I met Dyane Harwood on my website and had the opportunity to read her book and connect with her as a bipolar mom. Her book is an easy, straightforward must read if you have a mood disorder and have questions about what pregnancy can look like with mental illness. I would also recommend it if you are the partner or caregiver of someone who has mental illness. While I was already diagnosed when I had my children, it brought back a ton of memories of my postpartum experience and gave me the chance to remember it with new knowledge and kinder eyes. I have a link at the bottom of the interview in case you want to put her book in the reference section of your person library.
This is my first interview, so bear with the format which is limited by my website host. If you read nothing but the interview you will still walk away with a better understanding of mood disorders and pregnancy could look like.
Why was it important to write your book?
In 2007, after I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar one, I couldn’t find any
books about the postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD) experience – there were
books about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum
depression, postpartum psychosis, postpartum anxiety, etc., but there was a
dearth when it came to PPBD. I knew I couldn’t be the only person on the planet
to experience this PMAD!
I had already been a freelance writer before my mood disorder took hold. Like so
many other writers, I wanted to write a book and had felt that way since I was
seven years old. But I had never been sure which genre was the one for me since
I was awful at writing fiction!
After my PPBD was triggered, I had a bizarre condition called hypergraphia.
Hypergraphia is the extremely strong compulsion to write excessively, and I
began doing that within a day of my baby’s birth. I felt the need to start writing
my book right away. It was weird, it was physically painful and it was a
bittersweet beginning of writing a book.
What is Post Partum Bipolar Disorder?
PPBD, at its core, is bipolar one disorder or bipolar two disorder that has classic
bipolar symptoms such as mania, hypomania, or depression during one’s
pregnancy or during the postpartum period. The Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (a.k.a. the DSM-5 which has been called “the bible of
diagnostic criteria” for mental health professionals and researchers) states the
onset of PPBD occurs during the first four weeks postpartum, but that amount of
time is being hotly contested by some brilliant perinatal psychiatrists who believe
the window of onset can last up to six months! The fifth, most current edition of
the DSM-5 calls PPBD “bipolar disorder, peripartum onset.”
What made your experience with Post Partum Bipolar so over the top to those
I was manic, which usually captures the attention of those close to you since one
acts very differently than usual. In my case, I had typical manic symptoms such
as very high energy, lots of talking (and talking super-quickly at that!), not much
of an ability to sleep, grandiose thoughts (i.e. I’m going to write my book now,
although I just got home with a newborn!) and then the very strange symptom I
mentioned: hypergraphia/excessive writing.
What is your advice for pregnant bipolar moms as they go into their final months
Work with at least one (ideally a team) of experienced OBGYN’s and/or midwives
and (if possible) doulas that are experienced in working with pregnant moms who
have bipolar disorder.That’s absolutely essential!
This section refers to pregnant moms who already take bipolar medication. If a
mom has already been diagnosed with bipolar, she needs to do her best to
communicate with her medical team about the medication issue. Have her do as
much research about continuing to take bipolar medication during her pregnancy
as she can, and enlist trusted family/friends to help because that won’t be easy!
If no medication has been taken, research starting bipolar medication when
pregnant. This is a controversial issue for some people, but everyone is different.
It’s absolutely imperative to consult with a professional one trusts and who has
an excellent track record in this area. The reason all of this is so critical is that
pregnant moms with a bipolar diagnosis have a much higher chance of getting postpartum psychosis after giving birth, which can be life threatening. Around
one in five women go on to experience an episode of psychosis following
For women already diagnosed with bipolar disorder, where can they learn more
about Post Partum Depression, Post Partum Panic Disorder, Post Partum
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Psychosis, and Post Partum Post-
traumatic Stress Disorder?
I suggest two great resources:
Postpartum Support International for all the PMADS
PSI Helpline English & Spanish (for non-emergencies) 1-800-944-4773 or text
Action on Postpartum Psychosis for postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder
Do you fear that you have passed this down to your daughters and if so, what do
you tell them?
