More Rejection, Acceptance, Controversy & Haters In 24 Hours!

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Dear Friends,

I loved the amazingly helpful feedback I got in the Shot Down By HuffPost!–What Can Help A Mom with Bipolar During Setbacks post I published on Thursday.

Thanks to all of you for taking time to contribute such thoughtful replies!

Yesterday’s events turned out to be ironic in light of Thursday’s Huffington post rejection – it was so bizarre, in fact, that I couldn’t resist waiting until next Thursday to publish this post!

Yesterday, April Fool’s Day, I

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head

After a cup of coffee, I sat down to check my email. I noticed a reply from an editor at The Mighty and my heart started to thump a bit faster. My cold palms became sweaty.

A couple weeks ago I submitted a post to The Mighty. It was about my postiive experience with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I knew that due to ECT’s major controversy there was a strong chance it would be rejected, but after doing The Mighty site search I found two posts that only briefly touched upon ECT. There was nothing like my detailed account.

It was worth a try.

Taking a deep breath, I opened up The Mighty email and read,

Dear Dyane,

Thanks for sharing your story! I’m going to pass on publishing this, but I hope you’ll submit again! Let me know if you have any questions.

Best,

Stinky Editor

That inevitable sting of rejection hit my solar plexus. At least it didn’t hurt as much as the other rejections, but it still, in a word, sucked. But this time I wanted to do something different besides simply sulk. The editor offered to answer my questions, so I was going to go for it!. I wrote, 

“Dear Editor
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly about my submission. I wish everyone else was like that! I appreciate your offering me the chance to ask questions, so I’ll take you up on it. I’d love to get just a little feedback. By sharing with me about what didn’t work, you’ll be helping me in terms of my future submissions and you’ll be doing a good deed! 🙂
Also, if I edited the piece based on your suggestions, would you be open to a resubmission?
I know you’re busy  and I’d be very grateful for anything you can share.
thanks so much,
The Loser Dyane

Then I did my best to shake off the ‘ol rejection heebie jeebies and get on with my day. I helped my kids get ready, took them to school, and survived driving among the excessively aggressive parent drivers brandishing coffee mugs as they raced around the school’s parking lot.

I returned home intending to work on my book; I wanted to forget all about The Mighty.

Later on I checked my email and noticed a message from The Huffington Post.

First words that came to my mind?

Ah, shit. Another rejection….great.

I opened it up. It wasn’t a rejection.

They published my ECT post! I submitted the ECT post to Huffington the same day I sent it to The Mighty, as both outlets allow writers to submit previously published posts and sometimes they share content.

I screamed with triumphant glee. Poor Lucy, wondering what the hell was going on, began barking loud enough to wake the dead.

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I knew that this ECT article would receive very different feedback than my postpartum bipolar article, and I was right. But I went into this with my eyes open. I’ve been on both sides of the psych fence: I’ve been anti-psychiatry before I became pro-psychiatry. 

So I was fully prepared for the anti-psychiatry brigade, the Dr. Peter Breggin groupies, and a bevy of anti-ECT readers to descend and write all kinds of negative comments. 

It didn’t matter to me what their comments said. 

The bottom line was that I needed to share my truth, my experience.

In grade school I memorized the the Bill of Rights, in which our First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I treasure my freedom of speech more than ever and I worked hard to get this chance to use it. 

So far I’ve only responded to certain comments. There are some seriously out-there comments that are a lost cause when it comes to my trying to explain anything.

I would love it if you could visit this article and see what I’m talking about.

One anti-ECT reader mentions that “bipolar was invented in 1995” and she asked me for a list of all my Dad’s doctors’ names.  She also wrote other colorful comments – clearly this was the day’s excitement for her.  

I shouldn’t be too glib – these are all human beings after all. I’m just grateful that I don’t need to be in the same room with those who oppose my point of view.

So that was my April Fool’s day – a rejection and acceptance of a hotly controversial subject close to my heart.

Without further adieu, here’s the link, and as long as you don’t tell me that bipolar was invented in 1995, and you’re respectful, I’m fine with your disagreeing with anything in the post! 

