My Wacky 2014 Mental Health Hero Award for Mental Health Humor

Chato

 

Happy Monday Everyone!

I write this while quite bleary-eyed after a poor night’s sleep, so please forgive me for typos and syntax errors etc. more than usual!

Over the weekend I was notified that a customized, super-wacky caricature of yours truly and a brief bio. was published on PsychCentral’s Mental Health Humor section.  

I was honored as a 2014 Mental Health Hero!  

I was selected for this honor by the one and only mental health advocate/cartoonist/writer/DBSA Award-winner/BP (Bipolar) Magazine blogger/mental health consumer Chato B. Stewart.  If you open up the link below you’ll find not only Chato’s caricature of me,  but more illustrations.

You’ll see that Chato’s three young daughters drew their own pictures of me alongside my girls, which I think is really sweet.  Chato told me they get a big kick out of participating, and they’ve inherited an artistic flair for art from their talented father.  They love doing this special project with their dad!

Chato created this award several years ago and it has become an annual tradition.  What makes this year’s awards especially poignant is that over the past few months Chato has suffered from a severe bipolar depression.  He almost let this labor of love fall to the wayside and his three daughters implored him not to give it up.  The fact that he was able to do it is a total miracle in my eyes.

It’s all in good fun, and if you visit the link you’ll note that I’m part of a group of other “mental health heroes” you may be interested in checking out!

Dyane Harwood Mental Health Hero #mhmonth2014 | Mental Health Humor.

Tired

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I’m tired today.  There’s no way around this fatigue.  I can only drink so much coffee until the caffeine infusion backfires and my stomach gets annoyed with me, so I’ve backed away from the coffee pot.  Luckily I don’t have to be “on” for any one, I don’t have to give any State of the Union speeches, and I don’t have to be at a job where I’m expected to perform.  I can be one with my banana slug neighbors.

I may have been bestowed with a Mental Health Hero Award yesterday, but today I feel like I’m just “regular folks”. Suffice it to say that I won’t be leaping over buildings in single bound wearing my pink cape anytime over this weekend.

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I think part of the reason I’m pooped out is due to the trigger I experienced regarding our friend’s suicide attempt on the first day of Mental Health Month.  We’ve also had quite a heat wave, with temperatures reaching the mid-80’s.  While I’ve made an effort to drink more water, the heat still affects me.  The final reason I’m so blahhh (and, my dear readers, you’ll be muttering “Duh!” after this part…) is that I had to take a little more Seroquel last night. I rarely do that, but once in a while it’s a necessity.  I’m grateful that I have Seroquel at my disposal because it has worked so well,  but it does have the sedating side effect.  It has helped me with both severe agitated insomnia and depression. So I’m not depressed.  Praise be!  I always get a little nervous writing that because I’ve been so used to saying how terribly depressed I am.  I’m just in low gear.

My feeling pooped out certainly doesn’t make for sparkling, dynamic, insightful writing.  Despite that fact, I’m following my beloved Madeleine L’Engle’s advice to write for thirty minutes a day. (Unless one is severely ill, of course!)  Which, thank the heavens, I’m not.  I apologize for this blog being so blah, but I’m sure you’ll understand and hopefully you’ll give me a reprieve of punishment!

When I read others’ blogs that are written when they’re having one of those days, I couldn’t care less about a post’s blahness if real feelings are revealed.  I actually prefer the “messy” blogs where innermost, raw feelings are exposed!  I connect with the “I feel like shit and I’m going to tell you why…” posts on a profoundly deep level. I love the fact that those kinds of posts aren’t sanitized like some of the glossy, cutesy, uber-witty blogs I’ve come across since exploring the blogosphere.

Yesterday I started following a spirited, brand-spankin’-new blogger MixtapeMasterJip-C. (Say that ten times fast!)  Mixtape apologized in the inaugural post for not having a “fancy” interface.  I commented that I didn’t require fanciness in order to follow a good blog – here’s Mixtape’s first post:

https://mixtapemasterjipc.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/the-mind-of-mixtape-master-jip-c/

As long as the blogger’s writing is authentic and the subjects are ones that I can relate to more or less, I’m going to read those posts.  I don’t demand beautiful graphics, charming fonts, or dazzling WordPress smoke and mirrors of any kind.  I like reading about the minutiae of one’s life.  I don’t need one’s blog to cheer me up or teach me or inspire me.  Self-care is my job, and sometimes it’s my therapist’s job to teach & inspire me, but I don’t require that of my beloved bloggers!

