Hi there! My name is Dyane Leshin-Harwood and I am a forty-four-year-old married mom of two little girls. I’ve been a freelance writer for over fifteen years. At age thirty-seven, just after my second daughter was born, I became hypomanic and I experienced the rare condition of hypergraphia, which is extreme, compulsive writing. Eight weeks later, my undetected hypomania turned into acute mania. It was obvious to everyone, myself included, that I was in a crisis. I admitted myself into our local hospital’s mental health unit where I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD).
I grew up very close to my father who had bipolar one disorder, but no one thought I had the genetic predisposition to the illness. Sudden, extreme sleep deprivation brought on by labor combined with pregnancy hormones and my family history triggered my bipolar disorder. Since the day I was diagnosed, I’ve been hospitalized multiple times, I’ve tried over twenty different medications, and I’ve had two rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I have finally found a medication combination that works well for me, and I work hard at recovery. I have a fantastic “team” of my psychiatrist and therapist, and I exercise and get enough sleep.
After the first couple years of struggling to live with this mental illness, I sought others who were like me. I wanted to spend time with people who had bipolar or depression and who also found it hard to get out of bed every morning, let alone function. Due to the lack of support groups in my area, I started our county’s chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). With the help of a local therapist who volunteered her time to help me facilitate our group, I met others living with mood disorders and I was lucky to make a couple wonderful friends. I promoted this group to my county’s major newspapers by arranging interviews. I chose to have their photographers print photographs of our family alongside the articles. That wasn’t particularly easy for me to do, for in doing so I “outed” myself to my community, but I have no regrets. I’ve found that experience to be very fulfilling because I know I helped some members of my community feel less isolated in living with bipolar disorder.
Apart from creating a support group, I’ve slowly but surely become a mental health advocate. The past year I’ve volunteered for the International Bipolar Foundation and I love working with them. (IBPF) I’m a member of the IBPF’s Consumer Advisory Council and I blog for them as well. This amazing non-profit offers a vast amount of resources to consumers, carers, and medical professionals. One can volunteer for the IBPF in all kinds of ways – I encourage anyone who is affected by bipolar disorder to get to know this group and check out their website: “http://www.ibpf.org” www.ibpf.org. I was honored to be selected as the IBPF’s first 2014 “Story of Hope and Recovery” which can be found at http://ibpf.org/past-stories-hope-and-recovery
In my down time, I love to read books of all kinds. I believe in “bibliotherapy” which is the study of how reading helps us with depression, anxiety and other psychological maladies. My two favorite authors are Madeleine L’Engle (“A Wrinkle In Time”) and L.M. Montgomery (“Anne of Green Gables). I had a dream come true when I spent a weekend at a writer’s workshop with Madeleine L’Engle. I read my sonnet about dolphins in front of her and the other twenty participants. I almost passed out from fear, but fortunately she said she liked it!
I enjoy singing, playing guitar and writing songs. During one of my hospitalizations, I wrote the following song about having bipolar disorder called “The End of the Day” – to hear me sing please visit
Aside from spending time with my family, I am working on my book “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder”. I’m partnering with other acclaimed non-profits such as Postpartum Progress, which serves mothers with pregnancy/perinatal and postpartum mood disorders. I am doing all I can to help lessen the stigma associated with mental illness in my neck of the woods. I hope to see a day where having mood disorders such as bipolar are treated with more sensitivity and respect than anyone ever thought could be possible!
Come visit my blog “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder”: “http://www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com” www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com
Chato Stewart has a mission, to draw and use humor as a positive tool to live, to cope with the debilitating effects symptoms of mental illness.
Chato Stewart is a Mental Health Hero and Advocate. Recovery Peer Specialist board-certified in Florida. Chato is the artist behind the cartoons series Mental Health Humor, Over-Medicated, and The Family Stew - seen here in his blog posts. The cartoons are drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder (and other labels).
Stewart, C. (2014). Dyane Harwood Mental Health Hero #mhmonth2014. Psych Central.
Retrieved on January 27, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor/2014/05/mental-health-hero/
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