My new Q & A with the blogger/podcaster extraordinaire Mental Melissa!

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Hi everyone!

I hope you’re doing well. 

Although I’m still on hiatus, I couldn’t resist sharing a Q & A I did last week with Mental Melissa. I hope you’ll visit Melissa’s awesome, compelling, and honest blog so you can get to know her.

I love her Instagram tagline:

“Bipolar, Depression & Anxiety. Mama bear who is stumbling, thriving & surviving.”   (@mental_melisssa)

You can listen to Melissa’s podcast on ITunes or Spotify.

Here’s the link to our Q &A  below — take care & lots of love,

Dyane

https://www.mentalmelissa.com/blog/birth-of-a-new-brain-interview

 

p.s. I’m on Instagram—you can find me at @dyaneharwood

 

Recollections of the Macabre, the Furry and the Fat

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Alpine Meadows, home to the Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, is incredibly beautiful. We’ve been coming here for years to stay at the funky “Munchkin” cabin. Miraculously, the owner only charges us a third of what she could get, and Craig makes it a working vacation so we can afford it.

We trek up here in the winter and during other years we visit during the late summer. It has been amazing for this L.A. girl to observe terrain after it has transformed into the winter and summer.

Last time we went to the Munchkin it was wintertime. The owner and her friend were there to briefly greet us. I chatted with him and learned that he was veteran of the ski industry. He recounted several colorful stories about working at the various Tahoe ski resorts.

“I was here in 1982 when the Alpine Meadows avalanche happened,” he said somberly.

Uh, what avalanche?” I replied sheepishly. He suggested I read a book called A Wall of White by Jennifer Woodlief. I wrote the title down on a piece of paper, intending to download a sample on my Kindle when we returned to the world of WiFi, but I lost the paper and forgot all about it.

When we got to the Munchkin last weekend, I was excited to find a copy of A Wall of White: A True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche in the basement, of all places. I began reading it and so did Craig. (We took turns stealing it from one another.) Each of us finished it within two days! A Wall of White was a national bestseller, and I could see why it was a hit– the writing was top-notch, and it was a definite pageturner.

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Although I found the story fascinating (especially the explanations of different forms of snow, and how avalanches are created) I wish I never, ever read A Wall of White. It was such a morbid, vivid, disturbing account that literally happened just a few minutes from our cabin.

One of the avalanche victims was an eleven-year-old girl – my Avonlea’s age. She died because her self-centered, #$%^& father ignored not one, but two warnings not to hike up to Alpine Meadows during a ginormous snowstorm.

Last year before I read A Wall of White, I blithely drove up to the Alpine Meadow’s ski resort’s remodeled entrance area. I wanted to publish a blog post, and since the Munchkin doesn’t have internet, I could tap into Alpine’s free Wifi. While I sat there shivering in my car, skiers stomped and swarmed all around me. I bet most of them were completely oblivious about what had taken place there 33 years ago. 

Last Monday I needed to make an online bill payment, so I drove up to Alpine Meadows with a different mindset than I had last year. I couldn’t help but ponder about how people had hiked up the same road that I drove upon. They could never have imagined that they’d soon be smothered by tons of snow. Ugh. The thought creeped me out, but it also made me feel deeply grateful for being alive.

wp-1471306240991.jpgGrateful I have my furry muse Lucy

and grateful for my precious girls!

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Yesterday we took the gondola headed to the top of Squaw Valley; I was proudly Xanax-free! We didn’t know a thunderstorm was coming our way! This is a shot I took on the way back down, just before the staff closed the gondola for the day:

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I promised last week to write about some adventures. The truth is that this has been atame week. I guess I could make something up, since I can be devious, but to quote the great Annie Lennox, “Would I lie to you, honey?”

Since I don’t have a current adventure to share, I’d like to tell you about the bear sighting I had at the Munchkin four years ago.