Although I’ve blogged for the past six months, the time has gone by in a flash, and I still feel like a neophyte blogger.  Sometimes I feel guilty that my posts do not educate others very much about bipolar disorder, specifically postpartum bipolar disorder, since that was the primary reason I began the blog.  I let go of that guilt as best as I can, and carry on.

Yesterday I had a valuable conversation with a very talented friend.  She’s a published author (Put Learning to Work: The Value of an Applied Pre-Vocational Curriculum for 6th-8th grade, At-risk and Special Needs Students), and blogger Carrie of Fleetiris. She shared with me how blogging primes her for her other creative work, which includes other forms of writing, art and other pursuits.  She blogs first, and then she’s able to move on to focus on her other projects.  She likes how blogging preps her before she moves on to working on a screenplay or novel.  If you have several writing projects going on, I suggest trying this technique out if you haven’t done so already!  To read Carrie’s eclectic blog posts and see her gorgeous, one-of-a-kind recycled artwork, visit this link:

http://fleetiris.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/these-3-photos-are-all-one-piece-entitled-point-of-no-return/

Blogging definitely serves as my warm-up before I work on my book.  Now that I’ve been blessed to have a few readers whose comments provide valuable, affirming feedback, I really am hooked on blogging – it’s a delight!

I knew there would be days like this where I’d feel drained, out of it, and blocked in terms of coming up with a useful blog topic. I’ll whine about it to you, dear readers (you can send me a bill for your virtual therapy!) but then I will move on and return to WordPress to wax poetically once more another day.

I would like to end on a high note.  Last night I was asked by one of my mentors Dr. Walker Karraa to be an editor for her new, cutting-edge website Stigmama.com.  Stigmama.com is dedicated to women’s experiences of stigma regarding mental illness and motherhood. I’ve contributed to Stigmama.com since its inception.  It’s a big honor for me to participate as an editor with Stigmama.com, and I am totally stoked!  (I’m Los Angeles born & bred, what more can I say?)

Please check it out & spread the word: http://www.stigmama.com or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/stigmama and

Twitter:  @Stigmama1

Dr. Karraa and I are on the lookout for Stigmama.com contributors, by the way, so if you’re interested in submitting a piece, please email my at dyane@baymoon.com.

HAVE A GREAT SUNDAY!!! AND THANKS FOR READING!!!

Dyane

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I Love Kind, Smart Journalists!/ “Black Box” – To Bash or Not to Bash?

 

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Yesterday while on Facebook I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation post about the new ABC television series Black Box premiering tonight.

Here’s ABC’s Black Box overview:

“The twenty-first century is the era of the brain, and this show will be riding that wave on the cutting edge of medicine. The brain is the source of everything — from whom we love to how we act and feel. It is the ultimate mystery, which is why doctors call it the “black box.” Dr. Catherine Black and the staff of “The Cube” will constantly be challenged by cases never seen before on television. The patients have rare, highly visual, often hallucinogenic and startling conditions, which we will see through their eyes as Dr. Black diagnoses and treats them.”

Wikipedia’s description adds:

“Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is a famous neuroscientist who secretly has bipolar disorder; the only person who knows is her psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave), who was with Catherine after her first break and has been a maternal figure for Catherine since her mother, who also suffered from bipolar disorder, committed suicide.”

The International Bipolar Foundation post provides a link to a Washington Post/Associated Press article about Black Box written by the renowned AP national television columnist Frazier Moore.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/a-bipolar-doctor-probes-the-brain-on-black-box/2014/04/22/ed899e12-ca28-11e3-b81a-6fff56bc591e_story.html

Let me back up a bit.  I first read about “Black Box” a couple weeks ago in a great blog called “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.  Here’s that post link:

http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/black-box/

After I viewed the official Black Box preview on YouTube,  I checked out the show’s ABC website and decided I would watch Black Box when the time came.

Back to the Washington Post article.  Frazier Moore wrote an intriguing Black Box article, but the title he chose and the phrasing within his article inspired me to write him a brief email.  His title, as you can infer from the Washington Post link above,  starts with “A Bipolar Doctor” and the phrase is “She’s bipolar.”

Those of you who have followed my writing know I never gave a hoot about how the word “bipolar” was used until I was diagnosed with bipolar!

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Black Box series co-creator Amy Holden Jones commits the same wording sin; her remarks include “bipolar people” and “someone who’s bipolar”.   

