Bipolar Support
"Helping You Helps Me"

 
Self Help-What is it?
 

In the words of Len Borman: "Self-help is barn-raising revisited"

Jack was a wonderful man who had been a good husband, father to three children and provider during the sixteen years of his marriage to Eleanor.  He was a charming, personable and professional man whose future seemed secure.

At the age of 42 it all came to a screeching stop for Jack.  He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder five years earlier, and despite following his treatment plan faithfully, he had suffered a series of wild mood swings over the past year.  He was no longer able to care for himself, his work was haphazard (when he managed to show up) and his life was falling apart.  His boss suggested he take an extended leave of absence until he was well.

Both Jack and Eleanor were devastated.  Life on the home front became close to intolerable.  The children were confused about all the changes in their lives.  One black Sunday morning a friend of Eleanor's  phoned to tell her  about a support group for people with Bipolar  Disorder.  Eleanor was enthused…Jack had been moping around the house for weeks.

When she told him about it Jack was skeptical and unsure that he wanted to associate with "a bunch of nuts" but Eleanor was desperate and went ahead and made the arrangements.  Three nights later they attended their first meeting.  Paul was quiet, uncomfortable with being with people like himself but Eleanor appeared to benefit right away, learning more about the disorder and how other people coped and supported their ill loved one.

At the third meeting a young man came in…a newcomer.  All of the fear that Jack had felt was written on the newcomer's face.  Jack spoke to him, and felt a powerful rush of empathy as the young fellow told his story.  After the meeting he asked him to come to his house to share a coffee and further conversation.

As the weeks went on, Jack became something of a surrogate father to this young man, and opened up more and more to the other members of the group.  As time went on his own feelings of bitterness lessened as he felt the give and take of support from those who truly understood the meaning of "Helping you Helps me."

Self-help Groups are any gathering of like minded people for the purpose of sharing information, friendship, and support.

What Kind of Support Groups are There for the Mentally Ill?

In Person

Support Groups have sprung up all across the nation for individuals diagnosed with Mental Illnesses. National organizations have many, many chapters in towns and cities across the country.  These support groups are often associated with Mental Health organizations.  This type of support group is one you attend in person, on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.  Call your local Mental Health Center for information about the support groups available in your area.

If there isn't one, form one!  Find a few friends with the same disorder and work to make a group of your own!

A few years a group of people in our small city joined together to form a bipolar disorder self-help support group.  We weren't really sure what we were doing and became a member of the NDMDA, but we had our own ideas.  Education was foremost and we built a small library and photocopied reams of information that was free for anyone that came.  When we started there were six of us.

The coffee pot was always on (decaf of course!) and before long people began to come.  Our meetings were structured…each with one member of the group chairing the meeting and offering a presentation, subject or story to be discussed around the table.  Our average regular attendance was about fifteen people, which swelled to sixty or more when we had a guest speaker.  The psychiatrists and mental health staff were extremely supportive and even the psychiatrists took time from their busy schedules to speak at our meetings.  Other professionals, pharmacists, psychologists and speakers from the government disability offices were among other guest speakers.

I began writing a newsletter that was distributed to the hospitals and all mental health areas in the city.  It was well received for the two and a half years I was able to write it, before severe episodes interrupted my life and I was forced to resign from the group.

Personal friendship and a warm, caring atmosphere made the group special to each of us.  We learned about each other, and in doing so we laughed and cried together.  I recall the group's founder, Lorraine, recounting one of her episodes…Lorraine was Bipolar 1 (pure manic!).  "My father died and I was bequeathed a sum of money…not a huge amount, but I was manic and there was enough to get a manic in trouble.  I spent it…all of it!  I bought the biggest and best dining room table and chairs I could find, and I bought a huge brand new refrigerator with all the gizmos!  And I bought a new car!  Now, you might think all this is fairly reasonable, but what you don't know is that neither me nor my husband had a driver's license.  The car sat untouched in the driveway for over two years.  I made a trip to the doctor"

Well, of course her story broke up the room and stories tumbled out one after another.  In our sharing we truly learned that we had many of the same symptoms and were able to understand and empathize with each other.  It was a very special time.

I could go on and on sharing the good times and bad we shared, but most important was the support that was there, always available and always freely given from the heart.

THE INTERNET

EMAIL SUPPORT MAILING LISTS and NEWSGROUPS

In the mailing lists (there is a list of these and links to them on my favouite links page) you are able to give and receive support through reading and posting email to a group of other bipolar individuals.  The advantage of a list is that you are able to read and respond to others on the list at your leisure.  The only disadvantage I have found with mailing lists is that sometimes they become overlarge and a person who may really need support "slips through the cracks" either because of their reticense to email in a group where most people seem to already know each other, or by a "non response" to their first tentative email. 

Mailing lists are an excellent support resource and should not be overlooked.

FORUMS, MESSAGE BOARDS, BULLETIN BOARDS

All three of these are the same thing.  In a forum an individual may post a comment, question, remark or whatever is on their mind on the "board."  Others who go to the "board" are able to respond and ask questions of their own.  The information stays on the board and you can often go back and read old posts. 

Tha advantage of forums is that there are normally fewer people who attend the board, and they become a closer knit community.

CHAT

Bipolar Chat Rooms are set up for personal "real time" conversation and support.  There are many of these chat rooms on the internet.  The biggest problem with chat rooms is that they are often not monitored...and oftentimes when you are ready to chat it is to find "nobody home"

Bipolar World Has a chat room.  I am there every Wednesday evening from 7-9 p.m., and I am well aware that there have been many people finding "nobody home" at other times.

I recommend Harbor of Refuge at http://www.harbor-of-refuge.com for  online chat or Concerned Counseling at http://www.concernedcounseling.com

PERSONAL EMAIL

Once you have met another person with Bipolar Affective Disorder (perhaps through one of the above methods) personal email is a terrific means of new found friendship and support.

HELPING ME!!

Once you have started down the road of supporting others with Bipolar Affective Disorder, even by just saying "Yes, I understand.  I have walked many miles in those same shoes", you will begin to reap the rewards of "helping you helps me!"  Trust me, it works.
 
 
Somebody....

Somebody is very proud of you.
Somebody is thinking of you.
Somebody is caring about you.
Somebody misses you.
Somebody wants to talk to you.
Somebody wants to be with you.
Somebody hopes you are not in trouble.
Somebody is thankful for the support you have provided.
Somebody wants to hold your hand.
Somebody hopes everything turns out all right.
Somebody wants you to be happy.
Somebody wants you to find him/her.
Somebody wants to give you a gift.
Somebody wants to hug you.
Somebody thinks you ARE a gift.
Somebody admires your strength.
Somebody wants to protect you.
Somebody can't wait to see you.
Somebody loves you for who you are.
Somebody treasures your spirit.
Somebody is glad that you are their friend.
Somebody wants to get to know you better.
Somebody wants to be near you.
Somebody wants you to know they are there for you.
Somebody would do anything for you.
Somebody wants to share their dreams with you.
Somebody is alive because of you.
Somebody needs your support.
Somebody will cry when they read this.
Somebody needs you to have faith in them.
Somebody trusts you.
Somebody hears a song that reminds them of you.
 

 

 
 

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Owners:  Allie Bloom, David Schafer, M.Ed. (Blackdog)

Partners:  John Haeckel, Judith (Duff)
Founder:  Colleen Sullivan
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