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I had just gotten out of the shower and walked into the dining nook. I glanced at the picture window that had a beautiful view of a steep, woodsy hill behind the cabin. Craig was upstairs, and the girls were watching television in the living room next to the nook.

As usual, I was out of it I was extremely depressed, lethargic, and medicated with meds that weren’t working except to give me zombifying side effects. Despite the fact I was in such a gorgeous setting with my family, I couldn’t appreciate anything.

When I looked out that window, I realized it was a different view than what I was accustomed to.

There was a small bear looking at me.

Oh. My. God.

“BEEEEEAAAAAAAR!!!!” I screamed without thinking. (The little book titled Bear Aware has a bunch of information on what to do and not to do when you see a bear. Unfortunately I hadn’t read Bear Aware before I had that ursine moment, so I was clueless.)

The bear looked at me. He/she probably thought something along the lines of’

”You are such a silly human! I could take you out with one of my farts!”

The girls and Craig came running into the room just in the nick of time to catch the incredible sight. With the four of us watching, the bear scampered up the hill to its mom, who was our of sight. (Craig figured out it was definitely a cub due to its size.)

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I know that some of you might think, “So you saw a bear, no big deal!” But please take my word for it when I tell you those ten minutes were a big deal. The rest of that afternoon I felt less zombie-like. Looking into that cub’s eyes permeated the stupefying effects of my meds. I can understand why bears are sacred totem animals.

The most unbelievable part of this adventure was that the cub had not only been outside of the Munchkin cabin. The bold bear had climbed up three steep flights of outdoor wooden stairs, walked through our front door (which was accidentally cracked open…all I can say about that was it wasn’t me) and went into the basement to grab a bag of garbage. The bear headed back down the stairs with its spoils in tow. This happened while we were all in the house, oblivious to our guest! The cunning cub had been silent as the dead, and was only fifteen feet away from the girls while I showered and Craig was upstairs. The bear could have easily explored the rest of the house…

Lesson learned: lock your door in bear country! 😉

 Lose It! Update 

The Lose It! quest continues with my blogging buddy Bradley, author of the excellent Insights of A Bipolar Bear. We encourage one other through Lose It!’s website. If you’d like to join us, leave a message in the comment section or sign up for free at www.loseit.com. Search for the “Wondrous Writers group”.

The two of us have struggled lately with overeating, but we remain committed to our goals! We know it’s normal to have setbacks – it’s recovering from them that matters. Speakng of Lose It!, I’d like to share my “before and after “shots taken at The Munchkin.

This is my favorite writing spot – the balcony overlooking the back of Squaw Valley:

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2013: 170#  

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Yesterday: 125# 

It has felt so goog to be able to walk up the Munchkin’s three flights of stairs without the extra adipose tissue. Hauling the extra weight used to make me huff and puff and almost hyperventilate. Plus my knees were not happy about it either, especially my knee which had ACL reconstruction after I had a basketball injury.   

Birth of a New Brain memoir update

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Almost every morning during this trip, Lucy has woken me up at 5:00 a.m. I’ve fed her & taken her outside to do her thing. (That hasn’t been so bad since I’ve gotten a great view of the stars, something I don’t get at home since the redwoods block the sky.)

Next I made fresh blood, I mean coffee. I headed out to the deck to work on editing the final chapters and appendices/resource section. The manuscript is due October 1st, and I’m nervous as hell, but excited. I feel like I’m at the end of a ten-year-long pregnancy, and a looooong labor looms ahead. (Yes, I’ve worked on this draft since 2007 after Rilla was born.) There are no epidurals for the publishing process – what a bummer! 

I’ll keep you posted on what happens this fall – the good and the bad! (Hopefully more of the former than the later.) I’ll be back next Friday, and I wish you a great week and perhaps a (positive, fun) adventure of your own!

love,

Dyane

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

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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.  

Singin’ My Song “More Than Bipolar”

 

“More Than Bipolar” by Dyane Leshin-Harwood

I don’t know – why should I care? 

