Support Group Nerves & How-To’s – Part One

nerves

 

As thunderstorms roll in tomorrow afternoon, I’m meeting with a bunch of women I’ve never met before.

Each of them has a mood disorder including bipolar disorder, anxiety and/or depression.

This is not my the first time meeting strangers at a mood disorders support group.  I’ve been around the support group block three times before as a creator/facilitator.  I know I can get through this meeting in one piece! But I’m still nervous – it’s a similar feeling to stage fright because I’ll be in front of at least 36 unfamiliar eyeballs for part of our meeting.  

A ginormous plus is that I have three women attending who I do know – I’ve been friends with two of them for years, and they’ve stood by me during all my mood swings.  One of these gals has graciously offered to be my timekeeper during our self-introductions.  I could easily ramble on for ten minutes – just look at my blog posts if you doubt me – but if everyone does that, then we’ll have no time to talk about other topics.  Each member will have a few minutes to introduce herself to the group, and a way is needed to track her amount of time.  

Enter my faithful friend with her timer.  We also have a bull whip as backup.  (Just kidding.)

As with planning and executing any special occasion, be it a wedding or a music festival, you can’t rest easy thinking that the event will roll out effortlessly.  I planned our wedding and I used to work in large-scale special event production, so I know that for a fact. There’s also a given that something unforeseen will happen.  That’s what freaks me out the most, but I must kick that fearsome thought out of my brain and tell myself I can handle it, and ask for help too.

At my other support groups I arranged for us to meet at church social rooms or at non-profit community centers.  That worked out pretty well (although some of the complicated alarm systems totally frazzled me!), but those rooms were sterile or had a churchy vibe, which is a turn-off to some attendees.  So this time around, with visions of spring, I assumed we could meet at a beautiful spot in the redwoods.  I had it all plotted out until a few days ago.

Enter unpredictable weather.  I naively thought that rain wouldn’t be likely, and if it did rain I’d have a Plan B for an indoor location.  Unfortunately all the possible Plan B locations I scouted said they couldn’t help me. 😦  So Plan B is now my small home (which I had deep-cleaned back in November, but you’d never know that now.)  I’ll do some basic cleaning, but I’ll try my best not to wig out.  It’s not like members will walk around with white gloves testing for dust.

It’ll be, um, cozy!

Inspired by forming this group, I wrote my monthly post for the International Bipolar Foundation about forming space alien support groups.  Below is the first section in all its glory…if you’re on the fence of creating a tribe of your own, please check it out.  I’ll let you know how my adventure goes (without sharing details compromising the group’s confidentiality, of course) – I have a hunch it won’t be boring. 

Send me good luck please, and I wish you all a great weekend!!!

XOXO,

Dyane

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

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 local mood disorder support groups 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 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 peer-to-peer support group! Stay tuned!

###

The link to this post on the International Bipolar Foundation website is: is: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/thinking-creating-support-group-you-can-do-it-part-1)

 

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46 thoughts on “Support Group Nerves & How-To’s – Part One

  1. Dyane, I’m so glad it went well!! I am really proud of you!! I wish we were closer. I used to live in Santa Monica. I miss it but don’t miss LA. Hurray for YOU!!
    xoxoxo

    1. Hello at long last, Candis – I just want to thank you belatedly for your lovely comment!!! I don’t think I’d like Santa Monica how it is now – it’s hard to compete with a thirty-year-old memory of it! Take care and I hope you have a wonderful day!!! XOXO

    1. Oh Susan, please forgive my tardiness in responding – whenever I see a comment from you I honestly feel blessed!!!!! I’m in the Santa Cruz Mountains about a 90 minutes drive south from San Francisco! It’s beautiful here and I know you’d love the birds and other wildlife – deer, and those famous banana slugs of ours! Sending you my love always!

  2. Dearest Lady M.,

    THANK YOU!! I’ve been LOVING your Facebook support and that new group you added me to sounds very cool! You’re in touch with awesome resources and you’re a creator – a creative….of the best kind!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox Honey Pot

  3. It’s not like members will walk around with white gloves testing for dust.

    Aren’t ladies with OCD invited?

    Just remember, being the facilitator doesn’t make it your group. Everyone there shares responsibility for it’s success. If you tell them that straight up you may not reduce your own anxiety, but at least you’ll be sure you’re not the only anxious one ;). Maybe the first agenda item should be “How to deal with the stress of being in a support group”.

  4. Dyane:

    You are a remarkable person and I am 100% confident that you will be awesome! So have faith in yourself, go out there and rock it like you always do!!

