We “differently minded” folk (aka mentally ill or whatever you choose to call it) need friends, just like everyone else. We need an alliance. We need to know that we are not the only ones out there dealing with these problems or moods or side effects. We need to know we aren’t alone.
Thanks to the Internet we can find forums and Facebook groups full of others like us, but I have to say, nothing beats being in a room full of like-minded individuals.
For those of us with mood disorders (which I imagine is the bulk of my readers), both NAMI and DBSA provide meetings – some for caregivers (not the mentally ill) and some for the consumer (me). These meetings are free, though often donations are accepted but not imperative.
I have my tribe. I found them last fall. We meet on Thursday afternoons. Sometimes there is a full house and sometimes there are 4 of us. Whatever. It works. I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t been able to afford a therapist so these meetings, not led by professionals, but rather peers, are quite helpful. I can bring my triumphs and failures to my tribe and feel (mostly) at ease. We talk meds and side effects and sadness and hope. I love my tribe.
Joining a support group can be daunting, even for the most confident of us. You feel self-conscious. You don’t know what to expect. You may even be scared (I was at my first meeting with a bipolar group in OK).
But here is what you will find. People who have been around the block. They know all about what depression feels like, maybe something no one in your familial and friendship circle truly understands. This may be where, for the first time, you meet someone else who has experienced mania. They may be older, they may be younger, but chances are they are more articulate about their illness than you are. Of course they are, they have had practice, they have spoken to their tribe.
I encourage everyone with a mood disorder to find a support group in which they feel comfortable. It may not be the first group. Maybe the Monday night group is too loud for you; maybe Wednesday morning’s group is more your speed. Shop around – find what works for you and your amazing mind.
And here is the great part: You will make friends who understand you. Just like high school, there will be people who are all drama, there will be those you don’t like, and then, like I said, you will find your tribe.
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