About all the times that life was unfair

It’s so different now, I need to let it all go

Or else I’m gonna blow

So don’t call me bipolar ’cause it’s not my name

Can’t you see I’m a person –  there is no shame

And we have stigma that’s to blame…

I’m more than bipolar 

I’m more than bipolar

It hurts sometimes

And I feel all alone

What can I do?

Don’t want to pick up the phone

Time to break a sweat, cause this mood’s not over yet

And all you need to know…

Don’t call me bipolar ’cause it’s not my name

Can’t you see I’m a person, there is no shame

And we have stigma that’s to blame

I’m more than bipolar

I’m more than bipolar

 

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, fingers & toes crossed, published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016.

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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The Fateful Week – A Journey with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

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Yesterday I was honored to be asked to submit a piece of writing about my experience with postpartum bipolar disorder to Postpartum Progress (www.postpartumprogress.com).  Postpartum Progress is a highly acclaimed organization helping women with postpartum mood disorders all over the world.  Here is a description on their website about what they offer:

“Postpartum Progress® offers in-depth information, community and hope for pregnant and new moms with postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth (including postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, depression during pregnancy, post-adoption depression, postpartum PTSD, depression after miscarriage or perinatal loss and postpartum psychosis). We know that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like PPD are temporary and treatable with professional help.  We are fiercely proud to be the world’s most widely-read blog dedicated to these illnesses, with more than 1.1 million pageviews annually. Our award-winning site is consistently ranked among the top blogs in both the categories of depression and pregnancy/childbirth.”

The below article is a highly condensed version of what took place before and after my diagnosis.  This post will give you an idea of the main events that occurred during the fall when I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder.  

On a warm Indian summer night, I was a sweaty nine months pregnant when my water broke.  During my pregnancy I tested positive for Group B streptococcus, a bacterium in my body that could result in a life-threatening infection to my baby. Right after my water broke, my husband Craig called the hospital to see if there was a room available. Due to my having the Group B bacterial infection, he was instructed by the maternity nurse to get us to the hospital right away. In pain, I stayed up all night in labor, not sleeping one wink.  This innocent-sounding act — enduring one night without sleep — would be my biochemical trigger for postpartum bipolar disorder.  Despite my having a strong family history of bipolar disorder, at age thirty-seven, I didn’t have any inkling that mental illness was latent in me.  My first daughter Avonlea had been born almost two years earlier, and I was incredibly fortunate that I did not have a postpartum mood disorder following her birth.

My second daughter Marilla was born at noon, on August 26th, 2007; I was thrilled she was a robust seven pounds.  During the first two days of Marilla’s life, obstetricians and nurses examined me at the hospital, and I visited with family and friends, but no one detected that I was in jeopardy.  At first I was hypomanic, exuberant with joy over the birth, and I appeared relatively normal.  Sweet Marilla attracted most of the attention.  However, I sensed I was in growing trouble of some kind, but my fear of being an inept mother caused me to keep my feelings inside.

Since we didn’t have family members immediately available to help us, my mother gave us the gift of a postpartum doula named Grace.  Grace and I had planned that she be with us after Marilla’s birth, but she had a completely unanticipated allergic reaction.  She wasn’t able to join our family until four days following Marilla’s debut.  As Grace hadn’t known my personality well before coming to work with us, and she didn’t realize that my manic behavior was different than how I had been before Marilla was born, although she was absolutely concerned with what she witnessed.  Grace was wonderful with our girls and with me and Craig; she was an excellent doula, but she couldn’t rescue me from my dire situation – no one could at that point.  Grace had worked with over 150 mothers; while some of them suffered from postpartum depression, none of them presented with postpartum mania like I did.

