Where’s My Cape? I’m a “2014 Mental Health Hero” in Chato B. Stewart’s Cartoon-A-Thon

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Yesterday on the first day of Mental Health Month, I was triggered.  In reading the local news headlines I discovered that someone I knew who I’ll call Elana had been reported missing.  She was found alive through an aerial search, but she had attempted to take her own life.  

I told my husband about this tragic news last night.  Craig was a friend of this woman’s long before I met him, but they lost touch over the years.  Yesterday he found out exactly where she was being hospitalized and he spoke with an administrator working on her case.  I encouraged him to get her a card and he sent it to her this morning.  I know that a card sounds like a little thing, but it’s not.  Especially when the illness is a mental illness connected with a suicide attempt.  I know with all my heart that as she recovers, she will appreciate his gesture very much.

Today I kept thinking about Elana’s situation, although I moved on with my obligations.  I dealt with various mundane duties: making beds, bill paying, laundry, putting away dishes, working out, driving the girls back and forth from ballet and playdates etc. that I was supposed to accomplish. Was a little Facebooking & Twittering thrown into the mix?  You know it was!  (And yeah, it was more than a little.  I’m working on it!)

My day brightened up considerably when I got an email from the mental health advocate/cartoonist Chato B. Stewart.   Who is Chato B. Stewart?

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Chato is a man of many talents.  I’ve known Chato as the Psych Central Network and BP (Bipolar) Magazine Cartoonist/Blogger .  He’s the artist behind the “Mental Health Cartoons” drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder.  Chato creates positive, provocative and sometimes even funny cartoons!  (He is sensitive to the subject matter, that’s for sure.)

Chato believes there is power behind humor, and his motto is “humor gives help, hope and healing”. His mission is use humor as a positive tool to cope with the serious effects of mental illness. He has won the Wego Health Hilarious Activist Award and  a prestigious Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) award, and he’s a father of four and a devoted husband to his wife Joan.  (Plus, he has a full-time day job, no biggie!) 

Chato emailed me to let me know that he selected me to be one of his 2014 Mental Health Heros!  Chato’s recognition of my mental health advocacy efforts, which I’ve done on and off over the past five years, completely lifted up my spirits.  He’ll be publishing my story on his Mental Health hero website this month, and get this – he’ll be drawing a cartoon of me (yep!) for what he calls his Cartoon-A-Thon.  

When Chato started the Cartoon-A-Thon in 2008, he wanted to “actively contribute in a small way to Mental Health Month, which was established by Mental Health Americana in 1946.” Since then Chato has drawn many heroes who can be nominated by anyone, or personally selected by Chato. 

Why a Cartoon-A-Thon?  

Chato explains his philosophy on the Mental Health Hero website:

“The purpose of the Cartoon-A-Thon is to use humor and laughter as positive tools in dealing with emotional disturbances which affect many people and families due to mental illness.”  

Chato brainstormed an idea of drawing cartoons about mental health disorders each day in May for Mental Health Month.  In 2008, he drew 18 cartoons. The following year he drew 31 cartoons .  In 2010, he introduced his Mental Health Heroes and he featured 31 heroes in the mental health community.  

In 2011 and 2012 he kept up with the hero theme to give his peers a platform to tell their story.  Many readers were excited in 2012 when Chato’s three daughters started drawing their versions of the heroes.  Once again, they’ll pull out their crayons and draw alongside him in 2014.  The fact that Chato’s little girls will be drawing pictures of me will be funny, and my two girls will get a HUGE kick out of their efforts as well.

Here’s an example of 2013 Mental Health Hero Margarita Tartakovsky’s cartoon!   460-Margarita-Tartakovsky-Mental-Health-Hero-for-Mental-Health-Month-2013-cartoon-by-Chato-Stewart-150x150

So my day contained happiness and sadness, just like every day does, but on this symbolic beginning of Mental Health Month, I felt those two emotions to a more amplified degree.  All the more reason for me to make time to exercise, even though it was a heatwave and I felt like blowing it off.  And all the more reason to calmly reassure my husband that when I said to him that I felt “triggered” by Elana’s situation, it didn’t mean I was going to fall apart.  

