learn. After a couple of months, I finally started getting the hang of the policies and I became a valued member of the company.

I loved working with Sheryl. She was funny, creative, and caring, and she complimented me on my hard work, attention to detail, and my interpersonal skills. I never grew tired of Sheryl’s appreciation of my strengths. Her faith in my abilities boosted my confidence. I knew how lucky I was to have her in my corner.

Blake was only a couple years older than me and he became a brother figure. Like Sheryl, he was a blast to work with and the three of us often joked around. Blake was always willing to help me with a work project if I hit a snag. I frequently picked his exceptionally intelligent brain. I knew he was bound for greatness and I turned out to be correct; ten years later he’d become a successful district attorney.

Blake and I thrived in our first “grown-up” jobs, and we operated as a family unit more than as a staff. There was dysfunction among us, as there is with any family, but I worked at the company for over four years.

At work, I developed good relationships with a variety of people including talent agents, government agency representatives, and media contacts. I coordinated hundreds of food, art and craft vendors who participated in the annual summer festivals we produced. What kept me from looking for another job was feeling valued, interacting with talented people, and the excitement of producing a special event.

However, the start of almost every workday, a thick depression would hit me hard. At 8:00 a.m. I’d sit in my Jetta in the parking lot, dreading the moment I’d have to force myself to walk twenty feet to the office where I’d don a fake smile. As anyone could imagine, it was exhausting to live that way on a daily basis. No one ever questioned me about my mood, and I was relieved I wasn’t found out outright. I worried if I revealed how bad I felt, I’d lose my job. I didn’t confide in friends or family nor did I seek counseling, which would have been immensely helpful. My only outlet was writing in my journals.

When I sat down in my chair to begin work, I was able to ignore my low mood. I drank a few cups of coffee and the buzz helped lift me out of lethargy. Being busy helped me to stop ruminating about how terrible I felt. When I answered the phones I faked an upbeat tone, calling upon my latent acting talent to be as convincing as possible. I returned home each night to my beloved Sheltie dog Tara, my journal, and an empty studio, pessimistic and deeply lonely.

Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts

 

One fall morning at work I found out Spalding Gray, one of my favorite authors, would be performing at Villa Montalvo. The villa was a stunning Italian Mediterranean-style mansion nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Villa Montalvo was an ideal place to see a performance and the expensive ticket prices didn’t stop the venue from quickly selling out every show.

Spalding Gray was known for his signature monologues in which he sat behind a plain wooden desk on an empty, dim stage. His performances include Swimming to Cambodia about his experience filming The Killing Fields, Monster In A Box about writing his only novel, and Gray’s Anatomy about his diagnosis with a rare ocular condition called “macular pucker” which can cause blurred, distorted vision.

He often played the role of a doctor in films due to his intellectual air, a shock of white hair and his trademark Rhode Island accent. Producer/actress Fran Drescher handpicked him to play the psychiatrist in her hit television show The Nanny. Spalding Grays’ performance as the Stage Manager in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town was so outstanding it would’ve made Thornton Wilder proud.

A couple of years before his Villa Montalvo visit, I attended Spalding Gray’s sold-out Santa Cruz show Monster In A Box. The audience was riveted during his performance—you really could’ve heard a pin drop in that room. He had an endearing, fascinating quality about him. It was incredible to observe how he seamlessly incorporated humor, pathos, and brilliant insights. Despite some disturbing truths he had revealed about himself in his monologues and books, Spalding Gray inspired me.

Despite some disturbing truths he had revealed about himself in his monologues and books, Spalding Gray inspired me.

Silicon Events worked for Villa Montalvo, and I didn’t hesitate to ask if I could serve as Spalding Gray’s production assistant. After being granted permission, I helped fulfill his production rider (contract) requirements. Some performers’ riders could contain notoriously high-maintenance demands such as providing a bowl of a particular color M&M candy in the dressing room. Luckily Spalding Gray’s rider requirements weren’t too difficult. There were only a few slightly unusual requests such as hiring a shiatsu masseuse to help relax him before his show.

The day Spalding Gray came to town, I rented a new gold Pathfinder (my dream car at the time) at my expense. My Jetta was showing its wear and I thought I could impress Spalding Gray with a nice car! I nervously drove to his hotel to pick him up and take him to lunch at the Good Earth restaurant in affluent Los Gatos.

To my utter humiliation and disappointment, our meal was a horror show.

After we had sat down, I puffed up with pride and said magnanimously, “Mr. Gray, I’m treating you to lunch! Get whatever you’d like!”

He murmured a distracted “thanks” as his eyes perused the menu.

I’m sure he assumed Villa Montalvo was treating him. Perhaps if he knew I was paying out of my meager pocket, he might have softened a bit.

My attempt to appear calm didn’t work. Rivulets of sweat from my armpits created dark shadows on my pretty silk pink blouse. As we sat across from one another at a small table in the harsh sunlight, I was in such a dither that he got visibly annoyed with me.

He declared, “You’re jagged!”

Jagged? What the hell kind of word is jagged? I thought.

