Just chillin’

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It’s a gloomy Sunday morning – it’s cold, sprinkling, and just plain-old blah.  (My daughter picked out this font color and I couldn’t tell her no!)

For me these aren’t very inspiring writing conditions, but according to the revered writer Madeleine L’Engle, the weather  is no excuse to abstain from writing unless a typhoon interferes with it.  She advises writers to write a little bit every day, even if it’s “only for thirty minutes”.  Now that I have two little girls, thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time is a lot  of time to write!

I have nothing profound to discuss today, no brilliant insights du jour.  But I sit here anyway, typing with sparkly blue fingernails, sequestered in my husband’s office downstairs while our children gobble Gorilla Puffs.  Bob Marley sings softly in the background, and I’m waiting for any bit of inspiration to strike in terms of devising a writing topic.

It’s not happening.  

I usually generate my blog topic the day before I write each one.  I cook up ideas while working out, carting my girls to school, taking a shower, or doing other mundane tasks like laundry and dishes.  It seems the more banal the activity, the better in terms of a successful brainstorm!

I could follow WordPress’ Daily Post (dailypost.wordpress.com) for a writing prompt, but silly me, I feel like it’s cheating to do that!  Many writers would argue that it’s better to find a topic that’s worthwhile to expound on, even if the topic comes from another source, than write gobbledegook.  But so far I just can’t do it.  I’m stubborn.

The day ahead has no major plans except for some cupcake baking with nine-year-old Avonlea, who loves to bake.  She has chosen to make lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. Now, I’m a massive chocolate fiend, and while I love lemons, to me a real cupcake must have chocolate as a primary ingredient.  I also loathe plain cream cheese, although the rest of my family can’t get enough of it.  I can’t touch it or smell it, so I’m delegating the frosting task to my husband.

I’ve only had half of my morning coffee ration, the day is still young, and who knows what could happen?  Perhaps I may even generate a blog topic while making the cupcakes that gets me excited.  One never knows.

But I’ve discovered through reading other blogs that sometimes I really enjoy simple, brief posts.  I don’t require 100% profound, Huffington Post-worthy blog posts from my virtual friends.  No matter what the blog author writes, as long as there’s something for me to peruse, I still feel connected to the writer.  

So today’s the day I’m putting a stop to pressuring myself to write something provocative in every post.  I’m accepting that divine inspiration, as much as we writers want it to descend from the heavens complete with fireworks, won’t always come.

While I wrote the above sentence, a great song came on the Bob Marley Pandora channel.  I first heard this song in one of my favorite films, The Mighty Quinn, with Denzel Washington and Mimi Rogers.  (Plus Esther Rolle – remember her?) The 1989 thriller, which film critic Roger Ebert called one of the best films of 1989, has an upbeat, reggae-infused soundtrack.  It was shot on location in stunning, sunny, warm Jamaica.

 

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The song is called “I Gotta Keep On Moving” by Curtis Mayfield.

“Lord, I’ve got to keep on moving,” rings out the first cheery line.

That’s just what I’ll do…instead of go hide under the bedcovers, I’ll keep on moving, slow and steady.  I don’t have the win The Grand Race of Life or anything like that.  I just want to keep on moving, nurture my stability, love my family, be a good friend, and help others when I can.

imgresimgres-1Have a good Monday!  And thanks for reading!

Dyane “Turtle” Harwood

 

Please donate to my walk benefitting Postpartum Progress! 

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For more information about the June 21st walk for Climb Out of the Darkness and to donate please visit:

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/join-climb-out-of-the-darkness-2014#comment-18563

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Great Blogs by Writers with Bipolar: L.E. Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”

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I discovered a blog which met my stringent requirements through purchasing an e-book.  The blog is L.E Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”, and I bought Henderson’s book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond a few weeks ago for just 99 cents.  I’m finding her book fascinating and relevant to my own writing “trail”, especially since Henderson addresses how her bipolar disorder has affected her creativity and writing output.  (Note to L.H. Henderson: I would have paid $9.99 for this book in a heartbeat!)

I’ve only reblogged one or two posts over the past few months.  You could say I’m picky about what I select – I don’t just reblog anyone! 😉 I found it interesting how Henderson writes below about the intriguing dilemma of writers who find writing a tortuous process.  Her comments reminded me of a book I splurged on a few months ago, You’ve Got a Book In You! A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams by Elizabeth Sims.  Sims asserts that writing a book is “fun and easy”!   While writing my book has felt gratifying, due to much of the subject matter, it hasn’t been exactly fun nor easy.  In all fairness, I’m still reading Sims’ book, but at this point I think I’ll  reach a happy medium between fun/easy and tortuous, and that’s acceptable to me for the time being.  Who knows, though?  We’ll see.  I better finish Sims’ book soon!

Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog to read her other entries, and to learn about her published novel Thief of Hades based on the Greek myth.  Without further adieu, here’s L.E. Henderson’s post about the unearthing of her book Trail of Crumbs – enjoy!

From Creative Block to Creative Freedom: “Trail of Crumbs” UnearthedPosted: 15 Mar 2014 05:01 AM PDT

It has been about a year since I published my e-book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom. Though I consider myself primarily a fiction writer, its content was important to me. It was a record of my transition from depression and block to recovering creatively, which led to finishing my newest fantasy novel, The Ghosts of Chimera.During the time of publishing “Trail,” I was going through some monumental upheavals, which led to my move from SC to Florida, where I live now. It was not until I had a chance to settle down that I even thought to be bothered that my book, dropped into a lonely corner of cyberspace, had found few readers outside my family.And I literally mean a few. Writers, which were my target audience, were silent.No one was buying. No one was reading. No one was reviewing. But the book meant a lot to me. The lack of feedback was upsetting.I was used to getting feedback because of my blog articles, in which I reiterated many of the same points I had made in “Trail.” Whenever I submitted these articles to Reddit, the response was always overwhelming, with readers telling me that the posts inspired or helped them.I had written the book to be read. I considered that the price tag of 3.99 might have been the wall that was keeping people from buying. I actually considered giving the book away from free so that I could at least get responses, but I did not want to send the message that I thought it had no value when, in fact, the opposite is true.

At one time, when I was blocked and depressed, a book like “Trail” would have made a big difference to me. Recently I went back and looked at my book, and realized that I had changed a lot since the time of publication.

I went back and re-edited it to incorporate insights I had since first publication. I also thinned out some of my dashes.

During the time I wrote “Trail” I was a bit manic and cycling through punctuation obsessions. (See earlier post: “My Great Manic Comma Blizzard.”)

When I looked at my first edition, I could see that I had way overdone the dashes, overriding my poor editor, who had done me a great favor by thinning out all my commas, little prepared for the dash fiend I was about to become.

In the new version, my dash explosion is safely contained.

Since I released my updated version with a 99 cent price tag, a few copies have actually sold and I have gotten a response from a fellow blogger.

Dyane Harwood at https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/ had some kind things to say:

Henderson released this relatively short book (88 pages) for only 99 cents on Kindle. In Trail of Crumbs she analyzes the creative writing process and how her bipolar disorder adversely affected her writing. She ends the book on a high note in sharing how she was able to let her creative juices flow again. I just started reading it, and I’m finding it interesting and well-written, so it was quite a deal for less than a cup of coffee!

Harwood ran across my book while researching bipolar disorder for her work-in-progress called Birth of a New Brain. I was happy to have captured the attention of a bipolar blogger because the audience I originally envisioned were bipolar writers who were blocked and depressed the way I was.

But since writing is known for being a bipolar process, I thought my book would appeal to a more general audience of writers as well.

Bipolar or not, many writers speak cynically about their profession, describing writing as torture or a type of insanity. While these things are often said tongue-in-cheek, a grim reality underlies them. Writers are not known for being happy but are instead known for alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction, and suicidal urges.

To make matters worse, the world of writing advice is ridden with guilt, fear, and self-punishment.  Typical messages, which I see in many writing blogs, are: Stop being so lazy and selfish. Put the reader first. Write what you think others want to read. Do not be narcissistic, preachy, affected, or self-indulgent.

By all means do not offend the reader. Do not use the words “very” or “then.” Do not use adverbs. Or talk about yourself. Just who do you think you are anyway?

In the popular understanding of what it means to write, writing is all about being careful. The true object of writing, which is to build, is side-lined. You would think that the arbiter of “good” writing was Miss Manners, when in fact the best writing is about honesty, not politeness; creating, not tearing down.

In writing my book, I wondered why so many professional writers hate writing and why we view writing as something we have to make ourselves do.

But it could be different. When I was in college, the writers I desperately envied were the ones who loved writing so much that they had to do it every day, like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. They defied the stereotypes. They viewed writing as a way to be happy.

At the time I had no idea how they had achieved this. I speculated that they were such geniuses that their minds and emotions were just better wired.

