Who wants to hear a story about a bridge?

So Salty and me were presenting “Laugh It Off” at Turquoise Lodge last Friday, and the support group part of the presentation was going great, and then Jackie’s stand in (our babysitter to make sure we don’t do anything untoward or triggering) jumped in with some comment or another that totally sucked the joy out of the room. I’m going to pick on this lovely young lady to cover my own secret shame that will not be secret soon. Truth told, our handler was very professional and super great, but as Jackie noticed for the past couple of weeks, having her in the midst of the group changed the dynamic.

So there we are, Salty and me, and our handler was not part of the circle of peers by prior planning, and we were laughing and crying and laughing and offering kind words and support and everything else that happens in a peer support group. Our lovely handler jumped in with a comment, from outside the circle, and the conversation dead stopped. What did I say with the wisdom of a thousand Yodas?


“Oh, man, you are such a buzzkill.”


Aw, crap. I caught my error immediately. It wasn’t difficult to miss, like Rosie O’Donnell making her perigee-syzygy. Aw, crap. Crap!

Splendid. I just (jokingly) called someone a “buzzkill” in a room of detox and rehab patients. Thing is, that got the conversation jump started again with laughter and snickers. I made so many apologies, tried to spin it into “You see? This is how deep into our everyday language stigmas run.” Whatever. I messed up. Badly. So unprofessional. And this was the first time our handler sat through this performance.

Just splendid. I made apologies again to the group, and the consensus was it was just fine and no one was offended. Funny dynamic, support groups. Making that stupid faux pas actually made me more popular with the group. Thank the Yodas.

Buzzkill. Dang it. I’m better than this. Sigh.

Reprinted with kind permission of the author from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Things you really shouldn’t say to someone experiencing the symptoms of major depression

This is another one of those articles I compose that could benefit from some gentle softening, but I’m not going to. This is important, and a feather is not the blunt tool required for a proper illustration.

Here’s the rub. To the Muggle Layperson, the following list of…


Common Things That People Say to Peers Who are Experiencing Major Depression Symptoms


…may seem reasonable, supportive and common sense. To the Peer, these time-honored polished turds are as useful as a magnetic colon in a shrapnel factory in helping us feel any better. No feathers here tonight, ladies and gents!


Here’s the thing about major depression. It’s a disease.


Let me try to explain. People with farsightedness would not choose to have farsightedness. People with leukemia would not choose to have leukemia. People with ulceratic colitis would not choose to have ulceratic colitis. People with major depression would not choose to have major depression. Making any sense? I hope so.

I suppose the guiding principle when reading this list is:


There is a Huge Difference Between “SADNESS” and “DEPRESSION.”


What is this difference? Fair enough. Here’s the difference.


Sadness is a natural reaction that’s the result of something traumatic happening eliciting a real emotional response, such as your favorite cat passing away or Pineapple Fanta being discontinued.
Depression is a result of a malfunctioning organ (The Brain) that only looks like sadness in behavior and is not the same in cause.


Peers, this list will be far too familiar. Muggles, please remember that no one chooses to have major depression. The list will make a lot more sense that way, and it’ll shed some light on why these aren’t the best things to say to someone experiencing major depression, no matter how pure the intent.

I mean, c’mon. Who would choose to have major depression? I’d much rather choose to have a magnetic colon in the shovel & rake aisle of Home Depot.


Just get over it.

Have you tried thinking happy thoughts?

You’re always so negative.

Stop overreacting.

Did you take your meds today?

If you’d get out of bed and do something you’d feel better.

When was the last time you took a shower?

Drama! Drama! Drama!

You aren’t eating enough.

You’re eating too much.

If everyone else can get over their depression, why can’t you?

Do you want to talk about it? You’ll feel better if you talk to someone about it.

You’re strong. You’ll be fine.

Can you try to be normal?

Hey, life sucks. Deal with it.

I sometimes feel you like being depressed.

I know when I’m catching a cold and do something proactive about it. It’s the same for depression. (an executive board member at NAMI Albuquerque shared this bit of wisdom with me when I sat on the board)

Why don’t you just grow up already?

You look horrible!

It’s your choice to be depressed.

Happiness is a choice.

You’re not going to have any friends left if you don’t snap out of it.

I’m sure you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.

Are you sure your meds are working right?

Aren’t you sick of listening to yourself?

