January is National Mentoring Month geared to adults acting as mentors for youth. I want to extend this concept to peers mentoring each other in our recoveries.
A form of seeking advice from others farther along is to attend a support group where people with diagnoses meet for feedback and encouragement weekly. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has the Connection peer support meetings. Dial (800) 950-NAMI (6264) to get the name and phone number of the local chapter in your city or town that holds peer support.
I have an interesting story about peer support. I attended and led a meeting for about four or five years, until my schedule at work interfered. Last summer, I started attending a meeting on Saturdays and went twice. Abruptly, the peer support meeting was changed to a weekday when I work so I was once again unable to attend a Connection meeting.
I find that not a lot of programs are geared to people who are working. I was diagnosed in 1987, began work in 1990, and NAMI did not offer any kind of peer support until 2002. So I was basically left on my own for 15 years. This colors my perception of the kind of services out there.
Thus: I can recommend two alternatives to traditional support groups: acting as a mentor or getting a mentor for yourself, and creating a Mastermind Circle.
As for the first option, I have some suggestions: you can choose as a mentor a peer, a community leader, a good friend or other successful person. Realize you have something to give the mentor too: it's a two-way relationship. Show this person respect and actively listen to what he or she gives you in terms of honest feedback. Set a goal the mentor can hold you accountable for.
A good place to find a mentor would be at a peer support group if you are so lucky to have such a meeting where you live. I have another interesting experience: about five years ago I met with a group of women once a month for camaraderie and support. Our diagnoses were almost secondary yet it was because of our MIs that we met. Everyone has since gone our separate ways.
I resurrected this hive in the form of a Mastermind Circle this year. Hill Harper in his book The Wealth Cure talks about forming a Mastermind Circle: a group of three to eight like-minded people meeting regularly to set goals and brainstorm ideas for achieving them. I'm meeting with two women friends on the first weekend in February.
Kate K., a woman whose blog I read and link to at my own blog, talks about reaching out to others. As hard as this can be, I submit that reaching out will instill benefits in you emotionally and mentally in your recovery. It gives you the opportunity to reality test your perceptions about what's going on in your life.
In New York City, NAMI Nassau-Queens offers the Friendship Network, a service where peers with a diagnosis can be matched to each other as potential friends. I met two great guys this way and renewed my membership for 2012.
The point of recovery is to be in relationships. You need to be able to trust and relate to people in your life to have a sense of security and confidence.
So as we ring in the New Year, why not ring in a new life? With all these options for networking in a healthy and protective way, the time is ripe to begin the process of setting goals or resolutions. Reach out . . . help is here.
Published On: January 14, 2012