Stunned by Alexis Zinkerman’s “Metronome”

The gifted author/poet Alexis Zinkerman

 

 

Alexis Zinkerman is a journalist, poet, and mental health advocate, and she has bipolar one disorder. She holds an MA in Writing from DePaul University, and her novella Brooklyn’s Song is available on Amazon. Alexis was first diagnosed with bipolar in 1996, but it took her many more years to find the right treatment course.

I discovered Alexis’ blog A Mile A Minute – Refreshing Takes on Mental Health through her International Bipolar Foundation blog. She also has a website right here where you can sign up for her Love Notes newsletter.

Alexis is the reason why I broke my “I Only Donate to One NAMI Participant/Year” rule.

When it comes to NAMI walks, I’ve always donated to my dear friend, the advocate/blogger Kitt O’Malley. (Follow her blog here!)

But I made an exception for Alexis. You’ll see why after you read her April 14th post “You Can Help Too. No Amount Is Too Small” which I’ve copied, in part, below. (I changed the color settings and font sizes found on the original post.)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To celebrate I will be running/walking in a 5K to help NAMI-CT. NAMI-CT offers support groups for people with mental health conditions as well as monitors legislative activity at the state level on mental health policy. They also educate schools and parents on mental illness. I wrote their annual report a few years ago.

This is a cool organization and I hope you’ll help me if you can…I sincerely understand if funds are tight for you, readers. But if anyone out there wants to forgo that morning coffee and support a great cause, no amount is too small. All your donations will go directly to NAMI-CT. I have been training for this 5K for over a year now with strength training and running on the treadmill and outside when weather permits. I will think of all my readers as I run/walk this event.

And…anyone who donates will receive a personalized poem from me on the topic of their choice.” 

 

I donated $10 to Alexis’ NAMI group, and this is the poem she wrote for me:

 

Metronome

Stability.

Why am I this dried up

when on meds?

Lithium, you save my soul

but

I no longer have the creativity

and manic energy

I need to function

There are manic floods

and depressive droughts

Then, there are droughts

caused by the meds

Droughts where you feel

nothing

not the highs or the lows

The doctor evened you out

so you forgot how to feel

I want to be manic again

so I can sing poetry to the sky,

write all night,

be super-productive…

I want to be manic again

I miss my creative thoughts

coming at rapid speeds faster

than I can write them down

But the drought of no emotion

is here to stay

I must re-learn how to feel

what everyone else feels

without the extremes.

I don’t like it this way

but at least, I have a life.

 

(c) Alexis Zinkerman

 

After I read Metronome, I emailed Alexis. This is an excerpt of that message:

My god, you have the poetic gift, Alexis!

I'll start with the title:  Metronome.

Well, it's perfect in many ways. It brought back memories of my 
violinist Dad's metronome ticking away in his practice room which 
was next to my bedroom. I found it to be an object of fascination 
as a little girl.

I'll be honest - I'm usually not a poetry fan. I've never 
gravitated to the majority of the poems of Madeleine L'Engle & L.M.Montgomery, my two favorite authors. They were *big* on writing 
poetry, and they frequently referenced others' poems in many of 
their works.

Your style reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle's: bold, vivid, and true

Your amazing piece spoke to me.
First off, I could understand it - that's a major plus.
There are soooo many poems that are beautiful to read, but frankly I have no idea what they're about, therefore I get frustrated and Ifeel dumb.

Not so with yours! Hurrah!

Second, you get bipolar. You clearly understand mania and what 
lithium can do. In a remarkably concise way, you express this 
complex mood disorder (including the hypergraphia I had) so 
poignantly and lyrically.

Wow!  Just wow!

 

Please consider donating a few dollars to Alexis’ team (and Kitt’s, if you’re flush with cash! 😉 and you’ll be thrilled when you receive a personalized poem in return.

You can follow Alexis on Twitter: @azinkerman

Next Friday, my friends I’ll publish a post about how my first talk for Toastmasters went.  I’m scheduled to do it on May 3rd.  It’ll be a tale of sweat, tears, anxiety, and (hopefully) triumph for making it through the four-six minute speech without passing out.

I’ll try to record it so I can share it with you here.  In the meantime, take good care of yourselves!

