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!!!
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.
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)