I’ll see you ’round next Friday, if not sooner, because I had some other really weird, challenging things happen to me within the same twenty-four-hour period – these events brought out the Daenerys Targaryen in me!!!

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I can’t wait to share with you what happened!

In the meantime, be well, dear bloggers!

XO,

Dyane

 

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

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How Shocking That I Got Shocked! & The Amazing Dr. Nuland

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I’m still shocked that I had the guts to request ECT, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock. It was nothing other than pure desperation that drove me to try something so frightening and controversial.

It was January of 2009.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years earlier, and I was teetering on the edge of sanity.  Then my father died.  If you’ve read my post Stigma – Part Two you know that my relationship with my father (who also had bipolar disorder) was a close one, and I loved him unreservedly.  His health had been failing for several years before he passed away, but each time it seemed that when he reached his end, he’d make a miraculous recovery.  No matter how many remarkable recoveries Dad made, I knew that it was inevitable that I’d lose him forever.  I had been dreading his death every day since he became frail in his seventies.

Dad never liked to talk about death, unlike me. I was fascinated with discussing death with anyone up for it, and I was especially interested the afterlife.  I considered Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a pioneer in near-death studies (On Death and Dying) and Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life which has sold over 12 million copies to date) to be among my favorite authors.  Dad, an avid reader, wouldn’t allow me to discuss either of those books in his presence.

When I got the phone call that my Dad died exactly the way he feared: alone in a mediocre assisted living center, I became catatonic.  My depression plummeted to depths it never reached before.

A decade before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I witnessed the death of another very close relative, my Granny. I fell into a deep depression after she died of lung cancer, but I was able to function more or less.  Not so with my father’s death.  After I received the news that he passed away, I asked to go to C.H.O.M.P., the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. C.H.O.M.P. had a locked-down mental health unit euphemistically called the “Garden Pavilion”.  When I was hospitalized there, my depression was so severe that I experienced suicidal ideations – I had no specific plan, but I felt utterly devoid of hope.

Prior to this hospitalization, I demonstrated that I was medication-resistant, meaning I tried a plethora of mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and anti-depressants and none of those medications helped lift my depression.

At C.H.O.M.P. I was given the option which psychiatrists offer to their medication-resistant patients: electroconvulsive treatments in which seizures are electrically induced in patients who are given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant.

My first association with E.C.T., along with many in our society, was a photo of Jack Nicholson’s character receiving it in the Academy Award-winning film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.  I never read Ken Kesey’s book or saw Milos Forman’s movie, but I had a very negative impression from viewing that disturbing image of Nicholson’s grimace while undergoing E.C.T.

After my grandmother died, I found a beautifully written book titled Undercurrents in which the author, psychologist Dr. Martha Manning, fell into a depression so deep that she opted for E.C.T.  The treatments helped her enormously. While she struggled after the procedures with fatigue and short-term memory loss, she made it clear that it was the right, lifesaving choice for her.

I was affected profoundly by Undercurrents and when I began my freelance writing career, I contacted Dr. Manning for an interview.  I included her quote in a Fit magazine article “Shades of Gray” which examined the connection between depression, women and exercise.  It was an honor to interview Dr. Manning. I kept our topics to exercise and depression only, for at that point I never imagined I would need, let alone demand, E.C.T.

When E.C.T. was presented to me as a viable way to recover, I vaguely remembered Dr. Manning’s book. Without any hesitation I told the psychiatrist on duty, “Do it.”  

I didn’t care about its risks; I didn’t care about anything. To say I felt desperate was a massive understatement.  I was told by my psychiatrist Dr. C. that I would have unilateral rather than bilateral E.C.T., which meant that the electrodes used to stimulate my brain would be placed on one side of my head instead of both sides (bilateral).  This was the conservative approach (which is usually good when dealing with a brain!) and meant fewer side effects, most notably less memory loss.

The E.C.T. treatments started promptly at the grisly hour of 6:00 a.m. in the Short Stay Unit allocated for all outpatient procedures.  I was rolled up to the floor above the Garden Pavilion in a padded gurney by B., a compassionate longtime hospital aide.  If I had to be taken up to E.C.T. by anyone, B. had the perfect kind of personality for the job.

