The BipolarStyle Podcast & Happy Halloween!

BipolarStyle Podcast, October 22, 2017

with host John Emotions & yours truly!  To listen to our chat, visit this link


Official Podcast Episode Description

“John and Dyane discuss her new book Birth of a New Brain about postpartum bipolar disorder. They discuss what the condition is, how Dyane experienced it, and how the book came to be. They also talk a little about their favorite Netflix shows including Black Mirror, Lady Dynamite, and Theo Vonn. Also, we include more talk of a #bipolarcabal on Twitter and lots of bipolar digressions.”

When John and I recorded the podcast, I was in a freezing room and I drank lots of highly caffeinated Tazo chai to quickly warm up. Although I had sworn not to become over-caffeinated again during a podcast recording, I must be honest with you: I broke my vow.

(I was fortunate that John not only tolerated my here-there-and everywhere digressions but ran with them like a gazelle—he was incredibly gracious.)   

John Emotions is such a breath of fresh air. Despite having bipolar disorder, John asserts he’s an optimist; his attitude truly amazes and inspires me. I’m so glad the internet brought us together.

John’s new Facebook page: Bipolar Creative Society  

The original Facebook page: Bipolar Style

On Twitter: @BipolarStyle 

Visit the Bipolar Style website to buy cool tank tops like the one I’m wearing. Go there to let John know you’d like to be a podcast guest! It’s also a place to network with other people with bipolar, connect with life-saving resources, access exclusive content & more; it’s ever-evolving! 

See you next Friday & have a wonderful Halloween!!!! 

 

XOXO,

Dyane

p.s. Are you dressing up for Halloween? 

 

Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Foreword by the perinatal psychiatrist and acclaimed author Dr. Carol Henshaw.

Now available on Amazon in paperback & Kindle versions!

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A Mellow Walk With Lucy, My Furry Antidepressant

Dear Friends,

When I referred to the tennis court I called it “chalk,” but I meant clay, LOL! (Sorry about the shaky camerawork!) 

Have a great weekend & 4th of July.

See you next Friday!

Love,

Dyane

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder,  foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw, will be published by Post Hill Press on October 10th, 2017. Birth of a New Brain is now available on Amazon for paperback pre-sales. Kindle pre-sales will be available later this summer.

Tahoe Editing, Mount Everest & Adam Ant

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Don’t hate Adam Ant because he’s still beautiful…at 56!

 

Happy New Year, my friends!

I’m still in Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe for a few more days, and we’ve had a very heavy snowfall. I must admit I prefer to visit here in August when the wildflowers are blooming and I can escape the confines of The Munchkin cabin to take long hikes, bears and all!

I’m wimpy when it comes to this kind of cold – perhaps it’s my Los Angeles upbringing. But this has been the perfect setting to hunker down and work on my editor’s feedback, which I’d like to discuss in next week’s post. It’s a workout, to say the least. My deadline is the end of this month and that’s a powerful motivator, as you can imagine. While here Craig and I have traded off taking the girls out so we can focus on our work; he has been very supportive when it comes to my “Other Man.” (I used to call his book his “Other Woman”!)

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I’ve taken some breaks to sit in front of the roaring fire and watch movies, and I want to share a favorite with you: the documentary Everest. It’s an amazing film, and while I’d NEVER attempt to hike Everest even if you paid me ten million dollars, it’s fascinating to watch these intrepid souls scale the highest mountain in the world.

wp-1483632264427.jpgEverest is poignant because the filmmakers chronicle the ascent of the son of the late Tenzing Norgay; Norgay was the first Nepalese man who completed the first Everest summit with Sir Edmund Hilary. Everest is narrated by the actor Liam Neeson, whose lilting Irish accent makes me, oh, I’ll admit it…swoon just a little bit!

I also love the soundtrack, which has beautifully arranged versions of some of my favorite George Harrison songs – his famous hits and the more obscure tunes, such as This Is Love from one of my all-time favorite Harrison solo albums Cloud 9.