When I first read those four items, I felt the equivalent of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard – screeeeeeechhhhhh!  Hey, we all have our “things” that set us off, and this phraseology issue is obviously one of mine.  Maybe I hold such strong opinions about speech and bipolar because I’m the daughter of a speech pathologist/trained theater actress.  Moreover, back in college, I took a “Speech for Teachers” course during my studies to become an English teacher.  My professor gave me the top grade in the class.  The main reason, however, why I feel the way I do is when I say “I’m bipolar” it sounds like that’s pretty much all I am, and nothing else.

I’ve written an essay about the wording of bipolar disorder, and if you want to subject yourself to my entire spiel (I suggest having a cup of coffee first) it has been published by the International Bipolar Foundation, Birth of a New Brain, and at Stigmama.com:

http://stigmama.com/2014/03/12/dyane-harwood-mother-first-bipolar-a-very-distant-second/

ANYWAY, I was in the mood to contact this influential journalist about my cause, so I placed my quivering fingers upon my keyboard and took off.  I tried my best not to come across as freaky-deaky, as I might have acted that way in the past with other people whose writing triggered me.

Here’s what I wrote:

"Dear Frazier,

I hope this finds you well.  I just read your article about the new
television show "Black Box" and I found it exceedingly well written and
interesting.  I would like to bring up a point for your consideration.

I am writer living with bipolar disorder; I was diagnosed at age
thirty-seven just eight weeks postpartum.   I grew up close to my father
who had what was then called "manic depression". (Manic depression is the
term that both Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of "An Unquiet Mind" and I
much prefer.)

I like to tell others that "I have bipolar" instead of saying "I'm
bipolar".  It sounds petty, I know, but more people with this mental
illness feel the same way as I do than you'd expect.  I'm finding that
it's the most respectful way to address people who live with this mood
disorder and so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  I hope you 
take this email with a grain of salt.  If I didn't like your writing, 
I wouldn't bother taking the time to contact you! 🙂

I wish you the very best!

Warmest regards,

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, B.A., C.P.T.  
Freelance Writer
Consumer Advisory Council Member, International Bipolar Foundation
Blogger, International Bipolar Foundation
Author of the upcoming book:
"Birth of a New Brain - Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder"


(Dear readers, I couldn't figure out how to change my font back to how it first was:0)
When I checked my email this morning, I was stunned to see a reply from Frazier Moore in 
my in-box.  His warm, diplomatic response, which I copied in part below, really made my 
day.  I honestly didn't expect him to write back, and I had let the whole matter go.

Moreover, Frazier included a brief section (which I've deleted out of respect for his 
privacy) that implied that he had been affected by someone with bipolar disorder in his 
extended circle. It was obvious to me that his own experience has given him 
empathy and compassion for those who suffer with mood disorders. 
I believe that all good journalists have both of these qualities, 
and I am pleased that Frazier Moore appears to be one of them!

Frazier wrote me:
"Thank you for your gracious note. 
I take your point and will aim to be more sensitive in writing about this subject in
the future (which could very well happen if "Black Box" is a hit).  

Btw, I would be interested in what you think about the show if you happen to watch. 

Best, 
Frazier" 


 

On the International Bipolar Foundation Facebook page, there were many 
heated comments in regard to the Black Box announcement - 
it was interesting to read the replies.  To date,
the majority of the comments were negative in regard to the show and 
Black Box hasn't even aired yet.  

(To read these replies, visit the following link and scroll down to the Black Box post 
from 4/22/14)
https://www.facebook.com/InternationalBipolarFoundation

After my exchange occurred with Frazier I felt emboldened to keep speaking up about 
what matters to me as far as bipolar disorder (or anything else) is concerned.  
If each of us addresses the bipolar disorder-related 
issues that are important to us with others, then a 
positive sea change could actually occur.

I will definitely let you and Frazier know my thoughts about this show!

Why I Care About the “Every mother, every time. Universal Mental Health Screening for Every Pregnant and Postpartum Woman” Petition

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The topic I am writing about today is of tantamount importance to me, and for countless women and their families.

Being diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder two months after the birth of my daughter was the most devastating event in my life.  If I had received any kind of pregnancy/postpartum mental health screening, I would have had a chance at early diagnosis and proper treatment.  I have a strong history of mental illness in my family, and my father had bipolar one disorder.  If I had been screened for mood disorders, an enormous amount of suffering could have possibly been averted. My story is just one drop in an ocean full of similar stories.  This cycle does not have to continue, and someone is doing something about it…and we can join her to help in a small but meaningful way.

