My Seroquel Spider Belly, Memoirstipation & Buh-Bye!

(TW – Seemingly superficial topics but please read this anyway!)

Happy Thursday, my friends!

It has been over a month since my last 25 mg Seroquel pill. I’ve been able to get to sleep without medication again, which is cause for celebration! I first started taking quetiapine, the generic version of Seroquel, in 2013 for for severe, agitated insomnia. It has been an enormous help, but it was time to taper off it because I wasn’t happy with my chronic daytime grogginess. I wanted to see if I could live and sleep comfortably without the med, and my pdoc gave me his blessing to go for it.

I think I’m getting the medication out of my system. Who knows for sure, but I don’t feel an icky withdrawal sensation anymore. I stopped belting out the Seroquel Blues song. The only Seroquel-related bummer that remains is this:
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Ever since I started taking Seroquel, my stomach took on a very high concentration of fat glorious adipose tissue. I’ve never had this style of weight gain happen before except when I was pregnant. There’s no way I’m growing a Frankenbaby, but I look about four months pregnant and that feels very disconcerting.

I’ve been ruminating about the villain Typhon Cutter from my favorite author Madeleine L’Engle’s book The Arm of the Starfish. L’Engle writes, “Typhon Cutter looked even more like a spider than Adam remembered. It seemed incredible that this obese mass with the stringy appendages could possibly be father to the beautiful girl at his side.”

While I’m not obese (at 5’6″, I’m 152 pounds of pure bipolar goodness) my metabolism has obviously been affected adversely by the powerful drug. 152 pounds would be perfectly acceptable except for this quadruple muffin top hanging out of my stretched-out jeans. Due to my twisted Los Angeles upbringing, I don’t breathe well because I have an awful habit of sucking in my stomach. 

The bottom line is that I feel gross and unhealthy despite my consistent Dr. Alsuwaidan-style * workouts. I’m a former A.C.E.-certified personal trainer and I know the most important thing I need to do aside from discuss this in therapy. I need to eat much healthier foods than what I’m currently inhaling. However, I haven’t hit that lovely rock-bottom point that motivates profound, lasting change.

My weight gain certainly hasn’t been all Seroquel’s fault. I have a fierce gelato addiction. There are so many damn delicious gelatos and a myriad of Willy Wonka-esque, enticing flavors available. (Bourbon caramel chocolate, anyone?Ahhh!) Check out https://ciaobellagelato.com)

bourboncaramelchocolate

It’s just not right. But I’m working on this issue because I want more energy.

I’ve lost bipolar med weight before. I did it in a healthy way, mind you! No starving for this foodie chick. 60 pounds worth! The equivalent of a five-year-old child was lost from my frame, which is pretty freaky. But my weight problem wasn’t connected with Seroquel and I think the 10-15 pounds I’d like to lose now will be tougher due to whatever Seroquel did to my metabolism. So we shall see, and I’ll keep you posted.

In book writing news, it’s sucking heavily, my dears.  My publisher doesn’t read this blog, and even if someone there did read it, I’m not worried. At least I have my book’s 200 page “skeleton” written. (Thanks, Natalie Goldberg, for planting your Writing Down the Bones idea into my brain twenty nine years ago!) However, a humongous amount of work is still in order. 

Due to our family’s summer schedule and my malaise, I haven’t written much. I’ve been constipated in terms of writing. I’ve coined the silly term “memoirstipation” because as far as I know, no one else has coined it, so I’m claiming it now. Gotta clear out the pipes! At least my manuscript deadline is motivating me to complete this project. The main reason why I sent out the proposal was actually to be given a deadline and pressure! It’s a mixed blessing, especially when I wake up at 4:00 a.m. freaking out about it.

I have the Catamaran Writers Conference coming up in August as another way that will require me to get my act together. The feedback will be invaluable – I know that I’m going to get 99.9% criticism and that’s okay. I’ll bring a extra-large box of tissues. 😉

Perhaps as I lose a bit of the Seroquel belly, I’ll feel more fired up to write. 

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This is not end-of-the-world stuff, and yes, it’s a first-world problem, but nevertheless I’d like to say buh-bye to my Seroquel belly!

