Why I Follow This Man’s Advice Even If I Don’t Feel Like It

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Psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

Surprise everyone! I’m not writing a rambling 3500 word post this week. Are you amazed? Grateful? I hope so! ūüėČ Consider it my early holiday gift to you…

Ever since we had a death in the family on¬†September 6th, it has been tough around here. I wasn’t close to my brother-in-law, but my husband loved his brother very much. Some of you know what it’s like to be around deep grief, and it’s hard. Plus the specific circumstances of this death were awful. ¬†

In the past an event like that could’ve easily triggered my depression, but I’ve been able to avoid it this time. ¬†I’ve felt sad,¬†overwhelmed, anxious,¬†yes, but the Big D? (I’ve stopped using the silly term “black dog”.)

No.

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Meet Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan  

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I first became familiar with Dr. Alsuwaidan’s work through the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (a.k.a. ISBD) as well as my blogging¬†friend Kitt O’Malley.

In 2014¬†Kitt provided her followers with a link to Dr. Alsuwaidan’s free ISBD webinar Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobiological Rationale. Her post caught my eye and I clicked on that link.

Here Dr. Alsuwaidan describes his webinar:

More recently, studies have demonstrated positive effects of exercise in mood disorders (primarily unipolar depression). What remains unclear is the underlying brain biology. What are the neurobiological deficits that occur in bipolar disorder? Do we have proof that exercise works at these levels to alter brain function? How do we translate laboratory evidence into clinical realities? These are some of the questions that are addressed during this webinar.

That blurb got my attention. I started listening.

http://www.isbd.org/education/webinar-series

I usually am so all over the place I can’t focus on webinars, but I’m so glad¬†I¬†paid attention¬†to that one.

While listening, something clicked. I started looking at exercise differently. This was profound, you see, because I’m a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer. That certification may sound flighty, but I assure you, it was hard-won.¬†I struggled more¬†studying for the A.C.E. exam than I did for my oral exam administered by a panel of literature professors in order to¬†graduate from the University of California!

I was so glad I passed my A.C.E. exam that when I opened up my results, I actually burst into tears…

In my mid-20’s I¬†worked in a French family-owned gym (i.e. a wacky place) for two years. When I wasn’t teaching 6:00 a.m. circuit training classes or training¬†members, I handed out towels to a future billionaire (the founder of Netflix),the editor-in-chief and writing staff of Santa Cruz’s biggest newspaper, and many cultured, cool residents. I opened the gym five days a week, and I noticed these movers and shakers, many of whom I got know well and who seemed genuinely happy, worked out every day.

Suffice it to say, I’m aware of exercise basics. ¬†But I didn’t know anything about exercise’s¬†potential for bipolar disorder¬†and achieving mood stability the way that Dr. Alsuwaidan did.

His webinar and blog post about what exactly to do, exercise-wise (which I share below with his permission) has changed my life. I don’t want to sound like a commercial for pigfeed that claims it cures bipolar, because this form¬†exercise is not a cure. I don’t burst into unicorn songs after each workout. But following Dr. Alsuwaidan’s advice helps keep me¬†from going down into my own personal¬†sinkhole, and I know you all understand the significance of¬†that.

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I work out almost daily, and life remains hard. But following these principles as much as I can makes me feel like I have some influence in dealing with a mental illness I despise.

If you’re struggling, I want you to join me now. I know it’s cold in most parts of the world, and it’s a particularly difficult time to begin working out – you can even complain to me about it here. I won’t bill you. Even¬†better, you can announce your¬†accomplishments to us. I’ll keep track of what you do and we’ll cheer you on.

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In the past I would’ve burned out exercising daily or near-daily. But now I know there’s something I can do¬†to truly help avoid suicide territory. If doing these workouts can help me avoid Dante’s Level 7, I’m going to do them.¬†

I have support in order to exercise and I advise you get some too.¬†Craig hangs out with the¬†kids while I work out at night. They can watch themselves now, but I feel better if he’s around them. Lucy is so cute- she comes in and hangs out with me; that poor collie has to listen to my loud 80’s music but she wants to – go figure. I used to be a morning workout person, but this schedule fits better for now.

What makes ALL the difference apart from support, my Kindle & music, is that I have a home elliptical machine. By the way, while¬†I love reading, friends tell me they can’t read on a machine or else it makes them dizzy/nauseous, but I hope you can try it, because it makes it much easier for me to exercise.

We’re going to pay Sears off for two more years for our elliptical, but that’s how it goes. I used to walk near the house, but this way the machine is right here, it’s safe to use at night, etc. Some friends¬†tell me they can’t afford any¬†exercise machine, yet I’ve noticed they buy all kinds of other things. So that’s something to consider. ¬†BUT there are other low-cost/no-cost options – you can also do a workout video or jump rope like Dr. Alsuwaidan has been known to do – he gives more suggestions below and in his webinar!

So here goes – even if you don’t listen to Dr. Alsuwaidan’s webinar, please read the following blog post. I’ll be really proud of you!

