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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A Pie Dough Sculpture’s Worth A Thousand Words

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Avonlea’s Thanksgiving Pie Dough “Pig Face” made in a fit of pique

 

Thanksgiving is a weird time in my head.

I feel the loss of my Dad most deeply on Thanksgiving. He died in 2009, but I think of him often and I miss him. An avid cook, my father loved making all sorts of Thanksgiving dishes. Each year he tried a different exotic stuffing recipe in one of his favorite cookbooks The Silver Palate.

Thanksgiving stopped truly feeling like Thanksgiving when he left us.

There are other holes in this Thanksgiving such as an estrangement with someone I love. Apart from that awful rift, a few weeks ago I decided to no longer spend time with some extended family members who are toxic to my mental health. For the past eight years I was passive about how they acted due to my severe bipolar depression and often feeling suicidal.

Now that I’m doing better, I refuse to be around anyone for more than five minutes who will affect my hard-won stability.

The estrangement feels bad – there’s no way around that at this time. Hopefully that will change someday. But my decision to stop being around those who are detrimental to my mental health feels empowering. My husband fully supports my decision because my mental health is of tantamount importance to him. (I know “tantamount” sounds pretentious, but it truly does describe how important my mental health is to Craig!)

There are wonderful people to focus upon such as my immediate family, Miss Lucy (she’s more human than most humans) and my Mom. My mother joined us for Thanksgiving and in her honor I gave Lucy a bath so that Mom could enjoy the beast when she smelled oh-so-fresh. I used an awesome lavender mint dog shampoo by Cloud Star, a company that donates some of their proceeds to great animal welfare organizations.

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“I’m cleaner than you are!”

Lucy Harwood, age 1 & 1/2

We had fun watching some of the 2014 National Dog Show (I don’t get the right channel for the 2015 show.) and I swear Lucy looked just as sleek and glamorous as those fancy hounds! I don’t usually watch dog shows so it was interesting to see all the incredible variety of breeds as well as witness the love and trust between the dog and handler.  I know I could write an entire blog post about the dark side of dog shows, but today it’s about the love. There has been enough dark lately. 

So that’s all the news that’s fit to blog.

I know yesterday was tough for many of you – it’s especially hard for those of us with bipolar disorder. I hope you got through the day relatively unscathed.

I’ll see you next week and in the meantime, I send you my love as always!

Dyane

Lucy snoozing on her beloved bean bag

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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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Don’t Dream It’s Over (My Postpartum Progress Update)

 

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The decision could have gone either way and frankly I was prepared for the worst:

To be ignored…

To be shunned…

To have my deepest concerns minimized…

Some of you who read My Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Gets No Respect Part One and Part Two know that I contacted Postpartum Progress to ask if they’d include information about postpartum bipolar disorder (now termed “bipolar disorder with peripartum onset” in the DSM-5) on their ginormously popular website.

Postpartum Progress is one of the largest, most influential U.S. nonprofits that assists women living with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’s) aside from Postpartum Support International. Both PP and PSI are amazing organizations which provide information, encouragement and networking for women living with postpartum mood disorders.

In 2014 Postpartum Progress published my article edited by Cristi Comes about postpartum bipolar disorder. After this article went live, postpartum bipolar disorder was included in a list of PMAD’s on Postpartum Progress’ fundraiser Climb Out of the Darkness page.  

However, postpartum bipolar disorder wasn’t mentioned on the most important website pages defining each PMAD. Some of these page titles include “PMAD’s We Think You Need to Know About”and “FAQ’s” – the very pages that anxious, possibly mentally ill moms scan when they’re in crisis. This information could help mothers  who might have this lesser-known disorder but not be aware of its symptoms.

I had a big problem with this omission and I couldn’t let it go – and believe me, I wanted to forget about it. The way I saw it was this: if you’re going to run a nonprofit for mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, then you need to include every single PMAD in your information pages. It’s not enough to list PPBD in one paragraph and publish my article about it (which is buried among the hundreds of other articles) yet otherwise ignore its existence.

A couple days ago I decided to send a second email to Postpartum Progress as I had sent it almost a month ago but hadn’t heard back. Today I got great news in my email’s in-box from Postpartum Progress founder Katherine Stone. She apologized for not getting back to me sooner, explained they have an extremely small staff (which I knew) and wrote that if I write up something about bipolar disorder, peripartum onset, she’ll be glad to include it on the site. She also mentioned they’re redoing their “Warrior Mom” badges this fall (I explain this in my “Respect” posts) and she promises me there will be a badge for bipolar disorder, peripartum onset! 

(I like the sound of postpartum bipolar disorder better but I need to go with the DSM-5 terminology for Postpartum Progress. )

I was so happy to get Katherine’s email. I knew she was busy as their big Warrior Moms conference had just ended a few days before I sent my first email, and I wrote her that I understood that she or another staffer would need time to get back to me.

BUT…

I had to go with my gut and be a pain in the ass, hence email #2. 

Frankly, I might not have been so caught up with nagging Postpartum Progress to mention PPBD if I wasn’t constantly reminded that my perinatal mood and anxiety disorder doesn’t exist by almost everyone. It gets old real fast! I was pleased and stunned for a minute when I read BP Magazine editor Elizabeth Forbes’ article “Your Particular Slice of Bipolar” in the Summer 2015 issue – she included a “bipolar disorder, peripartum onset” definition. Oh joy!

Sure, I’m writing my book to educate people about postpartum bipolar, but we all know that almost everyone is writing a book these days, including my hound Lucy.

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As much as I’ll promote Birth of a New Brain (and at that point I’m probably going to lose my Seroquel belly from all the effort) it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle of the tribble-like profusion of books published every day. 

Those who can make the biggest impact to educate others about PPBD are established perinatal mental health nonprofits, doctors, hospitals etc. through the internet and other channels. After my book is published and promoted, I’d like to start a nonprofit for mothers with postpartum bipolar disorder.  I’ve worked for no less than three nonprofits and I know a thing or two about the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d really love to do this and we shall see!

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Moving on…(if you want a direct, concise “brevity is the soul of wit”-style post, this blog is not for you! 😉 I’ve noticed some women, including me, rarely get the assistance they deserve unless they get angry at the customer service representative or doctors or what have you. It’s bizarre.

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I’ve fired off emails that are sweet-as-pie and never get a response, but when I’ve sent emails with a subject title such as “I’m extremely disappointed”, “An unhappy fan”, or “I’m furious!” I got a speedy reply! It shouldn’t be like that, but it often is. So I’m glad I didn’t have to get angry (not “bipolar angry”, but simply angry) in this particular situation. I don’t like playing that game one bit. 

I’ve saved the end of this post for my Crowded House Don’t Dream It’s Over speech. If there’s something important to you that you want to do (but you keep putting it off) PLEASE don’t give up. Maybe you’ve attempted this difficult task a few times to no avail. I’m giving you permission this very moment to go easy on yourself about the whole matter, but give whatever it is one more chance. I want you to have your Postpartum Progress moment! Take to heart the words of the great Neil Finn:

“Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win”

 

Thanks for reading, my friends – have a great ‘n groovy weekend!

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Artwork by blogger extraordinaire Blahpolar Diaries – I actually thought this was a coffee mug at first! Can I blame the meds?

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 and eyes crossed, published by Post Hill Press in Fall, 2016