Category Archives: Celebration

Six Months Free!

Friday marked six months since being in a hospital or residential/restricted unit. Six months! I can’t say I’ve learned a lot, but I can say I survived. And sometimes that’s the best we get. I still suffer with suicidal thoughts and desires, some days worse than others. My mood still fluctuates with the moon and season changes, and usually just because. I can’t say I’m better. I have bipolar. And good days are all we get. Sometimes they stretch to weeks and months. And that is what I am celebrating. The last six months full of holidays, death, divorce and daily suicidal thinking didn’t send me to the hospital. It’s the longest stretch I’ve gone since diagnosis 5 years ago.

So, while everyone around me celebrates, I’m going to sit here in a corner with a wry smile, glad that I made it, and try not to be overcome by suicidal thoughts and anxiety. After all, I still have two cats who won’t get along and a divorce to settle (hopefully tomorrow). Stress is bad for bipolar. It can trigger an episode or mood shift and I really don’t know if I could stay out of the hospital if that happened right now. As I said, people around me are celebrating, but I still have a looming hospitalization hanging over my head, bigger than that shoe that everyone waits to drop. I’m not at all convinced that I can make it another six months. But the next section begins with one step at a time. And right now, I need to reach out to my network because the anxiety and thoughts are strong and I want to make it through my court date tomorrow before I collapse. Which could happen. Just saying. Just because I made it six months – and I give myself credit for that – doesn’t mean that I won’t fall down again when things are too much.

In Cinnamon’s Honor

I loved my cat Cinnamon, as you can tell from my previous post. I had no intention of adopting another cat for some time. But Samantha-cat’s need for a companion and my running into a cat with the right personality on the right weekend when adoptions were half off, resulted in the addition of Ellie, a 2-year-old (below). So far they get along ok with some hissing and growling but less each day. Food and being surprised are the main culprits. They can be close to each other, but prefer several feet distance. I hope it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Samantha’s senior years (she is 15 but acts much younger).

I wasn’t sure I was ready to adopt again so soon. I reminded myself that people who do adopt again, especially soon, do it in honor of their beloved pet. I loved her so much, I’d do it again. Fall in love, spend a life, have to say goodbye. I still cry about Cinnamon. And my heart is big enough to begin to love a new little one.

Welcome, Ellie!

Welcome, Ellie!

Empathy Cards for Serious Illnesses

Update: Emily appeared on Good Morning America on May 21. Yay Emily!

You’ll never guess what I found! The perfect cards that all our family and friends can send us when they find out we have a mental illness, or are having a flare-up of a mental illness. Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell.
No more icky promises that it will all work out. No more friends and family disappearing because they don’t know what to do or say. Just send us a funny card that says you know this sucks and you’re here and not leaving. And you won’t tell us about some new internet potion that will make it magically go away.

Let’s make Emily’s cards go viral! All sorts of long-term, invisible, serious and/or horrible diseases are out there that need EMPATHY not saccharine.


didn't know what to say


Happens for a reason

World Bipolar Day 2015

bipolar dayMarch 30, 2015

I’m a functioning bipolar person. I have had horrendous mood swings, rapid cycling of my moods, deep suicidal depressions and psychotic manias. I’ve had my meds changed multiple times, med washes (going completely off meds to start a new regimen), and ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). I’ve gone through several full day and partial day outpatient programs. I’ve been in the psychiatric hospital 25 times in 4 1/2 years. I’ve been to residential therapy for a month.

But today I function well, with routines and schedules, meds and therapy, and a strong support system of people who love me. I volunteer 4 places. I go out with friends, and I spend time at home with my cats. I’m on disability for the bipolar disorder because I still have significant problems with memory and concentration, which I see in hobbies such as reading and knitting, as well as in volunteer tasks.

Bipolar Disorder is an illness. It affects how a person lives his or her life, but not the essence of a person. We still have hobbies and senses of humor. Sometimes we are creative. Always we love and need to be loved, just like everyone else. Go give someone with bipolar a hug!




A great article for this World Bipolar Day is Natasha Tracy’s Debunking of Bipolar Myths


If you see your way clear to help me pay for the miraculous experience of ending suicidal obsessions I had at La Paloma, check out my “Saved My Life” Go Fund Me page at

Passed the Month Mark

Ijournalt’s been a month since leaving La Paloma Treatment Center, and I’m still doing well. I haven’t written much because – happy to say – there has been little to process in this little journal of mine.

  • I had a couple of weeks of high energy while resetting routines and finding more volunteer locations.
  • I had a week of low energy as reality sank in and I got tax news.
  • I made a trip downtown to see a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years.
  • I started to write my book Suddenly Bipolar in earnest, based on these blog posts for the last 4 years.
  • I had a week down low – depressed though NOT suicidal – and then back to balanced.

