Interview with Dyane Harwood, Author, Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

 Post Hill Press @2017

Post Hill Press @2017

1.      Dyane, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in the beautiful town of Pacific Palisades, Southern California that bordered the Pacific Ocean, hence the name. My younger brother and I had two very loving parents and we had many blessings; however, I had a difficult childhood as our father had bipolar one disorder and his mental illness took an enormous toll upon our family. I attended college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which was located almost four hundred miles north of my hometown. Santa Cruz was also right to the Pacific Ocean and I lived there for many years. I still live in Santa Cruz County, but I moved to the redwood forest up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here we have a variety of wildlife: deer, bobcats, mountain lions and the infamous neon yellow banana slug!

2.      Why did you decide to write the book?

After I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder in 2007, I read books about other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but I couldn’t find any book that focused on postpartum bipolar disorder. Before my diagnosis I had been a freelance writer for ten years.  I felt I had something important to contribute to the bipolar and perinatal mental health literature and that fueled my writing, especially during the many times I wanted to give up the project.

 3.      As the author of, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story about Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis, I know first-hand the challenges of sharing your story in a book, what did you find most challenging in your book writing process?

Due to numerous bipolar depression relapses, it took me a long time to write the book proposal, the manuscript, and go through the publication process – ten years total. I know some people doubted I’d ever finish the book, including myself, so it was nothing short of a miracle to hold my book in my hands last month. In some ways it was like holding a baby, but the book lets me sleep at night!

 4.      I recall you were able to reach out for help fairly quickly in the postpartum period but during your pregnancies did anyone ever present to you the risks or general information on any of the perinatal mood & anxiety disorders?

Unfortunately, no medical professional explained the risks or gave me information about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I was never asked to provide my own mental health history or a family mental health history to anyone.  Had there been even the most rudimentary mental health screening done during my pregnancy, it’s possible a lot of my agony and my family’s suffering could’ve been mitigated. Thankfully maternal mental health screening is far more prevalent now, and there’s a much greater awareness of PMADS and the need for screening. I think screening and awareness will improve much more over the next decade.

 5.      In your book, you mention starting a support group for moms with bipolar disorder.  Can you explain a little more about that process (i.e. easy process; how it benefited you, attendees)?  Do you continue to facilitate a support group today or are there any other support groups specifically for moms with bipolar disorder?

In my book’s appendix, I have a section that takes the reader through the steps to create, promote, and lead a support group. Participating in support groups helped me because I felt less alone with my mental illness. I even made two friends who helped me through some very tough times. The other attendees often said that being around other women who dealt with mood swings, medication, anxiety, PTSD and more helped them too. Some of them became friends with other members and socialized together. After facilitating support groups off and on over nine years, I decided to stop being the facilitator and focus on completing my book. I’d love to attend a support group as a member, not as a facilitator.

There are support groups for moms with bipolar disorder across the country through Meetup for in-person support groups and online (i.e. Facebook) and I’m sure there are specific groups for moms in some chapters of the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). One would need to check in her immediate area by doing online Meetup searches, calling the local NAMI Chapter and/or DBSA Chapter, and search elsewhere online such as Craigslist for specific leads.

6.      Anything else you would like to share with others?

I want to remind everyone that no matter how horrible you feel, your mood can get better.  For years I couldn’t imagine that my awful bipolar depression would ever lift, but it finally did go away with the help of a caring psychiatrist. Find or ask a loved one to help you find a professional who is on your side. This is a momentous task, but there’s a sea change going on in the psychiatric field. More compassionate, progressive doctors are becoming psychiatrists. If you’re unable or unwilling to see a psychiatrist, talk to a trusted physician or psychologist or therapist. Don’t keep your suffering to yourself. Please ask for help because you deserve to have support and effective treatment in your life.

Thank you, Dyane, for sharing such a difficult journey.  Your book helps readers understand postpartum bipolar disorder, especially bipolar depression, in a way that has not been done before.

To reach Dyane, learn more about her or her book, see below

Twitter: @DyaneHarwood

Blog: www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com

DyaneHeadshot.jpg

Website: www.dyaneharwood.com

Birth of a New Brian – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Birth-New-Brain-Postpartum-Disorder-ebook/dp/B075GXM6CV/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Facebook Author page:  https://www.facebook.com/BirthofaNewBrain/

International Bipolar Foundation “Psych Byte” Webinar: Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: The Invisible Postpartum  Mood Disorder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9lW_F87DUI