I emphasized to Craig that triggers are not always rational; they are not always easily tamped down and controlled.  He told me how much he appreciated my explanation, and that it helped him to hear my perspective.  Then he wrapped his arms around me and he said how glad he was that I was doing well.  That was pretty cool to hear, and his words meant more to me than any award I could ever receive.  

To view the 2013 winners, see their cartoons and read their stories, visit: http://mentalhealthhero.com/

To learn more about the illustrious Chato B. Stewart, visit his website: http://www.chatobstewart.com/

 

                                                    Please donate to my walk benefitting Postpartum Progress! 

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For more information about the 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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Just chillin’

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It’s a gloomy Sunday morning – it’s cold, sprinkling, and just plain-old blah.  (My daughter picked out this font color and I couldn’t tell her no!)

For me these aren’t very inspiring writing conditions, but according to the revered writer Madeleine L’Engle, the weather  is no excuse to abstain from writing unless a typhoon interferes with it.  She advises writers to write a little bit every day, even if it’s “only for thirty minutes”.  Now that I have two little girls, thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time is a lot  of time to write!

I have nothing profound to discuss today, no brilliant insights du jour.  But I sit here anyway, typing with sparkly blue fingernails, sequestered in my husband’s office downstairs while our children gobble Gorilla Puffs.  Bob Marley sings softly in the background, and I’m waiting for any bit of inspiration to strike in terms of devising a writing topic.

It’s not happening.  

I usually generate my blog topic the day before I write each one.  I cook up ideas while working out, carting my girls to school, taking a shower, or doing other mundane tasks like laundry and dishes.  It seems the more banal the activity, the better in terms of a successful brainstorm!

I could follow WordPress’ Daily Post (dailypost.wordpress.com) for a writing prompt, but silly me, I feel like it’s cheating to do that!  Many writers would argue that it’s better to find a topic that’s worthwhile to expound on, even if the topic comes from another source, than write gobbledegook.  But so far I just can’t do it.  I’m stubborn.

The day ahead has no major plans except for some cupcake baking with nine-year-old Avonlea, who loves to bake.  She has chosen to make lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. Now, I’m a massive chocolate fiend, and while I love lemons, to me a real cupcake must have chocolate as a primary ingredient.  I also loathe plain cream cheese, although the rest of my family can’t get enough of it.  I can’t touch it or smell it, so I’m delegating the frosting task to my husband.

I’ve only had half of my morning coffee ration, the day is still young, and who knows what could happen?  Perhaps I may even generate a blog topic while making the cupcakes that gets me excited.  One never knows.

But I’ve discovered through reading other blogs that sometimes I really enjoy simple, brief posts.  I don’t require 100% profound, Huffington Post-worthy blog posts from my virtual friends.  No matter what the blog author writes, as long as there’s something for me to peruse, I still feel connected to the writer.  

So today’s the day I’m putting a stop to pressuring myself to write something provocative in every post.  I’m accepting that divine inspiration, as much as we writers want it to descend from the heavens complete with fireworks, won’t always come.

While I wrote the above sentence, a great song came on the Bob Marley Pandora channel.  I first heard this song in one of my favorite films, The Mighty Quinn, with Denzel Washington and Mimi Rogers.  (Plus Esther Rolle – remember her?) The 1989 thriller, which film critic Roger Ebert called one of the best films of 1989, has an upbeat, reggae-infused soundtrack.  It was shot on location in stunning, sunny, warm Jamaica.

 

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The song is called “I Gotta Keep On Moving” by Curtis Mayfield.

“Lord, I’ve got to keep on moving,” rings out the first cheery line.

That’s just what I’ll do…instead of go hide under the bedcovers, I’ll keep on moving, slow and steady.  I don’t have the win The Grand Race of Life or anything like that.  I just want to keep on moving, nurture my stability, love my family, be a good friend, and help others when I can.

imgresimgres-1Have a good Monday!  And thanks for reading!

Dyane “Turtle” Harwood

 

Please donate to my walk benefitting Postpartum Progress! 

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For more information about the 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

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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