I’ve been to three different types of support groups in my life. And they’ve all been incredibly helpful for different reasons.
Psoriasis – Physical Illness
The first group was a psoriasis support group sponsored by the National Psoriasis Foundation. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and my psoriasis was flaring up, and I was beginning to be pretty self-conscious about it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and I remember being quite nervous. That evening, as I sat around a table of about five people, I remember feeling like “these people get it.” We shared stories, frustrations, and tips like, “Hey! This cream worked for me, maybe you want to try it?”
Through that group, I signed up for a walk to raise awareness about psoriasis in San Francisco, and felt like I gained more control over my psoriasis and how I thought about it.
Infant Loss – Grief
In 2010, after Sarah and I lost our twin boys Micah and Judah, who were born 19 weeks into our pregnancy, we attended a Share support group. We only attended once, but I remember feeling very connected to the three other couples sitting around the room. It was certainly the most emotional group I’ve attended, but it was incredibly meaningful for me to share our story, and walk back through the tragic events of the time in the hospital, the birth, the loss and more.
These were people, again, who got it. Our stories were all different. Stillbirths, miscarriages and other pregnancy challenges. We got to know one of the couples, and we stayed in touch for awhile, keeping each other updated on how we were doing. It was only one night, but it was an experience I’ll always keep with me.
OCD/Anxiety – Mental Illness
And now, after being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I’ve attended an OCD/Anxiety support group about four times. It is a goals-oriented group, so we spend an hour or so sharing stories, asking each other questions and supporting each other, and then we close by sharing what our goal is from then until the next group meeting.
It’s a small, but diverse, group. Some have primarily-obsessional OCD like me, others experience contamination issues with germs and some have severe compulsions that make coping with the normal day-to-day stuff of life difficult. But we all have OCD. And as I share frustrations or setbacks or just anger about having OCD, these are people who get it.
For me, it’s a good addition to the weekly therapy I’ve had since March, and a chance to share my story and hear from others.
There is something powerful about groups like this. I haven’t attended AA or Al-Anon groups, but I hear similar things from folks that have. These are tight-knit group and a real life-line for many.
Obviously, there are support groups anything you can imagine. If you are struggling with something, going to a support group will help remind you that you are not alone and that there are others who struggle with the same issues and questions and frustrations that you struggle with.
You’re not alone. Going to a support group meeting is a real reminder of that, and has been part of my healing journey over the past few months.