And speaking of buh-bye’s, I found a clip on YouTube that made me laugh. You might not think it’s as hilarious as I do since I was raised in L.A., but it’s fun to watch such an awkward spectacle. Stay with it for the Betty White/Bradley Cooper moment if nothing else. Keep in mind lots of Angelenos like to explain in boring, ludicrous detail the tedious routes they drive. Here’s a summary:

The Californians (Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Laraine Newman, Kenan Thompson, Betty White, Taylor Swift) reunite and get some surprising news about their pool boy Craig (Bradley Cooper – I’m not quite sure what he was on in this skit). Plus, David Spade (reprising his role as the original Buh-Bye Man) and Cecily Strong bring the sketch to an abrupt end.

THE CALIFORNIANS – SNL 40th SPECIAL “BUH-BYE”

I grew up in West L.A., and this is how people really talk there…and it’s true, lots of them primp in the mirror every two minutes. See you next week, lovies!

Dyane

* This is what I do every day & it totally helps my mood, no matter how chunky my belly is! 

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

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Lack of A Writing Routine Messes Me Up!

COVER
Yep, it’s true.

After two weeks out of town (during which I was sick with a hideous cold for most of it), I came home exhausted, overwhelmed, and negative.  I realized that my decision to suddenly free myself from the internet was too extreme.  A few days would have sufficed in order to give me the healthy ‘net break that I needed.  Moreover, it didn’t help that soon after our return it was the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  While fortunately that didn’t trigger a depression as it has in the past, I still felt bereft and like crap.  

I wanted to sink back into a solid writing routine to ground me and give me a sense of purpose apart from being a mother and wife.  As simple as that goal may seem, it hasn’t been the case.

I’ve been tempted to sit on my derriere and watch recorded reruns of “What Not to Wear“, “The Long Island Medium” and even, gasp, “Lotto Changed My Life“.  (I haven’t actually watched any of them yet, but the craving has surfaced.)

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I love you, Clinton & Stacy! 

This is not good.  

I am utterly constipated, literarily-speaking.  I keep telling myself “I’ll start writing again tomorrow” and then SHAZAM!  Something happens to prevent my writerly aspirations from becoming more than just lip service.  Last week it was one of my kids staying home sick.  This week? Well, nothing happened except for total laziness and writing blockage.  Yuck.

It occurred to me that I needed a dose of Greg Archer wisdom.  Greg Archer is one of the most prolific, gifted, real writers I know.  I met him while writing freelance articles for our local weekly, the Good Times.  Greg was Good Times’ uber-popular editor-in-chief for fourteen whopping years.  Not only did he write hundreds of excellent articles, but he was in charge of overseeing a staff of impressive writers – talk about pressure!  :0

Greg’s second book Grace Revealed: A Memoir was just published, and it’s getting fantastic reviews.  As you may have noticed, the cover alone is spellbinding.

Check out his book trailer video – it’s awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbxpaZiDod4

On Monday I emailed Greg for advice about about my writer’s block rearing its ugly, pus-filled head.  I confessed that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on the whole damn project, despite almost 80,000 words being written to date.  More importantly, despite feeling in my gut that I NEED to write this book.  It’s not an option!

He sent me back some words of wisdom that were from his heart and potent:

“I want to encourage you to

LET GO MORE

You can only do what you can do…truly…
Show up…give the book some time each day…and that’s THAT.

 OH___ ADVICE>>>> WRITE THREE PAGES OF WHATEVER…. every morning… and then go to the real WORK… get something out of your head.

And then… comes the sending it OFF…. and then comes to LETTING GO… and then comes the LETTING GO MORE… because we want a kind of validation … that what the hell we went through meant something/will touch people//but what I am seeing now… is that… yeah, that’s normal to focus on…but if we can direct our energy to something more creative… other work; other expressions… it’s probably much healthier…We’re so complex

And beautiful

KEEP GOING..."

So I'm going to do just what Greg suggests that I do, especially the
  
"Keep going!" part.

Do any of you have advice to share about your own writing blocks?  
I'd love to know the gory details!  As always, please comment to your 
heart's content.

