Meeting Notes – February 16, 2011

by Bruce on February 23, 2011

The meeting started out small this week – only four of us showed up by the normal start time (6:30).  As we set chairs and tables up for a larger group, a bemused newcomer wondered what exactly we were up to.  Shortly after, people began to drift in until we had a group of 10-15 people.


We began the meeting in usual fashion, with each person answering the questions below (and passing if they preferred not to). 1. Your first name 2. Your diagnosis 3. Your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 (bad to good) 4. What do you do to take care of yourself?.


Next Wednesday (2/23) we will be joined at 7:30pm by Dr. Jenifer Culver, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University will be giving a presentation on the types of therapies currently available for people with depression and bipolar disorder.  The meeting will begin at 6:30, as usual with the normal, but abbreviated format until Dr Culver arrives. Katherine passed out copies of the latest quarterly newsletter from DBSA California.  Currently, only print copies are available, but we will try to get a link to an electronic copy in the future.
Two highlights from this edition:

Ketamine for Depression: Yay or Neigh?

Magellan Health Services:  Resiliency and Recovery E-Learning Center

Throughout the meeting, we circulate the question bag (just a paper bag with a big “?” on the side).  Anyone is free to write virtually any question relating to living with depression bipolar disorder.  The question is read by the facilitator and members of the group respond from their own experience.  The writer of the question remains anonymous, but benefits from the collective experience and wisdom of the group.  The discussions are typically quite lively and often entertaining.

(The only topic we don’t discuss are individual medications and health care providers.  There is too much variation in individual’s response to a certain medication or certain doctor and what might work for one person might not work for another.  We do have general discussions about classes of medications, and people are welcome to ask during the meeting for feedback on a particular medication or doctor and then discuss it with others one-on-one after the meeting.)

Here’s some of what we covered this week:

Q:  How long after diagnosis should you begin to date?

    A:  What is the sound of one hand clapping . . . ?
    A:  Maybe six months . . . but if your diagnosis changes every five months . . .
    A:  How are the other relationships in your life?  If you’re having trouble maintaining friendships, it might be good to wait.
    A:  How stable are you?  It’s important to get to know your illness well and understand how it affects your relationships.

Q:  How do you stop feeling sorry for yourself with all the changes that have come with your illness?

    A:   Just tell yourself, “Get up and try another day.”
    A:  Try to avoid thinking that you’re never going to get any better.  Keep trying to improve your treatment and management until you feel well.
    A:  Try exercising gratitude.  Someone keeps a gratitude journal.  Then she can look back when she’s feeling down and see that there really were times when good things happened.  Start where you are.
    A:  Keep a mood journal.  It’s difficult to remember variations in mood when you’re depressed.  A mood journal can help you see patterns and triggers, both up and down.
    A:  “Stop and smell the roses.”  You can ask yourself, “Are there any roses to smell here?”

Q:  If you have an episode at work, how do you explain it to your coworkers?

    A:  Just say, “I had a breakdown.”  Everyone understands what a nervous breakdown is.  It’s better not to give your diagnosis.
    A:  Some of the things that we’ve done at work defy explanation.  Sometimes all you can do is change work groups.
    A:  Sometimes you can’t.  It’s just very awkward.
    A:  You can say, “My depression is acting up.  I need some mental health time.”
    A:  Sometimes it’s best just to take whatever criticism comes.  Listen, don’t react.  If you keep yourself from getting activated, you have a much better chance of answering questions and keeping your job.
    A:  With practice you can learn to stay with the feeling.  When I stay with the feeling, and just experience it, it usually lets me go.

Q:  How many times a day should I take SAM-e ?
(ed. note:  normally we don’t discuss medications by name during the meeting, but an exception was made, due to the risks presented by this supplement )

    A:  SAM-e has a very dangerous interaction with SSRI anti-depressants – potentially fatal.  DO NOT take this supplement without consulting with your psychiatrist.

Q:  How do you beat the blues in weather like this?

    A:  Go see a movie.
    A:  Stay busy.
    A:  Listen go good music.  It can help you get things done that you couldn’t get done otherwise.
    A:  Turn more lights on.
    A:  Spend time with people that you enjoy being with.
    A:  Go to the library and browse the magazine rack.  You’ll probably discover something interesting.

(Note:  If you’re having trouble interpreting any of the questions or answers, don’t worry.  We have trouble with this sometimes during the meetings, too.  You can use them as a kind of personal Rorschach test and use an interpretation that’s most helpful for your life.)


We ended the meeting in typical fashion by each person sharing something good or neutral that happened to them during the week.