Hello there and thank you for stopping by!
So I recently attended my first NAMI (the National Alliance on Mentally Illness – http://www.nami.org/) group meeting in January. My group meets every second and fourth Thursday of the month at my local library. January happened to have 5 Thursdays so my counting was off and I missed the first meeting…SQUIRREL!
If you’re interested in finding your state’s local chapter (U.S. only) after navigating to the website, select the dropdown menu in the lower left hand corner (shown below)
Before the meeting I took a 30 minute nap because I was so tired and irritable after I got home from work. When the alarm sounded, I quickly got up and drove groggily to the meeting several minutes away. I was the first to arrive and the room was locked and the lights off. I thought the meeting was cancelled because it started to snow and people get crazy with even just a couple flurries around here – I think our state has three snowplows. After about 10 minutes the facilitator arrived and seemed slightly out of sorts. By his demeanor it seemed he was mentally preoccupied and was trying to do some last minute wrangling of things for the night’s meeting.
He opened the room, I introduced myself, and we made some small talk about where I was from and how I heard about the group. I told him I struggled with long term clinical depression as well as the attempt to end my life, which I wrote about in one of my first posts.
Here’s how the meeting proceeded…
1. Opening. Several other folks showed up and we started the session shortly after that. Our facilitator passed around a laminated packet and we each took turns reading the rules of participation and the group’s principles. I’ll ask to get a copy of these and write about them in a future post.
2. Discussion. We had a small group. Probably about seven folks. Since I was the new guy, our facilitator was pretty focused on letting me stay in the spotlight…giving me a chance to tell my story and respond first to questions. I’m glad the grogginess sort of lifted and I was pretty good about coming out of my introverted shell. Although it was too soon to form any sustainable relationships (or remember any names) I look forward to doing so in the future. Extending my support network. Here’s two things I kept in mind:
♦ Listen twice as much as I talked. We have two ears and one mouth, probably for that reason. I’m really big on listening. I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t say anything when saying nothing would have probably been best. Also, being an introvert, I don’t usually have much to say. It’s not that I’m angry or acting snobbish or necessarily in deep thought. Maintaining a conversation is just not my forte.
♦ Be empathetic. This goes along with listening. I try my best to make people feel important when they are speaking to me. I like to maintain eye contact 3/4 of the time so I don’t make it a staring contest. I also tried to show empathy with the hurt and pain or joy others expressed through my facial expressions – nodding, “mmhmm-ing”, scrunching of eyebrows, or smiling in response to certain remarks.
3. Closing. The meeting ended in an ordinary way, nothing special. I left pretty quickly because the snow had been coming down steadily, and I was still a little less energetic than I had hoped I’d be.
So to close out, I am looking forward to the next meeting. I am hopeful. And that’s a big word in my vocabulary.
Have you attended your local NAMI meeting? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on your experiences and any suggestions for next time.
May you find peace through your valley.