And have a GOOD weekend!!!

love,
Dyane

p.s. for more information about my extraordinary friend, please visit 
www.gregarcher.com

 

 

A Bloody, Sweet & Bookish Friday the 13th

Tsunami w:Girls

The sign says: “SEAWALL CLOSED – SEAWALL TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO TSUNAMI DAMAGE – REPAIRS TO FOLLOW SOON”

If I can face my tsunami phobia, I can face this summer!!!

 

It has been summer break for less than forty-eight hours, and nothing too terrible has happened yet, thank God. We got through Friday the 13th/the full moon in one piece.  Although Lucy the puppy, in her playful way, bit Rilla on the lip with her razor-sharp teeth.  Although it was a tiny wound, Rilla bled profusely and the poor girl screamed like a banshee; the decibel range she hit was extreme.  I was folding laundry in another room. When I heard screams and tracked down Rilla, all I saw was bright red blood – it was on her clothes, hands, floor and of course her face.   I was amazed at the amount of blood I saw given the minute size of her scratch. That’s how my Friday the 13th began: with plenty ‘o blood, which was fitting, I suppose!

After the excitement of Rilla’s scratch, it was just one of those “blah” days where nothing much happened.  We went to buy ballet tights, got stuck in construction traffic, and the trip to the store took twice as long as usual. When finally arrived at the store, the staff measured Avonlea’s height so we could select the appropriate tights. At the register I was informed the store, which I had shopped at for over twenty years, no longer accepted checks.  I considered their policy to be rather ridiculous, but instead of throwing a hissy fit as I was tempted to do, I sighed and put the item back. ( In case you’re wondering, I didn’t have enough money in my other bank account to use my debit card for the tights.)

I felt nervous during our excursion because we left twelve-week-old Lucy “Vampire” Puppy alone at home.  I made sure she had plenty of water, food, and Pandora classical music playing softly in the background. I checked that the room was totally secure.  When we came back home, she was fine, but I wish she could have joined us during our errand.

We hung out around the house the rest of the day.  I forbade the girls to turn on the TV because we’ve all been watching it way too much.  We played “School”, in which Avonlea was our teacher and instructed us in my least-favorite subject: math.  Then I took a Facebook surfing break while they played “Chutes & Ladders” and chess.  

Afterwards we walked Lucy on what I refer to as our “death street”.  What could be a relaxing, enjoyable stroll with little Lucy is a scary risk when it comes to walking her on our road.   We live in one of the absolute worst neighborhoods for dog walking.  I was a desperate dumbshit during our search to buy this home.  (A ripe topic for another post, I promise you.)  Perhaps if I ‘d walk Lucy when I’m partially naked, that might get our unneighborly speeding drivers to slow the hell down for ten seconds when they pass us.  On second thought, that idea could backfire – they might speed up instead, because seeing me without clothes would frighten them! 😉

As the evening came to a close, I completed a book that I’ve wanted to finish for some time:  L.E. Henderson’s A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond.  I discovered Trail of Crumbs while searching my Kindle for bipolar-themed books.  I hit a goldmine when I found this book because I had also been searching for books about writing.  In the sample I downloaded, Henderson reveals that she has bipolar disorder and in the book she explains its influence upon her writing career.  In Trail of Crumbs, her third book, she vividly describes her experience with bipolar disorder interwoven with tried and true writing advice.  Apart from buying her book, I located Henderson’s blog and Twitter account, signed up to follow both, and we’ve been in touch ever since.  Henderson has been a wonderful source of encouragement and has inspired my writing process.

