North Florida-South Georgia Bipolar Support Group to hold first meeting Tuesday, April 5
MADISON, Fla. (WCTV) - Wednesday, March 30, marks World Bipolar Awareness Day, and a community volunteer in Madison is working to connect people affected by the disorder through a new support group.
The North Florida-South Georgia Bipolar Support Group will hold its inaugural meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5. The meeting will be held at Fellowship Baptist Church, which is located at 1995 NE Colin Kelly Highway in Madison.
The idea for the support group came from the mind of John Troyer, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nearly 30 years ago.
“I decided at that point I wasn’t going to look at it as a curse or life-limiting illness, but learn as much about the disorder as I could in order to help others,” Troyer said.
Troyer said one way to describe his experience living with bipolar is an adventure.
“It has been a series of ups and downs, which is kind of the textbook definition of bipolar,” Troyer said. “It has been a tremendous learning experience. I have a lot of empathy for others who are on the same journey in life.”
The support group will welcome friends, family members and caregivers of those experiencing bipolar. He says if the person with bipolar has never been able to fully open up to those they’re closest to, hearing others talk and their coping skills that work will perhaps give those friends and family more tools and information that will help them show more empathy to the person with the illness.
Troyer told WCTV a combination of medication and talk therapy has helped him stay stable throughout the years. He also recommends people with the disorder actively practice self-care.
“Exercise, getting sunlight, being somewhat social. Reach out. Eating good, sleeping good. Plenty of rest goes a long way,” he said. “These things haven’t always been easy. It’s something we have to work at.”
When asked about common misconceptions surrounding bipolar disorder, Troyer said some people believe it’s all in your head and just an excuse.
“That’s not true at all. It’s very real. It’s just as real as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other physical health problems,” Troyer said.
During the interactive meetings, Troyer will act as the facilitator. His hope is that those who come will feel free to open up and share, whether it’s a recent experience they’ve had or some coping skills that have worked for them. He also hopes to help everyone craft a plan they can have ready in case they start experiencing a crisis.
Troyer said some signs of bipolar to look out for include depression, not wanting to get out of bed, losing interest in things they once enjoyed, change in appetite, sleeping more than usual and hopelessness. He also said on the flip side, mania is a larger indicator of bipolar disorder. When someone experiences hypomania, their symptoms are more subtle. These include a more elevated mood, talking rapidly, racing thoughts and jumping from topic to topic during conversations.
Troyer said someone who is experiencing full-blown mania would go several days without sleeping and take large risks. Those risks can be being sexually promiscuous, extreme alcohol or drug use and spending huge amounts of money without realizing the consequences.
If you think your loved one has bipolar disorder, Troyer recommends listening to them, and kindly ask them how they’re feeling. He also recommends reminding them you love them, but you’ve noticed a change in their behavior and they should consider making an appointment with their healthcare provider.
“Tell them to go in, talk things over, and reassure them by saying ‘I would be glad to go with you to the appointment and support you any way I can. That’s where I would start. The healthcare community is well trained these days int talking about mental illness,” he said.
Troyer also pointed out the support group is not a substitute for medical advice or care, but rather a safe environment where people can find support from others.
After the inaugural meeting, the support group will meet on the first Tuesday of each month. Those meetings will continue to be held at Fellowship Baptist Church, starting at 6 p.m.
If you would like to participate in the group, you can contact Troyer in the following ways:
- Cell phone (text preferred): 850-673-7040
- Landline: 850-929-4444
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or a loved one is going through a mental health crisis, help is only a phone call away. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can also dial 211 to reach the 211 Big Bend hotline.
If you would like more information about bipolar disorder, follow this link.
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