Last Time at the Munchkin

 

An unexpected side effect due to my meds? 

 

Drinking too much espresso at Squaw’s Coffeebar – talk about a buzz with a view!

The beautiful sunrise on Red Dog Ridge. I watch this sunrise each morning from the cabin. Squaw Valley is directly on the other side of the ridge.

 

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! 

I’m writing this post from the Munchkin cabin in Alpine Meadows, California. We’ve been coming here in the winter and summer for the past ten years. Craig found this place on Craigslist, appropriately enough, and the first time we pulled up to the cabin I couldn’t believe how big and spectacular it was. Normally we couldn’t afford this kind of rental, ever! However, we’ve been super-lucky the owner charged us 1/4th of the typical rate for Alpine Meadows cabin rentals. That’s nothing short of miraculous.

I’ve blogged about my Munchkin visits throughout the last decade. It’s where I’ve spent terrible trips due to my treatment-resistant bipolar depression. I’ve weighed as much as 170 pounds up here and I hardly did anything active except stuff my face with chocolate and shuffle around.

Zonked out on Xanax at 170 lbs, I’m praying the gondola won’t fall

Other times when I’ve been a much healthier 135-140 pounds and depression-free (something I never thought would happen in my lifetime),  I’ve had the energy to hike to my heart’s content. The hikes have never been easy due to the altitude, which is approximately 6480 feet, but once I get going I feel so much better mentally.

I’ve had a few terrifying experiences in the Munchkin. One summer I saw a BIG bear right outside the window. The bear had just been in our cabin, silently eating garbage near the entrance in the basement and he/she was undetected by any of us! How did the bear get in? Well, the front door had been left WIDE open and I’m happy to tell you I wasn’t the one who did that!

During another winter visit when I was deeply depressed, Craig fell down the steep stairs and broke his foot. I had to drive him and the girls to the hospital on icy roads—I think I drove less than one mile per hour!  

There have been happier times too, thank God. After my lithium/MAOI combination finally lifted my bipolar depression after seven years of hell, I was able to do fun things like take the girls ice skating and go on the Squaw Valley Gondola without popping a Xanax. I felt like myself again.

I wrote and edited a sizable chunk of my book in the Munchkin.


The view from the bathroom—in the summer the hill is covered with all kinds of wildflowers!

 

Last month the owner told us she’s selling the cabin so this will be our last visit. Sadly we don’t have close to a million dollars to buy a second home like many others do in this area. Hopefully, we’ll find another affordable place we can rent. 

 

A gorgeously lit home I passed during my walk last night

Today is our last day at the Munchkin and later on in the afternoon I’ll take Lucy on a snowy hike.

My hound LOVES the snow! Her super-thick Scottish collie fur will keep her cozy throughout our ramble. 

I hope that each of you will find your own version of “The Munchkin” —a special, beautiful, affordable place where you’ll only experience good things! You won’t suffer broken feet, bipolar depression, or chunky bears oh-so-quietly coming into your home.

See you next Friday!

Love,

Dyane

p.s. My 1st article for BP/Bipolar Magazine’s Winter issue is online. Please visit the link and take a look. If you can share the article via Twitter, Facebook, etc. (and if you want to knock my socks off, please comment) I’d be very grateful!

https://www.bphope.com/mom-with-a-mission-peripartum-bipolar/

 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder With a foreword by the acclaimed perinatal psychiatrist and author Dr. Carol Henshaw. Please visit Amazon to order a Kindle or paperback version—thank you!

Advertisements

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

51xlsmujtpl-_ac_us320_ql65_

 

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

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

Movin’ Right Along!

 

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

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

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

unknown-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

??????????

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

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

Meanwhile, back at the (Judd) Ranch…

unknown

Naomi’s Ranch

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

 

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

Love,

Dyane

post-hill

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

Celebrating 300 Posts of Birth of a New Brain!

Photo Three

 

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.  

 

Unknown

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).

parnate-monroe

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.  

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:
one

 

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. 

three

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/

My 1st Fellowship Award! The Catamaran Writing Conference

 

imgres-1

 

On Tuesday I was awarded a Fellowship to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz at the 2015 Catamaran Writing Conference. 

I still can’t believe it!

A little backstory: in 2012 I read about the new, local Catamaran Literary Reader. Each issue was filled with first-rate writers. Many of them had received the highest writing accolades possible. I never dreamed of submitting my writing to the editors, especially since my unrelenting bipolar depression got in the way.

In 2013 after a seven-year-long search, I finally found a medication combination that alleviated my paralyzing depression: lithium and an MAOI. I started this blog and returned to work on my partially written memoir Birth of a New Brain.