After B. dropped me off in a small, curtained room, I was prepped by a friendly nurse who immediately saw how down I was and she did her best to set me at ease.  She started the I.V. line that would be used to inject me with general anesthesia.  I’ve never had a problem with needles or injections, so that didn’t faze me one bit.  

I was looking forward to oblivion very much, thank you.

At 6:10 a.m. in walked Dr. C. holding a big coffee mug, accompanied by an extremely handsome anesthesiologist.  (Even though I was in a depression-induced stupor, I was able to notice physical beauty.)  Dr. C. gently placed several electrodes on my scalp and temple….it was no big deal.  A small, clear gas mask was placed over my nose and I remember finally being able to relax.

I wasn’t scared at that point; I felt like I was being taken care of and because I genuinely liked the staff surrounding me that went a long way in diminishing my anxiety.  

The anesthesiologist said “Okay, Dyane. I want you to count backwards from 10”, which I started to do and when I reached “5”, boom!  I was fast-asleep.  I didn’t feel a thing. There was no pain.  Not during, and not afterwards.

When I woke up within the hour, I was a little groggy, but then I was completely coherent within about ten minutes. That surprised me. I was fed a hot breakfast I had selected beforehand, and I had the appetite to eat most of it. My short-term memory loss was minimal. While I was still heartbroken over the loss of my father, I definitely felt better than I had before I went under, and with each treatment I felt a little better.  After my week at the hospital I had additional treatments as an outpatient.

I firmly believe that E.C.T. saved my life. I was lucky – I’ve heard the horror stories of those who had bad reactions, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I would also recommend it to others who feel suicidal, who have been medication-resistant, and who need to function as quickly as possible, i.e. a mother with young children or the breadwinner of the family.  My health insurance covered most of the procedures’ cost, and I was able to arrange an extended payment plan for the remaining balance.

Since I had the treatments in 2009, I learned about another procedure used to treat major depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. Wikipedia defines TMS as a “noninvasive method to cause depolarization in the neurons of the brain. TMS uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents” and no anesthesia is required.  I read an entire book about a woman named Martha Rhodes’ experience with TMS healing her depression. Rhodes made a suicide attempt and was hospitalized at the cushy Silver Hill, where Catherine Zeta Jones was hospitalized. Rhodes tried many medications to no avail and decided to pursue TMS. Her book is called 3000 Pulses Later and while I liked it very much, I disagreed with its one-sided depiction of E.C.T.

One important distinction between TMS and E.C.T. (which have comparable success rates) is that with TMS one must commit to almost daily procedures for up to six weeks.  The good news  is that the patient can drive back and forth to treatment unlike with E.C.T., in which a ride must be arranged due to the anesthesia  However, TMS doesn’t usually start working until midway through the four-to-six-week series.  E.C.T. can cause the depression to remit much sooner than that timeframe,  like it did with me.

Depending on one’s situation, it would be most worthwhile to closely examine both E.C.T. and TMS pros and cons before undertaking either treatment.  E.C.T. is an enormous commitment and it requires a major leap of faith.  It’s expensive, even with health insurance.  (TMS can be very costly as well.) Moreover, there are risks when undergoing any kind of anesthesia, or when subjecting oneself to potential memory loss.  

I can unequivocally state that doing E.C.T. was the best decision I ever made. 

October 21, 2015 Update: When I was undergoing E.C.T. treatments, I wish I saw the remarkable, inspiring TED talk given by the bestselling author/surgeon Dr. Sherwin Nuland about his E.C.T. experience. The following clip is brief and it’s considered by the TED content masterminds to be one of the best TED talks. It’s definitely worth the time to watch Dr. Nuland if you’re even remotely considering electroconvulsive treatment. He’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you think, and he’ll give you hope if you’re considering it.

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.

Celebrating 300 Posts of Birth of a New Brain!

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The Very 1st Post:

After a Two-Year-Long Hiatus, I’m Back!

Getting Better, Getting Worse & To Be Continued

 

I can’t believe it has been two years since I last posted to my blog, formerly called “Proudly Bipolar” thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s book No Reservations.  

 

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I love you Anthony! (in a platonic way)

 

I’m a big believer in the power of titles, and I felt it was apt to change my blog’s title to “Birth of a New Brain” to reflect the person I’ve become since November, 2011.  

