Psychiatrist Dr. Manipod’s “Have You Been Hit With Autumn Anxiety?”

Dr. Vania Manipod is an incredible psychiatrist. I’ve been following her blog Freud and Fashion for quite a while because it’s fascinating to read her insights about psychiatry.

I particularly appreciate her willingness to share her challenges and insecurities, both personal and professional. I can’t stand arrogant psychiatrists who prance around thinking they’re better than their patients. Dr. Manipod is the opposite of the big-headed pdoc, and because of her humility, I’ve been pleading with her to open a Santa Cruz practice in two years when my psychiatrist retires.

Dr. Manipod wrote an excellent post about autumn anxiety, a unique topic, & it’s definitely worth the read…let us know what you think!

 

 

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

Freud & Fashion

I noticed a pattern in several of my Instagram posts the last few weeks: a sense of being hard on myself, feeling like I haven’t been productive enough, lacking any sense of accomplishment, feeling as if there’s no time in the day to get through my task list, etc.  Such a surge in self-criticism didn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to gain more insight and determine the trigger (as if I don’t psychoanalyze enough in my day to day life).  It wasn’t until I started noticing the anxious tone in my voice each time I told some of my patients to schedule their next appointment in 3 months (which would be around January 2017) and went on to wish them an early “Happy Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/Hannukah/Qwanzaa,” etc, that an a-ha moment occurred in my mind — Oh my goodness, it’s almost 2017!

So I started researching if there was…

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Wherever You Go, There You Are…

 

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Lucy & I chillin’ at Where We Met gelateria in Tahoma, California

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The girls got pomegranate, sweet cream and pink grapefruit gelati. Yum! Where We Met makes gelato daily using a base imported from Italy. It’s hard to believe this chocoholic mom gave birth to these two creatures, for they could’ve ordered milk chocolate! It pains me to write this, but they don’t like chocolate! (I try not to hold that against them.)

 

Tahoma, a town on the shores of Lake Tahoe, California, is beautiful.

While being surrounded by such beauty won’t erase my bipolar disorder and anxiety, it’s exhilarating to spend time in a place where I’m anonymous. I live in a small mountain community where I’ve burned many a friendship due to my bipolar disorder over the past decade.

Back home I’ve been profiled in the local paper a couple times about creating a DBSA chapter and leading free women’s bipolar support groups. My picture accompanied those articles, so I was “out”with bipolar. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to be out; I thought it was important to personalize the mood disorder. However, I knew some people, mainly other moms, would steer clear of me as a result. I don’t regret what I did, but it was a bittersweet choice. 

Anyway, during our Tahoma walks with Lucy, the girls and I noticed that most of the people we’ve encountered are very friendly compared to where we live. It’s refreshing to observe my daughters experiencing this rather archaic behavior. 

I apologize for sounding like Debbie Downer, but don’t you think that waving or saying hello to strangers has become a lost art in many places? (Since my Mom reads this, I’d like to add that the girls are well aware about being careful around strangers thanks, in part, to this neurotic, Jewish-born mother!)

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When I stood up to move my purse, Lucy climbed up on my chair, plonking herself down as if she was a regular planning to order an americano. 

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I’ve been taking Lucy out for long walks every day by myself. I never know what to expect when we head out the door. After having my very own bear encounter a few years ago in Tahoe, I’m fairly bear savvy. (Mom, please…don’t worry – I’m forty-six.)

I love how walks can foster brainstorming. During yesterday’s walk I was inspired when we passed by the Golden Retriever house, my moniker for it. The homeowners had a large flag of two goldens waving above their front door, and no less than three large Golden Retriever posters displayed in their windows. What an awesome example of canine love.

When I walked past two handmade “Thanks for Driving 25” signs across the street from their home, it was obvious the Golden Retriever homeowners made them. 

I began thinking about doing exactly what they did. Why not? I’m sooooo tired of drivers racing past our home at 40-60 M.P.H. I’m already anxious, as some of you know, and these wanna-be Evel Knievels do nothing to help ease my anxety. 

We live on a steep, narrow mountain road situated ten feet past a blind curve. Whenever I leave our driveway, I pray I won’t get hit.

I know what you’re thinking: 

Why did you buy such a place, Dyane? 

Well, the short story is that it was cheap and I was dumb about realty…I mean ignorant!