Henderson is a fantastic, imaginative fantasy novelist as well.  She is creative and original when sharing a variety of techniques to spark one’s writing.  Out of curiosity I read two Amazon reviews for Trail of Crumbs. One review made me feel wistful, for it was the review I wish I wrote for this book!  Here it is, in part, by “Carrie” of Ohio:

 5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for any writer March 27, 2014 by Carrie
 Although at first glance this book is a discussion of how the author rediscovered her writing after suffering crippling bouts of mania and depression, its pages go far beyond that. The advice is sound for any writer who has at some point struggled to maintain momentum. From presenting techniques such as ‘clustering’ to recommending the use of You Tube videos as visual research for unfamiliar experiences (such as hot-air balloon rides), fiction writers will find a wealth of information in this book. The author is obviously a gifted writer, and her strong analogies helped clarify more abstract concepts. If her non-fiction is this good, I can only imagine how good her fiction is! I easily read this book in one sitting and certainly recommend it to other writers, no matter where they are in their creative journey.
Unlike Carrie, who read the book in one sitting, I’ve been meaning to complete Henderson’s book for several months.  There are reasons for this that have nothing to do with the excellence of Trail of Crumbs.
Over the past year, I’ve been having difficulties with focusing while reading my beloved books.  For me, it takes way more energy and focus to read a book compared to reading the assorted blog posts in my WordPress Reader.  During my reading time, which is mainly in the evening just after the girls have gone to bed, I’m totally exhausted from the day and from my three meds, all of which have potentially sedating properties.  I think I can change this pattern by taking better care of myself, mainly by not eating so much sugar and caffeine, which I know has been blowing out my adrenals.  I exercise almost daily, and that helps me, but unfortunately it can’t compensate for a lousy diet.
Also, this may sound strange, but I think that I’ve been self-sabotaging in terms of finishing this specific book. The reason?  Well, I knew that Henderson’s book contains lots of juicy writing advice that could very well help me complete my own book which I’ve put on the back burner for weeks now.  I’ve begun examining this issue with my therapist as of last week. During our sessions we’ve discussed many experiences that I want to include in my book.  Because she has worked with me for years, my therapist can fill in certain significant blanks in my recollections; plus she provides invaluable perspective.  She suggested that from now on I tape record our sessions and see if that helps me with my writing.  I’m curious to see how that goes and I feel it’s definitely worth a try.
I’d love to read about your experiences with writer’s block/writer’s anxiety & (if it applies to you) how bipolar disorder has  affected  your writing- I think almost all writers face these challenges at one point or another.
.   

 

 

The Commentologist

funnyThis week has been draining due to poor sleep and losing my patience with my two spirited young girls far too often.  Meanwhile. I’ve been sooooooo frustrated with writer’s block, which, coincidentally, happened as soon as I stopped writing over thirty minutes consistently.

Apart from reading L.E. Henderson’s book A Trail  of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond (the perfect book for me as she insightfully addresses bipolar disorder, creativity and writer’s block),  I’m following some well-known writing advice.  The advice is to simply write and not worry about what you’re producing.  It can all be trash, but the point of the exercise is to move the hands and engage the brain and one’s pen…or laptop keyboard, if you’re like me!

images-1

As simple as that advice sounds, I can’t write gobbledygook – I need to write about something that interests me.  Today my topic focuses on Facebook friends, commenting, reading blogs, commenting on them and “liking” posts.

I’ve been thinking about all these things for some time now.  Last year I had deactivated my Facebook account.  After reactivating it last fall, I noticed I had no meaningful connection with hundreds of my “friends”, so I trimmed down my list.  My guiding rule was to unfriend people I had no contact with for over a year, with the exception of longtime friends and a few other people.

I had two fall-out experiences as a result of my choice.  One person I barely knew messaged me and wrote that she didn’t understand why I was no longer Facebook friends with her.  I explained my rationale and then I  friended her in a feeble attempt to people-please.  She accepted my invite, but I haven’t heard a peep from her since.  

The other person who messaged me gave me a harder time, and I wrote about that in a previous post because she acted so weird.  I totally stand by my decision, but unfortunately I know I’ll be seeing her this summer face-to-face.  My husband told me last weekend she showed up at the community pool and she’s an avid member, as is our family.  Oh well – if she’s angry, she can’t drown me there – there are too many lifeguards!  Plus I’m pretty strong these days and can kick some serious ass.  Don’t mess with a mom with bipolar!

