Opinion: COVID-19 & The MacGuyver Challenge

This article originally appeared on Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Yesterday I challenged folks to stop bitching about Trump and, for that matter, all worthless political noise … just set aside partisan bullshit and focus all energies on helping your community instead.

To this solution, my physicist friend and I (a geochemist) have been developing a renewable personal filtration mask that can be easily constructed using everyday consumer items … items that haven’t been wiped out in panic buying and items readily available and items difficult to wipe out in panic buying.

Heck, I can mine one item from a quarry ten miles from me. And it’s ready to use straight from the ground.

We have three really great ideas, the most viable being one that relies upon a microwave oven and a rotating collection of reusable hydratable tectosilicates.

Here’s the objective:

1.) Identify a strained community need.

2.) Create the solution.

3.) Share.

We’re calling this “The MacGyver Challenge.”

What are some other community needs?

– Childcare for working parents while the schools are closed.

– Food and supply delivery for those who are self-quarantined for their health and safety.

– Entertainment!

– Opportunities for people to connect because isolation is dangerous for many.

– Ways to keep our community economy strong.

It’s important to understand my mate and I are doing our project open source. What’s the point of a community pandemic solution that isn’t altruistic? If you know the advocacy stuff I do, this makes perfect sense. Same idea.

My friend and I have our solution underway. The MacGuyver Challenge awaits one and all!


P S. – My physicist friend is 80 years old. My Dad is 80 years old. My friend hates Trump. I nothing Trump.

Rock on.

Guilt won’t save me. Guilt gives me reason to let go.

by Steve Bringe

I have no fondness for this sentiment. To wit, I firmly believe this sentiment is irresponsible and dangerous to peers at the brink of killing themselves.

If ever you’ve been suicidal you’ll quickly empathize. If not, then perhaps shared insight can help you understand.

You see, when I’m at my worst and suicidal, and already feeling worthless and underserving of love, a burden upon my loved ones with a mind lying to me with artificial thoughts like “They’re better off without me,” this sentiment only proves my point to my diseased mind.


Suicide doesn’t take away the pain. It gives it to someone else.


Guilt won’t save me. Guilt gives me reason to let go.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

The words and guidance of Dr. Chris Morris are a cornerstone to my peer advocacy

This is an important photo in my recovery journey and the advocacy stuff I do.

Taken at Behavioral Health Day at the New Mexico State Capitol Building (aka “The Roundhouse”) in 2012, this was my first full term as president of DBSA Albuquerque. The photo is of me (obviously) and Dr. Chris Morris, then with Optum Health.

DBSA Albuquerque had a table for the event and Chris dropped by to say hi. When the crowd thinned out a bit, Chris asked to have a private word with me.

By this point early on in peer advocacy, I was fairly well-networked and fairly well-known as a peer advocate. And, it was already a thing I was torquing off prominent stakeholders who’d been in the community much longer than the two years I’d been around.

So Chris pulled me aside and said, “Steve, you know you’re making people mad and upset, right?”

Sadly, I knew this. And it was a mystery as to why.

Chris then said, “Why should anyone be mad at you? What are you doing wrong? You create new support groups, you hold peer focus groups for advisement, you bring peers to meetings so they can have a direct voice, you set up peer education events, you write opinion pieces and letters to anyone you feel can help peers, you hold community education developed and presented by peers. Why should anyone be angry with you? You’re not doing anything but trying to help peers be empowered.

“This is the reason: You are threatening people’s power, money, or both. You are outside their influence and they can’t control you. This is why people are angry with you.”

Wow. A bit of a gut-punch to hear that. I really was naive early on.

Chris then offered advice which is a cornerstone to how I approach advocacy to this day. Chris said this:

“Don’t stop doing things your way. If you do, then you’ll put yourself where others can control you … and stop you.”

These words mean everything to me and are a constant reminder to keep straight on what my friends are saying and the goals I hope to accomplish. Chris’ words are also a reminder of how limiting bureaucracy is and how building new, novel solutions to peer needs is more efficient and successful than trying to fix broken systems.