I worry about it sometimes (and I used to worry about it more when they were
little), but not too much these days, thank God. But since they’re now 12 & 14 and
these are the teen years where bipolar can arise, I watch their behavior closely.
We’ve already had conversations about the possibility they could have bipolar
disorder and they’re well-informed. Craig and I have reassured them a lot over
the years (We’ve said things to them such as “Even if you have bipolar disorder,
we will help you with it!) and they know without a doubt that if we see any signs
of bipolar, we’ll be there for them.
Why do you think you were initially so averse to taking medication to manage
For most of the seven years post-diagnosis, I was prescribed a lot of different
meds and most of them gave me awful side effects. The worst “side effect” was
that they didn’t work and one med even made me feel suicidal. I also knew there
were some people who could live med-free. Oh, how I wanted to be one of them! I
admit I was jealous of them. In any case, I didn’t want to have to keep trying
meds that never seemed to work and made me sick.
How long have you been on your current med cocktail and do you feel it is still
working? Do you ever feel apprehensive that an episode is coming on?
I’ve been taking a combination of lithium and the MAOI (monoamine oxidase
inhibitor) tranylcypromine/Parnate since November, 2013. I’m grateful these two
“old-school”medications are still working! I do worry sometimes when life gets
hard or when a crisis will happen that an episode will “get” me, which is why I
keep seeing my therapist (although not as often) as well as my psychiatrist.
Do you have a safety plan and if so what it is?
My safety plan is super-streamlined – I’ll contact my psychiatrist before doing
anything else and go from there. If I have to get hospitalized again, I’ll do it, but
I’ll be honest – it’s a big fear of mine to have to return to a psych ward and I hope
it never comes to that again.
What is your self-care plan for keeping yourself stable?
Taking my medication, keeping in touch with my therapist & psychiatrist,
exercise, getting enough sleep (that has been a challenge the past couple years –
it might have to do with perimenopause I think is happening now!), using my
bright light or getting natural sunlight, and avoiding toxic people/situations as
much as I can. (Easier said than done sometimes!) Also, I can’t believe I almost
forgot to mention my dog Lucy. She’s not a service dog but I consider her my
Emotional Support Animal. Sadly, I can’t have her around other dogs as she’s
aggressive, but she’s like my third child. We even have the same birthday!
Do you attend talk therapy even when you are feeling normal?
Yes. I used to see my therapist Ina on a weekly basis for years and now we talk
every couple weeks, sometimes taking a longer break than that such as now,
What can stable Dyane do that you couldn’t enjoy when you were
When I’m stable, I can get out of bed and function!
Reading your book, I felt like we became bff’s. I love when I meet someone who is
like me. I have gone to a women’s therapy group with DBSA to connect with
women who have bipolar. It was tremendously important in helping me not feel
alone with this illness. Most days I still feel like the only woman in the world that
has this illness and that I have to keep quiet about it. I know you started a group
for bipolar moms, what was that like and what did you get out of it?
Aww, you made my day! I wish I could move you into my neighborhood! That’s
so awesome you attended the women’s therapy group with DBSA! First of all, I’m
so sorry about how you feel ( i.e. “the only woman in the world”) and believe me, I
totally relate to that feeling, still. The group I started for bipolar moms was
wonderful because I didn’t feel so isolated in having bipolar, and the women were
really cool. (Well, most of the members were a breeze! We had a couple, um,
challenging members, but that’s what happens with most support groups. You
can’t really pick and choose based on personality, especially when it comes to
bipolar disorder.) but it was also really stressful to be in charge.
I wish I could go back and do it again and recruit a few other moms to help me. I
miss the group and I’ve been tempted to start another one, maybe in the fall or
next year, but I wouldn’t go forth with it unless I had at least 2 other moms who
had facilitated peer support groups or had a keen desire to learn how to do it and
keep a commitment like that for at least six months.
What is the most important idea you want everyone to walk away with after
reading your book?
