Draggin’, Green Cupcakes & Climb Out of the Darkness

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I am draggin’ today.  The weather is gloomy, and while I’m not depressed (Thank you GOD, thank you GOD. Always thank you GOD for that one!) I’m feeling lethargic and anxious for no good reason except perhaps existentially-speaking.  It’s just one of those days where I’ve become banana slug-like.

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(Here’s a sluggish side-note.  I live in banana slug heaven: Santa Cruz County, California. U.C. Santa Cruz, the college I graduated from, boasts none other than the banana slug as its mascot.  Banana slugs love to creep and crawl where I live up in the redwoods, especially on a rainy day like today.  They are not dangerous, so that’s good – just slimy.)

So on this day of apathy what do I do?

I commit to participating in not one, but two special events taking place within the next two months.

May is Mental Health Month and its theme is “Mind Your Health”.  (Kinda cute…)  I was reminded of that early this morning when I groggily attended an online meeting of the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Council.  Our facilitator was Ashley Jacobs, the Director of Operations for the International Bipolar Foundation.  At the close of our meeting Ashley asked if any of us would be participating in Mental Health Month-related activities.   There was a resounding silence; out of nowhere I felt my mouth open and I spurted out, “I could make green cupcakes with green fondant ribbons symbolizing mental health, and sell them somewhere!  The proceeds would go to the International Bipolar Foundation!”

“That’s a great idea!” Ashley replied.

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Some backstory is helpful here.  Ashley and I have worked together for some time, and she edits my weekly blog for the International Bipolar Foundation.  She diligently answers my plethora of IBPF-related questions, never judging me for their sometimes-strange content.   Apart from IBPF topics, we’ve emailed one another about baking, specifically cupcakes.

Ashley knows that my daughter Avonlea is going through a cupcake-obsessed phase.  I’ve emailed Ashley photos of our cupcake creations (mostly failures, I hate to admit) that Avi and I have toiled upon.  Ashley has given me links to amazing baking websites to inspire us.  Ashley is pro-cupcake.

Green frosting is a bit sketchy, as I’m not thrilled with using yucky artificial food coloring.  There are natural (costlier) alternative colorings, however, and I’ll consider buying one  – but they’re three times the price of regular food coloring.  I also feel conflicted about selling sugary treats instead of healthier ones, but green vegan banana bread won’t cut it.  I need to figure out where to set up my table, and I’ll contact our local paper for free advertising, and give it a go.

The other event, “Climb Out of the Darkness”,  is connected with Postpartum Progress, an amazing non-profit founded by women’s maternal health advocate Katherine Stone.  Stone describes this annual event, the only one of its kind, on her Postpartum Progress website:

“It’s the world’s largest event raising awareness of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and OCD, postpartum psychosis and pregnancy depression and anxiety. The event was created by and benefits Postpartum Progress Inc., a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that raises awareness and supports pregnant and new moms with maternal mental illness.

Women around the world participate in this grassroots event by going on a hike, climb or walk outside on the longest day of the year (June 21st) to shine a light on PPD and related illnesses. The event is open to anyone and everyone who supports our cause. Anyone can participate, as long as they register, and registration is free.”

A few days ago I commented on the Postpartum Progress Facebook page.  I wrote that I’d love to be involved in the Climb by producing a large-scale walk in my town in 2015, not 2014.  I added that I have experience in special event production and I’d want a full year to plan the event.

I forced myself to mention that in order for me to take part, I’d like my postpartum mood disorder (postpartum bipolar disorder/PPBD) to eventually be added to Postpartum Progress’ list of maternal mood disorders before the June, 2015 climb.  (I’ve bolded the currently displayed postpartum disorders in the Climb description above .)

I’ve wanted PPBD to be recognized by Postpartum Progress for a while.  When the Postpartum Progress content editor Cristi Comes (Motherhood Unadorned) gave me the chance to write about my PPBD experience for the website, I jumped at it.  If PPBD was acknowledged by Postpartum Progress, I could truly put my heart and soul into my efforts. I want my mood disorder to be represented, ya know?)  It’s a perfectly reasonable request, I think.

After noticing that I wished to hold off until 2015, Katherine commented asking me, “Why not start out this year?”  I paused for a moment.  Then I reviewed the Postpartum Progress Climb website more closely  and I realized that I didn’t have to organize a big, ol event in less than sixty days.  (By the way, I could have joined another Climb group, but the closest one is too far away from me for my comfort.)

This June 21, the Climb date, it can all be very simple.  I won’t have to gather up a bunch of people.  There are three ways to participate, and of them is that I can walk as an individual.  I can involve my family and friends (and hopefully my new puppy!!) if I choose.  That’s the perfect way for me to get crackin’.  I registered a few minutes ago, and if you’d like to sponsor me, please visit this link:

http://www.crowdrise.com/dyaneharwood-COTD2014/fundraiser/dyaneharwood

My two daughters donated the contents of their piggy banks, and my husband donated too!

Thanks, as always, for reading, and I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Dyane

 

For more information about the Climb Out of the Darkness event and Mental Health month, please visit:

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/join-climb-out-of-the-darkness-2014

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

 

Promoting One’s Writing without Losing One’s Head, Completing a Book and More

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

 

I was introduced to this poem in high school English, and I never forgot it.  While I am not a poetry lover per se (sorry, sorry, I know that’s going to offend some of you!) there are some poems I love, and Kipling’s “If” has some amazing language in it.  The first two lines have always stayed with me, and I thought of them while writing this post today.

