The Peer Support Group ROCKED!

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Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

The peer support group was a wonderful experience for everyone!!!

I just had to let you guys know how it went right away! Knowing that some of you in various corners of the world have been rooting & even lighting candles for me/the group has been nothing short of precious! (I will never be able to think of that word again without thinking of LOTR! – the awesome blogger McKarlie would most likely agree with me on that point!) I could not have done this without the encouragement and help of a local, dark chocolate-loving friend who I shall call “Anonymous”.

I’m going to keep this post short…well, I can’t just post that teeny bit. I must also let you know that even though I’m wiped out from hosting, I get a mysterious slight second wind at this time of day (5:30 p.m.) – it’s Exercise Time! I know in my gut that there’s no way I could pull the support group off without my daily dose of exercise per Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidelines! (I’ll be sharing his information with the support group, of course.)

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidance, which is from his blog at http://www.kuwaitmood.com, has become my credo. If you haven’t read this yet, please read it. Ask me any questions in the comments, as I’m a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and while I’m not a pdoc, I know a thing or two about exercise for mood stability/improvement! Okay, that’s more than enough for this week. Off I go to sweat to INXS on Pandora!

:))) Dyane

EXERCISE & MOOD – From Science to Action by the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

There is probably no one word that can sum up what people want in terms of emotional or mental health. Whether it be clients I meet in the clinic with a mood or anxiety disorder or a friend or acquaintance asking for an opinion in a social setting, the theme of the question is common but each one is different. However I think there is one common thread that joins the questions and ONE word that captures 99% of what is ideally sought STABILITY.
Those with recurring depressive episodes or mood swings want mood stability. Others with anxiety, nervousness or worry want calm stability. The frazzled, stressed, workaholics want relaxed stability. For many achieving stability would make them happier, more productive, more sociable and have a better quality of life. I don’t claim that exercise is the only way to achieve stability. There is no panacea. The correct treatment of all of the above situations is an individually tailored combination that could include medications, talk-therapy, lifestyle changes and other components but should ALWAYS include exercise.
Now let’s make the leap from the science we reviewed in the previous blog posts to action. How do we “dose” exercise? What kind of exercise? What time should I exercise? For how long? How do I start and how do keep going?
For an easy reference I will summarize the answer in one sentence then explain the details and the fine tuning will come later. Remember here we are talking about the ‘dosing’ of exercise that changes the biology of the brain and not the number of packs in your Abs! Although that might be a welcome side effect – if you are trying to achieve that talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY. ! ! ! Exercise for 30 minutes 6 days a week at a high-impact level. ! ! That’s it simple, right? Ok ok I know it is not that easy. So let me explain further by breaking it down into 3 rules.
Rule #1
– Exercise: For brain health exercise can be any type that suits you. It does NOT have to be weight-lifting or running on a treadmill. You do NOT have to go to a gym or use a workout DVD. Do any exercise that you enjoy. Swim, run, hike, climb, lift weights, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling and on and on. Adapt the exercise to your body if your capacity is limited by physical needs or injuries, but anyone can do some sort of exercise unless you are fully paralyzed.
Rule #2
– 30 minutes 6 days a week: The bottom-line is that the research shows this is the average of the dose needed for the brain to adapt. Now let’s break this rule down. First reactions are usually – 6 days?! That’s a lot! Yes it is, but we are only asking for 30 minutes. Think about it, how many hours a day do you sit at the internet or TV? 30 minutes is very short. In fact, DON’T do more than 30 minutes (unless you have a routine and have been doing this for years). Doing more will lead to inconsistency and skipping workout days. The science shows it is far better (at least for the brain) to be consistent in exercising most days of the week rather than spending an hour exercising 2 or 3 days a week. In fact, for you gym-goers if you think about it (and research also supports this) if you are spending more than 30 minutes at the gym then your are chatting and resting too much. Thirty minutes makes it harder to come up with excuses such as: There is no time! or I’m too busy! If you work a lot or travel find 30 minutes to do some stretches, pushups, air-squats, jumping jacks etc. 30 focused minutes is all you need, Done! Six days too much? Fine five days is the absolute minimum, but better to aim for 6 so that if you fall short then you have a day to save for later.
Rule # 3
– High Impact: For the scientists reading this that is 16 kcal/kg/week. What?? English please! Ok so here is how I explain high-impact to people: For most of the 30 minutes you are exercising you should be sweating and it should be difficult to speak in complete sentences without needing to catch your breath. This means you work hard for 30 minutes then you are done. Walking doesn’t count unless it meets the criteria above. Commuting does not count! That is your normal energy expenditure. Remember we are trying to change the brain and you can’t do that without effort.
Last few tips:
• You can exercise anytime in the day that fits your schedule. I find first thing in the morning works best because it is the time of day with the least demands on your schedule. Plus there is evidence this timing may have a more efficient effect than other timings. If it means you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier then do it and just sleep 30 minutes earlier at night. No big deal. But if it doesn’t work just exercise at any time that’s the most important thing. Get it done.
• You can either start slow and build up to 6 days a week over a number of weeks or just pick a week and start. If you have started and stopped exercise routines in the past you will find this one is easier to maintain because it is more flexible. You can do anything as long as you break a sweat. Jumping rope is great if you don’t have a lot of equipment and can’t go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it’s only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
• If you skip days and don’t exercise at least 5 days in a week don’t be discouraged and go back down to zero. Just start again. It is normal to stumble. I do all the time.
The important thing is to keep the 30 minutes 6 days a week in your head and keep as close to that as you can. But the closer you are to that ‘dose’ the better the result will be.

– Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

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I am an Area Girl: Post dedicated to my dear Lady Dyane

This brief post is an amazingly beautiful, touching tribute from my virtual Fairy Godmother Marie Abanga.  Marie’s compelling tale of her journey & her vibrant photos (not to mention the other parts) brought tears to my eyes.

I couldn’t ask for a better way to start today.

Marie, you beautiful lady, thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for this post. I just wrote the group’s agenda and during my welcome, I’m mentioning that you’re lighting a candle in faraway Brussels at the very moment we begin to help set us up for success!

I’m so deeply moved.  I rarely re-blog as you know, but I felt compelled to share the love and positivity that you, my “Area Lady”/Fairy Godmother possess.

Love, love, love,

Lady Dy,

a.ka. Area Girl

p.s.  the line “Their language and writing are another Discovery Channel of their own” is beyond-the-beyond! Fantastic!

p.p.s. The photo of you drinking the special Ethiopian coffee is sublime. I want some now! (please.) 🙂

 

Marie Abanga's Blog

Who is a proud Area Girl? Who is a proud Area Girl?

There are two main reasons why I dedicate this post to my dear Lady Dy over at Birth of a New Brain. First of all, she calls me a global traveler (l don’t travel that much to be honest, but am happy to be called one because l sometimes travel that far in my head). Secondly, I hope the post inspires her ahead of her support group meeting this afternoon. So my lady, if you face this meeting like an Area Girl, you’re sure to survive and why not thrive.

And so my story goes, I so was sent on a mission to Abyssinia (I learnt there that it was the Amharic name for Ethiopia). This Country is so unique in several ways. Ok, for a start their calendar is 5 or so years behind “ours “. Their time is 6 hours behind…

View original post 348 more words

Support Group Nerves & How-To’s – Part One

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As thunderstorms roll in tomorrow afternoon, I’m meeting with a bunch of women I’ve never met before.

Each of them has a mood disorder including bipolar disorder, anxiety and/or depression.

This is not my the first time meeting strangers at a mood disorders support group.  I’ve been around the support group block three times before as a creator/facilitator.  I know I can get through this meeting in one piece! But I’m still nervous – it’s a similar feeling to stage fright because I’ll be in front of at least 36 unfamiliar eyeballs for part of our meeting.  

