How Starting a Support Group Changed My Life
by Nickol Kennington
Strength doesn’t come easily. My experience is not only as a parent of a bipolar child, but as a mother, wife, daughter, and person with this disorder as well. This is the story of how I, a 33 year old military wife and mother of two children, have been able to overcome tremendous hurdles and use my experience to help others. Through all the turmoil that comes with living with bipolar disorder and raising a child with bipolar disorder, I have been able to start a support group for others with depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. I hope this story is an inspiration to you to believe in your ability to make a difference in the world. You CAN do it!
Obtaining a correct diagnosis for my son was not easy. As you may know, pediatric bipolar disorder is still not always recognized by mental health professionals. With the information that I found on CABF’s website and other great organizations designed to help parents of children with bipolar disorder, I was able to get help for my son. However, it took years of therapy, doctors, medications, misdiagnoses and even a recent hospitalization to finally diagnose him with bipolar disorder.
During this process, I had a major breakdown and began thinking of “a way out.” I was fortunate to have the support of my husband, my parents, and one extremely gracious friend. I found a wonderful family doctor who helped me temporarily and directed me to a therapist who has been my saving grace. I cannot thank these people enough for all they have done for my son and me.
I knew that there had to be others nearby struggling with bipolar disorder who could understand my situation. I began to search for a support group in my area and discovered that, unfortunately, the closest was an hour away. But I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit around any longer and try to explain to my family and friends why I cried for no reason or got angry because the crackers were gone. Though I had frequented the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) website, searching for support group information, I suddenly noticed a statement there that has since changed my life:
“Not finding a support group in your area? We can help you start one.”
And that is just what I did! My mom helped me come up with a catchy name to describe the manic-depressive feelings of this disease: Moody Blues Support Group.
To date, there are over thirty people in our group, and I hope to have many more by our one-year anniversary. Our group, located in North Carolina, is open to anyone with depression, bipolar, and other mood disorders. Friends and family are encouraged to come as well. My goal is to get enough parents and young people involved to start a separate group for children and adolescents as well. Working and helping to create these groups are what keeps me going and helps me stay sane when I don’t think I can.
It is important that children understand their diagnosis and also understand that this is something that they CAN live with. I have learned over the last 10 months that I do not “SUFFER” from bipolar disorder; I “LIVE” with it! We need to teach our kids that too. We need to advocate for them, through our community, our schools and the medical professionals whom help treat us. We are living proof that that is not true. It takes all of us to fight the stigma associated with bipolar disorder. I have met some great friends through my support group and so have my children. Like they say, “It’s a small world after all.”
Peace & Hope,
NC DBSA Chapter Leader