Monday, October 26, 2015

Does Your Support Group Support You?

October is one of my favorite months. Maybe it's my very favorite. The first half of my life was spent in the Midwest, so the Fall colors, activities and aromas permeated my memories of the month. I love pumpkins.I love orange. My birthday's in October. I could go on and on. To quote Anne Shirley from "Anne of Green Gables", "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers". On the other hand, October is the month I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. So the inundation of pink during the month is bit of a painful reminder of that awful time. I'm not sure how NFL players wearing pink shoes helps the cause (yes, I'm sure it brings in bucks on Ebay), but I'd rather see them give the money directly to a struggling family going through the rigors that the disease demands.

But when I think back to the initial days of diagnosis, surgery, months of chemo and radiation, I'm reminded of efforts to be involved in a support group. It was recommended by so many people, so I started to look into it. My husband asked if he wasn't enough support for me, and I replied that I'd still like to find one. So after attending a few meetings in different locations, I concluded that yes, my husband was my best support group! Him and a few friends I'd see from time to time over the many months. Plus co-workers and well-meaning students who wanted to see my bald hear under the numerous wigs I enjoyed wearing. But an official "Breast Cancer Support Group"? Not so much. (Now, what I'm about to describe may not apply to you or your loved ones, but please bear with me. I'm making a point!) Most of the time it was people grovelling in the illness.They couldn't be encouraged no matter what was offered. I left feeling worse than when I came. So, unless they were giving away something free (you learn there's lots of freebies out there!), I stuck with my own home-grown varieties of support. (Please don't e-mail me about the value of venting, etc. My illness was enough to bear, not the vents of someone else).

So how is it with "support groups" you may be involved with? I'm thinking personally and professionally now. As I learned from my experience with the cancer variety, I can put up with trying to help only so much until I have to do what the Disciples were instructed: Shake the dust off your feet and move on. And it might not even be a professional or work group. Do you have friends who do the same thing? Is every conversation about them? Are you constantly trying to build them up and find there's no growth? Or that they probably don't want to be encouraged? They enjoy grovelling in their negative illness and it's affecting you. I recently had to "break up" with some friends because I'd come home in such a bad mood after socializing with them! I thought I could be Little Miss Sunshine and divert the conversation or encourage growth in something else, but after a few years,(yes, I did give it time!) I realized it wasn't working. So I sadly moved on from them.

Why are we reluctant to move on from such negative, draining relationships? I won't go through the many possible reasons, because I'm already past my 3 paragraph rule for this post! But for me, I think it was thinking, so will I have friends to replace them? Or will their be a big "Girlfriend Hole" that they filled that is now empty? Is something better than nothing? Kind of like weeding least there's something on the shelf, even though it's past it's prime. But no, I had to make the hard choice and can honestly tell you that it hasn't left a hole at all. In fact, it's opened my eyes to new relationships that maybe I hadn't pursued before because I thought my friend-bucket was full. I'm putting myself in positions where I can fulfill some of my dreams and what I feel are callings in my life. I'm excited about the possibilities that being with positive people produces.

So I realize I really put myself out there on this one. But age does that to you! It's why I write. To hopefully offer something of a challenge or encouragement, and not worry about the consequences or apologies! I hope that something I've written helps someone in some way. To even report that my cancer diagnosis was 10 years ago and I'm enjoying great health is a celebration. If you or someone you know ever goes through that, let me know! I'll have a support group for them!
But no matter what, stay grounded, Friends!