Coming Full Circle

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Years ago when I suffered with unrelenting bipolar depression, I wanted to connect with other people who understood what I was going through.  During that time I wasn’t using the internet very often.  The internet, in the form of online bipolar support groups and forums, could have helped me feel less alone with my agony, but it simply wasn’t on my radar. 

To this day I don’t know how I did it, but I formed a chapter of the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).  First I had to raise $125 to create a chapter. (I wish that DBSA could have underwritten the cost, but unfortunately they didn’t have the funds.) I had no money to spare, so I approached a popular Halloween haunted house located in my town.  Each year they selected a community organization to receive its proceeds, and I qualified for their generous donation!

Although I was very depressed, I hadn’t lost every bit of my sense of humor.  I found it funny that of all things a haunted house helped create a group dedicated to bipolar & depression support. I LOVE Halloween – it’s my favorite holiday, so I was pleased with the outcome.

With the credibility of the DBSA behind me and with access to their resources, I created a free support group for women with mood disorders.  As you can imagine, it definitely was NOT the right time for me to take on such a demanding project.  I was a complete mess with my bipolar disorder, but I felt motivated to form something that could help with my sense of isolation and help others as well.

The silver lining of that experience was that I learned what to do and what not to do regarding support group leadership, promotion, and management.  I contacted a therapist who agreed to accompany me pro bono to the first meeting who could give me me feedback.  I found a church that let me use their community room for free.  I publicized the DBSA group all over our county, and I drew upon my promotions experience which I gained while working at a Silicon Valley special event production company.

I contacted Peter, the young, ambitious editor of the Press Banner, our local newspaper.  I interviewed with Peter despite the depression and on top of that, horrid social anxiety. I still don’t know how I pulled that off either!  Peter wrote a feature article complete with a color photo of me and my girls, so I came out to my community in a big way about my mood disorder. Every residence receives the Press Banner in its mailbox each week, and almost everyone reads it.  I didn’t let the fear of social stigma stop me – I was focused like a laser on the DBSA group.  I think that knowing I’d be meeting women with mood disorders gave me the strength to reveal my own struggle in newsprint.

Here’s a snippet of the article at BP (Bipolar) Magazine on Facebook, as the article is no longer available in the Press Banner archives.  My girls are so little in this photo, unlike their Mom!  I wasn’t exercising at the time, and I was eating comfort food all day long, so I was much heavier back then.  

I love the optimistic title Peter chose for his article: “A New Day Dawning

https://www.facebook.com/bpMagazine/posts/214165082055695

Unfortunately after several months of DBSA meetings, I became too depressed to function.  Another member took over the leadership, but she was unable to sustain the group until I got well enough to return and didn’t renew the chapter.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t finished with forming support groups!  A couple years later I made the ultimately disastrous decision to taper off lithium.  When I first started tapering and became hypomanic, I created a new, independent group with a “natural, holistic” theme.  While I tried desperately to be able to live without medication, it didn’t work.  I relapsed and I had to be hospitalized for 3 weeks.  

After that nightmare hospitalization experience, I began seeing a new psychiatrist.  He was the one who eventually figured out medications that I credit with saving my life. I resumed taking lithium during the hospital stay, but when I was discharged I was still depressed.  My psychiatrist added an MAOI (monamine oxidase inhibitor) called Parnate, and Seroquel for agitated insonia.  This is the cocktail that restored my creativity and my quality of life.  Yep, I’m a walking pharmacy, but it’s totally worth it.

So next year I may try once again to offer a free support group for women in my area. I’d make it simple. It can be independent of the DBSA and I can do it through Meetup and/or Craigslist.  As far as I know, there are no support groups for women where I live in the mountains, and I know there’s definitely a need.   I know there are other women living with mood disorders in my community who are “closeted” and who would appreciate connecting with others for encouragement, a social outlet, and more.

What does “Coming Full Circle” have to do with anything?  Well, today the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance featured a profile about me called “Life Unlimited” on their website.  Here’s the link:

http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_life_unlimited#Dyane_Leshin_Harwood

I’ve come a long way since I formed the DBSA chapter.  Someday after I finish writing my book, maybe I’ll swing by my favorite haunted house, apply for another grant, and bring a DBSA chapter back to life for our county.  You never know! 😉

 

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24 thoughts on “Coming Full Circle

  1. Your perseverance is inspiring. I know that in my most critical time of being newly diagnosed and on meds having a bipolar support group was an enormous help. I didn’t feel so alone, and they were all there to offer their hand to each other. I hope you form a group and that it’s a runaway success.

  2. I commend you for your efforts to offer and gain support for mental health. A friend of mine and I have recently begun a faith-based mental health recovery group that has gotten off to a reasonably good start. We hope to grow in depth and breadth in the coming year.

