Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

miscellaneous thoughts – addiction, books, and new years resolutions

oh boy, i haven’t posted in ages! let’s have some random stuff here then:

stuff #1 – we are on vacation in arizona right now – on our last leg, in a tiny place called congress, which is close to wickenburg with the huge population count of 5,000. supposedly, wickenburg is known for its fancy addiction treatment centres. i had a quick look at the websites of four of them but so far nothing looks like something i would recommend. as much as i think the 12 steps are great, i have a problem with them being a required part of a treatment centre. that’s not how the 12 steps work. and i have a problem with a treatment centre where the only books you’re allowed to read are AA’s big book and the bible. but i guess it works for some people.

stuff #2 – been thinking a lot lately about how to keep blogging and partaking in social media. to what degree do i want to contribute to the overwhelming symphony (cacophony?) of virtual voices out there? how will i help make the world a better place if i do that?

stuff #3 – the second edition of my poetry book is out. should i have a l(a)unch party? oh, that’s so much work. i totally don’t feel like organizing ANYTHING right now. but you know what, that book is darn good. it was fun to look at it four years later and to spruce it up a bit.

stuff #4 – i am reading – i am reading – i am reading – ok, i’m gonna say it, i am reading eat pray love right now. yup. i finally did it, grabbed the book off my sister-in-law’s shelf and went to it. it’s actually not that bad – there are a few neat ideas in there so far. for example the petition to god. will it make my “best books of 2011” list? no.

stuff #5 – oh, but HERE is a book that will make the list – alistair mchoag’s rollercoaster memoir invisible driving about his life with bipolar disorder. holy razmatazz! no need to be interested in mental illness to read that book, all you need is a love of reading. a review is coming up, and i’ll have to gather all my half and quarter wits to come up with something interesting after all the rave reviews he already has.

sleepingstuff #6 – resolutions. resolutions? i don’t know. i engaged in a bit of a rant against the typical approach to them in an interview with CBC parenting columnist michelle eliot the other day. more and more, i prefer themes rather than resolutions – ideas or actions i wouldn’t mind pursuing in the coming year, without going crazy about it for three weeks and then slacking off (“i will exercise of 60 minutes every day!”, “i’ll stop smoking forever!”). so two themes i’m proposing for this year is to slow down, and then to slow down some more. and extermination. of guilt.

aaah. slowing down. maybe i should stop now and go to bed.

and you?

violence and mental illness: how should we talk about it?

earlier this week, our newspapers were full of the tragic story of clare shelswell, the little girl who was killed by her stepfather, peter wilson. on june 29, the vancouver sun devoted half of page 1 and 2 to it. on page 2, there was also an article that contained an interview with an expert related to the case.

as often happens, once the article was written and the newspaper put together, it was printed in several phases. these early versions often end up on the internet and the printed versions are distributed to outlying areas. any corrections that are made tend to end up in the vancouver printings.

as it turns out, the article on page 2 that can be found on the internet and was printed in the earlier versions reads

bipolar patients can become violent, prof says

mental health advocates, tod maffin for example, got understandably mad about it.

yup, those bipolar people. they can become violent. which probably means that half of them are violent, right? (that’s how the human brain often thinks: “can” means either yes or no, so “obviously”, there being two choices, there is a 50 per cent chance for one of the two possibilities to occur). fortunately, thanks to tod, the headline was corrected to read “bipolar patients rarely become violent, prof says” (my emphasis).

i would say, though, that the actual article that reported the killing was quite responsible. here is the excerpt that mentions that the killer had bipolar disorder:

sergi [the public defender] described wilson as “lucid” during the brief court appearance, adding his client appeared to understand the proceedings.

no formal charge has been laid. wilson earlier waived his rights under state law to be charged within 72 hours of his arrest.

his next court appearance is scheduled for july 12.

meanwhile, prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the death penalty.

sergi said an accused’s criminal history and the details of the alleged crime are key factors that must be weighed in a capital case.

sergi was uncertain how a mental illness defence might affect the death-penalty decision.

both wilson and his wife told police he suffers from bipolar disorder for which he takes medication.

what do you think? how should violence perpetrated by people with mental health issues be portrayed? for example, should the article that talks about violence and bipolar disorder have mentioned that persons with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators?

