I recently joined a bipolar support group. My doctor and therapist have been encouraging me for months to join the group. They believed it would help me "normalize" some of my feelings by being around others who might have the same experiences.
I put off going to the group because 1) I was either too sick (manic or depressed) to feel like going or, 2) Feeling well again and not wanting to talk about or deal with this bipolar illness.
But, after struggling though episode after episode, I decided to go and see what I could learn from others.
This was not my first experience in group therapy. I've been to DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) groups and group therapy while hospitalized. I even spent five weeks in a group therapy setting while I was at a residential treatment program. Group therapy is not new to me.
I have to say my first impression when I went to the Bipolar Support group was disappointment. There were only two other women in the group. How was I supposed to see all the different spectrums of bipolar disorder with only two other subjects?
It turned out pretty well though. The group leader was excellent and kept things on track as well as gave compassionate support.
I mostly sat and listened for the first group. One woman was very troubled and thought it would be best if she was hospitalized. The group leader talked with her and tried to come up with some solutions to prevent hospitalization if possible. You would think that this might trigger me or make me frustrated because most of the group was about her, but it didn't. I felt compassion. I also could see parts of myself in this woman and it was interesting watching the group leader interact with her as others have been interacting with me over the years.
The second group meeting I attended there was only one other woman and a different one than last time. This woman was younger and working on an interesting career (I can't really say what because it might cross group privacy boundaries). This young woman has more experience than I do having bipolar disorder because mine developed slowly over time and I am rather newly diagnosed.
She talked about her "flavor" of bipolar disorder and how it affects her. She has had it long enough to know when an episode is coming on and some things she definitely has to avoid to prevent it.
Overall, she was nonchalant and accepting of her illness.
I hope I get to that point someday. I hope I accept this illness and it becomes more "oh, well" and less scary.
I hope that I get to the point where I can resume my career or even start a new one.
And that is what this support group has already given me in two short weeks - hope.
What gives you hope in living with this illness and where do you find it?