DBSA Jackson provides a weekly support group meeting for people living with mood disorders. The group facilitators are volunteers with problems of their own. For the past 15 years, these facilitators have proven themselves to be among the "strongest people".
Daisy Jabas, Assistant Director, submitted this abbreviated itinerary:
I wanted to give each of you Allen Doerderlein's Tennessee visit intenery as it is known now.
Thanks for the support
by Larry Drain, hopeworkscommunity
The following organizations have offered support of "Dear Governor Haslam". They have put links to this site or printed the letters on their websites. I really appreciate it. I invite you or your organization to do the same.
Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
Tennessee Citizen Action.
Tennessee Disability Coalition.
Tennessee Chapter Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
WRITE GOVERNOR HASLAM TODAY
hopeworkscommunity | June 1, 2014
The power of two
Your partner can become a pillar of strength when you work together as a couple
By Barbara Boughton, BP Spring 2013
There’s no doubt that the nature of your relationship with a “significant other” has a major effect on managing bipolar. Research now shows that having a supportive partner may be just as important as medication and psychotherapy in preventing relapse, according to Sagar Parikh, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
Likewise, the stress of high-conflict relationships or the emotions that accompany breakup and divorce can sometimes exacerbate symptoms of the disorder, Parikh says.
So what can you do to make your partner an ally in recovery?
The first step, says Parikh, is education—for both of you.
The more that both partners know about symptoms, treatments, and coping strategies, the more they can work together to address common challenges. Reading and online research, workshops presented by mental health organizations, discussions with mental health practitioners, and peer support groups are all good ways to get informed.
A partner or spouse who is up to speed on what it takes to live with bipolar will find it easier to understand when you ask for support.
The next step is learning to discuss matters relating to your illness openly and honestly.
For one thing, being able to share what’s going on in your life and your head provides your partner with a context for any irritability, sadness or high spirits you exhibit. For another, it gives you both a touchstone for recognizing early signs of a mood shift.
Elizabeth and her husband, Rory, who have been married since August 2012, have a conversation at least once a week about any symptoms Elizabeth might be experiencing.
“Regular communication is really important,” says Elizabeth, 32, of British Columbia. “We talk about what I’m feeling and things that he notices about me. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to see the forest for the trees, especially if I’m not feeling well.”
Rory’s feedback provides her with a reality check, Elizabeth says.
“Last year I had a manic episode and Rory realized something was wrong when I told him: ‘I want to go on a 5K run.’ I’m a pretty sedentary person, so for me that’s out of character. It gave Rory a clue that I might be experiencing mania,” she recalls.
In most intimate relationships, it’s important to make significant others aware of red flags, according to David Miklowitz, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California–Los Angeles.
“People with bipolar disorder can make a list of symptoms and behaviors that they know indicate early signs of a manic or depressive episode. The partners can then refer back to these lists in order to spot early symptoms,” Miklowitz says.
comfort levelWith education and experience, partners often become adept at spotting subtle signs, Miklowitz notes—sometimes before the person with bipolar does.
“Then the question becomes: If your partner spots early signs of mania or depression, what do you want them to do with that information?” Miklowitz says.
“Do you want them to call your doctor? Do you want them to go in with you for a therapy session, or encourage you to take your medicines? Some people like that kind of active support from their partners, and some do not.”
In some cases, Miklowitz says, intervention from a spouse can be seen as “too parental or too controlling.”
The bottom line is this: In order to tell your partner how to be helpful, you first need to know what kind of help you want. That’s highly individual, so every couple will find a different fit. After a disturbing interaction with a friend or boss, one person may simply want to vent while another seeks advice on how to resolve the situation.
Bill, 67, has never looked for a lot of hands-on involvement from his wife, Telle. The couple lives in California, and has been married for 20 years.
“The main way that Telle has supported me is through her acceptance of me—and that’s been very important to me and our relationship. She knows that I can stand on my own two feet, and she doesn’t judge me,” says Bill, a retired refrigeration pipe fitter.
What Bill appreciates are Telle’s understanding and compassion for his symptoms, her trust that he is working to get the best treatment he can, and her emotional support when he’s had to be hospitalized.
Still, Telle has occasionally taken an active role in Bill’s care. In May 2012, Bill became delusional while being assessed at a hospital for a blood clot in his lung. Telle spoke to his psychiatrist, who arranged for Bill to be admitted for psychiatric intervention.