This month has been so different from what my last few years have been like! No need for the hospital to keep me safe. In fact, so few thoughts of suicide that I could very easily remind myself of my commitment “Not an option. Never gonna happen.” I’m surprised at how easy this month has been to monitor and live with my mental health.

And at the same time, each day has been difficult, for instance, re-establishing routines such as exercise and not being able to do as much as I used to (still dealing with the knee injury from La Paloma). Getting up at 6am is harder at home than it was at La Paloma, and I’m still looking for ways to keep from falling asleep on the couch for a few minutes every morning. I’m afraid I’m going to miss an exercise class or an appointment from dozing off.

When reality set in and when the depression from the equinox kicked in, I found all the volunteering I set up to be difficult, hard to bear and not fun. Compare that to today, feeling much better after the equinox and the depression lifting, and enjoying volunteering.

So, the month hasn’t been perfect. Whose life is? But I managed it, reached out to accept help when needed, and made it through. I’m confident I can handle the next month. One day at a time, of course.


If you see your way clear to help me pay for the miraculous experience I had at La Paloma, check out my my “Saved My Life” Go Fund Me page at

Will You Help? Deb’s “Saved My Life” Experience

Hi, Everyone!

You know how hard I’ve struggled with bipolar disorder and suicidal visions for the last 4 and 1/2 years. You’ve been by my side with prayers and thoughts and cards for hospitalization after hospitalization. You’ve been my rock on Facebook and my blog and Face-to-Face. And still you saw how I struggled mightily.

Thanks to a month at La Paloma Treatment Center in Memphis, TN, I can say proudly that I am stable and can say a strong “NO” to suicidal visions. You know I haven’t been able to do that!

While there I also worked through grief that was keeping me in a spiral of depression, and now I am eager to take on life again. I can return to the church that has stood by me, and I can move forward in a life with endless possibilities.

I have gotten my life back. Hooray!
I even have a Mission Statement for my life: To live compassionately in the world in ways that bring equality and justice through kindness, intelligence and humor.

And there is a price. I owe over $8,000 to La Paloma, what my insurance would not cover. Would you help me start my life anew by helping me with these medical expenses? Every little bit counts!

Residential Treatment Transformations

Much of my suffering has been assuaged by my time in residential treatment. The first step was taking suicide off the table as an action I would take. First, I could only do that on a trial basis, to see what that would feel like. After a day, I felt so much freer and open that I decided to make the decision permanent. No more struggling over whether I would do it or not. No more torture when the suicidal visions show up, as I’m sure they will from time to time (as they did while I was there, at various frequencies). They are just a feature of the illness.

gut instinctThis was not an easy decision, and I needed the whole month to let the choice sink in deeply from my head, through my heart, and into my gut. I still waffled with the decision to the end and even a little bit now that I’m home. But I remind myself of my mantra that recalls the feelings of openness and freedom that I experienced: Not an Option. Never Gonna Happen.

The second step I was able to take while in treatment had to do with the intense grief, pain, and haunting I have felt with churchy things and worship and religion in general. I discovered there was so very much overlap between that grief and the grief I feel for my marriage since separating 17 months ago. I had quite a while when churchy things didn’t bother me, but it had started up again several months ago.

As it turned out, both griefs circled around being in The Caretaker role, one I learned from childhood and identified closely with being a woman. Also, just as important, both griefs mourned the hypomania and mania that characterized most of my young adult life before we found bipolar after the brain crash of 2010. My professional life and personal life only knew that mood state as normal, and I again had associated it with who I am at a deepest level, including that of being a woman.

One of the things I was able to do was to say about churchy things that I will use comparable skills again, in some form, probably in ways I can’t imagine, and therefore churchy things don’t have to be a trigger for grief and pain and haunting anymore. I can attend church for the community and service that I’m looking for and talk about it with authority and without deep sadness (other than the deep sadness for all the churches who just don’t “get it”).

The insight about The Caregiver and the hypomania also calmed the grief about my marriage. The grief is more about me and less about him. And then when I think of him, it doesn’t have to hurt or be a trigger. It’s just a thought followed by a feeling, for myself.

So, mostly, I learned to manage my thoughts better in ways that specifically dealt with my anxiety and depression and grief and suicidal visions. I think it was the time with my individual therapist rather than the intense groups that helped the most. I think the intense groups helped my decisions to settle into my being instead of being superficial changes. I already have a pantheon of the coping skills they taught – skills which I haven’t had to use all the time anymore.

The true test will be as time goes on and these things cycle around. Will my convictions stay solid? Will I still be working on myself and letting the grief go? I certainly hope so, especially considering how much I will be paying for the opportunity to come to these conclusions.