Every Thursday evening I attend a NAMI support group at Good Samaritan Hospital. The opportunity to be with other people who “get it” is priceless! This group of people know what I’m going through because they’ve gone through it before. It’s very normalizing to be around them. And at the same time, so many of them are far along the path of recovery, and it’s very encouraging to hear their stories of hope of the place I hope to be someday.
After group, several of us head over to Portillo’s (local fast food icon) for more sharing, sometimes less about our illnesses and more about life events. Last night three of us didn’t want to go home and stayed at Portillo’s until they closed, talking about the previous week and upcoming decisions. I had been having a rough day, not sure how I felt, and having to summon energy to go to several appointments. These two women listened to me babble away about not knowing how I felt and identified with me, back when they were first learning to live with mental illness and had these days when nothing seemed to make sense. They ministered to me as I didn’t know I need, both listening and offering hope that recovery would come. That somehow God would use this turn in my life in exciting ways and for empathy with lots of different people in unexpected ways too. All things I knew already, but hearing it unsolicited from friends made it more true, than just something I was making up to feel better.
It’s been important to my recovery that I found community and friends. And the Portillo’s group talks about themselves as family – that’s how important it is to find a group that “gets it,” that knows that life is different when you have a mental illness. I hope over time this blog will help describe what’s different.