If your partner does take an active role, Miklowitz says, it’s important to understand that the person will probably make mistakes.
“It’s crucial to give your partner some leeway, especially in the beginning of a relationship, when they’re just getting to know you and the effects of your illness. They’re not trying to control you. They’re just trying to help, and they don’t always know how to best do that,” he says.
talking pointsOnce you are clear in your own mind about what role you’d like your partner to take, Miklowitz notes, it’s crucial to be direct in expressing your wishes—and also to listen to what your partner has to say.
Miklowitz recommends asking “clarifying questions” to make sure you understand your partner’s point of view. To doublecheck that you’re interpreting correctly, practice repeating back what the other person said—a technique known as reflective listening or mirroring.
Nancy Poirier, MPs, a clinical psychologist at the Douglas University Institute for Mental Health in Montreal, stresses the need to express your wants and feelings with compassion.
With mirroring, for example, first reflect your partner’s viewpoint, then express understanding and empathy to validate how the other person feels.
In addition, she says, “both partners should be careful to use ‘I statements’ rather than blaming the other person in talking about the bipolar disorder. The important thing is for both partners to feel understood.”
As far as practical approaches, Poirier recommends developing a relapse prevention plan that details early warning signs of a mood shift and how to respond. The Elizabeth and Rory’s plan includes a list of people whom Rory should call to get Elizabeth treatment and/or medication, as well as the name and contact information for the hospital where she’d like to be treated.
As a further step, Poirier notes, you and your partner can write a contract about what each of you will do when warning signs appear. A document you signed when well may be more effective against denial when you’re ill than a partner’s reminders.
There are other small but helpful ways partners can counter symptoms, she says. During a manic phase, reduce stimulation by decreasing light and loud music in the household, and keep credit and cash cards inaccessible. During a depressive phase, let more light into the house, encourage exercise, and gently urge completion of at least one pleasant activity each day.
On a day-to-day basis, agree on a system that keeps encouragement from feeling like nagging. Again, this will vary from couple to couple. Some might be comfortable with a daily check-in about medication compliance, for example, while others will prefer a more emotionally neutral chart system that both partners can refer to.
Couple’s therapy can be an effective way to develop strategies for coping with the disorder together, Miklowitz says.
“The counseling should help the couple solve problems that arise around the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and learn to communicate effectively about them,” he says.
In addressing specific issues, Miklowitz adds, it helps to realize that you may not get everything you want.
“You have to be willing to compromise,” he says. “You have to start with the assumption that everyone—you and your partner—are doing their best.”
“Doing your best” might involve taking as much responsibility as you can for your recovery and well-being, Poirier points out. For your partner, that might mean cutting you a little slack for symptomatic behavior.
Elizabeth says that when she succumbs to what she calls her “ooh, shiny!” syndrome, Rory usually accepts the impulsive action as part of her illness.
When she bought several hundred dollars’ worth of tea towels, she recalls, Rory commented that they were now stocked up for a few years. When she took their cat to the vet and came home with an extra kitten, Rory “accepted the kitten with open arms,” she reports—and they now have a rule that they only go to the vet’s together.
“He isn’t a pushover,” she says, “he just knows that in the spring, I pull a few whoppers and that is OK.”
In fact, she says, Rory took the news of her diagnosis better than she did. They were dating at the time, Elizabeth says, and Rory made it a point to find books that would be helpful.
“He never judged me for having bipolar,” she adds. “I’m very lucky to have found Rory.”
Barbara Boughton, a freelance health and medical writer, writes for Reader’s Digest, Medscape.com and other outlets. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Learning when a hug can helpWhen Heather and Ken first met in fall 2002, Heather certainly wasn’t in the mood for romance. She was experiencing serious depression and “very resistant to dating,” but Ken waited patiently.
“When we did start dating, I was very forthright about having bipolar disorder, and he was very understanding,” recalls Heather, 44.
Now Heather’s relationship with her husband is a rock that steadies her when symptoms crop up. In Heather’s case, that’s often behaviors that signal depression—not getting out of bed, failing to eat healthy foods, and crying a lot.
After nine years of marriage, Ken has come to understand what his wife needs when she is ill. And Heather made it a priority to communicate to her husband about what kind of support she finds the most helpful.