We have a long wooden fence in front of our house that Craig built on our property. So, I’m going to make and post my own neon signs – maybe throw some eye-catching nude pictures on them. Any suggestions of models? (I’m kidding, Mom. Maybe.) If those signs help some folks slow down even a little bit, it’s completely worth the effort.

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I snapped this pic while exploring a mountain trail with Lucy – there have been no bear sightings yet! 😉

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Cabin Fever = when your girls turn into dogs and bark all afternoon!

Meanwhile my book deal with Post Hill Press looms ahead,causing many white nights. Luckily I’ve spent some afternoons in the cabin editing the MS. My husband, the published and acclaimed author Craig, has been helping me out by taking the girls to groovy state parks like Vikingsholm because I can’t write unless I’m alone with Lucy.

How I wish I could write anywhere just like Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favorite authors, was able to do. She wrote on trains, hotel lobbies, backstage when she acted on Broadway, you-name-it, but I simply can’t do it.

If you can write virtually anywhere without ear buds, consider yourself highly gifted!

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I’ll be up here a few more days, and I’ll share any adventure that comes my way in next week’s post.

In the meantime, I wish you a great week, as always!

Love,

Dyane

p.s. The Lose It! quest continues with my blog buddy Bradley, author of the excellent Insights of A Bipolar Bear. We encourage one other through Lose It!’s website. Pairing up with him helped me not just attain my weight loss goal but with maintenance. I’ve lost almost 40 pounds, almost the equivalent of a Lucy, and my knee pain has improved. Thank you Bradley!

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. We’d love to have you join us.

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

Facing Social Anxiety Again & A Publishing Talk

 

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I promised my friend, the blogger Kitt O’Malley, that I’d write about a publishing talk I attended. Kitt, as you bravely navigate the BlogHer#16 conference today, this one’s for you!

I was fired up for the talk until my anxiety reared its hideous, soul-sucking head on the morning of the special event.

 

  I thought about bailing…

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My name is Anxiety and I love to freak you out!

 

The talk was only a ten minute drive from my house. I made sure to bring my Rescue Remedy Plus lozenges which help alleviate my anxiety in a subtle way. They’re much healthier than benzodiazepines, they are sugar-free and non-addictive. The lozenges aren’t cheap ($8 for 10) but they are worth every penny and I love the taste. 

I figured I could maintain a low profile at the event and my social anxiety could take a back seat. I’d soon learn I was wrong about that assumption.

Although I have a book deal with Post Hill Press and I know some basic publishing tenets, I was curious to find out if I’d learn something new. 

I was anxious from the moment I showed up; even so, it felt good to sit in a room with other writers. I was proud of myself for getting out in the world again. 

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I learned a few new facts and concepts that I found fascinating, such as the importance of gearing up for public speaking at book signing events. The presenter explained to us how much public speaking can make a significant difference in an author’s career.

I know how vital it is to have dynamic public speaking skills at book signings because of my husband Craig. He has given over 50 talks about his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West (University of Oklahoma Press).

Craig loves giving these talks, he’s a gifted speaker, he created an engaging PowerPoint presentation, and get this: he’s unafraid of audience members who like to argue with him about his book’s premise – even the obnoxious ones! The icing on the cake is that he has sold a lot of books at his talks.

Shameless Plug

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These days I feel faint at the thought of getting up in front of a crowd, but since my book isn’t out until fall 2017, I’m shoving my fears aside for now.

The talk was scheduled to last an hour, but (unsurprisingly) it went overtime. I wanted to bail after sixty minutes because I was growing more anxious, so I missed the Q&A. In the past I would’ve stuck it out and suffered; this time I gave myself permission to leave because when it comes to my anxiety and public gatherings, I’ve decided to take baby steps .

On my way out the door, two encounters challenged me within five minutes – one bad and one good. 

The Adorable Collie 

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As I rushed out the library entrance, I saw a gorgeous collie sitting ten feet away. The dog’s leash was tied to a post. I had to stop and gaze at the magnificent, mellow creature – this dog reminded me of my Scotch collie Lucy. I stayed for a few minutes and grew more and more livid that this collie’s DUMB owner left this beautiful dog by itself.

I was particularly sensitive because a month ago a dog was stolen in a nearby park with the owner only a few yards away from him! I still see flyers about his disappearance everywhere.

Anyone could have stolen this collie. I wanted to speak with the owner in a non-hostile way, explaining how this dog could be stolen in 10 seconds, or at least leave a note for the owner, but I’m ashamed to tell you I wanted to get going. I still regret leaving the collie without attaching a note to its fancy leash.

