Driving Miss Charity

I am increasing my confidence in communicating with the opposite sex while riding Uber & Lyft.  I have two best girlfriends.  One I have known since I was 6 and the other since I was almost 26.  Both are married, one has 3 daughters.  She is a few years younger than me but is wise beyond her years.  The other is less than 1 year older than me and knows me better than almost anyone else on the planet.  They both have patiently listened to all of the dramas and high points in my dating history.  One is a great listener and the other makes me laugh when I am sad.  The funny one made me watch 40 year old virgin after I broke up with an older guy.  My ex was not like him at all!  They both taught me that I don’t need a man to be happy and I can never settle for the wrong guy.  I deserve the best. 

They both know that I haven’t been on a real date for a long time.  I’ve been asked out a few times since but I have learned that taking things slow is the best approach.  I will suggest coffee first.  Riding Uber and Lyft reminds me of when I used to have several male friends on the internet.  You can say anything you want to.  You can create a different version of yourself and there’s no commitment because you get a different driver every time. 

So I’m not into lying but I have come up with the same safe script for every driver, male or female.  It’s still easier for me to communicate by email or text than in person. 

  1. Hi, How are you ____?
  2. Where are you from?  (listen, wait for them to ask). I’m from WV originally but I live in CA now.
  3. What do you like to do for fun? (listen, wait). I like to travel and write and do yoga.
  4. Weather
  5. If they ask what I do I say I’m in transition.  I do stuff at my church. 
  6. I ask them if they like their job.

It’s really fun b/c every driver is different.  If they’re nice and don’t prod for personal information, I give them a big tip.  Otherwise I only give them two or three dollars.  I thank them and leave.  The first time I did it alone I was a little scared but now I really enjoy it since I don’t go to bars.  I will be okay being single for the rest of my life as long as I have family and friends and a dog or two.  So, guess what single people you can survive without dating!   I have!  Yes, I will admit…the idea of meeting someone when I am doing karaoke in Santa Cruz, reading at church, or volunteering at the school has a lot of appeal…who knows where life will lead me.  But I am running towards myself and my goals…not going to let anyone stand in my way.

Restorative Yoga

I want to suggest just one tiny thing.  Restorative yoga has helped me so much.  It’s a very special kind of yoga where you are taught different poses supported by props.  If something doesn’t feel good, you just have to raise your hand and they will help you adjust.

  The whole point of restorative yoga is to slow your mind down and focus on your breathing and be comfortable.  I do it twice a week and a flow class once per week.  My friend Sandy got me into restorative when I lived in Florida. My favorite prop is the bolster.

You can get a nice one from amazon at a reasonable price if you’re comfortable shopping online.  The softest one I found was on amazon and it’s called the Manduka Enlight.  They look different if you use the ones the studio provides, and aren’t quite as soft. You can get a nice one from amazon at a reasonable price if you’re comfortable shopping online.  The softest one I found is They look different if you use the ones the studio provides, and aren’t quite as soft.

  I’m not going to bore you with a definition of restorative yoga or tell you about several poses because everyone has different preferences of what they like.  My current favorite is “stonehenge”.  You take one bolster and put it on your mat with two blocks under the bolster and you rest your feet on top of the bolster.  You can have a blanket for your head and a blanket for extra support for your back on top of your mat. 

“Shavasana” is the final pose in almost any yoga class.  It’s known as corpse pose because you are lying down flat or with props and everyone is very still and quiet after you get it set up and some people even fall asleep!  Your eyes are closed and some folks use eye masks.  You hold this position for five to ten minutes.  Some instructors give suggestions for shavasana, others say you can choose your favorite.  Only private studios have restorative.  Traditional gyms only have gentle and more advanced yoga classes. 

Online & Other sources for new students


2 Videos that have helped me understand the basics of regular yoga, and some poses I’ve done in restorative yoga

Yoga For Dummies

Yoga Journal Yoga for Well-Being With Jason Crandell: 3 short sequences for Restful Sleep, Greater Energy, and Mental Clarity

Job, Dog, Man

I rescued my dog, a miniature schnauzer in January of 2010.   After I knew I was officially going to adopt her I changed her name to Jubee, short for Jubilant Kind Heart.  I only had her for eight and a half years.  Deciding to have her put down was a very hard decision but I knew it was the right thing to do because she couldn’t hear me at all and she couldn’t see well and she was confused and had lots of accidents.  If there is a doggie version of Alzheimer’s, she had it for sure.  We were planning to move to a smaller house and she would have been so confused and her life would have been harder so I decided I had to let her go.  