    1. Tony, I am so proud of you for starting the group! That’s wonderful….and it’s not easy to do. But I’m sure the group will thrive and deepen in 2015 and I wish you the *best* of luck with it!!!

  3. Congratulations, Dyane! Great piece on DBSA’s Life Unlimited Stories. You are very much a member of this very large support group, the online community of mental health bloggers. Thank you for your contributions. Thank you for your unwavering support. Thank you for your friendships.

    1. Thanks to the one who inspires me THE most via the blogosphere: Kitt O’Malley of kittomalley.com! I don’t name my beloved NordicTrack elliptical after just anyone! It was you who helped me embrace the blogosphere as my virtual support group.
      I love it and I love you! Happy holidays and may 2015 be the year for us to have that magnififabulous sushi lunch and dark chocolate dessert I keep promising you.

  4. You are so inspiring. I’m happy to get to read your posts and experiences. I’m always excited to get a comment from you because you are well written and you really do care. Thank you for fighting the stigma so that people like me feel better about sharing our struggles.

    I can’t wait to read your book when it’s published!
    Take care,
    Kennedy 🙂

    1. Kennedy, you’re the bee’s knees! It made me so happy to read your compliment – I don’t take what you wrote lightly. I do care – you’re 100% right about that! I am very lucky to be connected with you, and I look forward to reading the latest on your blog!!! keep in touch – I’ll be away for a couple weeks, but I’ll catch up on your blog when I return! (((hugs))) from Dy & Miss Lucy

    1. Thanks for reading – I hope that 2015 turns out to be a wonderful year for you, with restored energy. I know how tough that is. 😦 Take care & all my best!!! Dy

    1. YOU inspire me!!!!! I’m so sorry it’s a rough time for you – I send you huge hugs and the hope it gets much easier STAT!!!!! Remember you can vent your frustrations to your devoted readers, and you’ll get support from us…..XOXO

    1. You will most definitely get a copy! I want to hire you as my research associate for when I get to writing Part II! I would also like to get Lil’ Kim and K. Michelle to endorse it – do you think they’d be willing?

      p.s. thank you

      p.p.s. just found this quote that I thought you’d appreciate:
      “That chick is a bag of pecans! A trail mix!” Kim said, jokingly comparing Michelle to the “nut that you put back” in a mixed back of treats.

      1. Lol kim and michelle need to be a cartoon or something. I bet they’d be totally stoked to endorse your book, if they weren’t to busy having intellectual debates with each other. Omg pecans … lol! And I’m totally up for the research gig.

        There are no support groups in my nearest city 😦

    2. I LOVE the cartoon idea! I guarantee it would be a hit! I bet they’d want a whole chapter written about them in the book (My plan is to feature a few profiles in there) plus lots of photos highlighting their magnificent beauty, of course!

      That’s too bad there aren’t any groups near you. You could start one….does that idea appeal to you at all? A dog-friendly group? It doesn’t have to be a touchy feely group – it can be purely social. I’ve seen so many different kinds on Meetup when I’ve searched groups using the keyword word “bipolar” – there are some serious ones, and there are the really funny, creative ones- I’d like to check out one of those but a lot of them are in the U.K or Australia. A bit far for CA.

      1. I’d probably benefit most from the touchy feely kind of group at this stage in my processing. I’m not going to start one – my nearest city is 45km away and I am not in the right space. Lolol so I’ll just whine and do nothing about it haha. It’s ok though, I have you guys out here and my pharmacist is bipolar too.

    3. Online support is nothing to be sneezed at – it’s wonderful and I feel like I’ve only just started to tap into it, which is why I’m freaking out at being mostly internet-less over the next two weeks!!! At least I know I have your blog and my other faves to return home to. Starting a group is stressful and even though i wrote I’d like to do it again, I’d rather join an established group! :))) I go back and forth with that stuff. :0

      And please….whine anytime! Better out than in! 😉

  5. Awwwww – thank you Vic! Online advocacy has been fulfilling, but to form a group and look into the eyes of other people who suffer with bipolar disorder – there’s nothing like it. We had over 20 people show up to the 1st meeting, and yes, that was overwhelming. But it was also a validation that I wasn’t the only one in the world with a mood disorder.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble – someday I *will* send you a signed copy with gold glitter sprinkled on it!! :)))))))) Sending you hugs as always, Dy

    p.s. congrats on your latest award – you deserve it!

  6. Such a great and inspiring story. You have done so much more than just coming full circle. You have grown and expanded that circle so that others can share in your experiences.

    When your book is published, I will be one of the first to buy a copy. Just promise me I get a signed/personalized copy?!

    😉

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