Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Directions Support Group - Now in our 30th Year - Our many innovations over the years


Posted on October 29, 2016, but updated several times.

New Directions: The Little Support Group that Could!

New Directions Support Group meets the first and third Tuesday night from 7 to 9:15 pm at Abington Presbyterian Church, 1082 York Road at Susquehanna, Abington PA 19001.

Ruth Z Deming - that's me - founded the group in 1986 after I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder One. 

We have a great team of people who help run the group. Carole and Greg Hodges (black couple on right) run the Loved Ones' Group. Ada Moss Fleisher (front row gray shirt)  runs the Depression Group.

Helen Kirschner  (in red on left) runs the bi-monthly Daytime Group at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket. When she can't attend, Jonathan is her able substitute. He also mails out encouraging emails.

Helen, with husband Larry, runs our Annual Fall Bonfire at Tamanend Park in Southampton. 

This blog post will give you an overview of what we do. It can also help anyone who seeks to start a new support group of any kind. Here's a prior blog post we previously wrote about starting a group.

Also, I gave a talk especially for newly diagnosed people. Read it here.  It was held at the Doylestown PA Health and Wellness Center.

Here are some of our publications

One of our proudest accomplishments is our annual Compass magazine, printed at Bux-Mont Stationers in Hatboro, PA.  Mark Amos, owner, is enormously helpful.

We are working on our 2017 issue and would love your contributions. Please email me with ideas or poetry at RuthDeming at   

The above is my book on my Bipolar Journey. I was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 38. I faithfully took my medication - I had excellent psychiatrists - but shockingly it went away when I was about 58. We don't know why. I was born on Christmas Day, 1945.
Above is a poetry journal we wrote several years ago, Icing on the Cake. At the time our writers' group met at Weinrich's Bakery in Willow Grove and the bakery kindly paid for it.

The KaleidoScope is another small magazine we're very proud of. Photo on back of the late Frank Wolfe, a true Renaissance man. Paid for by Montgomery County Office of Mental Health.
This is a postcard - YES I CAN - we mail to folks to congratulate them on a job well done or to boost their morale.

We keep a list of psychiatrists and therapists based on recommendations from our group.

Read this recent column for the Bucks Co. Intelligencer I wrote. It took "Mark" years before he was willing to go on meds.

We write columns twice a year to help the public understand mental illness and lessen stigma. 

My grandson Max, 3, is standing in for something important we do - visit people at home if they are newly diagnosed or suicidal or if their family members just don't  "get it."

I also enjoy doing "couples counseling."

These visits are of immeasurable value to the household.

Family members try hard, but they often think their adult son or daughter - or spouse - can just "snap out of it."

Our Annual Bonfire held in the Fall at Tamanend Park in Southampton. Brrr! It's almost always freezing. We hold it in October and The Kirschners do a magnificent job of organizing it.

Read about the minor debacle that happened at the last Bonfire at the fireplace pavilion
 We're hosting our third Annual Arts Festival on Sunday, November 6 at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket, second floor classroom. Y'all come!

Image result for claudia mcgill artist  I was really excited when Claudia said she'd come!

Many of our visual artists inspire others to try their hand at something new. I'm recommending this book to artists or would-be artists.

 Julia Cameron, who was once married to Martin Scorsese, asks us to write Morning Pages. I write in this little brown diary.
 Here's my exercise bike. I ride it while watching PBS or talking on the phone or reading, say, Rebecca, which is our book club selection at the library.  It also lowers my blood sugar, as I have diabetes, which you'll read about below.

This guest column for the Intell is about aging. Read it here.

Do you exercise?  We highly recommend it. For older people like me, it's a necessity.

Miranda Esmonde Erbe of Canada, hosts Classical Stretches and Aging Backwards on PBS. Read about her on Wiki.

Image result for miranda esmonde erbe

Exercise helps both your brain and your body.

Larry Kirschner, videographer, taped some of us from ND in a video. Watch the 2014 video here.

While we're at it, he also taped me reading some of my poetry. Watch the 2015 video here.

Folks with mood disorders have unusually creative minds.

I was always a shy person - seriously - but through my involvement with ND and in writers' groups, I became quite outgoing. 

Surprisingly, many of the folks in the writers groups I've attended have mood disorders!

A lit mag called Bella Mused published my essay This Writer's Life. 

The first writers' group I attended was in Lambertville, NJ for perhaps 10 years. Then the leader's boyfriend died, so she moved to Daytona Beach, FL to be with her family. The group disbanded.

I had started a group at Weinrich's Bakery in their "coffee" room. They closed down this room b/c of lack of people, so we all moved to The Willow Grove Giant Coffeeshop.

When the Giant installed a Beer Garden, we moved to the home of Beatriz in Abington. I usually blog about our meetings. Here's the blog I did recently.

For several years I taught about Bipolar and Depression at the Upper Moreland Adult Evening School. My class is in the middle column at the top with "New Class" running through the description.

I also taught at the Doylestown Hospital's Wellness Center.

 Here's Bruce Uhrich, M.Ed. 

I love teaching and orating.

We love featuring the talents of others. This program, held in 2002, I believe, at the now-defunct Daily Grind Cafe in Hatboro, was called An Afternoon of Music, Poetry and Tales from the Deep.

One of our bipolar women designed this lovely magnet, which goes on the back of your car or the side of your fridge. The magnet's designer is now the mother of a two-year-old daughter.

Many of our members or alumni have had healthy children. Important to have your psychiatrist and your Gyn cooperate.

