huddleMany years ago I went moseying around the internet to search out others who lived with daily pain. I wanted a support system to help me – I was looking for a support group. There were no local ones in my area or even the surrounding area. I wanted to meet others who truly understood a life of pain, the in’s and out’s, the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

What I found was depressing. I visited support group after support group online. These groups were started for the right reasons with compassion, understanding, care and concern. Somewhere along the way they fell apart. Together, each member of the group seemed to have fallen into the deep, darkness of depression. Depression is a vast darkness that is un-like any darkness we can see with our eyes. It is like there is no light at the end of the tunnel to help us find our way out, no fresh air to breathe, and no fresh breeze to feel on our skin— there is only deep, pure darkness. I would leave the group feeling more upset and sad compared to how I had felt before I entered the group that day.

How do we know what we should be looking for when we search for a support system online? So how do we find the light again? It is the utmost importance that we must surround ourselves with good things like, compassion, happiness and positive wishes and thoughts. We must surround ourselves with those who wish the best for us, those who want to help inspire us to find who we are.

This is where the wonderful world of technology can and does help us. The wonderful and exciting internet world is one that we can enter from the comfort of our homes, the local internet café, the library or sitting out in our yards. The internet has provided us with opportunities to reach out from behind the computer screen.  Social media has become widely used for many of us who live with pain. This is one of the many ways to search for support we all long for and need. We can communicate with people from all over the world without feeling vulnerable and exposed. We can choose to use our computer screen as our locked door, select who is welcomed and who is not.

Note: This can be a good and bad thing. It all depends on how we use this powerful communication tool. You see if we choose to hide behind the computer screen, lurk and watch rather than participate and engage, how will we ever allow ourselves to be open to the support that we truly need? If we never open up, how do we get out of the isolation that pain can cause?

So here is where I recommend that fellow searchers go slow. If you find a website with a support group, Facebook group or Google Plus Group, move slowly at first. Look around and get a feel for the place, the people, and the administrators of the groups. Allow yourself time to surf around and check out multiple groups and places. There are those times that you will enter a group and you may feel right at home which is wonderful but just like when meeting new people for the first time, take your time. Get to know others in the group. What at first may seem to be exactly what you have been looking for, over time may end up being exactly what you don’t want or need.

Take heed, if you read the postings and they found to be consistently sad, depressing and downright miserable. This Is not what you need and should be considered a red flag. Life is not about being miserable and sharing that misery with others, all of the time. Look for a group or organization where it is ok to be sad, mad and downright miserable some days, but not all the time. You also want a find a group where you feel like you are important to the people there, not just another number or member within the group.

Here are some tips that I have learned along the way. You want a group:

  • Where members will listen and share with you but never judge you. You are encouraged (and want) to do the same for them.
  • Where laughter is shared not just once in a while but all the time.
    • You can go when you are feeling sad and someone will do whatever it takes to make you smile or laugh.
    • When the pain is bad you can share that and someone will offer compassion but also offer you a joke to help you giggle and push that pain back for just a little while.
    • Members are upbeat and share happiness, sunshine and love.
  • That understands pain and all that goes with it but offers you suggestions, ideas, tips to make the pain easier to deal with.
  • Where members know your name and respond to your postings the good ones and bad ones.
    • They go out of the way to make sure that you know you are important to them.
    • They will stand side by side to offer that human chain needed to pull you up and out of the darkness, no matter how many times you may slip from the light.
    • They can spot it when you are becoming discouraged and falling back into old patterns and habits of unhappiness and depression, they reach out to you with messages of support and that little burst of positive energy you need.
    • They are not only your greatest cheerleaders but can also be your harshest critics when they see you falling backwards.
    • Members force you to look within for that little spark of light that is our positive energy that lays dormant deep with us; they offer support but will not allow you to remain in the darkness of depression.
  • That understands no one is perfect and the daily struggles in this process of being positive is hard but who are the first and loudest to celebrate your success or milestones with you.
    • They can rally support by sharing with them and they will keep you honest and striving towards your goals.
    • They will always be standing on the sidelines to help you through setbacks and disappointments.
  • Where feelings of positive energy and vibes are abundant not just part of the time but all the time.
    • Participation does not leave you more depressed then what you were when you signed in.
    • Participation never leaves you feeling resentment, anger or shame.
    • Participation increases your level of joy, purpose and satisfaction.

You may think that finding all the features mentioned above is short of impossible; believe me there are groups that offer the whole package.  You can find a secure, happy, positive place to share your pain journey.  You can find that sacred safe place to fall and discover that fall may bring a huge outpouring of compassion and support. You may soon find that you are no longer falling uncontrollably at a high rate of speed —- you may just bounce back with the help of the world’s largest virtual safety balloon.

Where are those groups that offer the whole package– a place to call your virtual home?  I would be amiss if I did not share at least two groups that are near and dear to my heart. These groups are full of wonderful compassionate people living with pain, caregivers, healthcare professionals and more.

  1. Please check out our online community chats and discussion forums here at The Pain Community. You can also find The Pain Community on Facebook.
  2. Looking for a closed Facebook group? Check out Friends in Pain.

Are you looking for someone like me? What have you got to lose?

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