DBSA e-Update December 2014

Quick Links to Articles Below

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Allen Reflects on Thriving in 2014

As DBSA’s 2014: The Year of Thriving comes to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year, and to think about what’s yet to come.

At the beginning of 2014, we outlined our vision of a future where every adult and child living with a mood disorder has the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. To some, this was a message of hope; to others, it seemed a goal almost impossible to imagine. I completely understand how some of my peers might find total wellness to be an unattainable goal. Indeed, I too have experienced times in my life when the only reality I could imagine was the intense pain of depression. In fact, I experienced times this very year when thriving seemed so very far away for me personally. But amidst messages about the danger and drain of people with mental health conditions, and my own concurrent thoughts of self-loathing and self-stigma, to know that there was a community that would hope for the return of my best self was a blessing. To hold hope when we cannot carry it ourselves: this has always seemed, to me, the fundamental purpose of peer support. DBSA was founded on a model of peer support, and DBSA will always be about creating opportunities for peer support, and through peer support—the thousands of people meeting in communities across the country—we are creating a world in which all of us may be reminded of our potential, our strength, and our best selves.

For me to return to a place of thriving took a lot of time and work and collaboration. It also took some luck. For I have been very lucky: to have found clinicians that do not put limitations on what my life can be; to have the support of loved ones and colleagues who remind me of who I am, not what condition I live with; to have insurance that gives me access to quality health care that covers both my physical and mental health; and to find inspiration in my work and the amazing people I have the privilege of working with, and for, in my role at DBSA.

Such good fortune—in clinical collaboration, in supportive community, in access to resources, in meaningful work—are what I, and the DBSA Board and staff, want for everyone, not just the very lucky.

So in 2014, we asked our peers, families, clinicians, researchers, politicians, and the public to expect more. We asked our community to promote and seek full wellness—because better is not well, and everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive. 

I am proud of the work DBSA accomplished in 2014, and I encourage you to review our 2014: Year of Thriving programs. I believe that we did open minds—and even a few doors—to the possibility of thriving. A few highlights include:

  • In January, DBSA welcomed the Balanced Mind Parent Network into our family of programs to enable us to provide critical support for parents and to create a thriving future for children living with mood disorders.
  • In April, Target Zero to Thrive asked clinicians and peers to set zero, not just reduced, symptoms as a new standard for successful treatment. 
  • In May, DBSA kicked off our six-month Positive Six: Thrive campaign, challenging us to make a small change each month to support our health.
  • In June, DBSA completed a third contract with the VA to train their Veteran peer specialist workforce.
  • In August, DBSA joined forces with DBSA New Jersey to host the From Surviving to Thriving weekend of public and chapter educational events featuring a special interview with Demi Lovato.
  • In September, DBSA hosted Better Is Not Well—a peer and professional panel that explored ways to elevate mental health treatment to complete wellness.
  • This fall, DBSA hosted a series of webinars on Treatment Choices, Health Care Reform, and Restoring Intimacy.
  • In November, DBSA issued the WHO-Five Challenge to mental health professionals to integrate wellness measurements, like the WHO-Five, into their practice.

But so much more must be done. So we ask,

“What needs to happen for us to have wellness change from being a possibility for some to a probability for most?”

It will require:

  • Better Treatments: DBSA will continue to work with our esteemed Scientific Advisory Board to integrate peers into the development of new and better treatments— medical and non-medical. And, to connect our peers and parents to studies that hold the promise of a brighter future for ourselves, our children, and our peers.
  • New Measurements: DSBSA will continue to promote widening the definition of treatment success to include not just elimination of symptoms, but presence of wellness.
  • Access to Quality Mental Health Care: DBSA will continue to advocate for the rights of all adults and children living with mood disorders to receive access to quality mental and physical health care.
  • Increased Expectations: DBSA will continue to spread the message that better is not good enough. That wellness IS possible. That everyone deserves the opportunity to not just survive, but thrive.
  • Peer Support: DBSA is committed to continuing, and increasing both the availability and quality of, life-saving in-person and online peer support for people who have diagnoses, parents, family, and friends.
  • Inspired, Imperfect Action: DBSA will continue to ask ourselves, our peers, our parents, our clinicians, our legislators, and our communities to take action. It may be small. It most certainly will not be perfect. But it will be progress—action inspires action, which in turn inspires more action.