Fast forward to last month. I wanted to attend a writing workshop that could help me improve my first draft. Through a Google search I found the Catamaran Writing Conference. This annual event is held at a beautiful Pebble Beach campus complete with field trips. It sounded like a glorious summer camp for writers!

I looked at the cost and gulped. No way, I thought. Ain’t gonna happen. 

However, I couldn’t get the conference out of my mind. After three cups of Steve’s Smooth French coffee (for the record, the coffee mug was small!) I wondered if scholarships were available  I emailed an inquiry to the Catamaran office and got on with my day. Within hours the conference coordinator emailed me,”Yes, we offer several fellowships, and here’s the link to apply.” 

Why the hell not? I thought.

Some of you know I’ve been through plenty of literary rejection that brought up slight 😉 anger and insecurity issues. See this link for the gory details: https://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/lets-play-the-schadenfreude-game-a-writers-1st-rejection/

 

Unknown

 

To get fired up to write my application, I re-read the description of the Nonfiction Workshop I wanted to take. The teacher, renowned writer Frances Lefkowitz (author of To Have Not, a highly acclaimed memoir about growing up poor in San Francisco), seemed like she’d be an ideal guide. Lefkowitz has led numerous memoir workshops. She won a grant to teach free memoir workshops at libraries – how cool is that? (I’ve worked for the Santa Cruz Libraries and Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries; I’m a bit of a library fan.) Participating in her workshop would be a unique opportunity, bar none.

Moreover, Frances Lefkowitz has the same first name as my beloved Granny who was also a gifted teacher. I blogged about my remarkable grandmother for the first time last week. The name coincidence and timing seemed like a good omen that tickled me in the face.

Still, I knew that it was highly unlikely I’d be awarded a fellowship. Surely the staff received a gazillion entries from outstanding writers with talents far superior to mine – writers who were destined to win oodles of Pushcart Prizes and PEN Literary Awards. 

On Tuesday morning I sat in front of my laptop, perplexed. The past month I’ve gone through an awful writing block. I’ve worked on my book here and there instead of during every precious child-free opportunity that I’ve had. (I suspect that my Seroquel withdrawal has had something to do with my struggle.)

My dog Lucy sat on my foot, her warm, furry flank reassuring me of her affection. I began to sob with frustration. Lucy immediately jumped up in alarm and licked my face. As soon as I dried my tears, I noticed a new email had popped up in my in-box.

It was from the Catamaran Literary Reader.

I stared at my in-box. I felt slightly sick to my stomach. I wanted this fellowship. Ever since I emailed my application I wrote nightly affirmations stating I’d receive the award. I furtively placed these slips of paper under my pillow. (This is hippie-dippie Santa Cruz after all, and in twenty-seven years of living here, I’ve never written positive affirmations!)

Despite my pillow plea to the Universe, I knew that the email was likely to be a rejection. Before opening it I braced myself. I took a deep breath. I opened the email and read, ” The editors have chosen you to receive a Fellowship Award to study Creative Nonfiction and Memoir with Frances Lefkowitz during the 2015 conference.”

I let out an enormous, happy scream. Poor Lucy. She barked madly while I danced around in circles like a freak. I’m so grateful for this beautiful award, and I’m honored that the Catamaran editors were “impressed” with my submission!

Since then, I’ve been absorbed with reading my teacher’s memoir; it’s not required, but after reading its rave reviews and spotting its $2.99 cost on Kindle, I was compelled to buy it. I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s incredible. My good friend/blogger Kitt O’Malley (http://kittomalley.com) noticed my enthusiastic tweet about this book and she also bought it. I know she’ll find it a riveting read as well. 

I’ve checked out Lufkowitz’s blog Paper in My Shoe and some of her interviews to get a sense of her teaching style and philosophy. All of these interviews contained excellent writing advice.

Here’s one piece of wisdom she shared on the Fictionaut blog that many of us bloggers/writers can utilize. 

http://fictionaut.com/blog/2012/04/11/fictionaut-five-frances-lefkowitz/

What’s the best writer’s advice you ever got?

Frances Lefkowitz: When submitting stories to publications, always keep several pieces in circulation, so when one comes back rejected, you still have the others keeping hope alive. Also, for the same reason, send that rejected one out immediately to another journal. This advice came from the wonderful Pamela Painter, who taught me fiction at Harvard’s night school.

It’s not too late to sign up for the conference! Details are posted below. 

