Two years ago I started our local (and only state) chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. I was so frustrated as I tried to build a community of support for myself and my recovery, because support groups were almost nonexistent.
The really cool part about developing this group to give other people support through their mood disorder recovery has given me so much in return. I have met some really awesome people who show up every week. I'm continually amazed at the level of intelligence this group has collectively. Everyone is so solution focused rather than dwelling on the negatives. We can cry or vent about the hard parts and then move on to supporting each other with details about how we have weathered similar storms. In any given group I see tears of pain, tears of laughter and countless moments of support, friendship and understanding. I get back multiples of what I give.
Sometimes running such a support group is a real challenge since I, too, struggle with the disorders we support. At times my motivation wanes and I grow disorganized and disheveled by the ups and downs of my moods. I experience great social anxiety and dread leading a meeting and having to be "up" or at least engaged when I really want to isolate. Sometimes this group pushes me to act in ways that are GOOD for me, when otherwise I would fall into old habits and feel sorry for myself. So while I started this group hoping to help others, I benefit just as much as others, if not more.
I have lots of goals and dreams for this organization. We are officially a nonprofit and can apply for grant money. We are tax-deductible for generous donors. We can branch into groups for specialized groups - faith based support, friends and family, children and teens, men's only, women's only, etc. We can create a drop-in center where people can come and get information on mood disorders, borrow materials from a lending library and even come for support before they reach crisis level and have to enter a hospital.
All these goals take planning, time, money and resources I don't yet have. I'm looking into potential office space that would work for our drop in center and provide a meeting room for our groups to meet. I need to apply for grant money to cover this expense and many of the expenses I have provided out of pocket - mainly envelopes, labels, business cards, advertising brochures, fliers, postage, paper, copies, newsletters, etc. I do have a couple of generous group members who have provided important funds for reaffiliation and other important dues. This makes life for me far less stressful.
I'm excited to see where DBSA Cheyenne can go this year and beyond, and I'm excited to challenge myself to doing more with this organization to help me and others with our day to day struggles. Mostly I'm excited to see the way that the positive influence of the group changes other lives, in addition to mine.