The power of the internet for good and bad

imgres-1imagesOver the past few months I’ve learned more about the power of the internet.  I’ve discovered firsthand that what we put “out there” lasts a long, long time.

I knew about the maxims discussed in this blog intellectually, but I didn’t have direct experience with them until the last few weeks.  It has really hit home for me how important it is not to slander anyone because you never know who will read your words.  Here’s a (slightly) drawn-out example: some of my blog posts have discussed specific authors and their books.  Not one, not two, but three of these writers contacted me within just one week after my blogging about them.  They found me through the magic of Google alerts.

What is a Google alert, you may ask?  Here’s my non-techie definition:

One can use this feature to create different category “alerts” so that Google searches the vast internet daily (or more frequently, you can set the parameters) for any mention of these categories.  Google emails you the alert links so you can track them down yourself.  For example, you can set up an alert to find a mention of your name, a book title, and pretty much any subject under the sun!  I have Google alerts set for my favorite bands, postpartum bipolar, and my name.

Google has a better description of their alerts that I thought I’d add here in case you’re not familiar with them:

“Google alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, people use Google Alerts to:

  • find out what is being said about their company or product.
  • monitor a developing news story.
  • keep up to date on a competitor or industry.
  • get the latest news on a celebrity or sports team.
  • find out what’s being said about themselves.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You enter a query that you’re interested in.
  2. Google Alerts checks regularly to see if there are new results for your query.
  3. If there are new results, Google Alerts sends them to you in an email.”

It was so much fun for me to get the following blog comment from the writer Cristina Negrón. She was alerted about my blog post which mentioned her wonderful book So Far.  She wrote, “Dyane: I was truly surprised and delighted to discover your blog post about my book. Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful, and beautifully written review. Being so close to the material (I couldn’t possibly be closer!), I didn’t know how it would be received by people who don’t know me. So your post, from an outside reader and a fellow writer no less, is especially gratifying. All the best to you, Cristina Negrón”

The other two author comments in response to my blog were written by  Martha Rhodes (author of the inspiring 3000 Pulses Later: A Memoir of Surviving Depression Without Medication) and Elizabeth Sims (the upbeat You’ve Got a Book in You! A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams).  Both of their comments were complementary.  Rhodes graciously offered to give me guidance with my own book and Sims’ message was funny and encouraging.

“I could get used to this awesome feedback!’ I thought.  I was also greatly relieved that I did not write anything harsh about them or their work!  Don’t get me wrong – I believe in constructive criticism, and I do like to be honest about the books that I read, but now that I know for a fact there’s a good chance the very authors I analyze could read my posts, I’ll be a little more cautious about what I offer to the internet.

After my warm and fuzzy week of author responses, I encountered the net’s darker side.  I was planning my daughter’s ninth birthday party, and I opened up my Evite account.  While reviewing my contacts list, I noticed that I had invited one of her classmates “Xavier” to a past party.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember who Xavier was.  There were no identifying details attached to his name except for an email address.  To satisfy my frustration at my inability to remember Xavier or his parent, I copied the email address and I plugged it into Google.  I honestly didn’t think I’d find anything, but I did.  Xavier was the son of “Cassia”.  Cassia had posted on a religious website many years ago, and my Google search located her comment almost immediately.

Cassia wrote that she was in desperate need of help due to a longtime disorder.  She added that none of her good friends were religious like she was, nor did any of them struggle with that specific disorder.  She noted that she was reaching out to strangers on the website because she didn’t feel like she could turn to any of her friends for support.

Finding this deeply personal information out about Cassia made me feel sad.  I felt that I knew too much about a stranger.  I was alarmed about running into her at a future party, because I realized our kids were in the same circles.

A few days later I spotted her email yet again on an Evite I had  received for a upcoming child’s birthday celebration.  I was concerned about running into her there, because I knew I’d be uncomfortable with the private knowledge I possessed, but obviously there was nothing I could do about it.

It’s one thing to write for the internet and reconcile yourself that you’re going public with whatever you contribute; it’s completely different when you are writing about highly personal, potentially damaging issues that are discovered by strangers within fifteen seconds.

I find the ease of finding such personal information sobering after what I read about Cassia – most of which I did not include here in the highly unlikely (but definitely possible) event she would read this blog post.  I’m a little freaked out about what I’ve sent out to cyberspace during times of mania, but it’s too late now to do anything about it.  I’m not going to spend much time lamenting about those emails because I wasn’t well.  I can let that one go for now, at least.  (It does occur to me that someday I may apply for a job in which my unsavory emails could be located, but I can’t worry about it…yet.)

