DBSA e-Update November 2018 See All Issues Sign Up

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Life Unlimited
Amy Taylor

Read more inspiring stories. If you would like to participate in our Life Unlimited feature by sharing your story, please submit your contact information.

Life Unlimited: Amy Taylor

Despite my childhood years where I was diagnosed with ADHD, my struggle with mental illness began many years ago in high school during my sophomore year. Initially, I struggled with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. As time went by, my symptoms became more severe and included mood swings, distorted perceptions, and paranoia. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I while attending college and responded favorably to treatment and medications, although it wasn’t always easy. I was hospitalized twice while in college and had periods where I decompensated which made working and school challenging to say the least!

The last decade of my life was overshadowed by certain challenging events (divorce, a family member’s addiction, and a difficult relationship), that initially derailed me, yet eventually set the stage for healing. These troubled times provided the opportunity to learn and to employ various coping skills to more effectively manage my illness. I learned the importance of setting boundaries and self care to minimize the impact my illness has on my life.

It has taken quite a bit of trial and error and many painful mistakes to ultimately learn that I needed to put myself in the center of my life and practice self-care and self-love. I still struggle from time to time with the symptoms of bipolar illness, but I am able to decrease the intensity of symptoms by leading a life where I not only put myself and my health first, I also have better boundaries that protect me from engaging with people that are harmful to me.

I have been fortunate to “push through” many difficult times in my life and was able to accomplish a MS degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in Therapeutic Recreation. I am registered as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) in the state of Washington. I have been taking a break this past year from working and hope to start my own business in time  as I feel it will be healthier for me in the end. I’m learning that in order for me to be successful while maintaining my health, I might need to do things differently than others and that is ok. I’m in the process of carefully constructing a small business model that allows for the flexibility and variety needed for me to excel while protecting my well being and energy.

Some of the activities I do to keep myself accountable to the process of healing are: mindfulness, walking in nature, blogging, singing on the SMULE app, attending weekly therapy & DBT skills group, and spending time with friends. Eliminating negative influences in my life has allowed more space to engage in activities that are healthier which minimizes symptoms.

I definitely feel I am a “work in progress”, but am hopeful now and am even excited about my future. I have always felt a little outside of the norm and in the past that made me feel insecure. I now embrace my differences and accept my limitations related to my illness rather than deny or fight them. The full acceptance of my illness has been a true gift in recovery as it has freed up a lot of energy that was used in fighting all the time and has allowed me to invest that energy into what is possible and what makes sense for me. What was once a dismal and bleak future is now full of joy and endless possibilities. Thanks for letting me share my experience with you. It’s healing to acknowledge that in the past I often felt my world was dark and now I see it in layers of color and possibilities. Being accountable and having better boundaries has been empowering and continues to bestow blessings in my life daily.

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Michael Pollock, Chief Executive Officer, DBSA
Michael Pollock
Chief Executive Officer, DBSA

Note from Michael Pollock, Chief Executive Officer 

It’s that time of year again. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which kicks off the holiday season. It’s a race to the end of the year, now, as we fill our calendar with celebrations and get-togethers. I am also mindful that the holidays can serve as a difficult time for some. Know that we have your back.

It’s the season of giving, and DBSA staff and Board of Directors would like to offer you special resources to help you through this season.

Keep the Holiday Blues Away  

Keep the Holiday Blues Away
From strained family dynamics to financial pressures, DBSA board member, Carol Kivler, offers tips to help manage all the stress and pressure the holidays can bring. Read more...

Keep the Holiday Blues Away  

Gift of Connection
It is not uncommon to feel lonely around the holidays. During these times, it’s more important than ever to connect with others, and there are several ways to connect. See examples of how other peers are making the commitment to connect this holiday season. Read more...

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Giving Tuesday

Donate Between Now and the End of this Month to Double Your Impact

After Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, there’s another day—Giving Tuesday—dedicated to giving to the charities that make a difference all year around.

Last year DBSA shattered its previous record and raised an astonishing $80,000. This year, we need YOU to pitch in to make this Giving Tuesday our best ever and reach $100,000.

Thanks to two generous funders, every dollar you give now through November 30th will be matched up to $35,000!

Do your part by donating today and sharing this opportunity to double your impact by forwarding this message on to your colleagues, friends, and family who care about mental health or by posting the image below on your personal social media pages with the hashtag #GivingTuesday.

