Update from the Boondocks of Bigfoot

 

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Hey there my Sasquatch lovin’ friends,

I’m in a goofy mood, which comes at a good time after my Facebook Fiasco. a.k.a. the unfriendings over the past week. After I published my last post, I received fantastic comments packed with insights and support, and I felt a bunch of warm fuzzies.  Thank you so much!

It has been five days since I deactivated my Facebook account and I don’t miss it at all! I remain on Twitter, and it helps me feel connected to the internet, but as one follower Jasminehoneyadams of Invoke Delight  https://invokedelight.wordpress.com/  wisely notes,

“I much prefer Twitter for social media, where it’s less personal and there’s no pretension of people being friends; they’re more acquaintances which is less confusing for me, and it’s less upsetting if someone unfollows because it’s just the way Twitter works.”

I agree!

So you may be wondering what’s the story about this Bigfoot title? Well, I live five minutes away from the world-famous Bigfoot Discovery Museum. (I’m sure you’ve heard of it.)  

I’m not proud that despite living in these mountains for close to a decade, I haven’t been inside the legendary exhibit. My time will come. Last year I met the Museum’s owner Mike at the post office and he was very charming. He even offered to watch my puppy Lucy outside the post office when I mailed a package. I promised Mike I’d pay the museum a visit because let’s face it, one’s life is not complete until a pilgrimage to the Bigfoot Discovery Museum is made.  

There isn’t really much of a connection between Bigfoot and last week’s virtual rejection. Today I gazed out the window at the beautiful redwoods, and thought, How lucky I am to have such a view! Bigfoot came to mind because the hirsute creature supposedly roams these woods. Then I began to laugh, because of all the places in the world for me to settle down, I had to pick Bigfoot’s ‘hood. (Well, at this point I’d trust Bigfoot more than a lot of “friends” on Facebook!)

I used to hike all the time at nearby state parks, and I never once spotted the wily beast, but who’s to say what’s the truth of Bigfoot’s existence? (There must be an X-Files episode about it, right?) In any case, I’d much rather be pondering the mysteries of Bigfoot than surfing Facebook and wasting time better spent on important projects, not to mention finding out that someone has unfriended me!

Speaking of important projects, I’ve been working each day on Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. I’ve made some progress, but I have a looooooong way to go. I’m slower than molasses when it comes to completing the draft, but I’m highly motivated due to the book deal with Post Hill Press. To help inspire me to do the best job I can, I bought Your Life is a Book by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann, which has 99% 4-5 star Amazon reviews:

 

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I don’t have a good track record when it comes to utilizing self-help books, but I’m hoping that reading this book (and doing some of the exercises) will be a positive experience. I figure it’s definitely worth a try!

Because of the huge surge of interest in reading and writing memoirs, there are numerous awesome-sounding memoir how-to books available. I considered buying Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk & Writing, but I was drawn to this book. Another book that caught my eye was written by a New Zealander (! yes !) named Lindsey Dawson. She wrote Crack Your Life: How to Write a Memoir That Rocks. Although it only got two reviews, reading the glowing, detailed praise made me download a sample on my Kindle. I haven’t read it yet, but I will.

I’ve also been enjoying the Twitter feed of @WomenWriters. It has frequent tweets, but the beauty of Twitter is that it’s easy to sift through tweets without becoming overwhelmed. @WomenWriters offers links to helpful articles on websites including Women Writers, Women’s Books. http://booksbywomen.org/  I highly recommend @WomenWriters and the site!

Be good to yourself, be good to your friends, and please protect yourself from negative, toxic people/headlines/whatever!

Thanks for reading…

XOXO

Dyane

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For more information about the Bigfoot Discovery Museum please visit: 

http://bigfootdiscoveryproject.com/

Heeding Madeleine L’Engle’s Advice Yet Again!

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As I write this post, I watch a Life Flight helicopter land on the field situated less than 1000 yards away from my bed.  I spot paramedics transferring a person hovering between life and death over to the Life Flight team. I’ve seen this scenario many times over the years we’ve lived here.  The roar of an idling copter never fails to put my problems into perspective.  I’ve just been given a “reality check”.

For various reasons, I’ve struggled more than usual the past week, but as the gifted blogger Kitt O’Malley gently reminded me, “this too shall pass”.  I must remember that just because life is more difficult, that doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to crash into the depths of despair.

For some people who have bipolar one disorder and are stable, dreading a relapse is ever-present. Fortunately, fear of bottoming out doesn’t mean that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Still, unless some kind of miracle occurs, I’ll always be afraid of relapsing.

Last week I deliberately stopped my daily blogging habit, which I had kept up for over four months.  I still can’t believe I didn’t miss a single day.  If sometime told me that a writer/mom with bipolar was keeping up such a demanding writing routine, I’d wonder (perhaps a tad jealously) if that person was hypomanic or manic.  I most definitely was not in either of those states. (thank God!)