But after my experience of learning to enjoy writing again, I suspect not. More likely, they were people who were able to ignore cultural messages about how writing should be done and retain a sense of wonder that, for most people, burns bright in childhood and then fizzles out in adolescence.

So far I have avoided trying to sell anything in my blog. That is not its purpose. I much prefer to talk about other issues that interest me. But today I am making an exception.

My book costs the same as a dollar store spatula, less in fact. And although spatulas are wonderfully useful, I feel confident in saying that my book is worth more.

Not that my book is a “system” or a promise of magical results after 30 days, nor does it claim to be the only way that writers can work. It is a personal experience that mapped my transition from thinking I could never write again to my discovery that I could love and enjoy it more than I ever had before.

But for that to happen, I had to let go of conventional ideas about the writing process that I had absorbed over many years.

But back on point: If you are thinking about purchasing a spatula, restrain the impulse a little longer and buy my book instead. Your old one can hold out a little longer, until you are able to recoup your investment.

Then read my book, get back to me, and tell me what you think. I am eager to hear what you have to say. To any of you who have already bought my book, thank you!! And please tell the others that it is feasible to have spatulas and creative freedom, too.

With patience, Young One, all things are possible.

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Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog at :  

http://www.passionatereason.com/

To purchase the e-book on Amazon, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Crumbs-Creative-Freedom-Authors-ebook/dp/B00IR002D0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395061396&sr=1-2&keywords=A+Trail+of+Crumbs

“The End of the Day” – Singing My Song About Bipolar Disorder

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For the past twenty years I’ve been a closet songwriter.  During my first year attending the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), I was a regular at open mike night and I belonged to UCSC’s Concert Choir.  Our final concert was an exotic piece sung in the Esperanto language with an Indonesian gamelan orchestra.  I loved all kinds of music, and I still do!

I wrote the song “The End of the Day” when I was in solitary confinement for four hours in the hospital’s mental health unit.  That unforgettable censure took place during my first hospitalization.  Why was I put in solitary?  You’ll have to buy the book! 😉  Anyway, it was October, 2007, just a couple months after my second daughter was born.  I was diagnosed with bipolar one disorder during my stay at the unit.

In solitary I practiced my song at the top of my lungs.  To my surprise, the unpadded room actually had excellent acoustics!  I remember one of my fellow patients could hear me through the wall and he yelled “Great job!” Another patient shouted something not quite as complementary, but I didn’t care –  I was manic, so I was immune to his criticism.  I sang most of the Beatles catalogue, as well as every Crowded House song I knew.  I couldn’t believe that I remembered all the words, as I usually didn’t have a good memory.  Mania activated a part of my brain that recollected lyrics.

In the accompanying PhotoBooth clip which I recorded last year, I introduce my song and then sing part of it.  I apologize because I’m off-key for half of it, and I’m nervous. Please forgive me.  I recorded “The End of the Day” when I was doing my grand experiment of tapering off my bipolar medication.  It was difficult for me to watch this clip today and revisit that time.  When I sang the song back then, it seemed like I had a shot at living med-free.  I was acting fairly stable.  I had no idea that going off my meds would backfire in the worst possible way.  I wound up relapsing so severely that not only was I hospitalized three times during the subsequent summer, I asked for bilateral electroshock. (ECT)  It was a long, long road back to recovery and took almost half a year.  I’ll be writing more about what influenced me to make the decision to taper off meds soon.

For now, I’m going to keep popping my pink & white pills, be with my family and friends, exercise, be grateful, and write.  I’m going to work on cutting down on sugar, which is unfortunately still my nemesis. At the end of the day, that’s all I can do!

The End of the Day

by Dyane Harwood

I have an illness in my head, I have an illness in my head

And it seems…I go to extremes

And everyone wants me to do it, everyone wants me to do what they say

Although I have my own way….

I don’t know, but I do care

At the end of the day

You can call me crazy and I’ll agree

At the end of the day

I know I’ll be okay

I have two little girls, I have two little girls

I miss them more than words can ever say

It has been five long days, it has been five long days

since I was with them all day…and night, yeah

I don’t know, but I do care

At the end of the day

You can call me crazy and I’ll agree

At the end of the day

I know I’ll be okay

You know I do see how this frustrates you

But I ask you, have you ever been in my shoes?

Have you ever had bipolar too?