 

Meeting a Nice Writer with Bipolar

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As I admired the lonesome collie, a man walked by us who I recognized from the seminar. He stopped and began chatting with me.

This is where my social anxiety kicked in big-time. As you know, I was anxious from the get-go, I was upset about the collie’s situation, and I wanted to be invisible.

I told him that I needed to jet back home and he acknowledged that politely. Then, in typical Dyane fashion, I blurted that I was aghast that someone would leave the collie there. He agreed. I began walking to my car and he joined me. I was comfortable with our brief “hi, bye” sort of talk.

As we crossed the parking lot, the writer asked me about my writing. All the while I wanted to get the hell out of there. I babbled my book’s premise (“Uh, it’s a memoir about one of the least-known forms of bipolar, postpartum bipolar…”) and he said he had bipolar as well. Well, that wasn’t something I heard every day in the library parking lot!

He’s working on a book about bipolar that sounds inspiring, so I gave him my hideous business card (I’ll include a photo of it in an upcoming post) and we’re going to keep in touch.

My friends, I felt SO dumb and anxious after this harmless interaction! I think that if I met that writer under different circumstances (i.e. when I wasn’t hopped up from being in an overcrowded room of writers, and when I wasn’t upset about an abandoned collie) my anxiety would’ve been lower.

Lose It! Update

My friend Bradley, author of the excellent blog Insights of A Bipolar Bear, is my Lose It! buddy.  We encourage one other through the Lose It! website. Pairing up with him has helped me immensely, both in attaining my weight loss goal and with maintenance.

If you’d like to join us, leave a message in the comment section, or you can sign up for free at www.loseit.com and search for the “Wondrous Writers” group. We’d love to have more of you join us.


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Next week I’ll be writing from the spectacularly beautiful Alpine Valley. Hopefully I won’t have any close encounters with bears like I’ve had in the past.

There’s nothing like looking in the eyes of a young bear to make one’s anxiety skyrocket!

I prefer to lock big brown eyes with Lucy…

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take care & lots of love,

Dyane

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

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to Redwood Therapy

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The magnificent redwoods, my therapists

When I started tapering off bipolar meds in 2012 (which I’ll never do again since I almost died) hypomania caused me to become an exercise fiend. I was experienced at working out because I worked as a certified personal trainer at a gym for a few years. But when given a choice, I definitely preferred exercising outdoors. Bypassing a gym was economical as well, so I felt good about my fitness plan.

The road in front of my home wasn’t pedestrian-friendly; it was “pedestrian-deadly”. Our steep, curvy mountain lane was devoid of sidewalks, and speeding cars barrelled down it every few minutes. I needed a safe walking option, so I headed for nearby Fall Creek State Park, home to a centuries-old redwood grove.

Fall Creek is a tree lover’s dream containing old-growth woods such as Douglas fir, madrone, oak and ponderosa pines. I know it sounds hippie-dippy, but the energy in this forest felt almost magical. A unique sort of quiet enveloped me as soon as I got on a trail. Thick rays of sunlight peeked through the tree branches so that I didn’t feel claustrophobic. I loved smelling the fresh, pure air.

The state park attracted many visitors, but it was so large that I seldom came across other hikers. An occasional horse or two startled me, but they seemed mellow. As much as I enjoyed the lack of people, it was cause for concern, especially as a woman hiking alone. (This was before my glorious, protective collie Lucy came into my life!)  

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A place I call “The Hobbit Hole”

I bought a pepper spray and reviewed how to use it properly.  I always told my husband when I’d go to the woods. He wasn’t thrilled about my hiking in such isolation, but the pepper spray made him feel a little better. Whenever I went to Fall Creek I held the spray in my hand, ready to use it at any moment. I always brought my fully charged cell phone, and I was lucky I had good cell reception in the forest.

There were other risks besides meeting an unsavory human.  Mountain lions have roamed these hills for ages. Sightings were very rare; at least there weren’t any bears!

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A baby puma/mountain lion

However, there have been a few times when I felt that my sanctuary had a sinister feel. I think the creepy sensation was more about my projecting my dark mood upon the innocent forest rather than there being an actual cause.  This gloominess usually happened when the sun disappeared from view.  Sunlight always has had a tremendous affect upon my psyche, and I’ve used a bright Sunbox light for over a decade now.