Lots of love,

Dyane

 

 

Dyane Harwood’s memoir is Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw.

Dr. Henshaw is the co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatric Disorders, 2nd Edition published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in March 2017.

Birth of a New Brain will be published by Post Hill Press on October 10th, 2017, and it’s available for paperback pre-sales on Amazon here; Kindle pre-sales are coming this summer!

Losing A Mirror Carp Feels Good

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Soaking up the sun with my John Cena-worthy 3-pounders. 😉

 

     30 pounds is the equivalent weight of this mirror carp!

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Whoa! 

 

Dear Friends,

I’ve been writing about my weightloss journey, and I appreciate your sticking with me, especially if you have zero interest in the topic. Rest assured, I’ll soon return to expoundng on other important subjects including Bigfoot and my Scotch collie Lucy’s career.

Now that I’ve reached my goal of losing the equivalent weight of a mirror carp, I’m proud of myself. I didn’t think I could lose 30 pounds, especially becuause I take lithium and tranylcypromine/Parnate, a MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) for bipolar one disorder. I took Seroquel from 2013-2015, and that medication affected my metabolism, causing me to gain weight in the stomach area.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been a compulsive overeater for decades. During the past year, I downed a pint of Talenti chocolate gelato every night, so I couldn’t blame all the changes in my body upon my bipolar medications.

Anyway, here I am, feeling so much better despite my black hairy tongue, hoping that I can keep up my new lifestyle, especially when the sh*t hits the fan.

Weight loss veterans know that the truly hard work comes after one’s goal is achieved.

I can’t loop too much about the future. No matter what happens, it has been awesome to take care of myself. It’s even better being a positive role model to my girls and Lucy. 

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Where’s my treat?

Little efforts add up. I bring a big bottle of water everywhere I go. When I take my kids out somewhere to eat, I don’t order a bunch of grub even when I’m not hungry the way I used to do. I’ll drink water or order a black coffee, and joke with the server that I’m a great tipper. (True.)

I haven’t returned to my 30-45 minute-long workout yet because I’m not ready, but every other day I lift my fearsome Target dumbbells for ten minutes. Bicep curls and tricep lifts – that’s it. I put on Pandora 80’s music channels which makes the ten minutes go by fast.

Yes, it’s all about baby steps. 

 

The Groovy Ketogenic Diet Update

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I’m halfway through reading Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet and while I want to try it because it allegedly helps with bipolar disorder symptoms, I find the logistics VERY daunting. 

Despite my intimidation, I found an interesting article about this diet’s affect upon bipolar. Check out Dr. Georgia Ede’s website Diagnosis: Diet – Nutrition Science Meets Common Sense: “Bipolar Disorder and Diet Part II: Low Carbohydrate Diets”. There are almost 100 comments, and I’m curious about what they say. In any case, I’ll keep you posted about what I wind up doing.

Do any of you follow the ketogenic diet? I’d love to know about your experience.

Even if you’re not ready to make a major change in your lifestyle (it took me almost two years to stop eating junk) please know you can lose weight while taking bipolar meds. I’m not claiming this credo applies to every person under the sun, but I think it’s true for many people with bipolar disorder. 

The free app that helped me achieve my goal is called Lose It! which is simply a food tracking/logging device. It’s easy to use and it woke me up.

If you want to try it, I’ll send you an invite if you include your email in a comment. You can also sign up for free at www.loseit.com 

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170 pounds and so unhappy that I couldn’t even look at the camera.

Most of what I ate back then was Talenti gelato, countless packages of the Immaculate Baking Company’s raw chocolate chip cookie dough, and Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream.

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Sorry for the blur – this pic has selfie-itis syndrome.

While I still have my Seroquel Spider belly, I can live with it because I’m feeling much healthier and happier. Three months ago I cut out 95% of the sugar I was inhaling. I began eating mostly organic food, and kept preparations as simple as possible. My husband supported me, thank goodness; he didn’t mind my doing my own thing. I stopped bingeing cold-turkey and started drinking lots of water and green tea. I also joined Scientology to follow my idol Tom Cruise. (Just kidding! Can’t get too serious about this healthy eating stuff…)

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You can do it!

