Novamblings

cool hand lucy

Lucy chillin’

What do you get when you combine the words “November” + “ramblings”?

Novamblings of course!

(I know it’s dorky, but I just can’t help myself from dorking out!)

My November days have been filled with taking care of my two girls, playing with Lucy, eating bon bons (I wish) and working on Birth of a New Brain.

I have a super-rough draft which I call the “skeleton”. Natalie Goldberg gets the credit for that moniker. She wrote the classic book Writing Down the Bones which I read when it was published waaaay back in 1986. I was sweet sixteen that year; little did I know I’d be writing my first book a whopping 29 years later.

Unknown

I’m reviewing each of the twenty chapters from start to finish, filling them with “adipose tissue”, or rounding out this draft with the right facts, incidents and more. (Doesn’t adipose tissue sound more lyrical than fat?) Then I’ll go through the chapters again and add “guts” to make the writing juicier, and hopefully far more interesting to the reader than it is now. It will be a fine line between the guts having T.M.I. and not enough T.M.I. , but I’ll do my best! 😉

Every writer follows her own set of rules. This is how I’m approaching my draft, which is subject to change. (Mercurial me!)

In September I signed up for a writing class with the world-renowned author Laura Davis. Unfortunately I had to drop out after my brother-in-law passed away. I’m glad that Laura gave me credit towards a future class, and it was great to finally meet her in person after hearing about her for years.

Meanwhile, I’m still going strong with my Dr. Alsuwaidan-style daily workouts.

Unknown-1

JUST DO IT the Dr. A. Way!

Being sick with an evil cold/cough for almost two weeks threw me off. I missed all my workouts and my mood suffered – my whole family noticed that. But I got back on track to everyone’s relief, most of all my own.

What else?

The horrific events of Paris reminded me that I’m incredibly fortunate not to have been directly affected by such evil. 

Despite reading about what took place in Paris and being aware of atrocities happening every day worldwide, my preoccupation with petty dung (mainly regarding social media content) and my road rage have been getting worse.

I’ve become too negative, angry, envious and outward-focused.

Does any of that sound familiar? 

images

 

Remember when I gave up Facebook? I’m still Facebook-free and I don’t miss it at all. However, I ain’t no social media saint who can cut the virtual cord 100%. After I quit Facebook, I started using Twitter too much!  Twitter gradually grew into a Facebook-like trigger and it became too stimulating and, at times, upsetting.

Day after day I kept muttering “I have to cut back on Twitter!” to no avail.

Finally I saw the light. Something clicked over the weekend; maybe my despair about Paris speeded things up for me to make a positive change. I reduced the amount of people/organizations I’m closely following on Twitter. I’m now only reading tweets by those individuals and groups who lift me up, and who I want to support.

One such organization is Postpartum Support International. I became a member last week, and I’m excited to tell you that PSI has created a free online support group (both English and Spanish) for those with postpartum depression! How cool is that? You can use your name or be anonymous. For more information please visit:

http://www.postpartum.net/psi-online-support-meetings/

Speaking of things that lift up one’s spirits, I wanted to share a resource that you probably already use – you’re all so hip – but just in case, here’s the info.

During my writing time I’ve been listening to a YouTube feed that claims to enhance focus in one’s brain

You might prefer AC/DC – just play whatever makes you happy and productive, right? Music is powerful. I’ve been around live music since in utereo – my father played the violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and my crib was located near his practice room. He praticed for hours every day. When he retired, over 100 people auditioned for his job!

I digress…but then again, I must keep this blog’s digression tradition alive.

When I must leave Lucy home alone, I put on anti-anxiety music for dogs so she’s not so freaked out. I think all of these New Age music loops help.  Do any of you use them?

And on that note (get it???) that’s all for now. Oh wait!!!!!

I forgot to mention this in my previous exercise post. I have chronic knee pain from two knee surgeries I had in 1991 and 2007. I had A.C.L. (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction and cartilage repair galore.

What helps me a ton with the pain, which worsens in colder weather, is homeopathic arnica. Arnica is cheap, it has no contraindications with other medications (and believe me, I take an MAOI, so I know that for sure) and it works! I like Boron arnica and I use their pills and the external gel. You can get each of those for less than $12 at most health food stores or online. If you have joint pain/bruises/soreness, this stuff is awesome.