Even when you think life is hopeless, it will get better—no matter
what you do, please don’t give up and ask people to help you!!!!
Where can readers get a copy of your book?
For a free PDF file of my book, readers are welcome to email me:
Amazon is the best way to go if you’d like to buy a paperback copy or give one as a
gift. Here’s a link to the book’s page:
Thank you for taking the time to read this interview!
Medicated and yet still a free spirit! You don't have to be dull. Keep talking to your doctor until you find the right cocktail.
This will be my mantra for the next few weeks. I will be closing the grocery store down to keep the hours I want to make some money! One of the nights is on an evening where I have my daughter and have to wake up at 5 am to make sure she is up for school. That morning is going to fucking rock, not. But my boss listened and doesn't have me working weekday day hours.
I only close once this week, but next week I close twice. I am monitoring this with eagle eyes to make sure I don't mess up my sleep schedule. I also can't take my full does of seroquel or I would be to sedated and groggy to drive.
Not sure if I still dig this job or if I am already bored with it. My attention span can be very short.
This podcast is about my current Day to Day Challenges. I would love to hear about yours so I don't feel so crazy. You can listen to my podcast wherever you normally listen to podcast or you can hear me on Spotify or Itunes!
CLICK HERE to listen to this and other Mental Melissa podcast.
At the end of my therapy session today, my psych nurse announced she is retiring in April.
It took me a year to find her, and after a year together, she is retiring. She hopes to have a list of therapist who will take her patients on. I don't need a therapist, I need at psych nurse or psychiatrist to prescribe and manage my meds. There are hundreds of therapist here in Colorado Springs, what there are not enough of is psych nurses or psychiatrist. The few I spoke with before finding my current psych nurse were all retiring or not taking on new patients. We have a huge mental health problem in my city. Same with psych beds in town. Some people are shipped off up to Denver.
I feel like the rug has been yanked out from under me. I don't want to have to start again. I like this pysch nurse and I can't imagine finding a decent replacement for her.
Totally bummed. She better find me a good freakin replacement.
Trying. Trying. Trying.
I am really having a hard time letting things play out. I want control. I want to know what to do to get the best outcome.
Actually, I need to figure out what the best outcome will be.
I hate waiting and I hate not knowing.
If I quit the grocery store, I can keep my 50/50 with my daughter. I really need the money though. If I don't quit I won't see her often. If I do quit, I still won't see her often as she has a part time job too. I can't see an outcome that makes me feel happy. This is causing so much anxiety and stress to my days.
Having said all of that, I can't make anything happen any faster than it is going to naturally play out. So now I sit in that uncomfortable space, waiting and watching for clues.
New PODCAST on my Birthday Rituals. You can listen on Spotify or Itunes, just search for Mental Melissa. Or you can click here and listen to it now.
Another Message to let go of trying to control. Hearing you loud and clear, not sure how the fuck to let go?
I like to pull a three card reading every year on my birthday with my Doreen Virtue Angel Cards.
This birthday I pulled Innocence for my immediate past. "This card comes as reassurance that this situation and the people involved are guiltless. If you've been harboring quilt, release it to the Angels. Forgive yourself and release regrets."
My present and what I need to work on right now is Assertiveness. "You drew this card because you were asking about a situation where you felt victimized. The angels are saying that the situation can only be rectified if you clearly communicate your needs and expectations to others."
My outcome card is Cupid. " This card comes to you because the Angels see your desire for romance. Instead of fixing the externals in your love life, they assist you internally. Give any emotional hurt to the Angels. Affirm: It is safe for me to love and be loved."
My overall take on this next year of my life is that I need to do some releasing and letting go, be calm and strong and fill my life with love via people, things and causes I love.
Seems manageable right?
I did it, I made it until the clock struck 12. Twelve fifteen to be exact. Staying awake was not as hard as I expected. I had a well timed soda about 7:30 pm.
