STORIES OF HOPE, HELP & SUPPORT
Joan, Ohio --- No Longer Alone,
At age 27, Joan was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She received various treatments throughout her thirties, and after being released from an outpatient program in 1994, she was required to attend a DBSA support group several towns away. At her first meeting, she was warmly welcomed and told, “you might not feel comfortable at these meetings right away, but eventually you will.” She continued going to meetings, and began to feel a connection with the group and the people in it. At her first DBSA Annual Conference, she made a friend who lived nearby and they began a group in their hometown.
“At first, I had to work through a lot of rage,” Joan explains. “I was angry at God for a long time for taking my brother. Then one afternoon I was on a retreat, hiking, and it came to me: Why not forgive God? Today I can see a lot of blessings I couldn’t see when I was in pain.”
In 1996, Joan received a Master of Liberal Studies degree. Her prize-winning poetry has been published in The Awakenings Review and the National Catholic Reporter, and read on the
“My disorder is still here, but I know I can cope with it because I have resources, Joan says. “At my lowest point, I was just so disconnected from my life and my surroundings. DBSA has helped me rebuild that connection and make it so much stronger. Today I have so many bright, caring, creative friends and I don’t have to explain to them that I’m wired differently or I think differently, because they know. We stick together and support each other. I can’t think of a better organization to be a part of.”
Karen, Colorado --- Out of Darkness
Growing up in the 1950’s, Karen learned about mood disorders early. Several of her family members were affected, and despite the prevalent attitudes of shame and secrecy at the time, her parents were open to discussing these illnesses.
After she married and had children of her own, Karen made sure she talked with them about bipolar disorder. “Talking about it makes it less scary for kids,” she explains. “It is so important for families to look at their history, sit down with one another and discuss these illnesses, their symptoms and what to look out for.”
When Karen’s older son, Erik, was diagnosed at age 20 with bipolar disorder, the family faced the challenge of finding effective treatment while giving him the kind of support he needed. And Karen wondered if there was a way to connect with other families in the same situation for help and support. Erik died at age 25 (of an undetermined cause, according to the Coroner) in the summer of 1993. Karen held tightly to her faith and the belief that some good could come from the tragedy.
A few months later, on what would have been Erik’s 26th birthday, the family held a memorial service that was open to the public. The high attendance and outpouring of support motivated Karen to take further action. By spring 1995, DBSA Colorado Springs was incorporated, and soon after had the first fully stocked resource center and lending library of its kind in the area, a permanent meeting place, and an answering service. Today the chapter’s services include support group meetings for adults with mood disorders, dual diagnosis (mood disorders plus alcohol or substance abuse problems), late life depression, young adults (16-25) with mood disorders, and family and friends. In addition, they conduct a teen outreach program in high schools and hold inpatient meetings to help people who are hospitalized.
Family support has always been a big part of DBSA Colorado Springs. Karen explains. “When you are right in the middle of a situation, it’s hard to see what’s happening, but when you sit in a support group meeting across from someone who is going through the same thing, it gives you perspective.”
“It’s a tremendous gift to be able to help families,” Karen says. “When you are open to change, it allows for the change to happen. I would probably never have started this group had it not been for Erik. And to think the most wonderful people have come into my life as a result of this organization. Out of darkness can come light in ways you could never have imagined.”
This was in 1982, before the national organization was incorporated, with meetings at two local hospitals. Today people come from 30-40 miles away to attend. Because of its rural location, one of the group’s main challenges is attendance. “Sometimes I had to keep it going in name only until more people came,”
“If you are willing to donate your time and energy, you will get it back tenfold,”
A positive aspect of being in a rural community,
Don’t give up. Keep the group going no matter what. If membership drops, be patient, be steadfast. You never know when someone is going to need support.
Get other people involved. Encourage them to participate, facilitate, and reach out to others. This helps you and it helps them.
Have a newsletter, so people can stay in touch even if they’re not attending meetings.
Advertise. Get the word out any way you can. Talk to hospital administrators and other medical professionals. Encourage them to start groups or refer people.
Look for resources in the community such as health providers or other businesses that can donate time or resources.
“My goal is to give hope and a voice to people who have none,”
page created: May 8, 2006
page updated: August 18,2006