“Birth of a New Brain” is dear to my heart.  (And brain! 😉   I love the phrase for various reasons. One little thing is that I appreciate its alliterative qualities with the “b”, but I can’t say it well if I have dry mouth syndrome! 

I came up with the title last spring. After doing extensive research, I was slowly tapering off all psychiatric medications . (9/22/15 update – I’m pro-med now! Read on and see why…)  Back then I felt my brain was changing and rebirthing, so to speak, on a cellular level. And the cells were changing. Hypomania was setting in and there would be disastrous consequences from my no-med quest. However, when I was still relatively stable I couldn’t help but love feeling so positive and creative once again, and I thought the title was imbued with my optimisim.

Birth of a New Brain was associated with a forty-page book proposal based on living with bipolar well without medication. The proposal was accepted by my former publisher and I was absolutely thrilled. (I cancelled the agreement when I relapsed with bipolar depression. Obviously my no-med concept wasn’t seaworthy.)

When I wrote the proposal I had high hopes. I secured an extraordinary British physician/author named Dr. Liz Miller, Britain’s first female neurosurgeon, to write the foreword. I discovered Dr. Miller in Stephen Fry’s groundbreaking documentary “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”. (You can watch it on YouTube here) Dr. Miller was Fry’s only subject who had bipolar disorder, was medication-free and doing well, so I tracked her down in London and we began corresponding.

Then I crashed and burned big-time.  I relapsed when my lithium dosage was down to 450 mg. I had to go to the psychiatric ward not once, not twice, but three times in less than two months. Once again I asked for electroconvulsive (ECT) treatments as I knew ECT was my last resort. (The first time I had ECT was in 2009 when my Dad died and I was acutely suicidal. I had a unilateral, or one-sided procedure as opposed to having bilateral ECT , i.e. electrodes placed on both sides of my brain.)  

When I relapsed, my hospital’s ECT psychiatrist Dr. L. and I agreed that I’d have bilateral ECT. Bilateral has the most intense potential side effect of memory loss. Why do it then? It can work more effectively for what I had suffered: a heavy-duty, rapid manic-to-suicidal depression state. (When my father died, I wasn’t manic to begin with; I was already deeply depressed.) It was absolutely the right decision.

I upped my lithium dosage to 900 mg. Over time I tried out a bunch of medicines for bipolar, anxiety and insomnia that gave me terrible side effects, bar none.

I worked with my new psychiatrist Dr. D. to find medication that would help me climb out of the terrifying, gripping depression that made me feel so utterly hopeless.  

Finally, in October, 2013 (my favorite month due to the beautiful autumn weather and my favorite holiday Halloween) Dr. D. suggested an old-school antidepressant drug called tranylcypromine, or Parnate.  On an interesting side-note, I recently discovered that Parnate was prescribed to this person six weeks before she died (or was allegedly murdered).

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I digress.

Parnate is classified as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).  I’ve tried well over thirty-five medications for bipolar/anxiety/insomnia, but I *never* thought I’d take an MAOI.  This class of meds get a very bad rap because there are strict food/alcohol restrictions, and if one eats or drinks a “no-no”, one can die because of hypertension and other reasons.  

It’s also known as a “last-resort” drug for bipolar depression! Um, why hadn’t any of my previous psychiatrists brought up taking an MAOI???? Well, I suspect I know the reasons. I think they think that their patients are too dumb to follow the dietary guidelines (Stigma much? Yes, some psychiatrists look down at their patients) and they’re pressured by Big Pharma to prescribe the latest meds, certainly not an old-school MAOI that has been used for decades and actually works well. (In a small study done back in the 1970’s Parnate was found to work extremely well when combined with lithium!)

Anyway, I didn’t know until quite recently that MAOIs have helped countless people with bipolar who are considered to be medication-resistant.  

I told Dr. D. to bring it on!

I researched internet anecdotes written by those who’ve used this medication. Some people noted that Parnate worked within just a few days.  One woman recounted how Parnate lifted her ten-year-long depression in two days!

I read those accounts and thought, “They’re the lucky ones – that will never be me.”

