Writing Heals My Brain

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Writing Heals My Brain

I write because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight-years-old.

I write because my mother gave me wonderful books to read as a child, and she always believed in my writing ability – she continues encouraging my writing as she approaches her eighth decade!

I write because it grounds me.

I write because the act of writing restores me; it helps me remember the person I was before a mental illness almost destroyed me.

I write to prove to myself that all the soul-sucking medications I’ve taken didn’t kill my creativity after all.

I write because writing has given me the opportunity to interview extraordinary people. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was a freelance writer. I interviewed Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of the bestselling book An Unquiet Mind, for a magazine article I was writing. Little did I know I would eventually share the same diagnosis with Dr. Jamison.

I write because I can write, even after I had electricity pulse through my brain over fifty times during electroconvulsive treatments (ECT). My long-term memory is still intact.

I write because it stimulates some mysterious part of my brain and makes me feel better.

I write because it’s free therapy.

I write to share and connect with other people worldwide who have suffered with bipolar disorder like I have.

I write to help other moms know they aren’t alone with their perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

I write because no one, not even bipolar disorder, can take away the fact that I’m a Writer

 

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Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth)will be published by   Post Hill Press in Fall, 2017.

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Snow Therapy

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My girls with their new friend – and yes, Rilla is licking him, but she lived to tell the tale!

 

I’m writing this post from the snowy shores of West Lake Tahoe. It’s a spectacular area – if you haven’t had a chance to visit Lake Tahoe, I hope that someday that you’lll have the opportunity.

Yesterday we left our Santa Cruz Mountains home and drove five hours to reach Tahoma. It usually takes us only three hours, but the stormy weather forced us to slow down. While making the journey we experienced three “seasons” in one day. I was reminded of one of my favorite Crowded House songs Four Seasons In One Day. We drove through sunshine, rain, sleet and snow.

We’re staying at a friend’s cabin who rented it to us for a song, so we’re able to afford this trip. I didn’t think we’d have internet, but I figured out how to access it, and voila! I’m stoked! 🙂 It’s very healthy to unplug, but it’s also frustrating if you’re like me and used to keeping up with your blogosphere family. I wrote about that last year when we stayed in Alpine Valley without internet access.

So….ever since I wrote my last two posts, I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality. My vibrant friend “N” died a little over a week ago, and his son wrote something very beautiful that moved me:

“During his lifetime, my father soaked up the good will, compassion and kindness from many people like yourselves, to the point that the love in his heart could no longer fit inside of one mortal body. And now that love will have the freedom to be shared boundlessly and eternally…”

These weren’t empty words; they rang true for this remarkable man I knew for a decade, and who I trusted to take care of my little girls. After reading his son’s tribute I thought, If I could have my children write that about me when I’m gone, then I’ll be the luckiest person in the world.

Anyway, this afternoon I took a vigorous snowy walk. Lucy accompanied me and that hound was blissed out – she was so cute, with snow sprinkling her sweet furry face like powdered sugar. I walked with confidence on the snowy streets because I had Yaktrax on the soles of my boots, ensuring traction for a much safer walk.

Last year at Alpine Meadows I fell twice during my walks. I was so foolish – I could have easily hurt myself, and I must have had a guardian angel watching over me. I didn’t know about Yaktrax back then, but after seeing a guy jog by me one day, I knew he must have had something special on his shoes. I asked around and found out there are devices you can attach to your boot soles to cut down on spills. After having three friends experience fall-related head injuries over the past month, there was no way I was going walking here without Yaktrax!

While on our trek, I breathed in the amazing-smelling, icy air. I looked at all the different cabins lit up with Christmas lights as Lucy stopped every few feet to sniff at a snow bank. Being in such a different environment and getting my heart rate up was so good for my mental state. I was in a crappy mood when I started out. The rest of the family were squabbling and I had cabin fever. When I returned from my walk I felt much better. I’ll be walking every day I’m here because it’s not daunting exercise – it’s the very best kind. I wish you could join us! 🙂

If history repeats itself, as I’ve done during prior Lake Tahoe trips, I’ll be blogging a bit more than my usual 1x/week. I hope to write about any alpine adventures that come my way. I’ll let you know if I spot Tahoe Tessie, Lake Tahoe’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, or any Yetis when I go for my jaunts in the woods! (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry. I’ll be extremely careful this time!) 