What was hard was getting all of those damn carts corraled. I don't know how many their are, but I touched them all. My feet hurt from being used to turn the stack of carts back and forth to get them to their destination. It sure would be nice if it was a straight shot, but it is not. It is a little to the left here and then a slight touch to the right there. I started getting pissed as the night wore on after I got a corral empty and then some one would put a cart back in and I would have to start all over again.
My lining them up in rows was ridiculous at best. My lines were not straight, they were very curved. I am sure there was much cussing and laughing by the morning crew.
You use your whole body to push and pull those carts and I am feeling it this morning. All that said it wasn't horrible. I did however take forever to get it done. That put us behind for all of the other stuff that has to happen before the stroke of 12. Little things that you don't notice until someone points them out to you.
Each check out line has to be stocked with plastic bags which have been properly folded for ease in putting them on the little racks to bag the groceries. Each check out line has to be stocked with paper bags and coupon tape and receipt tape. We were still stocking when someone came to check out at the last minute. This poor woman had a bill of $123 and only $63. She starts tearing into her cart to put stuff back and this continues for over five minutes. My arms are full of perishable items that have to be put back where they belong. I found each items home. It is weird walking through a grocery store with dim lighting and completely empty. It was eerie.
Finally we were released, though far from done with the chores we should have completed. I walked out to my car and took a small amount of pride at all of the corrals being empty and ready for the morning.
It worked out much better than it played out in my head. Anxiety and Bipolar make simple situations so much harder than they really need to be. I had been a mess the night before worrying about whether or not I would be able to get it all done.
When I made it home, I had little difficulty going to sleep and I slept in until 10 am. I close again this Saturday and then have to be up to clock in by 8 am. Not looking forward to that wake up call.
Thanks for hanging in there with me and my grocery store saga.
Tonight is the big night. I work until midnight closing the store. I haven't stayed up past 10:30 in eons. To better usher in this momentous occasion I came home last night with what I believe is a sinus infection. My face is literally killing me. Ears popping, teeth pain, sinus pressure and snot. I got up and went to the clinic this morning and she confirmed my symptoms and then promptly told me that the requirements now are that you have to wait for two weeks before getting antibiotics. WTF? She can tell I am sick and yet she won't prescribe the meds that I take once a year due to having a sinus infection. She made a exception in my case and I only have to wait one week since I have ulcerative colitis which weakens my immune system. Holy hell, I have an 8 hour shift ahead of me and half of that damn shift is after my bedtime. She is having me take Sudafed and Flonaise and tylenol for the pain.
Back to closing, I have asked any one who will talk to me about what closing as a bagger entails. Bring every last cart in is the biggest part. Make sure you have the electronic device that unlocks the wheels of rouge carts. Then their is cleaning. I can do this. Surely I can do this.
I will give it my very best.
My manager is again avoiding me and I can't even get him to make eye contact. Another sticky note may be in order.
For fucks sake, can I just get a hell yeah!
Day work is pretty steady. Night work is on fire. This past weekend was crazy busy. Tons of carts coming in overflowing with items. Things get backed up when there is that much product coming down the conveyor belt. I did my best to stay on top of it regardless of whether I bagging paper bags, cloth bags or plastic bags.
One customer I got behind in because she had a specific way she wanted everything bagged. Once you are behind, there is no getting caught up quickly. It did feel like it took forever and normally the cashier jumps in and assist. This one cashier was in a very pissy fucking mood and was totally put out that I was still actively bagging with a ton of product still in front of me. She started bagging but then bumped into a cart and it all went to shit at that point.
Next thing I know she is pushing carts just out of her way with little care about who would be in her line of fire. I was having jolts of stress each time she smacked the damn buggies around our space. I did one more customer with her and she was unable or didn't care to shake her shitty attitude off and there was nothing I could do to stop pissing her off. When we finished that customer, I "bounced" to another cashier for a bit. Shortly there after I was leaning in to ask if the customer wanted paper or plastic and she screeched for me to come help her bag (not help in a nice way). So I "bounced" back to her.
I was so happy when she was pulled to the self check out to work and got her angry ass off the check out line.
