DBSA e-Update January 2015

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

DBSA 2015: From I to We Campaign and Tour

In 2015, DBSA is celebrating our past—30 years of connecting people living with mood disorders to life-saving peer support, information, tools, and resources. And our future—building on the foundation that our collective lived experience has the power to improve lives—by working together to create a future where wellness is no longer a possibility for only some, but a probability for all!

In this, our 30th anniversary year, we are challenging ourselves to create a future empowered by shifting the focus from “I to We”a future that changes the emphasis from:

  • Eliminating illness to building wellness
  • Isolation and fear to a welcoming community of support
  • Individual views to powerful, collective voices

DBSA President, Allen Doederlein, shares a few highlights about the DBSA 2015: From I to We Tour and Campaign.

We hope you’ll join us this year as we spread our message of wellness, contribution, and community across the country. Stay in the loop throughout 2015 at DBSAlliance.org/ItoWe.

Join Us for the DBSA 2015: From I to We Tour

  • Spring 2015: From I to We Executive Summit
    DBSA will be hosting a summit in D.C. to promote unified action across key mental health advocacy organizations.
  • Summer 2015: From I to We Regional Events
    Making stops in several cities across the nation, these free 2-hour events for DBSA support group participants, the public, press, and local government will celebrate the significant contributions of individuals living with mental health conditions; promote dialogue and action towards changing public perception from danger and drain to potential and contribution; and connect individuals seeking wellness to DBSA chapter and community resources.
  • Fall 2015: From I to We Weekend and 30th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago, IL
    In celebration of our 30th Anniversary, DBSA is expanding our traditional national conference and chapter leadership forum weekend. Our 2015 two-day event will offer a day of educational programming for peers, parents, families, friends, and the public as well a day of in-depth training and networking opportunities for community leaders—chapter participants, parent network members, young adults, peer specialists, and grassroots advocates. The weekend will be punctuated by celebrations of the significant contributions of people living with mood disorders as well as the individuals who were instrumental in the formation and continued growth of DBSA and our ability to deliver on our mission to improve the lives of people living with mood disorders for the past 30 years.

Specific dates and locations for the tour will be announced in February. These and more important updates will be posted throughout the year to DBSAlliance.org/ItoWe so check back often to make sure you don’t miss out on these exciting events!

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Kitt O’Malley

Life Unlimited: Meet Kitt

As a college freshman, I fell into a suicidal depression, believing that my family and the world would be better off without me. I knew I needed help, and saw a psychologist whose cognitive therapy helped me with my suicidal thoughts. Throughout my twenties, I used psychotherapy to cope with my depressive symptoms. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the hypomanic symptoms of bipolar disorder type II were not yet diagnosed. I was considered an overachiever battling chronic depression. I went on to attend graduate school and become licensed as a psychotherapist, specializing in the treatment of adolescents.

At the age of thirty I had a complete psychiatric breakdown. I was unable to get up out of bed. For the first time, I turned to medical doctors for medication. A psychiatrist prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant which led to manic psychosis. I spent a week without sleep with thoughts racing in binary code (zeroes and ones) about chaos theory and Christian mystics. Although my psychosis was manic, I was not prescribed a mood stabilizer. My psychiatrist prescribed a three-day regime of antipsychotics which stopped the racing thoughts in their tracks and allowed me to sleep. At that point, I simply couldn’t function on my own. I would fall asleep driving to my temporary clerical job. When at work, I would try to read a word or a sentence over and over, unable to string the letters and words together, unable to make sense of them. I appeared competent. No one could see that I, a highly educated and articulate former professional woman, could not read a sentence.

As both a psychotherapist and as a patient, I have experienced optimal results when care providers and family members work as a team to support the patient. Since I could not take care of myself, I returned to my parents’ home where I visited a group practice and saw both a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This treatment team and medication provided me with relief from depressive symptoms. My parents encouraged my recovery by giving me work to do around their home and charging me room and board. Once I was up for it, I got outside employment, starting as a temporary file clerk. This temporary position led to a decade long career in commercial real estate. Although I continued to show hypomanic symptoms, working long hours and periodically burning out, I seemed to be coping well.