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As far as Facebook goes, obviously there are pros and cons to using it, but so far the pros have outweighed the cons for me since I reactivated my account.  I’ve “met” some wonderful people, and lately  it has been the ideal vehicle to share my puppy pictures with everyone.  (I realize that these folks don’t need to see 30 pictures of me and Lucy within two weeks, but I figure they can give me a well-deserved break!) For now I’m remaining on Facebook.  I do spend far too much time using it; precious time that could be spent on writing my book or blog.  Maybe I should look into those programs that shut you down on Facebook after using your account for an hour!

(I most likely won’t do that.)

I had yet another Facebook-related snafu happen a few days ago.

It began with my sharing a post about an Australian news article that I thought sugarcoated bipolar disorder.  I wrote my opinion about it without apology.  I received a comment from one of my Facebook “friends” who I never see or have communications with.  I’ll refer to her as “Snafura”.  Snafura and I have barely anything in common except for being mothers with bipolar disorder and for living in the same area.  Her lengthy rebuttal to my Aussie article post and her subtle passive/aggressive tone frankly pissed me off!

Snafura generally appears out of nowhere every six months to comment on my Facebook account in her annoying, oppositional style.  I consider this to be a form of lurking.  Meanwhile, I never follow her feed, and I have no idea what’s going on in her life.  That’s just fine and dandy with me.

You’re probably wondering the obvious question: “Why haven’t you unfriended her?”

Well, I haven’t unfriended her because we live very close to one another, and I don’t want to rock the boat if I run into her, which will inevitably happen if I unfriend her according to Murphy’s Law.

I’m not losing any sleep over this, but it helps to “write it out”.  It feels invasive when someone with whom I have virtually (or literally) no contact decides to comment out-of-the-blue and be argumentative.  It also disturbs and annoys me because I would never do that to someone else.

There are different privacy settings on Facebook, and I was thrilled to find one called “Restrictive” in which I don’t unfriend a person, but I can keep her from viewing my newsfeed.  I signed Snafura up for that right away.

Perfect!

When it comes to Facebook and this blog, I’d prefer having fewer friends/followers who scan my newsfeed & blog posts, who “like” my posts, and who make comments at least once in a while, than have 1000 friends who never take a look at my feed once they friend me.  (Forgive me for using all this Facebook-ese and for that gruesome run-on sentence! )

I call today’s post “The Commentologist” because  I’ve decided to make more of an effort to comment in response to posts by the wonderful bloggers I follow.  I read their posts on my Kindle each day, during the forty minutes I work out on my NordicTrack.  

At the very least, I “like” the posts so I can let the author know, “Yes, I was here.  I read your work.”  Then, if time and energy level allows, I write a comment ranging from a couple words to a paragraph.  It’s hard to comment when I’m on the elliptical – my carpal tunnel syndrome acts up in my right wrist.  It’s also not easy to type on a Kindle when you’re sweating buckets!  If I want to write a lengthier comment I make a mental note to do it after my workout.

I want to support the writers I’m networking with, and foster our virtual relationships.  It makes me happy when I see the WordPress orange notification symbol letting me know that someone “liked” my blog post.  A comment makes me VERY happy.  (Yep, I haven’t gotten any mean comments yet!) Because of that, I like the color orange even more than I did before WordPress entered my life.  I know that most of the people who follow my blog don’t read it, which is a bummer.  However, the bloggers who take some time out of their hectic days to respond to my writing are the reasons why I’m blogging instead of privately journaling.

I continue to encounter the super-famous blogs.  I belong to a network in which a blogger has shared how “viral” her posts are. (I’ve held myself back from making a snarky comment. 😉  The bottom line is that I become insecure and jealous of the mega-blogs. I need to stop wallowing in those feelings as soon as they hit me, and move on.  It doesn’t help one bit.  For all I know, these super-famous bloggers might have their own serious problems I know nothing about, right?  I have friends related to world-famous people, and I know it’s not all wine and roses in their world.  Still, when I spot that a blogger has 88 likes on a post, or 100 comments, my face turns green.  I hate that!

Speaking of green, I’ll move on to focusing upon greener pastures…

I’ll continue my study of commentology.  Perhaps I’ll even earn an honorary doctorate in the field!  If I’m following your blog, my hopes are that you will see my comments more often.  At the very least I’ll gladly take a moment to “like” your work to let you know I’ve stopped by and read about what matters to you.