Before Jubee, the original life plan after my Masters Degree was Job, Dog, Man.  I got three jobs that didn’t work out and learned some valuable life lessons.  The only guy I ever loved dumped me and I knew that with a dog I’d always have someone who loved me unconditionally and that might even be better than being married.  Dog sitting when I was in college and a few times when I was healthy as an adult taught me how to take care of dogs properly but sometimes I had needed my parents help taking care of bigger dogs.  So when I found out there was a female rescue miniature schnauzer available when I was unemployed and searching for meaning I questioned it.  How does one take responsibility of another life when one barely has one’s life together?   My brother told me to go for it.   So I went to for it.  I met her and was instantly in love and hoped it would work out.  Not long after I adopted her I had my two best job experiences, both temporary but valuable.  Now she’s gone and I haven’t worked since 2013.  I don’t think there’s any kind of connection but I do know my life was better because of her.

            Jubee helped me see the world through different eyes.  I think getting her was the best thing I have ever done.  I have traveled a lot and I’m well educated but I have no idea what my next step should be.  I am working on my book.  I do some volunteer work and I am involved in different ways at my church.  I joined a yoga place that I love.  Constantly I feel like I am not doing enough or I’m not good enough or I should be doing something else.  I should be someone else.  But Jubee always loved me as I am.  She loved me when I was really sick and hurting.  I was always enough for her and she loved me completely.   She will never be replaced but I read somewhere that when you love and rescue a dog they want you to find another.   So I have to stop putting myself down and move forward without her.  It’s never going to be easy but I need to live my life and I can’t keep putting myself down because I don’t have the life I thought I would have at age 38.  I have to find my strengths and move forward and not look backward.   Jubee would have wanted me to be happy.   I changed my life plan when I got her.   I can change it again.   Just because I don’t have some big deal job or a great relationship doesn’t mean my life can’t be good.   I can make myself the best I can be and move forward with my guardian angel Jubee.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

This was a speech I gave in Toastmasters for the International Competition in my home club in 2014…didn’t make it to the next level but I am glad I had the courage to do it. I dream that someday I will get to use some of it in more formal educational presentation.

Greetings Contest Master, fellow Toastmasters, and guests.   How many of you have seen the movie, Beautiful Mind? The movie is about a famous mathematician John Nash.   Mr. Nash lives with Schizophrenia and he won a Noble Prize in Economics.   You wouldn’t know it to look at me but John Nash and I have something in common.  We both live with mental illnesses.   I live with Bipolar 1, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Driving Anxiety, and Social Anxiety.   Asperger’s is not a mental illness but the rest of them are.  Do you remember how Mr. Nash had all of those notes all over his home?   The first time I was on my own, my bathroom mirror was covered with sticky notes.  Just like Mr. Nash, I had an overactive mind.   It used to be before I took my medicine, that I could not think one thought at a time.   I have been taking a religious course and the author of the one of the books Christopher Bryan said, “For me to “understand” what it is that my friend enjoys about stamp collection would be for me to become in some sense a different person.”  And basically the same is true of someone with mental illness.  It’s just a part of us, one of our traits that makes us different.  You won’t “become” me in trying to understand me.  You can’t be me or any other person. In a way, our “cultures” are different. 

Michael W. Smith wrote “The wind is moving but I am standing still….a life of pages waiting to be filled…a heart that’s hopeful…a head that’s full of dreams…but this becoming is harder than it seems…” The song is called Place In This World.  It has been my favorite song since 2008.  Sometimes for me, all 33 years of my life seem like waiting for my years…waiting for my time.  (pause)    

I am not violent, I don’t rob banks, and I would take a job if offered one and stick with it as long asI was useful in the job.   It is unlikely that I would cheat on a partner or spend thousands of dollars several days in a row.   Hypersexuality and overspending are two traits associated with Bipolar I that those who don’t know call “typical”.  (pause) I take all of my meds as prescribed.  I am well educated, I have a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, and I’m looking for a job that needs me—the unique me. J   An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults, suffer from mental illness every year.  (according to the National Institute of Mental Health).   Two of my best friends are very successful and are living with Bipolar and Anxiety.   With the right combinationof medications and therapy, individuals with mental illness can succeed in today’s world, especially if we are given a chance!   J Hollywood doesn’t get it right.   We’re often portrayed at our extremes, portrayed as non medication compliant, criminal, belligerent, or sometimes even alien-like.  There are hundreds of negative stories out there in newspapers.   But what I choose to focus on are the magazines like Bipolar Hope, that promote wellness, and lots of great books that can give hope and information and coping tips.  Suicide is a risk for individuals who live with mood disorders.   If you want to know more about suicide, Dr. Kay Jamison wrote a book called Night Falls Fast.  And Bipolar is more common than you would think.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar affects about 2.6% of the United States general population.      

