“Maintaining one’s mental health is not a sprint but a marathon,” FeatherLeaf photo

Taking your medicine and seeing a psychiatrist are perhaps the two most important things that a person needs to do to maintain good mental health. The medicine is what regulates the chemical imbalance in our brains and keeps us sane. The psychiatrist is what regulates the medicines and makes sure they are working properly. If I was going to pick a strong number three I’d say being a member of a support group would be it.

The support group that I used to frequent was for people with psychiatric problems and their loved ones. My mother and I would make the forty minute drive once a week to attend. They actually had two groups so I attended one and my mother attended another.

The primary aspect of the group is that everybody associated is affected by mental illness to some degree or another. The members are sworn to confidentiality so one can feel secure to open up about their specific problems. There is very little judging going on when everybody is in the same state. The meetings had an openness that we as a community of mentally ill do not regularly have. Even though at my job it was known that I had a mental illness there was little understanding of it, let alone compassion. In the group environment there is liberty to be oneself and open up.

The group is great in that you can get advice for your problems and give advice to others. This is extremely valuable in making you feel less isolated in the world. When you hear about the experiences of others and you can draw similarities and a connection is made. Also the group reinforces good general ideas of keeping mental health. When I attended the group I felt good when I could help somebody else with their problems, it made me feel useful.

A support group is an excellent place to make friends. There exists after all the common bond of mental illness and so everybody can relate to one another. How far you these friendships were taken varied. I made several good friends that I either talked to on the phone or met up with outside of the group. Some people in the group dated. After every group we traveled about two minutes to a nearby Friendly’s restaurant to socialize. Everybody was not only welcome but everybody was accepted as well. Our group was very diverse in makeup but we had that core connection.

One personal benefit that I got from the support group was that I found a job. I met a man who was there with his daughter who suffered from mental illness. We got talking and I told him that I had two years of engineering school. He liked me and he happened to own an engineering company. I was hired on the spot. Getting a job by this means was excellent in the fact that he understood my problems because of his experience with his daughter. As such the own of the engineering company would look out for me to make sure that I wasn’t put under too much stress.

The worst thing that a person with mental illness can do is isolate themselves. By the mere fact that we suffer from a psychiatric problem mentally ostracizes ourselves from the world. A support group is like an oasis in the desert where you can relax and be yourself. I highly recommend that you seek one out.

Photos by Liamfm .,