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In praise of support groups

I have been officially bipolar for 18 years, long enough for it to become an adult and get a driver’s licence. And it has taken that me that long to become an adult too. I am 47. For most of the time since the diagnosis I thought if I took my medications daily, visited the psychiatrist regularly and did talk therapy I could look and be like everyone else. I thought if I worked on my health really, really hard I could live my life as planned and, more importantly, no-one would know about my mental illness. But hiding my bipolar was not working.

It was not until I found a women’s peer support group, the Bipolar Babes of Melbourne, and was able to speak of my condition at length and publicly in the safety of the small group for the first time, that I unloaded my burden. Then, I was able to get on with my new life, one where I am acknowledging my limitations rather than fighting to exist against them. Dealing far better with relapses and not hiding my need for rest and recovery.

For me the women-only support group I joined has allowed me to speak about the difficulties and pleasures of being bipolar. And this in turn has led me to be able to talk to my family and friends about this annoying twist in my genetic coding and the havoc that grips my brain with unwelcome frequency. Join a support group that is good for you, one where you feel comfortable and able to share your experiences and have a laugh about the money you’ve spent on crazy shopping sprees, the things you said, the bleak thoughts and dreams you thought were real…and to help you when you can’t get out of bed and the world turns grey as you carry a dead weight that is really just you. You’ll find some amazing new friends to go to the movies or have a picnic with and call when it seems no one else can help or understand. And it won’t cost you anything.

I don’t apologise for sounding like I’m selling you Amway. Find a group, even if it’s online, go as often as you can because I reckon this is as important as taking the drugs or getting enough sleep. We each get different things out of it and go for different reasons but we all benefit. Please, find one and go.

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