The deceptive part of postpartum mania is that people often think the new mother is simply happy to have a baby.  After Marilla’s birth, I was filled with an overwhelming amount of joy and energy.  However, not one of my state-of-the-art maternity center nurses, OB-GYN’s, or our pediatrician detected my mania right away.  My father had bipolar one disorder, so I had a genetic predisposition to the mood disorder.  Furthermore, I had suffered clinical depression ten years prior to Marilla’s birth.  (Recent studies have shown that women with clinical depression prior to childbirth have a much greater chance of being diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder.) 

During my hypomanic state, I could feel my brain thinking much, much faster than it had before.  I also had a very rare condition triggered in tandem with bipolar called hypergraphia, which is compulsive writing.  I had been a freelance writer for years, but this kind of writing was totally different than how I wrote before childbirth.  Once I returned home from the hospital, I simply could not stop writing.  I wrote at every opportunity, even during breastfeeding, and it was completely bizarre!

During my sleepless nights postpartum, in a well-meaning effort to get me to stop typing, Craig hid my laptop.  As he slept, I cleaned for a good part of the night as quietly as I could.  While I scrubbed countertops and organized drawers at 3:00 a.m., I yearned to have some semblance of peace and balance in my life. I also went online and typed lengthy emails to friends.  I didn’t realize that my friends would be able to view the actual time I sent their emails, and some of them later told me they were puzzled that I was writing such lengthy epistles to them in the wee hours, night after night.

After I barely slept for so many days in a row, I was feeling much the way I imagined a coke addict would feel.  I was revving with energy, but I felt exhausted and I was on the brink of an emotional outburst. Still, nothing too dramatic happened, so no one thought I should consult a psychiatrist.  During that fateful postpartum week, my brain chemistry was markedly awry in every part of my body.  Apart from cleaning the house, I had the other classic signs of mania: tons of energy, pressured speech, no appetite and loss of weight.  Because it was hard for me to sit still for any length of time, my mania affected my ability to adequately breastfeed my baby. At Marilla’s one-week check-up we discovered her weight had dropped almost a pound, which perplexed my pediatrician, but at that point he did not recognize my mania.

After five days without sleep, I knew that I was sinking fast and that something needed to change. I called my OB/GYN and told her medical assistant Priscilla I couldn’t sleep. Priscilla suggested I try an over-the-counter drug such as Benedryl, but I sheepishly asked if I could try something stronger than that, because Benedryl had never made me sleepy in the past.  With my OB/GYN’s approval, Priscilla phoned in a prescription for Ambien.

I also felt compelled to speak with another mother who had experienced a postpartum crisis.  I called our local Postpartum “Warmline” but the number was disconnected!  I was incredulous and angry that such an important hotline had vanished. (I later found out it disappeared due to a budget cut.) I called information asking if they had some kind of a postpartum support line, but the operator couldn’t find a number, and I got even more discouraged. Finally, I called our local maternity hospital’s lactation center and they gave me the number of the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Bay Area hotline. The PSI volunteer I called, Linda, encouraged me to consider medication to help me sleep.  Her suggestion validated my earlier decision to ask my OB/GYN for a sleep aid.  After we ended our conversation, I felt so comforted in speaking with someone who understood how difficult the postpartum period was.   After taking my first sleeping pill, I got the first decent night’s sleep I had in five nights and I felt a little rested the following day. 

A month after Marilla was born, I knew I had mania; after all, I had witnessed mania firsthand in my Dad.  Before I told Craig or anyone else, I surfed the internet looking for anything related to postpartum mania.  I located a statistic that one in one thousand mothers who give birth will succumb to postpartum mania.  Then the name “Dr. Alice W. Flaherty” appeared in my postpartum mania search.  She was a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard professor, and renowned author of The Midnight Disease, an examination of the drive to write, writer’s block and the creative brain. In The Midnight Disease Dr. Flaherty courageously shares her own experience with hypergraphia, the heartbreaking death of her newborn twins, and her hospitalization for a postpartum mood disorder. I couldn’t believe my luck, for I had the gut feeling that this woman could help me.  I made the necessary calls to track down her assistant. 