Take care of yourselves and have a great beginning to your week!

love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

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Two Concussions in One Day

Yesterday was weird.

Let me back up.

I live up in the Santa Cruz Mountains where the wild banana slugs roam, and every day is a little bit weird.

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But yesterday was weirder than usual.

After taking the kids to school (and only having one road rage-ish tizzy fit -a personal best!), I returned home to read the latest post by my friend Samina Raza of the award-winning Bipolar1Blog. 

Samina wrote about her first time ice skating. Her post was accompanied by a pictorial, which started out showing happy, beautiful scenes of Samina on the ice, and a video, but then it turned into something very different.  

Interestingly enough, Samina’s adventure wasn’t all gloom ‘n doom. While she took a spill and suffered a concussion, something else happened that day that was good – you need to read her post “went Ice Skating” to believe it!

I never would’ve guessed what happened to Samina in a zillion years. I want what she got, but I wouldn’t want to do what she did to get it!

(Say that 10 times fast!)

 

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A couple hours later I waited at the elementary school to pick up my girls. Craig called me to let me know that a good friend of ours had fallen that morning. He cracked some bones in his neck and was at the hospital; those were the only details Craig knew so far.

The news of my friends’ concussions gave me pause. 

Sabina mentioned that she wasn’t wearing a helmet, but promised she’d  definitely put one on the next time she goes to the rink. I’m so proud of her wanting to go skating again!

My other friend got his concussion from simply skipping a step on the staircase – we all do that sometimes, don’t we? His accident could happen to any of us.

These two incidents tie into my last post Always Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop. For much of yesterday, I felt like a Payless Shoesource store could drop on me, but today the paranoid feeling is subsidingI’m slowing down a bit, driving extra-carefully, and de-hunching whenever I catch myself with my shoulders almost hitting my ears. Oh, and I’m trying my damndest not to hold my breath, a nasty, longtime habit of mine…

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My eight-year-old has third grade “mental math” homework in which she has to figure out the problems in her little noggin. Instead of mental math I’ve begun to do a little bit of “mental gratitude” list in my head. Yes, I’m lazy. I was always too lazy to do a gratitude list – don’t tell Oprah! But thinking about it certainly counts. 

Yesterday served as a wake-up call to appreciate what I have right now.

I can’t end this post without making a reference to one of my all-time favorite bands Crowded House. Their hit song Four Seasons in One Day contains lyrics that beautifully express how we never know what will happen, even in this age of psychic superstars and satellite weather systems.

Below is a link to a gorgeous video of Four Seasons in One Day. This was the first Crowded House video to be made in New Zealand. Auckland director Kerry Brown and film producer Bruce Sheridan wanted to emphasise the surreal, fantasy elements of the song, using distinctly NZ imagery. Locations included beaches and dense bush of the South Island’s West Coast, the plains of Central Otago and the Victorian architecture of Oamaru. Scenes of an Anzac Day ceremony and marching girls also highlight the homeland setting. Kerry Brown took inspiration from Salvador Dali paintings for the psychedelic effects added in post-production.

Check it out!

And please…stay safe, my friends. 

Love, Dyane

It doesn’t pay to make predictions
Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain
Only one step away
Like four seasons in one day

http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/four-seasons-in-one-day-1992

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

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Always Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

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Dear Friends, this is a revised post.

I decided to share it again today because I still suffer with that insidious, dreadful “shoe dropping” feeling. Thanks for reading!

 

Ever since my severe bipolar depression lifted, I’ve felt like I’ve been tumbling around in my dryer.  Maybe that’s not the best analogy to use, but it has been a long, strange, emotional trip!  

I’m not quite what to make of it from a medication perspective.  When my depression lifted in 2013, it correlated with my adding the “controversial” MAOI (monamine oxidase inhibitor) drug Parnate to the 900 mg/night of lithium I was taking.  I call my MAOI controversial because it’s an old-school drug that many psychiatrists “poo poo” because it has dietary restrictions. (Those restrictions are no big deal, because the benefit far outweighs them!) MAO’s don’t work for everyone, like all meds, but they have been studied and found to help with treatment-resistant bipolar depression, especially in combination with lithium.