Chris’ words also guided me to the very foundation of how I view behavioral health advocacy:

The enemy of innovation is asking for permission.

And, yes, I still piss people off. And, yes, people still try to stop me.

Dr. Chris Morris is a hero of mine. With complete sincerity. Thank you, Chris.

What’s it like being crazy?

What’s it like being a peer?

I was asked this question today, less delicately, as “What’s it like being crazy?”

As a peer, I live this as my normality and have done so since I started having symptoms as a teen. So, that’s my basis of comparison, before and after, and this makes it easy to answer what it’s like being crazy.

For years, I could depend on knowing right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal.

Then, I couldn’t at times because a newly malfunctioning brain began lying to me.

Worse, I couldn’t tell my brain was lying. It refused to let me.

Now, I live with always the glimmer that what I’m perceiving might be wrong, false, and unreal. And I wouldn’t know it.

The real question is:


What’s it like not fully trusting your own brain?


There’s your answer as to what it’s like to be crazy.

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

During the crisis in the 80s I was in junior high and high school. I watched the news with my parents every day as they exploited the dying calling them an abomination to God, and saying they were deserving of their suffering because they were gay.

I watched as it was used as a political platform to prove the “Christianity” of the candidate(s).

I remember as a young adult first realizing what hate and marginalization of people really meant. I remember my heart breaking when I understood how unfair and ugly this world really is. People were literally leaving loved ones in the morgue, refusing to accept their bodies because they had a “gay disease” and didn’t even deserve to be properly laid to rest.

So on this day I remember, and send my love to all those of my generation who lost their lives to this disease. We lost (almost) an ENTIRE generation of strong, caring, humans.

And I especially send out love to my dear friend Bunnie Benton Cruse who spent every waking hour doing anything and everything she could to lay those to rest who were rejected and left alone by their families.

– Bethany Brehm Anderson

The outbreak of “Gay Cancer” in 1980’s Southern California

Growing up in SoCal, where the initial major outbreak of HIV occured centered on the bath houses of West Hollywood, I watched the news coverage as the disease progressed over the first year. For a few months, HIV took on the name “Gay Cancer.” There was no name for the virus or disease yet. That’s what the media landed on. Gay Cancer.

The new epidemic had all the best components for the making of a rigid hateful stigma. The prejudice of homosexuality as an immoral, hedonistic activity was already in play. Disneyland cast members (as everyone who works there is named) regularly split up gay couples slow dancing at the Tomorrowland dance floor, as an example of how homosexuals were treated in SoCal. So when a new deadly disease killing gay men rolled in, the already existing stigmatization of homosexuality was amplified a billion-fold.

This immoral lifestyle has brought down upon us a New Black Plague! That right there is how the AIDS outbreak was perceived.

So here’s a story from my high school years about how goofy things got with the AIDS outbreak, at the very beginning in “Ground Zero” sunny SoCal.

Vintage clothes rock. I’ve always liked hitting thrift stores for vintage surf threads. One day back in high school (mid-80s) while visiting my best gal with my new stash of Hang Ten shirts, her dad warned me not to buy used clothes because of AIDS. He asked me to leave my Goodwill bag outside.

Never mind that most infectious viruses break apart when exposed to light. It’s why getting herpes from a gas station toilet seat is so hilarious. Not possible. But this is how much of a public scare AIDS was, laden with misinfornation and fear mongering. My best gal’s dad was not a hateful or unintelligent man. He was caught up in the fearful hype of a new deadly disesse.

Used clothes could be carrying the Gay Cancer. Amazing.

The misconceptions and misinformation… it created a culture of fear, prejudice, and mistrust in SoCal… I remember it well. It sucked.

Things are much better now, in terms of stigma and fear. AIDS isn’t associated with homosexuality by default. AIDS affects everyone, and anyone can contract the disease.

It isn’t immoral. It isn’t caused by any “lifestyle.” It isn’t a mark of societal shame. It isn’t a death sentence. It’s a disease.

So, for World AIDS Day, that’s my story to share. Compared to mid-80s Southern California, things are better. I am confident things continue to get better.

