Like many people with mental illness, I belong to several online support groups, and tend to rotate my activity between them depending on what’s going on in a given forum. Sometimes the snark gets to be too much and I leave quietly for awhile, not just because I don’t need other peoples’ drama but because I prefer to stay above the fray, and that’s not always possible with the infighting that goes on in a loosely moderated forum.
Part of my problem with this is that I’ve been a forum moderator myself for many years, and sometimes I want to shake these site administrators for allowing members to gang up and bully others to the point where they leave the site. Both forums I’ve moderated have rules that forbid this, and believe me, the Terms of Service are enforced. There is no need for adults to act like third-graders, and when a site I’ve joined ignores this type of behavior, I’ll pick up my ball and go home.
There is, however, one site I’ve stuck with almost literally through thick and thin, and that’s Psych Central’s bipolar forum. It’s not strictly moderated either, but it’s certainly not a free-for-all; in fact, it’s very well-run…..especially for a forum in which the membership is notoriously volatile. I joined this site back when I was first diagnosed, and it has often been my lifeline because it’s a safe place where there is always someone who knows exactly what I’m going through at a given time.
I don’t mean to pooh-pooh the significance of family and friends who reach out when I need help, but there is no one better to talk to about mental illness than other mentally ill people. They haven’t read about it in “O” Magazine or seen it on Dr. Phil, they’ve LIVED it—dealt with it by day, taken it to bed with them by night. They’re the only ones who get the jokes (“For the last time, I am NOT bipolar—I am a grouchy, bitchy, moody cow!!”) and know what it is to feel totally alone in a crowded room.
They are also keenly aware, even in the midst of their own mood episodes, that other people are suffering as well. I’ve never seen so much compassion on any forum, and that includes the nursing network where I’ve been a member since 2002. No matter what one’s background or the severity of one’s disease, everyone is taken seriously and treated graciously unless they prove themselves unworthy of members’ trust.
This is where I discovered that I’m far from the only healthcare professional who deals with bipolar disorder. In fact, it’s the place where I learned how to use my position as a mentally ill nurse to speak up for others whose lives are similarly impacted by their psychiatric issues. I probably would never even have thought of starting this blog if it weren’t for that forum…..it truly was the launch pad for my venture into the world of advocacy.
So if any of my friends at PC happen to read this post, let me be the first to say THANK YOU for your insight, wisdom, decency, and humanity. You all rock!