Soon after moving back in with my parents, I met my future husband. On our second date, though I was living with my parents and filing invoices as a temp, he told me that I was the most independent woman he had ever met. I laughed, for my then-current life circumstances were far from independent. But, he could see beyond that. He saw me, not my illness. Three years after we met, we married and later had a son.

At the age of thirty-nine, I realized that once again I was experiencing the symptoms of mania. I sought psychiatric treatment and medication for bipolar disorder. Eventually I had myself voluntarily hospitalized, spending two weeks in the hospital and months in partial hospitalization. The hospital offered an excellent highly structured program in which we attended groups throughout the day. In these groups, I learned many coping skills and met others with similar struggles.

I look much like the other mothers in the neighborhood, but life remains a balancing act. Now fifty-one years old, I blog (kittomalley.com) and communicate online with other mental health bloggers, advocates, poets, and writers. I reclaim my life. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a writer, a blogger. I live with bipolar disorder type II. I am a mental health advocate.

What will you do in 2015 to ensure access to quality mental health care in your community?

Honoring those who came before us who worked to reduce stigma, fought for more effective treatment options, and protected our rights to quality mental health care, requires action. As you begin a new year, consider whether or not you are willing to take action to preserve access to quality mental health care.

This year we are making it easier for you to stay involved.

  • We will be launching an advocacy platform to educate you on issues that create barriers to care and provide you with actionable steps.
  • We are kicking-off our “Practical Parity” campaign in this month’s Care For Your Mind. Read the weekly articles, join the conversation, and participate in the recommended actions.
  • We have grassroots organizations developing in the states of CA, FL, IL, NJ, TN, and TX all looking for volunteer leaders willing to devote a few hours a month. Send an email to Advocacy@dbsalliance.org to learn how to get involved.

The hardest part about advocacy is making the decision step up to the plate. Getting on base and making a difference is easier than you may think.


Become a Peer Specialist in 2015!

DBSA’s first Core Peer Specialist Training course is scheduled for March 2–6, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois—apply today to get a jump-start on your new career path and aid others on the road to recovery. Facilitated by skilled and caring trainers, this comprehensive course delivers a foundation in recovery principles, intervention techniques, and ethical practice. And if you’ve been considering this work, your timing couldn’t be better:  DBSA’s nationally-known training now includes small group practice sessions to sharpen your peer support skills and receive valuable feedback from your peers. This course has been approved by the Illinois Certification Board for 40 continuing education units (CEUs).

Application deadline is Monday, February 9, 2015. Apply now!

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.

A Daughter's Candid Chat with her Mom

Listen to the first two segments of this four part series as DBSA’s Vice President of Advocacy, Phyllis Foxworth, interviews her daughter, Molly Jenkins, about her experiences as a young adult living with a mood disorder. The final two parts will be shared in next month’s eUpdate.

Molly Describes a Major Depressive Disorder Episode
In this segment of DBSA’s Young Adult podcast series, Molly Jenkins shares what it feels like to experience a major depressive disorder episode in an interview with her mother.

Molly Shares her Thoughts on Recovery
In this segment of DBSA’s Young Adult podcast series, Molly Jenkins shares her experience of recovery in an interview with her mother.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Greg Simon, MD, MPH

Ask the Doc

What proven strategies, in addition to medication, help improve morale for people who live with bipolar disorder?

For most people who live with bipolar disorder, low mood depression is more common than feeling speeded up or manic. Medications can certainly help reduce or prevent depression, but many people still experience low mood despite medication.

Psychotherapy or counseling can certainly help.  Some specific types of psychotherapy have been proven to help reduce depression in bipolar disorder.  Those proven psychotherapies tend to focus on:

  • Learning to identify and manage overly negative or self-critical thoughts. Feeling depressed leads to seeing or interpreting things in a more negative way, and that leads to feeling more depressed. You can learn to break that cycle by recognizing your typical negative thoughts more quickly and then taking away their power—either by actively pushing back or just taking a step back and letting them go. The “brand name” for this is cognitive therapy.
  • Increasing involvement in enjoyable or rewarding activities. Feeling depressed leads to pulling back from things that help you feel better, and that leads to feeling more depressed. You can learn to break that cycle by planning specific positive activities and problem-solving to get past the barriers (internal and external) to actually doing those positive things. The “brand name” for this is behavior therapy or behavioral activation therapy.
  • Increasing positive (and avoiding negative) interactions with other people. You can identify patterns in your important relationships that lead to conflict or dissatisfaction—and take specific steps to avoid old patterns and emphasize new ones. The “brand name” for this is interpersonal therapy.

