Friday, May 11, 2012

Recovery on the Road

Maeve with Hoodoos in background, Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park, Utah
Travelling, working, and living in 100 square feet of van with a dog and cat would be a challenge for most people, but the benefits to my recovery are more than worth it. I'm living and working in a beautiful natural setting--often with spectacular views; everything I own is never further away than the parking lot; housework (vanwork?) is limited;  I go from sleeping to working to preparing meals to hiking in the blink of an eye. Little gets in the way of my mission and the self-care needed to manage my bipolar and anxiety disorders. Take today:

08:30: I'm sleeping (still adjusting to crossing of a time zone two days ago) and a call comes in from a Fair Housing specialist in Oregon I'd asked to co-present with me at a SAMHSA conference this fall. Time was short to submit the presentation proposal, her schedule was hectic, and I couldn't afford to miss this call. The phone was on the table/desk over my bed so I picked up the phone before the third ring. I might have needed to refer to materials about the conference, my proposal, or my website during this conversation.  No problem, my computer is on the table/desk above me within easy reach. Being able to work from bed is a blessing.

09:00: I am PSYCHED!!!! She agreed to co-present and is enthusiastic about it. She's got a great voice, a gentle but animated personality, and lots of experience in front of groups -- this is great.  I've promised to email her the current draft of the presentation proposal which is 90% complete. I'm going to make coffee and drink it while I touch up the proposal and mail it. No, I'm going to wash up and dress and then make coffee. Maybe I should work on the proposal first and then get coffee. It's sunny now and rain is forecast for today; maybe I should go hiking first. Warning lights flash in my brain. My sleep was repeatedly broken last night, I'm very excited, I recently crossed a time zone, I didn't eat very well yesterday, and I'm buzzing around having trouble getting to the next thing I need to do. Hypomania has entered stage left.

09:45:What's in my toolbox for hypomania that can get me on track? I open my mental inventory and choose several quick and easy things: Listen to audio book, get outside, and begin morning routine. Maeve, who is sitting in the driver's seat waiting patiently for me, and I do our morning greeting ritual of paws on my shoulders, petting, licking, tail wagging, dog-praising, and eye-to-eye contact. I fire up Daniel Seigel's Mindsight on my smart phone; get the coffee makings, coffee grinder, pot, and induction cooktop out of the cabinet next to the bed; and carry everything three steps out to the picnic table. Grind coffee and brew while listening to audio book and enjoying the pine trees and sunshine.

10:00: I'm a little more under control, but Mindsight is turning out to be even better than I expected and there are parts I'm going to want to notate and use in my writing and speaking. I start to fret about how I'm going to remember which parts of the book I really wanted to use. Uh oh. This is buzzing me again. Need to do something and get it off my plate. Three steps back to my desk, grab the kindle, bring it out to the picnic table, buy the book, notate the parts that I just couldn't lose. Pour the coffee, rinse the coffeepot, take a walk to the restroom so Maeve and I can pee, and go back to the desk to work on the proposal.

10:30: I'm eating grapefruit and putting the last missing element in the proposal. It takes me a while to make sure it's right (with hypomania proofreading and editing are not easy). I make a some careless errors in the process of converting the document, writing the cover e-mail and attaching the document and the call for proposals document to the message, but I get it done.  Hurray for me!

Noon: I get sucked into checking all my social media stuff but eventually get  back outside. A person I met yesterday comes by and we talk a bit.  Face-to-face interaction is mood stabilizing. I was too buzzed to eat enough grapefruit earlier so I eat some more while I read and highlight sections of Mindsight.

13:00: Rain clouds are rolling in and my blurred vision tells me I'm getting a migraine. I make more coffee, stop reading, clear picnic table, and throw everything into van. I'm feeling more sick than headachy; thank goodness my bed is right here. I call a friend to share the good news about the co-presenter and try to put a few things in their places, sitting down on the bed frequently as the nausea waves hit. The van is closed up against the rain but there is a big window on either side of my bed so I can still look at the pine trees. The cat comes down from her perch to cuddle and Maeve is lying at the foot of my bed.

Mid- to Late Afternoon: Rain is over. I take Maeve out to play with her new frisbee. Pain and nausea are under control but the migraine's neurological symptoms are still going strong. My balance is off and I'm having weird physical sensations. I may not be safe hiking yet. I go back to the computer and catch up on messages and make myself a sandwich.

Early evening: Maeve insists I need to do something outside and she's right. There's not a lot of time left, but the beautiful rim trail around the top of the canyon is less than a quarter mile from our campsite. Off we go! We take pictures (see above), walk, and have short interactions with a number of people. I'm calm and happy by the time we get back to the campsite.

Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human
call us using "call Maeve and Joanne" at

Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human We would LOVE to speak to your group free of charge

Joanne and Maeve (her psychiatric service poodle) help people with psychiatric disabilities discover their rights to emotional support animals in no-pets housing without pet deposits or pet fees and their rights to service dogs


  1. Awesome, Joanne, love hearing about your adventures in healing! You are doing some awesome work! Nature and connection to others is far better than anything big pharma can dish out. (But I have to write non judgmentally).

    Get closer to the earth, get closer to nature.
    Love what you are doing!

    1. Thanks for the comment. A corollary: "Get closer to the earth, get closer to nature" BUT stay away from the edge of the canyon when a migraine has stolen your balance!