Readers, I adore you! (Yep, another thank you.)

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This week I was way more isolated than usual since I’ve been holed up at home caring for my two sick little girls.  Thankfully, today they are doing much better, and I’m surprised and grateful that I haven’t picked up their nasty bug yet.  (I pray that I don’t!)

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Last week my blogging served as a verrrry welcome break from wiping runny noses, administering cough medicine, and mediating fights.  (Two cranky girls with misery-inducing colds do not make for a peaceful household!)

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve loved reading comments submitted by readers expressing how they’ve appreciated my sharing my experience with bipolar disorder.  When someone writes that he has been inspired by my post, or that she feels less alone with her struggles, I eat up these words as if they were a double chocolate brownie.

I don’t require loads of appreciative remarks – one juicy line or two will keep me floating for a while.  Sometimes I get such a thrill that I practically morph into Julie Andrews singing as Maria in “The Sound of Music”.

 

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Last fall, I thought the ultimate blogging prize would be having a huge readership, getting forty comments a post, and making money from blogging.  Then I realized as fabulous as those things may sound, if it all happened to me, I’d feel completely overwhelmed.  I enjoy responding to comments, and if my blog became uber-popular, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the unique give-and-take between blogger and reader that I find so gratifying.  From this point on, I’ll be happy to gain a few followers a month, but there’s no need for me to be greedy by aggressively seeking more followers.  Fixating on numbers would rob the fun out of blogging – at least it would for me.

To make a blog into a job has never been my goal, but  I’ve been tempted by the allure of making money from blogging.  I live close to Silicon Valley where the first BlogHer conference occurred ten years ago.  I’ve watched the blog craze take off over the past decade, and I can see why the blogging phenomenon took off the way it did.  I’ve read some of the success stories.

Out of curiosity, I visited the BlogHer website.  A full conference pass for the July 2014 BlogHer conference costs $400. Wow!  I’m sure that BlogHer will offer its attendees a wonderful,valuable experience, but even if I did have that kind of money to spare, I’d rather invest it into a writer’s workshop or a perinatal conference.  My top priority is completing my book about postpartum bipolar disorder, not (sniff, sniff) my beloved blog.

It’s not late November, but I’m in a thankful mood this month.  Also spring has cheered me up, although it hasn’t propelled me into hypomania or mania like it does for some people with bipolar disorder.  Recently I wrote another post of thanks containing a few of the topics that I discuss in this post; if you want to take a peek, here’s the link:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/a-heartfelt-thanks-a-writers-retrospective/

I’m being a bit repetitive today, but it’s all sincere, and it’s all good.

Thanks for reading this, and have a wonderful weekend!

Dyane 🙂

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The Jennie Garth, American Eskimo, & Bipolar Memoir Connection

imgresimgres-1imgres-2The adage “write what you know” has always made perfect sense to me, especially because I’ve never been a fanciful writer.  All my writing has been 99% non-fiction.  I’ve also been a self-help book fan for over twenty-five years.  I’ve had well-meaning relatives implore, “Write a book that has nothing to do with bipolar disorder!” but that feels all wrong to me.  I want to write something incorporating memoir, self-help and research with expert interviews.  I’m happy to say that I’m on my way – the introduction and chapter one are complete.  Now I probably have only about 180+ pages to go!

A few days ago I read an interesting quote in the new memoir Deep Thoughts from a Hollywood Blonde written by none other than Jennie Garth.  Yep, “Beverly Hills 90210” Jennie Garth.  I couldn’t resist buying her book even though I’ve never watched a single one of her T.V. shows.  (Not even one episode of 90210!)  I just wanted a pure escape read, and Deep Thoughts looked like it would fit the bill.

Another reason I bought the book was because of a road trip that Craig and I took years ago to Los Angeles to visit my parents.  We brought our dogs Tara, an adorable shaggy-haired Sheltie, and Shera, a white fluffball American Eskimo, with us.  Shera had an unusually piercing bark that would scare the pants off a hardened criminal.  The pups were both our “children before children” and in our eyes they could do no wrong.  (Well, almost.)

We stopped off at a tiny town off the main highway which we had visited before on previous road trips.  The main drag, all of two blocks long, had a yummy deli.  I noticed a film crew was at work along the road.  I usually found on-location shoots exciting, but I couldn’t care less because I was suffering a deep depression.  We exited our truck and opened the windows wide so that Tara and Shera would be comfortable.  I noticed a blonde woman walking towards us, and as she reached our truck, Shera started barking viciously at her.  Shera startled the hell out of her and literally caused this poor soul to jump up a foot up in the air and scream.  I felt sorry for the lady, but the scene was pretty hilarious and I laughed out loud – it was the first genuine laugh I had in along time.

The frightened woman was Jennie Garth on location to film her television movie.  Ever since that wacky incident, I’ve felt a connection to her.  Hence I splurged on her book, which I most likely wouldn’t have bought if it was Tori Spelling’s or Shannen Doherty’s autobiographies.

