I Get By with a Little Help from Total Strangers…

imgres

 

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite bloggers Blahpolar of Blahpolar Diaries

https://bipolardyke.wordpress.com

 

I’m sitting near Woman’s Best Friend at this very moment.  My sweet puppy Lucy is reclining next to me while I hunt and peck slowly, groggy from taking a bit too much Seroquel the previous night.  Lucy sidles up next to my foot so that we’re touching skin-to-fur.  I can feel her soft warmth as she snoozes, and our being together is one of the best parts of my day.  

I want to apologize for whining repeatedly about my difficulties with keeping up healthy friendships – both in the flesh and online.  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about how lonely I’ve felt in this conservative mountain town ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2007.  I’m going to whine a little bit more, but please bear with me.  The whining might will eventually end! 

As Kathy Griffin says, “Here’s the thing.”

(I don’t love everything about her, but I do think she’s funny.)

devil

 

After one of my few local, longtime friends “S.” unexpectedly moved 500 miles away in December, I felt even lonelier.   Years ago S. experienced postpartum depression and she took medication for it.  I never felt for a second that she judged me for having a mental illness and taking meds.  S. often told me that I meant a great deal to her, not because I was needy and I required her to do that, but because she wanted to shower me with gratitude!  

I knew that if I mentioned to S. that I was experiencing major fatigue from a medication adjustment, she’d immediately offer to help me.  Indeed, I had medicated-related fatigue hit me hard last fall, and lo and behold, S. was there for me from the start.  I didn’t have to ask her to help me – she figured that out on her own.

Empathy and offers of help didn’t occur to several other friends who I informed about my fatigue.  It’s possible these women had never taken psych meds, and therefore they couldn’t imagine what that level of med-related exhaustion was like.  But perhaps they were taking meds in secret.  I don’t know.  I wondered, but I never felt comfortable enough to ask any of them if they were taking medication for mood disorders.  There are numerous moms who still don’t want to tell their mommy friends if they take meds due to the insidious, ever-present stigma. But I digress.

Now more than ever before, I’ve wanted to form friendships with women who have psych diagnoses, who take meds, and who are willing to share that information with me.  Being the only one in my IRL circle who’s “out” with my stigmatized mental illness has made me weary. It may sound limiting to focus on being friends with other “labeled” women, but that’s what I want.  Hell, I’m not asking anyone else to do it!  

I knew that in order to meet women living with mental illness, I’d have to take the plunge and create another support group for those with mood disorders.  Been there. Done that.  I made a shitload of mistakes in the doing, but at least I learned a thing to two! 

This time around I’ll have the group primarily be about having fun and nurturing friendships; I don’t want it to be a replacement for intense group therapy. We won’t just sit on our butts either – we’ll go on hikes and embark on other fitness/nature activities. After all, I am a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and P.A.C.E. Circuit class instructor!  

To that end, last month when I spied a 50% special on Meetup.com to create a group, I made a split-second decision to sign up, just like Meetup wanted me to do!  I found out after I signed up that the 50% deal was for first-time Meetup organizers only, which I was not.  However, I emailed Meetup and told them I thought anyone could get the 50% off, and a friendly customer service representative gave me the special anyway. I took that as a good omen.

The last time I tried forming a Meetup group it didn’t go so well.  I made that group’s requirements far too limited (i.e. a group for moms with bipolar who lived in this county).  As a result, only one person applied who lived two hours away, and she wasn’t a mom.   

Within just two days of my new group’s inception, I got an awesome, strong response. Twelve women are confirmed, and there are two members pending!  I went a little gung-ho on promoting it, so I’ve made a waitlist.  I’ve learned from facilitating a DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) support group with 22 women in attendance that having too many people is counterproductive and overwhelming for everyone.  

I felt sad that two members who wanted to join my new group were concerned that people from other Meetups would notice they were in a group for those with mood disorders.   Of course they were scared of the stigma of mental illness, and I completely understood why they wanted confidentiality.  I explained how they could hide their personal Meetup information from others online,and that made all the difference.   I was reminded yet again that despite the strides being made in mental health advocacy, there is a LONG way to go!

