As a mom of adult children who struggle with severe mental illness issues, I spent many years closing my front door and keeping everything that was going on inside my house a secret. Only close family and friends knew about the cutting and depression and anxiety. The countless appointments and why we no longer felt comfortable hosting barbecues, parties, and family events.
Isolation felt better than explaining my normal.
Then I met someone whose normal was the same as mine. She understood and knew exactly how I felt. We began meeting and praying together. And it helped so much being about to talk freely about the nightmare that mental illness is. About the nightmare we were living within the walls of our homes and families.
We decided to start a faith-based support group for other people who love people with a mental illness. We came up with a name and the way we wanted to run the group. Our wonderful church – Grace Community Church in Washingtonville, NY (www.graceoc.com) – allowed us space to meet, and we started meeting. More than two years later, we meet at three of the church’s campuses, with plans to expand even more.
But here’s the thing.
Going to that group gives all of us a chance to say things we can’t say anywhere else. We talk about frustrations and heartaches. It’s a safe place to vent…without guilt and without judgment.
I can’t even tell you how that feels.
Here’s my point: If you have a family member or friend who is struggling with a mental illness, find your people. Find a group at your church, local community center, local NAMI chapter. Just find one and go. And if that one isn’t right for you, go to another. Then another. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, start your own support group.
It has made such a big difference in my own life. It can make a big difference in yours, too.
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