I give up! You’re impossible to talk to!

Scientology.

You’ve got everything so good, so what do you have to feel sad about?

Look, there are a lot of people who are a lot worse off than you.

What do you have to feel depressed about?

You are what you think. Think you’re happy and you’ll be happy.

It’s all in your head.

Geez, lighten up already!

Aren’t you feel better yet?

Take a really long shower. That always cheers me up.

You need to get out more.

It’s a beautiful day! Why don’t you go out in the sunshine?

Everyone gets depressed sometime.

You should get off those meds. They’re just making it worse.

Scientology.

You’re responsible for your own emotions.

We’ve all got our cross to bear.

Talking to you is pointless because you won’t listen.

Your psychiatrist isn’t doing you any favors.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Big surprise, you’re depressed again. Aren’t you always?

I’m sure you’ll get some good poetry out of all of your suffering.

Get over it!

You want to know why you’re so depressed? Because you only think about yourself.

Have you tried some herbal tea with honey?

What you really need is something truly shitty to happen in your life and then you’ll finally have some perspective.

Just pull yourself together.

Depression is your way of punishing and pushing away everyone who cares about you. (Everyone, I’d like you to meet my ex-wife Susan)

Cheer up!

Thanks a lot, you’re making me feel all depressed now, too!

You are such a buzzkill!

Get out in the fresh air and out of your bedroom.

Happy is as happy does!

Go dancing, go for a walk, go to a concert, go jogging, go to a movie, go to the bookstore, go for a hike, go for a drive, go to the grocery store and buy your favorite food… it’ll make you feel better.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. (You catch more flies with the shit you’re spewing out of your mouth than the decomposing body of a beached humpback whale… what’s your point?)

No one said life is fair.

You’re worthless. (Lovingly shared with me by the ex-wife Susan)

You are so selfish.

Can’t you understand I’m just trying to help you?

I’m sure if you wait it out you’ll feel better soon.

Ug, I’ve heard this all before.

Can you focus on something else?

Would you like to listen to someone who whines all the time?

What do you have to worry about?

That is so a non-issue.

Your so-called problems aren’t that big of a deal.

Get a hobby.

Dude, get a grip!

Dude, have a chill pill!

Dude, just get over it!

Dude, it’s not all that bad!

Dude, everyone goes through this!

Dude, you’ll be fine!

Dude, don’t worry so much!

It’s not as bad as you think.

Can you try a little harder?

Can you even remember the last time you were happy?

You’re making it up.

You need a boyfriend.

You need a girlfriend.

Just pull yourself together.

You think you have problems.

Get out and volunteer for something, that way you won’t have time to feel sorry for yourself.

What makes you happy? Do that.

It’s official! You’ll never be able to hold down a job! (Another gem from my lovely ex-wife Susan)

Everyone has a little mental illness.

Shit or get off the pot.

When was the last time you took a vacation?

Tell yourself affirming things about yourself and soon you’ll start believing them.

It’s your own fault you’re depressed.

Scientology.

Depression is how God is punishing you for all your sinning. (I had a pastor tell me this one time… I don’t think I like the God he prays to…)

Here comes the Tickle Monster!

You brought this on yourself.

You have absolutely no reason I can see for feeling this way.

I’m really disappointed. I thought you were stronger than this. (the lovely ex-wife Susan again)

You can do anything you want once you set your mind to it.

Once you start feeling better you’ll see how ridiculous you’re being.

Why should I care? You never listen to me when I’m depressed.

You’ve been taking pills for ages. Aren’t you supposed to be cured by now? (Saint Susan, the ex-wife)

You’re too young to think you have real problems already.

You’re the only one you’re hurting.

It’s always your problems first and everyone else second.

Get off your arse and doing something!

It’s no wonder your girlfriend left you!

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! (such a bad bad bad thing to even suggest to someone with depression)

Why don’t you laugh anymore?

Smiling uses less muscles than frowning.

I only loved you when you were successful. (And once more to the Saint Susan barrel of nonsense)

You want to be this way, don’t you?

Everyone has a shitty day every now and then.

Are you sure this isn’t just PMS?

You don’t look depressed to me.

Hey, buck up! It’s not as bad as you think!

Just don’t think about it so much.

Blah blah blah blah blah… cry me a river.

Dear Abby is getting sick of your flood of letters.