In tandem with the depression I had a terrible, agitated insomnia resulting in barely any sleep for two nights. My psychiatrist suggested I take Seroquel for the insomnia.  I took 100 mg/night and I was able to sleep again. (Update: I gradually tapered down to 25 mg and then stopped taking Seroquel  few months ago.)

Once again I am walking pharmacy.  I’ve come a long way from being medication-free (which resulted in relapse, including suicidal ideation and hospitalization), and I am resigned to popping pills three times a day if it means I can function and be relatively depression-free.  

I’m not thrilled about being dependent upon meds the rest of my life, but I’m definitely resigned to it.  My psychiatrist and therapist believe I can eventually reduce the dosages of some of my meds, but I don’t want to change anything right now.

I have been holding my breath both literally and figuratively.  I’ve always been an anxious person, and once bipolar disorder entered my life, the anxiety skyrocketed.  I became addicted to benzodiazepines (that’s a section in my book; it wasn’t pretty) but I was able to successfully wean myself of the benzos.  Books like the rock climber Matt Samet’s Death Grip, which chronicled his benzodiazepine addiction, inspired me to cut those drugs out of my life for good.

I suspect I hold my breath in part so I can irrationally control something in my life and it’s a nasty, nasty habit.  I have also been holding my breath in the figurative sense because of my fear that the depression will return at any moment.  Growing up in a worrywart culture of Jews, I was taught to fear the very worst, and that tendency remains with me.  I think self-defeating thoughts such as, “Now that my damn depression is finally gone, something really bad is going to happen!”  This way of thinking is fruitless, and let’s face it – I can’t control the universe.  I don’t like that one bit!  Having a family obviously compounds my worrying, and gives me more to fret about.

My psychiatrist Dr. D. advises me to add meditation and to pray.  (Yes, pray.) I’m still not at the meditation point, but praying is easy, quick and free, so I sometimes do that.  I’ve never been a religious person, but I’d call myself spiritual and believe in a higher power which I usually refer to as God, and sometimes (gasp) with four-letter words I’ll spare you reading about here. (No offense to those of you who are deeply religious!)

All my troubles were put into perspective yesterday when I reported for jury duty selection for the first time in my life.  I was completely freaking out about the process.  My worry was so strong that at the very last minute, I asked my doctor for an excuse note. That felt wrong. Then I listened to the jury commissioner’s phone recording explaining what would happen to those citizens who did not report for duty.  

The penalty: a fine up to $1500.00 and up to five days in jail!  Hearing about those penalties sent me over the edge. Even though I had two sick kids home from school and I hadn’t showered for three days, I ran out the door in a dirty sweater and sweat pants, with no makeup and messy hair and drove to the courthouse.  (Thankfully Craig was able to watch our children and work from home.  I felt very lucky to have that support.)

To my surprise, it turned out that it was a very interesting experience, although it was sometimes tedious. I realized that the reason I was so resistant to attending the jury selection was my fear of the unknown. I was scared I wouldn’t know where to park.  I was scared I wouldn’t find the right building.  I was scared I’d be grilled by the judge and lawyers in front of everyone.  

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, none of these logistics would have frightened me to such an extent that I felt paralyzed to act. Now that’s no longer the case, not one bit.

It turns out I figured out everything I needed to do, and I wasn’t quizzed in court; in fact, I was excused.  To my amazement, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to participate on the jury!  

Sitting in that sterile court room, I watched a young person on trial for a crime, and the intense scene triggered a deep sadness in me. I pondered how the person’s family must have felt, and how such a serious allegation would affect his life forever.  It was sobering to witness, despite the fact that the judge had a sense of humor and he humanized the proceedings.  Moreover, the room had such a serious, almost scary energy, and I was relieved that I was simply an observer, not someone on trial.  I also noticed the anxiety of some of the prospective jurors who didn’t want to be there one bit – one of them even began to cry when she told the judge she had a financial hardship.

