When you first received the diagnosis of your illness, the odds are that many people around you, perhaps even your doctor, recommended a support group. Research has studied the impact support groups have on how well one copes with disease, and it is positive.
However, if you have no desire to attend a support group, recognize that it is not uncommon. As with any kind of support group, some support groups you will connect with well and others won’t be a good fit. Don’t jump to the conclusion that all support groups are the same.
But do you really need an illness support group right now? Whether you are looking for an amyloidosis support group or a diabetes online support group, just as there are many changes that happen to our bodies while living with chronic illness, there are seasons in our life when a support group may be our lifeline and other times when we feel we simply don’t have the need.
Below are eight signs that a support group may be something you do not need right now:
1. You are handling the day-to-day aspects of living with illness with ease.
You don’t even have time to analyze how you are coping with your illness because you’re simply too busy living life.
2. You have a solid group of people who are a good influence.
Friends or family members are supportive in your efforts to live your best life possible despite having an illness.
3. You don’t feel resentment, anger, or bitterness toward people who don’t deal with chronic conditions.
Your relationships with others aren’t tainted by you comparing your abilities (or lack of) with others entering your thoughts.
4. You can easily carry on conversations without mentioning your illness.
You don’t feel it’s such an integral part of who you are that you need to tell every stranger you meet about your disease.
5. You don’t gaze at others with envy.
You feel you have risen above the exasperation of seeing healthy people taking their health for granted.
6. You have found that when you sit around at an illness support group meetings talking about the highs and lows of living with illness, you rarely leave the meeting feel better.
The support group you are in is more depressing than refreshing and talking about your illness doesn’t seem to be helpful.
7. You feel confident in how you are able to be a good advocate for your health and illness.
When more information about symptoms or tips about living with your illness are needed, you believe you are well prepared to do the research.
8. You have at least one friend who lives with illness that you feel you can talk freely with about what you may be experiencing.
You have the opportunity to vent or share ideas with someone who understands your “language” of illness.
If some of the examples above sounded like a description of where you are at with support groups, it’s likely you don’t really need a support group right now in order to live emotionally healthy with a chronic illness. However, you may be surprised to find that you could be an excellent leader of an illness support group. All of the statements above can be an easy way to create a proposal for starting up a support group.
The most thriving support groups are those which are led by people who have conquered the daily exasperation and bitterness that arise during the first years of a diagnosis. Since you have dealt with all of the emotional ups and downs, a support group of individuals still feeling under attack would benefit from your knowledge and understanding.
If the idea of leading a support group doesn’t sound appealing right now, that’s fine too! Go have fun with any activity you feel passionate about. Just remember, there are remarkable people in support groups who will be there to offer comfort when you find you need it.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and author of the book “How to Start a Chronic Illness Small Group Ministry.” This book has over 10 years of wisdom, steps, tips and checklists to make your journey in starting an illness support group as easy as possible.