You don’t like being depressed? Then change it.

Really? You look fine!

Okay, attention-whore. Just calm down.

Hey, I know exactly what you’re going through. I was really super depressed for about a week after my cat died.

…and the Gold Medal goes to…


Have you tried not being depressed?


Sorry… that’s a knee-jerk reaction to composing this turbulent and trying list over the last hour. Let me share an alternative image that expresses the same sentiment.

Thanks for visiting! Hope you learned a little about the Peer Experience without getting too torqued about the delivery system. And I hope Peers were able to get a chuckle of recognition out of this. You all totally rock out with your socks out!

Reprinted with kind permission from Steve Bringe at Posted on Categories Peer Pronouncements

Pardon Our Dust!

The DBSA Albuquerque website is undergoing a major redesign, taking in suggestions and requests from our members and our community. The goal is to have a much more intuitive and informative site based on the needs of our communities.

Pardon our dust during the redesign, and check back for new content and opprortunities to support your Albuquerque Chapter.

Opinion: Why would our chapter decline funding?

In my time on the DBSA Albuquerque board, twice has our chapter declined large funding opportunities.  It might seem counterintuitive for a self-funded volunteer organization to turn down any donation, much less sums of $35,000 and $50,000. These were in no way easy decisions for our board, and both instances and board decisions are predicated on a single inescapable principle:

DBSA Albuquerque is first and foremost a peer support group, and anything that potentially threatens the safety, confidentiality, and fidelity of the group must be discouraged.

This can mean any number of things. In the past, we’ve dismissed disruptive peer members who were so obnoxious and bullying they were driving off other peer members. This is a very clear and easily-understood concept and rationale.

But what about funding? How does money threaten the safety, confidentiality, and fidelity of peer support groups? The answer might be surprising, although it is equally clear and easily-understood.

It depends on where the money is coming from.

Let’s talk of the $35,000 our chapter declined and why. First off, the funding was being obtained from a “grant writer”, and the grant writer was taking a percentage of the amount collected. This is horribly unethical. Grant writers traditionally and ethically write their fee into the grant.

Secondly, we were not allowed to meet this grant writer, nor were we given information on what grant or grants were applied to in the name of our chapter. So, the source of the money was a mystery.

After some careful, discrete inquiries, it turned out this money was being spearheaded by a state politician who supported and helped draft legislation unpopular with peers, namely Assisted Outpatient Treatment, AOT, aka “Kendra’s Law.” Many peers hear “AOT” and reflexively say “Forced Treatment.”

Through board discussion, we agreed that accepting these funds was tantamount to stating DBSA Albuquerque supports AOT legislation, and by extension the peers attending DBSA Albuquerque support groups. As a board, we have no right to speak on behalf of peer attendees to our support group.

The DBSA Albuquerque board felt accepting this funding was the same as buying peer endorsement of legislation either unpopular with or harmful to peers.

A similar logic was applied to the $50,000 offered our chapter. While the intent is pure and the cause noble, this funding was made available through a court settlement in relation to why the Department of Justice is auditing and monitoring Albuquerque Police Department use of force treatment of peers in crisis. Again, accepting this money can be seen as peer endorsement, and more importantly . . .

Through negligence or circumstance, APD will be held over the coals for a use of force violation in relation to a peer in crisis, and this has great potential to raise the visibility of our chapter and by extension peer support groups in media and meetings.

In addition, numerous peers at our groups have had poor relations and experiences with law enforcement, and if these peers feel our chapter is in direct collaboration with law enforcement, they will not come to our support groups any longer. I can say this with 100% authority. A group of peers left DBSA Albuquerque and formed their own peer support group because of my personal involvement with APD training.

Peers come first. And the purpose of DBSA Albuquerque is to hold peer support groups where peers feel safe talking openly in an environment free of public scrutiny and attention.

I’m uncertain if prior DBSA Albuquerque administrations gave this magnitude of consideration to accepting donations and funding. I feel it is a necessary debate and is a respectful consideration of the peers who attend our support groups.

If peers don’t feel safe and welcome, they won’t attend. And that defeats the purpose of DBSA Albuquerque peer support groups.

Steve Bringe, Vice preisdent, DBSA Albuquerque

Friday March 30 is International Bipolar Day! Come Laugh About It!