Wishing you a good, safe week and I’ll let you know how Thanksgiving goes next week.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – I’m incredibly thankful that you’re all out there, and that I’m lucky enough that you read my blog.

much love,

Dyane

 

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

Unknown

Earthquakes & Tsunamis of the Soul & How to Move On

loma

 This sign is located less than seven miles from where I reside.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a great fear of tsunamis.  I grew up less than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean.  I frequently discussed my tsunami terrors with my father who shared my fascination with the killer waves.  He always assured me that if a tsunami struck nearby, it would fill up the large Las Pulgas Canyon (The Fleas Canyon!) that our home overlooked long before the water could possibly reach us.  Dad’s confident explanation soothed me, although I continued to have nightmares about giant waves over the next few decades.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have the same obsession with another force of nature that occurred where I lived: earthquakes.  The Los Angeles earthquakes I felt as a child didn’t frighten me. Those jolts were nothing compared to what I experienced while living in Santa Cruz during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The quake, which lasted only fifteen seconds, was 6.1 on the Richter scale, and it caused massive destruction and death around the Bay Area.  I started fearing earthquakes after that day.  

Last night while browsing on the IMDB website to see what was new, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I spotted a preview of an upcoming summer blockbuster containing both tsunamis and earthquakes made to the tune of 100 million dollars!  (That’s a disgusting amount, I know.)

The film’s title said it all in big, bold scary-looking font:

SAN ANDREAS

As a film buff, I squealed in both fear and excitement!  I called out to my husband Craig, a certified engineering geologist, and asked him to define what the San Andreas was, exactly.  He explained that the “San Andreas Fault is a major break in the earth’s surface running hundreds of miles along the California coast. It’s a boundary between two tectonic plates: the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.” Craig laughed when he saw the following preview, as he said the most shocking scenes are virtually impossible.

After 26 years, I’ve forgotten how truly terrifying the Loma Prieta quake really felt; I know I was frightened enough to sleep in my Jetta that night. I worried that my old apartment building would fall upon me. Ninety minutes north of where I lived, the quake caused an entire upper section of the Nimitz Freeway to collapse upon drivers on its lower section, crushing them to death.  Newspaper images of the scene haunted me for months.

However, I was fortunate to have no losses – none of my loved ones perished, and I didn’t have a loss of property.  

I was able to get over my immobilizing fear relatively quickly, unlike an earthquake of the soul.

My inner earthquake, if you will, was my 2007 postpartum bipolar diagnosis and my unremitting, severe depression over the past eight years.

When you haven’t been able to trust your brain for a long time, there’s a residual trauma – at least there has been for me.  Now, I’m not saying I’m a hopeless case, and if you’re suffering right now with bipolar disorder, you’re not a hopeless case either.  

Our lives won’t turn into sweetness and light, but there can be real improvement.  I’m starting to see that I can keep bipolar disorder from destroying me like a giant wave or a megaquake. There are steps I’m now able to take so I can keep my bipolar depression at arm’s length.  

I was able to feel glimmers of hope only once I found medications that worked for me. I tried well over 25 medications and I had two different rounds of ECT, both unilateral and bilateral, before I was fortunate enough to find effective medications. 

“That’s all well and good, but how can I improve my life?” you might ask.

Here’s my list of suggestions – they might seem familiar to some of you as I’ve written about some of them before.

1) Medication – keep working with your psychiatrist to find something that helps you. Believe me when I say I know how hard it is to be on the med train.  It’s hell.  But please persevere.  (To those who are anti-meds, go away!  Just kidding. I’d like you to know I’ve been in your shoes. The truth of the matter is that a very small percentage of the bipolar population can live well without meds.  I’ve read it’s 10-15%.  I thought I could beat those odds, but I almost died.  I’ll take meds until there’s a cure for bipolar.)  

So yes….meds.

2) Consistent check-in appointments with preferably a psychiatrist, or your medication prescriber.  (I know how tough it is to find a doctor who’s skilled *and* kind, but don’t shortchange yourself.  Try to find someone who treats you with respect.)

3) 6-7  days a week of vigorous exercise for thirty minutes; whatever you choose, you must break a sweat and not be able to carry on a conversation!  I now regard exercise as important as taking medication – in fact, I look at exercise at my 4th “medication”.  (I take lithium, Parnate & Seroquel.) The brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan has studied the efficacy of this routine.  He attests that his patients are profoundly helped by working out this way, and he has told me it’s the “missing link” for those with bipolar depression.  I’ll be interviewing him later this spring about this topic for the latest, but this is plenty to go on for now.  In the meantime, please read his brief post for more details about why you need to work it:

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/  

imgres-1Dr. Alsuwaidan – he practices what he preaches, and works out 6-7 days/week too, even after he’s exhausted from seeing bipolar patients all day long!

4) Therapy if at all possible

5) Social support – either in person through a support group, a friend, or online.  I consider our blogging community to be a key part of my social support. I love you guys!  