When my med-free attempt failed and I relapsed, I admitted myself to the mental hospital once again. I was in the unit three times that summer alone. Patients weren’t taken outside unless they had a doctor’s note. (I wasn’t informed of that ludicrous policy when I was there. I found out about it long after I was released. It was truly insane that patients who were able to handle being outside with supervision weren’t exposed to fresh air and sunlight.)

After I came home from the unit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the forest.  I felt like a caged animal who had finally been given her freedom. The day I was able to drive to Fall Creek and walk on the paths I tread so many times before was a momentous accomplishment.  

During my summer hospitalizations there were many times I thought I’d never be in a forest again. After being cooped up in what I can only describe as a horrible hell, it was incredible to use all my senses to savor Fall Creek once more. While I was still depressed, it helped to be around my “redwood therapists” for their very real comfort.

Being in a mental hospital does many things to you.  For some resilient souls, they stay at a unit, they get out, and they don’t look back too much or get stuck when they reflect.  On the other hand, and I don’t use the following term lightly, I know I have PTSD from being in these units multiple times.

The difference between a locked-down unit full of suffering and a spacious forest comprised of graceful trees and streams is enormous. It doesn’t get more “bipolar” than the difference between sterile civilization and majestic nature.

This summer not only did I return to my beloved Fall Creek forest trails, but I brought Lucy for the first time, and per their spirited request, my two girls! Now more than ever before, I’m grateful for the freedom of being able to visit such a stunning, peaceful place with the ones who I love with all my heart.

I hope that each of you enjoys your own special place in nature as often as possible this summer!

Love,

Dyane

Mom & Girls @ Felton

Enjoying a yummy lunch at the historic Cremer House before heading to explore Fall Creek State Park

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

My Farmer’s Market Social Anxiety & “I Don’t Feel The Magic”!

 

Ever since I recently reached my goal of losing thirty pounds, I’ve felt like my old self in some significant ways.

Before I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder in 2007, I worked at a family-owned gym as an A.C.E.-certified personal trainer and circuit training instructor. I didn’t attend college with the intention of working in fitness, but I found that I loved helping gym members achieve their goals. During those years I maintained a healthy weight which was fairly easy to do as I didn’t take care of two kids and a dog! 

Then the shit hit the fan when my postpartum bipolar disorder erupted like a dormant volcano.

From then on, my weight went all over the place: up, down, backwards — you name it — thanks to my depression-fueled binge eating and meds, meds, meds galore – around 30 of them.

 

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This was me.

 

Now that I’m finally doing better, I decided to face one of my fears. Thanks to my post’s title, you already know what it is. (So much for creating suspense!)

Fear of the farmer’s market sounds ridiculous, but we all have our silly phobias, don’t we?  Although I don’t feel that my spider phobia (arachnophobia) is silly whatsoever! 

 

A Santa Cruz Mountains resident

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“If you want my body and you think I’m sexy, c’mon sugar let me know!”

 

Just for the heck of it I looked at the Wikipedia list of phobias to see if there was a specific one for farmer’s markets (you never know!), and the only phobias that fit are:

I planned my first farmer’s market foray of 2016 with my older daughter. She wanted to accompany me so we could buy fruit to make smoothies. Santa Cruz County has a thriving farmer’s market scene, so I picked the smallest one. It was in a town where the chances were extremely slim that I would run into anyone I knew, and that’s exactly what I wanted.

My intrepid girl was well aware of my social phobia, and she was awesome about that in every way. When we got to the farmer’s market at 9:00 a.m. there were very few people, and my eye immediately spotted someone I knew. 

“Oh, shit!” I blurted out.

The one person who I couldn’t handle seeing was there:

X

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X’s presence made absolutely no sense. X doesn’t live in that town; moreover he lives near the best, biggest farmer’s market in this area. Of all the people in the world, I never expected to see X.

I couldn’t help but surmise that this was a test by the Universe, and I got a big, ‘ol F! 

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Avi and I turned around and made a beeline for my car. We went to a park and a couple hours later we returned to the market without any incident. We got some yummy peaches and plums which didn’t even make it into the planned smoothie.

Although that farmer’s market experience didn’t go well (cough, cough – understatement!) I decided my next step would be to attend our local farmer’s market. I couldn’t imagine running into X again, but after a session with my counselor, I was prepared to stick around if that event occurred. 

On the appointed day we had a major heat wave. I love the heat, but this heat wave reached the mid-upper 90’s, and perhaps it wasn’t the ideal afternoon to face a phobia. I did so anyway, and this time both girls came with me. 