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I brought along a Jack Bond documentary titled Adam AntThe Blueback Hussar, but I haven’t watched most of the film yet. I’ve admired Adam Ant for years; first during his 80s musical splash, and then when he went public with having bipolar disorder. He wrote the remarkable memoir Stand and Deliver and I had high hopes for this film, but I haven’t been able to get into The Blueback Hussar the way I expected I would.

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However, I’ll definitely finish it and see how it all pans out. And I won’t miss the special features that include a duet with Boy George – oh yes, please! 😉 Have any of you seen it???

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 Lucy was more enraptured watching Adam AntThe Blueback Hussar than I was!

There’s not much else to report – I’ve been pretty quiet on your blogs while we’ve been up here (we don’t have internet available at the cabin, and I hate using my cell for comments, don’t I, Marie?) but I’ll get noisier in your comment sections as the year rolls on.

Take care, have a great day, and I send you lots of love!

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

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Somewhere Over the Technicolor Rainbow

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Last Friday we headed for Alpine Valley, Lake Tahoe, a five-hour-long drive from our home. Minutes after this selfie was taken in our ancient Subaru Forester’s back seat, one of my daughters unloaded a “Technicolor rainbow” all over the place. I sat next to her. Suffice it to say, my smile wouldn’t be seen again for some time.

Suffice it to say, my smile wouldn’t be seen again for some time.

I was enormously relieved when she said she felt better, but during the rest of the trek, I was on the verge of doing the same thing. It was one of the most miserable journeys of my life, and when we pulled up to The Munchkin cabin, I nearly kissed the snowy ground in relief!

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We rent The Munchkin each year and if I won the lottery, I’d convince the owner to sell it to me. Seven years ago my husband Craig found this rental on Craigslist , appropriately enough. The cost was extremely reasonable for pricey Lake Tahoe, but we had no idea how nice this place was until we pulled up to the steep front staircase. Our mouths dropped at our good fortune.

Since then, Craig befriended the owner and she has dropped the rent for us, making this stay incredibly affordable, especially because Craig makes this a working vacation.   

The Munchkin is modest compared to the nouveau-riche McMansions that dot the street, the neighborhood…and virtually all of Lake Tahoe! Unfortunately, the older, quaint cabins are becoming a thing of the past. I prefer cozy to cavernous any day.

We’ve enjoyed The Munchkin during the summer and winter, and Lucy loves being here no matter what the season.

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 Don’t let Lucy’s pensive expression fool you – this dog has a complete blast romping around in the snow. 

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This is the view from the deck where I’ve written my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder almost every summer we’ve come here, except when my bipolar depression was so horrible I couldn’t do much of anything. 

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Right after I snapped this shot, the girls got into a vicious snowball fight – what else is snow good for?

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This giant Santa greeted me when I walked to the top of the street. This photo doesn’t do his size justice – trust me, he’s BIG!

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My older daughter loves to cook and bake on snowy days. Here she’s putting the finishing touches on lemon meringue cups. Unlike me, she isn’t a chocoholic, which is a blessing because if she made chocolate-anything, I’d eat the entire batch.

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I took these mountain shots during one of my daily late afternoon hikes. In the summer I must watch out for bears, which makes for a rather unsettling hiking experience.

I’ve even had a bear encounter in The Munchkin (to read more about that, check out the post “Bears, Shrinks, and Mindfulness”) and I take bears very seriously! But now that it’s cold and the bears are fast asleep, I can put that worry to rest, well, for the most part. Thanks to the guide Bear Aware, I know what to do in case I come across a bear.

As far as my book’s editing is concerned, I haven’t made much progress yet. Due to a glitch, I had to sit tight and wait for my publisher to fix the file filled with copyedits and assorted questions. I received the file last night and I’ll begin working on it today. We don’t have internet at the Munchkin, so it’s off to the Crest Café this morning where I’ll download the file, gulp hard, pass out (just kidding) and put my nose to the grindstone.

