One of the new activities that I have been involved with on campus is with the disabilities service office. Several of us students banded together a few months ago to form a group. Now our name is Club SODA (Student Organization for Disability Appreciation). Planning events for students, speaking on panels about our struggles and strengths, and helping professors understand their students have been some of our goals.
Being part of this club has been an amazing experience. Not only have I grown as a person, I have also been able to touch the lives of others. Finally, my mental illness has a purpose: helping me to understand and love people. Now, I can be a bright light for those suffering even while I move forward in recovery.
Attending a club or group of people similar to you can be a great coping skill. There are numerous reasons for this. It helps to establish new friendships or strengthen old ones. Depression can rob people of their interests. If you force yourself to join others in discussing or doing a subject you enjoy, it will be difficult at first. In the end, however, you will probably feel more fulfilled and joyful. At the lowest point in depression, this might not be possible. That still does not mean that you should toss aside this coping skill without trying it.
The group that you attend can be any kind that you feel drawn to, so there is great freedom in where to look. If you are struggling deeply, a therapy group might be the best option. Others might want to be with people who understand but are further in recovery. Then an awareness or advocacy group might appeal to you.
However, the group that you attend does not need to be directly related to your illness or disability to serve as a coping skill. Book clubs, dance classes, bird watching groups, political rallies, community classes, karaoke nights, gardening groups – the possibilities are endless. Plus you can always start your own club if there is not one currently near you. Invite over some friends to enjoy tea and a BBC movie together once a month, meet with other writers to compare work, or clean up trash in the area with others who care about the environment.
Attending a group of people can be frightening, especially if you do not know anyone. However, being with others who are like you can be very affirming and liberating. As I begin to join more activities at school, I find more and more people who I enjoy being around and who understand at least one element of who I am. Trusting others takes courage, but the sense of fellowship is worth it.