A ginormous plus is that I have three women attending who I do know – I’ve been friends with two of them for years, and they’ve stood by me during all my mood swings.  One of these gals has graciously offered to be my timekeeper during our self-introductions.  I could easily ramble on for ten minutes – just look at my blog posts if you doubt me – but if everyone does that, then we’ll have no time to talk about other topics.  Each member will have a few minutes to introduce herself to the group, and a way is needed to track her amount of time.  

Enter my faithful friend with her timer.  We also have a bull whip as backup.  (Just kidding.)

As with planning and executing any special occasion, be it a wedding or a music festival, you can’t rest easy thinking that the event will roll out effortlessly.  I planned our wedding and I used to work in large-scale special event production, so I know that for a fact. There’s also a given that something unforeseen will happen.  That’s what freaks me out the most, but I must kick that fearsome thought out of my brain and tell myself I can handle it, and ask for help too.

At my other support groups I arranged for us to meet at church social rooms or at non-profit community centers.  That worked out pretty well (although some of the complicated alarm systems totally frazzled me!), but those rooms were sterile or had a churchy vibe, which is a turn-off to some attendees.  So this time around, with visions of spring, I assumed we could meet at a beautiful spot in the redwoods.  I had it all plotted out until a few days ago.

Enter unpredictable weather.  I naively thought that rain wouldn’t be likely, and if it did rain I’d have a Plan B for an indoor location.  Unfortunately all the possible Plan B locations I scouted said they couldn’t help me. 😦  So Plan B is now my small home (which I had deep-cleaned back in November, but you’d never know that now.)  I’ll do some basic cleaning, but I’ll try my best not to wig out.  It’s not like members will walk around with white gloves testing for dust.

It’ll be, um, cozy!

Inspired by forming this group, I wrote my monthly post for the International Bipolar Foundation about forming space alien support groups.  Below is the first section in all its glory…if you’re on the fence of creating a tribe of your own, please check it out.  I’ll let you know how my adventure goes (without sharing details compromising the group’s confidentiality, of course) – I have a hunch it won’t be boring. 

Send me good luck please, and I wish you all a great weekend!!!

XOXO,

Dyane

Thinking of Creating A Support Group? You Can Do It! – Part I

During the past year I received wonderful online support from bipolar-themed social media contacts and bloggers.  As fulfilling as their encouragement was, I also craved real life support, connection and friendships with people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

A peer-to-peer support group is a great place to do just that! 

The bipolar support group located closest to my home is run by the acclaimed organization National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  I found my local NAMI chapter by searching on their website at http://www.nami.org/Find-Support.   However, this particular support group has a Christian-focus (Please note: not all NAMI groups are religious-based). Despite the fact that the support group has a kind, experienced facilitator, it was not the right fit for me. 

As much as I wanted to attend a support group, I knew I had to wait until someone else created a group that fit my interests, or I’d need to form one myself.  Months passed by, and there were still no other local mood disorder support groups in sight.  After much deliberation, I knew the time had come for me to form a bipolar support group. 

Big gulp! 

Now, I should disclose that I’ve created a bipolar support group in the past.  I formed a chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) for our county, and I served as the primary organizer.  Unfortunately after two years I left the chapter when I had a relapse of bipolar depression, and my successor closed the chapter soon after my departure. 

I won’t lie.  Creating and facilitating a bipolar peer-run support group takes work.  I also have social anxiety, so it’s a challenge to take on a leadership role, even among kindred spirits with whom I feel comfortable.  But under the right circumstances, being part of a group of like-minded members is totally worth the effort.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons from my support group experience that makes me hopeful that my new group will thrive over the long-term. (I’ll be sharing those tips with you in my March post.)

Before I did anything, however, I decided to keep the support group logistics as simple as possible.  Instead of re-affiliating with the DBSA, which I don’t rule out doing again in the future, I created a Meetup.com group for the time being.  In Part Two, I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of how I created my Meetup group, and I’ll share how our first meeting turned out, making sure to keep all identifying details of the group confidential.  I’m nervous, but I’m very excited about this new peer-to-peer support group! Stay tuned!