We did end up having the same lunch so I saw her go into the break room and I chose to go outside to the smoker's lounge and sit my happy ass there. No way I wanted to spend 30 minutes with her in a tiny room.
I am blessed she didn't work Sunday night. OMG that is the busiest night I have worked yet. Carts were lined up three deep at every register. There was a non stop stream of kids riding the mechanical horse behind me and the screeching and screaming was intense. It was a lot on the senses, but I made it through. I like the thank you for bagging comments from the cashiers and I like thanking the cashiers when they help me finish. It is a simple little dance that keeps kindness in the mundane.
I know cashiers are rated on how many items per minute they pass over their scanner. I get that some of them are probably hearing they are not moving fast enough, but there is no place for ugliness in front of customers.
The next customers who I bag for on her line will be confused at why there items were bagged so randomly. I practiced it yesterday. First, I don't touch any item with both of my hands. If it goes in one hand then it get placed directly in a bag. Second, Don't worry if they have a cantaloupe hidden at the bottom of their cart, bag the damn veggies like there is no big item coming. If a big item comes, bag it by it's damn self. Just two fist the process and get items into to any bags, but don't stop moving. Just keep bagging.
I have decided that personally I like when I put my product on the conveyor belt. This way I have the items I want grouped together, together. All of my heavy items are together so They aren't sat on top of everything at the very end. This who process where the cashier is randomly pulling from your cart is hellish.
I am of course overthinking all of this. My head gets caught in the endless thoughts of how to be better and what I did not do right. I have writing this down in hope of getting it out of my conscious thoughts. Some days it works, other days I just obsess all night long.
I start another 5 hour shift later this afternoon! Joy!
Forgive my corniness, but I be baggin all day and all night of late.
I don't really feel like Bilbo, I feel like Gollum whining about the fucking hours I can and can't work. I am this awful creature that keeps confronting and attempting to confront my managers. My precious was my little sticky note I passed to the assistant manager to thumb tack to the Misty Mountains. Okay, fine, enough with the Hobbit references, but I really do feel like Gollum. I am endlessly repeating myself and no one listens. I keep an eye on my manager and spend my baggin time trying to figure out if I should trip him to get his attention or stop working (heaven forbid) and go knock on his door.
It just sucks so bad. I hate the confrontation. Especially when I fear payback of some sort. I know I am one of 5 people who came in on this round of hiring for Courtesy Clerks, but damn I could be the one fabulous one if they would give me some respect. It is a part time job, I have to tell you when I can work and when I can't. If you as a manager (I am not capitalizing manager or assistant manager as they suck), can't work with my hours, you let me know and offer me the opportunity to accept what ever you dictate for me or I have to quit.
Today I logged on to our internal system and put in my permanent availability days and hours. I am not sure it this can be ignored or not.
Please don't just ignore the fuck out of me and pretend we don't have an issue. I feel like they are trying to force my hand, but I need the money for my car repairs so I will soldier on, for a week or two more.
Then I will have to look for another part time job. I feel very reluctant to start the process over again, but the extra money is helpful.
Repeat as as mantra to myself. You are not a bad mother, period. You are not a bad mother, period. You are not a bad mother, period. You are not a bad mother, period. You are not a bad mother, period.
I drove my daughter up to her job today since I am off work. We really didn't get to spend any time together this visit as she had a concert to go to and I had to work. I feel a lot of guilt in how crappy the time was.
As I drove, I was coordinating having her this weekend. I have to work Friday so I can't pick her up after her shift is up. So I thought, I will just pick her up Saturday morning before I go to work. Then she remembered she has to work Saturday, so no I can't pick her up. I also can't pick her up Monday or Tuesday due to my work schedule. I am so crushed. I miss getting to see her, even if it is just teenage fly by's from her bedroom to the kitchen and back. The house is so quiet when the kids are not here.
I am not a bad mother, period. What the fuck ever. I am letting my job come before my daughter. I feel a lot of guilt. I feel a lot of sadness.