Dr. Walker Karraa is a crusader in the field of women’s pregnancy/postpartum mental health.  On March 4th, Dr. Karraa created a groundbreaking White House petition.  This petition, which is only active until April 4th, still needs ninety-eight thousand signatures. Even if we don’t reach the goal, every signature has value.  Here’s the petition summary:

“Every mother, every time. Universal mental health screening for every pregnant and postpartum woman”

Suicide is a leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth. 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated. In pregnancy, maternal mental illness negatively effects fetal development,and leads to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can impair infant and early childhood cognitive and emotional development. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence, there is no universal mandate for care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anxiety, or family history of mental illness–a well established risk factor. Screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

To register and sign to petition (takes less than 5 minutes):

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/every-mother-every-time-universal-mental-health-screening-every-pregnant-and-postpartum-woman/rG1jLyYj

Dr. Karraa has encountered arguments by some who feel that such a screening could be detrimental, and she refutes two main arguments brilliantly at HealthyPlace.com:  

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2014/03/19/mental-health-screening-for-pregnant-and-postpartum-women/

To read Dr. Karraa’s interview with Senior Editor Jeanne Faulkner of Christy Turlington’s website/organization Every Mother Counts:

http://www.everymothercounts.org/blog/201403/signing-petition-can-save-mothers-lives

Dr. Karraa’s new website Stigmama was created for women to speak their truths in a non-judgmental, supportive community.  Dr. Karraa is currently recruiting contributions by mothers facing mental illness stigma:

http://stigmama.com/

Dr. Karraa’s website:

http://www.walkerkarraa.com/

Thank you for reading, as always!

Dyane

Dyane Harwood: “Mother first, bipolar a very distant second!”

Today I’m reblogging…my own post! 😉 I was honored that the visionary perinatal expert & women’s health crusader Dr. Walker Karraa published this post on her new Stigmama blog.

I consider it an “oldy-but-goody” post I wrote early on in my blogging. I’ve changed it a little bit, but my message remains the same. I am not bipolar. I have bipolar. Call me pedantic if you will (I can’t believe that word came to me; I never use it, but it’s the perfect word! Pedantic is defined as “overly concerned with minute details”.) Isn’t there the classic saying that “God is in the details.”? Well, anyway, we all have causes that are close to our hearts, and I mean well with this one. If you haven’t read this post before, I hope you will, and please let me know what you think.

Thanks!

Dyane

Back to My Book Today & “You’re Just Like Me: Dyane”

Today is the day!  

After I drop my girls off at school, if I make it back home alive (it’s always a risk driving in the school’s parking lot from hell!) I’m planting myself in my freshly organized office.  It’s once again time to work on my book  Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.  I’ll be praying that I won’t relapse before this project is completed.  (I relapsed last year, and I cancelled my long-awaited book contract because of that setback…ugh.)

In short, I’m scared.

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I have a hundred pages that I wrote well over a year ago.  I plan to sit my ass down and review them, but since a lot of that material was written when I was hypomanic or manic, I doubt much of it will be salvageable.  At least it’s a starting point.

Since I don’t have much time today to work on my usual, overly long blog post, I thought I’d share a recent Q&A from the popular blog “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost – The Real Thoughts of a Bipolar Mind”.  It’s about, ahem, me.

Check it out, and take a look at Oh Temp’s other compelling posts – you may even want to participate in this Q&A yourself.  “You’re Just Like Me” is a weekly feature.  You just need to email your answers to the questions you see in my submission to bipolarunemployedlost@gmail.com. Oh Temp writes in the blog, “We will feature your Q&A!  I’d love to hear your experience and motivation to fight this horrible disease.”

http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/youre-just-like-me-dyane/

I’ll be posting here later this week, and I hope you will check back.

Thanks for visiting my blog – it really means a great deal to me that you’re reading this, and now I’m getting all verklempt but really, I feel honored to have my diatribes read by someone besides me!  😉

Take care.

Dyane

p.s. If you are a mom living with mental illness, please visit the brand-new blog/Facebook page “Stigmama”.  This resource has been created by Dr. Walker Karraa, a perinatal mental health advocate, author and researcher.  To learn about her work visit http://www.walkerkarraa.com.

Stigmama is a “community blog dedicated to women’s experiences of stigma regarding mental illness and motherhood.”

Stigmama is seeking blog submissions and you can find contact info. at the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stigmamacom/436581233140467