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The link to this post on the International Bipolar Foundation website is: is: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/thinking-creating-support-group-you-can-do-it-part-1)

 

“I’m Not A Mess” (Except When I’m A Mess)

 

 

“I’m Not A Mess” by Dyane

Trigger Warning:

A touch of profanity and silly, embarrassing neck movements 

 

Last Friday I was inspired by the writing of Dr. Walker Karraa, founder of Stigmama.com and author of the bestselling book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  

Dr. Karraa wrote about how the media only portrays women with postpartum mood disorders (PPMD’s) as sad. The reality is that I, along with most women with PPMD’s, use the full range of our emotions.  Many of us don’t walk around 24/7 with gloom and doom expressions.  I came up with my ditty “I’m Not a Mess”, and I felt pretty spunky when I recorded my tune.  Little did I know that I’d become a major mess over the weekend.

Valentine’s Day was beautiful and sunny, but I woke up out of sorts.  The previous night I read a Freshly Pressed post that deeply affected me: Asher’s “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” on My Beautiful Machine.   In a nutshell, I allowed Asher’s post title to trigger me.  I wrote a complaint to WordPress letting them know why I wasn’t thrilled with their selection.

Next, I wrote my own blog post about Asher’s post.  I broke my stringent rule of not waiting a minimum of twenty-four hours to review and publish any post.  Instead, as soon as I finished typing “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?”, I pressed the blue “Publish” button.  Shazam! I had no idea what I was about to stir up.  

I received more comments about “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?” than any of the other 257 posts I’ve written. (Speaking of comments, I apologize for not having responded to comments yet. I will! My apologies!)

If I could re-do Valentine’s weekend, I would have put my energy into doing something else than writing about Asher’s post.  It’s so easy to look back at such events and think, “Hmmmm – that wasn’t good for me, as much as I wanted to hop on my soapbox and pontificate!”   I should have given stinky Lucy a lavender and mint-scented bath instead, or hang out with the girls, or God forbid, work on my book. But nooooooooooo!

Ironically, Asher and I wound up getting in touch with one another after I published my post. He took the high road instead of becoming defensive. I thought he had every right to be huffy, so I was pleasantly surprised by his positive attitude. We both agreed on how much we love the blogosphere, and it was nice to interact with a blogger who could take my criticism with a grain of salt and a cup of compassion.  Asher was willing to re-examine different perceptions of bipolar as gift, as evil incarnate, or somewhere in between…  (You all know how I feel about that! 😉  I was grateful to him.

Moving on….

Then, Saturday evening I became The Devil.  

Valentine’s Day is always weird for me.  For years I’ve pretended that I’m low-maintenance and claimed that I don’t need a mushy card, flowers, high-end chocolate, a nice dinner, and so on. But that has been a blatant lie, and like a volcano, I’ve kept my bubbling, lava-like anger inside of me until I finally burst. 

I didn’t communicate with my husband about my expectations – my first big mistake.  When Valentine’s Day came round, my husband gave me a card, but that was it.  When Craig and I turned in for the night, I made a caustic remark that irritated him more than I thought it would.  He became an ice cube and fell asleep instantly.

Meanwhile, yours truly fumed. I even started crying – it was unusual for me to cry over a rebuff like that, but I felt so hurt and disappointed.  I wanted our evening to be special, or at least have some affection, but there was no hug or kiss goodnight.  Nada.

I couldn’t sleep.

That became a BIG problem.

I took an extra 25 mg of my Seroquel.  I read a book. Still, no sleep in sight.

I fumed some more.  Then I did something extremely rare.  I woke up Craig from his enviable deep sleep.  I told him that I couldn’t sleep.  He didn’t hear my snorts and sniffles; instead he rolled over and he went back to sleep within seconds.