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s blog “Exercise & Mood Part 3: From Science to Action”

There is probably no one word that can sum up what people want in terms of emotional or mental health. Whether it be clients I meet in the clinic with a mood or anxiety disorder, or a friend or acquaintance asking for an opinion in a social setting, the theme of the question is common, but each one is different. However, I think there is one common thread that joins the questions and ONE word that captures 99% of what is ideally sought: STABILITY.

Those with recurring depressive episodes or mood swings want mood stability. Others with anxiety, nervousness or worry want calm stability. The frazzled, stressed, workaholics want relaxed stability. For many, achieving stability would make them happier, more productive, more sociable and have a better quality of life.

I don’t claim that exercise is the only way to achieve stability. There is no panacea. The correct treatment of all of the above situations is an individually tailored combination that could include medications, talk-therapy, lifestyle changes and other components but should ALWAYS include exercise.

Photo on 11-4-15 at 8.52 AM

Lucy barks, “I concur!”

Now let’s make the leap from the science we reviewed in the previous blog posts to action.

How do we ‚Äúdose‚ÄĚ exercise? What kind of exercise? What time should I exercise? For how long? How do I start and how do keep going?

For an easy reference I will summarize the answer in one sentence then explain the details and the fine tuning will come later. Remember here we are talking about the ‚Äėdosing‚Äô of exercise that changes the biology of the brain and not the number of packs in your abdominals! Although that might be a welcome side effect‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚Ääif you are trying to achieve that, talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY.

Photo on 2014-11-29 at 17.59 #2

Where the magic happens….I read many of your blogs on my Kindle; that’s why I don’t comment too much!

Exercise for 30 minutes 6 days a week at a high-impact level.

That’s it Рsimple, right?

Okay, okay, I know it is not that easy. So let me explain further by breaking it down into 3 rules.

Rule #1‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚ÄäExercise:¬†For brain health, the exercise can be any type that suits you. It does NOT have to be weight-lifting or running on a treadmill. You do NOT have to go to a gym or use a workout DVD. Do any exercise that you enjoy. Swim, run, hike, climb, lift weights, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling and on and on. Adapt the exercise to your body if your capacity is limited by physical needs or injuries, but anyone can do some sort of exercise unless you are fully paralyzed.

Rule #2‚Äď30 minutes 6 days a week:¬†The bottom-line is that the research shows this is the average of the dose needed for the brain to adapt. Now, let‚Äôs break this rule down. First reactions are usually‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚Ää6 days?! That‚Äôs a lot! Yes it is, but we are only asking for¬†30 minutes. Think about it, how many hours a day do you sit at the internet or TV? 30 minutes is very short.

Dyane adds: “For those who usually work out an hour, the below section is the really important part to follow for long-term success!

In fact, DON’T do more than 30 minutes (unless you have a routine and have been doing this for years). Doing more will lead to inconsistency and skipping workout days. The science shows it is far better (at least for the brain) to be consistent in exercising most days of the week rather than spending an hour exercising 2 or 3 days a week. In fact, for you gym-goers if you think about it (and research also supports this) if you are spending more than 30 minutes at the gym then you are chatting and resting too much.

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(photo added by Dyane)

Thirty minutes makes it harder to come up with excuses such as: There is no time! or I’m too busy! If you work a lot or travel, find 30 minutes to do some stretches, pushups, air-squats, jumping jacks etc. 30 focused minutes is all you need, Done! Six days too much? Fine Рfive days is the absolute minimum, but better to aim for 6 so that if you fall short then you have a day to save for later.

Rule # 3‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚ÄäHigh Impact:¬†For the scientists reading this that is 16 kcal/kg/week. What?? English please! Okay, so here is how I explain high-impact to people: For most of the 30 minutes you’re exercising you should be sweating and it should be difficult to speak in complete sentences without needing to catch your breath. This means you work hard for 30 minutes, then you are done. Walking doesn‚Äôt count unless it meets the criteria above. Commuting does not count! That is your normal energy expenditure. Remember we are trying to change the brain, and you can‚Äôt do that without effort.

Last few tips:

  • You can exercise anytime in the day that fits your schedule. I find first thing in the morning works best because it is the time of day with the least demands on your schedule. Plus there is evidence this timing may have a more efficient effect than other timings. If it means you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier, then do it and just sleep 30 minutes earlier at night. No big deal. But if it doesn‚Äôt work just exercise at any time that‚Äôs the most important thing. Get it done.
  • You can either start slow and build up to 6 days a week over a number of weeks or just pick a week and start. If you have started and stopped exercise routines in the past you’ll find this one is easier to maintain because it is more flexible. You can do anything as long as you break a sweat. Jumping rope is great if you don‚Äôt have a lot of equipment and can‚Äôt go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it‚Äôs only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
  • If you skip days and don‚Äôt exercise at least 5 days in a week don‚Äôt be discouraged and go back down to zero. Just start again. It is normal to stumble. I do all the time. The important thing is to keep the 30 minutes 6 days a week in your head and keep as close to that as you can. But the closer you are to that ‚Äėdose‚Äô the better the result will be.

Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan is a specialist psychiatrist at Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital in Kuwait and an Assisstant Professor of Psychiatry at both Kuwait University and the University of Toronto. He has trained at the University of Toronto, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. More information at http://about.me/MoAlsuwaidan

Here’s the¬†direct link to Dr. Alsuwaidan’s Medium.com site & blog:

https://medium.com/@MoAlsuwaidan

Twitter: @moalsuwaidan

Dyane‚Äôs memoir¬†Birth of a New Brain ‚Äď Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder¬†with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book¬†Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women‚Äôs Stories of Trauma and Growth)¬†will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

Post Hill

Starting to Freak About the Catamaran Writing Conference

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Yes, I’m beginning to feel nervous about leaving my cozy comfort bubble to attend the¬†2015 Catamaran Writers Conference at Pebble Beach. I certainly won’t let my freakiness stop me from going to¬†such an incredible-sounding event. But I’m definitely intimidated about hobnobbing with established writers, not to mention some famous ones. It’s not like I’m a writing neophyte. I have a book deal with Post Hill Press, but I’m not exactly Karen Joy Fowler (our keynote speaker and the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction) either.

I’m daunted at the prospect of having my writing critiqued by a group, but that’s the primary reason I’m attending. I want a fresh perspective about my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder; specifically I want feedback about Chapter One, the material I submitted for our class to review. An acclaimed memoirist/memoir instructor, Frances Lefkowitz, will discuss her take on my chapter and I’ll gain insights¬†from my classmates as well.¬†

The last time I was away from my family for more than a day was in 2013. That summer I was hospitalized three times after I slowly, slowly tapered off lithium and relapsed into bipolar depression/suicidal ideation. I admitted myself into Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, a.k.a. CHOMP. (I’ve always found that to be a bizarre acronym; CHOMP¬†reminds me of a vicious shark – no offense to shark lovers!) ¬†While there I requested bilateral ECT (electroshock treatment/electroconvulsive therapy) which brought me up to a functioning level. I have no regrets about ECT and consider it a lifesaver. However, my bipolar depression didn’t go away until I began taking lithium and my MAOI (monoamine oxidase¬†inhibitor) Parnate that fall.¬†

Ironically CHOMP is located very close to the Catamaran Writers Conference site, but I’m determined not to darken its doors unless I suffer from severe writer’s cramp or the like. My meds are doing their job, thank God, and I’m still working out almost every day “Alsuwaidan Style“. ¬†

I think that sometimes after we suffer so much trauma, it’s hard to fully accept the “happy stuff” that comes our way. A part of me feels that this conference¬†is too good¬†to be true. Moreover, thoughts of “I’m not worthy! My writing sucks and it’s not worthy either!” have floated through my mind.

I’ll do my best to let my negative perceptions pass through my brain, and focus on breathing in the fresh ocean air that permeates the campus. My past anxiety crutches of booze and¬†benzos are no longer an option. As hippy dippy as this may sound, I’m going to turn to nature and sweat to help me grapple with my assorted¬†heebie jeebies. There’s a gym I will use on campus, and there are group hiking activities and other outdoor field trips (i.e. to gorgeous Tor House, home of Robinson Jeffers, a John Steinbeck tour, and exploring sites that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson, i.e. China Cove and Pelican Point ) for the writers.

I can also blog about my angst to you, right? I’ll have my laptop ¬†and WiFi by my side, and I’ll let you know how it all pans out. ¬†ūüôā

XoXo,

Dyane

p.s. It’s not too late to join me! August 1st is the registration deadline.¬†Sign up at¬†

http://catamaranliteraryreader.com/conference-2015/

 

Here are a few hideous campus shots! ūüėČ

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And the atrocious area of Pebble Beach & China Cove!

Pebble-Beach-California

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My Seroquel Spider Belly, Memoirstipation & Buh-Bye!

(TW – Seemingly superficial topics but please read this anyway!)

Happy Thursday, my friends!

It has been over a month since my last 25 mg Seroquel pill. I’ve been able to get to sleep without medication¬†again, which is cause for celebration! I first started taking quetiapine, the generic version of Seroquel, in 2013 for for severe, agitated¬†insomnia. It has been an enormous help, but¬†it was time¬†to taper off it because I wasn’t happy with my chronic daytime grogginess. I wanted to see if I could live and sleep comfortably without the med, and my pdoc gave me his blessing to go for it.

I think I’m getting the medication¬†out of my system. Who knows for sure, but I don’t feel an icky withdrawal sensation anymore. I stopped belting out the Seroquel Blues song. The only Seroquel-related bummer that remains is this:
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Ever since I started taking Seroquel, my stomach took on¬†a very high¬†concentration of fat¬†glorious adipose tissue.¬†I’ve never had this style of weight gain happen before except when I was pregnant. There’s no way I’m growing a Frankenbaby, but I look about four months pregnant and that feels very disconcerting.

I’ve been ruminating about the¬†villain¬†Typhon Cutter from my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle’s book¬†The Arm of the Starfish. L’Engle writes, “Typhon Cutter looked even more like a spider than Adam remembered. It seemed incredible that this obese mass with the stringy appendages could possibly be father to the beautiful girl at his side.”

While I’m not obese (at 5’6″, I’m 152 pounds of pure bipolar goodness) my metabolism has obviously been affected adversely by the powerful drug. 152 pounds¬†would be¬†perfectly acceptable¬†except for this quadruple muffin top hanging out of my stretched-out jeans. Due to my twisted Los Angeles upbringing, I don’t breathe well because I have an awful habit of sucking¬†in my stomach.¬†

The bottom line is that¬†I feel gross and unhealthy despite my consistent Dr. Alsuwaidan-style * workouts. I’m a former A.C.E.-certified personal trainer and I know the most important thing¬†I need to do aside from discuss this in therapy. I need to eat much healthier foods than what I’m currently inhaling. However, I haven’t hit that lovely rock-bottom point that motivates profound, lasting change.

My weight gain certainly hasn’t been all Seroquel’s fault. I have a fierce gelato addiction. There are so many damn delicious gelatos and a myriad of Willy Wonka-esque, enticing flavors available. (Bourbon caramel chocolate, anyone?Ahhh!) Check out¬†https://ciaobellagelato.com)

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It’s just not right. But I’m working on this issue because I want more energy.

I’ve lost bipolar med weight before. I did it in a healthy way, mind you! No starving for this foodie chick. 60 pounds worth! The equivalent of a five-year-old child was lost from my frame,¬†which is pretty freaky. But my weight problem wasn’t connected with Seroquel and I think the 10-15 pounds I’d like to lose now will be tougher due to whatever Seroquel did to¬†my metabolism. So we shall see, and I’ll keep you posted.

In book writing news, it’s sucking heavily, my dears. ¬†My publisher doesn’t read this blog, and even if someone there¬†did read it, I’m not worried. At least I have my book’s 200 page “skeleton” written. (Thanks, Natalie Goldberg, for planting your¬†Writing Down the Bones idea into¬†my brain twenty nine years ago!) However, a humongous amount of work is still in order.¬†

Due to our family’s summer schedule and my malaise, I haven’t written much. I’ve been constipated in terms of writing. I’ve coined the silly term “memoirstipation” because as far as I know, no one else has coined it, so I’m claiming it now. Gotta clear out the pipes! At least my¬†manuscript deadline is motivating me to complete this project. The main¬†reason why I sent out the proposal was actually to be given a deadline and pressure! It’s a mixed blessing, especially when I wake up at 4:00 a.m. freaking out about it.

I have the Catamaran Writers Conference coming up in August¬†as another way that will require me to get my act together. The feedback¬†will¬†be invaluable – I know that I’m going to get 99.9% criticism and that’s okay. I’ll bring a extra-large box of tissues. ūüėČ

Perhaps as I lose a bit of the Seroquel belly, I’ll feel more fired up to write.¬†

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This is not end-of-the-world stuff, and yes, it’s a first-world problem, but nevertheless I’d like to say buh-bye to my Seroquel belly!

And speaking of buh-bye’s, I found a clip on YouTube that made me laugh. You might not think it’s as hilarious as I do since I was raised in L.A., but it’s fun to watch such an awkward spectacle. Stay with it for the Betty White/Bradley Cooper moment if nothing else. Keep in mind lots of Angelenos like to explain in boring, ludicrous detail the tedious routes they drive. Here’s a summary:

The Californians (Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Laraine Newman, Kenan Thompson, Betty White, Taylor Swift) reunite and get some surprising news about their pool boy Craig (Bradley Cooper – I’m not quite sure what he was on in this skit). Plus, David Spade (reprising his role as the original Buh-Bye Man) and Cecily Strong¬†bring the sketch to an abrupt end.

THE CALIFORNIANS – SNL 40th SPECIAL “BUH-BYE”

I grew up in West L.A., and this is how people really talk there…and it’s true, lots of them primp in the mirror every two minutes. See you next week, lovies!

Dyane

* This is what I do every day & it totally helps my mood, no matter how chunky my belly is! 

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

The Seroquel Withdrawal Blues

Let me tell you a little story

(da da da da dum)

About the Seroquel blues

(da da da da dum)

Those pills are mighty powerful stuff

and they’ll make you constantly snooze

(da da da da dum)

Seroquel was my blessing and my curse

And ever since I said bye bye

(da da da da dum)

I’ve been sufferin’ the Seroquel blues

The withdrawals been making me cry

(da da da da dum)

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(We meant to practice this a lot more for your sake, but, uh, obviously we didn’t. I can’t believe Lucy didn’t howl in protest. My apologies.)

Out of all the bipolar meds I’ve taken, the effects of the controversial antipsychotic Seroquel have been twofold. This drug has been my true blessing and also a total pain in the ass.

(A pain in the brain is more like it!)

I could easily write a 2000-word post about quetiapine (the generic form of Seroquel), but I’ll spare you and write around 1000 words¬†as I have my memoir Birth of a New Brain¬†to write.¬†

In 2013 my psychiatrist prescribed quetiapine for my hideous, agitated insomnia that hit me out of nowhere. ¬†I filled my prescription but I kept putting off taking my first pill because I was scared of the potential side effects. It wasn’t likely that my head would fall off after taking quetiapine, and I probably wouldn’t start speaking in tongues, but I was plain-old-spooked.

Well, I finally became so desperate that I took the quetiapine and it totally helped me, so much so that I will never tell anyone¬†not to try this stuff if they’re seriously considering it.

Yes, I had major daytime grogginess and yes, that sucked, but suffering with that side effect was worth it since I finally got my all-important sleep. 

My¬†other side effects were weight gain (15 pounds since Fall, 2013) and some late night hunger. Since I worked out every day the “Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way”* I wasn’t too worried about an extra fifteen pounds. As a former certified personal trainer, I knew I could lose the weight safely when I simply committed to improving my diet.

Extra adipose tissue a.k.a. blubber has been something I was able to live with for the time being. Quetiapine also caused me to have trippy, vivid and disturbing dreams Рnot nightmares, exactly, but not feel-good/warm fuzzy dreams either.

I also believe that Seroquel may have triggered a weird phenomenon that lasted about nine months. I felt totally inspired to write regularly, and I blogged almost every day. I fell in love with writing all over again.

I remained responsible. I took care of the girls, and I didn’t alarm my husband by writing at all hours of the night as I did when I was hypomanic/manic and hypergraphic. (My hypergraphia will be explained in my¬†book!) ūüėČ

Every morning I woke up, I got the kids dressed and fed, and I drove them to school. I returned home to write for a few hours without fail.¬†I wasn’t manic, but it definitely seemed like my brain was firing unusually, that’s for sure. I can’t think of another explanation for¬†why this sudden burst of writing happened because the only thing I did differently was add quetiapine.

My psychiatrist didn’t think the medication caused any kind of mania either. ¬†I don’t know. Could this¬†have been a seasonal affective disorder of some kind? Maybe. But when I reduced my quetiapine¬†dosage, my daily writing compulsion and my highly creative juices dwindled. ¬†I was still creative and I still wrote, but my need to write was¬†nowhere nearly as intense as it was before. ¬†My intuition was that I had to reduce the (relatively) high dosage of 100 mg/night of quetiapine and not stay at 100mg for the sake of my writing habit and drive.¬†

So with my psychiatrist’s blessing, over the past year¬†I tapered down to 25 mg a night of Seroquel. Even though 25 mg sounds tiny, it’s not! I’ve still felt groggy during the day,¬†and I wanted to see if I could sleep without relying upon Seroquel. ¬†I don’t know how people can open an eye at 800/mg a day of this stuff – that just shows how different we all are.

It turns out that I can sleep on my own once more! ¬†Hurrah! I’ve been off quetiapine¬†for over three weeks. ¬†However, if I need to take it again I won’t hesitate. I added a $9 magnesium supplement (manufactured by Source Naturals, a reputable company located in my town) and it seems to help me with sleep too. I’ve used lavender essential oil off and on, which is safe and it always helps me (a least a little bit) when it comes to insomnia.

I’ve read that it can take weeks or months for a quetiapine withdrawal period to run its course. I’m not allowing myself to surf endlessly on the¬†internet about it because God knows I’ve done that before, and in this case I think it’s a total waste of time.

What matters most is that each day I feel a little better. I can sense the Seroquel withdrawal blues slowly dissipating. ¬†I’m more alert and my freaky dreams are gone. My “Seroquel belly” is even shrinking a tiny bit.

I’ll have more to report on the withdrawal front next Thursday or Friday. If you’re tapering off a med or suffering some withdrawal blues of your own, good luck and feel free to vent your heart away here.

Until then, take care, and thanks for reading!  

XOXO

Dyane

* Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders webinar that (sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you ) totally changed my life! ¬†Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobioloigcal Rational

http://isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief post. This article contains simple¬†“exercise for mood” guidelines I follow religiously every day.

View at Medium.com

My husband was so convinced that my Alsuwaidan routine has helped my mood that when my exercise machine broke, he went out to Sears that same day (despite being swamped with work) and he got me a better machine. (I know I’m lucky!)

Yes, I could’ve gone walking or hiking or jumped rope or walked up and down the stairs, but he knew how much I loved using my elliptical. I believe my Schwinn is worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate.

Happy Birthday to Us!

Today, March 18th, my beautiful puppy Lucy turns one while I turn forty-five. I love the fact that we share a birthday!  

Being forty-five seems¬†rather bizarre, because in a lot of ways I still feel like I’m fourteen. ¬†

As my favorite American author Madeleine L’Engle said,

“‚ÄúThe great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.‚ÄĚ

In case you missed it, here I am with¬†Madeleine L’Engle at¬†a writer’s conference at a Santa Barbara monastery. ¬†This photo was taken when I was the tender age of 27, a decade before my postpartum bipolar one diagnosis.

Dy and L'Engle 2

 

So here I am having another birthday. ¬†Just as I felt at age fourteen and all the other ages, I’m hoping that something unexpected and magical happens today. ¬†But I just realized that something magical and unexpected¬†did¬†happen exactly one year ago that would affect my forty-fifth birthday and hopefully many more.

This special event occurred last year when Lucy was born on my forty-fourth birthday!  

Pisces girls unite!

looooovFurry SiblingsLucy’s brothersMom Layla & Dad

Lucy’s Mom and Dad¬†

 

My birthday will never feel complete since my Dad isn’t alive to wish me a happy day in his resonant voice, and play me the birthday song on his violin. ¬†Since that can’t happen, I’ll sing¬†a song by a couple of guys named Paul McCartney and John Lennon to Lucy today:

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can’t get more worse)
I have to admit it’s getting better (Better)
It’s getting better since you’ve been mine” ¬†

“Getting Better”, The Beatles

For those of you who’ve been kind enough to read this blog, you know that my¬†past year has had its share of shit. ¬†I suffered two “mini-relapses” due to sleep deprivation. ¬†Some other challenging situations cropped up that I didn’t exactly handle with aplomb. ¬†But I’m determined to make this next year better, and the year after that one even better. ¬†

I’m making up for many chunks of lost time. ¬†Time that stolen by my¬†evil bipolar depression. ¬†

I’m working hard to (I hate this phrase, but I’ll use it anyway) practice self-care.¬†What’s my version of self-care? Part of my laundry list includes exercising the Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way*, getting enough sleep, family time, taking meds religiously, and laughing at Alpura Dancing Cows. and anything else funny. (I loved watching Russell Brand’s Messiah Complex¬†over the weekend!) ¬†My new support group for women with mood disorders rocks. ¬†And how could I forget mentioning Lucy?

Lucy. ¬†She’s the hound of a lifetime. I’m so used to referring to her as a puppy, but she’s a dog now. ¬†My children and I adore her, and the feeling seems mutual, but she worships alpha male Craig, so he can’t resist her charms either. ¬†I thank God for this beast every day. ¬†It’s not easy to take good, responsible care of a dog – my last two dogs Tara and Shera were with me for fifteen years to the end, when they both died in my arms… but she’s worth it. ¬†I held Lucy when she was eight-weeks-old in a way similar to how I held my newborns. I gently cuddled her with reverence and a deep, pure love. ¬†

While it might be nice to win the California SuperLotto Plus, land a book contract with a great publisher, or win a session with the kooky Long Island Medium, I have my family: Craig, my girls and my angel with paws, Miss Lucy.  

I wish you all an unexpected birthday gift that you’ll treasure the rest of your life; something awesome such as my furry girl. ¬†

Have a great day, friends!

Dyane

 

 

 

 

* http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

Earthquakes & Tsunamis of the Soul & How to Move On

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 This sign is located less than seven miles from where I reside.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a great fear of tsunamis. ¬†I grew up less than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean. ¬†I frequently discussed my tsunami terrors with my father who shared my fascination with the killer waves. ¬†He always assured me that if a tsunami struck nearby, it would fill up the large Las Pulgas¬†Canyon (The Fleas Canyon!) that our home overlooked long before the water could possibly reach us. ¬†Dad’s confident explanation soothed me, although I continued to have nightmares about giant waves over the next few decades.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have the same obsession with another force of nature that occurred where I lived: earthquakes. ¬†The Los Angeles earthquakes I felt as a child didn’t frighten me. Those jolts were nothing¬†compared to what I experienced while living in Santa Cruz during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The quake, which lasted only fifteen¬†seconds, was 6.1 on the Richter scale, and it caused massive destruction and death around the Bay Area. ¬†I started fearing earthquakes after that day. ¬†

Last night while browsing on the IMDB website¬†to see what was new, I couldn’t believe my eyes. ¬†I spotted a preview of an upcoming summer blockbuster containing both tsunamis and earthquakes made to the tune of 100 million dollars! ¬†(That’s a disgusting amount, I know.)

The film’s title said it all in big, bold scary-looking font:

SAN ANDREAS

As a film buff, I squealed in both fear and excitement! ¬†I called out to my husband Craig, a certified engineering geologist, and asked him to define what the San Andreas was, exactly. ¬†He explained¬†that the¬†“San Andreas Fault is a major break in the earth’s surface running¬†hundreds of miles along the California coast. It’s a boundary between two tectonic plates: the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.” Craig¬†laughed when he saw the following preview, as he said the most shocking scenes are virtually impossible.

After 26 years, I’ve forgotten how truly terrifying the Loma Prieta quake really felt; I know I was frightened enough to sleep in my Jetta that night. I worried that my old apartment building would fall¬†upon me. Ninety minutes north of where I lived, the quake caused an entire upper section of the Nimitz Freeway to collapse upon drivers on its lower section, crushing them to death. ¬†Newspaper images of the scene haunted me for months.

However, I was fortunate to have no losses – none of my loved ones perished, and I didn’t have a loss of property. ¬†

I was able to get over my immobilizing fear relatively quickly, unlike an earthquake of the soul.

My inner earthquake, if you will, was my 2007 postpartum bipolar diagnosis and my unremitting, severe depression over the past eight years.

When you haven’t been able to trust your brain for a long time, there’s a residual trauma – at least there has been for me. ¬†Now, I’m not saying I’m a hopeless case, and if you’re suffering right now with bipolar disorder, you’re not a hopeless case either. ¬†

Our lives won’t turn into sweetness and light, but there can be real improvement. ¬†I’m starting to see that I can keep bipolar disorder from destroying me like a giant wave or a megaquake. There are steps I’m now able to take so I can keep my bipolar depression at arm’s length. ¬†

I was able to feel glimmers of hope only once I found medications that worked for me. I tried well over 25 medications and I had two different rounds of ECT, both unilateral and bilateral, before I was fortunate enough to find effective medications. 

“That’s all well and good, but how can I improve my life?” you might ask.

Here’s my list of suggestions – they might seem familiar to some of you as I’ve written about some of them before.

1) Medication – keep working with your psychiatrist to find something that helps you. Believe me when I say I know how hard it is to be on the med train. ¬†It’s hell. ¬†But please persevere. ¬†(To those who are anti-meds, go away! ¬†Just kidding. I’d like you to know I’ve been in your shoes.¬†The truth of the matter is that a very small percentage of the bipolar population can live well without meds. ¬†I’ve read it’s 10-15%. ¬†I thought I could beat those odds, but I almost died. ¬†I’ll take meds until there’s a cure for bipolar.) ¬†

So yes….meds.

2) Consistent¬†check-in appointments with preferably a psychiatrist, or your medication prescriber. ¬†(I know how tough it is to find a doctor who’s skilled *and* kind, but don’t shortchange yourself. ¬†Try to find someone who treats you with respect.)

3) 6-7 ¬†days a week of vigorous exercise for thirty minutes; whatever you choose, you must break a sweat and not be able to carry on a conversation!¬†¬†I now regard exercise as important as taking¬†medication – in fact, I look at exercise at my 4th “medication”. ¬†(I take lithium, Parnate & Seroquel.) The brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan has studied the efficacy of this routine. ¬†He attests that his patients are profoundly helped by working out this way, and he has told me it’s the “missing link” for those with bipolar depression. ¬†I’ll be interviewing him later this spring about this topic for the latest, but this is plenty to go on for now. ¬†In the meantime, please read his brief post for more details about why you need to work it:

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/  

imgres-1Dr. Alsuwaidan – he practices what he preaches, and works out 6-7 days/week too, even after he’s exhausted from seeing bipolar patients all day long!

4) Therapy if at all possible

5) Social support Рeither in person through a support group, a friend, or online.  I consider our blogging community to be a key part of my social support. I love you guys!  

6) Relatively healthy diet and no or minimum alcohol. ¬†I can’t drink alcohol due to my MAOI Parnate and my liver and brain are the better off for it.¬†

7) A pet. ¬†I don’t care if it’s “just” a hermit crab or hamster. ¬†A pet to give you unconditional love and for you to care about, who will keep you company. ¬†

8) Bibliotherapy – reading takes me to my happy place and I bet it does for you too; it’s also supposed to be healing and superhealthy for our brains! ¬†

9) Being out in nature, even for just a few minutes on your doorstep looking at plants, each day.  

10) Light. ¬†I use an old Sunbox (sunbox.com) for 1/2 an hour in the morning and it really does help. ¬†Sometimes you can get your insurance to reimburse for one if you have a doctor’s note. ¬†You can also use sunscreen and sit out in the sun like a lizard! My puppy Lucy loves to¬†sit out in the sun despite her thick, honey-colored coat – she’s so cute.

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I’m sorry this became another novella. ¬†I keep telling myself to write posts under 500 words. ¬†I know that I usually prefer to read posts around that length, and I know most of you probably do as well. ¬† Oh well. ¬†Give me another chance. ¬†Next Friday I’ll shoot for 500 words or less! Miracles can happen!

In the meantime, have a good weekend, everyone. ¬†I hope you can all do something that brings you a real smile. ¬†Want to make me smile, for real? ¬†Go do an “Alsuwaidan-style workout” and tell me about it in the comments. ¬†Sweat is the best makeup!

XOXO

Dyane 

  

The Peer Support Group ROCKED!

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Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

The peer support group was a wonderful experience for everyone!!!

I just had to let you guys know how it went right away! Knowing that some of you in various corners of the world have been rooting & even lighting candles for me/the group has been nothing short of precious! (I will never be able to think of that word again without thinking of LOTR! – the awesome blogger McKarlie would most likely agree with me on that point!) I could not have done this without the encouragement and help of a local, dark chocolate-loving friend who I shall call “Anonymous”.

I’m going to keep this post short…well, I can’t just post that teeny bit. I must also let you know that even though I’m wiped out from hosting, I get a mysterious slight second wind at this time of day (5:30 p.m.) – it’s Exercise Time! I know in my gut that there’s no way I could pull the support group off without my daily dose of exercise per Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidelines! (I’ll be sharing his information with the support group, of course.)

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidance, which is from his blog at http://www.kuwaitmood.com, has become my credo. If you haven’t read this yet, please read it. Ask me any questions in the comments, as I’m a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and while I’m not a pdoc, I know a thing or two about exercise for mood stability/improvement! Okay, that’s more than enough for this week. Off I go to sweat to INXS on Pandora!

