My Lunch with Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray

June 5, 1941 – January 11, 2004

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He declared, “You’re jagged!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spalding Gray and Kathie Russo

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

The New York Times Book Review

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

Pamela Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

A brilliant author and actor. 

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

 

My Grand Pitch

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

Dear Ms. Paul, 

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

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

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

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

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

Please forgive my digression…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm regards,

Dyane Harwood

————-

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

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

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

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

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

I deleted the tweet.

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

The next day I received this email from Pamela Paul:

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

Dear Pamela,

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

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

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

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

I’d be glad to send you a copy.

Dyane

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

Love,

Dyane

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

Recap: 1st Book Signing/Educational Presentation @ BC Library!

Reflecting about last night’s daunting educational presentation & book signing….

Here are some pictures from last night’s event at the library – I wish you could have been there with me & I hope you enjoy them!

I had a great, attentive audience. Not a heckler in sight! The highlight was having my daughter and most of my Toastmasters club members there to cheer me on!


My daughter Marilla did an amazing job – she not only set up 40 chairs, she arranged the cookie table and sold books!

 

And here’s a picture of my wonderful friend & longtime supporter,  the author & columnist Merry Ruthe Wilson! (Visit her Amazon Author page for info. about Merry’s memoir Waaaay Beyond Lemonade & her two beautifully illustrated children’s books) Merry’s picture by Blaine Brunelle

Book Signing Pictures by George Haas Photography

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Foreword by perinatal psychiatrist and acclaimed author Dr. Carol Henshaw, now available on Amazon!

Silly Video of Seeing My Book the 1st Time!

 

Thank you, Kitt O’MalleyMarie Abanga, & Greg Archer for your wonderful Amazon reviews!

Also, big thanks to the author Maricela Estrada-Morena (Bipolar Girl) for her beautiful Kings River Life review of Birth of a New Brain! To read her review & enter for a chance to win a copy, please visit this link!

 

I’ll be giving my first educational presentation/book signing at the library next week—I never would’ve considered doing such a thing but joining Toastmasters back in March made me able to make such a commitment. 

 

100% of the book sales and refreshment proceeds will be given to the Friends of the Boulder Creek Library and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Santa Cruz County Chapter. I hope I’ll have someone record the talk and if that works out, I’ll share it here—at the very least I’ll write about the experience in next Friday’s post.

 


Have a great weekend and thanks so much for reading!

Love,

Dyane

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

 

on October 13, 2017
This book has offered a way to the other side, from feeling out of control to gaining the necessary insight to balancing one’s life after bipolar disorder. The author’s story is a testament to overcoming the obstacles people with mental health face. Dyane Harwood’s groundbreaking memoir not only shares her inspiring story but offers readers practical advice she has used herself and excellent resources as well. I am a daily essential oil user and appreciate how she uses orange essential oil to uplift the spirit so she motivates herself to go exercise. I feel it is necessary to bring nature’s medicine chest into the equation, and that is exactly what she has done to gain equilibrium and balance. “Birth of a New Brain” is easy to read and reaches out to the mental health community with heart and soul along with sound advice and the resources to “birth a new brain” and live a life with passion and grace.

Alexis Zinkerman’s Review of “Birth of a New Brain” + Our Interview!

 

 

Alexis Zinkerman is a gifted poet, author, journalist, blogger, plus she’s a mental health advocate. I’ve blogged about Alexis’ powerful, poignant novella “Brooklyn” (That blog post was titled “My Life-Affirming Alternative to 13 Reasons Why”) and her stunning poem “Metronome” she wrote specifically for lucky me! 

In turn, Alexis interviewed me and reviewed my book Birth of a New Brain for her  blog “A Mile a Minute.” I threw a lot of information at her during our lengthy conversation, but she took it all graciously, professionally in stride.

Alexis has a great, diverse blog in which she shares all kinds of cool resources, and I encourage you to check it out when you have the chance.

I’ll see you next Friday and let you know how my first podcast recording with Dr. Katayune Kaeni’s Mom & Mind Podcast turns out. Yes, I’m nervous, although it’ll be easier than giving a Toastmasters speech!

I’ll also share a little info. my psychiatrist emailed me about a new, low-cost, alternative method that might help lift depression. Stay tuned. It’s important to know about every tool that exists that might help us, isn’t it? I’m back to using my Sunbox DL bright light in the mornings as we ease into colder, darker times.

Have a good weekend, friends, and please let me know how you’re doing if you feel so inclined…

Love,

Dyane

p.s. My book finally became available on Kindle!  I was excited to see it made Amazon’s Top 100 bestsellers list in the “bipolar” category. While that sounds groovy, I knew the list fluctuates wildly and I’ve been told by published authors the ranking system is inaccurate and worse. So, while I don’t take the list seriously, I couldn’t help feeling thrilled to see it near Carrie Fisher’s #1 book!

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw, will be published by Post Hill Press on October 10th, 2017. Birth of a New Brain is available on Amazon for Kindle and paperback pre-sales.

A Mile a Minute

new brainDyaneHeadshot

I first came across Dyane Harwood’s blog after she left continuous comments on my blog and we began a conversation through email and in the comments. Dyane writes her blog after being diagnosed with peri-partum bipolar 1 disorder to help others make sense of their condition and find resources. Dyane’s bipolar was triggered by childbirth.

“It was a trifecta of hormones, genetic predisposition, and sudden sleep deprivation,” she said during a fifty minute conversation we had over the phone.

Dyane’s father was also bipolar. And even though she lived though a childhood of moodswings, her own mood shifts were not treated until the births of her daughters. She said that today there are medication studies by perinatal psychiatrists about how to treat women who have been diagnosed before becoming pregnant.

