Before I write about LiveJournal, I just wanted to say that I made contact with a NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) representative from a town about a half an hour away from me. Unfortunately, she had just come back from vacation and was swamped with work (she also works full time as well as being the president of NAMI in her county) and couldn't write much, but she said she would get back to me when she had more time. This is very exciting news for me because the only NAMI organization nearby was just a bit too far away, but this new organization is within familiar territory for me. I still don't know if there is a support group, but I'm keeping my finger's crossed. I'm hoping that I can get involved locally finally. I think I would like to join the In Our Own Voice (IOOU) group, if I can get up the courage for it. As far as I know IOOU has people with mental illness tell their story publicly to interested listeners thereby reducing the stigma that surround mental illness. I would like to speak out in my town at the local university and/or college. Maybe I could even inspire some students to organize a NAMI On Campus. It has been a dream of mine for a couple of years now to have a support group in my town, not only because it would make it easy for me to stay involved (especially in winter when the roads are bad), but because I believe it is in an ideal location between two towns and with two schools.
I found out about LiveJournal from a fellow schizophrenia sufferer in a SharePost at Schizophrenia Connection (where Chris Bruni has her professional blog). I went to the journaling/social networking site hoping to find her there. I thought maybe I needed to join in order to find her, so I joined and set up a journal, but I couldn't find her. So in the interest category I looked under schizophrenia thinking that maybe she would be there, but I still couldn't find her. What I did find was a bunch of mental illness/health groups. I began checking them out and what struck me was that most of the people posting were young people who were suffering. I decided that keeping a journal there with links to this blog and to my online artwork galleries at Artid might serve to help young people who are just starting out in life gain a little more perspective and maybe even some hope that they can begin to recover from the devastation of mental illness. So I posted an entry there telling some of my story and included the two links. I also joined three groups (though one has yet to check me out and approve my membership). I figure that by joining some groups and posting there and in my journal I might make some good contacts, even friends, and do some good in the process. If you're interested, I've added my LiveJournal page to my Favorite Links. My username is blueartist7.
As I read through some posts, I noticed that some of the people were like me in that they had a therapist, but didn't have many offline friends. And I thought, not for the first time, that the internet is revolutionizing things for people with mental illness by letting them connect with others, thereby lessening the sense of isolation. The internet is giving even the most socially awkward person places to fit in, opportunities to share their story and struggles and the healing gift of being able to help others through knowledge and friendship and all sorts of creativity. One thing I know talk/writing therapy works, which probably accounts for why social networks are flourishing. People need people, but people with mental illness and who isolate themselves out of a sense of shame (as I do I think), need people even more.