In my last blog post, Now What?, I talked about the myriad of emotions that come up when faced with a crisis and how important it is to work on self forgiveness. What came next for me, and honestly was in parallel with dealing with the emotional side of the crisis, was identifying support.
When I first found myself in the midst of the crisis, finding peer support was high on my list of next steps. I felt that in order for me to find some grounding in what I was experiencing, a good place to start would be others who have experienced similar situations or crisis. I mentioned in a prior post (Here) how surprised I was that I couldn’t find formal support groups and how my initial attempt to seek out this support through friends and acquaintances resulted in very little. So I turned to the Internet.
I started with a large number of Google searches on Mental illness; honestly the results were overwhelming. How did I know what was reputable and what was instead just an attempt to sell me a program, a belief or a quick fix pipe dream?
Not sure where to go next, I contacted my company’s EAP hotline. They were confused by my request for support because their role is primarily to make referrals for an appointment with a therapist, and were greatly ill equipped to provide any kind of guidance on support groups. In fact, the conversation went something like this…
Me: “I need information on support groups in my area” EAP: “I can set up an appointment with a local therapist”, Me: “I don’t need a therapist, I need to find a support group focused on dealing with mental health crisis”, EAP: “Um, I can refer you to a therapist for 3 sessions”, Me: “Is there anything else you can offer, I don’t need a therapist”, EAP: “What is it that you want?”… This went around and round for a few more times and finally, I said “I don’t know what I want, support, a group that can support me” to which they responded that they could’t help me.
There was a long period of time where I actually gave up on finding support and/or someone I could talk to who truly understood what I was experiencing. I can’t really explain it, but it felt very important to me to find others who really got it, who really got the challenges, heartbreak and exhaustion that I was experiencing. This is not to say that I didn’t have support, in fact I had a great deal of support but I longed for the connection with those who knew first-hand the pain I was experiencing, the loss, and the hopelessness.
My first big glimpse into this type of support came nearly 12 months into this journey supporting my son. I had worked diligently to get him placed in a residential facility that was close to our home (his first two placements were: Maine – 11 hrs away and Pennsylvania – 5 hrs away) At my first facility meeting, for a tour and placement evaluation, I was introduced to my Family Advocate. I was blown away; this was the first time I had been offered this type of service. Her role was to assist me in ensuring I was getting the support that I needed. The big piece for me was that she had been down a similar path with her child and the connection with another mom who understood the trials and tribulations was so healing for me. Unfortunately, and due to an abrupt end to my son’s residential placement (a future blog post), my time with the Family Advocate was short. However, the impact was huge and was a big impetus for the blogging and advocacy work I now am involved with.
As I began to contemplate blogging, I started to look more closely at social media as a way to establish a new network of support. I started to think about all of the types of Twitter accounts I followed and wondered if people were tweeting about mental illness and support. Wow, was I surprised to find out just how many people were on-line, sharing their stories, their guidance, thoughts and advice about all things mental illness related. I connected with professionals, parents, advocates and people from all over the world that are living everyday with their diagnosis and/or caring for those living with mental illness. I found a home. A place full of people just like me, trying to come to terms with a “new normal” after a diagnosis. People willing to be raw and vulnerable with their stories, their feelings and their experiences and equally willing to share tools, processes, successes and misadventures with all who want to read about it. Daily, I am equally blown away and humbled as I follow and read these posts; it is what inspires me to keep moving forward with my goals, everyday. And here I thought Twitter was used only for posting pictures of food and updates of mundane daily activities. *smiley face*
When a friend of mine recently found herself faced with an unexpected diagnosis, one of the first things I shared with her was a list of Twitter users whom I follow that were discussing her specific diagnosis. I also recommended searching on hashtags (#) with words associated with the information she was looking for. I highly recommend this process as a way to gather information and establish connection with others who really do understand and can relate to crisis situations. As with anything, on-line or real-life, safety and discernment should be a top priority. There have been a few users that I stopped following because the content or energy around what and how they posted didn’t resonate with or meet my needs. If you are not familiar with Twitter, don’t be shy, it isn’t nearly as intimidating as it first may seem.
I cannot stress enough the positive impact having a strong support system has had on me regardless of whether that support has been in real life or on-line; the stories, the information and the willingness to hear me has and continues to help me on my journey.
If you are looking for recommendations for Twitter users that tweet and blog about Mental Illness and Mental Health related topics or if you are a Mental Health tweeter or blogger and want to be considered for inclusion on my list of recommendations, please email me at Farfrompardiseblog@gmail.com
Thank you all for your support, your stories and your feedback!
Please feel free to email me your thoughts and recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always send me an email with any questions regarding this information or any other mental health system question/inquiry.
I’m also on Twitter @farfrmparadise