I am not a bad mother. I am doing the best that I can. When I can do more, I will do more.
You are not a bad mother, period.
Another week and another week of being ignored regarding when I can and can't work. I just keep trying to go with the flow. I really like this job. I really need this job. However they don't seem to want me. I know I am the squeaky wheel and am asking a lot from them, but I was told this was acceptable, even sounded normal when I first was hired.
Now, almost a month in, I am being punished by scheduling me during the day when I cannot work because I have a day job. Then while standing next to two baggers who weren't doing anything but standing there I was called out for standing at one check out stand and just bagging at that one check out stand. It seems we are supposed to "bounce" between stands and not attach ourselves to one single stand. It didn't matter that I had been bagging non-stop that day, just that I wasn't bouncing. This was also explained to me in a public forum, which kinda stung. I am not used to public correction.
Any how, it just sucked. So I bounced from stand to stand for the rest of my shift. I would get stuck at one stand for a while and have to remind myself to bounce my ass over to another station, even as a new customer was entering the check out stand. Man this is a weird rule and it makes no sense to me. I am too worried to ask the Assistant Manager for fear of being made to feel even more stupid.
So, the next time you get in queue at the grocery store and see your bagger leaver just as your items start to roll down the convyer belt, just know that is called bouncing and you my friend have been bounced.
My schedule for this week is inconvenient to my day job, but not the end of the world. What is the end of the world in my schedule for the following week. Okay, my bipolar friends, what is one of the most fundamental self care items we are supposed to do every day?
Get and maintain a good sleep schedule. I guard my sleep like a soldier guarding a princess. My schedule two weeks from now has me closing the damn store at 12 am. I haven't stayed up until midnight in many, many years. So I am supposed to stay away for three hours past my normal bedtime and then come home wound up and not ready to go to sleep. It also means I will be keeping my boy friend up when he has to be awake and alert at 7 am. He has to be ready for a full day of being attentive.
Twice that week, I have to stay up until midnight. I feel like they are fucking with me because I am asking not to work until 5 pm Monday through Friday. I don't know why they are so angry at my request. I know there are other people who have second jobs as most of the staff at this store do not get 40 hours a week (I believe only management gets full-time hours).
I want to tell them I have bipolar and can't work til midnight, but I also don't want to give them any more fuel to hurt me with. It just doesn't seem fair to be messed with so purposefully when I am not making it up, that I was told this would not be a big deal. I wish that manager would come back to this store and straighten out this mess he helped create. But I can't imagine he would defend me. I am just a tiny person in this big corporation. It seems for every 15 baggers they bring in, maybe only 2 will stick. I had hoped to be one of those two.
My night is going to be filled with stress and repetitive thoughts circling round and round, keeping me stressed and anxious. Tonight's lack of sleep will be as bad as working until 12 am.
I gave my Assistant Manger my days and time I can work. This has been ignored two weeks in a row. They keep putting me on days when I have told them I have a day job. It takes so much energy for me to confront them and ask to be heard. Now I feel like I am purposefully being ignored so I will quit.
I don't want to quit. I just want them to work with me. I felt like I was being punished yesterday. I had 7 hours of mopping, brooming and bathroom cleaning. My back ached so bad. 7 hours? Why not break it up between two people each day. Maybe it just is how they do it, but it sure as hell felt like punishment.
That is how my bipolar brain works. It makes a mountain out of a mole hill. My brain is all paranoia.
I will have to corner my Manager, who moves so fast that I can't keep track of where he has gone, and see if he can put a face to the name on the sticky note and help me not work days when I have a day job.
I have to keep going in even when I have a day job because I need the damn money. I need the damn money and my back be damned, it is an easy way to earn it.
But I am truly tired of having to step up and try to set boundaries, especially when I feel so threatened. They make me feel like I am trying to get special privileges. I can work week day evenings after 5 and anytime on weekends. Surely that is beneficial to them?
I will just keep trying to be brave and not feel guilty.