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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Mindfully Bipolar: An Interview with Judy Sturm of DBSA-GC

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 29th 2012


bipolarToday I’m happy to bring you a woman who is doing some very important work. Judy Sturm is a local resident of Chicago and also the leader of The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Greater Chicago (DBSA-GC). This is a self-help group founded in the interest of offering support to those with mood disorders & their families, professionals and friends. Judy has a one day conference coming up called Mindful Decisions: The Promise of Productive Living. If you’re in the area, check it out. 

Today Judy answers important questions to let us know how mindfulness works with mood disorders and what is most important in terms of recovery. 

Elisha: Let’s start out with the overarching question. In your experience, how does mindfulness help with mood disorders? 

Judy: Most importantly, people must be aware, know, recognize aspects of their mood disorder to be able to be mindful. In recent years, the effectiveness of Mindfulness has been studied and confirmed many times. Part of the training involves not repeating negative patterns that inevitably lead to Depression. 

One needs to be “in the moment” so to speak, actually being in the present and dealing the issues at hand, not dwelling on the past and certainly not dreading the future. Depression is so debilitating and misunderstood. Mindfulness therapies have been quite helpful in combating Depression. 

Bipolar Disorder is the new kid on the block in the Mindfulness world. The bipolar group needs to be in remission in order to benefit from the therapy. All of the studies I have seen indicate that the initial results for bipolar patients are promising but inconclusive. As a person with biplolar who has been in recovery for almost 9 years, I, in my own klutzy amateurish way, practice mindfulness in my daily life.

I have learned to cut back on stressful situations, commitments, and relationships. I am a naturally upbeat social animal who has learned-finally- to hibernate occasionally when needed. I previously did not recognize that even I needed to get away from undue stimuli. I was the Energizer Bunny. But even his batteries will go out eventually-as did mine.  

Mindfulness keeps us in a place that is manageable. The present is the most important time. The past is history, we cannot change it- only learn from it. The future is pretty much out of our hands although, good decisions and cognitive behavior today will automatically shape a bit of our future in a positive way. But, as we all have learned, the future is what is and what it will be…… We are alive today! Carpe Diem= seize the day! And that is best done when we are at our best. 

Elisha: What is the most important thing you think someone needs who is suffering from depression or bipolar disorder? 

Judy: Naturally, a good doctor, correct medication, therapy and SUPPORT!

This is our mission: to support and educate those with mood disorders and their loved ones.  The consumer with a strong family support system, in my opinion, has a much better and faster recovery than one whose family is in denial or passive which is not unusual, even now. Support groups offer understanding, experience, compassion and hard- earned knowledge.  

The fellowship offered at support meetings is a beautiful thing. I am convinced that attending groups and being involved with DBSA-GC as a facilitator, and board member has contributed mightily to my own recovery and I have seen many others return to a “normal” life, a joyful life. That is something we did not expect after the initial diagnosis.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone suffering with a mood disorder, what would you tell them? 

Judy: “I know this is tough news. You will not want to accept it. You will resist medication. You will be unhappy when you are told you have a mental illness. They call it a mood disorder now, but the stigma of mental illness remains.Be discreet in sharing this information. Save it for your family, your closest friends. It is your choice with whom to share but I caution against free-wheeling “I gotta be me” pronouncements especially in the workplace.

But, I promise you if you do the work: See a good doctor, be patient in getting medications right, get educated about your illness, see a therapist and, tada- go to support groups! And, when the day comes where you feel you no longer need a support group, come back occasionally because the group needs you! The new people need to see others that have made the difficult journey and now flourish.

Everyone needs hope….and you are it!"

Elisha: Thank you Judy!

Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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