World Mental Health Day: Questions to Dyane Harwood Author, Birth of a New Brain (Healing From Postpartum Bipolar Disorder)


Birth of a new brain cover

Dyane Harwood’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw (co-author of The Modern Management of Perinatal Psychiatry) is published by Post Hill Press this very October 10th 2017.

It’s available on Kindle and paperback

Hello World, today on this very special day, I mean very, very special day: Today is World Mental Health Day and the Birth of Dyane Harwood’s long awaited literary baby; I have the singular honour, pleasure and modesty to interview my dear friend, one I fondly call Lady D and The Captain – the author, dynamic wife and mother par excellence. I connected with Dyane early into my blogging adventures, and we have stayed friends since then. I still look forward to visiting Dyane in her corner of the Western Coast in the US, and take a “redwood bath” with her and her famous Scottish collie Lucy.

I salute Dyane’s courage to go through with it and not give up. Dyane is equally a seasoned author and has written for the Huffington Post, SELF Magazine, BP (Bipolar) Magazine, and more. With this said, I’ll interview her for your reading pleasure and let her tell us more about herself and her life journey, mindful of her postpartum bipolar disorder diagnosis.

1) The Profile

1. Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit about your Childhood:
Hello, my dear friend Lady Marie! I grew up in Los Angeles, California with my brother Martin and of course a dog – an Irish Setter named Amber! We had two very loving parents and many blessings; however, it was a difficult childhood as my father had bipolar one disorder and his mental illness took its toll on our family.

2. About your Memoir, how did you come up with the title – you must admit it is one of its kind?
I love my title! Originally I titled the book Quest for Rest because when I began writing it in 2007, I was manic and hypergraphic (which is excessive compulsive, writing associated with bipolar mania and epilepsy, of all things, Marie!) — later on, I switched titles because I no longer felt attached to Quest for Rest. Birth of a New Brain simply popped into my mind and felt right.

2) The Soul Journey

1. I lost my only brother to bipolar disorder and its complications – hence I dread the word and diagnosis; what’s your take on that word?
I cannot STAND the word “bipolar”! I agree with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of the classic memoir An Unquiet Mind, who prefers “manic depression.” I think that term describes the mood disorder so much better than “bipolar”ever could. It’s just a really dumb word and to be honest, I have problems saying it out loud.

2. How did you get your diagnosis and how have you fared since that diagnosis?
In 2007, approximately six weeks postpartum, I voluntarily admitted myself into the local psychiatric unit as I was manic. I was diagnosed at that unit and it took me seven years to find the right medications to help me. During that time I went through two phases in which I tried to live without medications; one of those phases involved a very slow, systematic tapering schedule that I had researched before undertaking it. I do not want to sound like a drama queen, but I almost died after each attempt to live meds-free. However, some people can live with bipolar and stay stable without taking medications.

3. How have you been coping with your mental illness and yet still been able to function at times enough to write and publish?
The book has been the most challenging project of my life. When I finally secured a publisher, I found the entire process was far more difficult than I had imagined. I coped fairly well although I ate a ton of sweets and gained 15 pounds despite using Lose It! And exercising! My medications and having a stable, loving family complete with Lucy the Scottish Collie/Writing Muse enabled me to get through it all.

3) The Writing

1. Did any books/memoirs influence your writing (style, presentation, content)?
Oh yes! Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir and books by Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) have influenced my writing, but there are many other books that affected me too! I have a list of some of them in the book’s appendix section.

2. Did you have a writing mentor?
Wendy K. Williamson (author of the bestseller I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and the co-author of 2 Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival) believed in my writing, and she inspired me to “go for it” in terms of sending my proposal to publishers.

3. Which was the most difficult chapter to write in your memoir and why?
That’s a great question. I’d definitely say the “One Pill Can Kill” chapter about how taking one Elavil (amitriptyline) pill made me acutely suicidal and when I realized what was happening to me, I asked to be taken to the emergency room at the hospital. I won’t go into other details (and I don’t go much into them in the book because I felt there were plenty of books about that topic already – it didn’t seem necessary) but I also want to say that this specific medication works well for other people! We all know medications affect every person differently…thus the need for caution when trying a new medication and have someone on hand to observe your reaction to it if it all possible!!!

To be cont’d tomorrow, kindly visit again…

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5 thoughts on “World Mental Health Day: Questions to Dyane Harwood Author, Birth of a New Brain (Healing From Postpartum Bipolar Disorder)”

    1. Dear Martha, it is my pleasure always to use my talents and platforms in a way that helps even only one more person. Ironically I first suggested these interviews to someone else but they turned them down…mental health and co wasn’t their thing

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my answers & for providing great questions, dear Marie!!!!

    I will be meeting Martha Graham Waldon next week for the 1st time because she’s coming to my book talk! It’ll be hectic there at the library, but hopefully we’ll get my friend George to take a picture of us so we can share it with you. I wish YOU could be there too!

    Much love!

    1. Oh my, am I full with envy or jealousy at that eminent meeting of warm souls? Trust me fairy GM to fly myself there in spirit and hover till the end. So which book talk is that and where? There was a question at the end of the interview about forthcoming book talks and tours. Can I assume all these updates are on your website?
      Thank you for thanking me, it’s my pleasure always to do my mite to raise awareness

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