It was apparent from Spalding Gray’s derisive tone that being jagged was most definitely not a good thing. My face flamed red and beads of sweat popped out on my upper lip. I wanted to sprint out the restaurant door and run twenty-two miles to Santa Cruz so I could hide in my studio.

I didn’t know what retort I could make, so I went with my old standby.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, unable to meet his eyes.

I hastily finished my cashew chicken salad sandwich and strawberry fruit smoothie. He had ordered the same entrée as me. We busied ourselves eating since our conversation had taken its nosedive. I was surprised no one recognized him – maybe people were scared to ask for autographs because of the negative energy surrounding us.

While I might have gotten away with being “jagged” with another actor, Spalding Gray was known for his moodiness. I naïvely thought I could charm the actor. However, I didn’t anticipate I’d become so jittery I’d alienate him.

After lunch, I brought the actor back to his hotel so he could have a shiatsu massage I had arranged with “Yoko.” I was exhausted from our brief interchange, but there was still work to do. After the show, I went backstage and met Spalding Gray’s girlfriend and work partner Kathie Russo. She was lovely, gracious, and welcoming to all of Spalding Gray’s fans, even the jagged ones.

Spalding Gray and Kathie Russo

 

Although our time together had been an ordeal, my shame melted over time and I continued to keep up with Spalding Gray’s new books and films. I read about his early years in which his mother, a Christian Scientist who had untreated bipolar disorder, died by suicide. I read that Spalding Gray suffered from recurring depression and some of his physicians suspected he might have bipolar disorder. Then I read about his horrific car accident in 2001.

While traveling in Ireland, Spalding Gray was in a car crash in which he had terrible injuries including a skull fracture. He fell into a deep depression following the accident. He consulted with the famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, the doctor portrayed by Robin Williams in the Academy Award-nominated film Awakenings. His general outlook grew worse and in 2004, he went missing. At age sixty-two, Spalding Gray jumped off the Staten Island Ferry to his death in the freezing water, but it took two months for his body to be found. His family was agony as they waited for the news. He left behind Kathie, their two sons, and his stepdaughter.

When I heard the news about Spalding Gray’s death, my first thought was, What a horrible, horrible way to die! I felt so sorry for his family, especially since it took such a long time for them to learn what had happened to him. No wife or child should ever go through such hell.

I hope with all my heart he is now at peace.

One of my favorite Spalding Gray books: Morning, Noon and Night

 

 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon.

When “I’m Disappointed” Works & When It Doesn’t for The New York Times Book Review


Monday, October 30th was a strange day, my friends.

But before I get into that, I need to give you the backstory which involves The New York Times Book Review, its editor, and the late actor/author Spalding Gray.

I also must touch upon my “I’m Disappointed” philosophy because it might have played a role in what took place—I’ll never know for sure.

Finally, dear readers, I’ll strive to try to keep this tale of whine and roses short, although whenever I’ve written that before, my post wound up being 2500 or 3000 words. (You’ve been warned!)  

The New York Times Book Review

Most every author would agree that The New York Times Book Review is the Mt. Everest of book review columns. Many authors have dreamed of having their books selected by Oprah for her book club and her inevitable Midas touch, but the credibility factor of The New York Times Book Review is space-station-high compared to everything else on our planet.

Pamela Paul

Every Friday, Pamela Paul, Editor of The New York Times Book Review, sends out an e-letter announcing the department’s recommended books. In her introduction, she always ends it with:

Please stay in touch and let us know what you think – whether it’s about this newsletter, our reviews, our podcast or what you’re reading. We read and ponder all of it. I even write back, albeit belatedly. You can email me at books@nytimes.com

I decided to go for it and contact Pamela Paul with a pitch featuring my book, of course!

But first I read her latest book, the memoir My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues to give me a sense of who this woman was. I discovered we were the same age, but what really shocked me was that we shared an intense admiration for the late actor/author Spalding Gray. This fascination included something very specific: the fervent wish to have lunch with him.

Pamela Paul never had lunch with Spalding Gray, but I did! 

I thought that might be a good omen! Something so unusual like a lunch with Spalding Gray would have to catch her attention, wouldn’t it? Energized by our Spalding Gray connection, I sat down in front of my laptop to write my pitch.

 

Spalding Gray’s Morning, Noon and Night is such a wonderful book.

Spalding Gray performed his famous monologues behind a simple wooden desk.

A brilliant author and actor. 

I read in The New Yorker that some of his physicians thought he may have had bipolar disorder, but despite researching this, I haven’t found any official confirmation. Ironically, Spalding Gray was handpicked by actress Fran Drescher to play her character’s psychiatrist on her hit television show The Nanny. Tragically, he was in a terrible auto accident and had a severe brain injury. After suffering for years from the trauma, Spalding Gray died by suicide. 

 

My Grand Pitch

Subject:   My lunch with Spalding Gray/Idea for October
From:   “Dyane Harwood” <dyane@baymoon.com>
Date:   Sun, 27 August, 2017 5:20 am
To:   books@nytimes.com

Dear Ms. Paul, 

Hello! My name is Dyane Harwood and I’m a Santa Cruz, California-based author. I read your memoir My Life with Bob and what you wrote about Spalding Gray hit home. He was also a “literary crush” of mine for years. 