Stigma this. Stigma that.

There’s this dude on Facebook I greatly respect who shared his thoughts on mental health stigmas and their lack of impact on how he views himself. In better part, I agree fully that how a person might feel about me or how they might treat me knowing I have bipolar and CPTSD doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m very comfortable with who I know I am . . . even with those tiny demons tugging at tiny insecurities inside my mind.

Still, it’s one thing to be affected by others’ personal opinion of those with mental health conditions. The issue with stigmatization comes when these opinions deny peers opportunities and when these opinions define policies and statutes that affect only peers. Hurt feelings versus violating constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is where confronting stigmatization holds importance.

Sometimes, stigmatization has real-world consequences: renting an apartment, applying for a job, acquiring security clearance, interacting with law enforcement. When stigmatization becomes unavoidable in how a peer lives their life, this is where standing up to stigma is both crucial and essential.

Fast Times at Bipolar High

Hello and welcome to the introduction to a new blog series: Fast Times at Bipolar High! In this series, I, Payton, will be explaining how I made it through highschool in Albuquerque, New Mexico while battling to understand and cope with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder while still attempting to grow up, have friends, be a good student and above all else, not lose my mind. This series may get a little intense for some readers so be warned: IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE INTENSITY, STOP READING THIS BLOG! Although, for this intro blurb, I will keep it pretty reasonable. I plan to cover topics such as what its like to be afraid of one’s self, how to positively spin being a totall coocoo weirdo, stigma in public schools and how I survived it, dealing with intense urges as a teenager, leadership, choosing the right school for myself, reconciling being a potential danger, shame of mental identity, the importance of a support system and much more so stay tuned! Without further ado, here is my first entry!

Hi. I’m Payton. Growing up, I wasn’t your typical student. No, I was a slacker. Now, I wasn’t a slacker because I hated school or because I thought it was beneath me, no, I was a slacker because while the other students were studying for finals, I was traversing a world of visitors, visions, hallucinations, harbingers and so much more. The only way I could get through my early life was to live through my madness. It wasn’t an option to just shut it off. The only way to do that would have been to shut everything off because my madness is a part of me and that’s called suicide. Although I often considered it and to this day, I can’t begin to comprehend the miracles that led to me remaining on this earth, suicide is no longer my eventual goal. Despite my…ahem…unique brain being a part of who I am, I do not choose to identify with it. I am not Bipolar. I have bipolar disorder. I have a cold. I have a bad back, but these things are not who I am. I am a poet, an athlete, a smartass and so much more but I am not my vices. I am not defined by what ferocity hold me down but rather by the grace with which I rise against it all.

Due to my constant escapades into the other world, I was not always mentally available to complete assignments, remember birthdays or pay attention to traffic signals but I was never idle. Nay, when my parents would receive calls about their son not taking school seriously and being disrespectful, what my educational professionals failed to realize and mention was that instead of this, I was busy respecting the Otherworld and taking my own subconscious seriously. The two were not mutually exclusive. Like I said, I lived through my hallucinations. They were not random (as bizarre and flippant as they often were). They had a purpose and always…always, they wanted to tell em something. My pseudo-scientific understanding of these visions is that when a brain is wired improperly wired and it’s conscious and subconscious are failing to properly interpret, communicate with and respond to the surrounding environment, an anomaly occurs. Things that would typically be handled with grace and time like reacting to love interests, dealing with rejection and handling trauma are instead processed by the subconscious and then violently & dramatically foced upon the conscious mind without warning. You see, the typical brain’s conscious and subsconscious are like two employees working the day and night shifts. They trade notes between shifts and the work of one impacts the work of the other but they don’t really directly interact very much. Ah…but my brain is far from typical. My day and night shift workers were constantly fighting for more hours because they lived in an unstable enclosure and the costs of rent, security, utilities and food was staggering, not to mention all of the creative aspirations they had to fund (which were all inspired by their unstable lives). Eventually, the boss decided to just let them work at the same time! This is when I dreamt while awake. This is probably also the reason that from age 10 (right before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 with Psychotic features) every single dream I’ve had has been a lucid dream. This meant that I had the responsibility of not only manually sorting out my processing of my day to day life while I was unconscious but also that I had to tame the subconscious beasts that everyone else’s subconscious naturally tames while I was awake! You see then why it was difficult to be a straight laced, 5 minutes early, B+ or better sort of student, no?

