When our son was struggling with bipolar disorder, our family and the life we knew was turned upside-down. We were fortunate in that not long after he was diagnosed, we discovered NAMI. But it was only after our son was truly solid in his recovery did we begin participating in the annual NAMI Connecticut Walk. We shouldn’t have waited. However, up until that point we were afraid, afraid of being judged, afraid of being shunned. We didn’t realize how liberating the Walk experience would be; surrounded by approximately 1,000 others just like us: parents, children, relatives, friends, providers; and people in recovery. Folks with who we could share our story, without feeling shame, who “got it.” We realized we were truly not alone, that everyone knew someone who may have struggled with (or is still struggling with) a mental health condition. And it was OK.
You really felt it in your heart what it meant to know “You (us!) are not alone.” We left that first Walk energized and full of hope for the future, knowing that we were part of something bigger, a real community of caring people.
The NAMI Family is just that. People who understand and accept you, regardless of your story, regardless of the pain, regardless of any shame you may have felt. And in the NAMI Connecticut support groups (all free!), you learn to reject the stigma and discrimination that can hold you or your loved one down. These support groups are for caregivers, family, friends, anyone who cares for or about someone struggling with a mental health condition. They are facilitated by trained folks who have lived personal experience in caring for family with a mental health condition
There are also support groups for people working on their recovery, facilitated by trained people with mental health conditions that have navigated the often times confusing public and/or private mental health systems here in Connecticut.
We even have support groups for parents of school-aged children, the NAMI-CAN Support Groups (Child and Adolescent Network). Again, the facilitators are parents with experience in raising children with mental health conditions, as well as experience in dealing with their local school systems in providing any special accommodations for children.
Bottom line: don’t be afraid, and don’t be ashamed; come out to our support groups. Find help, find hope!