Good Surprises, Bad Surprises (I prefer good ones.)

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Happy Friday Everyone!

I’m glad it’s here because Spring Break begins for my kids.  I’ll enjoy a respite from the frantic morning rush, as well as a breather from the passive-aggressive minivan brigade en route to school.

Today I was interviewed by a psychologist-in-training.  She’s interviewing mothers with bipolar disorder for her dissertation, and she made quite a trek to reach these Deliverance-esque mountains.  We spent an intense ninety minutes while I answered her questions. I was thankful she was very compassionate, because I discussed the toughest, most disturbing years of my life.  I was drained afterwards, but I’m glad that I did it because I know her research will help other clinicians understand moms with bipolar a little better.

Meanwhile it has been a weird week.  Well, it’s always weird around here, but it was a touch weirder than usual.  

Bad surprise #1 happened Wednesday morning.  I woke up around 4:30 a.m. as nature called.  I needed to answer her fast or regress to six-years-old and wet the bed.  On my way back to bed, I paused in the doorway and spotted a puddle on the floor – ooops, Lucy had an accident. It happens once in a while, and it was actually a blessing in disguise. When I crouched down to clean it up, I saw movement to my left.  I gasped inwardly, as I didn’t want to wake everyone up, especially Lucy, who was out of sight on the other side of the bed.

It was Zoe, Rilla’s Syrian hamster.  Somehow Zoe had escaped from her cage and she was having a splendid time exploring the house. Miraculously Lucy missed her spree.  I hadn’t handled the little creature much up to that point, but I immediately scooped her up before Lucy awoke.  I thought she’d wriggle out of my hands, but she was calm.

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I thanked God over and over that I was the first one to find Zoe; if Lucy had seen her, Zoe would’ve become a Scooby snack and Rilla and Avonlea would have been devastated.  (It turned out that there was a faulty part of her cage.  She leapt five feet down from its perch without hurting herself, another small miracle.) While I categorized this as a bad surprise, it did have a happy ending. Hurrah!

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Good surprise #1 was “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. This was a wonderful film!  I watched it on my portable DVD player with headphones while the kids were glued to the insipid Nick Jr.’s “Austin and Ally”, a show that makes me want to scream.

“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is about Hector, of course. He’s a burned-out psychiatrist (what a surprise, eh?) who goes on a pilgrimage to research how to help his patients (and himself) be happy.  I don’t want to give away spoilers, but it was unique as well as a great reminder about what creates true happiness.  Some of my favorite actors are in it (Toni Colette, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer, still going strong in his 80’s!) and actors who I was unfamiliar with, namely the outstanding lead Simon Pegg.  I definitely give it a “thumbs up”.  

On to bad surprise #2.  Some of you know I work out almost daily on my beloved Nordic Track Elliptical. Yesterday as soon as I hopped on it, the flywheel made a ghastly screeching sound.  I had to stop, which sucked as I really needed an endorphin boost.  Craig came downstairs to see what caused a noise that could wake the dead. He took the elliptical apart to discover a huge amount of fluffy pink insulation material stuffed inside the flywheel that wasn’t supposed to be there – surprise! It was jumbled up with scraps of paper. You can guess where this is going, right?

My workout machine had become a haven to RATS!!!

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Oh. My. God.

Grooooooososssssss!  At least there was no rat poo in it as far as I could tell, and there were no rats or parts of rats in the elliptical.  That was a major plus, yes indeed.  Our home is rat-free; we had sent our rats to the afterlife long ago.  But this was definitely a bad surprise, and there’s no way I can put a good spin on it!

I certainly can’t end on that note.  Good surprise #2 came from my seven-year-old last night.  Rilla and I were talking about odds and ends. She said, “I look up to you, Mommy and I want to be a writer too.  I want to be like you!” 

I was so moved by what Rilla said, because I haven’t exactly been Mother of the Year since her birth in 2007;  the year I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar less than two months after she was born.  To hear that she wanted to be like me (she knows I have bipolar, and yet she didn’t let that get in the way of anything) was beyond awesome.  I was also surprised that my writing has made a positive impression upon her.  

