8 Secrets Why You Shouldn’t Be Attending an Illness Support Group
By Lisa Copen
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 do you really need a support group right now? Whether you are looking for a amyloidosis support group or a diabetes online support group, just as there are many changes that happen to our bodies while living with chronic illness, there are seasons in our life when a support group may be our lifeline and other times when we feel we simply don’t have the need.
Below are eight tips to help you decide if a support group is something you may not even need 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 experience feelings of anger, bitterness or resentment towards healthy people — at least on a regular basis. You can have relationships with people with comparison of your abilities (or lack of) ever entering your thoughts.
4. You easily carry on conversations with people without ever bringing up the topic of your illness. You don’t believe that your illness is such a fundamental part of who you are that it’s necessary to describe your medical challenges to total strangers.
5. You don’t watch others with envy. You feel you have overcome any annoyances you may have previously felt toward people who have their health, but who do not seem to be appreciating it.
6. You have found that when you sit around at support group meetings talking about the highs and lows of living with illness, you rarely leave the meeting feel better. The support group you are in is more depressing than refreshing and talking about your illness doesn’t seem to be helpful.
7. You are able to be a good advocate for your well-being. When you need information on symptoms or tips about living with your illness, you are equipped to find the information.
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 most thriving support groups are those which are led by people who have conquered the daily exasperation and bitterness that arise during the first years of a diagnosis. Since you have dealt with all of the emotional ups and downs, a support group of individuals still feeling under attack would benefit from your knowledge and understanding.
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.
Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from “Beyond Casseroles” by Lisa Copen when you subscribe to HopeNotes ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the coordinator of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and host of Hope Endures Radio Podcast.