When we arrived I felt more relaxed than I expected. I saw a few familiar faces, but no one who triggered me, i.e. no reminders of blown-out friendships to wince over. (I’ve had quite a few of those since 2007, which merits another post or three.)

In the tradition of this blog, I digress.

So, there we were, strolling away in the heat and dripping sweat. We sipped ice water that was kindly given out for free by the market promoters. Despite the soaring temperature, I felt a nice sense of well being that I hadn’t felt in a LONG time.

Until I heard his voice….

Hey Dyane! Is that you?”

It had been over two decades since I last heard him say my name. I’ll call him “Spicoli” because the first time I encountered him he was stoned out of his mind.

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We met over twenty years ago, when my Sheltie dog Tara ran away from my studio. I frantically ran from door-to-door in the neighborhood asking people if they had seen her. Spicoli was one of my neighbors, and after he answered his door, he asked me for my phone number. At that point in my life I was single and very lonely, not to mention hysterical that my beloved dog was missing, and I gave my number to him.

We dated for only a few months. From the start I knew he wasn’t the one for me. Not by a long shot. He dropped hints that I wasn’t pretty enough for him, and that he had dated someone in the past who “looked like a supermodel”. That wasn’t great for my weak self esteem. Oh yes – he also frequently said some rather creepy things about how gorgeous one of my best friends was. Yep. A real winner!

One evening I made him a nice dinner and afterwards we sat on his couch.

“Dyane, I just don’t feel the magic,” he said.

And that was that.

So long, farewell.

I just wish I had been the one to say it instead of him.

Fast forward to the magical 95 degree Felton Farmer’s Market!

I had no idea Spicoli now lived in my neck of the woods. The good news is that I was able to talk to him without freaking out. It helped to have my beautiful girls by my side, wondering who the hell their Mommy was talking to – I must admit the scenario was pretty funny. Spicoli had been a talker when we dated, and he shared that he was divorced and dealing with a really sad situation. I felt sorry for him, to tell you the truth.

While Spicoli was not someone I loved, seeing him brought up a vivid memory of my being rejected. He commented on how good-looking my daughters were, but he didn’t make a peep about my appearance. After losing weight and carrying myself with renewed confidence, I didn’t feel like chopped liver like I did when we dated!

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“Spicoli, I ain’t no Cindy Crawford, but I ain’t no chopped liver! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

After he walked away and I caught my emotional breath, I told my girls a little bit about our past. Without thinking, I mentioned Spicoli’s “I don’t feel the magic” phrase and they found that absolutely hilarious! As we visited the various vendors, they took every opportunity to say “I don’t feel the magic about this carrot, Mommy!” and “That ice cream over there might make me feel the magic – can we get some please?”

Next week we’re going to the popular Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market located next to the gym where I used to work. Who knows who I’ll run into there? 

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thanks so much for reading!

love, Dyane

p.s. I started a  Lose It! Wondrous Writers Weight Loss Group. The insightful blogger Bradley of Insights From A Bipolar Bear is a group member. His encouragement has helped me so much – it’s far better than going it alone! I can send you an invite if you include your email in a comment, or sign up for free at www.loseit.com and find us under Groups. 

 

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

Black Hairy Tongue, Earthquake Fun & Facing a Fear

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My yucky brown tongue & Avi’s healthy pink tongue

Avast, me hearties…yuckier photo ahead!

Greetings, my friends!

It has been an interesting week.

I learned something new, and you’re about to learn it too! Did you know that after one takes antibiotics (in my case, for walking pneumonia) it’s possible to get a case of Black Hairy Tongue? The answer is a resounding yes!

What on earth is Black Hairy Tongue, exactly?

WebMD explains, “The name black hairy tongue may sound scary, but the condition is harmless. Black hairy tongue is caused by bacteria or fungi in the mouth, which make the tongue appear black and hairy. It’s easily remedied by good old-fashioned oral hygiene.” (For more info. visit this WebMD link)

Thank the stars, not all cases are black-colored tongues; I got lucky with a coffee-colored brown one. I could’ve sported this look:

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I freely admit my case could’ve been much worse. The above shot is TAME compared to what else lurks out there. My advice: Don’t do a Google image search for “black hairy tongue”, ever. Yowza!