My two children, Dan, 40, and Sarah, 43, are healthy individuals. I gave birth when I was 28 and 30, before the onset of my bipolar.

In the year 2011, Sarah donated her kidney to me, as I had end stage renal failure (kidney disease).

Sarah saved my life. Our kidney doctor forbad her to do certain things after her nephrectomy (what an awful word). Read her award-winning essay here.

Hard to see, but this is my thesis, which I did for Hahnemann University, earning me the degree of MGPGP. I became psychotic while writing it, but Risperdal helped bring me back to normal, whatever that is.

Ruth Z Deming, MGPGP, is how I sign my name. Master, Group Process and Group Psychotherapy.

A couple of pages from my thesis. Click to enlarge.

My bipolar disorder vanished when I was 58 and has never come back. No one knows why. However, my kidney antirejection meds have given me insulin-dependent diabetes. I just grin and bear it. Grrrrrr!

That's why my exercise bike is so important. Exercise lowers your blood sugar.

We partner with nutritionist Mary Ann Moylan of the Giant Supermarket. We encourage our members to make an appointment with her. Shockingly, people do not know how to eat right!

Mostly I follow the nutritional advice of Dr Joel Fuhrman of PBS

Mary Ann is on the left. What a great person!

Image result for mary ann moylen

The Giant offers free food lectures.

I've appeared on Comcast Newsmakers several times.

View conversation here.

Appearing on TV - or the radio - is the most anxiety-provoking thing I do.

In the past I worked for two mental health agencies where I saw hundreds of clients. When a radio interview of  me played on WHYY-FM, people at my former agency heard it and learned I had bipolar disorder.

Afterword, they treated me differently. Like They questioned me about decisions I had made and enjoyed putting me on the spot.

Since I'm an excellent psychotherapist, I answered them back and surprised them with my knowledge.

Image result for ruth z deming photo

Know this. The worst prejudice toward mental illness is found at the very agencies that are supposed to be compassionate!

Do not disclose your mood disorder at your workplace. I know numerous people who did and were fired for dubious reasons within the year. There are a few exceptions, of course.

It's very important our people have jobs. If their illness prevents them from working, they should do volunteer work.

Vocational Rehabilitation will pay for you to go to college. One of our women qualified and will go to Drexel and get a PhD and a JD. She'll be a psychologist and a lawyer!

Read my blog post here about JEVS, another job training site. 

Everyone needs a life of meaning!

Every day I write a poem on Facebook. I like to challenge myself. Here's the one I wrote this morning.


For Kim and Bob Ruby

Pump, pump, pump, out
comes the coffee from
a toddler-high carafe,
dark as the night,
plopping into my
thick paper cup,
no doubt.

I tiptoe across the
wet grass, find my
unlocked car, and
place the cup in
the holder under
the defroster.

No cheating, I think,
as I drive slowly
home, steam pouring
from the cup.

Such a wonderful time
I had at the small basement cafe
like back at Goddard in the
Rathskeller, or in the Village
where Ginsburg and Dylan
and the howling hippies
were born.

My tired feet swing out the door.
How can I break the mood of the
night by entering my brightly-lit

I cradle the paper cup in my hand
blow on it, and stare up at the
stars. What's happened to the moon - is that
it? or just a lamp light on the Kiernan's

I'm not a praying man, I'd said to Kim, but I'll
send up a prayer for you both tonight. So I
did. And God watched me from wherever He
hangs his hat.

And the coffee was good and hot like it's
supposed to be, as I stepped up over the
crunchy leaves and entered my mezzuzah-framed
house, thinking God is good.

My turquoise Buddha in the front yard could be heard
laughing up and down the street.


My writing group at B's condo is terribly important to me. I'm an avid reader and writer. My newest short story "Unfettered" is about a nun who at age 66 leaves the convent. As usual, I need lots of reassurance to make sure it's any good.

Coach Iris really liked it! She'll give you a free coaching session if you like.

Every year we participate in the Pennypack Trust Creek Cleanup. View it on my blog here.

  Our team of volunteers.

New Directions recommends our people have an excellent psychiatrist as well as psychotherapist. We maintain a list recommended by our members.

Quite honestly, I never get tired of helping people. Sometimes when people call me, they say, "Sorry to bother you, Ruth, I know how busy you are."

Not true! Yes, I am always busy. It's my nature. But I can always make time to talk. The pleasure centers of my brain light up!

View this video from 2012 on the Charlie Rose Brain Series. We have absolutely brilliant men and women  working on our behalf to find cures and better treatments for mental illness.  Watch here. 

Image result for helen mayberg Deep Brain Stimulation by neurologist Helen Mayberg of Emory University. She was born in 1956.

Also in November "The Sunflower Club" will debut at the Giant. What's dat, you ask. We'll watch a movie for the whole family - the new 2016 Disney film THE JUNGLE BOOK.

Plus people can bring donations for disaster victims. We'll donate them to GreenDrop, which is right across the street on Easton Road.

Every day of the week, we have phone greeters who answer our ND phone.


Every year we host an Arts Festival that features visual artists, painters, sculptures, dancers, musicians and poets.

View this year's event. My camera was on the blink.

Claudia McGill's new acrylic painting.

In the year 2014, we ran a program DIVERSE RELIGIONS IN OUR WORLD.

American Muslims were being targeted by neighbors, policemen, and other religions due to terrorist Muslims here and abroad who pervert the meaning of "Muslim."

View the event here.

Monsignor Bolger represented the Catholic religion.

And now, if you'll excuse me, gonna watch some film noirs on YouTube.

Image result for fred macmurray barbara stanwyck

Must see! Double Indemnity.

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