Taking Bipolar Breaks

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Today was the day I woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.  

(Just kidding…any Beatles fans out there?)

No, today was the day I woke up and I realized I was feeling bipolared out.

usually find the world of bipolar disorder to be fascinating, and as you can fathom, it’s relevant to my life as well.  When I read bipolar-related articles, studies, etc. I could very well come across a significant lead for my own recovery or to help a friend’s mental health issue. In any case, I want to be kept in the loop of this field, and I make a concerted effort to stay in the know almost every day.

But sometimes I would just love to spend a big chunk of time where the word “bipolar” doesn’t enter my mind once.

That’s impossible.  I take my MAOI (Parnate/tranylcypromine) meds three times a day. Just the simple act of taking these pills reminds me of the “b” word.

It’s possible I am also feeling burned out because even though it has been eight years since I was diagnosed, I still haven’t totally reconciled myself to the fact that I have this mental illness. Obviously, there is no way I don’t have bipolar disorder, but on a subconscious level I believe I think, “No way!  I don’t have those cooties!

I consider my burnout to be closely connected with overwhelm.  My psychiatrist advises that when I’m at my wit’s end about something (i.e. a phone conversation gone wrong, a traffic jam, a mild panic attack) to simply pray.  He’s Christian and while he never proselytizes to me about his religion, he advises me based on his own experience.  I don’t have to be a card- carrying member of any religion to pray, and I do believe in the power of prayer – both individual prayer and remote prayer.

While I can’t ignore living with a chronic illness, it’s in remission for now, thank God.  I’m stable, I’m functioning, and a side of me wants to distance myself from my “sick” side, if that makes any sense.  Those feelings may explain my wanting to detach from bipolar disorder in general.  My problem could actually be interpreted as a blessing in disguise!  I’m feeling better, therefore I don’t want to think about bipolar disorder 24/7.  That’s not such a bad problem to have. 

Being burned out on having bipolar and obsessing about bipolar are not insurmountable problems by any means.  I need more reflection and therapy to deal with my identity in regard to having a mental illness that is “hardwired” into my brain.  (I can’t believe I just quoted from that atrocious T.V. show Black Box, but I did!) That may be a simple-sounding strategy, but it very well may work.  Whatever I decide to do, I’m determined to take lots of breaks from contemplating bipolar disorder.

I’m going to pay more attention to things that having nothing to do with mental illness.  We are readying our house for a puppy’s arrival to take place very soon.  The prospect of watching a sweet, joyful little pup interact with my two little girls, who are beyond over the moon about having a puppy, will be fantastic.  

With summer fast approaching, there will be days at the beach and hours at the park where I’ll unplug from social media and bipolar obsession.  I don’t have a smart phone, so I won’t have access to the internet at either of those places, and that’s a good thing.  

For indoor activities, I can turn to my nine-year-old, who already knows more than her mom does as far as making crafts.  She has her own Hello Kitty sewing machine and how to use it; I don’t even know how to sew.  She makes beautiful rings and bracelets at the drop of the hat; I’m clueless about jewelry making.  She loves to teach others how to make things.  My other daughter is thrilled when I play hide and seek with her, pull out the Twister set, or play outside with her and our three chickens.  All of these activities and more can serve to pull me out of my head and into the moment.  I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that.


 

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Validated!

 

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If we don’t ask for what we need, we usually won’t get it.  Yes, that’s an simple truism, but when we start incorporating it into our lives and ask for what we need, awfully nice things can happen, both big and small.

It hasn’t been easy for me to ask for what I’ve needed, for I’ve often felt unworthy and I’ve feared rejection.

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Yesterday I blogged that I emailed an Associated Press journalist named Frazier Moore.  I contacted him to ask if he would consider changing his writing terminology in regard to bipolar disorder.   His review of the new ABC television show Black Box was titled “Bipolar Doctor” and there were other phrases in the piece such as “bipolar people”, etc.  I explained in detail why I prefer to say  “I have bipolar.” instead of “I am bipolar”.

My post about this topic can be found here:

http://www.ibpf.org/blog/i-am-bipolar-i-am-blessed-it-and-get-it-over-itis

After emailing the journalist, I got on with my day.  I let the whole matter go – I didn’t even expect a reply.  By simply writing my email, I experienced a nice catharsis.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post,  I received a courteous response from Frazier.  He agreed with me!  Frazier wrote that in his future articles he’d take my point and “aim to be more sensitive in writing about this subject in the future…”

Super-cool!