I’m grateful that my black hairy tongue isn’t black nor hairy! When my doctor looked at it she told me that I just need to wait it out for a month. It’s not contagious. There are no medications to take, but it’s a good idea to scrape my tongue after brushing my teeth daily. No problemo.

My yucky tongue experience brought me back to my childhood. I watched the following jingle a zillion times. It’s sung by the actor/singer Scatman Crothers who warns about a different kind of yuck mouth, but it’s so catchy and convincing that I wanted to share it.

Local Earthquake News:

We had a early morning jolt last weekend that freaked me out. At 3.6 on the Richter scale, it was nothing compared to the Loma Prieta quake I lived through back in 1989. (It registered a fearsome, deadly 6.9.) My entire family slept through the 3.6, except for Miss Lucy and yours truly.

There’s something about feeling this particular force of nature that cuts to the core. You’re out of control in a BIG way. It’s unnerving, to say the least. Hearing our house creak and shift wasn’t the way I preferred to spend the crack of dawn. But once again, this is another situation that could’ve been much worse. I was relieved a bigger quake didn’t follow the 3.6!

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The epicenter was less than 20 miles away from Chez Harwood

Facing My Festival Fears:

My first “grown-up” job was producing annual large-scale festivals in Silicon Valley for four years. After I left that position, I took a looooooong break from attending any festival, even the Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival. I thought I went to enough festivals to last several lifetimes.

Last week I was unexpectedly gifted with tickets to the Redwood Mountain Faire, a local, family-friendly festival that attracts great musicians. It would’ve been rude not to go, so I forced myself. I planned to say hi to my generous friend on their staff, and dash away shortly after that.

Rilla said she’d join me, and I thought she’d also want to leave soon after our arrival. But as fate would have it, she ran into some of her friends, and she begged me to stay all day! (We compromised at four & 1/2 hours.)

The event was well-produced, it was in a beautiful setting, and I had to admit it was fun, especially since I didn’t need to work and deal with angry food vendors, etc. While taking a breather in the shade I chatted with some cool, friendly locals; it turned out they were the parents and grandparents of Rilla’s ballet classmate. The grandma, who used to live on our street decades ago, told me about some fascinating musical history that took place across from our house. (I was flabbergasted, but that’s for another post!) My social anxiety took a backseat for a change.

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A festival isn’t a festival without a shaved ice booth!

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Rilla caught me in a particularly relaxed moment

Ketogenic Update: I’m still very curious about ketosis because of its purported  beneficial effects upon bipolar symptoms. I sampled a few books about ketogenic nutrition on my Kindle, and Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Eric C. Westman impressed me the most. I couldn’t resist splurging on it, and I’ll let you know what I think about it soon!

I hope you’re all hanging in there. I appreciate your reading this blog so much! I’ll touch base late next week, and in the meantime, please take good care of yourselves. Happy Summer!

Lots of love, Dyane

 

p.s. You can still join our Wondrous Writers Weight Loss Group on the website/app Lose It! Group member Bradley of Insights From A Bipolar Bear has helped me with his encouragement! I’ve lost 25 pounds of “Serouqel weight” since I began using Lose It!, and let me tell ya, it feels good to carry around less poundage.

If you join us, Bradley & I will encourage you. Why not try it out? I’ll send you an invite if you include your email in a comment. You can also sign up for free at www.loseit.com and find us under Groups

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

A Writing Paradise – My 1st Day at Catamaran

Unknown-2The Stevenson School, Pebble Beach – what a gorgeous setting for the 2015 Catamaran Writers Conference

 

I wasn’t planning on blogging at the Catamaran Writers Conference taking place at the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach.

But I can’t help it! I feel compelled to share with you today’s highlights as well as let you know that I didn’t melt into a puddle due to my extreme social anxiety.

Ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007, I’ve battled terrible social anxiety merely going to the coffee shop or market, so imagine what I felt when I showed up at a conference of 100 writers, all perfect strangers. Yikes!

After Craig, the girls & Miss Lucy dropped me off, I was scared. Ten minutes before our arrival, we drove past Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP). I stayed at CHOMP five horrendous times, and today my PTSD from those experiences was triggered.  I drove on that road so many times to admit myself for suicide-related reasons and also for a ton of outpatient ECT.

At the Stevenson School entrance, I busied myself with the logistics of checking in and finding my room. The weather was my favorite kind: clear, warm and sunny. Thankfully my thoughts moved away from CHOMP as I got caught up with how incredibly beautiful this campus is. The school is sa-weet! It reminded me of my alma mater UC Santa Cruz, but it’s fancier.