After all the crap I’ve put this child through as a result of my mental illness, I harbor residual guilt.  I worry about the trauma my girls have suffered from bipolar-related events. So you can imagine how cool it was for me to hear her words, to feel her soft arms wrap themselves around me in a hug, and to hold her small hands with their tiny, scraggly fingernails….the hands of a budding writer.

Until next Friday, I send you my love, and some good surprises that will make you smile.

xoxo,

Dyane

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Why I Use My “Sunbox” Bright Light Every Day…

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This picture shows my Sunbox DL (Desk Light)in action.  I bought my light from Sunbox over ten years ago.  It cost $250.00 and it has been well worth that (what was for me) hefty price.  I bought it before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a few years after I was diagnosed with major depression.
 
As of today, you can buy a Sunbox DL on sale for $190.00  – it still usually costs $250.00.  (By the way, I don’t work for this company!  I just love their product and customer service.)  I felt such a benefit from using it that I brought it to a work conference four hundred miles away, and I brought it to the maternity hospital when I had my first baby!  I couldn’t care less who gave me a strange look.  I didn’t feel a dramatic change from using it, but I definitely felt it lifted my depression in a subtle way.
 
If you buy a therapeutic light, you may be able to get reimbursement from your health insurance company if you submit a doctor’s letter.  In 2004, Sunbox had a sample letter form on their website.  I could print it out, have my doctor sign it (including my diagnosis of depression) and then submit to the health insurance company.  My HealthNet insurance company rejected my claim, unfortunately, but it was worth a try.  The sample letters no longer appear on Sunbox’s website, but I’d contact their staff to double-check about this reimbursement possibility; their email is sunbox@aol.com and their phone number: 1-800-548-3968 or 1-800-Lite-You.  
Sunbox is the most reputable company I know of and is endorsed by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a South African author, psychiatrist and scientist. He was the first psychiatrist to describe winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and he pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment.
 
One of the things I love about my light is that it is SUPER-easy to use – I just flick a switch and have a seat in front of it after I crawl out of bed in the morning.  I can read or surf the internet while using my light.  I feel instant gratification as the bright light envelops me.  I use it for about twenty-to-thirty minutes and opinions differ on the optimum amount of time to use the light.
 
The “Bright Light Therapy for Bipolar” article I posted below may seem dated since it’s from 2008, but the findings are impressive.  The study’s control group was very small, but I loved its promising outcome: ” Of the nine women treated, six achieved some degree of response, with several reaching full recovery from depressive symptoms.”
 
There is also a new kid on the light therapy block called the Valkee Bright Light Headset.  Valkee earphones are worn so one can go just about anywhere while simultaneously receiving light-therapy-quality benefits.  These Finland-made earphones are not cheap – they run just under $300.00. For more information check out: https://www.facebook.com/ValkeeCompany)
 
Have a great Sunday, and if you live with bipolar disorder, take a couple minutes to review the study below.
 
take care,
Dyane
 

Bright Light Therapy for Bipolar January 4th, 2008

A new study finds bright light therapy can ease bipolar depression in some patients.  Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic studied nine women with bipolar disorder to examine the effects of light therapy in the morning or at midday on mood symptoms.  “There are limited effective treatments for the depressive phase of bipolar disorder,” said Dorothy Sit, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and the study’s first author. “While there are treatments that are effective for mania, the major problem is the depression, which can linger so long that it never really goes away.” The study is published in the journal Bipolar Disorders.  Women with bipolar depression were given light boxes and instructed on how to use them at home. The women used the light boxes daily for two-week stretches of 15, 30 and 45 minutes.  Some patients responded extremely well to the light therapy, and their symptoms of depression disappeared.  The responders to light therapy stayed on the light therapy for an additional three or four months. Four patients received morning light, and five used their light boxes at midday. Participants also continued to take their prescribed medications throughout the study period.  “Three of the women who received morning light initially developed what we call a mixed state, with symptoms of depression and mania that occur all at once – racing thoughts, irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety and low mood,” said Dr. Sit. “But when another group began with midday light therapy, we found a much more stable response.”  Of the nine women treated, six achieved some degree of response, with several reaching full recovery from depressive symptoms.  While most attained their best recovery with midday light, a few responded more fully to a final adjustment to morning light.  “People with bipolar disorder are exquisitely sensitive to morning light, so this profound effect of morning treatment leading to mixed states is very informative and forces us to ask more questions,” said Dr. Sit.  “Did we introduce light too early and disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns?”  People with bipolar disorder are known to be sensitive to changes in outdoor ambient light and to seasonal changes. Researchers are asking whether the risk of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder could be linked to changes in light exposure.“  In our study, 44 percent of patients were full responders, and 22 percent were partial responders,” Dr. Sit and her colleagues write. “Light therapy, therefore, is an attractive and possibly effective augmentation strategy to improve the likelihood of full-treatment response.”Optimal response was observed with midday light therapy for 45 or 60 minutes daily, noted Dr. Sit.  Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Back to My Book Today & “You’re Just Like Me: Dyane”

