Support groups can beat loneliness and being alone

support group_editedBeing alone and loneliness may seem to be the same thing but they are not, far from it. It is just as easy to be lonely in a crowd as it is to be happy when alone.

Illnesses and diseases like multiple sclerosis can bring some of each; maybe time alone, maybe feeling lonely even if not by yourself. The good news is, though, there is something you can do. I suppose it’s a form of self-help.

Self-help? Well, yes and no. One simple answer is to realise the value of joining a local support group. These exist in countries all over the world. They bring people together who share common life experiences for support, education and mutual aid.

By belonging to such a group, you will be able to share your experiences with others living with a similar condition to yourself and learn from them how they deal the same sort of issues. You can hear about new information, gain support from others and, in return, have the chance to help others.

In fact, instead of feeling lonely or alone, the group experience can lead to you feeling empowered and more self-confident.

For a few examples, let’s quickly visit the USA, Australia and the UK.

In the USA, National MS Society self-help groups focus on support, advocacy, education, wellness or may be more social in nature.  Some groups also serve specific populations, such as young adults, parents with MS, care-partners or African-Americans.  Other groups may have a specific focus, such as physical activity, wellness or healthy living.

MS Australia’s peer support program is a great way for people affected by multiple sclerosis to connect with and support each other — both those living with the disease, and also carers, family and friends.

Giving and receiving practical and emotional support can help you understand a recent diagnosis, manage your symptoms and live well with multiple sclerosis. It’s also a great way to make new friends!

You can connect with an MS Peer Support group face to face, online, or over the phone — whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. It’s completely free to participate.

In the UK, the MS Society has branches around the UK that may have associated support groups but there also some independent local support groups. Prior to moving to Spain last year, Lisa and I regularly attended monthly sessions of MS Synergy – an independent support group operating in North Wales. I’d recommend it.

Alternatively, wherever you are in the world, if there is not suitable group near to you, you may be happy talking to people online. There is an ever growing range of website, blogs, discussion groups on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites where people with MS can share experiences and ask questions.

Lastly, yes I have used MS as an example here but don’t think that support groups are just about the one illness. Whatever you are living with, contact your disease’s national organization and ask about support groups in your area.

 

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