 

As always, sending you lots of love, 

Dyane

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

MAOI Med-Bashing Isn’t Cool!

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The adage “You can’t believe everything you read” is more true than ever in the internet age. And the saying takes on a whole new meaning when it hits too close to home. 

While researching articles about people’s experiences with electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy, I found two posts written by an author — I’ll call her Madame Spuriosa — that alluded to the medication that changed my life: my MAOI.

Her posts contained misleading and/or blatantly inaccurate information about this class of medication. If you’re unfamiliar with MAOI’s and read Madame’s posts, you’d be dissuaded to try this potentially life-changing medication for treatment-resistant bipolar depression.

The experience reminded me how important it is to do your own research about medications and not blindly accept a blog, The Huffington Post or a doctor’s opinion about anything. I was stunned by what the author’s physician said about MAOI’s…I’ll get to that soon.

Simply researching a reputable site can make a profoundly helpful difference.

My doctor and I often use Mayo Clinic and Wikipedia can be very helpful, but of course it’s wise to check several sources & not just reply upon one. 

Consider calling your pharmacist if you like him/her (I’ve read some horror stories about pharmacists who could pass for Satan!). Quiz her about your meds during a slow time – don’t call at 5:20 p.m. when there’s a line ten customers deep. Many pharmacists know a great deal, and they like to share their knowledge as long as they don’t have a ton of customers. If you go this route, just ask her if she’s not super-busy when she comes to the phone.

 

Back to the MAOI Saga….

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Months ago I was contacted by a blog reader who, after reading about my experience with MAOI’s, decided to try one because she was resistant to numerous bipolar meds.

Here she shares how much an MAOI helped improve her quality of life:

“I stopped by your blog while trying to find something that worked for my depression, after failing 6 or so meds and wasting 10 years of my life with this unsettling emptiness. I learned about MAOI’s from browsing through your personal struggles. 2 months later on Parnate I think I’m beginning to feel… just fine. I like it. Thank you.”

When I read that comment, I knew my blogging wasn’t some useless hobby, as I’ve been told. It’s one thing to blog about silly things, which I often enjoy doing – it makes me happy, but it’s entirely another matter to be told your post has helped someone you’ve never met. 

Here’s another example of MAOI bashing by Dr. Julie Holland, author of Weekends At Bellevue and Moody Bitches.

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Dr. Julie Holland’s Moody Bitches is described as A groundbreaking guide for women of all ages that shows women’s inherent moodiness is a strength, not a weakness”

Here’s an excerpt of my Moody Bitches review:

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She Lost Me When She Dismissed the Medicine That Eradicated My Bipolar Depression (In 1 ignorant sentence!)

I enjoyed Dr. Holland’s first book Weekends At Bellevue and I wanted to like this one! I’m pro-medication and pro-psychiatry. I want to promote female psychiatrists whenever I can. Unfortunately I can’t do that with Dr. Holland.

In Moody Bitches Dr. Holland wrote that she was against prescribing MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) without providing ANY convincing reasons behind her statement; once I read that, she lost me as a fan.

An MAOI (Parnate/tranylcypromine) has been a life-changing medication for my treatment-resistant bipolar depression, especially after I combined it with lithium. 

Thanks to my psychiatrist (who thought out of the box and went with this “old-school” med combo of the MAOI and lithium) I have a good life. Before my MAOI was added to my lithium, I had no purpose for seven long, horrific years, ever since my bipolar disorder, peripartum onset was triggered in 2007.

(I wrote about how my life changed for the better…)

None of these amazing blessings would’ve taken place if not for my MAOI. So all I can emphasize in this review is that I no longer recommend this doctor’s books to anyone, and I lost every bit of respect for her professional acumen since she dissed MAOI’s.

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The following excerpts are from Madame Spuriosa’s posts. I bolded the lines in red that troubled me.

I went for a psychopharmacological consultation and was given three options: MAOI (another class of medication), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I was terrified of ECT and I did not want to deal with the dietary restrictions with the MAOI.

When I read that blurb, this is what came to mind:

I don’t want to deal with a lot of things, like unsightly leg hair, gassiness, not being rich, and road ragers on meth, but if I have to give up some foods and booze in order to no longer be severely depressed, then I’ll gladly deal with those dietary restrictions, no problemo!