I can’t write this post without mentioning the loss of Carrie Fisher, her mother Debbie Reynolds, and George Michael – they have all been on my mind. I still can’t believe they’re gone, and I’m glad there have been so many insightful blog posts and articles written about their lives.

Only two weeks ago I sent a letter to Carrie Fisher’s staff about her participating in a World Bipolar Day project. I never thought in a zillion years that she wouldn’t be here to ring in the new year. My heart goes out to her daughter Billie, her brother Todd, and the rest of her family and fans.

I wish you a Happy New Year, my friends! Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

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Afterlifethoughts & Angels: Part Two

2528715602_5563b7a9de_bWe need our angels now more than ever before…

 

Thanksgiving Edition: I’m posting a few days early since I thought you might want to try this idea tomorrow, probably not at the dinner table, but in private! 😉 

Dear Friends,

First of all, Happy almost-Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it!

Recently I read Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal by Anthony William. Although I’ve established I’m a bit of a “woo woo” gal, I initially didn’t feel drawn to reading it because I was turned off by the Panglossian title. But thanks to my mercurial mind, I eventually read a sample on my Kindle and gave it a chance. 

In the first section, Anthony William depicts his extraordinary life. Critics can pan the book all they like, but the book has been a New York Times bestseller, and it has been endorsed by numerous celebrities and physicians.

I found William’s bizarre gift and upbringing fascinating, but I won’t give away any spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that. 

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However, I won’t be spoiling anything by discussing one of William’s self-help chapters about angels. 

I haven’t blogged much about religion, and don’t worry, I’m not about to start doing it now, but I think it’s helpful if I share a few facts. I was born Jewish, but I’m not religious and I didn’t attend Hebrew school. I believe there is a higher power, which technically makes me agnostic, a word that sounds as cool as “moist” or “constipated.”

I’ve never been into angels unless they were attached to “food cakes,” but after reading William’s information about praying to obscure angels, I was intrigued. His instructions were easy, free and seemed harmless. I decided to try out his suggestions, but I was skeptical.

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In chapter twenty-three, Essential Angels, William writes about different angels including a group he calls the Unknown Angels. These are not the “superstar” angels like Archangel Gabriel and Archangel Michael that even this agnostic knows about. The Unknown Angels are the unsung angels that don’t have specific names, and there are many of them – we’re talking thousands.

Williams asserts that the Unknown Angels are some of the most powerful angels around, but they are the least in demand, and they are “eager for the chance to work on us.”  

The catch to this exercise is that if you decide to appeal to these angels, you need to ask for their help out loud. I keep it super-simple, i.e. “Hi Unknown Angels, can you please help me with  XYZ – thank you!” If you’re deaf, have a speech impairment, or are too weak to speak, William suggests using sign language or your thoughts to ask the Angel of Deliverance, who will “express your soul’s wishes to the other angels.” (To those muttering non-angelic words right now, I beseech you to roll with this!)

Also, I encourage you to read this chapter in its entirety, as I’m leaving out 95%, but I’m sharing the bare minimum that has helped me.

This information might sound hippie-dippie or not jibe with your religious beliefs. But after I self-consciously uttered a prayer about a problem that was promptly and unexpectedly solved, I wasn’t so cynical. At the very least, talking to the Unknown Angels has gotten me out of my usual loop of negative thoughts, and I like how that feels.

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My prayers to the Unknown Angels aren’t always answered or answered exactly the way I want them. Still, I’m getting results that convince me to appeal to these mysterious Unknown Angels, especially when I pray during moments when I’m totally stressing out.

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Sometimes this lovely meme’s concept simply isn’t possible, i.e. Thanksgiving dinner. I’m a sucker for a cute animal meme, so I’m using it anyway!