6) Relatively healthy diet and no or minimum alcohol.  I can’t drink alcohol due to my MAOI Parnate and my liver and brain are the better off for it. 

7) A pet.  I don’t care if it’s “just” a hermit crab or hamster.  A pet to give you unconditional love and for you to care about, who will keep you company.  

8) Bibliotherapy – reading takes me to my happy place and I bet it does for you too; it’s also supposed to be healing and superhealthy for our brains!  

9) Being out in nature, even for just a few minutes on your doorstep looking at plants, each day.  

10) Light.  I use an old Sunbox (sunbox.com) for 1/2 an hour in the morning and it really does help.  Sometimes you can get your insurance to reimburse for one if you have a doctor’s note.  You can also use sunscreen and sit out in the sun like a lizard! My puppy Lucy loves to sit out in the sun despite her thick, honey-colored coat – she’s so cute.

lioness

 

I’m sorry this became another novella.  I keep telling myself to write posts under 500 words.  I know that I usually prefer to read posts around that length, and I know most of you probably do as well.   Oh well.  Give me another chance.  Next Friday I’ll shoot for 500 words or less! Miracles can happen!

In the meantime, have a good weekend, everyone.  I hope you can all do something that brings you a real smile.  Want to make me smile, for real?  Go do an “Alsuwaidan-style workout” and tell me about it in the comments.  Sweat is the best makeup!

XOXO

Dyane 

  

Late Nights with Zoe the Syrian Hamster

Last month we got a golden brown Syrian hamster for our youngest daughter Rilla.  She promptly named her pet Zoe after “Zoe”, the stunning blonde alien/surfer girl in the epic Australian television series “Lightning Point”. (I swear, when you watch that show your I.Q. goes up 10 points with every episode!)  

As you can see below, the two Zoes don’t resemble one another that much.

imagesimages

At night when my insomnia strikes, I hear nocturnal Zoe “Flo Jo” Harwood running fast on her Habitrail wheel.  As I picture this little creature going nowhere, an endless loop of thoughts run around in my weary brain.  Lately, most of these thoughts haven’t taken me to a better place. They’ve become far too negative and cynical for my taste.  While it’s totally unrealistic to think I can banish all of these thoughts, I want to reduce their frequency.

Easier said than done.

I figure after growing and giving birth to two humans, I can cut down on my negativity.  If I can survive seven mental hospitalizations in dismal units, I can learn to fly a jet!  

(By the way, my flying a jet is not out of the realm of possibility. I began attending ground school when i was twenty, and I’ve flown a Piper Cub twice without crash landing it!) 

Anyway, I got a profound wake-up call last week.  My close friend’s life went from wonderful to an absolute nightmare in thirty seconds.  

Thirty seconds.  About the time it takes to start one’s computer and open up my email.

Since receiving my friend’s horrific news, I’ve woken up each day thinking about her family.  I realize that no matter how lousy I feel, I have a good life going on right now.  It’s time to pay more attention to that.

I have my freedom, and while I can’t jet off to Kauai on a moment’s notice, I’m not in a locked-down ward that resembles the set of “Orange Is the New Black”.  My freedom is something to be savored.  For those of you who’ve never been hospitalized for bipolar, it may be hard for you to imagine that sometimes I find it astounding that I can simply drive over to Coffee 9 and order a double mocha.  (Extra chocolate and yes, of course I want whipped cream with that!!)  Parents who know of my diagnosis and hospitalizations trust me to drive and care for their children each week.  I’m doing 1000% better than I was doing three years ago.

And let’s face it – what’s much more important than designer drinks is that I have a healthy family.  We live in a beautiful place. I have great online network of friends and some special IRL friends too.  And I’m about to create a support group that helps other women with mood disorders find their own tribe, lucky them…with ME!   😉

And, of course, l have lovely Lady Lucy, who has the fastest tongue in the West:

Fastest Tongue

 

But..I still keep thinking about soul-draining crap instead of concentrating on the good stuff. Talk about a total waste of energy.  I must pull my attention back to the good, over and over and over again.  

I’ve read that a daily gratitude list helps boost one’s positivity   Do any of you do that?  Does it help? (And I’ve been advised about meditation too by my pdoc, my therapist, friends, you-name-it – Zoe Hamster probably meditates during the day…I’m just still not there yet.  But there’s hope for me yet to join the meditation fold!) 

I know I’m making light of some serious issues here.  I never want to offend any of you, and I hope I don’t.   I’ve noticed that many of us bloggers with mood challenges have been struggling a lot lately.  I’d love to know about whatever helps you with your own negativity – don’t hold back in the comments section, okay?  You’ll give me something to ponder when I’m hanging out with that noisy furball Zoe!

see you next week, my friends…

Dyane