by Anna Idler
In 1984, Ruth Deming is 38 years old. She is happily divorced, living in an apartment with her two children Sarah and Dan. And she is slowly starting to lose her grip on reality.
“I was doing all sorts of strange things,” Deming told me. “I was dancing around my apartment late into the night, singing at the top of my lungs.” One night, Deming’s singing was so loud that her downstairs neighbor banged a broom on her ceiling (Ruth’s floor).
She doesn’t realize this yet, but this is the beginning of Deming’s journey with bipolar disorder.
Deming spent three days in a state hospital soon after this manic episode. She says she “couldn’t think” while there, and had no idea where she was most of the time. She called her experience “dreadful” and felt she came away from the hospital worse than she was before.
When her sister picked Deming up from her stay and brought her back to their mother’s house, Deming said she heard her son ask, “Is my mom going to die?” He was only six years old at the time.
Deming realized she needed mental and emotional support, beyond doctors and medication. She began inviting friends and acquaintances suffering from bipolar disorder and depression to her apartment for a support group.
That group has now been meeting for 30 years, and is called New Directions.
New Directions Support Group (NDSG) was officially founded in 1986. It is a nonprofit organization based in Abington, PA. The group is a safe place for people with bipolar disorder and depression to meet and discuss their challenges, progress and life goals. New Directions believes in the power of medication, healthy lifestyles, and skilled, caring therapists.
To NDSG, mental illness is a worthy adversary, but one that is able to be beaten. As the website states, “progress can be achieved, even in the smallest steps.”
“It is so scary and frightening to be diagnosed,” Deming explained. “You feel befuddled, you think ‘my life is over, and I will never amount to anything.’”
But Deming emphasizes that this is completely untrue.
“At New Directions, we teach you that you can still lead a productive, meaningful, positive life,” she said. “That is our goal. To teach people that you will be okay. You’re going to go through angst until you get your brain straightened out, and then you will sail on with life.”
New Directions publishes an original mental health magazine called The Compass. The publication features poetry, photography, essays and creative writing from Ruth and members of the support group. It is a beautifully written collection of pieces that touch upon the very real obstacles those who have been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder face every single day.
Deming said her favorite event that NDSG hosts each year is a bonfire in the fall in Tamanend Park, in Southampton. She and her NDSG family and friends eat s’mores and hot dogs and talk late into the night. It is a fantastic way to get everyone together in a fun environment while still being able to open up and connect with others about hopes, dreams and hardships.
Deming has found writing and art to be therapeutic for her over the years. She has written many short stories, obtaining a $5000 Leeway Grant for Women Artists. Deming also wrote for magazine Art Matters and is a guest columnist for The Intelligencer. She is an artist as well; Deming’s most recent creation is a mobile out of PVC pipes, which hangs on her cathedral ceiling.
Ruth Deming has been free of bipolar disorder since 2004, which, as she says, is “unique, but not rare.” She lives in a lovely split level home right near her boyfriend. She loves to be in nature, going on walks and riding her stationary bike often. Deming also maintains a blog in her free time called The Belle of Cowbell.
If you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder and/or depression, New Directions hosts evening and daytime meetings during each month.
Evening meetings are the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Abington Presbyterian Church. Daytime meetings are the second and fourth Thursdays at Willow Grove Giant Supermarket. NDSG also has a Loved Ones’ Group at the Tuesday night meetings.
For more information on Ruth Deming and New Directions, please visit http://newdirectionssupport.org/.