Category: Beyond Support Groups (Page 3 of 3)

A mental health diagnosis is only an explanation, not an excuse

Let’s be 100% clear. Mark this down, come back for reference, let it sink in, accept it as truth, and realize this is the central theme of this narrative.

Everyone on this planet has the same social contract with everyone else on this planet.

I’ve got bipolar, and I’ve done some really stupid-ass stuff when symptomatic, particularly when in the throes of hypomania. I had sex with five different girls in one day. I got myself convicted of 4th degree felony embezzlement. I did all sorts of crap that got me fired from job after job.

In each instance, there were consequences. The latter is self-realizing; I’d get euphoric, I’d get charismatic, I’d get irritated, I’d get angry at a co-worker… and I’d get fired. The middle critter is a blog of its own. And the former is a source of such shame and guilt that I’m going to use it as the example of how I broke this social contract with my fellow planet-mates.

Back in my New Mexico Tech days (late 80s, early 90s), we’d have this thing called 49s Weekend. It’s a mining thing, the Miner 49s of the 1849 California Gold Rush, and it was a tenuous connection to New Mexico Tech which was originally named New Mexico School of Mines that wasn’t founded until 1889 while New Mexico was still a territory. The 49s were a forty year memory by the time our school was founded, and not in California. I tangentialized there, and it won’t be the last time in this blog because this is really difficult to write.

Shame, guilt. I was a halfway decent looking guy with halfway decent social skills at a school where nerds and geeks came to learn and perhaps breed. That’s not good. I’m not going to erase the “breed” word because it’s yet another ploy of severity-diversion that is untoward for this topic. It was just that sort of flippancy that permeated my thinking while manic.

It was 49s Weekend, and each year the school rolled in the War Wagon, a Budweiser panel truck that opened on each side to reveal a good dozen beer kegs with free taps for all. There were lots of intoxicated nerds and geeks, and there was a festive flair that lent itself to impeded critical thinking from kids who came to this university on the strength of their critical thinking skills. I loved 49s Weekend because, in retrospect, it would trigger an incredible euphoric hypomania that was rife with exaggerated charisma/charm and a huge drive to get laid.


Hypersexuality is common for people with bipolar. And this sypmtom of hypomania was not a good combination for the planet. For me, it was a great combination in theory and not in practice. For the five girls who fell victim (and they really were victims) to my unchecked, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, it characterized my modus operandi towards having sex. What it manifested was heartache, betrayal, and a casual flippancy of “So what? You agreed to go back to my dorm room.”

“So what? You agreed to go back to my dorm room.”

How romantic and charming. Five girls. One day. Cashing in on charisma and paying out in shame and guilt. And it was earned shame and guilt. Because it didn’t end well for anyone.

One girl was a virgin. And three days later she killed herself.

Better still, she named me by name in several paragraphs of her suicide note. I did this. This was my doing, this was my fault. I might as well have poured the poison down her throat myself.

It didn’t matter that her suicide note was sixteen pages long and all handwritten, both sides of the college ruled notebook paper. It was those several paragraphs that pointed to my culpability that grabbed my attention. I did this. I took her virginity, and because I didn’t care about anyone but myself, this young woman killed herself. Because of me.

Five girls wasn’t an accomplishment, it wasn’t bragging rights, it wasn’t anything but complete disregard, disrespect, and, worst, disinterest in the welfare of these women.

It was just something to do. Nothing wrong because it’s simply what I wanted to do and how could that be wrong?

It’s difficult to talk about this. I’ve shared this at APD’s Crisis Intervention Training, an audience of a few dozen. I’m putting this on the interweb as a mea culpa that might be read and might not be read. It’s difficult, and this is part of my recovery journey, and it’s something I’ve been forced to own as part of who I am now.

In 1999 I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder by trying to do myself in. Only in retrospect do I understand what I understand now. I can try to gloss this over and say:

“I wasn’t diagnosed yet” or “I can’t be blamed because the bipolar made me do it” or “When I’m manic I can’t make any promises.”

Let’s go back to the core of this blog. Let’s bring that first concept up to the front of the class again. What were the words I shared? Oh, yes. Copy & Paste:

Everyone on this planet has the same social contract with everyone else on this planet.

It doesn’t matter if I was symptomatic and unaware and egocentric because I have bipolar. My behavior wasn’t kind or thoughtful. It was cruel and damaging. That’s not holding up to my end of the bargain. Behavior like sleeping with five girls in one day is not what the rest of the planet considers acceptable behavior. I broke my contract.