Jennie Garth remarked in her introduction how she had an absolutely terrible memory.  How the hell did she write this book?   I immediately thought.  She had a co-writer’s help, but still, I imagine that co-writers can only do so much.  She explained that in the process of writing her memoir,  “Once I got started, writing seemed to activate a dormant recollection part of my brain, and my life as I had forgotten it began to come back to me.  The more I wrote, the more I remembered.  And the more I remembered, the more I began to realize how good this process was for me.”

I believe what Jennie Garth wrote about memory stimulation was sincere and true.  Her words give me hope that the more I write my book, the more my memory will generate details about my life that I thought were gone.  Not to sound pompous or anything, but I am already impressed with my brain.  This beleaguered organ has been subjected to electroconvulsive treatments (ECT) up the wazoo, yet I don’t feel that I’ve had that much memory loss from ECT.  (At least that’s what I recall! 😉  I can remember complete lyrics to many 80’s pop songs and that pretty much says it all about the resiliency of the brain.

I hope that the writing phenomenon Jennie Garth describes happens for me because if it doesn’t, I’ll only have about twenty pages of Birth of a New Brain.  I can’t allow that to happen.  As BP (Bipolar) Magazine columnist and blogger Beth Mader asserts, “I have things to say.”  I also have things to say, and if I keep my nose to the grindstone I have a chance of completing Birth of a New Brain.

I know it sounds catty, but if books such as The Joy of UncircumcizingWhy Do Men Have Nipples – Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask A Doctor After Your Third Martini, and Be Bold With Bananas! can be published, there is room for my book to exist.  If written (preferably written well), Birth of a New Brain could actually help people.  I hope that someday I’ll announce in this blog that my labor of love has been born  When I get a publishing deal,  I’ll invite you to the book’s baby shower!

Hilarious Cartoon (Possibly offensive)/My Book’s Cover & Toni Childs

I am writing this post on a rainy Sunday afternoon, as the next few days I plan to set my blog aside to focus on working on my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.  The book will be an amalgamation of memoir, interviews with postpartum/bipolar experts, women’s mental health advocates, and profiles of women diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder.  I know that sounds like an awful lot to throw together, but I think it can be done well.  It won’t be easy (that’s a slight understatement…) but I’m going to give it my best shot!

Last week I suggested to  Chato B. Stewart, a talented artist friend of mine, that he create a cartoon for my book’s cover.  Chato blogs for BP Magazine (http://www.bphope.com/bphopeblog) and writes the popular “Mental Health Humor” column for PsychCentral.com.  I never dreamed he’d take me up on creating my cover image; he’s a busy bee, but he did.  He worried that it would offend me, but when I opened up the file of his cartoon in all its glory, I laughed out loud.  So did some mama friends of mine.  I hope you can see the humor in it as well; if not, I’m sorry – please don’t un-follow me!

I’ve thought of a similar idea in which my title is literally interpreted to appear as a woman giving birth to a brain.  So Chato and I are on the same page with that concept!

Other vivid, graphic birth images have appealed to me as well.  Before my second daughter was born, I listened to an incredible Toni Childs album over and over again called “The Woman’s Boat”.  Toni Childs’ music reached a peak in the 1980’s when she was nominated for two Grammy awards.  She has worked with many acclaimed musicians such as Peter Gabriel. Eve Ensler, writer and founder of V Day, asked Toni to write an anthem for her documentary Until the Violence Stops. Toni wrote a song entitled “Because You’re Beautiful” for the film and her song won an Emmy award in 2004 for Outstanding Music and Lyrics.  She is a long-term survivor of Graves Disease and has just released her newest album “Citizens of the Planet”.

“The Woman’s Boat” themes range from birth to death – the first song is “Womb” and the final song is “Death”.  This album has influenced me in very personal, profound ways.  I brought this CD with me to the maternity hospital when I went into labor with Marilla.  Not only did I want to hear Toni’s music while in labor, if possible, but I wanted to prop up the CD’s  liner note photos so I could look at them.  I felt deeply connected to these images; to me they visually represented the power of a woman’s fertility, and displayed the beauty of women’s bodies.   (I imagine that the insert picture of a woman giving birth to a flower could also offend some people, but I think it’s stunning.)  The cover art of a pomegranate as a symbol of fertility is gorgeous as well.

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***If you’ve never listened to Toni Childs, you are in for a treat!  Here’s a YouTube link that features a playlist many of her songs:

***For more information about my super-cool friend Chato, please check out his following links:

http://chatobstewart.com/

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor/about/

http://www.bphope.com/bphopeblog

***To see what Toni Childs is up to, visit the following link and be sure to look at her incredible Kickstarter video on the home page which she created:

http://www.tonichilds.com/

Hypergraphia – Part Two

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In yesterday’s blog post I discussed writing, the creative spark, as well as hypergraphia.  In case you are unfamiliar with the term hypergraphia the Wikipedia definition is:

“A behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write. Forms of hypergraphia can vary in writing style and content.  Some write in a coherent, logical manner, others write in a more jumbled style.  Studies have suggested that hypergraphia is related to bipolar disorder, hypomania, and schizophrenia.” 