Her new memoir Birth of a New Brain takes one through her journey and how she learned to treat her…

View original post 404 more words

Marie Abanga’s Goodreads Review of “Birth of a New Brain”

My wonderful friend of over thirty years, Mike Freeman, created this beautiful image for my Facebook book page. Thank you, Mike!


Birth of a New Brain Goodreads Review by lawyer/author/coach/speaker/ advocate/mom/blogger/poet and many more talents: Marie Abanga 

It was difficult to pick just one photo of Marie – there are SO many stunning pics of this dynamo on her blog. However, this still image is one of my very favorites and I love how it shows her in powerful, confident action!

Review by Marie Abanga

Indeed, a new Brain can be born even from the deepest dark of a debilitating mental illness

Mental illness is more often than not associated with incompetence, fragility, frugality, vulnerability, undesirability: I don’t make that association, however, and memoirs like Dyane’s will challenge those who think a mentally ill person is a ‘no good’!

Dyane’s epic memoir of one of the ‘not so well-known’ mental illnesses is worth its weight in gold.

Some people think: We don’t care about those ‘lunatics’ because we are not them and we will never become them. Sometimes, and as in Dyane’s case, we so wish our sick ones well, but we don’t try to learn and understand what is going on. We don’t even know what questions to ask them or how to ask questions in a respectful, compassionate way. It gets to a point where we look forward to either their being removed from our ‘normal’ existence, or  we leave them and go far away – be it for studies, work or just a fresh start.

One thing I learned from this memoir is that close or far, we can be so impacted by mental illness of a close one. Paradoxically, Dyane starts having troubling ‘mental issues’ after she has left home and is on her own, although she had felt for so long before then that something ‘weird’ was going on.

And yet:

A lot of good things, in my opinion, happen to Dyane in between the time she leaves college and when her second child is born – the birth which sparks her postpartum bipolar disorder. She takes on different demanding jobs and meets a vast array of people, most especially her ever-supporting husband.

I am so interested to know what keeps her husband staying with her in spite of her seemingly ‘unappeasable’ mental illness and mental health altogether. Maybe she’ll write a second memoir about this. He is portrayed as a caregiver par excellence both to her and to their kids, juggling these all with his stressful geological engineering job. People like her husband are to be celebrated because many with a mental illness are sooner or later abandoned even by their families.

It is once more interesting to read in this memoir about the treatment mentally ill patients seem to attract. There are basically two types of treatment. You are either treated as a human being with an illness like every other (very rare) or most often you are treated with such stigma and near shunning altogether. Dyane, even while very sick, can tell and appreciate when she is treated with empathy and even sympathy. She also narrates the times she’s treated like ‘one of them lunatics’ in and out of the psychiatric units.

All is not lost. After she has tried many different medications (making her become a guinea pig of sorts), after trying to go off medications (the first time cold-turkey, and the second time through systematic, slow tapering), and after silently challenging one of her doctor’s sarcasm about alternative treatments, Dyane has come to find a balance. Even ECT wasn’t left out; she desperately needed a new brain and thought ECT was her last chance at having a mind free of suicidal ideation and severe depression. 

Her narration is not only so funny at some points— you also wonder where she found some offbeat words and different styles. (Oh yes, she has a B.A. in English and American
Literature.) Reading the book, I noticed her courage as she started over and over again taking different medications over twenty-five times, sometimes with almost catastrophic results. 

As other advanced reviewers have noted, her memoir is a big bonus to the mental health community—a community I dare say should concern all of ‘us’ because all of the ‘thems’ we see today were once ‘us’ before. There is really no point for stigma which to me shows insecurity and fear of the unknown.

I, without any reservation, recommend this memoir to all and sundry.


Thank you, Marie!!!!!

Thanks to all of you who read today’s post! I still need to fulfill my promise to write the “Rich People and Dog Poop” post, but I’m waiting for a special kind of inspiration! (I might need to visit Lake Tahoe again for that, ha ha!)

The Birth of a New Brain’s Goodreads page also has the awesome blogger/advocate Kitt O’Malley’s advance review. While you’re there, I invite you to mark down “To read” so I know you have good taste in books! (The link is below.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34227998-birth-of-a-new-brain?from_search=true

 

Have a great Labor Day weekend, my friends!

Love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw, will be published by Post Hill Press on October 10th, 2017. Birth of a New Brain is available on Amazon for paperback pre-sales. Kindle pre-sales will be available mid-September.

Kitt O’Malley’s Review: “Birth of a New Brain” #PostPartumBipolar

 

This review of “Birth of a New Brain” by the blogger/writer Kitt O’Malley is one of the first ones I’ve read. I’m very grateful for her insights and impressions.

As a mother with bipolar disorder, Kitt has a particular appreciation for my experience. She has an outstanding blog so if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to look at the variety of her posts and be sure to read her “About” page – she’s a truly remarkable person, and I’m proud to call her my friend.

Kitt O'Malley

Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder by Dyane Harwood. Foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw.

Dyane Harwood thrilled me when she sent me an advance copy of her memoir, Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. (I pre-ordered it and was anxiously awaiting it’s October 2017 release.) Her memoir fills a much-needed niche in sharing the experience of bipolar disorder, peripartum onset (beginning during pregnancy or within four weeks after delivery).

With her friendly approachable writing style, her strong spirit shines throughout her memoir, even when describing the devastation of bipolar disorder. Her story shows how important it is to not give up. She had to undergo ECT and multiple medication trials to find what worked for her.

Dyane explains both the traumatic symptoms she experienced and technical psychiatric information clearly and accurately. She managed to inform and inspire the me. Her book is well-researched and includes useful and informative resources throughout and in her appendices. She even includes me as…

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