After my positive and disturbing web experiences, I am simply going to be a little more careful about what I write.  I won’t select the “send” option glibly on my laptop, that’s for sure.  I don’t want to edit my writing to the point of it being monotonous, God forbid, but I don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I can save the really angry, slanderous comments for my journal or therapist.  I’ve been naive all along about the internet, but my naivete is slowly but surely changing.  There’s also the added bonus that as I  get older (I turn 44 in one month) I just might be getting wiser.

Bipolar Books I Recommend – I Mean Books About Bipolar! ;) – Part One

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Today it’s truly raining cats and dogs and I’m using my Sunbox to cope with the gloomy weather.  Some of you are rain-lovers, I’m sure, but not this born-in-sunny-Los Angeles gal.  There is nothing quite like a rainy day that is so ideal for staying home to be warm and cozy, and of course read a good book.  Reading on a rainy day is my nirvana, well that, and being in Hawaii when I am not depressed!  For more about my Hawaii trip please read one of my favorite posts:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/hell-in-paradise-part-one/

Now, I am a voracious reader; even when I am depressed I devour books.  I have read all the “biggie” bipolar books.  I’m sure you have heard of some of these: Dr Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Teri Cheney’s Manic and The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing up Bipolar, Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life and many more books.  I’m always on the lookout for more good books about living with bipolar, and I’ve noticed a surge in the overall amount of books published about this topic literally almost every single day.  I discovered this fact while I was using Amazon.com to conduct book searches for bipolar books.  Once I found the main bipolar category, I selected to sort it for “most recently published” books. (I’m making it sound harder than it is – this takes all of thirty seconds to do.)  This search is a pretty amazing feature and one can see which books will be published in the future – even a year or two from now.

I read some of these books post-bilateral electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) so I have a better recollection of what they cover.  Other books on my list are ones that I read years ago, and I don’t remember much about them except whether or not I really liked the book.  I wish I could recall all the juicy little details, but alas, that’s not meant to be. Most of these books are very reasonably priced for my Kindle, which I love.  An added bonus to having a Kindle is that you can sample the book for free before you purchase it, which is a fantastic option.  I’m sure that some of these books can be requested for purchase through your local library, or perhaps your library already has the book available to loan.

Haldol and Hyacinths by Melody Moezzi

Melody is an amazing writer and mental health advocate.  Her memoir is truly unique as she is an Iranian-Muslim-American with a spicy sense of humor.  I read her blog religiously on BP (Bipolar) Magazine’s website (www.bphope.com) and Moezzi’s book is absolutely fascinating.  I gave it a five star review on Amazon and here is what I wrote:

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Moezzi’s work.  I knew that Haldol and Hyacinths would not fail to disappoint me.  I was 100% right!  Moezzi’s sharp-as-nails writing takes you in from the very first page, and her brilliance shines through her narrative.  I could use every superlative I know to recommend this book, but in the interest of space here, I won’t.  All I can say is that if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, this book is a must-read.  And if you aren’t touched by this particular brand of mental illness, I say read it anyway, because the story ends in hope and it’s totally fascinating.  You will definitely learn things you did not know about, not just about bipolar disorder, but about Iranian Muslim culture, that I found made this bipolar memoir stand apart from the numerous bipolar memoirs available these days.  I honestly could not put it down once I started reading it, even though I was vacationing in gorgeous Kona, Hawaii and there were numerous activities beckoning to me – it was that good!”

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So Far by Cristina Negron

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Here’s the five star Amazon review I wrote for this book:

“I love reading juicy memoirs – the more disturbing, the better, as long as the author includes some redemptive themes so the book is not a total soul-sucking experience!  Yesterday I finished reading So Far by Cristina Negron, a former Rodale editor married to Amby Burfoot, longtime editor of “Runner’s World” and a winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.  This book was published last fall.  Negron’s title appeared on my Kindle during a general search I selected for recently published bipolar-themed books.  I like to see what’s up-and-coming in the bipolar book world, and it never ceases to amaze me what people write and publish. The phrase “it takes all kinds” comes to mind…I was intrigued by this book as it was clear in its brief description that running plays a central theme in the story.  I used to be a long-distance runner in high school and I kept running in my 20’s.  I subscribed to Runner’s World and ran 10 kilometer races.  I’ve always believed that running consistently delayed the onset of my clinical depression and bipolar.  Negron’s book is well-written and very inspiring. While I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll mention briefly that she discusses her large Mexican-American family at length.  She reveals truly heartbreaking situations in connection with these relatives.

I found it refreshing that the topic of bipolar disorder did not dominate the story.  Yes, a bipolar disorder diagnosis played a pivotal role in her life and in the book.  However, Negron wove different elements throughout the narrative that gave her story depth.  Her writing style allowed the reader to have breaks, per se, from the highly sobering sections in a finely wrought fashion.  After I finished the last page, I knew that certain members of Negron’s family would stay with me, especially the ones who were extraordinarily brave.  Whenever I complete a book that has been the proverbial “can’t put down” type, I feel a void in releasing a world I have immersed myself in so intensely.  I felt that way with So Far.”

Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent by Rebecca Moore

After I bought Rebecca Moore’s book I discovered her insightful blog “Moorestorms” (www.moorestorms.wordpress.com)  I gave five stars to Ms. Moore’s moving book Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent.

“The book was a fast, moving read filled with tons of helpful information.  Reading Moorestorms was like sitting down with a good friend to learn about what it’s like to live with this illness, and how to live a better life in spite of its damage.  As Moore is the parent of seven children, she has learned an enormous deal about how to be the best parent she can be and shares this knowledge with her readers.  I wish I had this book a long time ago when my two kids were young, as it would have made me feel less alone with my struggles and it would have given me practical pointers as well.  The author bares her soul throughout the book. She never condescends to the reader like some “bipolar experts” do in their tomes. I highly recommend it.”

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Will I Ever Be The Same Again: Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) by Carol Kivler

Carol and I have communicated via her blog for Esperanza the Anxiety and Depression Magazine website (www.hopetocope.com).  She is a wonderful, inspiring woman.  Long before I exchanged emails with her, I purchased her book about ECT and found it very useful.  I had ECT done for bipolar depression while Carol had it done for major depression.  Here is the Amazon.com description of her book:

Blessed with a loving family, a successful business as an executive coach and money in the bank, Carol Kivler was suddenly and unexpectedly brought to her knees by “The Beast” – clinical depression.  The story of her journey to recovery from medication-resistant depression is not only informative but inspires hope in others who suffer from this debilitating illness.  Because medication did not work for her, and despite serious reservations, Kivler eventually agreed to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, or shock therapy).  The treatment not only gave her back the desire to live but the ability to thrive in her personal and professional life.  Electroconvulsive therapy became her “ladder out of the depression pit.”  In her opinion, the stigma associated with ECT deprives severely depressed individuals the right to potential recovery.  Consequently, the section of her book on “Demystifying ECT” provides accurate, up to date information about today’s modernized procedure, answers common questions such as “Does it hurt?” (No!) and discusses possible side effects (which Kivler found to be no worse than those from medication).

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Undercurrents by Dr. Martha Manning

I read this book long ago (before both of my rounds of ECT) and to this day I vividly remember it being so lyrical and convincing regarding ECT as saving her life.  I was so impressed with Dr. Manning that when I was hired to write my first professional article for a national magazine (the sadly defunct “Fit” Magazine; my 1997 article discussed the importance of exercise with women) I contacted Dr. Manning to interview her for my piece.  I also interviewed none other than Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  Dr. Jamison was a famous bestselling author and in the late 1990’s numerous writers clamored her for interviews.  I stood out because she and I attended the same high school, although we never met there as she is older than me.  I also had the honor of meeting her when she gave a fantastic talk at the Palisades Library – the lecture room was packed like sardines in a can, she was so popular.

Copied below is the primary description for Dr. Manning’s book that I found on the Amazon.com website.  I find it rather strange that the ECT that saves Dr. Manning’s life is not mentioned in the blurb.  I could be mistaken, but to me that is a subtle form of stigma towards mental illness and ECT.

“This is the memoir of an ordinary woman—a mother, a daughter, a psychologist, a wife—who tells the tale of her spiraling descent into a severe, debilitating depression. Undercurrents pioneers a new literature about women and depression that offers a vision of action instead of victimhood, hope instead of despair.”

I believe a much better description is the review by the Library Journal:

As psychotherapist Manning began her slow descent into depression, she recognized the signposts along the way: a sense that she was losing control of her life, perpetual fogginess in her head, social withdrawal and subsequent isolation, and a painful alienation from all that gave her life pleasure and meaning-except her daughter. She recounts how medications were tried and discarded, psychotherapy proved fruitless, and her mind became overwhelmed with thoughts of death as a way out of her ceaseless torment. The one last hope was electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the thought of which left her feeling frightened and totally helpless. Nevertheless, ECT alleviated her despair and began her recovery. Told in journal form, the events so sensitively and insightfully depicted here reveal how tenuous one’s connection to physical and mental well-being can be. Recommended for general readers.

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I am so grateful to Dr. Manning for her book, as it made me feel better about getting ECT when my time came.  I still had huge reservations, of course, but I was desperate.  (I also cover this issue in a prior blog post:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/are-you-shocked-that-i-got-shocked/

Tomorrow I will share Part Two of my favorite books with you…and mention a few I will be purchasing in the coming year that look really cool, unique and helpful.  Take care and if you are staying home due to inclement weather like I am, happy reading!