When you first received the diagnosis of your illness, the odds are that many people around you, perhaps even your doctor, reommended a support group. Reseach has studied the impact support groups have on how well one copes with disease, and it is positive. However, if you have no desire to attend a support group, recognize that it is not uncommon. As with any kind of support group, some support groups you will connect with well and others won't be a good fit. Don't jump to the conclusion that all support groups are the same.
But is a support group really necessary right now? Whether you are looking for a amyloidosis support group in New York City or an Aspergers support group in Dallas, the real question may be, is this a season in your life when you need the support that a small group offers? Just as changes occur while we living with illness for decades there are seasons in our life when an illness support group may be where we find our very best friends; Other times it may feel like we have no desire, or even need, to attend.
Here are eight signs that you may not need a support group right now:
1. You are coping well with the day-to-day aspects of living with illness. You don't think about your illness non-stop because you're simply too busy living life.
2. You have a solid group of people who are a good influence. Friends or family members are supportive in your efforts to live your best life possible despite having an illness.
3. You don't feel anger, bitterness or resentment toward people who are physically healthy. You are able to have relationships without comparing your abilities (or lack of) to others.
4. You can have conversations with people without your illness ever entering into it. You understand that your illness is not such a vital part of who you are that you need to explain your medical history to every stranger you meet.
5. You don't gaze at others with envy. You feel you have risen above the exasperation of seeing healthy people taking their health for granted.
6. You find that sitting around talking about your illness with others at a support group is more depressing than refreshing. You leave your meetings feeling worse than when you came.
7. You feel comfortable researching symptoms or making calls to find the information you need in order to be a good advocate for your health and illness.
8. You have at least one friend who lives with illness that you feel you can talk freely with about what you may be experiencing. You have the opportunity to vent or share ideas with someone who understands your "language" of illness.
If some of the examples above sounded like a description of where you are at with support groups, it's likely you don't really need a support group right now in order to live emotionally healthy with a chronic illness. However, you may be surprised to find that you could be an excellent leader of an illness support group. All of the statements above can be an easy way to create a proposal for starting up a support group.
The best support groups are often led by people who have overcome the daily frustrations and bitterness that accompany illness during the first years of diagnosis. The fact that you are past the initial rollercoaster of emotions would greatly benefit a group of people still struggling with them.
If you feel leading a support group is not your calling then go enjoy other things you are passionate about. Remember, there are friends in wonderful support groups who will be there when you need them.
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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