Here’s a picture of my dorm:

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At 4:00 p.m. the day’s events began with an orientation. That was fine because I didn’t have to schmooze and I only needed to pay attention to the speakers. But after that introduction, the schmoozing began in full force. I took a few drops of the homeopathic anxiety reducer Rescue Remedy; it does help (at the very least on a placebo level) but it’s subtle. 

The first reception began. (Yes, the first one.) It was fine and I had some good talks getting to know a few of my classmates. The next agenda item was meeting with our teacher Frances Lefkowitz, but unfortunately she was running late and couldn’t make it. Luckily for us, one of my classmates, Rayne Wolfe, was Lefkowitz’s self-proclaimed “biggest fan” but she wasn’t a mere groupie. She knows Lefkowitz and conference staff assigned her the task of filling in. She gave a fabulous testimonial about her teacher and was hilarious, so she won me over in about 10 seconds. I was already impressed with her submission and intimidating background. (Wolfe’s book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, has garnered the kinds of 5-star reviews writers yearn for and has sold like hotcakes around the world.) Oh, and she worked as a longtime journalist for the New York Times and more! Check out Rayne’s blog – she’s also giving her take on this conference and I love it.  Then our six-member class did a brief round of introductions. It was so cool to meet such passionate writers whose heartfelt submissions I’ve analyzed over the past month.  

Dinner followed and it was all good – portobello mushrooms, broccoli, rice, baked tomatoes – so healthy, yes?  (But thank God, they had chocolate cake, people!)  Then came another reception, also enjoyable, another shot of Rescue Remedy and finally a poetry reading by the two acclaimed instructors Ellen Bass and Jericho Brown.

Yesterday I wondered how the hell I’d get through Day One, let alone the rest of the conference. I was so freaked out knowing I’d have to make small talk with a variety of strangers – it had been a long time since I was in this kind of situation. To add to the fun, as a person who sweats like an Olympic Athlete when anxious, I oooozed wide circles on either side of my tank top and at the breastbone area. It was almost funny, except for that it wasn’t!

It’s difficult to make a seamless transition from sweating to poetry, but here goes: some of you know I’m not a poetry fan. Wow – after I typed that sentence, a bolt of lightning tried to strike me.

I’ve published a couple poems but I didn’t consider them to be Real Poems, if that makes any sense. I wrote them just to give it a try. I was going to pass on tonight’s poetry readings, but at the last minute I decided to give them a chance.

The building used for this reading was a stunning chapel. It had an enormous window overlooking the trees and sky, and unique architecture. It was an uber-cool chapel.

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Jericho Brown gave the first reading, and his delivery alone was absolutely incredible. His poems had palpable power, although it was hard for me to follow them because I was exhausted and I have a “poetry block”. I also had a full bladder and I was too lazy to leave the room, which I don’t suggest if you’re going to a poetry reading. He’s a brilliant scholar/teacher/author and has all kinds of impressive credentials you can read on his website

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Ellen Bass followed Jericho, and she remarked that he was a hard act to follow. Now, she lives in my town and she’s famous there. She has sold millions of books and co-wrote the international bestseller/classic The Courage to Heal. 

I had never seen her in person nor read any of her poems. To my surprise, I really enjoyed her poems as most of them (but definitely not all) were quite funny and easy for me to follow. She was charming and had a great rapport with Jericho, who told us that he considered her to be his “Aunt Ellen” and that one of her poems helped him “believe in God”. (He didn’t say which one – I need to find that out.)

After the intense reading, I walked back to my dorm wiped out but I was happy. Then I realized something icky. Ellen Bass was the contest judge who rejected my poem that I entered for the Felton Friends of the Library Contest!

I wrote this rather scathing blog post about Ellen Bass. While it was quite a let-down to have a muckety muck writer reject my writing, I’ve come to terms with it. I won’t pull her chair out from under her at dinner or anything mean and immature like that. She won me over tonight. 

So that was my day. I’ll be writing about the next huge challenge I face here: getting my writing critiqued by seven writers. I’ll probably sweat a small pool around my feet when that happens, but it’s for the greater good of my book. 

Thanks for reading this!

lots of love,

Dyane

p.s. I wouldn’t be here if not for the encouragement of bestselling author, friend, and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) of Santa Cruz County’s Vice President, my fellow Board Member Wendy K. Williamson!