Anyway, I ceased writing my minimum of thirty minutes a day, whether it was for this blog, for my book or for freelance articles.  Writing at least thirty minutes a day was a famous rule created by my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle.  I’ve discussed L’Engle’s writing advice in prior posts, and if you’re familiar with my blog you probably know how much I revere L’Engle.

Today I came across an interview with L’Engle about writing that I found to be affirming and fascinating.  She was asked by Scholastic students for the advice she’d give to aspiring writers.  L’Engle told the students:

“I would give the same advice to writers of any age – and that’s keep an honest, unpublishable journal that you don’t show to anyone.  You dump things into it – it’s your private garbage can. Also, you have to read to be a writer. You have to write every day – not necessarily in your journal.  But you have to do it every day. It’s like practicing a musical instrument – you have to practice and stick with it.  I love every bit of it.  I love getting the ideas, and I live with the ideas for a long time before I write them – I may write two or three other books while thinking about an idea.  And I love sitting down to work at the computer and just starting.

L’Engle wrote the Newberry Award-winning, bestselling A Wrinkle In Time and many other amazing books. This prolific writer knew what she was talking about.  I especially appreciated her comparison of writing to practicing a musical instrument.  One of my fondest childhood memories was listening to my Juilliard-trained, Fulbright Award-winning Dad practice on his Stradivarius or his Guadagnini violin almost every single day.  (Yep, I’m gonna namedrop!  And he had bipolar one!)  Dad’s Irish setters Tanya and Amber hung out in this practice room listening to his world-class performances seven days a week, those lucky hounds.  I didn’t realize how disciplined Dad was until much later.  If I had an iota of his work ethic, I’d be stoked.

Oh well.  I thought that the time I freed up from reducing my writing schedule would refresh and perhaps inspire me to write more and that my writing might even improve.  I was dead wrong.  I’ve found myself feeling blah instead of the usual rah regarding writing. This SUCKS!

A few days ago it was my father’s birthday.  He passed away five years ago, and I’ve missed him ever since. The anniversary of his birthday drained me emotionally, but I don’t think that was the main reason I haven’t been gung-ho about writing.  At least I haven’t been depressed, but I’m definitely not where I want to be, and I need to take care of myself.  I’m convinced that part of “taking care of myself” includes scheduling writing time every day unless I’m really sick or there’s an emergency.

Thirty minutes is not that long a time to write!  It’s the length of one “Full House” or “The Nanny” episode, now, isn’t it?  And those episodes roll by in a flash.  I’m guessing that the very act of writing has been like my own version of Lumosity.  My theory? Writing stimulates and exercises certain areas of my brain that are usually not in use.  Furthermore, I’m guessing that consistent writing is serving as a mood stabilizer! How I wish that Madeleine L’Engle was alive today so I could run that supposition by her and hear her opinion.  After participating in two writer’s workshops with her, I learned firsthand that she would tell you exactly what she thought.

So yes, I’m missing my “writer’s high”.  The cardio exercise I’ve been faithfully doing on my NordicTrack gives me a different kind of high – actually, it doesn’t feel like a high, but more of a grounding of my jangled nerves.

For the time being, I’ve decided to give myself the gift of daily writing, and not feel guilty about making it a priority.  I used to journal all the time, and I stopped when the bipolar depression became too much.  Now I’ll either create a private blog for my use as a journal, or buy a blank book.  (Most definitely not for publication, as L’Engle instructs!)  I’m looking forward to feeling better and clearing my brain out, Madeleine L’Engle-style!

Kitt O’Malley’s blog (Life with Bipolar Disorder and Thoughts about God)  is: http://www.kittomalley.com

This link leads to the entire transcript of Madeleine L’Engle’s interview with the Scholastic students and I love it! ;

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/madeleine-l39engle-interview-transcript

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Madeleine in her office at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City – probably sometime in the 60’s with those groovy glasses!

Dy and L'Engle 2Dyane & Madeleine at the Mount Calvary Retreat in Santa Barbara, California, 1997

 

Promoting One’s Writing without Losing One’s Head, Completing a Book and More

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

 

I was introduced to this poem in high school English, and I never forgot it.  While I am not a poetry lover per se (sorry, sorry, I know that’s going to offend some of you!) there are some poems I love, and Kipling’s “If” has some amazing language in it.  The first two lines have always stayed with me, and I thought of them while writing this post today.

Lately when I’ve queried editors regarding submitting my articles for their consideration, it has been difficult for me to fully promote my work and “keep my head” as Kipling so eloquently states.  Of course good writing speaks for itself, but the writer behind the writing has to present well too!  I’ve been caring for two sick little ones over the past couple weeks, and that situation has not only distracted me; it has gotten me out of my writing groove and my writing confidence has been zapped as well.