At the last Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance conference in Miami, I met a young Muslim woman who just published her second novel, this time about her experiences with Bipolar.  I got to see a Canadian woman doing a funny one woman show.  But for me the highlight of the conference was meeting Patrick Kennedy.   I never knew that there was a former political figure who was also a mental illness survivor.   DBSA is a great organization.   If you ever have the opportunity to hear Patrick Kennedy or Dr. Kay Jamison speak, take it.  Dr. Kay is one of the most famous individuals with Bipolar.  Her book An Unquiet Mind changed my life.   I met her in 2008.  While it was fabulous to meet this kind, gracious, eloquent lady who is hero to millions of people around the world, some of my peers became my heroes too.   J One fellow consumer and friend is a charge nurse at a hospital and another is a therapist.  J

A supportive family makes a difference.  I am very thankful for my family.  Lots of people in Toastmasters have inspired me to go on when I wanted to give up.  Greg, Sandy, (Joe?) thank you.  (Make sure you look right at whoever you’re talking about). When I gave one of my competent communicator speeches, I was just starting to get out of a really hard time in my life.  I hugged Joe my evaluator, before I gave my speech.  I think that helped.   Everyone in Toastmasters has always made me feel validated.   (pause) I figured now was the time to share my story that I have been wanting to share for four years.  So, if you ever have any questions about Bipolar I, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Driving Anxiety, or Social Anxiety, remember that the resources like these (take out of Cancun cloth bag and read off titles) (An Unquiet Mind, Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, BP Hope Magazine, Solutions for Adults With Aspergers Syndrome, and Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts) and talking to individuals living with those conditions are the best ways to answer those questions.     

Thank you.

My First Blog Post Trying To Live To Serve: My Life with Multiple Mental Health Diagnoses

Charity Riley


            Living With Multiple Mental Health Issues

I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts.  We can never be ashamed to ask for help if we’re not right mentally.  We have to be our own self advocate.  Sharing stories really does save lives.  Former President Bill Clinton once said, “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”  I hope to someday live in a world where mental illness will be taken as seriously as diabetes.  Sometimes we have to accept things that happen to us and our labels.  We have to be determined and not give up even when things are rough.  For me, looking back usually helps.  It makes me really believe that old cliché that which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I used to wish I could go back in time knowing then what I know now but the older I get, the more I am able to understand why everything happened the way that it did.  In therapy, I am trying to learn to stay in the present but it is very hard sometimes.  I have some regrets but I mostly am thankful that I survived everything I did and I have better friends and relationships with family than I did when I was younger.  Even though I am single and jobless I can still contribute to society in small ways.  I try to find the good in every day. 

I remember crying when I got home from school at least once a week if not more often for seven years.  I was so sensitive to the negative comments my peers made and I felt bad about myself the majority of the time.  Introverted, socially backward, highly nervous, nerdy, old fashioned outsider  Those are the words I would use to describe myself from 6th grade through college.  I never really felt like I fit in anywhere.  Until the fall of 2002, there was no medically defined reason for the differences.  Now I am 38 years old wondering what I am going to do with the rest of my life.  

I have become a little less anxious socially and have made some good friends.  I still spend the majority of my time alone without any plans on a Friday night because my friends live far away.  But I have traveled and I’ve been educated and have a lot to be thankful for.  It took almost twenty years for me to qualify for Social Security and now that I have it I am not sure if I will ever work again.  All I have left is my ability to write about what has happened, my strong desire to help others doing community service, and my strong self awareness.  My diagnoses are now Bipolar 1, Aspergers Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, situational Social Anxiety, and Driving Anxiety.  I did not get diagnosed with the Aspergers until I was 28 years old.  I think knowing that would have helped me accept why I was so different in school and never had a lot of friends.  The Bipolar Disorder is something I have a hard time accepting even now seventeen years after the diagnosis but I believe that I was born different and if how I write about how I survive my struggles can help give someone else hope then I am glad I was born this way.