I took my first, Pepto Bismol pink-colored pill Sunday morning.  The next morning I woke up feeling rather different.  Better.  

No way.  This has to be a dream!  I thought groggily.  

Later that morning I was feeling even better than before.  Not too much, i.e. hypomanic or manic, but I thought that maybe something was shifting in my  crappy-med-battered, shocked brain of mine.  

The next day I genuinely felt much better.  I was able to smile again, and laugh. I felt hopeful.  I felt like myself – the self I was before I ever heard or read the word “bipolar”.  I spent time with my two precious little girls and took them out places that made my skin crawl, like Toys ‘R Us and to the Night of the Living Dead mall so my older girl could get her ears pierced.

I was looking forward to interacting with people again – even the seemingly “normal” parents at the girls’ school!  I met with my longtime therapist Ina and she was amazed at what she witnessed.  She was cautiously optimistic.

Were there drawbacks to Parnate? Yes, just one, but it was intense. A daily afternoon fatigue set in (it’s a notorious Parnate side effect) but I felt that it was completely worth it compared to the benefits of the depression lifting. The majority of the anecdotes said the fatigue would go away after a few weeks. I hoped and prayed that this medication would keep working.  

Three weeks later, it was still working.  

Three weeks and a day later, I felt the depression creeping back.  

I tried denying that the Parnate had stopped working so magically, but each day my depression grew stronger.  We were on the verge of taking our biggest family vacation ever – it was one we cancelled three times before due to my bipolar depression. It was a trip for which we had scrimped and saved: the Holualoa region of Hawaii.

To be continued…

 

Dyane Leshin-Harwood’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.  

The PTSD Highway

 

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Freewriting Exercise at the 2015 Catamaran Writing Conference’s

Creative Nonfiction Workshop

As my husband Craig drives our daughters on Highway One in a rented cobalt blue Nissan Pathfinder, I spot the Holman Highway exit. My stomach drops, then sours. The fresh ling cod sandwich I ate half an hour ago at the Sea Harvest Restaurant is not sitting well. 

In the backseat the girls chatter nonstop with high-pitched, tween voices. The novelty of riding in a new car excites them, and they’ve begged us to buy the fancy SUV – we said no. Perhaps the “new car smell” contains a chemical that makes them even more hyper than usual. Who knows? It’s not affecting our collie Lucy who’s resting in the rear storage space. She’s in a rare moment of calm, tired after the brisk walk I gave our puppy in the Sea Harvest’s parking lot back at Moss Landing. 

When Craig takes the Holman Highway exit, no one notices the waves of terror that strike through my soul. A silent tsunami. I keep my panic deep inside, a learned behavior, and not a healthy one by any means.

It has only been two years since I was on this road headed for the psychiatric unit at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, also known as C.H.O.M.P. 

As we pass the majestic Monterey Pines lining each side of the highway, vivid memories of my despair surface. My hands grow cold and shaky, and I feel nauseous and dizzy. I take a deep breath.

And again.

I pull out my tiny, $15.00 bottle of homeopathic Rescue Remedy from my purse. I quickly squirt a few drops of it under my tongue. No one notices my doing this – I’m fast. The tincture helps me somewhat, but the effect is very subtle.

Still, it’s better than nothing.

I first admitted myself to C.H.O.M.P. when I was thirty-eight-years-old. I returned there four more times for my treatment-resistant bipolar depression and suicidal ideation. While “suicidal ideation” doesn’t quite have the ring to it that “suicide attempt” does, I came close to taking my own life. Very, very close. And to this day it’s a miracle that I didn’t use my bathrobe belt to take me out of this world.

C.H.O.M.P. is where I pleaded for electroconvulsive therapy after my father died. I requested ECT yet again after attempting to taper off lithium. For my second round of ECT the psychiatrist and I agreed that I’d switch from unilateral to the much more intense bilateral form, and I have no regrets about doing any of it. It helped me, and my side effects were minimal. I can even still remember being born. 

Once released from the hospital, I commuted to C.H.O.M.P. many, many times for the outpatient ECT treatments I was informed I’d need to stay out of the suicidal ideation zone. I left my small children at 4:30 a.m. in order to make the 6:00 a.m. appointment time. 