We made some significant strides this past year, but we do not fool ourselves by believing that these first steps have produced monumental change. That will take persistence. That will take courage. That will take time. That will take hope. That will take ALL of us.

It is through thousands, indeed millions, of inspired, imperfect actions that we will slowly transform these small steps into big changes and create a future where wellness is no longer a possibility for only some lucky few, but a probability for all.

Thank you for joining us on this journey,

– Allen


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

Is this as good as it gets?

About 14 years ago I was diagnosed with treatment resistant depression—and then bipolar disorder. I take a number of meds. In the past few years I've felt better than I have in a long time, but I still also don't enjoy the things I used to. All I want is to get these things back.  Is this as good as it gets?

Unfortunately, your experience is fairly common. For many people living with mood disorders, treatment results in being “better, but not well.” Symptoms may be “controlled” or “stable” (to use the medical terms), but symptoms certainly are not gone. And wellness is about more than removing symptoms; it’s about feeling well, accomplishing goals, and moving forward in life. DBSA’s Year of Thriving is about raising expectations.

First, tell yourself that it’s OK to expect more than this. Spending a lot of time depressed can leave you thinking that you don’t deserve more than you’ve got. But that’s just the depression talking.

Second, get together with your doctor to take another look at your medication plan. Sometimes, feeling dull or flat is a symptom of depression, and a change in medication could help with that. Sometimes, feeling dull or flat can be a side effect of medication, and a change in medication could help with that, too. Our current medications have a lot of limitations—both in their effectiveness and their side effects. But you can certainly investigate whether there are better options for you.

Third, look beyond medication to things that will help you thrive. Spending a lot of time depressed can also shrink your world—so that you withdraw from things that bring you joy and lose hope about trying new things. Start with this “rule of two”:  Try to do two things every week:  one thing that you’ve enjoyed in the past and haven’t done in a while AND one completely new thing that you usually wouldn’t think of trying. For that new thing:  If it scares you a it, then you’re probably right on target.

I hope that 2015 will be your Year of Thriving. Happy New Year!

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at Group Health Cooperative at the Center for Health Studies in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.

Got a nagging question you want to ask a doc? Submit your questions online for a chance to get the answer. Check the next DBSA eUpdate to see if your question was chosen. In the meantime, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past Ask the Doc features which may already be home to the answers you seek.

Dyane Leshin-Harwood

Life Unlimited

Meet Dyane Leshin-Harwood

I was raised in Los Angeles, the daughter of a world-class violinist who played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  My father had bipolar one disorder and we were very close. Back then I was a happy-go-lucky teen who did well in school and ran cross-country.  No one suspected that I’d be diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my late-thirties.

I graduated from the University of California with a degree in literature and I became a freelance writer. I interviewed mental health luminaries Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and Dr. Martha Manning for magazine articles about depression and exercise. I pursued my dream to become a certified personal trainer and led a healthy lifestyle.

At age thirty-seven, after the birth of my second child, the combination of genetics, sleep deprivation and hormones triggered postpartum mania and the rare condition of hypergraphia (compulsive writing).  Six weeks after my daughter’s birth I was diagnosed with postpartum onset bipolar one disorder (PPBD) and was hospitalized. Over the next seven years, I endured multiple hospitalizations, medication trials, and rounds of unilateral and bilateral electroconvulsive therapy which helped pull me out of severe bipolar depression.  

In 2013, I found a psychiatrist who was a good fit.  With his guidance I developed a regimen of five key ways to keep me stable: seeing my team (psychiatrist and counselor) regularly, medication, exercise, writing, and enough sleep!

Read the rest of Dyane’s story

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The  Parent Connection appears each month in the DBSA eUpdate. Here, parents and guardians can expect to find up-to-date information and resources about parenting children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. We also feature news about Balanced Mind Parent Network online support communities, the Family Helpline and other family-focused programming.

Pay It Forward

Volunteer for Our Family Helpline

Looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can use the experiences you’ve gained as the parent of a child living with a mood disorder? Want to “pay it forward” by providing other families the information and resources they need when they don’t know where to turn? 