I woke him up again.  The same pattern took place.

I barely slept the rest of the night, and my history has shown that’s disastrous.  Even one night’s lack of sleep messes me up big-time!  The following day I was a zombie and despite another beautiful, sunny day, I stayed in bed. I was exhausted, I was still bottled up with anger  and what was worse was that I felt depressed.  That scared the sh*t out of me, as I hadn’t felt that down in a long time.

I tried taking a nap, but it wasn’t happening.  The only thing that brought me comfort aside from Lucy licking away my tears was watching the sixth season of “Nurse Jackie”.

In the afternoon Craig inadvertently made some noise as I tried in vain to nap. I got out of the bed and met him in the hallway, unable to look him in the eye.

Our girls were at a playdate, and so I let loose like Mt. Vesuvius.  I slammed the door several times, screaming all the while like a banshee about every wrong he ever did me for the past seventeen years of our relationship, and I screeched other things that should only be thought about, but never said out loud in anger.  

I told him that he should have woken up when he heard  me say that I couldn’t sleep, and he should have helped me somehow.  

Ever since my bipolar one kicked in (which, aside from a genetic predisposition to bipolar, was mainly caused by no sleep due to labor), without proper sleep, I become the biggest mess of all time.

My tantrum was so awful that afterwards my throat was bloody.  That evening I took extra Seroquel PRN per my psychiatrist. (Coincidentally PRN stands for the Latin phrase pro re nata, which means “as the situation demands.”) I’m allowed to use Seroquel PRN when faced with acute insomnia.  Thank God I slept through the night.

Craig and I made peace the next morning, and I explained to him that in the future,  if I ever wake him up and indicate I can’t sleep, it’s imperative that I need his assistance.  I should have taken extra Seroquel at the first sign that my insomnia was much worse than usual, but rage and sorrow clouded my judgement.  If Craig had urged me to take the medicine, I could have nipped the cycle in the bud.

This is no rocket science-like realization, but it took our having that kind of argument to realize that as someone with bipolar one, we can’t screw up even one night of my sleep if we can help it.  And yes, it needs to be a “we”.  

The best valentine I could ask for from my husband, bar none, is mental health support. When it’s obvious that I’m emotionally disturbed at bedtime (a precarious time because if I’m upset, I don’t sleep…) I need him to pay close attention, even if he’s tired and/or mad at me.  I need him to check in with me, and suggest I take extra medication if I haven’t done so already.

We learned a sober lesson from this Valentine’s Day.  Next year I’ll remember to ask for what I want instead of repress my feelings. I don’t expect a diamond ring or roses, but I do expect communication, kindness and proactiveness from my partner.

 

Literally right after I finished writing this post, I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation Facebook announcement of a new app called “Aware” creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder.  Check out what it does below…

http://www.meganharley.com/#!aware/c1u5g

 

Aware is a wristband worn at night. It is unique in the sense that it is specifically aimed at people living with bipolar disorder, providing a way to measure, monitor and manage their sleep to ultimately become aware before a possible relapse as sleep acts as a prominent bio-marker in people with bipolar disorder.

 ‘Aware’ is about exactly what the title suggests, creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder with sleep being a prominent bio-marker in terms of managing the disorder ” After many intense interviews and observations it was apparent that sleep has a major effect on bipolar disorder relapses and eventual hospitalization.

 This then led to the influential design ‘Aware’ which is a wristband worn at night, enabling a method to measure,monitor and manage their sleep to become aware of a possible relapse and aim to prevent it from happening.

 

 

 

 

Do YOU think bipolar disorder is a gift?

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Sooooooo, my friends, I usually just post once a week, but I can’t help posting once more.

I’ve gotten into a relatively new habit of checking out the Word Press Freshly Pressed selections.

On Thursday I spotted this post in the line-up:

https://mybeautifulmachine.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/bipolar-as-unexpected-gift/

While I was genuinely glad that the topic of bipolar disorder attracted the attention of the WordPress editorial staff, I was also disappointed.

