Don't Go It Alone / Support Groups Work

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Besides just having a website, with Patched we also facilitate support groups for people struggling with depression.  In these groups we discuss a lot of the issues and strategies that are found in the articles on this website as well as some others that aren’t.  We are also able to do some beneficial activities like personality tests.  The information given in our group isn’t the only important thing, though.  Sure good info is important, but if that was everything we wouldn’t have groups at all, we would just keep promoting and expanding our website.  Restoration won't simply come through your brain though.  Another necessary factor is being with others that hear and know your struggle, and more than that can understand it.  There is such healing that can take place when we’re vulnerable and also fully understood.

The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too.   Brené Brown

This year's support group has been an interesting one because it's been even more up and down than normal. It's been a powerful reminder of just how difficult it is for people struggling with depression to go to a group.  There are some weeks where I have multiple people emailing me and telling me how much they need a group like ours, sometimes even promising to be there, but when it’s time for the group to start no one shows.  Those that do show all say the same thing… “I almost didn’t come” or “I started to turn around like 5 times on my way over here.”  It's so common.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not venting frustrations here.  I know exactly how difficult it is to go to a group when you’re depressed, and I want to bring those feelings to light so that hopefully they'll become less powerful.  When I was at my worst at the University of Florida, I started going to group counseling with 3 other guys.  It was led by two grad students.  I don’t remember exactly what their major was, but it’s pretty safe to say it was something having to do with mental health.  Anyways, I LOVED that group.  It was one of the few bright spots in my week, and one of the few times where I would leave something actually thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, I started going to there a little too late in the evolution of my depression, and I wasn’t able to curb its onslaught without going back home and focusing on my healing.  I remember, though, one weekend coming back up to Gainesville to get some stuff I had left and to see a few of my friends.  The day before I was to head up there, the leaders of the counseling group called me to tell me that everyone missed me and would love for me to come the following day so they could hear how I was doing.  I was really touched by this and knew that it would be extremely beneficial for me to go, so I promised them that I would be there. 

The next day came, and I made that two hour trip up to Gainesville in the morning.  The group was meeting on campus in the afternoon, and when the time came I just couldn’t bring myself to go.  I felt terrible about it too because they had only been awesome to me and I really cared for the leaders and liked the other guys in the group.  I had promised them I would be there too.  The worst part about it was that I wanted to go, and I knew that it would actually be good for me.  

Again, I’m seeing now how common this type of experience is among the depressed, and I’m reminded of how powerful depression is.  I bring it up so that we can expect these feelings to come and be ready to ignore them.  Not wanting to go to a meeting is normal even when you’re not depressed, but that’s amplified probably 10 times when you are depressed.  However, those that do press through and come are always SOOOOO appreciative.  Our group always ends with many thank you’s and genuine appreciation from anyone who came.  Again, not because we’re special but because it’s exactly what you need.  

The saying “misery loves company” gets a bad rap.  It’s always used to say that grumpy people just don’t want to see you happy.   There’s actually some profound truth to this saying, though, that isn’t negative.  When it comes to depression, misery actually needs company.  This is not something you can fight on your own.  You need people with you, and especially people that can say “me too” like the Brené Brown quote from earlier was talking about.  You find those people in support groups.  So next time you’re getting ready to go to one tell your feelings “I know what you’re gonna say, and I don’t want to hear it.”