I drove back and forth to these treatments by myself. (Just to be clear – doing that wasn’t ethical/legal in any way, shape or form, nor do I ever recommend that to anyone. The explanation behind my decision is explained at length in my book.)

 

 

 

Today I look out the car window and see nothing but pines; it’s a landscape fitting for a postcard. This area is so spectacular that classic films such as “Play Misty for Me” with Clint Eastwood and “The Sandpiper” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were filmed here. This town is a destination point for honeymooners from every corner of the globe.

No one would guess that past the dense forest are ugly buildings housing the hopeless. The sterile, stuffy units are devoid of the beauty found just beyond their windowless rooms. 

I believe that places can activate our good or bad memories. While driving on the Holman Highway on this warm August day, little do I know that I’m on my way to a writing conference that will change my life for the better. Participating at this event will shift the traumatic memory of the Holman Highway into a mixture of horrible and good.

To my total non-ECT shock, I’m about to enjoy one of the happiest weekends of my life. The conference won’t erase my C.H.O.M.P. past – nothing short of a lobotomy or death could do that, but now this road is no longer solely reminiscent of a nightmare. It now holds better memories to offset my bipolar depression and suicidal ideation. And for that I’m grateful.

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2016. Because Dyane isn’t going to screw up her 2nd book deal like she did with the first one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowing Down

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Over the past few weeks  I’ve noticed bloggers are taking hiatuses or giving up blogging.  Reasons for this include S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder), blogging burn-out, and depression to name a few.  Some bloggers disappear without any reason, of course, and I miss them.  While I hope they’ll return to posting, I completely understand the need to leave the blogosphere since I’ve done it myself.

I love blogging and the blogosphere so much that I don’t want to sever my connections, but I’ve decided to post once a week.   After speaking with my friend Kitt O’Malley, (www.kittomalley.com) she suggested I blog about my progress and frustrations while writing “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Bipolar Disorder”, a book I’ve wanted to finish writing for years.  (Thanks again, Kitt, you blogger extraordinaire!)

In 2013 I submitted a book proposal to a publisher.  I was thrilled to secure a contract, and I thought that it would be my magic charm to write the rest of the book before I turned 80.  But I had to cancel the agreement due to bipolar depression that was triggered by my tapering off lithium.  As devastating as that experience was, I learned so much that it will be useful to write about it in “Birth of a New Brain”. 

Someday I’ll blog every day if I want to!  I only want to write one book – that’s plenty for me.  I’m not like my two favorite female authors, L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle, who were amazingly prolific and wrote scads and scads of books!   (Before computers!)

I still can’t believe I used to blog every day, even when feeling under the weather (writing usually made me feel better!). Those weren’t just hundred-word posts, but 1000+ word rambles.  I wasn’t hypomanic or manic back then; if anything I was going down the opposite direction.  I don’t know how I carved out the time to write for hours every day, even on weekends and with a family.  The entire phenomenon remains an enigma to me, but that four-month-long stretch of daily writing taught me that I have the ability to be a more disciplined writer.  I need only to tap into that potential.

I haven’t been doing much “tapping” lately, and it bums me out.  There are a couple excuses:

Sickness in our household – not only mine, but my two children’s nasty bugs obliterated my writing schedule.  

Here’s my second excuse: I’ve become a social media addict.  

Facebook.

Twitter.

That’s it, but as some of you know, that’s plenty to distract anyone.  When Kitt and I had our heart-to-heart, she understood my social media plight as she too gets hooked into black holes of tweets and status updates.

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Sure, I could impose upon myself a stringent rule to complete writing a certain amount of words or pages a session before I check Facebook & Twitter.  I’ve tried doing that…it hasn’t gone so well!

Kitt suggested going hardcore and turning off the internet router!  I write the book on Word so I don’t need the router on.  That’s a great idea…except my husband often works at home and he needs to use internet.

Enough of my bellyaching.  I’ll figure it out, and I’ll share how it’s going in my next post.

I hope you’ll keep following this blog.  I want to stay connected with you!  For those of you writing books, I’d love for you to comment about what helps or hinders you.  Same thing goes for social media addiction! 😉  

take care and have wonderful week!