I wound up actually having lunch with him, just as you hoped you’d do! In my early 20s, I worked at a special event production company in Silicon Valley. When he was booked to perform at Villa Montalvo, I begged to be his assistant for a day.

Note to readers, Pamela Paul used to see (and sometimes deliberately follow) Spalding Gray often when they lived in the same New York area. He definitely noticed her, even though she didn’t think he did! 

As you can imagine, I got a big kick reading about how Spalding Gray signed your copy of Morning, Noon and Night with: “To Pamela, THE STALKER!”

When he died by suicide, l too was affected profoundly.

Please forgive my digression…

I’m writing is to see if you’d consider assigning Meghan Daum to review a trio of groundbreaking memoirs that focus on mental illness. The first week of October is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “Awareness Week,” an apropos time for The New York Times Book Review to feature memoirs about mental illness. The books are:

1) My memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder (Post Hill Press, October 10th) Endorsed by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison et al., this is the first book to address this unusual form of bipolar disorder/perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. 

2) Mental: Life, Love, and Lithium by Jaime Lowe (Blue Rider Press, October 3rd) 

3) The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide by Gayle Brandeis (Beacon Press, November 14th) 

Although I didn’t plan on suggesting memoirs written exclusively by female authors, it happened that these memoirs were all written by women.

I realize you get inundated with pitches. I truly appreciate your consideration. 

Warm regards,

Dyane Harwood

————-

A month before I emailed my pitch, my publisher had sent a copy of my book to The New York Times Book Review per their sguidelines requiring submissions to arrive 3-6 months before publication, or fuggedaboutit!

Oh, how I hoped Pamela Paul would read my email and take me up on my idea!!!!!

Two months passed without hearing a peep from the editor. I grew impatient.

Last Sunday, I tweeted Pamela Paul in a moment of abandon. I can’t remember my exact words, but my 140 characters said something like: “With all due respect, don’t promise your readers you’ll write them back if you don’t stick to your word,” I threw in “I’m Disappointed” plus the cat meme:

After doing that, I emptied the dishwasher and “Tweeter’s Remorse” hit hard.

I deleted the tweet.

I figured that since it was a Sunday afternoon, it was highly unlikely she even saw my tweet. 

The next day I received this email from Pamela Paul:

Thanks for reaching out Dyane, and for your kind words about my book. We generally don’t assign reviews based on pitches, but if you’re interested in having your book considered for review, please ask your publisher to send a review copy 3 to 6 months prior to publication.
Best,
Pamela
—-
I freaked.
I called Devon, my publicist at Post Hill Press and said frantically, “Hi, I just got an email from the editor of The New York Times Book Review! Can you please check if my book was sent to them on time?”
“Wow, Dyane, that’s great. Let me check.”
I tried calming down to no avail.
“Yes, it was sent three months ago, Dyane!” 
I wrote Pamela Paul back immediately and confirmed my book had been sent to her office three months prior to publication. She wrote back within five minutes. My heart rate skyrocketed when I saw her second email had arrived – this was worse than any cardio workout I had ever sweated through!
Dyane,
If they’ve already sent the book, then it’s already gone through our editorial process by this point, I’m afraid. We are currently looking at books for 2018. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. In any case, many congratulations on the book (and on your long-ago lunch with Spalding Gray!). 
Yours,
Pamela
—-
I couldn’t leave it at that. 
I just couldn’t. Can you blame me? I had to reach out to her one more time. Moreover, my mother’s family is from New York—you could say the New York ethos is in my blood, so maybe that fueled my chutzpah/foolishness.
So I wrote back and pointed out to Pamela Paul that maybe, just maybe, my book didn’t make it there somehow. The office receives ginormous amounts of books on a daily basis—we’re talking hundreds of books. So I wrote this pathetic email because  I had nothing to lose but my pride.

Dear Pamela,

I don’t want to leave my dream-come-true to chance.

Yes, my publisher claimed they sent my book 3 months ago, and I know your office receives an astronomical amount of books.

However, is there any way you could make an exception?

This is a truly unique memoir—no one has ever written about this form of bipolar before. The fact that Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison endorsed the book demonstrates its value to The New York Times Book Review readers.

I’d be glad to send you a copy.

Dyane

—-
I didn’t think she’d write back and I was right.
I had to wonder if “I’m Disappointed” had come into play. For those of you unfamiliar with “I’m Disappointed,” please read my first post and its follow-up. It was just too weird how I tweeted Pamela Paul about my disappointment and  received her email in less than 24 hours.
Go figure!
I can’t deny that when I thought for about 20 seconds that Pamela Paul had written me with good news, it was very exciting!  
And come to think of it, I might email her my unpublished short story about what happened during my lunch with Spalding Gray. I’m proud of the piece and I’d let Pamela Paul know I have no need for her to write me back!
Wishing you a great weekend – please be good to yourselves.

Love,

Dyane

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon!