Draggin’, Green Cupcakes & Climb Out of the Darkness

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I am draggin’ today.  The weather is gloomy, and while I’m not depressed (Thank you GOD, thank you GOD. Always thank you GOD for that one!) I’m feeling lethargic and anxious for no good reason except perhaps existentially-speaking.  It’s just one of those days where I’ve become banana slug-like.

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(Here’s a sluggish side-note.  I live in banana slug heaven: Santa Cruz County, California. U.C. Santa Cruz, the college I graduated from, boasts none other than the banana slug as its mascot.  Banana slugs love to creep and crawl where I live up in the redwoods, especially on a rainy day like today.  They are not dangerous, so that’s good – just slimy.)

So on this day of apathy what do I do?

I commit to participating in not one, but two special events taking place within the next two months.

May is Mental Health Month and its theme is “Mind Your Health”.  (Kinda cute…)  I was reminded of that early this morning when I groggily attended an online meeting of the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Council.  Our facilitator was Ashley Jacobs, the Director of Operations for the International Bipolar Foundation.  At the close of our meeting Ashley asked if any of us would be participating in Mental Health Month-related activities.   There was a resounding silence; out of nowhere I felt my mouth open and I spurted out, “I could make green cupcakes with green fondant ribbons symbolizing mental health, and sell them somewhere!  The proceeds would go to the International Bipolar Foundation!”

“That’s a great idea!” Ashley replied.

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Some backstory is helpful here.  Ashley and I have worked together for some time, and she edits my weekly blog for the International Bipolar Foundation.  She diligently answers my plethora of IBPF-related questions, never judging me for their sometimes-strange content.   Apart from IBPF topics, we’ve emailed one another about baking, specifically cupcakes.

Ashley knows that my daughter Avonlea is going through a cupcake-obsessed phase.  I’ve emailed Ashley photos of our cupcake creations (mostly failures, I hate to admit) that Avi and I have toiled upon.  Ashley has given me links to amazing baking websites to inspire us.  Ashley is pro-cupcake.

Green frosting is a bit sketchy, as I’m not thrilled with using yucky artificial food coloring.  There are natural (costlier) alternative colorings, however, and I’ll consider buying one  – but they’re three times the price of regular food coloring.  I also feel conflicted about selling sugary treats instead of healthier ones, but green vegan banana bread won’t cut it.  I need to figure out where to set up my table, and I’ll contact our local paper for free advertising, and give it a go.

The other event, “Climb Out of the Darkness”,  is connected with Postpartum Progress, an amazing non-profit founded by women’s maternal health advocate Katherine Stone.  Stone describes this annual event, the only one of its kind, on her Postpartum Progress website:

“It’s the world’s largest event raising awareness of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and OCD, postpartum psychosis and pregnancy depression and anxiety. The event was created by and benefits Postpartum Progress Inc., a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that raises awareness and supports pregnant and new moms with maternal mental illness.

Women around the world participate in this grassroots event by going on a hike, climb or walk outside on the longest day of the year (June 21st) to shine a light on PPD and related illnesses. The event is open to anyone and everyone who supports our cause. Anyone can participate, as long as they register, and registration is free.”

A few days ago I commented on the Postpartum Progress Facebook page.  I wrote that I’d love to be involved in the Climb by producing a large-scale walk in my town in 2015, not 2014.  I added that I have experience in special event production and I’d want a full year to plan the event.

I forced myself to mention that in order for me to take part, I’d like my postpartum mood disorder (postpartum bipolar disorder/PPBD) to eventually be added to Postpartum Progress’ list of maternal mood disorders before the June, 2015 climb.  (I’ve bolded the currently displayed postpartum disorders in the Climb description above .)

I’ve wanted PPBD to be recognized by Postpartum Progress for a while.  When the Postpartum Progress content editor Cristi Comes (Motherhood Unadorned) gave me the chance to write about my PPBD experience for the website, I jumped at it.  If PPBD was acknowledged by Postpartum Progress, I could truly put my heart and soul into my efforts. I want my mood disorder to be represented, ya know?)  It’s a perfectly reasonable request, I think.

After noticing that I wished to hold off until 2015, Katherine commented asking me, “Why not start out this year?”  I paused for a moment.  Then I reviewed the Postpartum Progress Climb website more closely  and I realized that I didn’t have to organize a big, ol event in less than sixty days.  (By the way, I could have joined another Climb group, but the closest one is too far away from me for my comfort.)

This June 21, the Climb date, it can all be very simple.  I won’t have to gather up a bunch of people.  There are three ways to participate, and of them is that I can walk as an individual.  I can involve my family and friends (and hopefully my new puppy!!) if I choose.  That’s the perfect way for me to get crackin’.  I registered a few minutes ago, and if you’d like to sponsor me, please visit this link:

http://www.crowdrise.com/dyaneharwood-COTD2014/fundraiser/dyaneharwood

My two daughters donated the contents of their piggy banks, and my husband donated too!

Thanks, as always, for reading, and I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Dyane

 

For more information about the Climb Out of the Darkness event and Mental Health month, please visit:

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

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

 

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!

Schadenfreude & Gwyneth & Boo

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I’ve always been intrigued by the word shadenfraude (of German origin meaning “satisfaction or pleasure at someone’s misfortune”), and I’ll admit I’ve felt it myself numerous times.  For me, it’s an icky feeling, and I’d much rather be experiencing feelings of altruism. (I’m a Dictionary.com fan; altruism is defined as “the practice of unselfish concern to the welfare of others”.)

I thought about schadenfraude last night while enjoying one of my guilty pleasures: leafing through a pilfered issue of People magazine.  That’s an admission I’m not proud of sharing with you – I’ve been known to have sticky fingers in waiting rooms where glossy magazines linger.  On Friday I was in not one, not two, but three waiting rooms which all had what I refer to as “trashy magazines”.  I held out until the third waiting room.  I felt nervous because I was waiting to see if my old car passed its smog test.  I stared at the April 14th edition of People in front of me, and perhaps I borrowed it…permanently.

I opened the issue with Gwyneth Paltrow smiling Mona Lisa-style on the cover and noticed the editor Jess Cagle’s letter.  I don’t usually read People’s editor’s letter as it’s way too intellectual for me given the magazine’s context.  But I spotted the word “schadenfreude” in one of his paragraphs, and I was intrigued.

Of the marriage separation between actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin, Cagle wrote, “But to be honest, their announcement also made me sad.  I’ve been there…The feelings are universal and inescapable, so I’ve been a little surprised at the glee and schadenfreude with which Gwyneth’s detractors have greeted the news of their split.  Reading the vitriol online, you’d think Gwyneth didn’t have a friend in the world.”  Cagle added that Paltrow most definitely has supporters; they are simply quieter than the haters.  He wrote that he regards her as “maddeningly tone-deaf” in how she talks about the difficulties of being a movie star mom, and that she sells $315 pillows on her lifestyle site Goop!

As a mother, I feel genuine sympathy for any children of famous people when their parents divorce.  I don’t feel a touch of schadenfreude in that respect.  But I can’t relate to Paltrow in any way except for the fact that we both loved our fathers deeply, and they both died awful deaths; hers from throat cancer and mine from pulmonary complications.

Who knows the real reasons why Paltrow and Martin split up?  No one knows except them and maybe their therapists and best friends, and that’s how it should be.  The truth is given a choice these days, I’d rather read a moving human interest story that inspires me as I go about my life rather than read about a couple worth 150 million who own four estates, and who have more opulent pillows than I ever will possess.

I’ve been a furtive People reader for years now.  At one point I even splurged on a subscription.  I wish I was drawn to a more respectable publication such as Time, but my tastes were influenced by being an L.A. girl.  I was born & bred in a town populated by famous folk and I had a fascination with those connected with “The Business”.

I used to get a titillating kick from reading the movie star profiles.  Now when I scan those pieces, they don’t do much for me except make me like I need to spend $300 in beauty products.  I tend to forget that the photos of stunning movie stars have makeup artists, hairstylists, couture clothiers, and Photoshop behind them.  The Paltrow article included a “selfie” she apparently took without a stitch of makeup.   In that photo she looked like a completely different person in comparison to all the other glam shots of her throughout the piece.  Despite my having a problem with her selling those three-hundred-dollar pillows on Goop!, I appreciated her sharing a real-life shot with the public.

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The details of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s breakup are fading quickly from my brain, but I haven’t forgotten a really cool article in the April 7th issue of  People called “Amazing Animals Gone Viral!”  In particular, I’ve become enamored with Boo the Pomeranian, who lives in nearby San Francisco.  This isn’t just a fluff piece (pun intended – ha ha ha!), according the to article Boo “represents a new phenomenon called The Viral Pet Philanthropist.  Through donations from fans, Boo and his owner have raised tens of thousands of dollars for poverty and children’s causes, from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to Charity: Water.”  Boo’s owner, who has chosen to be anonymous but is suspected to be a Facebook executive, says “It’s a huge privilege to use Boo’s popularity to give back and make a positive impact.”  The eight-year-old Pom has a Facebook page with over 11 million fans, and is the model for a Gund stuffed toy.

ImageBoo & a palImageHope Boo doesn’t get a makeup artist and couture clothier, but alas, it looks like Boo has a fancy groomer!

imgresAlmost too cute!  What a puffball!  Watch out Oprah – this cutie may take over the world!

The issue contains profiles about other pets who have made a profound difference in their owners’ lives, such as “A Vet Heals with His Best Friend’s Help” and “Feeding a Cat Helped Her Beat Anorexia”.  Those two profiles were particularly poignant pieces.

The sweetness of Boo and the generosity of his fans raising funds for charity will stay with me.  The Paltrow-Martin “conscious uncoupling” and the particulars of their massive estate will fade from my memory in a few days.

I’m finding that in getting older and healing from postpartum bipolar disorder, I’m cultivating greater compassion for others.  From time to time I know I’ll cave and read a gossipy magazine article. (Or a few.)  Nevertheless, I’m making a concerted effort to read things that lift me up.  As I discover people, projects and animals who are making our world a better place, I feel motivated to do the same.  Maybe I’ll even get in touch with Boo’s “people” to see if they want to make a donation to the International Bipolar Foundation.  You never know unless you try! 😉

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Boo’s Public Figure Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Boo

Freaked to Meet With My Pdoc

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For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know what “pdoc” means, it’s a shorthand term often used for psychiatrists in the bipolar community.

My pdoc is wonderful.  Out of the myriad of doctors I’ve seen for bipolar disorder, “Dr. D.” has been the most compassionate, the most capable, and the most “normal” pdoc I’ve ever met with.  Maybe he seems normal because he isn’t clueless, overly detached, arrogant and/or misogynistic like the other pdocs I’ve consulted with over the years.  Even his fees are lower than other pdocs in this county.  He deliberately created lower fees as he wanted to reach people who couldn’t afford the exorbitant psychiatry rates in this area.

Most significantly, it was Dr. D. who suggested the only medication that lifted my severe bipolar depression.  I tried over twenty meds before I met with Dr. D.  He advised that I try the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) Parnate and lo and behold, it worked.  Until then, I wasn’t aware that MAOI’s are used for “bipolar medication-resistant” patients, and it baffles me that none of my other pdocs even thought to suggest a MAOI (an “old-school”) medication.

Logically speaking, there is no absolutely need for me to be scared of Dr. D. – he’s anything but the boogeyman!

However, I’ve created my own psychological trip: Dr. D.’s authority as a psychiatrist scares the sh*t out of me.  I’ll admit I’ve done this sort of thing with the other pdocs I’ve encountered.  Every time I meet with Dr. D., I worry that if I seem off or if I say the wrong thing,or if I start to weep, he could *5150 me with his pdoc power!

I feel like I have to “act normal” in front of my pdoc.  It is exhausting and anxiety-producing to place that kind of pressure upon myself.  While I can often “pass” for normal, even when I’m having an anxiety attack, I’m always worried I’ll slip up.

So I try to act normal, and “fake it ’til I make it”.  It’s not a natural or comfortable way to live, to say the least.  Both of my parents were professional performers: Dad played the violin with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was a soloist with various orchestras.  Mom won the University of Michigan’s first television acting award and she moved out to L.A. to pursue an acting career.  I realized I inherited a little bit of their talent after I won the lead role in a play produced by a professional L.A.theater company, and when my music teacher told my Dad he thought I could make it as a professional violinist.

In an ironic twist, I come from a family of accomplished doctors on my mother’s side.  My mother, who I think secretly wanted to be a doctor, brought me up to revere doctors and she treated them as demigods.  I developed my own attitude towards the medical profession in which I too worshipped them, and I followed whatever instructions they gave me…until I became acutely manic.  (That’s a story for another post.)

My primary point is that I didn’t want to act like a fake at today’s session with Dr. D.  Faking it was getting way old!

I remember how proud I felt when I was selected as the International Bipolar Foundation’s first 2014 *”Story of Hope and Recovery”.  I didn’t want my story be a sham!  The truth is that I am stable, and I’ve been this way for almost a year. (I know a year doesn’t sound that long, but I feel that a year of my mental stability is akin to calculating dog years, i.e. one year feels more like seven years!)

I am happy to tell you that when I met with Dr. D. this morning our meeting went well…much better than I expected.  Right off the bat,  I told him all about my deep-seated fears of his authority.  We spent most of our monthly session discussing how I felt and how to move beyond my fears.

I remember when I first met with Dr. D. he candidly shared how he planned to either be a physician or a therapist, and that many of his friends thought he’d do best as a therapist.  He chose the doctor route because he thought he could be more helpful that way.  I could see the therapist in him as he told me he was grateful I could be honest with him about my fears.  He emphasized that if I kept this information to myself, he wouldn’t be doing a good job.  Throughout our conversation, Dr. D. reiterated several times how well I have been doing, which is always fantastic for me to hear.

We moved on to discuss other topics such as my lithium refill, and blood tests.  We also talked about my sugar addiction of which Dr. D. (he specializes in addiction psychiatry) said must be contributing to my anxiety.  While it’s not pleasant to analyze one’s addictions, I felt comfortable, safe, and supported in doing so with him.  It helps that it’s obvious he knows what he’s talking about!

I know I’ll always be a little intimidated by my pdoc simply because he could dial a number and advise that I be involuntarily hospitalized – all within sixty seconds or less.  But worrying about that is like worrying about an asteroid hitting the earth. It’s more probable we’ll have another big earthquake here than Dr. D. pulling out the big pdoc guns.  I have to learn to…dare I write this “Frozen” phrase?

Let it go.

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*5150= Known as a 72-hour-long involuntary hold in a psychiatric institution

Here’s the link to my Story of Hope and Recovery

http://ibpf.org/story-hope-and-recovery

When Your Child Knows More Than You Do

imagesThis week is Spring Break, the ideal time for my girls to sleep in late while I enjoy some quiet time each morning. But Murphy’s Law kicked in, and today my nine-year-old sprung out of bed ready to run a marathon just a few minutes after I woke up.

I am never as grounded and patient with my children when I don’t complete my dawn routine, which is nothing fancy – just meds, coffee, yogurt, surfing the internet and writing a little bit.  When Avonlea was raring to go at 6:00 a.m., she found me groggy and somewhat grouchy.

She brought out her collection of yarn.  I yawned at her, clutching my giant mug of Peet’s coffee with a death grip.  I watched her dazedly as she excitedly started to “fork knit” a chain of the soft lavender yarn.

“Can I teach you how to fork knit, Mommy?” she implored.

On other days I would have said no, citing that I needed that time to get ready, or that I wasn’t awake enough. But the eager tone of her voice swayed me this time around.  Never mind that I am not a crafty mom at all, never mind that I wasn’t interested in any kind of knitting and knew I never would be in this lifetime.

I wanted to make her happy.  After a big sip of coffee, I was all hers.

I was humbled and impressed by her knitting prowess.  She made the technique look unbelievably easy, but I struggled and I could barely follow her simple instructions.  Avonlea was patient with me and she chuckled over the fact that her mom couldn’t get the hang of a simple fork knit.  At least I had given fork knitting an honest try, and she was satisfied with my effort.  I also got a huge kick out of my daughter being my teacher instead of the other way around.

I looked at her differently afterwards.  For a long time I have been in denial about how my little girl is no longer truly little anymore.  I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that this young child is her own person. Frankly I’ve been infantilizing her.  For the most part, I am still treating her as if she is still my eight-pound, drooling, big-eyed, adorable baby.  By doing this to Avonlea, I am not allowing her to fully blossom, and if I keep this pattern up she will resent me and I believe she will regress in her behavior.

Like multitudes of nine-year-olds, Avonlea is becoming more capable and savvier every day.  Craig and I have to be very careful about what we say in front of her as she picks up on every word.  She’s so full of questions that we lovingly tease her that she’d make a great lawyer.  Aside from fork knitting, she has also become an expert at using the “Rainbow Loom” (making bracelets, rings and more out of tiny rubber bands – it’s the current rage) and she’s a mean cupcake baker and mathematician.

Of course there’s one thing that I hope my daughter will never know more about than I do…

Not long ago Avonlea asked me if she’d “get” bipolar.  It was hard for me to answer her, but I knew she’d want the truth.  I told her, “Yes, there is a chance you could have bipolar disorder, but there’s also a good chance you won’t have it.”  (The National Institute of Mental Health reports a 15-30% chance of a child having bipolar if one parent has the disorder.)

Then I told her something that my father, who had bipolar disorder, told me when I asked him if I’d get bipolar disorder.  I said to Avonlea, “Researchers all over the world are working very hard to find a cure for bipolar disorder.  There is a chance that could happen, but if they don’t find a cure, we will get you any help you need.” She has been satisfied with that answer, for now.

While we have these years together I hope and pray to all the powers that be that she doesn’t suffer with bipolar disorder.   I am connected with organizations including the International Bipolar Foundation, the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, CREST BD, the UCLA Mood Disorders Research Program, and the University if Michigan’s Prechter Foundation.  (I know there are other great organizations out there, but that list is plenty to keep me busy with for now!)  I stay in contact with them to keep posted about advancements in bipolar disorder research, especially related to onset in children and adolescents.

I am happy to always know more than Avonlea about bipolar disorder.  I dream of this disorder being cured, of the stigma toward mental illness melting away and becoming a moot point, and of being able to spend my energy on other topics aside from bipolar disorder.  I dream of Avonlea asking me if she’ll get bipolar disorder and my answering her, without any doubt in my mind, “No.”

Photo on 2014-01-28 at 11.35 #2

 

Writerly Ramblings and Hypergraphia Part 1


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L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle, my two favorite writers.  (Love those glasses!)

Lately my writing output has skyrocketed.  After being creatively blocked for most of the past eight years,  I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the luxury to write.  I’ve been typing for at least an hour every day for several months now.  I even managed to write on days when I felt under the weather.  I wasn’t being a complete fool – I merely wished to write because I felt better after doing it.

For all I know perhaps my writing compulsively has boosted the serotonin level in my brain. While daily writing sounds rather obsessive, it has felt so good and write; I mean right. 😉

Writing definitely exercises my brain cells.  I can feel it.  After I’ve completed an article I get a buzz that’s similar to one achieved from a sweaty workout on my elliptical.  As an A.C.E.-certified personal trainer, I’ve been a fervent believer in cardiovascular exercise for a long time.  I never considered writing to be a “workout” until this year, so now maybe I’ll buy a groovy belt, leg warmers and leotard a la Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect to wear at my desk.

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On a more serious note, typing away for hours on a daily basis may sound alarm bells to those close to me.  When I’ve been manic and hypomanic, I’ve had the rare condition of acute hypergraphia.

Hypergraphia is defined in Wikipedia as:

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

I plan on writing more about hypergraphia in tomorrow’s blog post.  It’s a fascinating topic, and to this day I’ll never forget how it felt to actually experience it.  Luckily, electroconvulsive therapy has not wiped out my recollection of what it felt like to write in that otherworldly, amazing, exhausting, and, at times, terrifying way.  

I shouldn’t make light about hypergraphia, because it’s a serious condition.  I became annoyed yesterday when I found a snarky article online. (Dare I write this?  Why not: a “snarkticle”) It was written by a woman who clearly had no idea what she was discussing when it came to hypergraphia.  While she made some valid points, I disagreed with the majority of them and I want to have some fun and address them on Thursday.  To get a head start you can read the piece here:

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

If one hasn’t really, truly lived with this state, I feel 90% of writers should stick to the classic adage that I believe in with all my heart: “write what you know”.

What’s really behind this ramble?  Fear.  Fear of my creative drive leaving as quickly and mysteriously as it arrived.  I am especially scared about next week when I begin the heavy-duty work on my draft of Birth of a New Brain.  I am afraid of not being able to write a damn word – I’m scared of writer’s block making its gruesome return.  This fear has been the primary force in driving me to write every day, even when I knew I wasn’t creating memorable turns of phrase.  I felt that if I just wrote something, the act of writing could, at the very least, keep the flow of words coming day after day.  There are entire books written about this subject, of course, not to mention writing seminars and conferences.

I’ll carry on.  Today I am going to take a break from writing during most of my free time to read instead.  I actually have bona fide homework: to read a review copy of Preventing Bipolar Relapse by Dr. Ruth C. White.  I’d rather write, but I promised my counselor I’d read the book.  I’m also planning to write a review about the book for my International Bipolar Foundation blog.  I read and write in front of my Sunbox DL.   I’ve had this therapeutic light for the past decade, and it’s designed for Seasonal Affective Disorder among other conditions.  My light energizes me and literally brightens my day.  I’ll return tomorrow with yet another discourse; until then, I wish you a wonderful day!  Thanks for reading!