Every success inspires me, and my small victory with Frazier fired me up to ask people more often about matters important to my heart.

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This past month I asked  to have postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD) be officially recognized by the most influential non-profit addressing pregnancy/postpartum issues facing mothers: Postpartum Progress.

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The Postpartum Progress website states:

“We offer in-depth information, community and hope for pregnant and new moms with postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth (including postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, depression during pregnancy, post-adoption depression, postpartum PTSD, depression after miscarriage or perinatal loss and postpartum psychosis)…. We are fiercely proud to be the world’s most widely-read blog dedicated to these illnesses, with more than 1.1 million pageviews annually.” 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been “pooh-poohed” when I’ve mentioned I have postpartum bipolar disorder to others, either face-to-face or through writing.  Hardly anyone has heard about this postpartum mood disorder.  However, I feel excluded that my mood disorder is not found in the list in the above paragraph.  It’s nearly impossible for me to explain my feelings of feeling a sense of invalidation in the postpartum world to my family and friends.

What has helped me the most when it comes to my diagnosis is to bring my experience out into the open and write about it.  Writing is not only validating; when I hear from another mother who has read my writing and has also experienced postpartum bipolar disorder, I feel like I’ve found a member of my tribe.

Last March Cristi Comes, a content editor for the Postpartum Progress website and founder of Motherhood Unadorned, gave me the opportunity to write for Postpartum Progress about PPBD.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/story-postpartum-bipolar-disorder

This was the big break I had been wanting so badly!   I submitted my piece about postpartum bipolar disorder to Cristi, and she and Postpartum Progress founder Katherine Stone published it on the website.  I received great feedback and comments from other mothers with PPBD.

After my piece was published on Postpartum Progress, I stepped outside my comfort zone, and asked Katherine to please add PPBD to their list of mental illnesses afflicting mothers, and she did!  That may seem like a minor triumph, but for me it was a giant step for humankind!  If I didn’t force myself to ask, it wouldn’t have happened.

So I invite you to join me in moving forward together to ask for something you normally wouldn’t ask for – services, favors, money, guidance – whatever we want! In the comments tell me what you want to ask for and I’ll support you in your vision.  I’m currently asking for donations for my Postpartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness walk that I’m doing on June 21, 2014.

loathe asking for money, but I’m doing it anyway because it truly is for a worthy cause; it’s not for me to spend on some fancy designer shoes.  It’s easier for me to ask via social media, I must admit, so I’m going to challenge myself and ask three people face-to-face in the coming week if they care to donate.  I’ll let you know what happens!

For more information about my June 21st walk for Climb Out of the Darkness and to donate please visit:

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/join-climb-out-of-the-darkness-2014#comment-18563

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I Love Kind, Smart Journalists!/ “Black Box” – To Bash or Not to Bash?

 

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Yesterday while on Facebook I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation post about the new ABC television series Black Box premiering tonight.

Here’s ABC’s Black Box overview:

“The twenty-first century is the era of the brain, and this show will be riding that wave on the cutting edge of medicine. The brain is the source of everything — from whom we love to how we act and feel. It is the ultimate mystery, which is why doctors call it the “black box.” Dr. Catherine Black and the staff of “The Cube” will constantly be challenged by cases never seen before on television. The patients have rare, highly visual, often hallucinogenic and startling conditions, which we will see through their eyes as Dr. Black diagnoses and treats them.”

Wikipedia’s description adds:

“Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is a famous neuroscientist who secretly has bipolar disorder; the only person who knows is her psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave), who was with Catherine after her first break and has been a maternal figure for Catherine since her mother, who also suffered from bipolar disorder, committed suicide.”

The International Bipolar Foundation post provides a link to a Washington Post/Associated Press article about Black Box written by the renowned AP national television columnist Frazier Moore.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/a-bipolar-doctor-probes-the-brain-on-black-box/2014/04/22/ed899e12-ca28-11e3-b81a-6fff56bc591e_story.html

Let me back up a bit.  I first read about “Black Box” a couple weeks ago in a great blog called “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.  Here’s that post link:

http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/black-box/

After I viewed the official Black Box preview on YouTube,  I checked out the show’s ABC website and decided I would watch Black Box when the time came.

