We All Need Support
Have you ever considered joining a support group? It can be a place to make connections with people who have similar experiences to yours. As you hear about others’ journeys and what worked and did not work for them, you can get ideas for what might work for you. Many of these types of support groups are circumstance-based. At the bottom of this post is a link to a huge list of national support groups on the Mental Health America website. Each state in the U.S. has different options as far as supports for those with disabilities and mental health struggles. Places to start looking are local disability organizations or independent living organizations.
For example, the Center for Accessible Living in Louisville, KY, has a Young Empowered Self-Advocates (YES!) group that meets monthly, focusing on self-awareness, self-determination and self-advocacy. It was founded on the belief that you know yourself the best and by knowing who you are, your likes, wants and needs, you can set yourself up for success after you leave school. Its goal is to empower group members to become independent, active members of their community, with opportunities for education, volunteering, and leadership.
Beyond attending formal support groups, another way you can feel supported is by getting involved with people who share common interests. For example, if you like to read you could join a book club (and there are even virtual ones). In talking about books or TV shows or musicals or whatever, the conversation can turn to what you may be struggling with and your friends can, in a natural, conversational way, say things that help you.
Some of your common interests may lead you to taking action to bring about changes in society that matter to you. In that process, you will probably end up connecting with others who share similar goals. Not only does this allow you to work with other people, but it also allows them to work with you. By working together, group members develop mutual understanding by listening and sharing with each other. Since disability issues and mental health issues can feel isolating, it is even more important to connect with others. If you get involved in causes that matter to you, you can feel a sense of purpose and direction and grow your confidence.
Receiving the support you need can happen in everyday conversations, as well as in more formal settings. When you need specific support around your disability or mental health issue, you can start with an internet search, but word of mouth can be even more valuable in this regard. A great addition to specific support about your disability or mental health is finding people with whom you share common interests. Common interests give you a reason to speak to others and at least one built-in topic of conversation. Many times, I want to forget about my disability and my problems and be treated like everyone else. That can be the most supportive thing of all.