This Friday, join us at 6:30 PM at the Taylor Ranch/Don Newton Community Center before our support group for a special presentation of the Stand Up To Stigma education event “Laugh It Off.”

“Laugh It Off” is weekly presented at Turquoise Lodge Hospital, as well as individual events over the last year. Oddly, we’ve never actually presented to DBSA Albuquerque. So, what better day that International Bipolar Day?

DBSA Albuquerque president Sarah Salway and DBSA Albuquerque vice president Steve Bringe will be our comics for the night. The idea for “Laugh It Off” is to laugh about the horrible things that have happened in our lives as a result of our mental health symptoms, and if you can laugh at the horrible things, it takes away some of the power these horrible things have over us.

“Laugh It Off” begins at 6:30 PM and ends at 6:50 PM.

Our regular support groups at 7 PM, as usual.

I’ve been led to believe DBSA Albuquerque treasurer will have cake for us. Yum! Cake!

 

**Media Advisory** – New Mexico Crisis and Access Line Celebrates Five Years Providing Crisis and Pre-Crisis Services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date March 20, 2018

Contact: Wendy Linebrink-Allison 505-263-9140

 wendy.linebrink-allison@nmcrisisline.com

 

NEW MEXICO CRISIS AND ACCESS LINE CELEBRATES FIVE YEARS PROVIDING CRISIS AND PRE-CRISIS SERVICES

Editor Note: By the numbers are attached for side-bar and on-site interviews with counselors can be arranged.

 

Albuquerque, N.M. –The New Mexico Crisis and Access Line (NMCAL), operated by ProtoCall Services, Inc. and funded by the New Mexico Human Services Department, Behavioral Health Services Division (HSD-BHSD), is celebrating five years of aiding New Mexicans in finding the help, services, and support they need for mental health crises such as thoughts of suicide, anxiety, depression and substance use.

New Mexico’s suicide rate is fifty-nine percent higher than the U.S. national average and roughly 160,000 New Mexicans have substance use disorders. NMCAL is staffed by behavioral health professional counselors who are available to respond to both crisis and non-crisis mental health and substance use concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, through a statewide and toll free call line that is here to hear people in the moment they need someone to talk to. Since it began operating, the hotline has received nearly 115,000 crisis calls through NMCAL, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and Core Service Agencies, as well as more than 25,000 Peer-to-Peer Warmline calls, resulting in 185,373 hours spent talking to callers from all counties throughout the state.

Since NMCAL launched, underserved populations in all counties are being reached, including sixty two percent of callers who are not enrolled in behavioral health services and fifty-three percent of callers who have Medicaid or no insurance. To support the recovery process, callers are referred and encouraged to participate and engage in community support services beyond the call.

Partnerships are built through collaborative efforts that NMCAL and HSD-BHSD coordinate with state, county, city, and local social service agencies, community associations and coalitions, schools, healthcare facilities and emergency rooms, public safety and correctional facilities, as well as fire, EMT and law enforcement. A joint effort with Bernalillo County allows 911 callers in unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County to transfer to the crisis line to speak with a counselor. This program provides callers with the appropriate response of services for their mental health needs.

“Through crisis and warm telephone lines, and after-hours coverage for agencies serving those with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders, NMCAL provides 24-hour wrap-around crisis and pre-crisis support to all New Mexicans and is an integral part of New Mexico’s behavioral health services system of care,” David Gonzales of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) New Mexico.

The New Mexico Crisis and Access Line and Peer to Peer Warmline are available to talk about any mental health and substance use concern a person may be experiencing themselves, or for someone else they know who may or may not want to get help. The top three reasons given for calling are anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Ninety-six percent of callers report having a reduced level of distress after calling.

“New Mexico’s large rural and frontier areas often lack proximity to behavioral health providers, leaving many feeling isolated and disconnected,”  Dr. Wayne Lindstrom of HSD-BHSD. “By fulfilling New Mexico’s 2011 legislative House Joint Memorial 17, we are providing a centralized, statewide call center with a single access point that is connected and integrated with local authorities and behavioral health agencies so that callers won’t go un-helped.”

In 2014 NMCAL joined the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network to provide local resources with innovative best practices and quality care to New Mexicans reaching out for support. That same year NMCAL began answering the intercom calls on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to assist those contemplating suicide, and started offering Mental Health First Aid Trainings to teach people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders within the community.