Since then, particularly after I was diagnosed, I’ve learned a few things. First, and most important, is that people kill themselves for their own reasons that are much deeper-seated than losing their virginity to an insensitive cad like me. There were some fifteen additional pages to her farewell narrative that also played into what might not even be the root cause of her suicide. It wasn’t my fault (try convincing me of that… 18 years of therapy hasn’t done much more than help me accept this in the most academic of terms).

Second, romantic fidelity was crucial in my relationships thereforth. It was a “scared straight” event that had me key in on one girl and one girl only after that, and perhaps the penance is I married this girl and now have the PTSD to bear because of it. No longer was I going to treat women like disposable, broken toys.

Third, I am responsible for my behavior, aware of the bipolar or not, and ESPECIALLY because I am aware of it now. I’m as responsible for my behavior as anyone else on this planet, so I don’t get to say “I can’t be blamed because the bipolar made me do it” or “When I’m manic I can’t make any promises.” I have to be constantly aware and constantly vigilant of my symptoms because I refuse to harm another through romantic indifference and infidelity.

Here’s where I’m going with this. I’m sharing this very difficult to tell story because I feel the same way about criminal behavior in peers. As a peer, I don’t get to say “I can’t be blamed for breaking the law because the bipolar made me do it” or “When I’m manic I can’t make any promises I won’t break the law.” Same social contract, and I face the same consequences as everyone else on this planet.

Peers do not get to say “I can’t help it because I have a mental illness” as a get out of jail free card.

I’m an executive board member on the Bernalillo County Forensic Intervention Consortium, a collaborative of community stakeholders dedicated to diverting peers to services rather than jail time. The idea is that those peers who are only first becoming aware of their detrimental behavior deserve an opportunity to treat their symptoms to be sure not to break the law again. That’s a good balance that places the responsibility on the peer in exchange for the community’s help in obtaining services. I firmly believe we are all responsible for our own behaviors, and I also firmly believe peers do deserve a chance to seek treatment to help themselves and keep their social contract with the community.

For me and those with bipolar, it’s more specifically called “playing the bipolar card” to get out of trouble or justify lies or explain away responsibility for how I treat others. It might be harder work for me than others on our planet. I take meds and have to be aware if they’re working. I have to make use of psychiatric services and trust the guidance of my providers. I have to find coping tools and symptom-management skills that will help me keep my detrimental bipolar symptoms in check. And more than anything, I have to make this promise:

I promise that I’ll stay diligent in treating my bipolar symptoms so my actions won’t harm others.

This was really tough to write. This promise I make through learning lessons in the most harmful of ways. And it’s the same promise that everyone else on the planet makes to me. We’ve all got the same social contract, and having mental health issues is no excuse to break this contract.

by Steve Bringe

February 15, 2017 – Happy Behavioral Health Day, New Mexico!!!

Of this past week, Wednesday, February 15, 2017, can be considered the day that the State Legislature of New Mexico truly stood up and declared that the stigmas surrounding and permeating mental health issues will be a thing of the past. It was on February 15, this week, that Senate Memorial 83 (SM0083) passed through the Senate of our New Mexico legislature, and this day will henceforth be known as…


Introduced by Senator Mary Kay Papen, the memorial strives towards understanding, education, hope, and innovation in our state’s behavioral health community. Senator Papen has long been one of our strongest voices in the state legislature, and this was a much-earned personal victory for her endless efforts towards making the lives of peers and their loved ones as joyful and successful as they can be.

DBSA Albuquerque’s Steve Bringe (awardee of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Behavioral Health Planning Council) and his father Stanley Bringe, along with other BHPC awardees and personnel, had the distinct pleasure of being on the Senate floor during Senator Papen’s speech on SB0083, and as it subsequently passed unopposed.

Later that afternoon, the House Memorial for Behavioral Health Day also passed unopposed.

February 15, 2017 – New Mexico Behavioral Health Day. Superb.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that February 15, 2017 be declared “Behavioral Health Day” in the senate and that the senate recognize the many people who devote themselves to public policymaking on behalf of the thousands of New Mexicans who live with behavioral health disorders; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the theme for “Behavioral Health Day” be behavioral health in New Mexico — innovation in action;

“APD Not There To Diagnose” by Marion Crouse

Originally published in the Albuquerque Journal, August 15, 2011, as a letter to the editor.
Republished by permission of the author.