I’ll be back next week with an update on the Seroquel withdrawal blues, which was meant to be today’s original topic until I got this lovely conference news. 🙂 

take care, and have a wonderful weekend!

love, Dyane

images-1

To buy To Have Not go to :http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003GDIA32/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0434WR0JN7PNWSVJ7ACW&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop

images

@YesFrances
Frances Lufkowtiz’s cool website/blog Paper In My Shoe 

http://www.franceslefkowitz.net/blog/

 

For information about the 2015 Catamaran Conference in Pebble Beach this August, visit:

http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/

catimgres

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 Fall, 2016. 

The Seroquel Withdrawal Blues

Let me tell you a little story

(da da da da dum)

About the Seroquel blues

(da da da da dum)

Those pills are mighty powerful stuff

and they’ll make you constantly snooze

(da da da da dum)

Seroquel was my blessing and my curse

And ever since I said bye bye

(da da da da dum)

I’ve been sufferin’ the Seroquel blues

The withdrawals been making me cry

(da da da da dum)

———————————————————————————————-

(We meant to practice this a lot more for your sake, but, uh, obviously we didn’t. I can’t believe Lucy didn’t howl in protest. My apologies.)

Out of all the bipolar meds I’ve taken, the effects of the controversial antipsychotic Seroquel have been twofold. This drug has been my true blessing and also a total pain in the ass.

(A pain in the brain is more like it!)

I could easily write a 2000-word post about quetiapine (the generic form of Seroquel), but I’ll spare you and write around 1000 words as I have my memoir Birth of a New Brain to write. 

In 2013 my psychiatrist prescribed quetiapine for my hideous, agitated insomnia that hit me out of nowhere.  I filled my prescription but I kept putting off taking my first pill because I was scared of the potential side effects. It wasn’t likely that my head would fall off after taking quetiapine, and I probably wouldn’t start speaking in tongues, but I was plain-old-spooked.

Well, I finally became so desperate that I took the quetiapine and it totally helped me, so much so that I will never tell anyone not to try this stuff if they’re seriously considering it.

Yes, I had major daytime grogginess and yes, that sucked, but suffering with that side effect was worth it since I finally got my all-important sleep. 

My other side effects were weight gain (15 pounds since Fall, 2013) and some late night hunger. Since I worked out every day the “Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way”* I wasn’t too worried about an extra fifteen pounds. As a former certified personal trainer, I knew I could lose the weight safely when I simply committed to improving my diet.

Extra adipose tissue a.k.a. blubber has been something I was able to live with for the time being. Quetiapine also caused me to have trippy, vivid and disturbing dreams – not nightmares, exactly, but not feel-good/warm fuzzy dreams either.

I also believe that Seroquel may have triggered a weird phenomenon that lasted about nine months. I felt totally inspired to write regularly, and I blogged almost every day. I fell in love with writing all over again.

I remained responsible. I took care of the girls, and I didn’t alarm my husband by writing at all hours of the night as I did when I was hypomanic/manic and hypergraphic. (My hypergraphia will be explained in my book!) 😉

Every morning I woke up, I got the kids dressed and fed, and I drove them to school. I returned home to write for a few hours without fail. I wasn’t manic, but it definitely seemed like my brain was firing unusually, that’s for sure. I can’t think of another explanation for why this sudden burst of writing happened because the only thing I did differently was add quetiapine.

My psychiatrist didn’t think the medication caused any kind of mania either.  I don’t know. Could this have been a seasonal affective disorder of some kind? Maybe. But when I reduced my quetiapine dosage, my daily writing compulsion and my highly creative juices dwindled.  I was still creative and I still wrote, but my need to write was nowhere nearly as intense as it was before.  My intuition was that I had to reduce the (relatively) high dosage of 100 mg/night of quetiapine and not stay at 100mg for the sake of my writing habit and drive. 

So with my psychiatrist’s blessing, over the past year I tapered down to 25 mg a night of Seroquel. Even though 25 mg sounds tiny, it’s not! I’ve still felt groggy during the day, and I wanted to see if I could sleep without relying upon Seroquel.  I don’t know how people can open an eye at 800/mg a day of this stuff – that just shows how different we all are.

It turns out that I can sleep on my own once more!  Hurrah! I’ve been off quetiapine for over three weeks.  However, if I need to take it again I won’t hesitate. I added a $9 magnesium supplement (manufactured by Source Naturals, a reputable company located in my town) and it seems to help me with sleep too. I’ve used lavender essential oil off and on, which is safe and it always helps me (a least a little bit) when it comes to insomnia.

I’ve read that it can take weeks or months for a quetiapine withdrawal period to run its course. I’m not allowing myself to surf endlessly on the internet about it because God knows I’ve done that before, and in this case I think it’s a total waste of time.