Dyane

  Please endorse me for the WEGO Health Activist “Best in Show” Blog Award –

endorsements are accepted until January 31, 2015. I’m having WordPress link troubles,

so please copy & paste this link into your browser  – thanks!

https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/4811

Writing Heals My Brain

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This post was originally published on Stigmama last week.  It was my answer to Stigmama’s founder Dr. Walker Karraa’s question, “Why do you write?”  For some silly reason I wasn’t able to reblog it, so I’m doing the old copy & paste instead! 

Each time time my writing is featured on Stigmama.com, I’m honored.  I witnessed this website’s “birth”, so to speak.  Stigmama’s thriving Facebook page now has a whopping 9000 likes, & there are many talented contributors!  

I’m including Dr. Karraa’s comment to my piece at the end because it’s an incredible, insightful comment – it really moved me.  If you’re interested in contributing to Stigmama, please visit Stigmama.com and check it out. Have a wonderful week & see you Friday!

Dyane

 

WHY I WRITE, DYANE LESHIN-HARWOOD

Writing Heals My Brain

I write because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine-years-old.

I write because my mother gave me wonderful books to read as a child, and
she always believed in my writing ability – she still does at age 80!

I write because it grounds me.

I write because the act of writing restores me to the self I was
before a mental illness almost destroyed me.

I write to prove to myself that all the soul-sucking medications I’ve
taken didn’t kill my creativity after all.

I write because writing has given me the opportunity to interview extraordinary people.  Before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I interviewed Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of “An Unquiet Mind”.  My topic was about women, depression and exercise.  Thanks to her input, I sold my first magazine article. (Little did I know I would share the same diagnosis with Dr. Jamison a few years later – at least I was in good company!)

I write because I can write, even after I had electricity pulse through my brain over fifty times during electroconvulsive treatments (ECT).  My long-term memory is still intact. I write because it stimulates some mysterious part of my brain and makes me feel better.

I write because it’s free therapy.

I write to share and connect with other people worldwide who have suffered like me.

I write to help other moms know they aren’t alone with their postpartum mood disorders.

I write because no one, not even bipolar disorder, can take away the fact that I’m a Writer.

 

*Photo: Dyane with the Newbery Award-winning author Madeleine L’Engle at her writing workshop in 1997.  L’Engle wrote “A Wrinkle In Time” and over sixty other books.  Madeleine L’Engle is one of Dyane’s all-time favorite
authors, and Dyane counts spending time with this amazing writer as one of the most meaningful highlights of her life.

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Dear Dyane

Your piece here speaks to I write something so hard to get at.  But you get there…the mystery of writing.  You write, “because it stimulates some mysterious part of my brain and makes me feel better.”  This is so true. Writing does activate a part of ourselves that we can’t identify, but we know like the back of our hand. That is the mystery, the paradox.

Through the #WhyDoIWrite Series, I am growing in my understanding of how writing resets us. And how women in particular write as an action in the world. Not a reaction, not a reflection as much as an action like walking, blinking, moving. Less an activity, more an action. I am reading Virginia Woolf’s diary (at least the parts her a-hole DH Leonard would allow published) and she gets to this as well. It is a verb for women. Writing is an “ing”. I have been thinking a lot about my maternal grandmother as well–who had the psychic skill of automatic writing. She could sit and channel others and it flowed through her pen–or jury rigged Smith Corona type writer! She too suffered from depression and mania, as did her mother who was bipolar and a Quaker minister, and I am told spoke in tongues. Their gifts were their channels to the automatic. The mysterious part of the brain that free flows higher consciousness. No matter WHAT is done to it. ECT, brain injury, stroke, death–it is still there. That part.  That part that automatically channels Spirit.

Thank you for being one who does just that. I too am overwhelmed by the growth of this community.  But I am not surprised. Women are wonders. And with a pen in our hand?  

We are free.

Dr. Walker Karraa

Triggered Once Again…

Image

A photo from the hospital’s website…my room looked nothing like this.  

The words “dreary”, “desolate”, and “sterile” sum up my room’s decor.   