“Sometimes it’s just the simple things that are important,” Heather says. “A hug from Ken can be very grounding when I’m having a difficult time. He also knows when to give me space, such as when I get irritable, angry, and when I lash out.”
Perhaps more importantly, Ken and Heather have an agreement that they’ll promptly address any worrisome symptoms.
Heather admits she’s not always receptive when Ken spots signs of depression or hypomania, such as being quick to anger or spending too much on online shopping, yet she will usually agree to call her doctor.
“Couples therapy has also helped us,” she says. “We’ve learned not to blame each other when we discuss sensitive issues such as my bipolar disorder, and to respectively express our feelings. Sometimes that may mean taking a break or even going to different rooms when a discussion becomes too heated.”
She adds, “What has been most important is for both of us to realize that I’m more than the identified patient in our relationship. I’m Heather, a wife who is more than her illness, and who needs and wants hope and love from her partner.”
In sickness and in healthDan and Dolores have weathered 43 years of marriage—and Dan’s bipolar swings.
Dan, now 73, was accurately diagnosed in his late 20s. He and Dolores were contemplating marriage, and she accepted the news along with the man.
“He was a real charmer and had a wonderful sense of humor,” Dolores remembers.
Dan was in a stable period when they met, but shortly after the wedding he slipped into depression. For the next decade, he cycled from months of mania marked by reckless spending and anger, to months of immobilizing depression, to stretches of stability that might last half a year. He went through a series of jobs, never keeping one for long.
“I was ill and non-productive and she was the provider and caretaker,” Dan says.
Dolores held down several part-time jobs, taking their two children to work with her because they couldn’t afford child care. The couple went through two bankruptcies.
“It was painful and it was devastating, but I didn’t leave because I don’t believe in divorce,” says Dolores, 75. “But even in the most difficult moments, Dan’s sense of humor would come shining through.”
They held on until Dan found the treatment he needed at Washington University. An equally important turning point was their decision to start a peer support group in 1980, which became one of the founding chapters of what is now the national Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
The work not only helped his wife become more educated about the disorder, Dan says, but through running meetings “she gained many skills in talking with me in a very helpful and therapeutic way.”
“We learned how to communicate even around tough topics—and not blame the other person,” Dolores adds.
Dolores admits to “mixed feelings” about their marriage over the years, but says that their life improved as their ability to address Dan’s health got better.
“He has changed in a really positive way over the years,” she says. “And our communication strategies just got better and better. We feel so blessed now.”
Another definition of partnerPeople who are single may find a family member who becomes a partner in recovery. For Jackie that’s her dad, Larry.
“We’ve become an amazing team at managing my bipolar I,” explains the 25-year-old. “We even have a special binder that we keep on the coffee table that has copies of the most important papers about my illness and how we should handle things.”
The binder includes a list of her medications and what they’re for, contact information for her doctors, steps to take in various crisis situations, even copies of some of her homework from psychotherapy.
Jackie has found the skills she’s learning in dialectical behavior therapy especially helpful in managing her symptoms. When she comes home from group, she shares new information with her father. Also really helpful, she says, is “both of us reading everything we can get our hands on about bipolar. We test out new techniques for managing things to see what works best for us.”
For example, Jackie now keeps track of when (or whether) she’s taken her medications on a dry-erase board that hangs on the fridge. The chart not only reminds her to take the meds, but also keeps her father in the loop without having to bug her.
Jackie, who was diagnosed at 14, has seen a huge change since her father started educating himself. When she’s in a mood shift, they’re able to talk through what may have triggered it and how to get her back in balance. When her dad learned that people with mental illnesses sometimes use cigarettes to cope with stress, he stopped insisting she quit smoking. Instead, he encourages her to cut back.
“Before he started reading he didn’t understand nearly as well as he does now, which really goes without saying,” she reflects. “We fought a lot more and he really didn’t ‘get’ me. Now we fight less and he’s much more compassionate to what I’m enduring.”
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I'm sharing the news of my being among national Award Winners for accomplishments over the past year. It has been a pleasure to serve as State Director and local chapter President. And I consider it an honor to be recognized by DBSA national.
I appreciate all the wonderful support I was given by my fellow officers, Board members, and the chapter membership throughout the year. You may view the announcement on the national web site athttp://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_chapter_spotlights
Congratulations to our 2013 Chapter Service Award Winners!
