NAMI Connections Support Group March 28, 2013Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.
I am facilitating my first NAMI Connections support group this coming Thursday, and I’m excited.
NAMI Connections is a signature program of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in which people with a mental illness meet at regularly scheduled intervals. People come to the group for camaraderie and support from people sharing similar situations. It’s one thing to talk to your friends and relatives about issues concerning your mental illness. It’s quite a different story when you talk with someone in the group who has been through the same situation that is challenging you.
My issue that I talk with at support groups is my inability to hold a regular job, especially doing what I love, which is project management for major construction projects. I can no longer do that job for several reasons, including the slippage of my I.Q. (due either to the medication I take or simply the damage done by my mental illness) and my inability to successfully manage stress, which that job is full of.
When I talk about how much I miss my old job with my therapist, I call it my “pity party”, which she loathes. She tries to help me through my episodes of self-pity, but she can’t really relate. We’ve talked about this numerous times. I just couldn’t come to terms with never being able to do the job I love again, despite the fact that my job put me in the mental hospital.
When I tried to talk with my family about this, they couldn’t relate either. They’re all gainfully employed and don’t seek to gain identity and self-worth through their occupation. They don’t wake up at 5 a.m. every morning (without an alarm clock) panting to go to work.
Coming to a NAMI Connections support group and meeting a guy who was a Senior Project Manager for Microsoft before he had his nervous breakdown (also called a psychotic break) helped me immensely. He could relate to my identity crisis because he’d been through a similar situation. When I talked about self-identifying with a profession, he understood perfectly. Since he was coping well with this, it inspired me. When I asked him what he was doing to successfully combat the frustration of not being able to work at his chosen profession, he had some suggestions that he could share from personal experience.
Although he didn’t have a “magic bullet” for me, simply seeing his success gives me hope.
The great thing about a support group for mental illness is that the facilitator doesn’t have to have all the answers. It’s simply a way for people suffering from their medication side effects or symptoms of their illness to find companionship and understanding from their peers. That’s why it’s called a “peer support group”.
I hope the people who come to my support group get as much out of the experience as I do.