VIP: Coping with Bipolar

Featured Article, Mental Health & Sleep Center
on December 12, 2012
Dyane Harwood lives a full life with Bipolar Disorder.

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, 42, lives with her husband and two young daughters in Santa Cruz County in northern California. 

Bipolar disorder is just as deadly as cancer, but there is still severe social stigma when it comes to mood disorders. I should know: I have lived firsthand with bipolar disorder since the birth of my second daughter, Marilla, in 2007. After I was diagnosed, I gained weight due to a combination of bipolar depression and medication. I had been a certified personal trainer before my diagnosis, so I knew what I needed to do in order to be healthy and lose weight. I just could not make the change for several years. When bipolar depression strikes, it is impossible to do much of anything.

When I hit my all-time peak weight of almost 200 pounds, a light switch went off in my brain. I was able to safely go off a medication that was contributing a great deal to weight gain, and I realized I needed to return to a healthy lifestyle. I began keeping track of my daily calories, I drank plenty of water, and I made moderate exercise a part of each day. I lost 40 pounds in five months, and I feel wonderful. I started a chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) where I live, which offers free, peer-run support groups for those living with mood disorders. Within the DBSA I created a peer group specifically for mothers who have bipolar disorder, and it was a very gratifying experience. I also see my psychiatrist and counselor regularly. I am now able to be the vibrant person I always wanted to be, and I am currently studying to be certified as an American Council on Exercise Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. Life is good!

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