Today is the day!  

After I drop my girls off at school, if I make it back home alive (it’s always a risk driving in the school’s parking lot from hell!) I’m planting myself in my freshly organized office.  It’s once again time to work on my book  Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.  I’ll be praying that I won’t relapse before this project is completed.  (I relapsed last year, and I cancelled my long-awaited book contract because of that setback…ugh.)

In short, I’m scared.

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I have a hundred pages that I wrote well over a year ago.  I plan to sit my ass down and review them, but since a lot of that material was written when I was hypomanic or manic, I doubt much of it will be salvageable.  At least it’s a starting point.

Since I don’t have much time today to work on my usual, overly long blog post, I thought I’d share a recent Q&A from the popular blog “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost – The Real Thoughts of a Bipolar Mind”.  It’s about, ahem, me.

Check it out, and take a look at Oh Temp’s other compelling posts – you may even want to participate in this Q&A yourself.  “You’re Just Like Me” is a weekly feature.  You just need to email your answers to the questions you see in my submission to bipolarunemployedlost@gmail.com. Oh Temp writes in the blog, “We will feature your Q&A!  I’d love to hear your experience and motivation to fight this horrible disease.”

http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/youre-just-like-me-dyane/

I’ll be posting here later this week, and I hope you will check back.

Thanks for visiting my blog – it really means a great deal to me that you’re reading this, and now I’m getting all verklempt but really, I feel honored to have my diatribes read by someone besides me!  😉

Take care.

Dyane

p.s. If you are a mom living with mental illness, please visit the brand-new blog/Facebook page “Stigmama”.  This resource has been created by Dr. Walker Karraa, a perinatal mental health advocate, author and researcher.  To learn about her work visit http://www.walkerkarraa.com.

Stigmama is a “community blog dedicated to women’s experiences of stigma regarding mental illness and motherhood.”

Stigmama is seeking blog submissions and you can find contact info. at the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stigmamacom/436581233140467

Facing challenges with writing books when you have bipolar

That’s what’s on my sleepy mind this rainy morning – how authors with brain challenges have the ability to complete an entire book.  I wish there was a magic potion I could drink that would get me to sit down and finish the piece I’ve been working on (and mostly off) the past several years.  I’ve been thinking books-books-books all stormy weekend long.  I selected some of my longtime “friends” (I know it sounds schmaltzy, but I consider books to be friends) for my blog hit lists that I wrote over the weekend.

If you search Amazon listings you’ll find that a brand-new bipolar memoir is being published almost every day.  Many of these books are self-published, and they usually run the price of a small double mocha instead of twenty-five dollars.  As much as I’d love the author to make more of a profit, I love that affordability.

It’s getting easier and easier to get your work out into the world, which is wonderful.  I’ve noticed that more authors are using self-publishing companies such as CreateSpace and Author House.  While it’s a blessing that these organizations give writers the opportunity to share their stories with a worldwide audience, it’s also easier for mediocre or downright awful books to emerge.