Lately when I’ve queried editors regarding submitting my articles for their consideration, it has been difficult for me to fully promote my work and “keep my head” as Kipling so eloquently states.  Of course good writing speaks for itself, but the writer behind the writing has to present well too!  I’ve been caring for two sick little ones over the past couple weeks, and that situation has not only distracted me; it has gotten me out of my writing groove and my writing confidence has been zapped as well.

Now my girls are well, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to return to my regular writing schedule.  But I’ve been procrastinating on certain projects and I’ve grown lackluster in promoting my writing to various outlets. I haven’t lost all hope about returning to “zestful writing” as the awesome author Elizabeth Sims calls it  – I’ve been through this dilemma before, and I know I’ll get back to where I want to be.  It’s just going to take more time than I’d like – time I hate to lose, because I’ve lost enough time since my 2007 bipolar diagnosis when my writing career stalled for oh, eight years.

Ironically, it’s much easier for me to promote others’ work.  Promotion was a skill I learned in my first “grown-up” job working at a special event production company.  We produced on average ten large-scale annual events in Silicon Valley.  I started out as the office manager and then was put in charge of more challenging projects, such as working with the media, talent agents, and vendors.  Our publicity consultant taught me how to write press releases, and I was interviewed about our events by prestigious newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News.  My boss had very high standards, and he had established a great reputation.  Before creating his company, he had founded the highly acclaimed Paul Masson Mountain Winery Concert Series and he worked with the greatest names in music.  Fortunately I was able to represent his company in a professional manner over the phone, in person and in writing, and while it was a stressful job, it taught me a great deal.

So yes, to reiterate, the bottom line is that when it comes to promoting my writing these days, I’m not as gung-ho as I’d like to be.   One thing I know for sure is that enthusiasm about one’s work (in moderate doses) is a wonderful quality, and I want to cultivate it to the best of my ability.

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As most of you reading this piece are also bloggers, I’m sure some of you know a thing or two when it comes to promoting your blog or anything else that you believe in, for that matter!  Recently I pushed past my comfort zone and asked an authority figure to publish my essay.  While I didn’t expect a resounding “no”, I didn’t exactly expect a “yes” either, as worthy as my article seemed in my eyes.  Well, that question, which literally took me less than ninety seconds to formulate, type out and email, paid off.  My essay was published and I got a strong response from readers that felt very validating.  As far as I was concerned, that incident was a sign that I must keep plugging away with my writing and don’t let the turkeys get me down.  (What a great phrase, eh?)

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I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket with any one contact, project or dream.  Believe me, at age forty-four, apart from my first job, I’ve dealt with promotion-related issues throughout my work history.  After I left the special event production company, I became a certified personal trainer.  I built up my own business at a popular gym whose members included the founder of Netflix and the editor of our biggest local newspaper – these people could afford personal trainers!  I advertised myself and my training services to prospective clients, and I was able to achieve a modest success.  After working in fitness for a couple years, I worked at three different non-profits:  Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries, COBHA/The College of Botanical Healing Arts, and Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks.

My jobs focused on administration and development, and I was required to help promote their numerous special events.   I was expected to be knowledgable and enthusiastic about each non-profit’s mission.  While I loved the public library system, botanical healing products, and our gorgeous local state parks, none of these worthy organizations captured my heart.  At these three workplaces I suffered from chronic depression and I wouldn’t be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder until years later.

Even if I hadn’t been depressed when I worked with these groups of dedicated, talented people, I still would have been less than fired-up working with them because I wasn’t truly passionate about the causes – yes, even the libraries!

During my pre-bipolar diagnosis years, I always thought that if I could find the right job that inspired me, I’d give it my all and I would be successful.  Well, ever since I left the University of California at Santa Cruz when I was twenty-one, I’ve been writing, mostly without pay, because I love to do it.  (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)  When I reached my late twenties and I achieved my dream to have my articles published in national magazines and I actually got paid for them, I realized that I could be a writer, but I still didn’t go for it and make writing my “real” job.

Now I finally do have the opportunity to “go for it” and complete my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.   I’ve written eighty pages so far, and I’m at an impasse of sorts.  I’m scared that I won’t achieve my dream to finish writing this book and I’m worried I’ll fall short of my two goals: for it to be interesting and #2) It will help people.  But, the old cliche rings true here – if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know.

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What matters is keeping up my habit of typing regularly (or putting pen to paper for some of you) and not giving up.  When it comes to writing, I’ve proved to myself that I am a slow-but-steady writer.  Slow is not always a negative trait – I witnessed my husband Craig Harwood complete his award-winning book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and have it published by University of Oklahoma.  It took him seven years to write his book, but who cares – he did it.  I’ve also been inspired by my friend the author Rebecca Moore, who wrote Moorestorms: A Guide for the Bipolar Parent and four other books.  She has the gift, along with my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, of being a prolific writer.

Moore, L’Engle and Montgomery were able to keep their noses to the grindstone and complete numerous books in a timely fashion.  I wish they could bottle their talent and fortitude up because I’d be the first to buy it!

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When I do complete my book, I’ll promote the heck out of it.  I consider completing a book similar to having a child, and it’s an enormous accomplishment.  I have respect for anyone who finishes writing a book, whether or not it wins the National Book Award.  Just call me Dyane “Turtle” Harwood, because I will be crossing the finish line of completing Birth of a New Brain someday , and when I do, I’ll become a P.R. whiz.  Just wait and see! 😉

I’d love to read about how you promote yourself , your blog and your books – feel free to comment below…

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