It was eight months ago when I was last locked up in the loony bin for bipolar depression/suicidal ideation.  The relapse occurred during my tapering off lithium, and it was so nightmarish that I asked for bilateral electroconvulsive (ECT) treatments.  The ECT worked in tandem with a new medication combination, and I was incredibly fortunate to have minimal side effects.  While I’m not cured by any means, I’m 360-degrees better.

I know that “loony bin” is derogatory; I’ll use the euphemistically named “Garden Pavilion” at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula instead.  I suppose I should wipe the snide tone out of my words at the get-go, and give this hospital much more credit.  C.H.O.M.P.’s confines and staff did help to save my life.  But the way in which that was done left much to be desired.

For one thing, I was cooped up worse than our three chickens.  We allow them to “free range” every day in our yard, and they truly seem more tranquil after these excursions.  During my lengthy time at the hospital I wasn’t taken outside once with staff for a breath of fresh air and natural sunlight.  As small a thing as that may sound, I believe that staying in an ugly, uninspiring, yucky-smelling, bleak unit 24/7 prolonged my recovery, and worsened my depression.  I’ve always loved nature, and during my deepest depressions getting out in nature gave me moments of comfort and hope.

A few months after my hospital release, I made some calls to Bay Area hospitals out of curiosity .  I learned that numerous mental health units with the same population as C.H.O.M.P. take their patients out for walks or even field trips.  Why C.H.O.M.P. couldn’t do that, I don’t know.  I called the unit about it and I couldn’t get a clear answer.

And then there is the cost of hospitalization.  I manage our bills, and we’re going to be paying C.H.O.M.P. for a very long time.  My hospital visit cost TONS of money not covered by Medicare.  I could have bought several new cards for what my hospitalization cost.  Again, I realize that I sound ungrateful and that my life is worth any exorbitant medical bill, but it still, for want of a better word, sucks.  I would have rather saved up all that money for my children’s college education.

The truth of the matter is that I feel triggered this afternoon..  My husband and daughter left for Los Angeles this morning.  Craig’s acclaimed book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West is being honored for winning the Regional Literature Award by the Great Southwest Book Festival in Hollywood.  I could have accompanied them, but I chose to stay home to write and relax. The tedious eight-hour-long drive to L.A. and and eight-hour-long drive back for only a three-day-long visit didn’t appeal to me.  (Flying there was too expensive.)  Fortunately Craig is so easygoing that he didn’t mind my staying home in the slightest.  He’s even making time to visit my Mom while there, and she’s thrilled she’ll see her eldest granddaughter.

It’s just that I haven’t been away from either Craig nor Avi since I was hospitalized and that makes me feel nervous and sad.  Memories of prior separations (I’ve had seven lengthy hospitalizations since 2007) are surfacing that I don’t want to dwell upon.  I have no concrete reason to be nervous or sad – I’m in good physical health, way better mental health than I’ve enjoyed in years, and I’ve set up plans for a few fun activities to do while they are out of town.

I am lucky to have my other daughter with me.  Rilla deserves to have me be in relatively good spirits during this one-on-one time.  So what I’ll do to get in a better frame of mind is:

1) Work out on the elliptical – this always puts me in a better mental state 

2) Plan a couple fun, special things to do with Rilla (Our big splurge is going to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which she has been begging me to do for ages.)

3) Use my Sunbox (I use this bright light for thirty minutes in the morning when I write or surf the internet. It helps me keep depression at bay)

4) Write 

5) Invest in some good quality chocolate!

and lastly…

6) Don’t be a recluse.  When I stay in the house all day long, it’s very bad for my mood.  Even getting out for a little while makes a big difference.

Time flies by so quickly that the three days will pass by in a heart beat anyway.

I can’t help but have a Pollyanna moment after sharing these thoughts.   I’d rather be home, freaked out, than back in that cold, scary hospital.  All I have to do to feel better is look out my window at beautiful redwood trees and the clucking trio of chickens.  It’s a pretty damn good life.  So I’ll just take the myriad of hospital bills in stride, and I’ll deal with my Garden Pavilion memories that come and thankfully go.  I have my life back in my own hands, and that’s what matters now.

I dedicate this Crowded House song “Better Be Home Soon” to Craig & Avonlea; the lyrics have a different meaning than my situation, but it’s a classic song!