The Peer-to-Peer Warmline launched in 2015 with certified peer support specialists. Peer support specialists have recovered from their own behavioral health or substance use issues and provide confidential non-crisis support for over 1,000 callers per month. Starting in January of this year the Warmline expanded to include texting services to reach even more New Mexicans. Most recently, NMCAL has joined with HSD-BHSD, and providers across the State, expanding its focus to better support addressing the Opioid crisis ravaging our communities. “By providing specialized training to all of our Crisis Line Counselors and Warm Line Peer Support staff, NMCAL intends to play an increasingly valuable role in educating and connecting individuals and families to the right care at the right time” Wendy Linebrink-Allison, NMCAL Program Manager.  NMCAL has also partnered with the Dose of Reality, NM’s social media opioid campaign, to promote the crisis line’s availability.

For more information, visitwww.nmcrisisline.com. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Crisis and Access Line at 1-855-NMCRISIS (1-855-662-7474), or call or text the Peer to Peer Warmline at 1-855-4NM-7100 (1-855-466-7100).

 

 

###

Free – Anonymous – Confidential

Wendy Linebrink-Allison, CPSW, MSW/MBA Candidate

Program Manager, New Mexico Crisis and Access Line & Peer to Peer Warmline
p: 505-263-9140
e: wendy.linebrink-allison@nmcrisisline.com
a: 7850 Jefferson St NE, #100; Albuquerque, NM 87109
w: http://www.nmcrisisline.com/

We are here to hear you

— Call the Crisis Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
1-855-NMCRISIS (1-855-662-7474)

— Call the Peer to Peer Warmline from 3:30p – 11:30p MT everyday
1-855-4NM-7100 (1-855-466-7100)

—  Text the Peer to Peer Warmline from 6:00p – 11:00p MT everyday
1-855-4NM-7100 (1-855-466-7100)

— TTYL Access available on both the crisis line & the warm line by calling
1-855-227-5485


View our Public Awareness Campaign Online:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gRYg5AS1Lg&autoplay=1

Petitions & Peer Endorsement

As an active peer advocate in the New Mexico Behavioral Health Community over the last five years, I’ve learned there is one highly-sought commodity in our behavioral health community that is treasured over all others:


Peer Endorsement.


Any number of agencies, organizations, legislators, individuals, companies, etc. would love to get the “peer stamp of approval” for whatever product, project, or purpose they’re championing. Peer endorsement lends validity, credibility, and substance to behavioral health causes in a way no other type of endorsement can.

One way peer endorsement is achieved is through petitions. You’ve been handed a clipboard any number of times in any number of places. Heading in to vote. At the grocery store. At a sporting event. Someone knocking on your front door to ask you if “You’ve Heard the Good Word.”

The thing about petitions is the dude handing you the clipboard will give you a thirty second, rapid-fire spiel explaining what the petition is for and how you can help. It’s a thirty second sales pitch, and you’re asked to give your name in signature form at the end of that thirty seconds.

The pitch always sounds great. Sign this petition and you’ll be helping education. Sign this petition and you’ll be saying our community needs to be tough on crime. Sign this petition and you’ll be standing up to proclaim “NO WAY” to poachers who prey upon unborn gay whales.

But what can you learn in that thirty seconds that tells you exactly HOW your signature will be used? Who has access to your signature? Is the cause just or even real?

As a peer, your signature is worth its weight in gold-encrusted diamonds with a shiny platinum filling. Your signature says “I am a person living with mental health issues and I sign your petition because I believe what you say is just and true, and I want everyone to know you have my support.” Signing that petition is peer endorsement, and you’ve given it away for free with no consideration other than thirty seconds of explanatory sloganeering.


Here’s the advice: Don’t sign petitions.


There are so many reasons for this. I’ve already detailed many of them. The most important reason for passing on petitions is just this:


Your word, your voice, and your support is your greatest strength and your greatest gift to our communities.


Be sure of what you’re signing, and if you have only thirty seconds to decide, chances are the guy with the clipboard hasn’t earned your signature, your support, and your endorsement.

X__________________________________
Sign here to add your name to those who agree with everything I ever say without question! (just joking)


Reprinted courtesy of Steve Bringe at Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Cathal Smyth of Madness…. you got it miserably, irresponsibly so very very wrong.