“APD Not There To Diagnose” by Marion Crouse

I am a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many times at NAMI support groups, the Crisis Intervention Team unit of the Albuquerque Police Department is mentioned.

It is my understanding that the APD does all that it can to bring nonviolent people with mental illnesses to hospitals instead of to jail, and it is my understanding that the APD does all that it can, with the Crisis Intervention Team, to determine who has a mental illness and who, of these, is nonviolent.

I joined NAMI-Albuquerque in 1998 after having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1997 while I was serving in the U.S. Navy. My purpose for joining NAMI was to seek support, to learn information about managing my mental illness, and to help reduce the stigma of mental illness on a larger scale.

My having schizophrenia does not alter my morals; I am still the same person as I was before I got sick.

For good or bad, having a mental illness does not change people’s hearts, although it can alter their minds.

So, if I do not wish to be judged as hostile simply for having schizophrenia, by the same token, if I were to commit a crime, I also could not be judged as peaceful simply because I have a mental illness. That’s a call the police would have to make in seconds, while they are approaching me to arrest me for any crime that I would be committing.

The police officers do not wish to become heroes for justice by dying in the line of duty. Unfortunately, sometimes the call “officer down” is made.

It is my opinion that it is not the responsibility of the APD to determine which criminal needs mental evaluation and which criminal is deemed legally sane when officers of the APD are threatened by an adult.

It is the duty of the APD to defend law-abiding society, and sometimes that means defending themselves.

Laugh It Off: An excerpt from the new DBSA Albuquerque mental health education program

“Laugh It Off” is one of five new mental health education programs DBSA Albuquerque is offering, beginning this June with full roll out by September. We’ve given four presentations for “Laugh It Off” now, and I’ve been asked by a few folks to give an idea of what kind of jokes our comics are sharing.

I don’t have the go ahead from the other comics to share their material, so I’ll share one part of my set. Here goes.

There’s a group of peers in our community who don’t get a lot of recognition, and that’s kids growing up with a parent who has mental health issues.

I’ve got my own son, Scott, and he’s the greatest kid ever. Still, it was rough on him having to live with me as I struggled to get the bipolar stuff under wraps so I could be a parent to him.

Of course, sometimes it was a lot of fun for both of us. We’d play family games like “Cat vs. Electricity” and “Will Your Head Fit Here?”

And sometimes it wasn’t so great, like when I’d tell him that when the ice cream truck was playing music it meant they were out of ice cream.

My kid is smart. Even at 4 years old he knew enough that I was full of crap about the ice cream truck. And, he was his own form of sadist.

One morning, I woke up to take my meds, only I didn’t find my meds, I found big, melty wads of ice cream stuff into my med bottles instead.

My kid comes sauntering in, and he said to me:

“Dad, when you hear the ambulance siren screaming up the street to drag you off to the hospital it means you’re out of medication.”

If you would like more information about “Laugh It Off” and how to schedule a presentation, please contact Steve Bringe at 505-514-6750 or

Beyond Support Groups: DBSA Albuquerque visits MEOW WOLF in Santa Fe

DBSA Albuquerque on the Town! Red Light Cameras at MEOW WOLF in Santa Fe was a hoot and a half, and here’s some photos to prove it!

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Albuquerque is starting up the Spring/Summer 2016 season with a ton of special field trips and weekly events for members (and their friends, and their families, and our community) scheduled for the coming months.

Join our DBSA Community Beacon (sign-up form just to the right of this article) for the latest news on events and happenings in our communities.

Join DBSA Albuquerque at the New Mexico Crisis & Access Line Health Fair this Saturday

Join DBSA Albuquerque at the
New Mexico Crisis & Access Line
Health Fair this Saturday

DBSA Albuquerque will be at the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line Health Fair this Saturday in Albuquerque.

Where: Explora in Old Town Albuqurque
1701 Mountain Rd. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
When: Saturday, May 14, 10 AM to 6 PM

The NMCAL Health Fair is an opportunity for our communities to learn and understand more about mental health and behavioral health, how it impacts our everyday lives and how it is seen in our everyday lives. DBSA Albuquerque is one of many organizations and agencies attending this Saturday.

Drop by our table and say howdy! We’ll have many peers from DBSA Albuquerque at our table throughout the day, and they’re excited to share more about themselves and our chapter with you.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Albuquerque Chapter is a 501c3 volunteer organization.

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