I first came across Dyane Harwood’s blog after she left continuous comments on my blog and we began a conversation through email and in the comments. Dyane writes her blog after being diagnosed with peri-partum bipolar 1 disorder to help others make sense of their condition and find resources. Dyane’s bipolar was triggered by childbirth.
“It was a trifecta of hormones, genetic predisposition, and sudden sleep deprivation,” she said during a fifty minute conversation we had over the phone.
Dyane’s father was also bipolar. And even though she lived though a childhood of moodswings, her own mood shifts were not treated until the births of her daughters. She said that today there are medication studies by perinatal psychiatrists about how to treat women who have been diagnosed before becoming pregnant.
Her new memoir Birth of a New Brain takes one through her journey and how she learned to treat her condition and come out healthy and strong. Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison has even blurbed it. It covers her childhood with a bipolar father, signs along the way when she became hypomanic, to her hospitalizations, her marriage, and parenting, to her life today. It takes one through what worked for her and what didn’t. She included a chapter on a trip with her family to Hawaii when she was in a depression and trying various treatments. You’ll want to read about her tsunami obsessions which she has had since childhood but were magnified during the trip.
The most moving parts of her memoir was her talking about her marriage and parenting her two girls Avonlea and Marilla. An avid reader, Dyane loves the Anne of Green Gables series. She also loves works by Madeline L’Engle. During her illness, her husband Craig, saw a counselor and came with her to her therapist. But what helped keep them together was Craig had a place to retreat to other than bipolar disorder. He was writing his own book on another topic.
“It was his own special retreat to help him cope,” she said. “The book was the other woman I like to say. It saved our marriage. We each had something to occupy ourselves and we weren’t always on each other’s backs.”
She also talked about her hypergraphia, compulsive writing, something I’ve experienced on multiple occasions during episodes.
“It was as if my thoughts were channeled through writing,” she said. “I didn’t have hypersexuality or shopping sprees but I just had this need to write. My thoughts were grandiose and the writing was messy, which is a sign of hypergraphia.”
Dyane takes an older generation MAOI combined with lithium, which has been a lifesaver for her. She also finds the friendships she makes blogging help her to heal as well as running around the tennis courts in her town while her dog Lucy watches. She tries to follow Dr. Alsuwaidan’s recommended exercise program of pushing yourself to your limits for 30 minutes and breaking a sweat. But after over-doing it and doing one hour of exercise, she takes a more moderate course. Dyane reads ebooks from NetGalley, mostly non-mental health stuff. She said she needed a break from the mental health genre.