When I left the cave-like court room and walked outside into the beautiful, sunny day, I was grateful.  I was on my way home to a loving family. They were proud of me for facing my fear of the jury process.  I’m glad that I have my freedom and that the “shoe” I’m so petrified of is still suspended in air for now.

Like everyone, I have no idea what the future will bring, but being in the moment as much as possible can only help.

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Happy Friday, my friends!

I wish you all a good weekend.

Sending you my love as always, and I’ll be back here next Friday.

love, Dyane

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

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How a Nurse Practitioner Living With Bipolar Disorder Takes Control In the Workplace

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Hi my friends!

I’ll be publishing my weekly original post later this week, but I couldn’t help but reblog this post. I’ll let my comment at Freud and Fashion do the talking:

“How thrilling to see my amazing friend/blogger Ann Roselle here at one of my favorite blogs written by Dr.Vania Manipod, psychiatrist of Freud and Fashion! :)))

I discovered Ann during my internet quest to find women who have experienced bipolar, peripartum onset (postpartum bipolar disorder) for the purpose of interviewing for my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa. 

After getting to know Ann & having the great fortune of making a wonderful friend in her, I referred Ann to Joni Edelman, the editor of Ravishly.com. I knew Ann’s writing talent (along with the fact that her story was incredible) would speak to Joni, who lives with bipolar disorder. As I predicted, Joni found Ann’s articles about bipolar disorder to be top-notch and she published them on the popular site.

Lo and behold, you & Ann connected with one another via Ravishly.com. It’s a small world and it thrills me when this kind of networking takes place. It’s social media at its best!

Cheers to both of you remarkable visionaries who constantly inspire me – my world is better with you two in it.

XO, Dyane”

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 Fall, 2017.

Freud & Fashion

I first came across Ann Roselle, an acute care nurse practitioner, via Twitter after reading the extremely personal and brave post that she wrote for the online magazine, Ravishly, which poignantly highlights the humiliation she experienced during one of her numerous psychiatric hospitalizations.  Given the stigma that surrounds mental illness, many may feel ashamed to disclose their diagnoses (especially as a professional in the medical field).  However, Ann writes so openly about living with postpartum onset bipolar disorder as a guest contributor on several websites and in her blog, Bipolar&Me.  She dispels the misconception that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder can’t live fulfilling lives, have a successful career, balance numerous roles and responsibilities (wife, mom of 3 boys, mental health advocate, blogger, to name a few), AND cope with the fluctuations in mood characteristic of bipolar disorder.  I am a huge fan of Ann’s writing and am honored to have her contribute to my blog as she discusses her commitment…

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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.  

Still in the Closet About Depression? by Plucky You

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Hi my friends, & happy Friday!

I’m reblogging Still in the Closet About Depression because Plucky You is an awesome blog containing OUTSTANDING posts! The blogger, a professional writer/editor, is incredibly talented. This plucky one’s articles have been published in some absolutely amazing places that I’d like to share, but I need to get permission first! 😉

Please tell your friends to follow Plucky You and take a look at the Plucky Books section; it’s one of my favorite mood disorder-related compilations. 

I have no idea what I’ll be blogging about next week except for the fact it won’t be about postpartum bipolar disorder and it will be short, i.e. under 600 words. I promise. (Famous last words!)

No, really, between the PPBD posts and my book, I need a little break from bipolarland. (We all do!)

Have a fantabulous weekend & I’ll e-see you next Thursday.
Xo,
Dyane

PLUCKY YOU

Here’s an interesting question. How many people do you know—include yourself in this—who are out about their mental illness with friends, family, and coworkers? I’m just guessing that the majority of people can check either the first and/or the second on that list, but very rarely the third. It’s hard to imagine freely offering this information to your boss or manager at work, unless of course you work for yourself, as I do. But we all have different comfort levels with our personal information.

I admire people who can just be up front about their mental health, like fellow writer Dyanne Harwood whose blog Birth of A New Brain covers the day-to-day struggles of life as a mom with a perinatal mood disorder closely related to bipolar depression. She is doing herself, and everyone who lives with a mental health diagnosis, a favor by standing up to the big scary monster of shame that threatens us with revenge…

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