One of the greatest human needs is to feel that we belong. Most of us, even the introverted ones among us, seek to have a group of people with whom we feel a connection. Family is usually the first community that gives us this sense of belonging, a group in which we can talk about particular things and get feedback from others.
This need to connect motivates us to form friendships outside of our family groups. In our friendships, we hang out with others with whom we share a sense of belonging, and we become empowered by this connection with others.
In my decades-long career as a licensed counselor, finding a place of belonging was part of the goals strategy with my clients. This work was about moving past particular life obstacles. My family and marital counseling sessions often revolved around reestablishing this “place” called home.
My clients were often dealing with a sense that they had no place where they felt they belonged. Connecting and bonding with a community was a critical step in their moving forward. In these “support groups,” they found others who had similar problems. Some groups revolved around personal interests such as reading, volunteering, and other hobbies. In the modern world, many of these communities are accessible virtually.
I recalled my counseling support groups recently while I was looking for a writing group to assist me with using WordPress. I rediscovered the concept of meeting others with a common interest. Being part of a group with shared goals empowers its individual members by giving them a place where they can learn and thrive.
As I delved deeper, I realized that both types of groups are important when you are dealing with an illness. I am a member of several Facebook groups that focus on limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, including one group for those with my specific form of the disease, LGMD2L.
These groups have become a place of comfort and safety for their members. They’re appealing because they are “closed groups,” so the administrator approves all those seeking to join the group, and members feel comfortable sharing because others in the group understand their illness. Each member is at a different stage of illness progression, so they can usually find someone to give them advice or share knowledge.
Online groups like these are good places for the newly diagnosed to reach out for support. Many posts are from members asking about what to expect and seeking information on useful resources. I have read questions on various topics including leg braces, wheelchairs, canes, medications, supplements, and more. Members are invited to share their experiences and what has helped them.
The second type of group is as crucial to well-being in many ways as the first. Dealing with your illness is one thing; finding your passion for what you love is another. In the 1980s, when I was completing my master’s degree in counseling psychology, one of my professors said that whatever your hobby, someone out there is doing it as a profession, and making a good living at it. He was advising us to find something we loved to do and make it a career.
Wherever you are in the progression of your illness, you still have things you love to do. Don’t neglect your interests. Whatever your hobbies or passions, a group of people out there somewhere is getting together, whether in the real world or virtually, to follow their passions.
I want you to find your communities of capability. If you are on Facebook, search for groups related to your diagnosis. You can also look for activities of interests in your community. Rekindling your passion for what you love is beneficial for your physical and mental health.
We live in a wondrous age of communication where it’s easy to connect with different communities and people. If you can get out of the house, then fabulous. If not, it’s still great!
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.