We don’t have our first meeting until the end of February.  I’ve scouted out a peaceful outdoor location near a State Park.  This area has gorgeous redwood-lined trails where I’ve spent hundreds of hours hiking alone. For safety reasons, that wasn’t the greatest idea, although I carried my cell phone and pepper spray.  I’ll take a friend along from now on, since unfortunately Lucy isn’t allowed in the State Park. 😦  

Anyway, a couple days ago I was informed of a mountain lion sighting in the general area where I plan to hold the group.  The big cat wasn’t in the exact same spot as our meeting place, but I had to laugh.  Was this some sort of sign?  

The mountain lion’s appearance has created quite a stir in my two neighborhood Facebook groups. Several members have shared a ton of mountain lion lore with the others.  I figure that chances are good that if we have a large group of women meeting together, we won’t be attacked by mountain lions.  There are humane actions we can take to scare it/them away – if you’re interested, check out this local link:

http://santacruzpumas.org/mountain-lion-faq/

imgres-1

 

While I’m scared to organize yet another support group, I have a much better feeling about this one than I did with the other four support groups I ran.  Despite all my problems (including social anxiety and the Seroquel sleepies) I’m in a better place to do this sort of thing than I ever have been before.  

My daily “Dr. Mohmmad Alsuwaidan” workouts are helping me tremendously.  Plus, once I get to know the other group members in person, you can bet I’ll ask them for help, and recruit a co-organizer or two.  Going it alone is foolish!  

I’ll return next week to write about…drum roll please…WRITING!  I might be posting earlier than my regular day on February 6th, so stay tuned.  

Thanks for your wonderful comments.  I swear that when I read each one I get a little spike of serotonin in my brain.  I’ve read articles that suggest that a serotonin spike actually does happen! So don’t hold back if you want to comment, and if it’s only a two words, I bet the serotonin is still activated. 🙂

I’ll see ya round!

love,

Dyane 

 

I had to include this classic – I’ve always loved this song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y39MjhVrf_Y

images

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “I Get By with a Little Help from Total Strangers…

  1. I’m sorry about the serotonin fatigue; I had that for a long time. It was totally unfun. (That isn’t a word, but it should be.) I hope your group has many wonderful, mountain-lion-less hikes. Around here, I don’t think we have mountain lions. We do have armadillos–I once ran over one–and mosquitoes–I always get bitten–and coyotes, though I haven’t had any close encounters with that last one.

    1. Thanks so much for reading this rambling, typo-filled post (I re-read it for fun yesterday. I didn’t edit it as much as I usually do before I posted it, and boy, was I was embarrassed. I fixed a couple things…oh well!) I totally appreciate your taking time to comment!

      I agree that “unfun” *should be a word. You and I have every right to use it freely. When you mentioned running over an armadillo, you piqued my interest. That couldn’t have been pleasant for either of you. 😦

      We have coyotes who live here too, and they make occasional appearance. A few nights ago one started howling around 2 or 3 A.M. (of course), waking me up and freaking out Lucy! I should count my blessings that at least the coyote remained outside the house, and didn’t serenade us from my bedside. 😉

      1. The armadillo was already dead, thankfully. But it must’ve been quite challenged in the common sense department, because it was attempting to cross a busy five lane road. It made it to the center lane, met its fate, and because I was about to turn into a parking lot from that center lane, I had to run over it with the SUV. I almost lost control of the vehicle! And I had to wash off nasty, unmentionable stuff from the SUV afterward. Yuck!

      2. I’m so glad you were okay – that sounds super-scary, and you handled the car extremely well! As for washing off the ick….all I can write is “Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwww!!!”

  2. Good for you for getting out there and starting up a new group. I hope it’s a success and you find the social circle you are looking for.

  3. What a great idea! All the group type things I have been to are generally organised by mental health services and very structured. Which is great too, and very helpful, I won’t deny that. But It would be great to be a part of something where group members actively choose to participate, and there isn’t one non mentally ill “leader” teaching us about how we should be. Good on you for organising it, I’m sure it will be great! Pity I live, you know, on the other side of the world or I would totally be there (lion or no lion) 🙂 from Finding My Sunshine (silly WordPress won’t let me log in!)

