There are support-groups for almost everything. Probably the most well-known group is “AA” (Alcoholics Anonymous). There are groups for eating disorders, domestic abuse, mental health, physical health problems, such as cancer and diabetes, groups to enhance relationships, and many others. If there is a problem, there is probably a group for folks to join. Groups for supporting brain-injury survivors and their caregivers, family members, and friends are cropping up everywhere. This is relatively new, since little was known about the seriousness of brain injury until rather recently. When the troops began to come home from the Iraq war with serious brain injuries, people started to notice. Then when the deaths and illnesses of so many former NFL players came to light – starting with Dr. Omalu’s finding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster during an autopsy in 2002 – more people took notice.
Two things you might consider when searching for a support-group are location (Is it within reach? Will you easily be able to get there?) and size (Is it large enough or small enough for you? Too large – you may get lost and not have any of your needs met. Too small – there may not be enough information to share, but it may be easier to connect with folks of the same interest). You will need to comfort-fit your support-group to your needs. If you are unable to join an in-person support-group, don’t fret. There are many support-groups on social media.
My husband’s brain injury happened in January of 2005. As his caregiver, I went it alone … for years and years. I wasn’t aware of the multitude of people who had a brain injury. I was ignorant that there were millions of caregivers like me, and I certainly never realized that there were support-groups for caregivers. It wasn’t until three years ago that I stumbled onto the support-groups on Facebook. I joined many of them, and I have made many good friends there – both virtual (some from across the world) and the ones nearer, some of whom I met in person to share a coffee or a lunch together.
There are virtual groups for caregivers. (One is just for spouses or partners of survivors.) There are groups for both survivors and caregivers together. There are groups for traumatic brain injury survivors; for acquired brain injury survivors; or for survivors with ataxia, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. Some of the benefits of support-groups are that folks are more apt to understand what you are going through. Because they share similar issues, they are able to offer emotional support, suggest advice, or provide tips that worked for them. There is a veritable smorgasbord of ideas out there in cyberworld. If you are looking for an online group to hold your hand,hear you vent, or answer your questions, I promise you will find it.
Support-groups are usually, but not always, beneficial. When my husband, David, had his brain injury in 2005, I had little knowledge of support-groups. We went to a local group a few times, but David didn’t find it helpful. In fact, for him, so early in his journey, it was not at all beneficial. He found it difficult to identify with the other survivors of brain injury. Though David was in poor shape physically and was unable to do much for himself, he still felt that his mental health condition was better than that of the others in the group. Being in the group brought David down and left him with little hope. He asked that we not go back, and I agreed. But, unlike this example, many people rely on support-groups.