Doom and Gloom Support Groups – Is Bipolar Really That Hopeless?
The Problem with Online Support Groups
Recently a reader wrote into me and told me that online bipolar support groups scared the stuffing out of her. In her words:
. . . is it really that bleak? IS there a place to find support and encouragement and practical advice that isn’t so dire – comment after comment about divorce, violence, anger and mania…. I just need some perspective.
I feel for this reader. She is trying to support her significant other with bipolar disorder and she is finding that the supports are more harmful than helpful.
Doom and Gloom Bipolar Stories
There is no doubt that there are plenty of tragic bipolar stories to go around. There are stories of divorce, anger, violence, destruction and ruin. There are stories where people with a mental illness have left a path of rubble in their wake.
But to be clear – that is not most of us. That is a minority of people, often those who have not sought or have refused treatment.
And then there are stories on the other end of the spectrum where it’s always darkest before the dawn. Sure, things get bad but then a miracle occurs and the person with bipolar is “all better” and they live happily ever after with a fairy princess.
But to be clear – that is not most of us. This is mostly just wishful thinking. We all want the fairy princess (or handsome prince) and we all want to live happily ever after. But like for every person on the planet, life just isn’t that simple.
Support Groups Feed off Themselves
Often in online support groups there will be a handful of voices that are the loudest and these may be sunshiny voices or they may be gloomy voices depending on where you go. And these substantial, loud, overarching voices will often drown out voices of descent. Others offering another viewpoint often don’t last long in this environment because they feel like they aren’t being heard. So, as they say, birds of a feather flock together and in the case of support groups, people of the same opinion, bitch and moan (or offer platitudes) together.
Even-Handed Support Groups
One of the things I’ve been told that people respond to about my writing is its even-handedness. I try to deal with multiple sides of an issue and be neither doomy nor sunshiny. Some people really like this about me (and some people don’t).
And, personally, this is what I would look for in a support group as well. I would look for a place where all voices feel heard and one drastic perspective doesn’t take over the conversation. I believe in hope without irrationality and realism without doomsdaying.
One piece of advice I can give on finding these groups is to look to in-person groups. People are often far less entrenched in a one-sided viewpoint when they have to represent it in person, and often, more people are given a chance to speak when their face is actually in the room. It may be more challenging to take part in an in-person group, but it may be more useful. (Contact your local NAMI, DBSA (for depression and bipolar) or other mental health organization to find out what support groups are near you.)
Now, I don’t have a magic answer as to where you will find this place online, but I’m hoping that some of you do.
If you’ve had a positive experience with online (or other) support groups – please share it below!
PS: If you’re looking for an online support group, you might want to try one of these.