The placebo effect could definitely play a part in some of my prayer successes – I don’t know, and frankly it doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful to have this option because the act of doing it seems to reduce my anxiety. I don’t feel so alone with my problem, be it great (worry about the health of a loved one) or small. (I’m too embarrassed to admit my small prayers, but they might be about things such as finding a parking spot or landing a hard-to-find child’s Halloween costume. Maybe.)

While writing this post, I visited Anthony William’s blog and found a post about Life-Changing Angels, the twelve female angels (go Girl Power!) discussed in his second book Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself And The Ones You Love With The Hidden Healing Powers Of Fruits And Vegetables. I don’t want to overwhelm you, but you might want to take a peek at that post.

If this topic sounds remotely interesting, please check out William’s book at your library, or splurge – it’s not cheap (even for the Kindle version) hovering around $15.00, so the library might be your best bet.

I’d love to know if you try reaching out to the Unknown Angels and what happens…

Until next week, please take good care of yourselves. I send you lots of love and strength to get through these challenging holidays!

Love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) will be published by Post Hill Press in October 2017.

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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! 😉 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.

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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 “dose” 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 ‘dosing’ 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 — if you are trying to achieve that, talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY.

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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 – simple, right?

Okay, okay, 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, 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 #2–30 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’s break this rule down. First reactions are usually — 6 days?! That’s 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 – five 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! 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’t 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’t 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’t work just exercise at any time that’s 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’t have a lot of equipment and can’t go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it’s only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
  • If you skip days and don’t exercise at least 5 days in a week don’t 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 ‘dose’ 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’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

Post Hill

Hell in Paradise-Part 1/Sorry to Confuse!

Hope this brief video of me and Lucy makes sense! I’m sorry that yesterday’s 300th post was confusing. I created my WordPress blog in 2008. I only wrote three posts and then I became too depressed to write. I didn’t blog again until 2011. Once again, I wrote a couple posts and took yet another depression-related hiatus. 

I returned to blogging in December, 2013. Three time’s truly the charm…I was able to stick with it! Yesterday’s 300th post was a revised version of my very 1st blog post that I published in December, 2013. Today’s post is a revision of post #2. I’ll be publishing a couple more revised posts to complete the story. If you understand this, you get an A+! 😉 Thanks so much for reading and for your comments – I hope that you have a great day! Dyane

Hell in Paradise – Part One: Tsunamis of the Heart and Land

Our November, 2013 family trip to Kona, Hawaii was significant for several reasons.  The first reason was that we had to postpone the trip three times due to my summer hospitalizations for a bipolar depression relapse. The relapse occurred while I was tapering off lithium. I became manic and then went in the opposite direction, down to the very bottom of hopelessness.  

The second reason was that my mother-in-law had passed away a few months prior to our trip. We wanted to bring her ashes to Kona. She worked in the Kona area for over a decade, and it held a special place in her heart.

A week before we took off for Hawaii, my Parnate “miracle” had stopped working, and my bipolar depression returned. I couldn’t help but note the irony of the situation: here I was, about to visit one of the most magnificent places on Earth, and I was depressed yet again.

Once we settled in our rental in Holualoa, Kona I did some internet research. I found that some people took larger doses of Parnate than I was taking – up to twice as much.  I was able to get ahold of Dr. D. while we were there. 

(A sidenote: Holualoa means “long sled run” and is a fitting description of where we stayed.  We were located in the Kona coffee region and our rental was a stunning coffee farm high above the coast.)

Anyway, I asked Dr. D. if I could raise the Parnate up 10 mg for a total of 40 mg a day.  He gave me his go-ahead.  It turned out the dosage made me feel much worse.  I had terrible form of agitated insomnia.  

The eighteen wild turkeys who roamed the coffee plantation were noisy each night. While their gobbling sounds were cute during the day, they kept me awake and were anything but charming at night.  There were also plenty of tropical birds who loved to chirp the night away.

