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

nerves

 

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)

 

Back to Reality & Exercising for Bipolar Disorder

Dearest Bloggers, 

I’m back and I’m ready to dive into your blogs one again.  In the meantime, I wrote the following post last Monday while we were still in snowy Tahoe, waaaaaay back in the year 2014  – I hope you like it!  Happy Belated New Year! love, Dyane

Wintry Musings

 Happy New Year, everyone! I’m still stuck in the old year as I write this in the “Munchkin House” on a sunny, cold Monday morning.

 This is the view outside my window:DSCN0174It’s the Alpine Valley, California mountainside – Squaw Valley is just over the ridge…I’ve gazed at this view in the spring, summer and fall, and I love having seen it in all four seasons:

 

Last month while speaking with one of my favorite bloggers, my friend Kitt O’Malley. (www.kittomalley.com) I whined about how I wished there was a live support group in my area for those with mood disorders. I was in a unusually dejected state. I had just found out that one of my closest friends “Karen” was moving several hundred miles away from our town. While I knew we’d stay in touch, I still felt a void over her leaving.

Kitt reminded me that I do have a support group in front of my very eyes: the blogosphere! I didn’t need to pressure myself to create another support group. As some of you know, I’ve formed several mood disorder support groups over the years. Nothing “took” long-term as I relapsed with bipolar depression every time and the groups fizzled out. I realized Kitt was totally right in recognizing our virtual community of support, and that was more than enough for me for now. I’m incredibly grateful for her friendship and for your support.

I’ve written before about the affinity I feel with many of you, i.e. the diverse, amazing bloggers I follow regularly! I only know some of you by aliases, but ironically I feel closer to you than I do to a few of my relatives!

I’ve focused on subscribing to blogs written by those living with bipolar disorder. I also read a few about anxiety, and derealization/depersonalization. According to some well-meaning friends, my selecting mostly bipolar-related blogs implies that I’m “obsessive” about bipolar and that “I identify too much with the illness”. I disagree. I read some blogs that focus on recovery with bipolar as the primary theme, but every blog I follow helps me in one way or another.  The bottom line is that I’ve found my tribe, and I don’t associate an unhealthy obsession with this virtual network.

Speaking of networks…

It has been almost a whopping two weeks that I’ve been off Facebook, Twitter and the WordPress Reader.  While my Facebook and Twitter networks are filled with great people, I find them to be different experiences compared to following your blogs.  Blogs allow me glimpses into your souls.  It’s a more satisfying experience to read a post compared to a status update or tweet. Moreover, many of my Facebook and Twitter contacts don’t have bipolar disorder, and they can’t understand my challenges in living with it. That might explain while I was able to easily detach from Facebook and Twitter during this trip. I was very, VERY surprised to find that I didn’t miss Facebook and Twitter for the most part, because I’ve been heavily addicted to these forms of social media. Conversely, I have missed my daily hour of reading blogs on my WordPress Reader!  (You know that already!)  Sure, I have books to read and I love books, but I like to have my cake and eat it too. I want books and blogs!  😉

Where am I going with all this? I don’t know – I’m just blogsick, I guess!

Meanwhile, I’ve gone on daily thirty-minute walks in the Tahoe snow; today it was 16 degrees. (!!!!) I could have stayed indoors in front of a cozy fire, but I pushed myself to get outside because the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s asserts that those thirty minutes of vigorous exercise a day will keep bipolar depression at bay.  

I’ve re-posted Dr. Alsuwaidan’s suggestions and link for those of you who didn’t see it in my last post.

It is beautiful to walk in the snow, but I prefer my elliptical and blasting the Pandora channel during my workout.

So by the time you read this message, we’ll be headed back home to my glorious internet connection. I look forward to catching up with your lives via the blogosphere, and as we start 2015 together I hope with all my heart that this is the bet year yet for each of us!!!

Love,

Dyane

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DYANE’S EXERCISE FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER RESOURCES

A powerful tool that’s helping prevent the onset of my bipolar depression is following the guidelines of my exercise hero, the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

For specific details about what to do and why to do it, please read Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief blog article at – it will take you less than five minutes:

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

I don’t want to sound like a cult member, but this brilliant psychiatrist’s advice, which he follows himself, can change your life for the better!   

I can’t help but lovingly encourage you to start doing 30 minutes a day of exercise, especially if you have bipolar disorder, per Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidelines, i.e. vigorous, enough to make you break a sweat and not be able to carry on conversations with others. Is this easy?  No.  

Annoyed walk

Annoyed during my walk – I had just fallen on ice…

Is it worth the trouble? YES!!!!

If your depression is so bad that the very idea of exercise makes you want to hurl, please put this info. in the back of your head for when you start feeling a little better.   If you can try 5 “Alsuwaidan-style” minutes (again, please read Dr. Alsuwaidan’s blog post first about what to do/how to work out) and build up from five minutes to thirty minutes, I’ll send you a little surprise!

I beseech you to visit this link below to listen to Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders-sponsored webinar. This is what profoundly affected me in terms of why I should exercise for bipolar.  It’s about eating chocolate to lose weight and gain muscle – just kidding!  I can’t stand listening to webinars, but this one is worth it! The second half is especially convincing as to why you should aim to work out for your mood – listen for his section about exercise as a “panacea” for bipolar disorder.   It’s fascinating, and convincing as hell!

“Exercise for the Neurological Treatment of Mood Disorders” webinar

http://www.isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Lastly, if you haven’t had a chance to read my December International Bipolar Foundation blog post about my different take on exercise and my professional fitness background you can find it here:

 http://www.ibpf.org/blog/different-take-exercise-and-why-i-want-you-join-me