Why?

Because, because, because, because…(and I know some of you will disagree with me on this point, but I still love you!)

I can’t stomach calling bipolar disorder a gift.  My Dad had bipolar disorder, and he didn’t think it was a gift either!  

I guess when it comes to mental illness, my attitude of non-gratitude runs in the family!

(And I wonder why Oprah won’t return my phone calls about being interviewed on her

“Super Soul Sunday” show!!!)

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I’ve read numerous bipolar-themed memoirs and articles over the past decade. I observed in those works that a sizable portion of the writers who felt their bipolar disorder to be a gift didn’t have children.  I couldn’t help but notice that the author of the Freshly Pressed blog piece doesn’t have children.  I feel that if asked, most children who have been adversely affected by their parent’s bipolar disorder would not consider the mental illness as a gift.  

Other people who consider their bipolar disorder to be a gift are profoundly helped by their belief.  Some of these “others” are my friends or acquaintances who I admire very much.  Please – I don’t mean to offend you.  We can agree to disagree on this matter.  I won’t write about it much more; as you can see, I’m getting it out of my system today.  To tell you the truth, I feel like a shit for not thinking the same way as you/them.

But back to the Freshly Pressed blog post!  I skimmed the “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” post’s comments so far, and I didn’t recognize a single soul from my beloved bipolar blogging community.  I was surprised about that!  I wanted to see what y’all thought.  I also noticed that not a single person to date has written to voice any disagreement with the premise that bipolar is a gift.  That gave me pause; I’ll write more about that later.

Take a look at the Freshly Pressed post.  

What do you think?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

XO,

Dyane

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Wait!

Here’s a looong p.s. 

At first I felt so bummed out about the Freshly Pressed choice that I decided to write a letter to WordPress voicing my opinion.  I contacted the WordPress help forum to ask where I should send my email, and I wrote,   

To be honest, I was on the fence about even contacting WordPress, and I still am a bit hesitant. 🙂 However, I feel compelled to speak up in the hopes that I will be heard.”

The longtime WordPress volunteer, with whom I had positive, friendly correspondence in the past, surprised me with her caustic reply.  

She wrote, “Understood but do be prepared to note that some think mental illness is a gift and some think it is a curse.”

Really???   I’d never thunka that before! I thought. 

Just kidding!  

Her curt, patronizing reply made me think that maybe the WordPress folks, as much as I love WordPress, might not get where I was coming from. Meanwhile the uber-paranoid part of me feared they’d shut down my WordPress “dissenter” account!  I’d have to, gasp, go to the inferior Blogger!

I decided not to send it the “Happiness Engineer” after all.  I felt that my complaint sounded too much like sour grapes (well, I admit maybe I was just a bit envious, okay, okay!) and it ultimately my email wouldn’t make a difference.  Here are some excerpts from my email:  

“Dear G.,

I appreciate your finding the topic of bipolar disorder a worthy Freshly Pressed selection! As a blogger with bipolar disorder, I was excited to spot the word “bipolar” in Freshly Pressed. However, the complete title “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” made my heart sink.

Over the past few years there has been a media trend to sugarcoat bipolar disorder.  This was most recently displayed in the Huffington Post article “The Six Gifts of Mental Illness” and in numerous other articles.

I follow bipolar disorder in the media very closely.  I’m a longtime volunteer for the International Bipolar Foundation, a member of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, and my WordPress blog was nominated for a WEGO Health “Best in Show Blog”. I’m a mental health advocate with a focus upon mothers who have bipolar disorder. My father had bipolar disorder as well.

Recently I did an informal study of responses to two articles about bipolar disorder being considered a gift.  I noted that roughly 50% of those replies disagreed with that concept.