:))) Dyane

EXERCISE & MOOD – From Science to Action by the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

There is probably no one word that can sum up what people want in terms of emotional or mental health. Whether it be clients I meet in the clinic with a mood or anxiety disorder or a friend or acquaintance asking for an opinion in a social setting, the theme of the question is common but each one is different. However I think there is one common thread that joins the questions and ONE word that captures 99% of what is ideally sought STABILITY.
Those with recurring depressive episodes or mood swings want mood stability. Others with anxiety, nervousness or worry want calm stability. The frazzled, stressed, workaholics want relaxed stability. For many achieving stability would make them happier, more productive, more sociable and have a better quality of life. I don’t claim that exercise is the only way to achieve stability. There is no panacea. The correct treatment of all of the above situations is an individually tailored combination that could include medications, talk-therapy, lifestyle changes and other components but should ALWAYS include exercise.
Now let‚Äôs make the leap from the science we reviewed in the previous blog posts to action. How do we ‚Äúdose‚ÄĚ exercise? What kind of exercise? What time should I exercise? For how long? How do I start and how do keep going?
For an easy reference I will summarize the answer in one sentence then explain the details and the Ô¨Āne tuning will come later. Remember here we are talking about the ‚Äėdosing‚Äô of exercise that changes the biology of the brain and not the number of packs in your Abs! Although that might be a welcome side effect ‚Äď if you are trying to achieve that talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY. ! ! ! Exercise for 30 minutes 6 days a week at a high-impact level. ! ! That‚Äôs it simple, right? Ok ok I know it is not that easy. So let me explain further by breaking it down into 3 rules.
Rule #1
– Exercise: For brain health exercise can be any type that suits you. It does NOT have to be weight-lifting or running on a treadmill. You do NOT have to go to a gym or use a workout DVD. Do any exercise that you enjoy. Swim, run, hike, climb, lift weights, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling and on and on. Adapt the exercise to your body if your capacity is limited by physical needs or injuries, but anyone can do some sort of exercise unless you are fully paralyzed.
Rule #2
‚Äď 30 minutes 6 days a week: The bottom-line is that the research shows this is the average of the dose needed for the brain to adapt. Now let‚Äôs break this rule down. First reactions are usually ‚Äď 6 days?! That‚Äôs a lot! Yes it is, but we are only asking for 30 minutes. Think about it, how many hours a day do you sit at the internet or TV? 30 minutes is very short. In fact, DON‚ÄôT do more than 30 minutes (unless you have a routine and have been doing this for years). Doing more will lead to inconsistency and skipping workout days. The science shows it is far better (at least for the brain) to be consistent in exercising most days of the week rather than spending an hour exercising 2 or 3 days a week. In fact, for you gym-goers if you think about it (and research also supports this) if you are spending more than 30 minutes at the gym then your are chatting and resting too much. Thirty minutes makes it harder to come up with excuses such as: There is no time! or I‚Äôm too busy! If you work a lot or travel Ô¨Ānd 30 minutes to do some stretches, pushups, air-squats, jumping jacks etc. 30 focused minutes is all you need, Done! Six days too much? Fine Ô¨Āve days is the absolute minimum, but better to aim for 6 so that if you fall short then you have a day to save for later.
Rule # 3
– High Impact: For the scientists reading this that is 16 kcal/kg/week. What?? English please! Ok so here is how I explain high-impact to people: For most of the 30 minutes you are exercising you should be sweating and it should be difÔ¨Ācult to speak in complete sentences without needing to catch your breath. This means you work hard for 30 minutes then you are done. Walking doesn‚Äôt count unless it meets the criteria above. Commuting does not count! That is your normal energy expenditure. Remember we are trying to change the brain and you can‚Äôt do that without effort.
Last few tips:
‚ÄĘ You can exercise anytime in the day that Ô¨Āts your schedule. I Ô¨Ānd Ô¨Ārst thing in the morning works best because it is the time of day with the least demands on your schedule. Plus there is evidence this timing may have a more efÔ¨Ācient effect than other timings. If it means you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier then do it and just sleep 30 minutes earlier at night. No big deal. But if it doesn‚Äôt work just exercise at any time that‚Äôs the most important thing. Get it done.
‚ÄĘ You can either start slow and build up to 6 days a week over a number of weeks or just pick a week and start. If you have started and stopped exercise routines in the past you will Ô¨Ānd this one is easier to maintain because it is more Ô¨āexible. You can do anything as long as you break a sweat. Jumping rope is great if you don‚Äôt have a lot of equipment and can‚Äôt go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it‚Äôs only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
‚ÄĘ If you skip days and don‚Äôt exercise at least 5 days in a week don‚Äôt be discouraged and go back down to zero. Just start again. It is normal to stumble. I do all the time.
The important thing is to keep the 30 minutes 6 days a week in your head and keep as close to that as you can. But the closer you are to that ‚Äėdose‚Äô the better the result will be.

– Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

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