“Birth of a New Brain”: A Breakdown

For a brief book review, this is what I left on Amazon:

Every single time I go to the book store, I go straight to the mental illness section to see if there are any new additions to check out. When I heard that a new book was being released about bipolar disorder, I was really excited, particularly given that it is on bipolar disorder with a peripartum onset (not a commonly shared story). As someone who has been diagnosed with BD, I find this brutally honest portrayal of the struggles associated with mood episode symptoms, debilitating side effects, hospitalizations, and stigma very relatable. I think that whether or not you have a mood disorder yourself, this is a must-read. It is insightful, sharing one’s story while also providing really helpful information and encouragement for those who need it.

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For those who want to read more, keep scrolling! ๐Ÿ™‚

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My Complete Breakdown of this Book:

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Intro:

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In “Birth of a New Brain”, Dyane Harwood draws the reader into the world of hospitalizations, failing medical treatments, and chaotic episodes. One of the aspects of this story which instantly separates it from other books in this field is its focus on a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) known as postpartum bipolar disorder or bipolar disorder with peripartum onset. While postpartum depression has been highlighted recently in the media (i.e. when Chrissy Teigen revealed her own postpartum depression in a Glamour interview), characteristics of postpartum bipolar disorder are not public knowledge. Even the healthcare workers in the hospital during Harwood’s stay did not pick up on the signs of hypomania following childbirth, ones which can look like just happiness at first.

This book is insightful for those with and without the condition! It is helpful without being preachy, not insisting that a particular method or technique is the proper way to treat bipolar disorder. She says what works for her but acknowledges that different things work for different people. Also, it is really informative, not hard to get through like “dense” textbook literature can be… even has a appendix full of related resources to check out!

Obviously, no case of bipolar disorder is the same. However, there may be a lot of overlap in features of the illness and symptoms. These are some which were highlighted from Harwood’s own experience.

I was about to bold the symptoms which I have experienced myself, but then I realized that I was making the entire list bold, so… I find it very relatable.

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Symptoms

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Manic features:

  • Hypergraphia: a compulsion to write which can be linked to mania (mine was more like excessive blogging/social media messaging, not quite the “bizarre” and extreme level of obsessive writing described in the book)
  • Racing thoughts: “the bullet train of thoughts that sped through my mind”
  • Pressured speech
  • Confidence boost:
    • Feeling more intelligent
    • Feeling of “I can take on the world”
  • Being obsessive, both in thoughts and actions
  • Unusual degree of activity/preoccupation with working
  • New enthusiasm for life
  • Clinical anxiety
  • Creativity
  • Living with a heightened sense of urgency (i.e. must write down every single thought)
  • Unusually generous (i.e. giving gifts for no reason)
  • Inability to focus on priorities, such as feeding newborn
  • Insomnia
  • “Self-absorbed”
  • Risky, impulsive behaviors (i.e. shopping excessively, breaking rules, yelling at someone)
  • Agitation (i.e. excessive talking or motions such as pacing)
  • Hostility, being uncooperative, and disruptive behavior

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What goes up must come down…

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Depressive features:

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“The depression was a smothering force, annihilating what mattered most: my productivity, happiness, and hope.”

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  • Slowed thinking
  • Anhedonia
  • Catatonia
  • Poor coping mechanisms i.e. drinking
  • Suicidal ideation: “While I couldnโ€™t imagine taking my life, I often wished Iโ€™d fall asleep and not wake up.”

 

Noteworthy Quotes:

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“I was shocked, heartbroken, and furious. To be shunned by oneโ€™s flesh and blood while suffering from a mental illness has been an extremely bitter pill to swallow.”

 

“I felt ashamed and thought, Iโ€™ve gone from being a college graduate, an employee, a wife, and a mom to someone I donโ€™t recognize.”

 

“Iโ€™m not reduced to a seven-letter word. Iโ€™m much more than bipolar.”

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Conclusion:

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I gave this book a five-star rating. It is beautifully written… a courageous story of how bipolar disorder impacts the author. This book shows that someone with bipolar disorder is so much more than their condition, even if it touches so many aspects of their life. She carefully writes about topics which are often seen as taboo, such as addiction, suicidality, and psychiatric hospitalizations. She shows how the illness not only impacted her own life, but also that of her parents, husband, family, friends, colleagues, and children. Battling alarming side effects, suicidal depression, and the consequences of the illness, she continues to show strength in her journey towards stability. It is truly inspirational.

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Have you read it? What did you think of the book? Can you relate to these symptoms or scenarios? Let me know in the comments!

5 thoughts on ““Birth of a New Brain”: A Breakdown

    1. Thanks so much, Ashley!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’ll never forget your review; it is one of the most amazing reviews the book has received to date!

      Sending you a hug and thanks again for your support.
      Xo, Dyane

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Wow, Anja, what a wonderful blog post! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ“–

    I’m on vacation but as you may have guessed by now, I broke my self-imposed rule of taking a “virtual vacation” –it’s too tempting to eschew the internet when there’s a high-speed internet connection in our remote cabin, LOL!

    Anyway, I *love* the quotes you picked out and I’m so glad you found my experience relatable too!

    Thanks so much for tweeting about my book, for your Amazon review, and for this incredibly insightful post!

    Once again, you’ve made my day. You’re a kindred spirit! ๐ŸŒž

    I’m forever grateful for your support,
    ๐Ÿ’“

    Dyane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you like the post! When I read bipolar books, I tend to sometimes look at it like a case study, so the symptoms all stuck out to me… but I think many people can relate as well! I hope that you have a wonderful vacation! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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