    1. Vic…what can I say? You’re my Internet Guardian Angel!

      As my 7 year-old says, “Whaddya mean? I’m not chopped liver!” but to read your words “remarkable person” completely made my day. (Especially as I had two unexpected, crappy things happen yesterday that I allowed to take the wind out of my sails.)

      The winds are going back in my sails now, and you’re part of the reason why. (Terrible syntax, but you know what i mean!)

      Mega-hugs!!!!!!!!
      Dy

    1. I think we need Bailey and Lucy to co-facilitate a canine support group for hounds who lives with awesome superfreaks like us! ;))))))
      (And space aliens would be welcome too, of course! As long as they don’t eat or maim anyone)

      Love you!
      Wish you were here today!!!!!
      xooxoxoxoxoxo

      1. Superfreak!!! Super freaky 🙂 I think space aliens would be awesome. They would have to be easier to get along with then some of the assholes that I’m dealing with right now!

        Wish I was there toooooo!!!! HUGS!

    1. You know the beauty of a Meetup, Glenn, more than most anyone!!!! I really loved reading your last post about being social & going beyond your comfort zone to meet with that very sweet-sounding friend – your post came to me at a perfect time. Forgive me for being remiss on comments as of late; I’ll get back to it! I read yours on the elliptical using the Kindle last night – always a test of balance — and I wasn’t commenting on any of the posts I read.

      (At least I could let you “know I was there” with the “like”. WordPress should also have a “I read this, but I was too lazy/unable to comment yet” button!!!! Just for me!!!)

      I slept better last night after upping the Seroquel with my dr.’s ok, (to 50 mg instead of 25. I used to take 100/night, but 50 seems like a good, happy medium.)

      Sending you big hugs this minute!
      love,
      your Seroquel Sis!

    1. I think it will be wonderful! I really do, and this morning I was so happy and excited. But you won’t believe what kinds of crazy texts that I got from someone who thinks this group is a terrible, horrible awful idea….inviting such “dangerous” women into my home. The texts of course implied that at age (almost) 45 I’m obviously too stupid to figure things out on my own. And forget about the fact I’ve done this sort of thing three times before. Craig told me to forget about it and that he has absolutely no problem with this group happening here. Sadly, I’m so pissed off that I’m thinking about compiling the person’s texts into my next blog post to show how bizarre stigma really can be….from one’s own family! 😦

      1. Oh honey, just think on that before you do anything, other people’s ignorance can be tempting to show them up but you can’t let it taint your enthusiasm, you don’t think that throughout history people have met with criticism for trying to do something different and positive? People act and speak out of fear and misunderstanding so often, you say you failed a couple of times already, what I hear is that you TRIED a couple of times already, sure it didn’t work out but you can either let that beat you or learn from it and do better this time. You’re trying to do a wonderful thing so fuck the haters babe, this isn’t about you it’s about getting a group of women together who can share and help one another and the absolute best revenge isn’t to argue with this person or tell them all the reasons why they’re wrong, just prove them wrong by succeeding. You CAN do this, I would honestly tell you if I thought you were making a mistake and I think that so long as you keep yourself positive you are gonna kick some arse. I’m rooting for you babe xo

      2. I love you! Every word of your comment resonated with me.

        YES! I’m going to make this thang a success – not to sound pompous (or however it’s spelled) but I can feel it!!!! There are signs.

        And reading your lovely comment totally soothed me; it affirmed what I feel in my gut, it inspired me and it was basically a written form of natural valium! 🙂

        Positivity & Success = me!
        Fear, Ignorance, & Negativity – No longer me!

        I also think the fact that I’m taking this on and making it happen shows that i’m doing better, not worse. You also hit the nail on the head in that with the other groups that I tried to get off the ground I should remember those attempts were anything but failures – I tried and that’s what matters.

        I won’t invest more energy into the Darkness, but I’ll take that energy and do something jolly with it! And I’m giving you a LOT of credit for helping me at “my time of need” across the miles!!!!

        You’re not just helping me…you’re helping 14 other women too! And their loved ones….it’s an awesome trickle effect you’re having here. We’re all going to buy and promote your book one day!

        XOXOXOOXXOXOXO
        Dy

    2. It will! go well – I woke up on the righter side of the bed today!!!! I’m well-prepared, I have my immediate family’s support, and I have super-groovy kindred spirits like you in my life. I know I can come to you for advice….for encouragement….and true empathy. :)))) Can you please fly out to San Fran. for the next meeting???

      p.s. I want your new, gorgeous laptop!!!!!! Comment coming soon….

