Touched With Fire: a movie about bipolar’s mania

TouchedFire

When I received an email recently with an invitation from Mental Health America to attend a free screening of Touched With Fire a new film about bipolar disorder starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, I RSVP’d immediately. It fascinates me to view my illness through the eyes of another person touched by this diagnosis. And this film was written, music composed and was directed by a man who lives with bipolar illness.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.37.54 PMFilmmaker Paul Dalio was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 24, and like me, struggled to accept the label. He said he romanticized the mania, pointing to famous poets and writers who shared the condition. He’s developed a strong sense of pride and I could wholeheartedly relate. It seems his experience over the years has led him to a place I find myself in now: able to live in harmony with bipolar, with a loving family and a full life.

Touched With Fire screening attended by This Is My Brave

{from left, David, Annie, Leigh and I at the advanced screening of Touched With Fire starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby}

Several of my volunteers and one of our new This Is My Brave interns joined me at the screening. We all were impressed by the film, it’s ability to express the artistic side of the disease, how family members struggle with how to help or walk away, and what happens when one refuses to comply with medications and treatment.

Plus, it’s a love story. That was probably my favorite part about the movie. And it has a great ending.

I did have a concern as I reflected back on the scenes and the dialogue though. So many moments brought me back to my initial diagnosis and the years that followed.

Like when my parents kept referring to what was happening to me as “episodes” which made me feel so broken. 

And when I questioned whether I even had bipolar disorder. I didn’t think I needed the meds.

And the times I went off my meds (to protect my unborn babies) only to end up manic and hospitalized within a week both times. 

I worry that the film will be dangerous to those who are not in a solid place of recovery. It’s been ten years since I’ve been diagnosed. Coming up on six years since I’ve had a manic episode requiring hospitalization. I’m at a place where I know that I will never go off my meds. I know what my triggers are and I know how to manage them. I take such better care of my body and my mind compared to where I was back when I was still learning to understand my condition.

{Q&A panel discussion following the screening, from left: Debbie Plotnik (MHA), Paul Dalio, Dr. Kay Jamison, Paul Gionfriddo (MHA President), Luke Kirby}

{Q&A panel discussion following the screening, from left: Debbie Plotnik (MHA), Paul Dalio, Dr. Kay Jamison, Paul Gionfriddo (MHA President), Luke Kirby}

Someone who is early in their recovery journey may be tempted by the film to get rid of meds, to go back to life before being medicated because they were so much more artistic (not true). Paul, the filmmaker, even commented on the fact that he’s so much more able to utilize his creativity to attain his goals and dreams being on medication and stable. Something that Dr. Kay Jamison taught him when they met and she became a mentor to him, a connection made possible by his own psychiatrist.

Speaking of Dr. Jamison, she makes a cameo in the movie and I got to say hello to her after the screening and Q & A. I told her how much I admired her work and how I attended one of her book signings in 2007 and asked her about pregnancy and medication. Her advice to me was to stay on my meds, which I did not heed and learned my lesson the hard way. She was very glad to know of the work This Is My Brave is doing and I’m hopeful she’ll be able to attend a local show in the near future.

{David, me, Dr. Kay Jamison, and Annie after the Q & A following the screening of Touched With Fire}

{David, me, Dr. Kay Jamison, and Annie after the Q & A following the screening of Touched With Fire}

You never know how someone will respond when you put your story out there, when you put your art out into the world. Paul has taken a risk that was no doubt worth taking. My hope is that the film will not live up to my concerns, but instead serve as a springboard for important conversations surrounding mental illness and mental health that need to be taking place in communities everywhere.

The film opens tomorrow, February 12th in New York City and Los Angeles, and on February 19th nationwide in select cities. You can watch a trailer of the film HERE. This Is My Brave is hosting a Meetup for anyone in the DC-metro area who would like to come together to support the film’s opening weekend. Click here to sign up to meet us on Friday at the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax for the 7pm-ish showing.

Dark Side Of The Full Moon Review

Dark Side of the Moon Film Review Bipolar Mom Life

A life-saving film has been created. Dark Side of the Full Moon is a documentary about when motherhood meets mental health.

Earlier this week, the production team sent me an early viewing code. I watched it tonight. And let me just say that this film got me fired up.

At the end, Writer/Director Maureen Fura says, “This story could have been about how a group of women, who had never had a mental illness, suddenly at pregnancy and postpartum, found themselves in the midst of a mental health crisis. But the real story is how the most common complication of childbirth could be the best kept secret of motherhood.”

I urge you to watch this film. If you are able to make time tomorrow or Saturday, the Producer has provided a special discount viewing code: JAN2015.

https://www.reelhouse.org/furafilms/dark-side-of-the-full-moon

But even if you don’t have a chance to watch it by Saturday, I encourage you to pay the full price because we NEED to spread the word so that the secret can be demystified.

1 in 7 women in the United States will experience a postpartum mood disorder.

Stop and think about your circle of friends and your extended family. Count the last seven to have had a baby. Chances are one (or even two because not all cases are accounted for because many do not seek treatment) have PPD.

Or, like me, maybe one of them experienced postpartum psychosis. I was the 1 out of 1,000. I had been previously been diagnosed with Type 1 bipolar disorder. And yet, discussions on postpartum mood disorders never took place.

This needs to change. We need to have these conversations.

One of the big take-aways from the film is that there is a huge disconnect between OB-GYNs and Psychiatrists/Therapists. It’s almost as if neither wants to take responsibility for a mom struggling with a perinatal mood disorder. Part of the reality is that they have very little training in maternal psychiatric disorders. Why not when so many women (1.3 million women annually – more women get postpartum depression than breast cancer ever year) are affected?

The stories you hear will shock you. They will have you in tears. They will rock you to the core.

But they NEED to be heard.

This fantasy of motherhood being the most wonderful, endearing, perfect time of our lives is not reality. Having a baby is the most terrifying, nerve-wracking, anxiety-provoking event in a woman’s life. Everything changes in an instant. Let’s be real here.

And since the professionals don’t understand how to help us, it’s time we take matters into our own hands.

We can speak out and share our stories so that other women and their families can begin to understand the signs and symptoms. So that they won’t be afraid to reach out for help before a tragedy occurs. The more of us who can stand up and say, “I was sick, but I got treatment and I survived. And I tell my story to help others realize they are not alone,” the more lives we will save.

Maternal mental illness is complicated. But until we start talking about it openly, like any other illness in our body – cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, a broken leg, asthma, etc, etc, etc. – things will remain the same.

And we cannot let that happen. We cannot let mothers and babies slip through the cracks.

Please watch this film. Tell your friends and family about it. Share it because you may save a life by sharing it. Start these conversations.

If you’re currently in need of help for a possible perinatal mood disorder, here are some great resources to start with:

Postpartum Progress – the most widely-read website on postpartum mood disorders, also a non-profit organization focused on increasing awareness and providing peer support

Postpartum Support Interntional – if you need someone to talk to immediately, call the PSI Warmline at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)

and if you’re in the Washington, DC metro area, the DMV-PMH Resource Guide is a directory of specialized mental health providers for pregnancy and postpartum compiled by an incredible Labor & Delivery nurse and her team

The only way we’ll change the fact that postpartum mood disorders are motherhood’s biggest secret is by raising our voices collectively. Together we can force this change. These are secrets we no longer need to keep.