blogathon: mental health support in churches

in my announcement of this blogathon last week, i mentioned marja bergen, the founder of the living room, a church-based support group for people with mood disorders. let me give you a few excerpts from her new book, a firm place to stand, where she describes the birth of the living room.  marja’s experience stands in interesting contrast to that of the author about whom i wrote in an earlier post today, where mental illness was met with ignorance and much talk of the devil.

god gave me an idea that wouldn’t stay quiet. i wanted to start a faith-based support group for people with mood disorders. i knew there was a need. several people in my church, including me, could use a place to talk about their struggles. secular support groups were readily available, but participants to not always feel comfortable talking about god. for those who believe in jesus, discussing faith issues is important in dealing with emotional problems.

don dyck, our pastor, liked the idea, and we set the wheels in motion. the process took time. where would we meet? how would we let people know about it? would it be for our church alone, or would we advertise in the community? what would a meeting look like? who would facilitate the group?

the last person i thought of to lead the group was me. i could not see myself doing anything like that. yet, as our plans proceeded, i received the courage to take charge of the project and decided i would try facilitating.

we called the group living room, a name coined by dr. john toews, psychiatrist and author of no longer alone: mental health and the church. dr. toews is a proponent of better church support for people with mental illness and helped inspire the organization of our group.

living group became an outreach project in partnership with the mood disorders association of BC, also known as MDA, a secular organization that trained us how to facilitate. pastor don would not let me start without a co-facilitator. we found janice, a great support for me and someone i could not do without.

relationships built on authentic sharing of our vulnerabilities become strong. because we have all suffered, we have compassion for each other. we share the same langue. when the participants believe in god and talk about how god works in their lives, the strength of our bond grows. not only do we share similar emotional problems, we encourage each others’ faith. we share god’s love with each other.

an amazing thing happened to me as a result of leading these meetings. though we talk about sad things, i feel quite uplifted when i go home, emotionally and spiritually. after meetings, i pray, thanking god for this gift. it is hard to describe the joy i have found in this work.

my desire to give support rather than always being on the receiving end has been met in the living room. i am helping others deal with their problems. to give is to receive. the more support i give, the less i need to go to others for help. i feel stronger, happier and more whole than i ever have before. when i think back to the needy person i used to be, i am amazed where god has taken me.

canadian mental health association

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, email me or use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link; if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps.

thank you for visiting, reading, commenting and, if you can, donating!

blogathon 2008: helping people with mood disorders

marja bergen's new book about finding meaning in a life with bipolar disorderas my regular readers already know, i’m participating in this year’s blogathon, a marathon in which selected bloggers (see list below) participate in order to raise awareness and funds for their favourite charities.

on july 26, starting at 5 am (yes, in the morning!) for 24 hours, every 30 minutes, i’ll be posting a blog entry.

the charity i’ve selected is the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch), an organization that i’ve been very proudly part of for the last three years. their mission statement is:

CMHA vancouver-burnaby promotes mental wellness and increases understanding of mental health issues through innovative and collaborative approaches in the areas of public education, accessible services and personal empowerment.

for a preview of the kind of material you’ll be reading, let me tell you a little about marja bergen. you’ve encountered marja here before. a photographer and writer who lives with bipolar disorder, she has been helping people who suffer from mood disorders since 1999. she is an outspoken proponent of better church support for people with mental illness.

yesterday i went to lovely garden party launch of her new book, a firm place to stand.

a firm place to stand is a must-read for christians who struggle with mental health challenges and the faith communities who minister to them.

for too long, society has misunderstood and feared individuals who live with mood disorders. this book dispels the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and encourages people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.

most importantly, for the sufferers themselves, a firm place to stand shows that it is possible to have a mental disorder yet be close to god and derive strong support from a growing relationship with christ.

in her sincere and candid style, marja bergen reflects on her forty-two years with bipolar disorder, showing how faith in god can help a person with a serious illness turn weakness into strength. she describes how god transformed her from an insecure, withdrawn person into a leader, an activist, and the founder of living room, the growing christian support group for people with mood disorders.

during the blogathon, i will tell you a little more about the book and marja’s fantastic new venture, the living room.

others who are participating in vancouver’s blogathon are

rebecca bollwitt

raul pacheco

tania morrison

shane gibson

karen hamilton

ayeza garcia

danny dang

mehnaz thawer

barbara doduk

chris richardson

colleen vince

duane storey