To join a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer-to-Peer group, or not to join a NAMI Peer-to-Peer group? That is the question. If I am to volunteer for NAMI, I must first participate in a NAMI Peer-to-Peer group. This makes sense, yet I fear it. Though I speak openly of having bipolar disorder; honestly, I distance myself from those sicker than I am. Shades of grey, I suppose. I am, or at least I appear to be, “high functioning.” Few, if any, could tell from looking at me or talking to me that I have a mental illness. My appearance and behavior are socially acceptable and appropriate. No one can see what I think, or how I think, how quickly my mind races at times.
Recently I began attending a group of my psychiatrist’s patients. This group I enjoy. We come with different presenting problems. Everyone is what could be described as “high functioning.” I have a fear of peer-led support groups, and value a skilled, trained mental health professional as group leader. Peer groups definitely serve an important function in recovery from mental illness, for people need a place to go for support, and many do not have the resources required to get the support they need from professionals. I guess my fear of peer led groups goes back to my fear of losing myself in a group, it’s a boundary issue. I need some structure, some “professional” impartial distance. I need an outsider to help me maintain my otherness.
Thank you. Once my current psychiatrist’s group runs its course, I may do so. I felt completely comfortable when in groups in the hospital and in partial hospitalization. Those groups, though, were professionally led.
Ah, the lovely gray area we live in! I identify as well. The time I have spent with those who suffer from more obvious symptoms has often been uncomfortable, but also enriching at times. I haven’t yet joined one but it’s on my potential list…If you decide to do it (and I do understand your ambivalence) I would love to know how you like it.