    1. Thanks for your lovely encouragement! If the mountain lions show up at our meeting, it would definitely make for a good story! I’ll going to read up on my mountain lion tips before I go, as it’s good idea to do that around here, group or no group.

      They’re lucky they don’t need support groups or bipolar med like some of us humans do, those cheeky beasts! I’ll let you know how it goes. I wish you could join us and bring some of that yummy, healthy mango coconut dessert you blogged about recently! (That salad looked amazing too!) I’m getting hungry now! :)))

    1. Thank you sweetie – you’ve always been there for me from day one! Love and hugs to you!!!!!! That telephone pole sign in your blog was too funny! Have you called that #???

  4. As, I promise you, I was reading your post, very interesting, amazing idea, fun group, I love it. I think, that you are doing a wonderful job, I am impress about that. I will keep you following your post. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! ..by the way I live to close Cougar Mountain, Thank you for the information.

    1. Aww, thank you for reading this post, and for your kind words! Yes, my main goal for this group is to have fun, whether or not the mountain lions join us. Have you seen any cougars by Cougar Mountain???? Stay safe!!!!

      1. You are welcome!! Well..I never seen any cougars by Cougar Mountain, but I know people, that had the opportunity to see them, one year ago, I saw a big bear, really to close of us, at that moment, I picked up my daughter very slowly, in silence looking for a safe place..I felt scare …not for me…for my little one..thank you!!

    1. Thanks beautiful! I would LOVE you in the group – I’d ask you to sing a song for us to get us going. I’m not kidding. *That’s* how I want this group to roll. 🙂 Thanks for reading, thinking of you and sending you lots of love!!!!

      1. Thanks so much Dy Dy, haha I’d love to sing a song to start off the group. That would be soo fun! Love to you too as well as my very best wishes with the group.

    1. I LOVED your comment, Tori – it’s amazing what Meetup groups are out there.

      There are SO many different ones ranging from the common to the bizarre. (“Cuddling” Meetups – hmmmmm, that one’s not for me, thank you!, A “20 Women & One Naked Man” Meetup, which was supposedly a painting group!, and a Meetup that was a beginning surfing group for those with mental illness in Australia!)

      I hope you find something cool to consider attending – please let me know if you do! Thanks for your well wishes too. :))))) Love your blog!

  5. I have so many things to say in response to this post!
    1. I feel that fatigue alone is misunderstood- a good friend of mine has severe fatigue from various chronic illnesses, and everyone says she’s making it up.
    2. With that being said, I too, have chronic fatigue. I’m seeing specialists to figure out if it’s thyroid, autoimmune, or whatever.. but a doc did mention it could be my meds. But I don’t want to go off my meds, so what’s a girl to do?
    3. Do you mind if I join your Meetup group? I’m super interested. Where do you live? I don’t know California very well lol, but if it’s relatively close to LA, I’ll try my best to make the in-person meetup! I live 2300 miles away from my support group & family — I really need something like that here. 🙂

    Best,
    Lyndsay Marvin

    1. WOW – you’ve seen one in the wild? All I’ve seen was a bobcat and I thought it was just a “big kitty” at the time! 😉 I’m glad you were not regarded as a Mountain Lion Scooby Snack – please stay with us, I really need you as my kindred spirit friend!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kitt!

      I was just told by someone that what I’m doing with this group is “dangerous” because these women have mental illness, and I’m not a “trained professional”. That was the high point of our conversation, and it ended in my getting very upset and hurt. I was called “bipolar” in tones that made it sound as if I was carrying bubonic plague. I blame the stigma of mental illness for the person’s attitude. 😦

      I made sure to screen each prospective member, asking if she was under a doctor’s care. I made it clear that the group was in no way a substitute for therapy, etc. etc. I have two good friends coming with me and if the group becomes “dangerous” (!!!) they’ll help me. I’ve led groups before both with and without a trained professional, and frankly (no offense to professionals) the groups without the pro. went more smoothly – I don’t know why!