Have a great weekend, you awesome bloggers!

Dyane

nicepurty

 

Our Brains Are Tougher Than We Think

imgres-1imgres Yesterday I struggled with writer’s block.  I really wanted to have the satisfaction of writing something  meaningful, though, so I sat down and fumbled in front of my computer.  Facebook was calling my name, but I told it to…please use your imagination!

I decided to free write.  Free writing is a prewriting technique in which you write continuously for a set period of time without getting fixated with spelling, grammar, or topics.  Free writing is supposed to produce raw, often unusable material, but it also helps writers overcome blocks, apathy and self-criticism.  It was just was I needed to do, and it actually worked!  It worked a little too well, as what you’re about to read is overly long.  I should have broken this down into two parts, but please read away if you dare!

The subject that came to me was about something that was within myself all along, literally.  Yes, my very own brain!  I started typing in a frenzy, but then I had to schlep away to do errands and pick up my girls at school.

After I left the house, I noticed something cool happening throughout my day.  I encountered not one, not two, but three concrete, intriguing pieces of brain-related information (and a fourth just plain-old-weird “coincidence” for want of a better word).  Perhaps I was ultra-sensitive to noticing anything brain-themed, but these happenstances seemed too uncanny.  I considered them to be good omens that I was writing about the right topic.

Before I discuss what happened yesterday, I can’t even think about brains anymore without mentioning my most harrowing brain experience, namely my rounds of ECT,  or electroconvulsive therapy.

As some of you faithful readers know from my previous blog post, I’ve had two separate rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/are-you-shocked-that-i-got-shocked/

The first ECT series I had was after my Dad died.  I became suicidal (he was one of my best friends) and I admitted myself into the hospital.  I asked for ECT because I had been medication-resistant up to that point – it wasn’t forced upon me.  I had unilateral (on one side of the head) ECT.  Several years later, when I relapsed after tapering off my bipolar meds, I had bilateral ECT on both sides of my head.  I was told by my psychiatrist that I would have short-term memory loss only, but I felt totally skeptical.  I was gravely worried that I would have permanent memory loss.

I remembered one time when I was an inpatient at the hospital where I had ECT there was a patient I called “J. Lo” in my unit.  She dressed every day in full makeup and had “Dragon Lady” nails.  J. Lo told me the day before I had ECT that she couldn’t remember her wedding or the births of her children after her ECT, and of course that completely freaked me out.  However, since I was desperate, I went ahead with the ECT anyway.

The good news is that I am one of the luckier ones; ECT helped me function and ultimately do much, much better after suffering during through those suicidal depressions.  After my bilateral ECT, which affects more of the brain, I experienced a few somewhat alarming memory loss experiences.  However, nothing was life-threatening and I even found some humor about the situations which took the sting out of the memory struggles.

One example is when I picked up my girls at school, I ran into some parents in the hallway. Although their faces seemed really familiar, I couldn’t remember their names, which I had known pre-ECT.  I felt embarrassed, unnerved, and even rude at not remembering their names, but my tendency for that to happen reduced greatly over the past few months. My psychiatrist who administered all my ECT told me that my short-term memory loss would come back by the end of six months following my treatment.  While I have no empirical evidence to prove this assertion, I can feel it in my bones that it’s true in my case.  My brain feels stronger, I can retrieve my memories easily, and my intuition tells me that our brains are WAY more resilient than we give them credit for!

The phrase “mind over matter” means when something that seems impossible can be overcome if it’s thought out.  I think that concept could be literally applied to our brains.  I know this will sound a little “out there”, but maybe our thoughts really can heal ourselves, starting with our brain first.  Life is crazy enough – why not?

I live in Santa Cruz, a town famous for its New Age culture, and for all I know there’s a “Resilient Brain” workshop or “Brain Healing Bonanza” weekend nearby at Esalen.  There are lots of books about the brain that examine both traditional and alternative healing techniques.  I’ve also noticed books written by patients with brain injuries or mysterious madnesses who achieve full healing after their traumatic illnesses.  I haven’t read any of them yet, but I bet that some of these books are entirely possible in their far-out-sounding premises.