What matters most is that each day I feel a little better. I can sense the Seroquel withdrawal blues slowly dissipating.  I’m more alert and my freaky dreams are gone. My “Seroquel belly” is even shrinking a tiny bit.

I’ll have more to report on the withdrawal front next Thursday or Friday. If you’re tapering off a med or suffering some withdrawal blues of your own, good luck and feel free to vent your heart away here.

Until then, take care, and thanks for reading!  

XOXO

Dyane

* Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders webinar that (sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you ) totally changed my life!  Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobioloigcal Rational

http://isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief post. This article contains simple “exercise for mood” guidelines I follow religiously every day.

View story at Medium.com

My husband was so convinced that my Alsuwaidan routine has helped my mood that when my exercise machine broke, he went out to Sears that same day (despite being swamped with work) and he got me a better machine. (I know I’m lucky!)

Yes, I could’ve gone walking or hiking or jumped rope or walked up and down the stairs, but he knew how much I loved using my elliptical. I believe my Schwinn is worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate.

Medications| International Bipolar Foundation & More, Oh My!

meds

 Lucy, stick to dog kibble!

 There’s something in the blogosphere air this week…

After months of my faithfully posting every Friday, no more, no less, these past few days I’ve been full of blogging & re-blogging excitement! I just can’t help myself, especially when it comes to the topic that my good friend Kitt O’Malley addressed today in her acclaimed blog.  Kitt’s post contains an International Bipolar Foundation post written by our our mutual friend Susan Zarit.  I also have been blogging for the International Bipolar Foundation once a month, but I haven’t tackled the slippery slope of medication yet.  What has dissuaded me in part is that bloggers aren’t allowed to mention specific medications in our posts, so it’s a good thing I have my own blog! 🙂 Please read on…

I’m on a mission to let people know about a rather “obsolete”, unsung bipolar medication combination that DID work to lift my years-long, insidious, evil bipolar depression.   I’ll tell you one thing, my friends, it wasn’t no gift! 😉

What still boggles my mind to this day is that none of the numerous psychiatrists I consulted with ever thought to mention this medication until my most recent doctor, Dr. D.  Since I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar one disorder in 2007, Dr. D. is the best psychiatrist I’ve ever seen, bar none, and a big reason why that is the case is because he thought out of the box, he had extensive experience, he was patient, and most importantly…he cared.  

In late 2013, per Dr. D.’s suggestion, I started taking an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) medication called Parnate, which is an old-school anti-depressant medication.   I’ve never had any anti-depressant throw me into hypomania or mania, but of course that was a concern. The fact I was taking a therapeutic dose of the mood stabilizer lithium was a safeguard in a way, but of course I needed to be closely monitored.  

There are a few different MAOI’s and they’ve been used for decades for bipolar-medication resistant patients!  So yes, again, I wonder why didn’t any psychiatrist think to tell me about MAOI’s as a possibility before Dr. D. suggested them?  I’d love your take on that one! For the record my father (who also had bipolar one) took an MAOI in the early 1980’s, but it didn’t work for him as he drank alcohol while taking it, which is a BIG BIG no no.

Parnate works especially well when used with lithium; I take 900 mg of lithium a night and I’m extremely lucky that my blood tests have all been normal and I can tolerate it very well..

I never like to give false hope when it comes to bipolar & meds, but this combination of an MAOI and lithium has been nothing short of miraculous in my life. It hasn’t been perfect; there are sacrifices I’ve made (some good, i.e. the nixing of alcohol!) but dammit – these sacrifices have been completely worth it.  Read on for more info. – and I’ll try not to blog again until my regular Friday. Famous last words….. 😉

p.s. feel free to ask me any and all questions about MAOI’s & if I don’t know the answer I’ll ask my psychiatrist when I see him on Thursday.

Kitt O'Malley

My friend Dyane Harwood of Birth of a New Brain responded to a recent IBPF blog article by Susan Zarit entitled Medications: To Have Or Not, That Is The Question! Susan Zarit of Bravely Bipolar has struggled unsuccessfully to find a medication combination that works. I can only imagine what Susan must go through mood cycling on a daily basis. Neither Dyane Harwood nor I are medical doctors. Please see a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications and to discuss medication changes. Medication of psychiatric illnesses requires the expertise of a psychiatrist. In my opinion, serious mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are best treated with medication by board certified psychiatrists. Supportive psychotherapists should be expert in working with our populations. We need more specialized support than, say, relationship counseling.

Dyane Harwood | Tue, 2015-03-03 09:34

Hi Susan! thanks so much for writing about this topic!

I know you wrote…

View original post 239 more words