      1. So at 11pm in Belgium, 2pm in California and 9am in Australia, people from all around the world were thinking of you and wishing you the absolute very best, that has to be a nice feeling yeah? You’re just over an hour in now and I’m thinking of you, so proud of you honey xo

    1. Kitt, it’s not too late to fly to San Jose or Watsonville Airport! 😉

      Seriously – I wish I had planned that out! You could be your “alter ago” hippie self. 😉 I’m just kidding…..(although I would have LOVED to entice you up here and I wish I gave it a try months ago) however, I know that you have your hands full with so many things & you need to focus on family

      Sending you my love, and I look forward to the day when we have our in-person celebration. Sushi & dark chocolate time. (Not all at once.)

    1. Dear Marie Angel Fairy Godmother – loved your offer to be my fairy godmother and I’m taking you up on it in a big, big way!!!!! Think of us at 2:00 p.n. Saturday my time (Pacific Standard Time – we’re closest to San Francisco!) Since you’ve been the World Traveler, I’m not sure where you’ll be so I can’t figure out the time difference, but no matter. I know you’ll be there for me!! XOXOOXOXO Thank you!!!!!!

    1. Thank YOU so, so much Adina – I apologize for not commenting on your last post yet but I read every word on my elliptical, hee hee…I’ve been so bad with writing comments lately only due to being caught up with flippin’ about this support group stuff. I’ll get back into the swing of things, you’ll see! Your comment made me very happy and I appreciate your support so much! 🙂

      1. Dayne– no worries! Sounds like you’re pretty busy. Let me know how it goes. I’m not sure I could start one just yet, but it’s something I’d love to do someday.

    2. Adina, beautiful one, you can do WHATEVER you set your mind to do – I’ve read your posts and I know that FOR SURE! (dang, I sound like Oprah. Just call me…Doprah!) XOXO

    1. You are my SHE-RO! Ha ha! I’m a little loopy this afternoon, perhaps from the (all-natural) fumes I’ve smelled from cleaning the house with lemon verbena this and orange that.

      I really, really wish you could be here tomorrow. Could you imagine that? On the refreshment table there would be a big, ‘ol gallon of Moose Tracks! (packed in ice!)
      OXOOXXOOXOX Love you! Our blogging family (you and I share a lot of them in common, eh? Good taste all the way!) consists of nothing but heroes, but you’re at the top, baby, you’re at the top! The phrase “You’re at the top” reminds me of Christopher Walken….now, I’m not sure if you’re a Chris fan, but if you are (and let’s face it…who ISN’T?) then check out this clip by another fave actor/comic of mine, Jay Mohr. Here he’s doing his famous impersonation of CW as the character “Horatio Caine” in the drama CSI Miami, as he’s coming across a crime scene – it cracks me up every time….

    2. I hope you get re-notified because I just put up a different, much shorter & better clip of Jay Mohr doing Walken (look at my other comment to you for an explanation) – I love it so much…..almost as much as I love YOU!!!!!!

    1. Thank YOU Cristy! I find it incredible and miraculous that you came into my life at the perfect time. You’re my support group sister, ha ha ha!!!!!!

      You totally encouraged me so much this week. It also rocks to know I can run support groupy things by you (of course I’d keep details confidential – I promised my my members that and I’ll honor it) for advice!

      Thanks a million for stopping by the blog and for commenting. It means very much to me!! :)XOXOXO Dy

  5. I would have a complete meltdown. Just thinking of the introduction part crap I would be more likely to run. Well actually I simply would not be there at all.

    Good for you for being so brave!!!

    1. Bemused, you brought a big grin to my face. I’m not brave at all – I’m a total nervous wreck but that’s par for the course. I might have a complete meltdown!! At least I have 13 people who can revive me if I pass out! 😉 I don’t even know what I’m gonna say for my introduction, but in the past when I did such things I rambled & that sucked, to say the least. Talk about embarrassing. This time I’m going to try to keep it short!!!!!! Members have the option to talk as long or as little as they want – I’m not forcing anyone! 🙂

      If you’ve ever been remotely on the fence of going to a support group, I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about them since the times I went to one. There are also virtual support groups now – I originally looked into doing that. Please let me know if you’re interested more about that as I have a couple links I can share with you. If I remember, I’ll post about them in the next blog!!! take care & thanks so much for commenting!!!!!!

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