Something amazing I never expected to happen was how these days I feel heartened at really feeling that my brain is recovering from being zapped, and it’s stronger.  I wonder if our brains get bigger when they are healthier?  Hmmmm – do any of you know? I digress!

I turn forty-four in six days and while I doubt that my brain’s growing older is a plus, I believe that my healthy habits and attitude are restoring my brain.  Some of these habits are: working out, using my Sunbox, having a few people love me unconditionally (and who I love back!) and getting daily doses of nature.  Writing helps too, as does music I enjoy.  Miracle of miracles, I even starting doing a smidgen of guided meditation with my counselor!  In other words, I’m doing many things to keep stable and productive.  (I won’t get into my sugar, fat and chocolate consumption subject now, but you don’t expect me to be perfect, right?)

And now for those brainy coincidences that occurred yesterday.  I received an email message from my friend Amy who runs a yummy gluten-free food business “Gluten-Free For All”.  She wrote me about a psychiatrist/psychopharmacologist/neuroscientist’s podcast.   The headline caught my eye: “How Gluten & Gut Health Impact Your Brain with Dr. Charles Parker”.

http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/2014/03/10/gluten-gut-impact-brain-charles-parker-gfs-podcast-036/

When I visited the link, I noticed a very handy outline of the key points that Dr. Charles Parker makes in his thirty-minute podcast.  I haven’t had a chance to watch the podcast yet, but the outline notes that Dr. Parker discusses how psych medications interfere with the immune system, brain neurotransmitters and gut regulation, as well as exacerbate gluten-sensitivity issues.  Amy has shared with me how much going gluten-free has improved her life dramatically in all sorts of ways, but I haven’t made that plunge yet.  I will watch this podcast later when I work out and hear what Dr. Parker has to say.  I’m curious!

The next brainy thing that I noticed yesterday was posted on one of my favorite blogs “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.  (http://insideabipolarhead.wordpress.com/)  The blogger known as “Oh Temp” informed us that this is “Brain Awareness Week”.  I love how Oh Temp writes in Monday’s blog post:

“This week kicks off NATIONAL BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK and for a whole week I will be posting a random fact on the human brain. Since a lot of our brains hold our STUPID mental illness, I wanted to share great facts about the good and interesting things about the brain!! Enjoy this week, and enjoy your brain (just a little…)”

The following link leads you to a two-minute YouTube video “The Human Brain – 10 Fascinating Facts” that Oh Temp posted on the blog.  If you’ve been feeling insecure about your brain’s ability and potential, take two minutes to watch this inspiring video!  You will learn facts you definitely didn’t  know in less time that it takes to brush your teeth.

Soon after I wrote about the “mind over matter” concept above, I took a Facebook surf break.  I encountered this link below, which discusses ten compelling reasons why “mind over matter” may not be a crock of merde.  Some of them I was familiar with, i.e. the placebo effect, but there were others that I hadn’t never heard about before.  I encourage those of you who are especially jaded about the power of positive thinking, etc. to take a peek at this link.  It might very well change your mind literally and figuratively about the power of our brains to change themselves on their own.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/03/08/10-scientific-studies-that-prove-consciousness-can-alter-our-physical-material-world/

Finally, yesterday in the late afternoon I was driving our windy highway 9 to my house, listening to 95.5 BOB FM.  Peter Gabriel’s song “Shock the Monkey” came on the air, which I haven’t heard or thought of in a SUPER-long time.  I was an 80’s teenager during Gabriel’s height of fame, and I heard that song a bazillion times and I could barely stand watching his disturbing video with the scared-looking monkey.  I’ll be blunt with you – I had no idea what the lyrics meant, as I’ve always been terrible with lyrics.  But the word that struck out for me was hearing “shock” sung repeatedly, reminding me of my ECT a.k.a.”shock” treatments.  Impressionable me, I took that as another strange coincidence since I was writing about ECT and brains that day.  I know that’s a biggggg stretch, but it seemed a bit weird.  It turns out that Gabriel has said “Shock the Monkey” is a love song and about jealousy! It has nothing to do with ECT!  I had no idea.  Go figure!  I still took it as a hippie dippie sign of some sort, silly me.