‘Cause I do, and now I know what to do…

Bipolar Books I Recommend – I Mean Books About Bipolar! ;) – Part One

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Today it’s truly raining cats and dogs and I’m using my Sunbox to cope with the gloomy weather.  Some of you are rain-lovers, I’m sure, but not this born-in-sunny-Los Angeles gal.  There is nothing quite like a rainy day that is so ideal for staying home to be warm and cozy, and of course read a good book.  Reading on a rainy day is my nirvana, well that, and being in Hawaii when I am not depressed!  For more about my Hawaii trip please read one of my favorite posts:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/hell-in-paradise-part-one/

Now, I am a voracious reader; even when I am depressed I devour books.  I have read all the “biggie” bipolar books.  I’m sure you have heard of some of these: Dr Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Teri Cheney’s Manic and The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing up Bipolar, Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life and many more books.  I’m always on the lookout for more good books about living with bipolar, and I’ve noticed a surge in the overall amount of books published about this topic literally almost every single day.  I discovered this fact while I was using Amazon.com to conduct book searches for bipolar books.  Once I found the main bipolar category, I selected to sort it for “most recently published” books. (I’m making it sound harder than it is – this takes all of thirty seconds to do.)  This search is a pretty amazing feature and one can see which books will be published in the future – even a year or two from now.

I read some of these books post-bilateral electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) so I have a better recollection of what they cover.  Other books on my list are ones that I read years ago, and I don’t remember much about them except whether or not I really liked the book.  I wish I could recall all the juicy little details, but alas, that’s not meant to be. Most of these books are very reasonably priced for my Kindle, which I love.  An added bonus to having a Kindle is that you can sample the book for free before you purchase it, which is a fantastic option.  I’m sure that some of these books can be requested for purchase through your local library, or perhaps your library already has the book available to loan.

Haldol and Hyacinths by Melody Moezzi

Melody is an amazing writer and mental health advocate.  Her memoir is truly unique as she is an Iranian-Muslim-American with a spicy sense of humor.  I read her blog religiously on BP (Bipolar) Magazine’s website (www.bphope.com) and Moezzi’s book is absolutely fascinating.  I gave it a five star review on Amazon and here is what I wrote:

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Moezzi’s work.  I knew that Haldol and Hyacinths would not fail to disappoint me.  I was 100% right!  Moezzi’s sharp-as-nails writing takes you in from the very first page, and her brilliance shines through her narrative.  I could use every superlative I know to recommend this book, but in the interest of space here, I won’t.  All I can say is that if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, this book is a must-read.  And if you aren’t touched by this particular brand of mental illness, I say read it anyway, because the story ends in hope and it’s totally fascinating.  You will definitely learn things you did not know about, not just about bipolar disorder, but about Iranian Muslim culture, that I found made this bipolar memoir stand apart from the numerous bipolar memoirs available these days.  I honestly could not put it down once I started reading it, even though I was vacationing in gorgeous Kona, Hawaii and there were numerous activities beckoning to me – it was that good!”

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So Far by Cristina Negron

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Here’s the five star Amazon review I wrote for this book:

“I love reading juicy memoirs – the more disturbing, the better, as long as the author includes some redemptive themes so the book is not a total soul-sucking experience!  Yesterday I finished reading So Far by Cristina Negron, a former Rodale editor married to Amby Burfoot, longtime editor of “Runner’s World” and a winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.  This book was published last fall.  Negron’s title appeared on my Kindle during a general search I selected for recently published bipolar-themed books.  I like to see what’s up-and-coming in the bipolar book world, and it never ceases to amaze me what people write and publish. The phrase “it takes all kinds” comes to mind…I was intrigued by this book as it was clear in its brief description that running plays a central theme in the story.  I used to be a long-distance runner in high school and I kept running in my 20’s.  I subscribed to Runner’s World and ran 10 kilometer races.  I’ve always believed that running consistently delayed the onset of my clinical depression and bipolar.  Negron’s book is well-written and very inspiring. While I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll mention briefly that she discusses her large Mexican-American family at length.  She reveals truly heartbreaking situations in connection with these relatives.

I found it refreshing that the topic of bipolar disorder did not dominate the story.  Yes, a bipolar disorder diagnosis played a pivotal role in her life and in the book.  However, Negron wove different elements throughout the narrative that gave her story depth.  Her writing style allowed the reader to have breaks, per se, from the highly sobering sections in a finely wrought fashion.  After I finished the last page, I knew that certain members of Negron’s family would stay with me, especially the ones who were extraordinarily brave.  Whenever I complete a book that has been the proverbial “can’t put down” type, I feel a void in releasing a world I have immersed myself in so intensely.  I felt that way with So Far.”

Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent by Rebecca Moore

After I bought Rebecca Moore’s book I discovered her insightful blog “Moorestorms” (www.moorestorms.wordpress.com)  I gave five stars to Ms. Moore’s moving book Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent.

“The book was a fast, moving read filled with tons of helpful information.  Reading Moorestorms was like sitting down with a good friend to learn about what it’s like to live with this illness, and how to live a better life in spite of its damage.  As Moore is the parent of seven children, she has learned an enormous deal about how to be the best parent she can be and shares this knowledge with her readers.  I wish I had this book a long time ago when my two kids were young, as it would have made me feel less alone with my struggles and it would have given me practical pointers as well.  The author bares her soul throughout the book. She never condescends to the reader like some “bipolar experts” do in their tomes. I highly recommend it.”

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Will I Ever Be The Same Again: Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) by Carol Kivler

Carol and I have communicated via her blog for Esperanza the Anxiety and Depression Magazine website (www.hopetocope.com).  She is a wonderful, inspiring woman.  Long before I exchanged emails with her, I purchased her book about ECT and found it very useful.  I had ECT done for bipolar depression while Carol had it done for major depression.  Here is the Amazon.com description of her book:

Blessed with a loving family, a successful business as an executive coach and money in the bank, Carol Kivler was suddenly and unexpectedly brought to her knees by “The Beast” – clinical depression.  The story of her journey to recovery from medication-resistant depression is not only informative but inspires hope in others who suffer from this debilitating illness.  Because medication did not work for her, and despite serious reservations, Kivler eventually agreed to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, or shock therapy).  The treatment not only gave her back the desire to live but the ability to thrive in her personal and professional life.  Electroconvulsive therapy became her “ladder out of the depression pit.”  In her opinion, the stigma associated with ECT deprives severely depressed individuals the right to potential recovery.  Consequently, the section of her book on “Demystifying ECT” provides accurate, up to date information about today’s modernized procedure, answers common questions such as “Does it hurt?” (No!) and discusses possible side effects (which Kivler found to be no worse than those from medication).

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Undercurrents by Dr. Martha Manning

I read this book long ago (before both of my rounds of ECT) and to this day I vividly remember it being so lyrical and convincing regarding ECT as saving her life.  I was so impressed with Dr. Manning that when I was hired to write my first professional article for a national magazine (the sadly defunct “Fit” Magazine; my 1997 article discussed the importance of exercise with women) I contacted Dr. Manning to interview her for my piece.  I also interviewed none other than Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  Dr. Jamison was a famous bestselling author and in the late 1990’s numerous writers clamored her for interviews.  I stood out because she and I attended the same high school, although we never met there as she is older than me.  I also had the honor of meeting her when she gave a fantastic talk at the Palisades Library – the lecture room was packed like sardines in a can, she was so popular.

Copied below is the primary description for Dr. Manning’s book that I found on the Amazon.com website.  I find it rather strange that the ECT that saves Dr. Manning’s life is not mentioned in the blurb.  I could be mistaken, but to me that is a subtle form of stigma towards mental illness and ECT.

“This is the memoir of an ordinary woman—a mother, a daughter, a psychologist, a wife—who tells the tale of her spiraling descent into a severe, debilitating depression. Undercurrents pioneers a new literature about women and depression that offers a vision of action instead of victimhood, hope instead of despair.”

I believe a much better description is the review by the Library Journal:

As psychotherapist Manning began her slow descent into depression, she recognized the signposts along the way: a sense that she was losing control of her life, perpetual fogginess in her head, social withdrawal and subsequent isolation, and a painful alienation from all that gave her life pleasure and meaning-except her daughter. She recounts how medications were tried and discarded, psychotherapy proved fruitless, and her mind became overwhelmed with thoughts of death as a way out of her ceaseless torment. The one last hope was electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the thought of which left her feeling frightened and totally helpless. Nevertheless, ECT alleviated her despair and began her recovery. Told in journal form, the events so sensitively and insightfully depicted here reveal how tenuous one’s connection to physical and mental well-being can be. Recommended for general readers.

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I am so grateful to Dr. Manning for her book, as it made me feel better about getting ECT when my time came.  I still had huge reservations, of course, but I was desperate.  (I also cover this issue in a prior blog post:

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

Tomorrow I will share Part Two of my favorite books with you…and mention a few I will be purchasing in the coming year that look really cool, unique and helpful.  Take care and if you are staying home due to inclement weather like I am, happy reading!