The following excerpt describes my experience with postpartum hypergraphia in the preface of my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder :

“Just a few days after my daughter’s birth, I was writing non-stop.  The ideas were flowing from my brain so rapidly I couldn’t believe it.  As a professional freelance writer, I had struggled for years with the common malady of writer’s block.  When I had postpartum mania-induced hypergraphia, I underwent the complete opposite of writer’s block.  I was a virtual writing waterfall with the power of Niagra Falls!   I knew something truly bizarre, terrifying and even a bit magical was happening in my brain, but my racing thoughts prevented me from being grounded enough to do much of anything, including doing enough breastfeeding or realizing that I had bipolar one disorder.  Somehow I was able to surf online about nonstop writing, and I discovered that hypergraphia was associated with many people diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Yet it still didn’t dawn on me that I had bipolar disorder, although I possessed five obvious clues: little sleep, racing thoughts, grandiose thinking, strong hereditary factors and agitation.  I wrote so much that my wrist cramped up in severe pain every few minutes.  I wrote so much that my sweet baby’s birth weight was too low, as I wasn’t breastfeeding her enough.  I couldn’t stop writing, even while I was breastfeeding her on her velvety green Boppy pillow.  I kept typing frantically despite the fact that my husband told me emphatically that he was concerned that I was writing too much and that I needed to pay more attention to our newborn and toddler.”

Hypergraphia is serious, and it’s a real condition.  It’s not just a “neurosis” as writer Valerie Lopes refers to it in her Open Salon article “Do I have Hypergraphia or am I just Prolific?”. (The link is posted at the end of this piece.)  The psychiatric literature defines a neurosis as a “relatively mild personality disorder”.  Let me tell you from my firsthand experience that there was nothing  “mild” about my full-blown hypergraphia.   Lopes’ article disappointed me with its ignorance and righteous, patronizing “Look at me – I’m such a prolific writer!” tone.  I wanted to comment and inform her that while I understood that too many mental conditions are slapped with a scary-sounding psychiatric label these days (which she implies in her essay)  hypergraphia is not normal and, in my opinion, it’s definitely not healthy.  I noticed that there were no comments made in response to her article – quelle surprise! Whenever I don’t spot even a single comment about an article on a site with huge readership, that tells me the writing is somehow lacking.  However, when I tried to post a comment, the website informed me it was temporarily closed for registration.   Bummer!

No matter.  For those who wish to read an informed, brilliant analysis of this subject, look no further than Dr. Alice W. Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease – The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain.  It’s endorsed on the cover by none other than Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of the bestselling classic An Unquiet Mind who writes, “An original, fascinating, and beautifully written reckoning…of that great human passion: to write.”  Flaherty’s book is not just about hypergraphia by any means.  It’s a must-read for any writer.  The Midnight Disease received rave reviews as well and is the only book of its kind written by a neurologist to boot!  The fact that Lopes didn’t even refer to this groundbreaking book once in her article indicates to me that being a “prolific” writer doesn’t mean you are actually a good one.

There have been famous artists who apparently had hypergraphia such as Vincent van Gogh, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Burns and Lewis Carroll.  Dr. Alice W. Flaherty experienced postpartum hypergraphia like I did.  (I am disappointed that with my  Google Advanced search I only located lists of famous men with hypergraphia.  I’m sure there are famous women who should be on these lists as well, starting with Dr. Flaherty.)  Not only did all these people write enormous amounts of material, but the physical style of their writing would sometimes be indecipherable, which is another hallmark of the condition.  I typed and also handwrote in journals when I had hypergraphia.  When I review my journals today I can’t make out most of the scrawls.   That makes me sad, because I wish I knew what the hell I was writing about!

Apart from that, it all comes down to what my favorite high school English teacher, Mrs. Redlcay, asked her students to answer when they wrote any essay or poem.

“So what?”

Why write about the subject of hypergraphia?  So what?

For me it’s a deeply personal topic.  I’ve been in the trenches with hypergraphia, and it has haunted me ever since.  The feelings it stirred up were connected with mania through and through.  I felt so good about what I wrote, (too good!) even though much of it was dribble.  While writing I felt a sense of purpose that I’ll never encounter again unless I am manic.

But believe me, I’ve come to terms with all that as I never want to be manic again.  I want to write at a “happy medium” level.  I know that it’s possible now for me to write in moderation, and I’ll do all that I can to make my writing dreams a reality.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

“Do I have Hypergraphia or am I just Prolific” by Valerie Lopes

http://open.salon.com/blog/valerie_lopes/2009/02/16/do_i_have_hypergraphia_or_am_i_just_prolific