Consider applying to volunteer for the Family Helpline, a phone and email resource line that parents and other family members can contact to receive suggestions about specific challenges they are facing. Those with questions can send an email or leave a voicemail on the Helpline, and an assigned volunteer will then respond to the request.

How does it work?

  • An individual calls the Helpline and leaves a voicemail or completes an online form with a question or concern.
  • Our volunteer Helpline coordinator reviews the request and then assigns a member of the volunteer team (via a private online group) to respond.
  • The assigned volunteer will then be responsible for emailing or calling the individual with the question and providing resources.

What training is provided?

  • Observation: If your application to become a volunteer is accepted, we will begin by making you a member of the online volunteer group. Here you will be able to see how the questions are handled by the group and get a feel for the system.
  • Mentorship: Once you are comfortable with the system, we will begin assigning requests to you along with one of our more seasoned volunteers. This mentor will help you formulate a response.
  • Team Member: After you have handled requests with the help of another volunteer, you will then begin to answer requests on your own—but remember, you will always have the support of the other volunteers if you have any questions.

How much time does it take?
You are able to respond to requests on your own time schedule. If you will be on vacation or have a particularly busy week, you can ask to not have any requests assigned to you. All we ask is that if you agree to handle a request, you do so within 48 hours. Most of our volunteers say they spend no more than two hours a week responding to requests.

We hope you will consider filling out an application to become a Helpline volunteer. If you have any questions about the Helpline, please contact Parent Volunteer Coordinator, Julia Small, at JSmall@DBSAlliance.org.

Archived Webinar Library

DBSA’s complete library of 2014 educational webinars are available to watch at DBSAlliance.org/webinars including:

Treatment Choices: Understanding Your Options with Dr. Greg Simon. Watch now.

Health Care Reform with DBSA President Allen Doederlein. Watch Now.

Restoring Intimacy with Dr. Anita Clayton and Dr. Holly Swartz. Watch now.

Treatment Choices for Bipolar Disorder with Dr. Ellen Frank and Dr. Joe Calabrese. Watch now.

Treatment Choices for Depression with Dr. Evette Ludman and Dr. Andrew Nierenberg. Watch now.

Treatment Choices: Tools for Success with peer specialist Donna Dykstra and DBSA President Allen Doederlein. Watch now.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

A Gift of Hope

“I appreciate the support that DBSA has provided me. Because of the work they do, I live today!”
Elizabeth from Texas, DBSA Support Group Participant

We are deeply grateful to all who gave from their hearts on December 2, #GivingTuesday—a national day of giving. For any of you still finalizing your annual charitable giving, there’s still time to give the gift of hope in 2014. Please consider closing the year with a gift to DBSA at DBSAlliance.org/YearEnd.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Happy Holidays from DBSA

Our Staff’s Inspirations from 2014

As the year comes to a close, we pause to reflect on the inspiration you, our extended family, bring to us each and every day of the year. We can think of no better holiday present than to share a small sampling of some of our many inspirational moments of 2014.  Happy Holidays from your DBSA family. Read holiday greetings from the staff.

News from Our CFYM Advocacy Blog

Discover five ways to get therapy when you can’t afford it. Kimberly Morrow shares practical advice for obtaining quality mental healthcare when money is tight. Learn more.

Bipolar & Anxiety

Anxiety is not rational. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you’re going. It can strike when you least expect it… Recognizing this and learning to expect the unexpected are key to managing anxiety. Read the article.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Keeping your Inventory
I find it helps to sit down and really figure out why I am feeling the way I am. Of course the harder part of this is that chemical imbalances often mean there is no rational explanation. Expressing myself in some way through art or writing helps navigate this and if nothing else, leaves me feeling more at ease.

Settling Is Not Always Best
Do not always settle for “better than nothing.” Sometimes it is not better. Rather, wait till you can find a solution to meet your needs.

Trust in Yourself
Learning to disconnect from negativity of others is paramount. Accept opinions but don’t own them. Those expressing their opinions of you are not the ones living your life. Give yourself some credit, stop doubting yourself. It’s empowering to be free of the worries of others second guessing your thoughts, experiences and actions.

Visit the Facing Us Clubhouse to get more tips, create your own tips, track your wellness, and connect with peers. Joining the Facing Us Clubhouse is easy and free.