Madame’s other post states:

My doctor was calm and cool while he presented my options. The first was to try a different class of medication, pretty much the only medication I had not yet tried…there were dietary issues, such as certain cheeses and chocolate that cannot be consumed. I looked at my doctor with a straight face and told him there was no way I could cut out chocolate. Luckily, he smiled and offered me a second option. (Dyane’s note: Madame opted for ECT rather than try an MAOI.)

When I read that section, I was flabbergasted!!!

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Astonished!

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Gobsmacked!

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Flummoxed!

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You get the idea.

No medication fits everyone – believe me, I know that, and I certainly don’t mean to give anyone false hope about MAOI’s. 

But the truth is that lithium and MAOI’s work, and not only do they work, but they work for treatment-resistant bipolar depression remarkably well. Studies done in the ancient 1970’s (the decade I was born) found that MAOI’s seem to work best when combined with lithium.

What I want to emphasize is that MAOI’s dietary restrictions are totally, completely do-able, and they’ll actually make you a healthier person. There are many different lists in circulation of MAOI dietary do’s and don’ts.

While some of those lists mention cutting out or reducing chocolate, I’m here to say that you CAN have chocolate, a.k.a. the most important food in the world. I’m living proof that it’s perfectly safe to eat chocolate and take an MAOI because I’m fairly sure I’m composed of about 90% chocolate.

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This is me.

My friends, if you’ve read this far please give yourself an “A+” for being a great blog follower and a kind reader. I appreciate you so much!

You probably can guess that along with postpartum bipolar disorder, I’m going to keep mentioning the existence MAOI’s until the cows come home to…chew their cud, I guess.

Maybe I’ll write a song about it.

End of sermon.

Well, for now. 😉

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Unless it’s from the Weekly World News of course!

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Have a good Thursday!

love,

Dyane

Read my debut Huffington Post article Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: The Invisible Postpartum Mood Disorder here! 

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

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Medications| International Bipolar Foundation & More, Oh My!

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 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

Bears, Shrinks & Mindfulness


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Yesterday I blogged that I’m following a new “negativity diet” and I declared:

“I’m going to be more circumspect with what I surround myself with such as social media, my inner-dialogues, and my environment.  Less Facebook, more time with my girls.  Less worry about what others think of me, more nature excursions.  Less obsession with the future, more present-moment focus.”

Well, when I began following my new credo, it didn’t go so well.

While I felt optimistic in the morning (and a bit happily wired on my coffee), the day turned out to be difficult.  I faced a few situations that tested my new-and-improved attitude, most of which I failed.  I won’t give up after one disappointing day, but I was daunted by the time evening came.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, our daughters were still on the tail-ends of their colds.  In retrospect, I’m sure their colds were partly responsible for their peevishness and disobedience.  They, like me, had been cooped up for days and we were all out of sorts.

One day while watching the Disney channel with my girls, a preview for Disney’s new Bears movie was shown.  Since our entire family likes bears (from a distance)  I suggested that we go to the Bears matinee on Easter.  We seldom go to the movies, so the girls definitely wanted to go and my husband did too.  I  liked the idea of a nature-oriented film rather than a blaring, violent, “kids’ film” ,and the Bears movie featured real-life bears in their natural Alaskan habitat over a course of a year in a mom and her cubs’ life.

Off we went!

We arrived at the theater on the early side and we found some good seats.  A woman and her male companion arrived close to the start time, and she sat next to me.  When the previews started running, the lady gave a running commentary about everything she saw that made me want to yell, “Shut the *&%$ up!”

So much for lightness!  So much for compassion and positivity!

Thankfully she stopped talking when Bears began.  It’s good that she silenced herself, because  I have “talking during the movie rage”.  I shouldn’t joke about that, really, as I recently read about a man who had honest-to-God movie rage and he shot a fellow movie goer because the guy was texting someone.

The movie was spectacular, entertaining, and heartwarming without being too saccharine.  It wasn’t too long either (78 minutes) although come to think of it, when the previews were added in, the overall time we spent there was close to two hours. That was a long time for me to sit still and focus while alongside my two children, one of whom was being a super-squirmy worm.