YOU + DBSA = Double Impact

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DBSA Chapters


In the late 1970s, a support group for peers living with mood disorders started meeting in Chicago. That one group grew to nearly 700 support groups and more than 200 DBSA chapters representing the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance today. In 2018, the national office embarked on a five-city Chapter Regional Meeting tour to learn about the issues currently facing the peer community. Read the report summary. A recording of the Greater Chicago Regional Meeting can also be viewed online.

To find the nearest DBSA chapter or support group to you, check out our Support Group Locater.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Advocacy: Tell Your Story

For many people, being empowered by making their voice heard is an important tool in their wellness plan. Recognizing that stigma and public policies might be barriers, these advocates seek to make systemic and institutional changes to the way society views and treats mental health conditions.

There is an opportunity to ensure that the voice of the peer acts as an influencer in public policy decision making by empowering individuals who would like to share their experiences to affect change. DBSA is seeking to identify peers who have a natural gift and desire to be a catalyst for change through story-telling.

We are calling those individual advocates, and we are training them to provide written and oral testimony and media interviews and tell their personal story effectively with their legislative “ask”. We meet with our story-tellers to help them develop a testimonial that highlights key issues as told through their personal experience. We provide guidance in developing a narrative with personal meaning and a clear call to action. We ask them story-development questions and assist with flow and succinctness. DBSA will empower those advocates to share their story so that they can share their experience by connecting those storytellers to opportunities.

The ultimate initiative of DBSA Grassroots Advocacy is to raise the voice of the individual with lived experience. We are uniquely positioned to offer that perspective, and we believe that when we do, it will strengthen all the pillars of our approach to the whole health of the individual.

Please email Advocacy@DBSAlliance.org if you would like to share your story.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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? Submit your questions to Ask the Doc online. Also, take a look through our Ask the Doc feature page, a comprehensive archive of past columns, which may already have the answer to your questions.

Ask the Doc

Can medications for depression or ADD cause a psychotic break? My daughter had a sudden psychotic episode after starting a new medication. Her doctors said it was not likely due to the medication, and gave her a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And she’s still taking mood stabilizer and antipsychotic medication. Is that necessary for the long term?

Medications often used to treat depression or ADD can certainly cause manic episodes, including severe manic episodes with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions. Those episodes can come on quite suddenly. The risk of medications causing mania in people with bipolar disorder is well known. But medication can trigger a manic episode in people with no history of mania or bipolar disorder. That risk is probably elevated in people who already have some elevated risk—such as people with a family history of bipolar disorder.

The question about long-term use of medication is a complicated one. Once someone has had a manic episode, even if it was triggered by medication, we believe there is a higher long-term risk of another episode. It’s similar to women who develop temporary diabetes during pregnancy. Even if the diabetes completely disappears after delivery, those women are at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life. Whether the risk of another manic episode is high enough to justify long-term use of mood stabilizer or antipsychotic medication is a personal decision.  Factors to consider include: Is there a past history of milder periods of elevated mood, even if not severe enough to make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder? Is there a strong family history of bipolar disorder? Is it possible to identify early warning signs if those symptoms start to return? How bothersome or important are any side effects from the medication? And people vary in their tolerance for risk. Some people would certainly continue medications to prevent another disruptive episode, while some people would tolerate more risk to avoid taking medication.

If your daughter were to decide to try tapering medication, she’d want to do that gradually over several months. And she’d want to have a clear plan, including involvement of friends and family, to watch for warning signs of mood swings or psychotic symptoms.

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

bp Magazine: Beyond CBT: See Which Psychotherapy Fits Your Bipolar

Whether you challenge your negative thought patterns and emotions or greet them with acceptance, there’s more to psychotherapy than the widely used practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for improving mental health. Read more

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Facing Us Clubhouse

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

Wellness Tips from Peers

Give yourself some grace. Don’t let a small setback put you in what I call the BLUE MOOD.

Bipolar Disorder
I have definitely learned the power of finding a good outlet and a way to release energy, anger, and anxiety. Some of my favorites are writing poetry, playing hockey, and dog training. It might sound cliche, but trust me, it helps.

Do not's
Do not charge your cell phone next to your bed. Do not read while you are in bed. Do not watch TV while you are in bed. Use your bed for sleep (and/or sex) and nothing else. That way your brain will not associate the bed with non-sleeping activities and you will go to sleep easier. If you are still awake after 1 hour, get up and leave the room. Try again in an hour.

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