Meanwhile, my depression wasn’t going anywhere.  I returned to 30 mg of Parnate/day.

I knew I should’ve felt grateful for being in Hawaii. The fact that I felt so bad did nothing to assuage my guilt.   My brain synapses, which had been working so well at the beginning of the month, were stuck in a morass once again.  

I couldn’t think of anything to say to anyone during the long car trips we took around the island.  I couldn’t escape with a good book, which to me was pure torture.  

When I started taking Parnate I stopped drinking alcohol cold-turkey, as alcohol is a deadly mix with this MAOI medication, so I couldn’t turn to margaritas to relax.  (And that was a very good thing that I couldn’t drink my blues away!) 

Although I went for a thirty-minute walk amongst the coffee trees each morning, I ate tons of unhealthy treats such as chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and Kona coffee ice cream. During some fleeting moments, I was able to appreciate the grandeur of the island. I noticed my girls’ joyful laughter when they went boogie boarding, but still…I wanted a do-over!

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This photo of our girls was taken on Hilo’s beach on the Big Island.  We visited Hilo twice during our trip. Due to its history of deadly tsunamis, Hilo was particularly significant to me.

Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Los Angeles, I was very aware of the existence of tsunamis.  I asked my father if a tsunami could ever reach our home that was perched on the edge of the deep Las Pulgas Canyon near the ocean. He told me repeatedly that we would be safe, but deep down I didn’t believe him.

I had recurring tsunami dreams despite my Dad’s reassurance.  When I was older, I pored over books about tsunami history and I watched documentaries about these terrifying “harbor waves” (Tsunami means harbor wave in Japanese). I was so fascinated and obsessed by this topic that sometimes I wondered whether I died in a tsunami in a past life!

When I moved to Santa Cruz and experienced the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I was so terrified that I forgot about all my tsunami lore and  did the worst thing possible in a tsunami zone – I sprinted to West Cliff Drive which overlooked the ocean. This scenic road (which is shown during the opening credits of the film The Lost Boys) was two blocks away from my apartment. I ran out of the building as soon as the first tremor ended.  I felt drawn to the sea instead of safer, higher ground.

If there *had* been a tsunami, I would have been toast! 

While in Hilo the first time, we visited one of its main beaches.  Most of the Hilo beaches are nowhere as gorgeous as the beaches on the other side of the Big Island, but their warm water temperatures are awesome.

I felt so down that I didn’t even put on my brand-new, shimmery blue Speedo suit. I plopped down on the sand while my girls and husband frolicked in the water. It struck me that I was sitting in the very spot where the devastating 1946 and 1960 tsunamis had blasted in. I became morbid, thinking that maybe it would be okay to die in tsunami after all, since I had lost hope that my depression would lift.

I continued ruminating how people must have died in the very place where I was sitting.  I’ve known for years that Hilo was the home of the Pacific Tsunami Museum, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit it.  The first time we went to Hilo I was so apathetic and depressed that I told my husband we didn’t have to check out the museum.  He was surprised, to say the least, as he was well-acquainted with my tsunami obsession. He had plenty of times to hear about it during our fifteen-year-long relationship.

When we returned to Hilo a second time, it seemed ridiculous not to visit the Tsunami Museum, so off we went.  I didn’t think our girls would be interested in the subject. Moreover, I was concerned the Pacific Tsunami Museum might be too scary for them, but fortunately they were up for the visit.

A spirited retired docent who had been an elementary school principal spent time with the girls.  She showed them kid-friendly exhibits about the science of earthquakes and waves. I shuffled around the rest of the museum, scared to make eye contact with anyone, wishing a wave would swallow me up then and there.  

Update 9/23/15: Now that I’m doing well, I hope and pray that there won’t be any tsunamis in our area anytime soon! There was a tsunami in our harbor in 2011, but luckily I was high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, safe and sound.

How did I get better? I promise to reveal more in the next installment.

To be continued…

Dyane Leshin-Harwood’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.