groupI was sitting in group yesterday and sort of wondering if everyone on my blog knew about “group”. I suppose most of you who have been in treatment for mental illness do, but I’d imagine some of you do not. So I thought I’d take a journey down the path that makes up what we call a “group”.

My group is not a therapy session. It’s a support group. We don’t tell anyone what to do, but we do share our own experiences with life. Since some of us are young (maybe 22?) and some of us are old (over 70), there’s lots of experience to share.

I found my support group through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). I live in a very large city and yet there are only a handful of bipolar support groups that meet around town. Luckily enough, this one is just a few minutes away. It meets in a mental health center for people on state sponsored insurance.

When I first attended group, we met in a small conference room. There were only about eight of us. Now we routinely have 20. They moved us to a much bigger room. I miss the smaller room. It didn’t feel so impersonal.

I thought I’d tell you a bit about the people in group. We’ve got all kinds.

We’ve got a “kid”. He’s going to college but is depressed. His parents are making him go to school. He wants to just quit and go to work. He puts off his assignments and then tries to do them right before they are due. He has some success with this. He’s very nice looking…the kind of person I think would sail through life getting jobs, etc. But he’s definitely struggling. Someone suggested he see the disabilities office at school to see what they could do. Others reported success with this. He is afraid to disclose.

We’ve got our leader. He’s been at this a while. He and his wife are very active in NAMI and he runs two support groups. His wife runs one for families. He was struggling yesterday. You’ll remember he was the one who found our group member who had died by suicide. It’s been hard on him. I love our leader, but he can talk too much and tell the same stories over and over. When I lead I try not to talk about myself. I don’t know if that’s better or not.

We have a new guy with a gorgeous southern accent. He just keeps saying how much he likes the group. I’m not sure what his problem is. But he seems nice enough. He befriends the college kid.

One of our senior guys has trouble with his teeth. He’s had no dental insurance and a ton of painful problems. He’s has to get most all of them pulled one by one. It’s been a long process. He just got his new dentures. This guy knows everything about psych meds. He knows the generic name, whether your dose is high or low, and what the drug is used for. We lean on him a lot.

“Santa” was gone yesterday. This guy looks exactly like Santa. He has depression and can hardly get out of bed some days. He’s been gone three weeks and our leader is trying to get in touch with him.

We had another person missing yesterday. It was the girl friend of the guy who died by suicide. She is not returning anyone’s calls. I know where she works and may cruise by there to ask about her.

We had a new woman yesterday. She had blonde hair and told us her name. That was all she said.

This one you’ll love. She sits the whole meeting with her eyes closed. She always says “FINE!” when you ask her how she is. She runs out every so often to smoke. That’s it. She’s been there as long as I have and I know nothing about her.

I have a favorite. This girl is quiet but always has a smile. I only saw her cry once when her father died unexpectedly. She says almost nothing but just looks so cheerful.

We have another older guy. He’s homeless and likes it that way. But he’s always clean and makes it to the meetings. He’s a little shy, but will speak up if prompted. Nice guy.

We have “the complainer”. There is always something wrong somewhere for this woman. Right now, she is on a kick about the cabs at the mental health center. Apparently they are not showing up on time or at all and she is missing things. I believe that she has valid complaints…it’s just that there is new serious drama every week. The staff around the place avoid her as she yells a lot.

One young girl does self-injury. She just had a baby and thinks she is fat, even though she is rail thin. She was berating herself yesterday for wanting a Snickers bar. She was afraid someone else in the grocery store would judge her.

Someone else was missing yesterday. This guy is really overweight. He lives with his mom but wanders the streets during the day. He likes to take the bus to the the airport and watch the planes. He talks a lot about the “pilot” that helps him…Jesus. He has a lot of trouble with his feet and always needs a different pair of shoes. He’s definitely off mentally. He has an odd affect and strange boundaries. But his favorite line is  “Never give up hope!” We all love that.

So there you have it. Our swinging group. It might not be much but it is home.


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