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Friday, August 17, 2012

Creating an Artist's Village for Folk with Bipolar

Co-Housing Project - Not sure where it's located.but it looks like somewhere I'd like to live.
As some of you may know, I'm looking into a new nonprofit startup - a co-housing project for people with bipolar and those who love them.  As I looked at my family's problem - 3 close relatives with severe bipolar and all on the edge of becoming homeless - I decided it was time to start up my sixth nonprofit organization.

I do that a lot.  When I run up against a problem a lot of people are having that's beyond their ability to solve, I get involved in creating a new organization or program or I run around looking for money to expand something someone is already trying to do.

This particular one hits close to home.  For those of you with a loved one who has bipolar and is in crisis, you know what it's like. Every day you go off to work, you wonder if you'll come home and find your spouse or child still alive or not.  Apparently I'm not the only one.

I got a note today from a guy who's wife thinks about suicide all the time. He loves her, so of course he can't leave her alone and unattended.  He's trying to make a living working at home and struggling. If you've tried it you know how hard it can be to get any real work done. There's always something. 

He's not the first I've heard from.  The families and caregivers of people with bipolar don't know what to do. Most "safe" places take them away from their families so that they feel betrayed and alone. Trying to keep them home without any close supports can be almost impossible. A lot of husbands or wives have had to resort to working from home for the safety of their loved ones.  If they can get disability for them, it's still very hard to make ends meet because the caregiver is hard pressed to find gainful employment without having to risk their loved one's life.

I came up with this idea the way I came up with all the other hare-brained ideas I've got myself involved with.  God only knows if it will work.  I call it the Rainy Day People Cooperative. The idea is to band together as caregivers and people with bipolar disorder to create a a community that works like we need it to.  Low stress, aid and comfort, backup, emergency plans and resources would be things we should build in to it.  It's not apartments.  With bipolar, you need lots of insulation and some airspace between yourself and your neighbors.  Bipolar can get a little loud.  The atmosphere in the community would be restful, calm and relaxing; designed to reduce stress and anxiety.  People in the community would understand how bipolar works and be able to take the odd outburst in stride.  The individual cottages would allow folk to interact with others as much as they were comfortable and retreat into a cozy cocoon when the anxiety becomes too much.  We could harness the creative energy often associated with people who have bipolar and put it to use to benefit the community and the individuals within it. 

Think of it as a retirement/resort/artist community designed to meet the needs of people who climb emotional peaks and slide down valleys as a way of life. Co-housing projects like this can be built anywhere. Most of the residents won't be going off to the office.  Residents can share community hi-speed cable and Internet, create a community website, take classes, do group therapy, gardening, hobbies and host special events.

Isn't it time those of us who have to live with this stuff decided to take control of our own lives. Shouldn't we live somewhere that works for us and isn't built just to make the developer a quick buck.  If we can put this project together it could be a sustainable, soul healing endeavor.  Drop me a note if you'd like to help us figure out how to do this.  My e-mail is .  Let's do this.

Tom King

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