Mental illness is more often than not associated with incompetence, fragility, frugality, vulnerability, undesirability: I don’t make that association however, and memoirs like Dyane’s make a pale of those who think a mentally ill is a ‘no good’!
May is mental health awareness month and I have the honour of furthering my mental health awareness month with a book review. Dyane’s epic memoir of one of the ‘not so known’ mental illnesses is worth its weight in gold especially at this time when even Royalty is stepping up advocacy on mental health awareness.
Some stuffs I get from Dyane’s epic memoir:
We don’t care about those ‘lunatics’ because we are not them and no we can’t become them. Sometimes, and as in Dyane’s case, we so wish our sick ones well, but we don’t try to learn and understand what is going on. We don’t even know what or how to ask them any questions. It gets to a point where we look forward to either having them removed from our ‘normal’ existence, or forward to leaving them and going far away – be it for studies, work or just a fresh start. One thing I learnt from this memoir is that close or far, we can be so impacted by mental illness of a close one. Paradoxically, Dyane starts having troubling ‘mental issues’ after she’s left home and is on her own, although she had felt for so long before then that something ‘weird’ was going on.
A lot of good things in my opinion happen to Dyane in between the time she leaves college and when her second child is born – the birth which sparks her postpartum bipolar disorder. She takes on different challenging jobs and meets a vast array of people most especially her ever supporting husband.
I am so interested to know what keeps her husband staying with her mindful of her seemingly ‘unappeasable’ mental illness and mental health altogether. Maybe she’ll write a second memoir about this. He from much indication in her memoir, is a care giver par excellence both to her and to the kids, juggling these all with his ever demanding job. People like her husband are to be celebrated because many with a mental illness are sooner or later abandoned even by their families and left at their own guise.
It is once more interesting to read in this memoir about the treatment mentally ill patients seem to attract. There are basically two types of treatment. You are either treated as a human being with an illness like every other (very rare), or most often, you treated with such stigma and near shunning altogether. Dyane even while very sick, can tell and appreciate when she is treated with empathy, and even sympathy. She also narrates the few times she’s treated like ‘one of them lunatics’. When you sometimes leave the hospital worse off than you get there; when you develop post hospitalizations trauma disorders which is another mental illness on its own.
All is not lost, after trying several different medications, nearly becoming a guinea pig of sorts; after trying to go off cold turkey not once but twice; after silently challenging one of her doctor’s sarcasm about alternative treatments; Dyane has come to find a balance between all of them. Even ECT wasn’t left out, she desperately needed a new brain – she’s courageously brought forth one and trying her best to nurture same.
Her narration is not only so funny at some points you wonder where she found some words and different styles she uses (oh yes she has a B.A. in English and American
Literature); her memoir also has helpful links and annexes. Her extensive biography below beats the ‘stigmatized notion of mentally ill as incompetent and losers’! I mean what dedication starting all over and over again, entering a contest hundreds of times, taking on difficult exams and the list goes on.
As some other advanced reviewers have already said, her memoir is a big bonus to the mental health community, – a community I dare advocate should concern all of ‘us’ because all the ‘thems’ we see today were once ‘us’ before. There is really no point for stigma which to me shows insecurity and fear of the unknown.
I without any reservation, recommend this memoir to all and sundry. I give it a 5/5 and can’t wait to receive my autographed copy come October. I need to have that physical copy on my shelf period!!!
About Dyane Leshin-Harwood
Dyane Harwood is the author of the memoir “Birth of a New Brain – Healing
from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder” (Post Hill Press, October 10, 2017) with
a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw. She holds a B.A. in English and American
Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. A freelance
writer for over two decades, she has interviewed bestselling authors
including Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Anthony Bourdain, and SARK.
Dyane had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of attending a writing weekend
conference taught by her favorite author, the late Madeleine L’Engle,
author of “A Wrinkle in Time.” Dyane has written for The Huffington Post,
The Mighty, Postpartum Support International, Postpartum Progress, Anchor
Magazine, Fit Magazine, The International Society for Bipolar Disorders,
The International Bipolar Foundation, and The Stigma Fighters Anthology.
After founding a chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
(DBSA), she facilitated free support groups for mothers with mood
disorders for nine years.
Dyane lives in Ben Lomond, California with her husband Craig, their
daughters Avonlea and Marilla and their collie Lucy who serves as a
writing muse and sits on Dyane foot when she writes.
Dyane’s website: www.dyaneharwood.com
She blogs every Friday at Birth of a New Brain: www.proudlybipolarwordpress.
Birth of a New Brain Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Birth-of-a-New-Brain
You can find Dyane tweeting away on Twitter: @DyaneHarwood