Now my girls are well, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to return to my regular writing schedule.  But I’ve been procrastinating on certain projects and I’ve grown lackluster in promoting my writing to various outlets. I haven’t lost all hope about returning to “zestful writing” as the awesome author Elizabeth Sims calls it  – I’ve been through this dilemma before, and I know I’ll get back to where I want to be.  It’s just going to take more time than I’d like – time I hate to lose, because I’ve lost enough time since my 2007 bipolar diagnosis when my writing career stalled for oh, eight years.

Ironically, it’s much easier for me to promote others’ work.  Promotion was a skill I learned in my first “grown-up” job working at a special event production company.  We produced on average ten large-scale annual events in Silicon Valley.  I started out as the office manager and then was put in charge of more challenging projects, such as working with the media, talent agents, and vendors.  Our publicity consultant taught me how to write press releases, and I was interviewed about our events by prestigious newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News.  My boss had very high standards, and he had established a great reputation.  Before creating his company, he had founded the highly acclaimed Paul Masson Mountain Winery Concert Series and he worked with the greatest names in music.  Fortunately I was able to represent his company in a professional manner over the phone, in person and in writing, and while it was a stressful job, it taught me a great deal.

So yes, to reiterate, the bottom line is that when it comes to promoting my writing these days, I’m not as gung-ho as I’d like to be.   One thing I know for sure is that enthusiasm about one’s work (in moderate doses) is a wonderful quality, and I want to cultivate it to the best of my ability.

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As most of you reading this piece are also bloggers, I’m sure some of you know a thing or two when it comes to promoting your blog or anything else that you believe in, for that matter!  Recently I pushed past my comfort zone and asked an authority figure to publish my essay.  While I didn’t expect a resounding “no”, I didn’t exactly expect a “yes” either, as worthy as my article seemed in my eyes.  Well, that question, which literally took me less than ninety seconds to formulate, type out and email, paid off.  My essay was published and I got a strong response from readers that felt very validating.  As far as I was concerned, that incident was a sign that I must keep plugging away with my writing and don’t let the turkeys get me down.  (What a great phrase, eh?)

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I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket with any one contact, project or dream.  Believe me, at age forty-four, apart from my first job, I’ve dealt with promotion-related issues throughout my work history.  After I left the special event production company, I became a certified personal trainer.  I built up my own business at a popular gym whose members included the founder of Netflix and the editor of our biggest local newspaper – these people could afford personal trainers!  I advertised myself and my training services to prospective clients, and I was able to achieve a modest success.  After working in fitness for a couple years, I worked at three different non-profits:  Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries, COBHA/The College of Botanical Healing Arts, and Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks.

My jobs focused on administration and development, and I was required to help promote their numerous special events.   I was expected to be knowledgable and enthusiastic about each non-profit’s mission.  While I loved the public library system, botanical healing products, and our gorgeous local state parks, none of these worthy organizations captured my heart.  At these three workplaces I suffered from chronic depression and I wouldn’t be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder until years later.

Even if I hadn’t been depressed when I worked with these groups of dedicated, talented people, I still would have been less than fired-up working with them because I wasn’t truly passionate about the causes – yes, even the libraries!

During my pre-bipolar diagnosis years, I always thought that if I could find the right job that inspired me, I’d give it my all and I would be successful.  Well, ever since I left the University of California at Santa Cruz when I was twenty-one, I’ve been writing, mostly without pay, because I love to do it.  (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)  When I reached my late twenties and I achieved my dream to have my articles published in national magazines and I actually got paid for them, I realized that I could be a writer, but I still didn’t go for it and make writing my “real” job.

Now I finally do have the opportunity to “go for it” and complete my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.   I’ve written eighty pages so far, and I’m at an impasse of sorts.  I’m scared that I won’t achieve my dream to finish writing this book and I’m worried I’ll fall short of my two goals: for it to be interesting and #2) It will help people.  But, the old cliche rings true here – if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know.

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What matters is keeping up my habit of typing regularly (or putting pen to paper for some of you) and not giving up.  When it comes to writing, I’ve proved to myself that I am a slow-but-steady writer.  Slow is not always a negative trait – I witnessed my husband Craig Harwood complete his award-winning book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and have it published by University of Oklahoma.  It took him seven years to write his book, but who cares – he did it.  I’ve also been inspired by my friend the author Rebecca Moore, who wrote Moorestorms: A Guide for the Bipolar Parent and four other books.  She has the gift, along with my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, of being a prolific writer.

Moore, L’Engle and Montgomery were able to keep their noses to the grindstone and complete numerous books in a timely fashion.  I wish they could bottle their talent and fortitude up because I’d be the first to buy it!

