Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Largest Colorado Delegation in Years Takes on DBSA National Conference

Not less than 7 DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) members and 2 service dogs from the Colorado Springs area converged upon Houston, TX for the DBSA national conference at the Westin Galleria Hotel. Here's a narrative of what happened, compiled from assorted e-mails and eyewitness accounts:

Dated 21 May 2011: Yesterday we showed up at the Westin Galleria hotel in Houston, got the 2 women in our party settled in the hotel, picked up our registration packets, and got ready for Saturday's events.

As the Coloradan with the most experience in attending DBSA conferences, I feel obligated to share my knowledge with the others. I'm scheduled - and pumped - to give the presentation "Supporting Veteran-to-Veteran Recovery" this afternoon. It's the first in recent history to address the mental health experiences of active-duty and former military personnel. Fellow veteran Clarence Jordan, one of the keynote speakers, will be given some time to address the class before I do my thing. During the rehearsal for comedy night, we were pleased to see how much progress we had made over the months, and professional comic David Granirer once again was helpful in offering suggestions for improvement & words of encouragement. This is when I decided to stick more faithfully to my script and not give in too often to the temptation to ad-lib my way through 5 minutes of fame. George Pollard, a member of our delegation, was quite impressed by the facilitator seminar, which is very much like a summit meeting of experienced support group facilitators from all over the United States.

The host for our latest visit to Houston is David Hender, whom I have known since January, 1999. We first met during the dark days when both of us worked in the call center from hell [Cheap Tickets]. David had my back 12 years ago, and one of the ways to show my gratitude for, and confidence in him was to pay for his registration fee and ticket to the comedy show. We're staying at a comfortable house in Katy, TX which is known in some circles as "the fastest-growing city in America." This is believable, as entire neighborhoods had changed beyond recognition since my last visit to Houston.

My newest digital camera, the Nikon L120, is exceeding expectations, and I plan to give it a lot of exercise during the day, while using it as a prop during the comedy show.

A word about the Galleria: the largest shopping mall in Texas appears to be doing well, and is bustling with activity. I found no vacant store spaces, and the one that was boarded up happened to be under renovation for a new Microsoft store opening up soon. MAC Cosmetics, where one of my nieces worked while she lived in Houston, is still in business, and the skating rink continues to be a popular attraction.

21 May, Part B: The vets presentation was quite successful, and the people in a neighboring room had to close its door to block out the enthusiastic audience reception. Clarence Jordan, whom I saw face-to-face for the first time after lunch, spoke for 10 minutes before I started on my presentation, and was a big help to me. His passion, leadership skills, and command of details were evident to everyone who heard him, either in my class Saturday afternoon, or when he appeared as the final keynote speaker on Sunday morning. This conference marked the beginning of what I hope will be a long and productive friendship. Incidentally, it was quite reassuring to be able to fit in the same desert camouflage uniform I obtained 20 years ago!

Our host in the Houston area, David Hender, proved his worth enough times for me to designate him the "8th member" of the Colorado delegation, and I felt justified in paying to get him into the conference. Although he became sick and couldn't attend the comedy show, he obtained an understanding of our content by sitting through the final rehearsal.

On Saturday night David Granirer presented 8 amateur stand-up comics, including myself, to a warm and supportive audience. This comedy show has become a regular feature of DBSA conferences, and despite the predictions of a religious crackpot, the world did NOT come to an end on Saturday night! As a trained librarian, I was able to read the audience like a book (this is what librarians do), and found the people to be warm and eager to encourage our efforts. Our production was the culmination of many hours of work, either individually or as a group. David Granirer was quite patient, helpful, and professional in guiding us to develop our scripts.

Ingalill Atala, another one of the 8 amateur stand-up comics, wrote the following summary: "The roses and trophies were such a nice touch. I don’t know about anyone else but the audience was amazing and made me feel so special. Each fellow comedian was incredible and so brave to “get out of the box”. If it were not for the other 7, I could not have done it. If it were not for David and the DBSA, we could not have done it. My mother is so my mother. On Sunday she declared, 'Ingalill you need to be a Stand-Up Comedian.' Maybe now you all understand my ending."

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Yes, I could appear in a future comedy show, but would rather step aside and let someone else experience this art form. By participating in this program, you develop many of the skills that are essential to the recovery model: overcoming phobias, communicating with other people, focusing on a project from beginning to end, learning from mistakes, and working with other team members who are just as eager as you are to entertain an audience.

22 May: My 63rd birthday was noted in passing, and we mourned the death of Sadie, shown on right, one of the two therapy dogs we brought to the conference. She and her partner Smokie (a male Dachshund) served as goodwill ambassadors for service dogs and opened the eyes of many people to their value in helping out people with psychiatric disabilities. There was an outpouring of compassion and support from organizers and attendees at the conference, and at least Sadie was able to die among friends and be treated with proper dignity as arrangements were made to cremate her remains in Houston and send the ashes to Colorado.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Chucky! Great meeting the "Largest Colorado Delegation"! I really enjoyed you speech and your stand-up act. Thanks your supporting my break -out session... I'm sure it would have been better it I wrote down some notes is stead of making it up as I went. LOL

    I hope to be getting back to the Mental Health heroes in the next day or two...

    Your Friend and pal- Chato