Back to the Washington Post article.  Frazier Moore wrote an intriguing Black Box article, but the title he chose and the phrasing within his article inspired me to write him a brief email.  His title, as you can infer from the Washington Post link above,  starts with “A Bipolar Doctor” and the phrase is “She’s bipolar.”

Those of you who have followed my writing know I never gave a hoot about how the word “bipolar” was used until I was diagnosed with bipolar!

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Black Box series co-creator Amy Holden Jones commits the same wording sin; her remarks include “bipolar people” and “someone who’s bipolar”.   

When I first read those four items, I felt the equivalent of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard – screeeeeeechhhhhh!  Hey, we all have our “things” that set us off, and this phraseology issue is obviously one of mine.  Maybe I hold such strong opinions about speech and bipolar because I’m the daughter of a speech pathologist/trained theater actress.  Moreover, back in college, I took a “Speech for Teachers” course during my studies to become an English teacher.  My professor gave me the top grade in the class.  The main reason, however, why I feel the way I do is when I say “I’m bipolar” it sounds like that’s pretty much all I am, and nothing else.

I’ve written an essay about the wording of bipolar disorder, and if you want to subject yourself to my entire spiel (I suggest having a cup of coffee first) it has been published by the International Bipolar Foundation, Birth of a New Brain, and at Stigmama.com:

http://stigmama.com/2014/03/12/dyane-harwood-mother-first-bipolar-a-very-distant-second/

ANYWAY, I was in the mood to contact this influential journalist about my cause, so I placed my quivering fingers upon my keyboard and took off.  I tried my best not to come across as freaky-deaky, as I might have acted that way in the past with other people whose writing triggered me.

Here’s what I wrote:

"Dear Frazier,

I hope this finds you well.  I just read your article about the new
television show "Black Box" and I found it exceedingly well written and
interesting.  I would like to bring up a point for your consideration.

I am writer living with bipolar disorder; I was diagnosed at age
thirty-seven just eight weeks postpartum.   I grew up close to my father
who had what was then called "manic depression". (Manic depression is the
term that both Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of "An Unquiet Mind" and I
much prefer.)

I like to tell others that "I have bipolar" instead of saying "I'm
bipolar".  It sounds petty, I know, but more people with this mental
illness feel the same way as I do than you'd expect.  I'm finding that
it's the most respectful way to address people who live with this mood
disorder and so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  I hope you 
take this email with a grain of salt.  If I didn't like your writing, 
I wouldn't bother taking the time to contact you! 🙂

I wish you the very best!

Warmest regards,

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, B.A., C.P.T.  
Freelance Writer
Consumer Advisory Council Member, International Bipolar Foundation
Blogger, International Bipolar Foundation
Author of the upcoming book:
"Birth of a New Brain - Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder"


(Dear readers, I couldn't figure out how to change my font back to how it first was:0)
When I checked my email this morning, I was stunned to see a reply from Frazier Moore in 
my in-box.  His warm, diplomatic response, which I copied in part below, really made my 
day.  I honestly didn't expect him to write back, and I had let the whole matter go.

Moreover, Frazier included a brief section (which I've deleted out of respect for his 
privacy) that implied that he had been affected by someone with bipolar disorder in his 
extended circle. It was obvious to me that his own experience has given him 
empathy and compassion for those who suffer with mood disorders. 
I believe that all good journalists have both of these qualities, 
and I am pleased that Frazier Moore appears to be one of them!

Frazier wrote me:
"Thank you for your gracious note. 
I take your point and will aim to be more sensitive in writing about this subject in
the future (which could very well happen if "Black Box" is a hit).  

Btw, I would be interested in what you think about the show if you happen to watch. 

Best, 
Frazier" 


 

On the International Bipolar Foundation Facebook page, there were many 
heated comments in regard to the Black Box announcement - 
it was interesting to read the replies.  To date,
the majority of the comments were negative in regard to the show and 
Black Box hasn't even aired yet.  

(To read these replies, visit the following link and scroll down to the Black Box post 
from 4/22/14)
https://www.facebook.com/InternationalBipolarFoundation

After my exchange occurred with Frazier I felt emboldened to keep speaking up about 
what matters to me as far as bipolar disorder (or anything else) is concerned.  
If each of us addresses the bipolar disorder-related 
issues that are important to us with others, then a 
positive sea change could actually occur.

I will definitely let you and Frazier know my thoughts about this show!