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When I do complete my book, I’ll promote the heck out of it.  I consider completing a book similar to having a child, and it’s an enormous accomplishment.  I have respect for anyone who finishes writing a book, whether or not it wins the National Book Award.  Just call me Dyane “Turtle” Harwood, because I will be crossing the finish line of completing Birth of a New Brain someday , and when I do, I’ll become a P.R. whiz.  Just wait and see! 😉

I’d love to read about how you promote yourself , your blog and your books – feel free to comment below…

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“More Than Bipolar – A Memoir of Acceptance and Hope” by Lizabeth D. Schuch – a mini-review

Dear Ms. Schuch,

You had me with your book’s gorgeous cover of a sandy beach and aquamarine waves, and you further had me with your title “More Than Bipolar”, a phrase that is dear to my heart. You also had me with the fact that Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., the eminent psychiatrist and co-author of “Manic Depressive Illness”, wrote your foreward.  Dr. Goodwin co-authored “Manic Depressive Illness” with one of my heroes Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of “An Unquiet Mind”.  Before I even read a sample or a review, I had high hopes for your book.  I don’t regret purchasing it, but there were some shortcomings as well.  Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish you the very best.

Sincerely,

Dyane

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Before I begin with this capsule review, I encourage you to sample Schuch’s book.  It’s truly wonderful to be able to download free samples to get a sense of the author’s writing style and to find out if you are intrigued by the content.  I find it helpful to read the table of contents to learn what topics are covered in the work.   However, sometimes samples are misleading.  I’ve found numerous books which contain solid opening chapters and so I press the little “buy” button on my Kindle.  Voila!  Ten seconds later the book is part of my Kindle library family.  Then, alas – I find that these books diminish in quality in later chapters.  Reading a book’s reviews obviously can help in determining whether or not to take the plunge to buy!

In “More Than Bipolar” I appreciated Schuch’s candor about her life, particularly about her extremely painful experiences with date rape and abortion.  It takes a great deal of bravery to share one’s life with the world, and I give her a ton of credit for her courage.  I particularly liked her chapter about lithium.  I take lithium, and I always want to learn about how this old-school drug has affected other authors’ lives.   I found it quite interesting that a low, technically non-therapeutic dose helped Schuch for many years. Additionally, I appreciated that Schuch included a brief, well-written history of lithium, which could be a book unto itself.

Whenever I read a new memoir about bipolar, I am comparing it to other memoirs I’ve read in the past.   This isn’t necessarily a good thing.  The bar for this type of memoir has been set very high by writers such as Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Martha Manning, Terri Cheney, Marya Hornbacher,  Carrie Fisher, Melody Moezzi, Mark Vonnegut and others. (There are so many outstanding bipolar memoirs nowadays!)  We can’t all be Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison; however.

I was surprised by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin’s foreword; to be honest, I was disappointed. He wrote “In too many of the life stories of patients with bipolar illness, the chaotic drama of their lives – disrupted families, violence, sexual abuse-grab the reader’s attention; the bipolar illness embedded in all this can be difficult to appreciate.”

I totally disagree.  Most people have suffered from these tragic realities, and if one’s writing is high quality, none of the aforementioned topics are going to grab my attention away from the subject of bipolar disorder.  Give me a little more credit, please, Dr. Goodwin!  He adds “There are no substance abuse issues, chaotic family members, or abusive hospital staff to distract the reader…”  Well, I can handle almost anything an author throws at me as long as the writing is superb.  Between you and me, I think Dr. Goodwin is a little burned out on all matters bipolar!

In any case, I encourage you to read “More Than Bipolar” as Schuch effectively explains how she reached recovery throughout the course of the fifteen chapters and afterword. She gives solid practical advice regarding how to select a psychiatrist, tips for productive living, and an examination of stigma and labels.

Here is a brief biography of Lizabeth D. Schuch:

Lizabeth D. Schuch earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Formerly a pharmaceutical sales representative, she is pursuing her passion to support others with mental illness as a wellness and recovery manager. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Visit her online at http://www.morethanbipolar.com and on Facebook under “Lizabeth Schuch”.
Until she experienced her first manic episode at the age of seventeen, author Lizabeth D. Schuch had little knowledge of mental illness. From that point on, her life would never be the same. In her memoir, More Than Bipolar, she discusses her twenty-five years of experience with bipolar disorder, sharing the wisdom attained to break the hold of stigma, shame, 51smJYFmFhL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
and fear surrounding this illness.  Schuch reveals the full reality of what living with this illness looks like. She shares the truth, from its manic and depressive extremes to the life lessons of understanding and maturity necessary to live well in recovery. More Than Bipolar also provides information about the importance of getting a proper diagnosis, working with the medical providers, trusting your own instincts about your care, and having the insight to know when the warning signs are leading you in the wrong direction.  More Than Bipolar focuses on knowledge gained and strength restored on the path of a complete bipolar journey. It shows that living well with bipolar disorder is possible and may indeed be a part of the diagnostic picture.”