If you want to watch it, go to this link:

If you are like me in the that you take a lot of heavy-duty bipolar medications, you may sometimes wonder how these meds truly affect our brains.  I am just hoping that our chemically “different” brains can not just handle the drugs that give us the gift of stability, but that our brains can get better, not worse, for a good long while.  Let me know what you think and thanks so much for reading this novella.  I got carried away – my brain couldn’t help it! 😉

Writerly Ramblings and Hypergraphia Part 1


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L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle, my two favorite writers.  (Love those glasses!)

Lately my writing output has skyrocketed.  After being creatively blocked for most of the past eight years,  I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the luxury to write.  I’ve been typing for at least an hour every day for several months now.  I even managed to write on days when I felt under the weather.  I wasn’t being a complete fool – I merely wished to write because I felt better after doing it.

For all I know perhaps my writing compulsively has boosted the serotonin level in my brain. While daily writing sounds rather obsessive, it has felt so good and write; I mean right. 😉

Writing definitely exercises my brain cells.  I can feel it.  After I’ve completed an article I get a buzz that’s similar to one achieved from a sweaty workout on my elliptical.  As an A.C.E.-certified personal trainer, I’ve been a fervent believer in cardiovascular exercise for a long time.  I never considered writing to be a “workout” until this year, so now maybe I’ll buy a groovy belt, leg warmers and leotard a la Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect to wear at my desk.

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On a more serious note, typing away for hours on a daily basis may sound alarm bells to those close to me.  When I’ve been manic and hypomanic, I’ve had the rare condition of acute hypergraphia.

Hypergraphia is defined in Wikipedia as:

“A behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write. Forms of hypergraphia can vary in writing style and content.  Some write in a coherent, logical manner, others write in a more jumbled style.  Studies have suggested that hypergraphia is related to bipolar disorder, hypomania, and schizophrenia.” 

I plan on writing more about hypergraphia in tomorrow’s blog post.  It’s a fascinating topic, and to this day I’ll never forget how it felt to actually experience it.  Luckily, electroconvulsive therapy has not wiped out my recollection of what it felt like to write in that otherworldly, amazing, exhausting, and, at times, terrifying way.  

I shouldn’t make light about hypergraphia, because it’s a serious condition.  I became annoyed yesterday when I found a snarky article online. (Dare I write this?  Why not: a “snarkticle”) It was written by a woman who clearly had no idea what she was discussing when it came to hypergraphia.  While she made some valid points, I disagreed with the majority of them and I want to have some fun and address them on Thursday.  To get a head start you can read the piece here:

http://open.salon.com/blog/valerie_lopes/2009/02/16/do_i_have_hypergraphia_or_am_i_just_prolific

If one hasn’t really, truly lived with this state, I feel 90% of writers should stick to the classic adage that I believe in with all my heart: “write what you know”.

What’s really behind this ramble?  Fear.  Fear of my creative drive leaving as quickly and mysteriously as it arrived.  I am especially scared about next week when I begin the heavy-duty work on my draft of Birth of a New Brain.  I am afraid of not being able to write a damn word – I’m scared of writer’s block making its gruesome return.  This fear has been the primary force in driving me to write every day, even when I knew I wasn’t creating memorable turns of phrase.  I felt that if I just wrote something, the act of writing could, at the very least, keep the flow of words coming day after day.  There are entire books written about this subject, of course, not to mention writing seminars and conferences.

I’ll carry on.  Today I am going to take a break from writing during most of my free time to read instead.  I actually have bona fide homework: to read a review copy of Preventing Bipolar Relapse by Dr. Ruth C. White.  I’d rather write, but I promised my counselor I’d read the book.  I’m also planning to write a review about the book for my International Bipolar Foundation blog.  I read and write in front of my Sunbox DL.   I’ve had this therapeutic light for the past decade, and it’s designed for Seasonal Affective Disorder among other conditions.  My light energizes me and literally brightens my day.  I’ll return tomorrow with yet another discourse; until then, I wish you a wonderful day!  Thanks for reading!