I found myself becoming impatient while watching Bears, as much as I liked it.  I felt the uncomfortable sensation of wanting it to end so we could go do the next task.  In a weird way I felt like I was meditating as I had to keep bringing my mind back to noticing all the details of the film.  My mind wandered off again and again and I kept bringing it back.  (Does this sound familiar to anyone?)

I realized it was a nice change to watch a movie that had absolutely nothing to do with human behavior, namely bipolar disorder.  At one point my mind wandered off (pretty far, and pretty wackily, I’ll admit) and I thought, “How nice that bears don’t, as far as we can tell, have shrinks!”  How refreshing!

Despite the fact that bears didn’t take meds or go to hospitals, they certainly did not have it easy, as the film made that fact crystal-clear.  I wasn’t wistfully wishing that I was a bear instead of a human as the end credits rolled.  But it was cool to view life from an entirely different perspective.  (The preview we saw for the upcoming Disney Imax documentary Island of Lemurs Madagascar looks like it will be incredible as well.)

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As we exited the cool theater into the blinding sun, Craig and I reminisced about our two personal bear memories, which were very vivid, with our girls.  Years ago Craig, an avid backpacker, camped in Yosemite.   He made the foolish mistake of keeping some peanuts in his tent in bear country, and a bear paid a little visit.  This bear wasn’t there to sell Avon products.  He/she stepped on Craig’s foot, through the tent, resulting in unbelievable pain.  Things could have been much worse, obviously – the bear could have come inside the tent, and I shudder to think what the end of that story could have been.

Our family had a bear experience in Tahoe that I will never forget.   We found a beautiful Alpine Meadows rental on Craigslist, and the owner gave us an affordable rate.  The house was stunning, set on a steep hillside in bear territory.  The first time we visited the “Munchkin House” we noticed some prominent bear claw scratches on the wooden dinner table and on the windowsills inside the kitchen.  The rental owner made sure we were well aware of all the bear safety rules to follow.

One afternoon while hanging out at the Munchkin, Craig napped upstairs while I showered.  The girls were in the downstairs living room watching a video.  Earlier in the day Craig stopped at the market and he brought a bunch of groceries into the kitchen, accidentally leaving the front door cracked open. He never left that door open before; out of all four of us, he was the most careful in following the bear rules.  I came out of the shower and walked downstairs in a robe, drying my hair with towel, relaxed.  At the base of the stairs I looked straight across the room out the picture window facing a hillside, and there was a big bear looking right back at me.

I freaked and started yelling, and the bear ambled up the hill behind the house and disappeared.

I went to the front door and I saw garbage scattered all over doorway area,a spot that couldn’t be seen from the living room.  At first we thought a dog had made the mess, but then after my sighting it was clear that the bear, quiet as a mouse, came into the house with the girls in the other room, dug through the garbage, and then took off.  The bear easily could have come into the main part of the house where the girls were hanging out.  Once again, some Harwoods were spared bear agony.

Ah, da bears.

Yesterday, the day after Easter, went much more smoothly.  I practiced each section of my negativity diet better than I did on Sunday.  I stayed away from my computer for most of the day ,and I spent time with my daughters as they had the day off from school.  I tried my best to stay in the moment as much as I could.  We spent several hours outside together in the redwoods surrounding our house.  I sat on our entry steps leisurely painting my toenails electric blue while Avi and Rilla played with our three chickens.

Watching my girls laugh together in the warm air, I felt so thankful to see them get along after their spats over the previous week.  Even though I sat less than ten feet away from where a truck bashed through our fence (see my “Almost” post), I felt safe.  We weren’t in danger of bears popping up at our front door and I had my own little “cubs” close to me under my protection.  During moments like this, I don’t pine for riches or accolades of any sort.  I am more content than I ever thought would be possible.

After being hospitalized numerous times for bipolar disorder, and my not having been taken outside by staff even once during those dark times (something I’ll never understand) I have an unusually strong appreciation for being in a beautiful outdoor setting.  Alongside my happy girls and our slightly freaked-out chickens in the warm spring air, I was in the moment, and I found myself in the best place, literally and figuratively, that I could imagine.

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