But I was not totally innocent. I slacked intentionally. School didn’t seem to be a very friendly environment for me. It certainly wasn’t onein which I could explore my mind. No, as I later realized with the help of my Kwa’a (Hopi for grandfather), American Highschool isn’t about learning meaningful information or how to think (that’s what college is for), American Highschool is about learning to follow directions. I was literally incaple of following the directions of the first school I attended. So, I took to the wind and with the help of my mother, father and some friends, found a school that worked for me. I didn’t even end up graduating from that school, but it taught me the importance of finding the right fit for my own needs- not the needs I’m supposed to have. As users of the mental health forces that be, we are consumers! We cannot always just take what is given to us, sometimes we must find what it is we need in order to heal and prosper. We cannot be ashamed of seeking help and we must realize that it is our duty to seek help/treatment if for no other reason than to not be a scourge on society. Hopefully we find other reasons like wanting to make our families proud or better yet ourselves proud but prison is real! And so is death. For a long time, the fear of those two things was the only thing keeping me from succumbing to them and at times, I didn’t even have that. It is an absolute miracle that I am not dead, in prison or on the run right now even as I write this. How about a round of applause! I am a student from the graduating class of We Made It! My dear friends, my loving family and my stellar mental health professionals helped me cope with the fear of harming myself and others and helped me not let it come to that but lets talk about that for a second- fear! Fear divides and often conquers us if we let it. There are six natural behaviors. Fear is one of them. Disgust is one of them. Hatred is one of them. Love is not. Compassion is not. Understanding is not. All of those things are taught and learned. Thankfully, joy is also a natural behavior. Lets capitalize on joy. Also, lets become more than what we are made of. Lets become unnatural- unnatural in the sense that our behaviors are chosen, not natural. We are born with fear. We can seek understanding. We can seek enlightenment. Lets seek enlightenment together. I have seen so much fear in my attackers that the only person I pitied more than myself was them, but no more. No more tears. Let’s fight back. Lets wise up. Join my side and lets Stand Up To Stigma.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.

F*ck you Kl*nopin

Remembering when I used to have a life. I do this all the time. My friend gets mad at me saying I’m always speaking of the past and showing older pics. But, it’s these times I remember since the loss of me. I guess it’s a reflection on the good times. Like an old man/lady who sits on the porch telling their grand-kids about the good ol’ days.

I remember traveling, going to concerts, comedy clubs, movie premiers, out dancing, going to school to get an MBA, dating, etc. Nothing made me upset, depressed or anxious, except the normal stuff that would cause anyone to feel this way. Everything was impromptu and everything made me excited, especially swimming, hiking and biking.

The best memory is never having to use an alarm clock; in bed at 10, up at 6 and then for a long bike ride before the sun came up. No meds in my cabinet except for a multi-vitamin.



This pic is when I was in Mexico with my girlfriend. We just hopped a plane and went to Mexico and had the absolute best time, even though the hotel was cheap and I slept on a block. It just didn’t matter. I went with the flow on everything. I always laughed at shitty situations and found the good in the bad, the silver lining on every cloud.

Well, now, I just want to die. Every day I feel like I have the flu, am burning on fire, movements in my body, SI, anxiety off the charts, etc. I have no real friends/family anymore. Nobody understands and nobody cares. The world is a fair-weathered friend. I guess it’s a survival of the fittest theory.

I want children, a nice husband, nice friends (the ones I have are utter shit), a safe home and to wake up at least feeling 75%. This is no way to live. I honestly don’t see how people do it. Some doctor destroys our lives with a shitty Big Pharma drug and we must resign to the fact that we will be sick/bedridden for a decade, if we even make it. I’ve lost my looks, my personality and my will to live.

I very much miss the good ol’ days.

F*ck you Kl*nopin.