Knowing me as you do, one of my favorite bands in the entire history of ever is Madness. The Nutty Boys, the Camden Cowboys, the Magnificent 7 (and for reasons forthwith, fortunately minus one Cathal Smyth, aka Chas Smash, aka Carl Smyth), the patchwork of my youth into the not so youthful is tacked together with a square of Madness here and a worn piece of fabric there.

Back in 2012, Madness released a brand new album entitled “Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da”, with the namesake lyric being baffling in its inclusion and inception, really. However……. never has Madness penned lyrics that reek of such blatant ignorance.


MISERY by MADNESS

Word and Music by Cathal Smyth

www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1J47BnR0bU

Misery loves company
That’s what the wise man said
Don’t come to me for sympathy
If you can’t raise your head
Stand up and see
What your life could be
If you wore a smile instead
If you keep misery as your company
Then you might as well be dead

Why don’t you go suck on a silver spoon
Buy a spaceship and fly over the moon
See the colours in the flowers and the tree’s
Take a lesson from the birds and the bee’s
Why don’t you go skipping out in the park
Give yourself a chance to make a new start
Try and focus on your health and your heart
Accept the present and let go of the past

Misery loves company
That’s what the wise man said
The remedy to be happy
Well it’s all inside your head
Shift infinitessimally your perception and see
Your life could be better led
Don’t keep misery as your company
Or you might as well be dead

Why don’t you go suck on a silver spoon
Buy a spaceship and fly over the moon
See the colours in the flowers and the tree’s
Take a lesson from the birds and the bee’s
Why don’t you go skipping out in the park
Give yourself a chance to make a new start
Try and focus on your health and your heart
Accept the present and let go of the past
Don’t come to me for sympathy
If you can’t raise your head
Stand up and see what your life could be
If you wore a smile instead
If you keep misery for company then you
Might as well be dead


I could go through a cornucopia of harmfully specific lyrics word for word. Instead, I am going to laser in on just four of the roughest with brutal peer analysis:

  1. Don’t come to me for sympathy / If you can’t raise your head
  2. Stand up and see / What your life could be / If you wore a smile instead
  3. The remedy to be happy / Well it’s all inside your head
  4. If you keep misery for company / Then you might as well be dead

Now, in better spirits, I would toss this off (ha!) as a mere purged rainbow, but because it is so disgustingly irresponsible, I’m calling this spitting venom.

Why? According to Mr. Smyth, it is a personal choice to suffer from depression, not a malfunctioning brain defined by specific mental health diagnoses. Just raise your head, smile, and accept that the reason you’re not happy is because you willingly stay depressed unaware of an on/off switch in your head. Please refer to my prior article that elegantly explains the true peer experience of debilitating, unavoidable depressive symptoms.

Because, yes, I haven’t tried willing my bipolar symptoms away by just smiling and deciding to be happy, I’ve not thought of this in the past three d3cades living with bipolar depression. I feel foolish and dull minded. Thank you, Chas, the wise man who said. I’ve been dealing with this off and on (the nature of cyclic bipolar) for coming on 30 years. Thank the stars above that you came along to steer the clinically depressed to paradise on earth. Bounce your lyrics off your contemporary Adam Ant (he’s true pals with your mutual friend Boz Boorer, if you need an introduction), see if he’s pleased with your pseudo-erudite take on a medical disease.


If it was as easy as saying “I’m not going to be depressed” there would be no depressed humans walking the globe.


What is hands-down the zenithic MOST IRRESPONSIBLE LYRIC IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF EVER in the realm of behavioral health is his “if/then” statement saying if you CHOOSE to have a mental illness and not CHOOSE to cheer up, then suicide is a valid option, to rid the world of peers who are so intellectually deficient they can’t pull themselves out of a crippling mental health crisis. Lyrical eugenics, courtesy of Mr. Cathal Smyth (formerly of Madness). Rid the world of mental illness through the grandest of uneducated simplicities.

Let me be very clear of my interpretation of Chas’ lyrics:


If you’re too stupid to realize that depression is a personal choice, then suicide is a dictated result..


And let me be very clear of my condemnation of Mr. Cathal Smyth:


Chas, we’ve chatted on several occasions, traded emails, and I’ve stated that your song “Victoria Gardens” is a gem of a song both lyrically and musically. But in this instance, bad boy, Chas. Very bad bad boy, and very very irresponsible.


