I was raised in Los Angeles, the daughter of a world-class violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. My father had bipolar one disorder and we were very close. Back then I was a happy-go-lucky teen who did well in school and ran cross-country. No one suspected that I’d be diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my late-thirties.
I graduated from the University of California with a degree in literature and I became a freelance writer. I interviewed mental health luminaries Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and Dr. Martha Manning for magazine articles about depression and exercise. I pursued my dream to become a certified personal trainer and led a healthy lifestyle.
At age thirty-seven, after the birth of my second child, the combination of genetics, sleep deprivation and hormones triggered postpartum mania and the rare condition of hypergraphia (compulsive writing). Six weeks after my daughter’s birth I was diagnosed with postpartum onset bipolar one disorder (PPBD) and was hospitalized. Over the next seven years, I endured multiple hospitalizations, medication trials, and rounds of unilateral and bilateral electroconvulsive therapy which helped pull me out of severe bipolar depression.
In 2013, I found a psychiatrist who was a good fit. With his guidance I developed a regimen of five key ways to keep me stable: seeing my team (psychiatrist and counselor) regularly, medication, exercise, writing, and enough sleep!
After I was diagnosed, I felt so lost and isolated in my small mountain community. Despite struggling with depression, I founded the first DBSA Chapter of my county—that gave me purpose. I arranged interviews with local newspapers to inform them of the chapter, and to share my story of living with bipolar disorder. Through DBSA’s auspices I created and co-facilitated support groups where I met people with bipolar disorder who have become close friends. I’ve benefited from online support as well through Facebook bipolar-themed groups.
In 2014 I became an International Bipolar Foundation blogger, and was honored to have my story be selected for IBPF Story of Hope and Recovery. During my years of bipolar depression, I never would have dreamed such a great thing could happen to me.
These days I’m working on my book, Birth of a New Brain—Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa. Writing this book is a true labor of love, but it’s incredibly challenging. The discipline required to write lends a positive structure to my days. My blog, Birth of a New Brain, gives me the opportunity to connect with a wonderful virtual writing community and I get valuable feedback on my writing. I was thrilled when, after discovering my blog, bestselling author/advocate, and my now writing mentor, Wendy K. Williamson (I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival) nominated me for the WEGO Health Activist Best in Show Blog Award.
I believe that anything is possible when it comes to living with bipolar disorder, and that we can reach stability with the right support and tools! Accolades are the icing on the cake, and I appreciate them, but what matters most to me is keeping stable for the long-run. If I’m well, I can continue helping other people who live with bipolar disorder, which is therapeutic for me too!
I was stuck in the morass of depression for so long that I didn’t think I would pull out of it. If you’re in that place, please don’t give up. I know this will sound like a cliché, but reach out to others. Seek a therapist and/or psychiatrist. My Dad always told me that by the time I was older, a cure would be found for bipolar. Although that hasn’t happened yet, we shouldn’t rule out breakthroughs with the tremendous amount of research happening worldwide. In the meantime do all you can to get support. You don’t have to suffer needlessly—there is hope for each and every one of you!