If you are already seeing a therapist for help with low mood or depression, ask her or him about these kinds of therapy that are proven to help. You can find out more about effective psychotherapy in DBSA’s Treatment Choices webinar series.

Developing your personal wellness plan will also help. For most people, a wellness plan includes:

  • Specific things you try to do regularly to help lift your mood and energy—like physical exercise, creative activities, or positive social activities
  • Specific things you try to avoid—like alcohol, street drugs, or disrupting your sleep pattern
  • People who can help you to keep on track with your plan

You can learn more and start creating your own plan in DBSA’s Facing Us Clubhouse.

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 future DBSA eUpdates 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.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Allen Doederlein
DBSA President

Note from Allen

Happy New Year!

I hope this finds you well and enjoying 2015. I’ve had a pretty good year so far, and my wish for everyone reading this is a year full of health, progress, and connection.

Something I’ve said several times this January is, “What a difference a year makes!” You see, a year ago, I was hit by one of the worst episodes of depression I’d had in over a decade. I was so shocked by it, in fact, that I didn’t recognize it as depression right away (and I’ve experienced enough depression over the years that I’d think I’d be able to spot it pretty quickly by now). Instead, I was convinced that I was simply a horrible, untalented person whose luck had run out: a fraud having every possible thing in his life go wrong. I was also afraid, terrified that a) I was terrible company and b) that people would discover how truly hideous I was.

Given these feelings, it seemed important to me to avoid people. I didn’t want to bore or disappoint my family and friends and colleagues, and I also didn’t want people to find out that I was so lame. This no doubt sounds familiar to my peers who’ve experienced depression: I was unwittingly creating the perfect, isolated environment to exacerbate and maintain my bleak outlook and leaden sadness.

Thankfully, I was able to make it out of this dark time. Like most anyone, I had to address my depression on multiple fronts; there was no one “magic solution” that changed it all for me. But I do think I can identify the catalyst for my journey back to health: I went from “I to we” and let people back into my life and my heart.

While I knew intellectually that connection was an important thing, it took circumstance to remind me of the power that is lent to us by others. Forced to be in numerous, back-to-back meetings with lots of people, I had the mirror of these lovely colleagues and supporters shine back hope and possibility. I wish I could say it were a proactive choice on my part (and eventually it was my choice and practice), but it really took some forcing and obligation to make me connect. Once I did, though, the path from illness to wellness became much clearer.

As I say in this month’s introduction to the From I to We Campaign and Tour, we at DBSA believe that collaboration and connection will be the keys to transforming mental health. And of course there’s no better example of collaboration and connection than peer support. I hope that everyone reading this will consider: Is launching and nurturing a peer support group something I can take on? Can I give myself, my loved ones, and my community the gift of support? Many of you are already doing just that, and we cannot thank and celebrate your work enough. But what would happen if we all tried for just one more—one more attempt at a forum for connection and collaboration?

We need more opportunities for peer support in order to transition from “I to we”; I know this is true. I promise to work with you, my peers, to make this happen. And that journey will be a big part of what makes 2015—DBSA’s 30th year!—an amazing year of health, progress, and connection.

My thanks and best, hopeful wishes for an excellent 2015!

Carrie Fisher on Bipolar

Carrie Fisher will return as Princess Leia in Star Wars VII, but she’s always been our heroine for rebelling against the stigma of bipolar. Read the article.

News from CFYM Advocacy Blog

What can you do about limited provider networks? Read CFYM and take action.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Wellness Tips from Peers

Recovery Focus
Take things one day, hour, or moment at a time if needed. Focus on being okay in that moment or hour, and the time will pass.

Physical Health
If you are feeling stressed, a good way to relieve that is to exercise. You can play sports with friends or go for a run. This helps to get your mind off things that are bothering you.

Recovery Focus
Sometimes learning to cope with a problem is the solution. If I have failed to come up with a fix, try as I might, then just letting go may be more beneficial than to keep fighting it. Sometimes coping is the solution. This is a choice, and not a surrender. There is a big difference.

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.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Save the Date

Mark your calendar!

March 2–6, 2015
Peer Support Specialist Training in Chicago, IL