Back in 1981, guitarist Christopher J. Foreman penned a tune called “Madness (Is All in the Mind)”, a fun ditty that pokes a backwards “V” for “vuck you” to those judgmental of differing behavior. Chris and I have spoken at length about this tune, in part because it is his favorite song from Madness that he authored, and in part because I revealed to him many years ago that I have bipolar disorder (to help him understand why it is that I disappear from the world for a year or two at a time… isolating, you see). Let’s see the comparative lyrics:

MADNESS (IS ALL IN THE MIND)

Words and Music by Christopher J. Foreman

I’ve never had much cause for worry
And I’ve not got a lot to say
You’ll never find me in a hurry
Because I live my life day by day
People say that I’m crazy
But I’m not that way inclined
I know what I know and I’ll happily show
That madness is all in the mind
Twenty-four hours is all that I care for
I believe that’s the only way
Twenty-four hours is all that is needed
Because I live my life day by day
People say that I’m crazy
But I’m not that way inclined
I know what I know and I’ll happily show
That madness is all in the mind
I’m happy the way that I do things
Continually feeling okay
I’ve no worries on what tomorrow brings
Because I live my life day by day
People say that I’m crazy
But I’m not that way inclined
I know what I know and I’ll happily show
That madness is all in the mind
Well some men seek answers in bottles
And others in degenerate ways
But I don’t care much for the question
Madness is all in the mind
Madness is all in the mind
Madness is all in the mind
Madness is all in the mind

Cheerful and encouraging lyrics, yes? Yes. Just be yourself. to hell with the critique and concern of others. I’ve always liked this message as a teen and moreso after bipolar symptoms manifested around 1986.

So why am I only commenting on this miserable song now, some four years gone? The reason is tied entirely to a lengthy depressive episode I’ve been contending with off and on (there are manic episodes as well) the last four years.

I didn’t want to listen to a new Madness album and not enjoy it.

That would be a sure sign of how cruddy I was really doing.

That would suck the mighty suck if my bipolar symptoms kept me from enjoying a Madness album. It would most likely trigger worse symptoms (I’ll talk about “Ted” another time), and I couldn’t risk it.

So, heading out to SoCal for Thanksgiving with my Dad, in the Toyota with Razzie, Slater, Bailey and Bennett, cruising through Death Valley, I finally felt the joy necessary to rip the plastic wrap off the CD and delve into a long-delayed jaunt with “Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da”. I loved it, I felt joy, I shared my joy with my friends (including Nicky who wrote two songs on the album – Kitchen Floor and Leon – via Skype), and I’m glad I waited. Overjoyed I delayed. There is joy associated with the album. It only took four years to get there, a truly short span of time for someone who lives with the challenges and triumphs of bipolar disorder.

I feel joy… excluding the mirthful anger I feel with the song “Misery.”

Calling Dr. Smyth. Dr. Smyth, learned soul of everything and all psychological, please proceed to the “Ignorance Is Temporary” wing of the hospital. I’ll be waiting there with any number of peers who live with clinical depression by design, not by choice. We are prepared to educate. It’s not an inconvenience. Truly.

And please, Chas, pen a song where you deride people whose arms sponraneously fell off to just pick up their deparated arms, dust off their sleeves, and get on with their day.

Reprinted courtesy of Steve Bringe at Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

OPINION: “High Functioning” is such a crock of nonsensical categorization by those who don’t understand what it’s like to have mental health issues (aka crock of shite)

Reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes by permission of the author Steve Bringe.

Today, I negotiated with the City of Albuquerque for DBSA support groups venues and a venue for our SUTS (Stand Up To Stigma) May Mental Health Education Fair.

I also wrote a letter declining a sizable donation after much consideration and board discussion. I wrote a letter thanking a prior support group venue for their hospitality and that we unfortunately are moving venues because of severe safety concerns, also after much consideration and board discussion. Neither of these letters were easy or a pleasure to compose.

I paid my bills, marveling at how much water can cost per unit and vowing this is the year I build a cistern for gardening. I contested a recent billing from my insurance company. I questioned an unknown fee on my phone account.

Recently, I endured a nine hour deposition in the Walgreens suit that did not include a lunch break. I then had to review the deposition transcript for any errors, another four hours of my life in a nearly 300 page transcript. This is difficult stuff, having to relive the trauma of being nailed in the back of the head by a huge sign at Walgreens (not my error, t’was theirs).

