Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Guest Post #8 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Dyane Harwood

Interview Questions for Mental Health Awareness Month

1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness? My postpartum bipolar disorder was triggered by childbirth; I was 37 years old. Before then I had dysthymia (chronic depression) but no one, including my father who had bipolar one, thought that I’d have it too.

2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why? No one knew I was careening into an acute manic episode, including the maternity hospital professionals, my immediate family, and myself. At first I was hypomanic, so I just seemed and felt happy. I was so exhausted after my daughter was born I thought that there wasn’t a problem. Little did I know that a manic-depressive storm was brewing in my brain, and I’d be admitting myself to a psychiatric ward the following month.

3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

Do not give up your pursuit of finding the right psychiatrist and meds no matter what.

4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

That we’re dangerous and/or hopeless when it comes to being productive members of society.

5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future? The stigma is alive and well where I live. Despite the national campaigns, on a local level I’m not seeing any positive changes. I live in a mountain valley devoid of free support services to help those with mental illness. Here it’s all about having a medical cannabis dispensary on literally every block (and while I believe those places are essential, every block’s a bit excessive!) and we have lots of liquor stores, but we don’t have a single mental health support group in a large area filled with thousands of people. I ran one free DBSA (Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance) support group for women with mood disorders, but I got burned out doing that after eight years. No one wanted to take my place. However, our population is growing, so this kind of group is needed more than ever.


7)   On the (much) brighter side, there have definitely been many positive steps taken by numerous individuals and organizations to deal with stigma. I believe we need more people in positions of power and influence, from politics to education to celebrity to sports figures to the medical profession itself--to “come out” with their mental illnesses. 

8)   What do you do to get through the bad days?  I Netflix & Amazon Prime Video binge, I read a little bit, and hang out with my Scottish collie Lucy. If the weather is nice, I try to force myself to go for a walk with Lucy —she begs me with her big brown eyes. Sometimes I’ll go, sometimes I won’t. If we go, I always feel a least a teeny bit better. Always. But it’s VERY hard to even contemplate taking her out when I’m feeling like total crap.

9)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community? I’m still working on getting the word out about my first book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder (Post Hill Press) because it has only been out since October 2017. I’m also working on my second book that will be geared to help those with mental illness in a way that hasn’t been done before.

10)                Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.    

11)                Twitter: @DyaneHarwood 

12)                  www.dyaneharwood.com

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