While I’m genuinely glad that the Freshly Pressed blogger has found bipolar to be a gift in his life, I feel his point of view places pressure on those WordPress bloggers who have mental illness and haven’t found it to be a gift. (And I’m one of them, obviously! : ) When I see Freshly Pressed titles equating bipolar as a gift, whether it’s expected or unexpected, I feel that it minimizes my condition.  Due to the total lack of any critical comments about his post so far, and the low statistics compared to other Freshly Pressed selections, I suspect that many people chose not to read his post after spotting the title. 

I love WordPress, and I was hesitant to contact you, but this is a topic that’s very close to my heart.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reading this, and I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from.   There is an incredible array of WordPress bloggers with bipolar disorder.  For future Freshly Pressed choices I encourage you to check out Blahpolar Diaries, Kitt O’Malley, Stigmama, Bipolar1Blog, The Lithium Chronicles, and The Bipolar Mama.  I’m leaving out other ones I love, but that’s a great start!  Thank you once again for your time.

take care and all my best,

Dyane”

 

 

 

Late Nights with Zoe the Syrian Hamster

Last month we got a golden brown Syrian hamster for our youngest daughter Rilla.  She promptly named her pet Zoe after “Zoe”, the stunning blonde alien/surfer girl in the epic Australian television series “Lightning Point”. (I swear, when you watch that show your I.Q. goes up 10 points with every episode!)  

As you can see below, the two Zoes don’t resemble one another that much.

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At night when my insomnia strikes, I hear nocturnal Zoe “Flo Jo” Harwood running fast on her Habitrail wheel.  As I picture this little creature going nowhere, an endless loop of thoughts run around in my weary brain.  Lately, most of these thoughts haven’t taken me to a better place. They’ve become far too negative and cynical for my taste.  While it’s totally unrealistic to think I can banish all of these thoughts, I want to reduce their frequency.

Easier said than done.

I figure after growing and giving birth to two humans, I can cut down on my negativity.  If I can survive seven mental hospitalizations in dismal units, I can learn to fly a jet!  

(By the way, my flying a jet is not out of the realm of possibility. I began attending ground school when i was twenty, and I’ve flown a Piper Cub twice without crash landing it!) 

Anyway, I got a profound wake-up call last week.  My close friend’s life went from wonderful to an absolute nightmare in thirty seconds.  

Thirty seconds.  About the time it takes to start one’s computer and open up my email.

Since receiving my friend’s horrific news, I’ve woken up each day thinking about her family.  I realize that no matter how lousy I feel, I have a good life going on right now.  It’s time to pay more attention to that.

I have my freedom, and while I can’t jet off to Kauai on a moment’s notice, I’m not in a locked-down ward that resembles the set of “Orange Is the New Black”.  My freedom is something to be savored.  For those of you who’ve never been hospitalized for bipolar, it may be hard for you to imagine that sometimes I find it astounding that I can simply drive over to Coffee 9 and order a double mocha.  (Extra chocolate and yes, of course I want whipped cream with that!!)  Parents who know of my diagnosis and hospitalizations trust me to drive and care for their children each week.  I’m doing 1000% better than I was doing three years ago.

And let’s face it – what’s much more important than designer drinks is that I have a healthy family.  We live in a beautiful place. I have great online network of friends and some special IRL friends too.  And I’m about to create a support group that helps other women with mood disorders find their own tribe, lucky them…with ME!   😉

And, of course, l have lovely Lady Lucy, who has the fastest tongue in the West:

Fastest Tongue

 

But..I still keep thinking about soul-draining crap instead of concentrating on the good stuff. Talk about a total waste of energy.  I must pull my attention back to the good, over and over and over again.  

I’ve read that a daily gratitude list helps boost one’s positivity   Do any of you do that?  Does it help? (And I’ve been advised about meditation too by my pdoc, my therapist, friends, you-name-it – Zoe Hamster probably meditates during the day…I’m just still not there yet.  But there’s hope for me yet to join the meditation fold!) 