I’ve been grieving the loss of Clare, the idiocy of her family and friends, and recovering.

I’ve been vocal about my treatment concerning MHRAC and have learned people I once respected are documented liars. So there’s something else that self-empowerment dictates I care for.

Seems like a lot to juggle, yes? Seems odd that a peer can take on so much, yes? Why, I must be “high functioning”. That’s the term used for me, both in conversation and in medical records.

You should have seen me last year, in particular last August and September when I was paranoid out of my head that the police were going to break into my home and throw my arse in jail. For what? For nothing. I was paranoid because I had low potassium. Hypokalemia. I was hospitalized at Haven for that. And then I was hospitalized again at Pres because my hands and legs stopped working. Again, low potassium. Hypokalemia. Entirely unrelated to bipolar, by the by.

Was this “high functioning”? I have a solid command of the English and French languages. I get by pretty well with ASL. No false modesty, I’m really smart. I’m a very good public speaker. So I’ve been accused of being “high functioning.” How am I labeled when symptomatic? How am I when I cannot do any of the so impressive tasks that make me “high functioning”? Is there a medical category for “temporarily not high functioning”?

It’s an insulting turn of phrase, much like how I had to untrain Muggles at meetings from telling me “You’re so articulate FOR A PEER.” Yes? Well, you’re so ignorant for someone who works with peers daily.

There’s a commonality in saying to me “You are so articulate for a peer” and “You are so high functioning.”


There is an implication that having a mental health diagnosis holds a great potential for being intellectually deficient.

Phrased in inarticulate, low functioning terms, statistical “baseline” peers are stupid until proven otherwise.


I learned a lot from my Care Coordinator girlfriend, Clare Castellano (angel above), about the classification system used by Molina New Mexico for peers. It’s based on a tri-level system of NEEDS. When I’m at my best, I have no need for care coordination. When I got out of Pres and Haven, being on a walker, unable to drive, unable to cook, unable to get to my provider appointments and retrieve my medications from the pharmacy, having difficulty talking and concentrating, I was a HIGHER NEEDS peer, a Level 3 at that. Now, I have no needs for care coordination once more.

Did I change as a person when having Level 3 needs? Did I become “stupid”? Incompetent? Low functioning?

Nope. I was still Steve Bringe, and I was struggling, and I needed additional help. And I could still be in a place where I am struggling and needing additional help. Thankfully, I’m recovering and continue to noticeably recover both mentally and physically. I always ways and will forever be Steve Bringe. Other than for helping define treatment parameters and billing purposes, don’t box me in, baby baby.

Clare worked with Level 3 peers in the field (and was fucking excellent at her job from what her peers shared with me), and these were not stupid, incompetent people. They are people who need additional assistance to complete tasks. They just happen to have ailments like bipolar and schizophrenia. That’s on the behavioral health side of things.

On the physical health side of things, there is also Care Coordination. What’s the difference? None. Because Clare pointed out that Care Coordination is Care Coordination, and separating BH from PH is impossible in getting her “little members” all the assistance and services they need. Lacking a mental health diagnosis, the same attention to higher needs is offered and achieved.

I’m not blind to the fact some peers will most likely have higher needs for much longer than I did. However, these are not stupid people. These are people who need assistance with everyday living because of the way their mental illness affects them. Not because they are “low functioning.”

It’s the go to move to say “Would you say someone who needs help getting to dialysis or someone who needs physical therapy after a car accident or someone who is literally blind and can’t drive to the pharmacy is ‘low functioning’?” If you answer anything other than “no” then you are making excuses for playing into an embarrassing stigma. Embarrassing for you, not the peer.

While categorizing peers in terms of level of service needs is not ideal, it is also not euphemism, and it is very much practical and infinitely more honest than generalizing peers as “high functioning” and “low functioning”. Like EVERYONE on the planet, sometimes we need a little more help than other times. And just because I can out-lawyer the lawyers at behavioral health meetings doesn’t make me “a high functioning peer”. It makes me a person quicker and more logical than a lawyer I’m going toe to toe with.

Hey, maybe I am stupid. I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I’m sure there are some split infinitives in here, too. Sue me. I dare you.

– Dedicated to Clare Clarissa Nina Castellano who taught me much about Care Coordination and what it truly means to be a person who cares for PEOPLE.