Even if a new book is lousy, I still have so much admiration for the author; I’m also envious because I want to complete a project too.  Anyone who can focus enough to finish  a two-hundred page manuscript has made a remarkable achievement.  I’ve been wondering why I want to finish my book so badly.  The reasons are simple: I want all my suffering to help other moms with bipolar feel less alone, I want to feel productive, and I want to be able to tell people (and myself) that I’m a bona fide author.  It’s true am a writer – the fact that I’ve made a couple thousand dollars off my articles tells me that, but it’s different to have a book published.  A book is (usually) a true labor of love.  Writing a book was a labor of love for my husband Craig Harwood, who took seven years to write his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West in his free time.

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(shameless plug!)

Yesterday I was working out on my NordicTrack elliptical.  While I’ve had phases where I’ve been an exercise purist eschewing magazines, lately I’ve been reading my Kindle on the machine.  The workout time flies by while I surf Facebook and read books on my Kindle and I still break a decent sweat.  I also blast the Pandora Disco channel.  There’s nothing like hearing the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman” or Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” while on an elliptical.

A couple days ago I was working out and Kindle surfing.  I spotted a book announced on Amazon that very day: Deborah Kaminski’s Bipolar and Me for just $2.99.  What caught my eye was the book cover – it was hard to miss, even with sweat dripping into my eyes:

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(There’s nothing quite like an eye-catching cover.)

The author describes her book simply on Amazon: “This book talks about my journey with Bipolar Disorder and has information for both those suffering and those who have loved ones who suffer with bipolar.”  Her self-publishing company is BookRix.  I had never heard of them, and their recent press release sounds too good to be true .  They “will no longer charge for their eBook-distribution-services, allowing authors to publish eBooks for free via BookRix and distribute them to all major eBook stores such as Amazon.”  When I observe books being published so frequently by these types of companies, I am reminded that I can just go for it.  I’ve seen books that are only fifteen or twenty pages long for sale on Amazon – to me that’s more of a chunky brochure, but I admire the writer’s resolve in getting her work out into the world.

Many people with bipolar have attention challenges and/or struggle with sedation due to medication side effects.  I have both of those issues, but I won’t let them stop me.  If others can do it, I can too.  I also realized that I won’t become a career blogger or a fly-by-night sensation who gains thousands of followers.  It’s a hard to give up the idea of hitting it big via a blog, but I can’t blog regularly and work on a book – at least not now.  I have two little girls who are my priority, and at this point I am not able to do everything I want to do.

However, I can still set out to accomplish my dream to complete a book project.  One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle had her infamous A Wrinkle In Time manuscript rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was, in L’Engle’s words, “too different”, and “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil.”   She also went through an entire decade of getting rejection slips, which is hard for me to believe.  She describes that tortuous decade in her own writing in the book Two Part Invention – the Story of A Marriage. (It’s one of my favorite books.)

I’ll boast about this until the day I die, but none other than Madeleine L’Engle liked my writing, even though it was just a measly fourteen line sonnet I wrote with sweaty palms about dolphins.  L’Engle had me recite it at her writing workshop.  Take my word for it, she was not the type to lie about liking anyone’s writing.  She made that astoundingly clear at the two workshops I was lucky enough to attend.

There’s the famous saying that to be truly excellent at anything, one must practice for 10,000 hours.  I’ve been using this blog to get into the daily practice of writing, and I’m hoping it won’t take me another 9,995 hours to get where I want to be.  At least I have the aforesaid hope, and if I have hope, I can write a book – I really think I can.  I’m going to finish reading this:

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and hop to it!

I’ve selected March 1st as my start date to return to writing/editing my Birth of a New Brain manuscript.  (I have one hundred pages so far.)  I will devote at least a half an hour each day to writing.  My husband told me he spent twenty minutes every morning to write his book Quest for Flight.   He woke up before the rest of us each day to do it, which I can’t realistically do yet.  The three medications I take (lithium, Seroquel and the MAOI Parnate) make it so that I need to sleep as long as I can in the morning.  Then my girls get up, and we all scramble to get ready for the bumper-to-bumper schlep to school.

I’ll stick to blogging for the next couple weeks and try to shorten my posts.  I never thought I’d write overly long blog posts, but I figure you can skim it or maybe you’re hopefully a fast (and tolerant) reader!  Thanks for reading this from the bottom of my sleepy heart!