The DBSA Chapter Service Awards recognize exemplary service by DBSA
chapters, state organizations, and their leaders. Winners will be honored at the 2014 Chapter Leadership Forum in addition to receiving a cash award.
Steve Brannon of DBSA Jackson (TN) and DBSA Tennessee - Outstanding
Steve is an excellent role model for pursuing a wellness-focused life while living with a mood disorder. He fights stigma by openly sharing his journey in the local newspaper, on DBSA’s website, and on his weekly online newsletter. He has worked with the local police department to help educate and train police officers for crisis response teams. Steve was selected for DBSA Peer Advocacy Training and was a representative of DBSA for Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
At his local chapter, DBSA Jackson (TN), Steve gently encourages, trusts, and believes in support group participants. He instituted a monthly “share your inspiration” night in which group members report on what keeps them going, creating an environment of hope and personal growth. Steve is dedicated to further advancing DBSA’s mission into surrounding communities and across the state. The number of support groups has doubled in the past year under his direction, encompassing all major cities and some smaller cities across the state. He has traveled hundreds of miles at his own expense to conduct local chapter visitations as state director. Steve’s passion for the advancement of DBSA’s mission in Jackson and the state of Tennessee is so strong that he has diligently dedicated his time and resources for over a decade.
DBSA Tennessee - State Organization Service
DBSA Tennessee's amazing accomplishments made 2013 a rewarding year!
They supported chapters in their state by hosting educational presentations and training programs, giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. With help from DBSA Tennessee, five local chapters were interviewed on television or radio to promote DBSA to the community. Leaders encouraged one chapter’s community outreach, resulting in a city-wide Mental Health Day declared by their mayor. DBSA Tennessee’s robust plan to help new chapters in the startup process helped find free meeting locations, assistance in affiliation fees and paperwork, and provided a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the new chapter.
Five members of DBSA Tennessee attended DBSA’s Peer Advocate Training in Washington, D.C. and then created an advocacy plan for their state including a campaign against proposed budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers. DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter start-up, community outreach and commitment to peer education, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic affiliates of DBSA.
DBSA Murfreesboro (TN) - Rookie Chapter Service
DBSA Murfreesboro began in July of 2013 with support from DBSA Tennessee.
The chapter started out with one support group, which saw its attendance
double in fewer than six months, becoming one of the fastest growing local
chapters in the state. The growth of the chapter can be attributed to the forces behind it that work tirelessly to get the word out about the group. Flyers and pamphlets are distributed to agencies and health care providers, the Salvation Army, local hospitals and businesses, and more. DBSA Murfreesboro provides post-hospitalization support for those who would otherwise have none. Educational materials, resources, and wellness tools are provided to each chapter participant. They have also started a family and friends support group.
Members of DBSA Murfreesboro participated in the state chapter meetings and backing of their U.S. Representative. For a chapter that achieved all of this in six months, DBSA Murfreesboro has a fine resume of accomplishments, but they consider their greatest success to be the level of support offered to each person who walks through their doors.
Larry Drain, Legislative Liaison for DBSA Tennessee, published the flowing blog on his Hope Works Community blog site this evening. He is responsible for DBSA Tennessee's advocacy effort beginning with his Nov. 25, 2013 blog to bring attention to the crisis. Larry wrote:
"Now word has come that funding for peer support centers is to be totally stopped. The fate of 45 centers and all the people they serve is uncertain at best. The department has managed to find the smallest possible cut that affects the most possible people."
At Larry's recommendations, DBSA Tennessee became the first statewide consumer organization to take action; first, with a Christmas card to the Governor Campaign and, later, an online petition to urge Governor Haslam to cancel plans to close the centers. Recruiting organizational leadership, Larry was the first to post an "Open Letter to the Governor" from the State Director, DBSA Tennessee.
Additionally, Larry's strong desire to save the peer support centers led him to write numerous blogs, place numerous phone calls, and speak directly to leaders and advocates representing peer service organizations. He can take pleasure in the fact that his efforts were fruitful. And he can be comforted that thousands of the most vulnerable of our brother and sister consumers can enjoy the safe haven of 45 peer support centers in the days to come.
We applaud Larry for his work and perseverance. Thanks, Larry.
