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Thinking of Creating A Support Group? You Can Do It! Part 1

During the past year I received wonderful online support from bipolar-themed social media contacts and bloggers.  As fulfilling as their encouragement was, I also craved real life support, connection and friendships with people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

A peer-to-peer support group is a great place to do just that! 

The bipolar support group located closest to my home is run by the acclaimed organization National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  I found my local NAMI chapter by searching on their website at http://www.nami.org/Find-Support.   However, this particular support group has a Christian-focus (Please note: not all NAMI groups are religious-based). Despite the fact that the support group has a kind, experienced facilitator, it was not the right fit for me. 

As much as I wanted to attend a support group, I knew I had to wait until someone else created a group that fit my interests, or I’d need to form one myself.  Months passed by, and there were still no other mood disorder support groups in my area in sight.  After much deliberation, I knew the time had come for me to form a bipolar support group. 

Big gulp! 

Now, I should disclose that I’ve created a bipolar support group in the past!  I formed a chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) for our county, and I served as the primary organizer. Unfortunately after two years I left the chapter when I had a relapse of bipolar depression, and my successor closed the chapter soon after my departure. 

I won’t lie.  Creating and facilitating a bipolar peer-run support group takes work.  I also have social anxiety, so it’s a challenge to take on a leadership role, even among kindred spirits with whom I feel comfortable. But under the right circumstances, being part of a group of like-minded members is totally worth the effort.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons from my support group experience that makes me hopeful that my new group will thrive over the long-term. (I'll be sharing those tips with you in my March post.)

Before I did anything, however, I decided to keep the bipolar support group logistics as simple as possible.  Instead of re-affiliating with the DBSA, which I don't rule out doing again in the future, I created a Meetup.com group for the time being.  In Part Two, I'll discuss the nuts and bolts of how I created my Meetup group, and I'll share how our first meeting turned out, making sure to keep all identifying details of the group confidential. I'm nervous, but I'm very excited about this new bipolar peer-to-peer support group! Stay tuned!

Comments

I am super excited for you and I smiled the whole time I read this! I know you will be great and this just shows others how much purpose there can be for our pain, as those who struggle with mental illness. You are doing a great thing that will change lives.
I get nervous too about my group, but I know I am doing the best I can with what I have. I also worry about having those moments where I don't feel like going because of a relapse, but that is when we just have to remember those we are helping and open up even more to those in our group. Congratulations and I look forward to more updates! HUGS!

Dyane, I wish you the best with your new support group. I do hope that you find the connections and friendships that you so crave. Interesting to note, where I live there are plenty of support groups, yet I shy away from participatiing. Perhaps I should... In the meantime, I am waiting for my psychiatrist's next group therapy sessions to begin. The last group ended as people lost interest over the holidays.

You have my support.

Acá en la ciudad en donde yo vivo no hay grupo de apoyo y el sistema de salud publica ni las obras sociales tienen grupos de apoyo seria interesante qcuentes tu experiencia para de alguna forma replicarla.

I started an EDA (12 step) "Eating Disorders Anonymous" at a local Drop in affiliated with a large hospital chain. I got all the notices in the newspapers and at local psychologists offices and outpatient hospital groups. I sat there for six months while no one showed up. Finally they did arrive and today that group is still going strong. I had a relapse of sorts...I developed Tardive Dyskinesia and lost the next three years to searching the world for symptom control. I had to stop leading my group. Now that I'm better, these people wont let me volunteer, they say I'm not 'stable' enough. All they remember is how I was when I was tearful, shaking, and angry.

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