Sufferers finding support group life-changing

(Editors’ note: This is the second in a series of articles to be published on the topics of stress, anxiety and depression as well as suicide.)

by Jim Boyle

Editor

After having more than 50 people turn out for a workshop on stress, anxiety and depression, Cindy Lovelette decided the right thing to do was to start a support group.

A dozen women who signed up are grateful she did, and Lovelette is now considering adding more support groups to reach different cross sections of the community. She may even offer one up to the business community.

Her partner in this endeavor, District 728 Community Education, is also considering groups for District 728 employees and planning to offer classes for youth and parents in the fall.

“There is really no limit to the different targeted groups that we could offer this program to, so Community Education and instructor Cindy Lovelette are approaching future plans carefully,” said Jay Grammond, the program coordinator for community education. “We’re trying to fill some of the known needs while not spreading ourselves too thin.”

The Elk River woman, a former parent liaison in Elk River middle and high schools, works from a position of experience. She battled anxiety throughout her childhood, starting at about age 5, and well into adulthood before finally learning how cope with her fears.

Her stories resonate with people.

“I knew it was calling my name,” said one woman, Anne, who signed up for the support group after seeing a notice of it. “I have suffered from all three (stress, anxiety and depression).”

Anne’s only regret is that she didn’t do something sooner. “I could have used this many years ago,” she said.

Lovelette said the key to her success in reaching people has been that she speaks from real life experience.

“I guess I had to have this ugly condition in order to help others,” she said. “The fact that I speak from experience is so important to people.”

Others in Lovelette’s group like Anne shared their stories with the Star News, on the condition they did not have to give their last name, at a recent support group meeting.

Lynette and Pat were two of the women who attended Lovelette’s larger sessions on stress, anxiety and depression. They said it took tremendous courage for them to drag themselves to the first workshop session at the Handke Center.

Pat said when she walked in and saw she was one of dozens in attendance, her fears subsided.

“The stigma went away,” Pat said. “It made me realize it’s a big problem, and I wasn’t alone.”

Like Lovelette, Pat can trace her anxiety back to when she was 5 years old.

“I wish I could go back and do 5 years of age and start over,” she said.

She remembers feelings of anxiety rushing over her on Sunday nights before heading back to school.

“I thought I was a dysfunctional loser,” she said. “I thought, why wasn’t I able to do things like everybody else?”

She realizes now she wasn’t the only one with those struggles.

Diane, meanwhile, said she was abused as a child mentally and physically. She developed depression and had counseling, medication and training in dialectical behavior therapy. Her latest bout of depression was triggered by the separation from her spouse.

She decided to sign up for the support group. She appreciates what she learns from the books and CDs but most of all the interaction with others in the group.

“I look forward to coming to this group every week,” she said. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

“I get more from people speaking than anything else.”

Karen said the hardest part was walking in the door for the first time, but the best part is finding out you’re not alone. She has put breathing techniques she has learned from Lovelette to good use.

Alison said the support group has helped her get to know herself better. She has been dealing with anxiety most of her life. She said she knows no two people are identical, but it has meant a lot to her to learn there are a lot of people who share this experience.

Marguerite said she had a flare up of anxiety about six or seven years ago when she was written up at work. Instead of concluding she was wronged and being treated unfairly, she said she decided to do something about her anxiety.

“I expect profession,” she admits. “I’m afraid to make a mistake.”

Marguerite has changed her eating habits and has made a job change. She also stopped smoking. All have helped. And now the support group helps, too.

She has learned that what people say to themselves really molds how they think of themselves.

“Knowledge is so empowering,” she said. “I even gave a talk on healthy living.”

District 728 Community Eduction is paying attention to Lovelette’s success. They asked for feedback part-way through the support class and the responses were overwhelming, Grammond said.

Participants talked about it being “life-changing” and how they wish they would have been told this stuff 30 years ago, in reference to how different their lives could have turned out differently to this point.

Lovelette continues to branch out in her efforts to reach people. She said the idea of reaching out to the business community intrigues her because it could help businesses become more productive.

Stress, anxiety and depression lead to other health problems that take people from the jobs.

“Breaking away for an hour a week could have a tremendous impact,” she said. “When people get their anxiety under control, they feel better, work harder and have less doctor visits. So it’s a win-win for employers and employees.”

Community Ed. expands offerings

District 728 Community Education will organize a follow-up group for those that are about to complete the 15-week program.

It will also offer:

•A free seminar for teenagers and adults 6:30-8 p.m. June 12 at Handke Center in the Gym
•A daytime program for adults 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays beginning  June 18

•A Tuesday program 6:30-7:30 p.m. for adults beginning June 18

•A Wednesday program 6:30-7:30 p.m. for teenagers and their parents

•A one-night class with Judy Duenow called “A Coach’s Toolbox: Dealing With Negative Self Talk” 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 13 at Handke Center.

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