Peer Support lives
February 3, 2014
It was announced tonight in Governor Haslam’s 2014 budget for the state of Tennessee that proposed budget cuts that would have closed all 45 peer support centers in Tennessee has been rescinded and all peer support centers will be fully funded.
Thanks to a governor who listened and to so many who spoke out.
It has been a good night for all of us.
Much to be thankful for. Glad to have some good news to share.
DBSA TENNESSEE WAS RECENTLY NOMINATED TO RECEIVE THE DBSA OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013 AWARD. BELOW IS ONE OF THE LETTERS OF NOMINATION FOR THAT AWARD.
OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013
As one of the fourteen existing state chapters, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic. The chapter has proven itself active in encouraging local chapters, advocating for mental health and educating and reaching out to the community, both those in need of support and communities at large. The state website, which drew over 10,200 hits in 2013, maintains a complete list of chapters and support groups across the state of Tennessee, including contact information, addresses and meeting times in order to better connect those in need with support groups.
From an educational standpoint, DBSA Tennessee assisted its local chapters with two state meetings. These meetings included educational presentations which introduced chapter leaders to an organization to provide legal assistance to the neediest consumers as well as providing training programs for peer support. These programs proved beneficial to chapter leaders by giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. The state chapter also recruited participants for Peer Advocate training in July, with chapter members volunteering for training and committing to the success of 2014’s advocacy initiatives.
In 2013, five members of DBSA Tennessee attended the DBSA Peer Advocate Training in Washington, DC. Two trained Peer Advocates represented DBSA at Mental Health Day on Capitol Hill. These members also created an advocacy plan for the state of Tennessee. Additionally, DBSA Tennessee led a campaign against proposed state budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers leaving 3500 people per month out in the cold. The campaign included recruiting local chapter members to send Christmas cards to the governor. The statewide goal of this grassroots effort was 300 cards. This campaign was the first concerted effort a statewide organization waged on decisions affecting peer support centers, letting the governor know that our state deserves and needs what peer support centers add to the mental health system in Tennessee. Both the State Director and the Assistant Director serve on the Consumer Advisory Board of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. DBSA Tennessee was a sponsor for the statewide annual conference of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a mental health care advocacy organization. As a sponsor, the state organization provided for two scholarships and maintained a DBSA chapter exhibit at the state conference.
A community outreach effort was initiated by a local DBSA chapter with the encouragement of the state chapter. A coalition between DBSA and a local NAMI chapter to reach the community of Chattanooga resulted in a Mental Health Day (as declared by the mayor) in the city. The chapter initiated a day devoted to mental health including a multimedia presentation and panel of local experts giving a question and answer session and booths set up by local providers. The primary organizer, a chapter leader of DBSA Chattanooga, presented, with multimedia, the steps to creating such a community event at the state organization meeting held later that month. DBSA Tennessee led and supported five local chapters—Chattanooga, Madison, Bolivar, Memphis and Jackson, to participate in radio and newspaper interviews to promote and reach out to the community, including one live in studio television segment.
By and large, DBSA Tennessee’s most impressive accomplishment is their plan for helping new chapters in the startup process. Starting a new chapter can be a daunting task, but DBSA Tennessee has made that process much smoother for those wishing to start a new DBSA chapter. DBSA Tennessee has a solid plan in place for assisting those individuals. This plan includes helping new chapter leaders find a free location for meetings, provides assistance in affiliation and incorporation process with money earmarked for this purpose, assigns a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the budding chapter leader, gives printed material and information to the new chapter, trains the facilitator and furnishes personal support to the new leader. New chapter locations are listed on the national website under the established chapter sponsoring them. After three successful months of meetings, DBSA Tennessee pays forward a portion of the affiliation and one time incorporation fee for the new chapter. Once the new chapter is established, it then pays into the fund for future chapters. This plan has proven successful in the creation of the new chapter in Murfreesboro which was successfully built to nearly double the initial attendance and has enlisted the financial support of State Representative Scott DeJarlais. Initial work is completed for new startup chapters in Clarksville, East Nashville and Knoxville with interest and steps taken by the cities of Columbia and Union City. Additionally, new support groups have been established in Memphis, Jackson, Madison, and Chattanooga.
DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving chapter of the National DBSA organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter startup, community outreach and commitment to peer education, the chapter is, indeed, among the most energetic in the organization.
S.L. Brannon D.Div..