I know I’m making light of some serious issues here.  I never want to offend any of you, and I hope I don’t.   I’ve noticed that many of us bloggers with mood challenges have been struggling a lot lately.  I’d love to know about whatever helps you with your own negativity – don’t hold back in the comments section, okay?  You’ll give me something to ponder when I’m hanging out with that noisy furball Zoe!

see you next week, my friends…

Dyane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most DANGEROUS Support Group In Town!!!

funny bipolar cat delete hare

 

After I published my blog post last Friday, I received a phone call from a beloved friend who reads my blog.  By the icy tone of her voice I prepared myself for criticism about my topic.

“I must tell you,” she said soberly, “that I’m very concerned about this support group you’re forming.  I’ve spoken with Jabba the Hutt (her counselor) and he and I agree that it seems dangerous!”

At first I thought she was referring to the recent mountain lion sightings in the area roughly where our first meeting will take place.

scary

Nooooooooooooooooo, she was not!  

She wasn’t referring to those magnificent-yet-potentially life-threatening beasts!

Her disparaging comments concerned a cat of an entirely different color.  

She declared, It’s just not safe to be around those BI-POH-LAHS!”

Yes, the very “bi-poh-lahs” who would be in attendance, including…

BI-POH-LAH ME!

 She addedJabba and I think that you need to have a professional with you!”  

Matt Foley

(Chris Farley in his SNL role as the “professional” motivational speaker Matt Foley*)

While yes, it’s a wise idea to have a professional facilitator at some groups, I deemed it unnecessary at my informal, social group.  I had sound reasons for my decision, some of which I wrote about in my last post.

Now I knew that my friend didn’t intend to hurt me.  I realized that her opinion was based, in part, upon decades of deep-rooted stigma imbedded into our society. However, her opinion and tone still cut me to the core.  

What also angered me was that my experience in forming and facilitating other support groups wasn’t acknowledged by my friend.  I created the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) ** Chapter of Santa Cruz County.  The DBSA is a credible, national organization that provided me with group training materials and other resources designed for leading (safe) support groups.  

I arranged for a therapist to attend our first DBSA group to give me feedback after the meeting. I was grateful for her help, especially as she donated her time.  The therapist offered useful advice, but frankly her points were ones I had realized on my own.  

As you can guess, my conversation with my friend ended badly, and I was very upset.  I turned to some friends for support (thank you Lady K. & Sista Sweet), and I worked out on my elliptical.  I calmed down.

Over the next few days I thought about what separates a good, safe support group from a bad one.  I became a little paranoid.  What if I was creating a dangerous support group after all? Meetup can only give me so much information in each applicant’s profile. I had asked prospective members to fill out a detailed questionnaire before I accepted them into the group, but who’s to say they were telling me the whole truth in their answers?

My paranoia grew.  I envisioned a few members turning up at our first gathering brandishing large knives, ready to strike if they encountered anyone resembling the dumbass FOX commentator Tom Sullivan!  

images

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Other members might be of the unwashed hippie persuasion.  Their five-foot-long, crusty dreadlocks could be filled with families of mice. I’m sure that their body odor would be fetid enough to make anyone sitting close by them become woozy or even pass out!  

dreads

Lest I forget, several ambiguously Pagan folks might grace us with their presence, carrying some cauldrons and magical wands.  They’ll surely wear enough Stevie Nicks-style velvet to clothe a small village.  Their patchouli oil perfume will be so pungent that it’ll scare away all the approaching hungry mountain lions!

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Of course it almost goes without saying that a cannabis grower will take a seat, ready to share a batch of medical marijuana brownies and a cannabis cake topped with edible flowers.  To round out the group, a Scientologist or two will probably join us so they can convert us to stop taking our medications!  

ha ha Guess who?  

My imaginary support group is truly dangerous…  

Not a support group of women with bipolar, anxiety and/or depression.

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“Matt Foley” Saturday Night Live skit – it’s truly funny!

*http://www.hulu.com/watch/4183

** To read my DBSA Life Unlimited Profile & my friend Kitt O’Malley’s profile, please visit this page:

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