      I’m all the more determined to make this group a success. I am creating it for selfish reasons, but I know that it will hopefully help most or all of the other members. Fingers are crossed! It helps me so much to know you’re there for moral support and that you believe it me. Xx

      1. Who the f*ck gave you that feedback? They are full of shit (ignorant beyond belief). You do not plan of doing therapy. Therapy can bring up intense feelings. Support is not therapy.

      2. You said it, sister!!! I joked with Craig that I will write a fake blog post that mentions how three members brought knives to the first meeting, one showed up naked expecting an orgy, while another brought her archery kit! I will tell you a bit more in a PM on Facebook!

      3. I am laughing out loud. I’m upstairs in our bedroom with the sliding door to our balcony open (screen is shut). The dogs are looking out, listening to the neighbors. Just got a whine. Thumper wants to play with the neighbors (or eat them, or attack them).

  6. Aha no doubt l called you lady! I mean a certified instructor an much more. Oh princess Dy ( to separate from Princess Di of wales right?) l wish l were nearby to either join your group even if am not on meds, or just to hike along with you in addition to your pepper spray 🙂
    Ok lady, em, now, em, the title of the post, and the content, em, 🙂 was that due to the whinning or low level of serontin currently? Whatever, but plahpolar my ‘blahpedia’ was identified by my modest self as a heroine long ago. She deserves a special place for real. Ok lady, my comment musn’t now give u an overdose of chuckles lest you choke and miss out on the more serontin (bear with me if l spell it wrong ) l was hoping to generate 🙂

    1. Ok l just checked again and it should be serotonin ok Ayo? Learn how to read spellings and memorize and not blame it on your poor smart ass ” of a phone. Yeah l was whinning to my own self and Ayo is my pet name and gosh this damn phone keeps making typo glitches, now l wish l’d brought my laptop? Whatever, get off Dy’s post and go do a whinning post on ur blog ok? Thanks Dy, l feel better having typed them out as they roamed my poor head n shaggy mind

    2. I like princess Dy! You can call me lady too, I like both! I too wish you could be with us at the group – I love your energy and your outlook and we would be lucky to have you in our midst. I’m so glad you & I agree that Blahpolar is truly special….. like YOU! Thanks for writing and you can whine here anytime – I’m happy with whatever you feel like sharing!!!!

      1. Thanks lady, this is indeed support. I have that energy sometimes and yet some other times l hit rock bottom my way and just prefee my bed. I think we all are just trying to cheer each other up to keep trying to “hang in there”. Kudos to your group, maybe l could start one here im Brussels but l don’t see gathering more than myself due to my language and colour?

  7. This is awesome! Good for you. I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately regarding friends. I’m not brave enough to start my own group, but maybe I’ll check out Meetup. See if there is anything promising in my area.

    1. Thanks so much – if there was already a Meetup around here I’d join in a heartbeat. I like to check out the bipolar-related Meetups worldwide & there are lots of cool-sounding ones. Let me know if you do find anything and I’ll encourage you to check it out. (I’ll be a gentle nag, I promise….) p.s. I’m so not brave. I’m the opposite, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

  8. Awwwww thanks Dy. Thats great news – but dont get nommed by that mtn lion. If you do, film it.

    Glad you blogged, I always enjoy your posts 🙂

    Looking fwd to tales of lions … er I mean the meetup. I always get them confused.

    X

    1. I laughed my ass off when I read your comment about filming me if the mountain lion fancied a Dy snack, Blah – I think it would be an historic event to have a support group/mountain lion snuff film – it would surely go viral, dontcha think? XO (I too get Meetups and Lion tales/tails confused all the time. I just blame everything on the Snooze-o-quel!)

      1. It would totally go viral! Try and point the phone/camera into the mouth before you get nommed. Wish I could zoom along to your meetup, I’m sure it’ll be a good one. Afterwards the lion will probably be all “meh, too chewy – this one exercised too much.” 😉

  9. Sounds really great! Wish I lived closer, altho the mountain lion sighting just might put me off. since I’m not there it’s a non-issue. Anyway HAVE FUN and hope you will write about it afterward!

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s