Miraculously, I was able to reach Dr. Flaherty the following day.  Before we spoke, I shared with Craig about my suspicions and he wanted to be part of our conversation.  Dr. Flaherty generously made time for us to have a brief, pro bono phone consultation. Dr. Flaherty recognized my mania as she heard my pressurized speech pattern, and helped me calm down.  She said right off the bat, “I need you to focus right now.”  Focus I did.  Dr. Flaherty shared with me how medication stabilized her own postpartum mania.  She also strongly encouraged me to consider using formula as a supplement for Marilla, which I did. 

I scheduled an appointment with the psychiatrist I had seen for depression, but before I saw him, it was time for Marilla’s six-week checkup.  I brought Marilla in to our razor-sharp, UCLA-trained pediatrician.  Before arriving at his office I had gathered a bunch of thank-you gifts for him.  When I greeted him, he listened to my racing voice and observed the plethora of presents.  I’ll never forget how he blurted out, “You’re manic!”  I immediately burst into tears.  While I felt embarrassed and ashamed, a part of me felt relieved that he figured out what was happening with me.  From the point on, my mental condition deteriorated and instead of seeing my former psychiatrist it was clear to me that I needed hospitalization. It broke my heart to leave my family, but I admitted myself into our local hospital’s mental unit.  It was there I was officially diagnosed with bipolar one disorder and I took my first mood stabilizer. 

In the eight years since I was diagnosed, research organizations have been studying postpartum bipolar disorder.  A prominent 2013 study appeared in the journal Bipolar Disorders.  This study suggests that women with a prior history of depression should be screened for hypomanic symptoms after giving birth.  Canadian researchers asserted that childbirth is a potent, specific trigger for mania or hypomania.  They found the number of women who transition from depression to bipolar II disorder following birth is 11 to 18 times higher than rates reported for women who hadn’t recently given birth. 

I feel that it’s imperative the doctors and other caregivers who assess women for postpartum depression also screen them for hypomanic or manic symptoms.  My two daughters and husband have suffered immeasurably due to my postpartum bipolar disorder.  On the bright side, they have also observed my hard-won recovery.  After years of trying many medications, numerous hospitalizations and even two courses of electroconvulsive therapy, I am finally stable.  Bipolar disorder ravages many relationships, but Craig and I have been married for fifteen years.  With the guidance of counselors and psychiatrists, our marriage is stronger and more precious than ever before.  I am a member of the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Board and I blog for them as well.  With any mood disorder, community support can be incredibly helpful.  To that end, I founded the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) chapter where I live and I facilitated a free women’s support group for two years.  I’m now focusing on my family and working on my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar.  Life will always be a challenge living with bipolar one disorder, but my girls have inspired me to work on my recovery with every ounce of my being. 

 Dyane Leshin-Harwood’s bio:

Dyane holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Dyane was diagnosed with Type I Bipolar Disorder in 2007 at age thirty-seven.  A writer, Dyane’s articles have been published in numerous magazines.  She has worked with one of her favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, author of the classic A Wrinkle In Time.  She had the thrill of meeting Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of the groundbreaking book An Unquiet Mind, to interview her for an article about women, depression and exercise. Dyane is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.  Dyane founded the Santa Cruz, California chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).  She is a member of the International Bipolar Foundation’s (IBPF) Community Action Board and blogs for them at www.ibpf.org.  She was selected as the IBPF’s first 2014 “Story of Hope and Recovery”. Aside from raising her two daughters Avonlea and Marilla with her husband Craig, Dyane is a women’s mental health advocate.  She is a group facilitator for women with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Dyane lives in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains that attracts a variety of holistic health experts, and she enjoys researching alternative fields in her quest to thrive with bipolar disorder.  She is working on her first book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder and you can read Dyane’s blog “Birth of a New Brain” at http://www.dyaneharwood.wordpress.com.